Religious, Spiritual, or a Follower of Christ?

I had a person say to me, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. I think they thought I’d argue with them about that statement, but I agreed with them, “Yep, me too.” They looked at me so funny. They meant, “I don’t attend church, am frustrated with church, etc”. I meant, “Jesus hated structured religion that was empty of spiritual power, and so do I.”

It’s not about being religious or spiritual; it’s about actually following Christ. Being deeply religious or deeply spiritual without the life transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life will give you the same results. Hell will be full of deeply religious and deeply spiritual people. Satan himself is spiritual and believes in God. He has just made a decision to not surrender to God. Many religious or spiritual people are in the exact same boat today; they believe, but are not willing to surrender.

Surrender is the single biggest issue we face as followers of Christ. If we can get the surrender issue resolved, everything else falls into place. Jesus revealed the primary way we prove our love in John 14 when He “If you love me, you will obey me”. But I would say that our biggest issue with consistent obedience is surrender.

So, obedience is the primary way we prove our love for Jesus to Jesus. If Jesus was with you right now (and He is in the person of the Holy Spirit) and He asked you, “Do you love me?” Now, before we are too quick to say a resounding “YES!” let me ask you another question. Is there something He is asking you to do or to not do that you have not surrendered to yet?

If God is asking you to respond to Him in some area of obedience, your dialogue with Him would be much like that Peter had with Him in John 21 when He said, “Peter, do you truly love me?” After Peter said “Yes, you know I do Lord”. Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” In other words, do what I am asking you to do…prove your love for me through your willingness to obey me.

If Jesus asked me, “Tim, do you love me?” Of course I would say “Yes!”, but I must also be prepared for Him to say, “Then obey me in this specific area of your life”. That is the moment when we really find out whether I truly love Jesus or not. Any answer other than, “Absolutely” only proves that I love myself more than I love Christ.

I am convinced that many folks who claim to love Christ may truly want to love Him, but when it comes down to proving their love through their obedience they fail to make a compelling case. What about you? Does your level of surrender and obedience give evidence of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life or not?

Do You Attend a Life-Giving Church?

God hates religion. Think for a moment about how Jesus handled religious people throughout the gospels.   Religion says you can attend church, pray some prayers, follow the rules, etc… and be fine with God. Relationship says that your eternity is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through which you are reconciled to God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “There will be terrible time in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”

Those verses describe America today don’t they? Then verse 5 closes it out with this phrase; “having a form of godliness, but denying its power”. The phrase “a form of godliness” means a structured religion. “Denying its power” is best translated as denying the Powerful One (Holy Spirit).

Religion is empty of any real supernatural spiritual power. It is completely void of the power needed to truly transform lives. Now, let me be clear; attending church and religion is not the same thing. They have become the same thing in many cases. Many churches do just reinforce religion and its rules (I would avoid attending one of those).

But some churches teach a personal, life-transforming relationship with Jesus, which is evidenced by the work of the Holy Spirit in & through a person’s daily life. I call those type churches “life-giving churches”. A life-giving church will spend more time talking about the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through you than about its structure, rules, and expectations of you.

In a life-giving church, you will hear about God’s grace and mercy, and power to transform you; instead of guilt, shame, and condemnation. A life-giving church seeks to remove all the plastic and fakeness (yes, I know, I just made up a word hahaahhahaha), and just be real people, in need of a real Savior for from the real sin, and chasing after the heart of a real God.

God loves you so much He sent His Son, not religion. God loves you so much He sent you a person, not a structure. God loves you so much He wants to remove your sin shame, guilt, and condemnation; not use it as a weapon against you. God is completely different than religion. He is all about us having a personal relationship with His Son, so He can heal us, restore us, give us His righteousness, His power, His gifts, His grace, His forgiveness, His peace, His hope, His gifts, and eventually, eternity with Him in heaven.

It’s not about being religious or spiritual; it’s about actually following Christ; having a personal relationship with a living Savior. Being deeply religious or deeply spiritual without the life transforming work of the Holy Spirit in your life will give you the same results. Hell will be full of deeply religious and deeply spiritual people. Don’t let that be you.

The Question of All Eternity

Do you have a relationship with a religion, or do you have a real relationship with a real person named Jesus?  That really is the question of all eternity.

Many people “go to church”, but as the adage goes, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christ-follower any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a Big Mac” (unless of course you subscribe to the “you are what you eat” theory). Attending church, even faithfully, simply does not guarantee a person a personal relationship Christ.

Understanding a personal relationship with Christ begins with understanding that a real God sent His real Son to die on a real cross for my and your very real sin. Three days later, God raised His real Son from a real death through a real resurrection so that He could be the one and only real Savior of all mankind. A personal relationship with Christ begins with acknowledging your need for a Savior, then verbalizing a real desire and decision to make Jesus your Lord and Savior….your leader and forgiver; then inviting Him to change you from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit indwells a person or begins living in a person (Titus  3:3-7, John 7:37-39). Salvation is the result of “believing IN YOUR HEART (not your merely with your head – James 2:19), and confessing or declaring with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Religion is a relationship with a system of beliefs, rules, and traditions. A personal relationship with Jesus is a life changing interaction through a real relationship with a real Savior named Jesus Christ. The bottom line defining factor is the activity of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Once a person truly has a personal relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells them. The Holy Spirit’s bottom line delegated task from God is to make a difference in a person so He can make a difference through them. Do you recognize the activity of the Holy Spirit in your life?

2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes people with a “form of godliness”, which in the original language indicates a structured religion, “but denying it’s power”, which in the original language means “the powerful one of God” or the Holy Spirit. The description is not very flattering, but it does clearly describe our culture.

It’s all about relationship. Forget religion…it’s dead and it leads to spiritual death. Religion does not save…religion does not truly change lives… all religion does is complicate, confuse, and bore. Only a personal relationship with a real Savior changes one’s life.

How’s your relationship with God? Does it make a difference or is it just what you do because you are suppose to? Are you bored in your spiritual journey? Do yourself a favor, quit chasing “stuff”, and start chasing after a life changing relationship with God. He is real, and He really does make a difference! You will never be the same.