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Relationship, Not Religion

Our Saturday morning Men’s group has spent the last 12 weeks in a study on Grace, which by the way is a very difficult concept to get into my wee little brain.  Anyway we have discovered so much is dependent on our relationship with God. Todd Dugard, the  Senior Pastor at Harvest Barrie, Ontario, says it so clearly on this devotional on “Relationship, Not Religion” .

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
—Acts 17:24-28

I read a compelling tweet by a pastor in California, which said, “Religion does not provide an opportunity to actually know God, and is therefore cruel, powerless, and boring” (Bill Johnson).

Knowing God—being in a relationship with Him—is what every human being, whether they’re aware of it or not, is longing for and searching after. What most do to achieve that relationship is to establish some sort of religious observance. The options are literally limitless when you consider all the established world religions and faith systems.

And so, they go to places of worship. Perform rituals and sacraments. They make donations, give of their time, and volunteer their talents. They meditate, read, study and memorize holy books and writings: they chant, sing, recite, and sit in silence. They dance, sway, kneel, walk. They make pilgrimages, go on missions, proselytize and teach others about their particular way of getting to “god” or whatever it is they’ve chosen to worship.

They do all this, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (v.27). But it is a vain hope when religion is the means of seeking.

From the beginning, God related to His creation on a personal level. Adam and God walked together in the garden and conversed as one person talks to another.

Throughout Old Testament history, prior to the coming of Christ, God was relating to His people as Father. He gathered them as a family. He loved them, watched over them and provided for them, He listened to them and gave them good gifts. It was never because of what they did (religion) but because of His faithful love for them (relationship). The incarnation of Jesus Christ as a human being was all about God relating to us; literally becoming like us, in order to save us. It was the ultimate expression of His love.

That we have taken His love and the offer of a relationship and encumbered it with religion is our own undoing. By creating a set of rules and practices by which we gain God’s attention, we actually miss out entirely. Religion is our ineffectual way of getting to God, dependent on what we do. Relationship is His way of getting to us, dependent entirely on what He did.

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