Monthly Archives: February 2015

Crisis: Religion or Relationship

broken_rope2

The Crisis Issue (Part 2)

When it comes to religion or relationship, what is the crisis issue? The crisis is a connection issue—how will you or I connect with Jesus Christ. The options are religion (an artificial connection system) or relationship (a heart-to-heart connection). The difference between these two options would seem obvious, but it is sometimes indistinguishable except in the tiniest of details. Details really do matter!

Let me illustrate. Perhaps you are familiar with the television series American Pickers. It chronicles the exploits and adventures of two antique and collectible buyers (or pickers) named Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. They travel America searching for treasures by calling on people who collect, hoard, or have inherited overwhelming collections of apparent junk.

Several month ago, I was watching as Mike and Frank where climbing through one of the outbuildings of an elderly couple. Suddenly they stopped dead in their tracks as they uncovered an extremely rare 1935 Auburn Phaeton convertible partially visible from under a stack of junk. The old man had gotten the automobile from his uncle decades earlier and had parked it in his shed to protect it. Over time, it became covered with other collectible trash and treasure. The car still had its original paint and leather interior. It was the mythical barn find—a treasure of great value that had been sitting hidden for almost seventy years.

Mike and Frank were foaming at the mouth and immediately asked the old man to name his price. He obviously knew what he had and replied that the car was worth at least $80,000. In fact, he and his wife were counting on the car’s value to help support them in their old age.

So Mike and Frank called a friend who was an expert in vintage cars to get a second option. The expert asked them to check the size of the engine because the size of the engine would determine the price of the car. It seems that only a few Phaetons (the ones worth $80-$110,000) had a bigger engine. Sadly, the old man’s car had the smaller engine and was worth only $20-$30,000. The value difference was the detail—a detail the old man had apparently missed. All the 1937 Phaetons looked alike on the outside, but the difference was in the detail of engine size.

Like the Phaetons, religion and relationship often appear indistinguishable but the difference is in the details. The treasure of relationship is often buried beneath the trash of religion.

Here are a few details that will help us distinguish between religion and relationship:

  • Religion is the counterfeit connection of hell. Relationship is the heart cry of humanity for connection with God.
  • Religion was created by humanity to measure his/her pursuit of God. God pursued humanity so that he might connect with us through relationship.
  • Religion requires rules, rituals, false measurements, and perfection that results in frustration, rejection, and shame. Relationship requires simple surrender, but results in ultimate satisfaction that leads to self-less service and sacrifice.
  • Religion deadens relationship, but genuine relationship destroys religion.
  • Religion crucified Jesus Christ, but relationship held him on that cross until our sin debt was completely paid.

You see the details really do matter! The time has come for each of us to dig deeper into what we believe and why we believe it. The time has come to throw out the trash of religion and uncover the treasure of relationship. The time has come to pay attention to the details of how we connect with Jesus.

Crisis: Religion or Relationship (Part 1)

 

broken_rope2

Crisis (Part 1)

Fasting is tough. I am eighteen days into a 40 day fast from religion, as are many of the members of Eagle’s Wing Church where I pastor. We are driven by a desperate hunger and a passionate desire to experience a genuine relationship with God. Our desire is to know God rather than the facts or things that point us to God. We want to personally experience God and his love rather than live off the past experiences others.

Perhaps you’re wondering—why a fast from religion? Isn’t religion a good thing? Isn’t religion all about God?

Let me define religion. Religion is a system that must be practiced so that perfection can be reached. On the other hand, relationship is a heart-to-heart connection with a real person. You can’t have a relationship with a system. Relationship requires two people (not a person working a system). Jesus came to pay the price of sin so he might restore our ability to walk in communion with God—to have a personal relationship with him. Relationship is pursued,  while religion is practiced. And in this case practice will never make us perfect.

Our hearts yearn for relationship. We are born with a hunger to be loved and to give love in return. God created us that way. And he created a deep craving within all of us that can only be satisfied by a genuine relationship with him. God is relational. It is a part of his nature. Relationship starts in the heart of God.

Humanity created religion because we like systems where we can achieve things on our own. For some reason, we want to do it our way, rather than God’s way. Religion demands a pseudo perfection that is somehow achieved through rigorous practice and good works. The problem with that is we can’t rise to the measure of perfection God requires. Otherwise the death of Christ on the cross was a tragic waste.

The modern Christian church is in crisis. Most preach salvation by grace but then we turn around and try our hardest to achieve God’s favor, love, and blessings through works and activities. That’s religion, not relationship. Most believers attempt to connect with God through religion—through the system. But the only way we can make this heart-to-heart connection is through relationship.

For the next several weeks I want to share the subtle deception of religion and the satisfying depth of relationship through this blog. I encourage you to join us in a forty day fast from religion. If you will commit—God will bless you and set you free from religion’s crushing coils.

How do you start? Simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your spiritual life that is smacks or smells of religion. That may be a belief, a doctrine, a cherished idea or practice. It could be anything. As the Holy Spirit exposes those hidden things, confess them and move on. Invite the Holy Spirit to examine all your beliefs, doctrines, practices, and way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to invite him in to those things—he should be at home in all of them or that belief is not from God. That’s it!

You may be thinking there’s got to be more to it than this. What are the rules? If you need more rules than I’ve shared, you can start right there with that thought—it’s riddled with religion!