Being a Christian 2: Relationship or Religion?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 14, 2022 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“I don’t have a religion. I have a relationship.”

How many of you have heard this tag line to distinguish themselves from other religions? I hear it all the time, and I’ve even used it a number of times. But it’s not true. No one who has thought this through can claim this. Everyone has a religion. Everyone has some deity they worship whether it be Jehovah, Allah, an idol, nature, or themselves. Everyone worships something. And everyone has a “code of ethics” that comes with their religion, God or no god. So, sorry, everyone has a religion.

But Christianity is unique. The religion is rooted in both a relationship and a creed. No other religion actually proclaims a personal, intimate relationship between the deity and the people. God repeatedly proclaimed His relationship with Israel as being unique and not like those of the other nations. This is not a mere acquaintance nor a friendship. It is described as a marriage. Some theologians have suggested that the Ten Commandments could actually be the wedding vows between God and the nation of Israel. Then due to Israel’s repeated unfaithfulness, Scripture even declares that God divorced Israel. The Christian’s relationship with Christ is also compared to that of marriage. Paul spends a fair amount of time of Ephesians 5 making this connection.

The Christian faith has both relationship and religion. There is the personal connection with God, which only happens via the supernatural regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and there is the religious aspect, which calls for moral adherence and obedience to God’s commands. There must be both parts to it, and they work holistically. Paul makes it absolutely clear that our salvation is by grace through faith in Ephesians 2:8. But James said that faith without works is dead. Jesus Himself said that those who are His family are those who obey His commands. Then there is the other aspect: all law and no relationship becomes legalism. In studying church history, there is always the pendulum swing between legalism and antinomianism (a moral free-for-all). Church generations tend to swing back and forth between one extreme and the other. In the 90s, there was the sexual purity movement. Today, it’s a free-for-all, and the “New Reformation” teachings are back to stoicism, with pure theology and no emotion. The same is true about the relationship and religion aspects as well. When the church sees something wrong between the religious aspects, they overreact and focus on just relationships. That’s where we are right now. But we are also seeing that the relationship aspect is devoid of moral stability, and we are moving to come back to center, at least for a moment.

You cannot have a relationship with someone you don’t know. The Bible does not deal with acquaintances when it comes to how God relates to His people; it deals with the deepest kind of intimacy. Marriage is the closest relationship a man can have with a woman, and the epitome of this relationship is in sexual relations. The Bible often uses the term “to know” to describe this. I want to be careful how I say this, but it is absolutely necessary for the image I am trying to give here. When a husband has sex with his wife, he puts his seed into her, and she conceives. Nine months later, a child is born. In Christianity, Christ, the husband, puts His seed into us, and that seed produces salvation (among many other things). When Jesus told the many who call Him “Lord, Lord” “I never knew you,” Jesus was saying, “I have had no intimate relationship with you. My seed is not within you.” You will not get into heaven by proclaiming yourself to be a Christian, nor by simply saying you have a relationship with Christ. You only get in by Jesus saying, “I know YOU.”

Isaiah warns about our day in Isaiah 4:1. Before that in chapter 3, Isaiah describes the sinful state of Judah and then describes how God takes away 11 positions of strength of a nation, from military strength to leadership, to quality speakers, to food and water supplies, to the economy, etc. With these 11 strengths gone, a nation is devastated. Side note: look at today – most of these strengths are gone from the U.S. too. In that day of destruction, in that day of judgment, seven women will go out to one man to make a marriage of convenience. They will do their own thing and they will stay out of the man’s way; they just want the name of the husband so they could take away their reproach, so they would look good before man. David Wilkerson taught that this was a picture of Jesus, when numerous people would come to Him, proclaim His name, but never have any real intimate relationship with Him. This is the kind of relationship that is nominal at best and again, there is no seed of growth. It’s all a work of self and the flesh. It’s a man-made religion with no relationship. Let me make something clear here: the majority of those who say they have a relationship, not a religion, very likely are in this boat. Why? Because they boast of a relationship with Christ but show they have no interest in what Christ actually wants: obedience.

I am going to dig into this issue as I go through this series. Christianity is a faith in which salvation is by the grace of God, but there much more involved than just a casual belief on our part. It is not enough to say you know Christ. It is not enough to just say a prayer and be saved. There must be life being produced within us. It takes the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that seed of Christ grow within our “womb” so that it bears life. That which does not produce fruit will be cut off and cast out. Read the Parable of the Sower. Read John 15. That which bears no fruit will be cut off. What kind of fruit are we bearing? Is the seed of Christ within us? How can we know? I will be answering these questions as I continue this series.

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