Religion, Church, Christian
In the past year certain words have begun to make me cringe each time I hear them. I don't necessarily have an issue with the concepts as they are used in God's Word, however I've come to realize in today's culture these words have taken on a very different meaning.
For a long time now I've cringed when someone refers to me as being "religious". From my observations in society this word has come to be a dead and legalistic term. It is all about rules and regulations, guilt and oppression. This is not anything new though. Reading the New Testament it is clear this is how it was 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked among us. The group of people you see Him critcizing the harshest are the religious, rather than those traditionally thought of as sinners.
Then there is the word church. Jesus referred to the church as a body of Believers, His Bride. However, in our world the word church tends to bring up images of a building where people go once a week to socialize and be "religious". I know this is not the case in all churches, but to those who are not Christian, I can tell you that is how it often appears. And unfortunately, the impression is the same among some Christians themselves.
That brings me to the third word. When someone asks me what religion I am, I cringe to say Christian. As humans we are imperfect, prone to pride, arrogance and selfishness. We have taken the word Christian which should bring to mind someone who follows Christ and we've turned it into something cheap. We have drug it through the mud. Christianity over the years has done many good things for this world, but it has also done some of the most horrific things as well. When the world hears "Christian", do they envision a follower of Christ? Instead many times they see selfish, arrogant people pushing their agenda by hiding behind the "church" and "religion".
I don't mean for this to be a downer. I bring it up because I have begun recently to question what I believe and what I've always been taught. I don't doubt God or His Word, however I do question how we as imperfect people see these things. I question not only what I believe, but why I believe it.
As I question more and more and ask Him for wisdom and discernment, the one thing that comes more to life for me is what this is really all about. Not from our perspective, but from God's. What is the Church? What is Christianity really all about?
The answer He has revealed to me is one word - relationship. I've heard this before, but it is really coming to life for me now. This is what it all comes down to in the end. It is all about getting to know our Heavenly Fahter through His Son, our Savior. It is not about rules and regulations, it is not about church or programs. We can do all of that but if we don't pursue Him personally, daily we will never understand it. My biggest concern now is to get to know the Lord. I don't want to put Him in a box, but I also don't want to fall for whatever comes my way.
The Bible refers to our walk as being the narrow road. What I've found is this narrow road has two ditches on either side which we can fall into if we are not careful. And I've found myself in both ditches at different times during my walk. One on side is legalism, where we loose focus on the goal, our relationship with Christ and focus on all the rules for being righteous. What is right or wrong. The other side is liberalism where we decide all is good, God is in it all. On one side we focus solely on God's Holiness and Righteousness. On the other hand we focus solely on His Love and Grace. God is both Righteous and Merciful, however it is hard for use to reconcile these two sides into one mighty God.
A true relationship with God means keeping an open mind towards Him and any correction He may give us. Not an open mind accepting of everything the world throws at us. Instead an open mind that is willing to admit we may be (and probably are) wrong about Him. A heart that earnestly prays for wisdom and discernment from the Lord even if that means blowing up the boxes we have created and tried to put Him in.
I can only do this by pursuing a true relationship with Him. That is His desire for me. If I focus on that, the rest will come. As I get to know Him better He will fill me with His Light. His Light is the only thing that can drive away the darkness that is in me because in the end that darkness is the absence fo Light, the absence of Him!
Instead of trying to do what is "right" and becoming righteous in my power and then beating myeslf up when I fail (which will always be the case when we try to do things this way!), I am going to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. When I do that, I will begin to walk with Him and He will empower me to change. The focus needs to be on the relationship, that is all that matters in the end.