Over the years the word “Religion” has become some sort of derogatory term to use among Christianity and has been replaced by some idea of a “Relationship”.
We have all heard the cliche “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship”, even pastors talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus” as some means to invite people to Christ. That’s not all, it has become such a wonderful phrase that it has also leaked into the pews. But is it biblical?
The definition of Religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”, generally speaking, it is the worship or something or someone.
The Right Religion
When we look at Jesus’ ministry we find a man who went to the temple, taught in the synagogues, He may have even participated as a congregant, this we have no way to prove or disprove, but the fact that he honors the customs and rituals so far as they do not go against what the Father has already instructed. The very fact that Jesus honored the Jewish laws prescribed in the Old Testament (excluding rabbinical traditions) such as the festivals shows just how religions He was.
The word religion (Greek: thrēskos or θρησκός) is used in the New Testament five times. (Acts 25:19, 26:5; Col. 2:23; Jas. 1:26-27), each of these uses points to some sort of level of worship.
We can look through both old and new testament we will find nothing about God being opposed to religion, but we find a large number of passages where He is against a wrong idea of religion. (See Here)
Taking James 1:26-27 for example, the Lord, through the pen of James does not condemn religion but He affirms it. The Christian faith is in fact about religion. The right religion.
The Right Relationship
What about relationships? Is Christianity about having a personal relationship with Jesus? I would argue, absolutely not!
First off it doesn’t really tell anyone much of anything. What kind of relationship? Intimate, brotherly, Fatherly, or perhaps judicially? It doesn’t matter if a person is an unrepentant sinner or a redeemed saint, all people everywhere at any point in time all have a personal relationship with Jesus.
The minister who tries to offer a personal relationship with Jesus is a day late and a dollar short. It is not a matter of if we have a relationship with Jesus or not. What we should be more concerned about is if it’s a good relationship.
Romans 8:7 shows us that the mind living in the flesh is at war with God. They are enemies of the soverign Lord, The Great I am. To the sinner, their personal relationship with Jesus is Jury and Judge.
John 15:15 Jesus tells His disciples they are no longer called slaves, but now they are friends (still a slave but a slave to righteousness, Rom. 6:19). Accoding to Gal. 4:7 the redeemed have no longer are slaves (of sin) but are now welcomed into the Kingdom of God as a child. This is clearly a relationship on both accounts. However, the individual who comes from a slave of sin to a slave of righteousness now has a good relationship with the Father.
We need to be careful when we hear these sort of phrases and how to adopt them into the church. There is a number of them that have found their way into the Christian body, (Do not Judge, Love the sinner and hate the sin, it’s about a relationship, God never gives you more than you can handle and so on…) There is a vast difference from something that sounds right, and something that is right. The only way the Christian can identify these is to have a deeper understanding of the Word of God. Analyze before we personalize. We need to think with clarity and recognize that not all good phrases are biblical.
Lordship of Christ
[More details of Lordship to come in the next article]
Over the years it seems as if the Christian community has put a personal relationship with Jesus over His Lordship. The production of works has developed a stigma within the church. Now it is true that what is known as “works righteousness” is unbiblical. You can find this idea in the Catholic church, Islam, Judaism, and many other heretical religions. All of these are works or merit-based righteousness.
Because of this, and the Christian church emphasis against works righteousness. What we need to remember is that works are not the means of righteousness, they are the byproduct of righteousness. John 14:15-24 Jesus teaches that if we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments. Likewise He reaffirms this with the apostle John in his epistle 1 John 5:2-3, we [desire to] keep His commands and they are not a burden to us.
One final verse I would like us to notice before saving the rest for the next article. Matthew 4:9 Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to follow Him “Come, follow Me” Many times through the gospels Jesus emphasizes the important of giving up our old lives to follow Him (). He even makes distinctions between true and false believers, but all the while the Lord still spoke the truth.
I believe the church should work on speaking on the Lordship of Jesus more. It will not only help the young believer to learn and understand that our salvation is more than just a relationship, but a submission to Jesus as Lord (Master).
Romans 10:9 tells us that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [and in charge] and believe in your heart [and mind] that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Our salvation is not based on our relationship with Jesus. It is based on His Lordship over our lives, and our obedience (John 14:15-24, 1 John 5:2-3) to Him.