Christianity is often listed as a religion along with others such as Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism among others. However, nowhere in the heart of God was the intention that faith in Jesus would be a religion. Unfortunately. some well intentioned, but misguided people have turned the Christian faith into a religion, when it is really about a relationship with God.
Before moving further it is important to look at what religion really is.
The basic concept of religion is to follow a set of rules, or behaviour guidelines that if obeyed create a lifestyle or behavior that make an individual good enough to be accepted by God. Religion is a man made program designed to re work the ‘not so good’ parts of our humanness in to be good enough to get closer to God. The rules instruct to not do certain things and to do certain things, and by following them you will become a better person and therefore earn the right to get closer to God. This concept of religion is demanding and exhausting. It also focuses on more on outward behaviour rather than heart and motives.
Unfortunately the Bible makes it clear than none of this rule abiding has any hope of making a person good enough to get close to God. Jesus saw plenty of religious people when He walked on earth and told them in no uncertain terms that despite all their effort in keeping all the rules, they still fell short of the mark. Jesus was not popular with religious people! Since the entrance of sin in the garden of Eden, it seems part of our human DNA to think that we have to work to become better people. This is the foundation of ‘self help’ thinking – humans have the potential to achieve anything with enough effort.
The foundation of Christianity, however is the exact opposite to this thinking.
As sin created an insurmountable barrier which prevented human beings earn the ability to have a relationship with God, God created another way – by sending His son Jesus to break that barrier for us. Rather than trying to lead a life good enough to climb the ladder to get to God(which is works or religion), God came down the ladder to where we were. This is His gift of grace which we couldn’t possible earn or desire and He gives it to us? just because He loves us. God says ‘Come as you are’ and when we do He throws a party! God doesn’t expect us to produce anything that He doesn’t give us first. He gives us mercy and then says be merciful. He loves you and then says love others with My love. He forgives me and then says to forgive others. God makes me right with Him and then says through Jesus you can act right!
Religion gives us rules, Jesus gives us a new nature – Jesus gives us a new ‘want to and starts working in our lives from the inside.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”2 Corinthians 5:17
God has given you all you need to have a close relationship with Him. It is a gift and cannot be earned by obeying rules, or behaving a certain way. It is total Grace and He gives you all that is needed to live a life pleasing to God through Jesus.