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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Religion or Relationship?

Beliefs often give rise to religions, constructed and ruled by imperfect and possibly corrupt and deceptive men. In comparison, the New Testament describes relationship with God. Let's look at the difference.

Religion: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
Relationship: 1: the state of being related or interrelated
2: the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship 
The Mormon church is a religion. It was started by a man (Joseph Smith), is ruled by men in a hierarchy starting from their prophet/president and trickling down into the general membership. There is a set system of beliefs, attitudes, rituals, ordinances, and so on. Everything is highly regulated within the church. Each church teaches the same lessons no matter where in the world they are. Each church had the same hymns, varying only by what language necessitates. A person could appear to be a Mormon without ever believing it if they said and did all the right things, although I imagine it would be hard to maintain such a front permanently.

Christianity is supposed to be a relationship--a relationship with God. The Spirit of God lives in us, giving us direct and constant access and contact with God. There is no earthly hierarchy--there Jesus/God the Father, and there is the church. People in the church have different roles, but none are supposed to truly be over another Christian in the ways a religion does. A pastor is not a ruler, a dictator, or someone whose commands should be followed without questioning whether or not they're from God; he is a shepherd, a guide, a teacher. Everyone has their place, but none is unessential. All are equal in the sight of God. Believers have a direct relationship with God, with no intermediary because Christ himself is our mediator. Our relationship with God can be so strong and personal that God becomes Abba... Dad. According to Romans 8, this is what God wants, and what the Spirit prompts us towards. It is hard to appear to be a Christian if you are not, because being a Christian has two essential components; true, sincere belief, and that belief being shown in a person's life. A person who does not believe generally will not show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives if they don't truly believe.

The question is, if you think you believe in God, do you truly have a relationship with him? Do you see him in your life more and more, or is he a second thought? Is your desire not to do what a religion tells you that you should, but to live out the love of Christ in your own life? Do you follow what Christ taught because you think you have to in order to be worthy, or because you love him and belief in him so fully that you want that goodness in your life and pursue it? Do you follow men without questioning whether or not they speak for God because they say they speak for God, or do you follow the Word of God? Is God a distant being with whom you feel you must be formal, or is he your Dad, your Abba, with whom you can speak normally and love and interact with? Is all of God enough for all of you, or do you need more, such as rituals and imperfect men? 
Do you have to depend on other people or a religion to get to your goal after death, or do you depend fully on Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life?

Which do you want to depend on?

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