RELIGION VS RELATIONSHIP
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Where christians come to share, pray and study.
By Michael Hawkinson
THE POINT OF THIS COMPARISON IS NOT TO CREATE LABELS BUT TO POINT OUT PROBLEMS OF LEGALISM AND RELIGIOUSNESS. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE SOMETIMES DO RELATIONAL THINGS AND ALL OF US SOMETIMES DO RELIGIOUS THINGS. AS ALWAYS IT IS MY HOPE THAT EACH READER WOULD ASK GOD WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO. YOU WILL ANSWER TO GOD, MY HOPE IS THAT YOU KNOW HIM.
The religious use the Bible to make up rules and requirements for everything including areas of conscience. These rules are unbending and religious people usually look to leaders for absolute solutions to any question of behavior. Rules about movies, dancing, card playing, dating, eating, drinking, witnessing, sacraments, church attendence, clothing, leisure time, ones profession, where to shop, who not to be seen with, and even salvation!
Children of God know He hides His Law in their hearts, they search the scripture seeing how God dealt with each individual and ask God for direction in all activities. They know each day is the Lords and try to keep every day holy. They know they are stewards of what God has given them. They ask God for understanding of the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus and ask Him how to keep them. They ask God what to do in each situation and then they do it. They know The Law and the Prophets are summed up in two commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.
The religious have a set of procedures that must be followed. This can be anything from a "Sinner's Prayer" being prayed, to walking the aisle, being baptized, giving tithe, attending church, attending Bible studies, teaching Sunday school, being married, saying liturgies, giving alms, etc. The religious are either constantly in fear or in doubt of their faithfulness to keeping the rules and having salvation or they are beligerently sure of it because of the long list of rules that have been kept or good works they have done. They often have a date, time and certificate of when they were saved. (And probably plan to take it to heaven to show God!) Religious people do not help people come to know God, they share rules, tracts and tell pagans to go to church. They depend on emotion, threat, what they are told, the doctrines of their group, etc. to intimidate people to follow some procedure to "become saved."
Children of God have had a point in their life where they made a decision to follow Jesus and obey His commandments. They know that their salvation is in the hands of God, the Father and that it is the sacrifice of Jesus that paid the price for their sin. They have believed in the One whom God sent, confessed their sins, given up their life to follow Jesus and have been given the power to become a Child of God.. They worship God, fellowship with all believers, ask God to help them do all things out of true love for Him and for others. The Child of God knows that they are not worthy of being God's child and always trusts their salvation to the one who judges justly. They frequently examine their hearts and recommit themselves to the Lord, trusting in His mercy and faithfulness. Children of God share what God has done with those who do not know Him, teach that God loves them and tries to help pagans overcome the obstacles to putting their faith in Jesus and becoming a child of God. They trust in the One God sent, and in He who sent Him. They introduce others to the Jesus they know, love and obey.
First and foremost, the religious center their attention on this earthly life looking for material blessings and judge their own and others spiritualness by health, wealth, fame and knowledge. The religious treat God's Word as some kind of contract and look for clauses to manipulate God. They are the ones who give $100 to someone literally believing God now owes them $10,000 because the Word says God returns to us 100 fold of what we give. Religious people seek blessings and judge themself worthy or righteous by what they consider blessings. They stand in the temple and say "Thank God I am not like that sinner."
Children of God know that God's presence in every situation is a blessing. Their attention is on God. They seek to bless God and thank Him in every circumstance. They seek to bless others, they share and do not covet. God's child can bless you even when it seems they have nothing to bless you with, because the Spirit of God overflows from them like a fountain. They know the greatest blessings are not seen but are faith, hope, peace and love.
The religious see prayer in many ways, all of them manipulative in some manner. When they suffer or are inconvenienced they consider themselves victims of circumstances and often believe their demands just and and problems unfair. They use prayer much like pagans use spells, they think God has to answer them if they say the right words or repeat certain prayers over and over. They make excuses for the way things are when prayers are not answered the way they think they should be. They often tell people what God will and will not do.
Children of God know that God hears every word spoken to Him. That He always does what is right, just, loving, holy, merciful, etc. They know He answers immediately and trust Him explicitly and yet speak their hearts desires. When they do not understand His answers or why something is happening, they seek to praise Him and know that God is doing something they do not understand but know they can still be at peace.
Religious tend to see trials as punishment for sin or as some kind of attack of Satan. When they believe it to be punishment, they frantically rush about trying to figure out what sin they are guilty of, what satanic item they have allowed in their house, who cursed them, who they should not have talked to, what rule they broke, etc. They change denominations, blame family members or blame just about anyone but themselves. If they decide it is an attack of satan they start binding him, ridiculing Him and puffing themselves up with ideas that it must be because they are so righteous that they are suffering the attack of Satan. They either try to cry out they are scum and will never sin again or they appear bold, in control, faithful and fearless victims of circumstances which are no fault of their own.
The Child of God knows the evil that they were saved from. They know the world hates God and hates them. They do not complain about the evil things done to them or the trials that they suffer. They do not fear their mortality and illness. They talk to God about every situation and ask Him to help them endure to His glory. They freely ask Him to heal and deliver them, knowing that God is faithful and hears them. They do not hide their doubt, fear and pain. They tell God what they are feeling. The child of God understands there are consequences of ones actions and takes responsibility for their part in every situation. If God shows them their blame in any situation, they repent and ask forgiveness.
Religious people fear sin. They think of it as something almost tangible, something outside of themselves. They think of it as something others do and often have a scale of the severity of sin. They come up with words like "mortal sin," "venial sin," "terrible sin," "little sin," or any number of descriptions. They worry about appearance and following rules. When they feel they have sinned they quickly apologize and try harder to memorize the rules. They often make up another rule or promise to be better. They judge those who sin harshly and ostracize them, belittle them, slander them, libel them and treat them as outcasts. They love the phrase "Love the sinner but hate the sin." but often confuse the sin with the sinner. They withhold help from those suffering trials, considering them punished by God.
The Child of God knows that sin is rebellion from ones own heart and it leads to actions which grieve God and hurt oneself. There are sins God hates more and which have greater consequences here on earth, however, they know that all sin leads to death and eternal separation from God. When a child of God finds they have sinned, they weep and repent, knowing that God forgives them and ask for His help to overcome. They confess their sins one to another and carry one another's burdens. They know God is patient, loving and forgiving, therefore they love those who are sinning and gently try to bring them to repentance and back to God. Whether to pagan or Child of God, the Child of God gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, shelter or clothing to the needy, prayer for the sick, comfort to those in prison and hope to the hopeless.
Religious people work for God's love.
A child of God loves to do God's work.
Whether facing a problem or giving advice to someone else about their problems, the religious quote scripture like a politician. Some of their favorites are "All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord" (While desperately hoping for something good to happen.) "I Tim 3: (16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (Of course they usually mean for the other person not themselves.) "By His stripes we are healed." (Thinking this means physical illness and mortality, some have claimed we are even now immortal and that all sickness should disappear.) Every scripture is something that one can hold God accountable to and manipulate him with. These verses are legally binding contracts and the religious intend to hold God accountable for every word!
The Child of God knows that the scripture shows God's individual relationship with those who wrote of Him. They know that some things God said were to the person He spoke them to and other promises were to all who would follow him. They know that they are accountable to God and God is not accountable to them. They know they can trust God to keep his promises but know that the promises to others are not always the promises to themselves. They know the Word is as meaningful today as it was when it was written. They know it is true. They seek for understanding of what God desires and how to do that which is right in the sight of the Lord. The Child of God many times has the same favorite verses as the religious person. But to them, the verses bring hope and joy as well as a sense of responsibility to learn what God has said and to hide it in their hearts.
Religious people start off by saying, "Are you saved or born again?" Every answer to every problem is a scripture used like a cliche. Religious people relish telling you the solutions to your problems and speak more than they listen. These solutions are usually also cliches like "Jesus is the answer" or "God helps those who help themselves." Religious people tell others what the Bible says whether they know or understand it themselves. Religious people put rules and conformance above individuals. They trust in themselves and their own understanding of the Bible. Religious people tell you what you must do. Religious people help, witness and give because they have to.
A child of God looks, listens and shares personal stories from their own lives. They share what God has taught them. They pray for insight into the problems of others and ask people what is stopping them from belief in, or obedience to, Jesus. They answer questions when they can and admit when they cannot. They trust in God, prayer, personal revelation and in His Word. God's children ask what they may do for you and ask God to help you too. God children give because they love the person they are helping or sharing with.
The religious person's relationship with God is built on rules and regulations. Their communication is a report to a superior officer. They live their lives as a series of jobs, duties, favors and compromises. They have excuses or reasons for everything they do. God is the author of a "How to" book and their relationship is that of an employee to the business owner. They either believe God will not and does not communicate to anyone today or that what He communicates to them is for everyone else. The religious one is always trying to figure out why things are happening so they can change them or find a new rule to follow. The religious base their assurance of salvation and quality of relationship on correctness of doctrine and faithfulness to rules. The religious have a poor to nonexistent relationship with God or Jesus and know more about Him than who He is and of His desires.
The Child of God knows they are a son or daughter of God by His mercy and build their relationship with God on long talks about the Word, their experiences, God's answers and revelations to prayer, the needs of others and the joys and sorrows of Life. Their communication is that of a child to a father or a friend. They check with God on things of conscience or when they are unsure of what to do. They know God communicates with them and when circumstances make one feel far from God, they do not blame others or God... They examine their hearts and ask God for help. The child of God knows that everyone has their own problems and what is right for one may not be right for another. They do not confuse things of conscience with things of law. They understand that they must listen to God and do what He says no matter what others tell them to do. They know they are responsible for their own actions and do not make excuses for failures. The Child of God has a dynamic, improving, deepening relationship to God and a better understanding of who God is.
The religious worship the rules, live by the rules, love the rules. They find joy, sorrow, fear and hope in the rules. To the religious, religion is the rules. It is the way, the road, the agenda to reach God. It is words more than action and actions more than motive. It is works without caring and caring without works. Religion is doing what others tell us the Bible or God wants us to do.
To the child of God, true religion is caring for the widow and the orphan. It is the wisdom of God passed on to the child. Guidlines to provide and protect. Rules to give us a sense of direction. Religion is never a path to God, it is man's attempts at being righteous. The actions of the religious are neither evil nor good, it is the heart of the doer which is evil or good, selfish or unselfish, cunning or without guile. Doing good is not a way to God, it is because of God's love for us and our desire to please Him. Religion is doing joyfully what God tells us to do.
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