Religion vs Relationship – It Makes A Huge Difference

Religion vs relationship can make a pivotal change in the way you live, feel, and function.

Religion can leave you feeling empty no matter how many prescribed good works you do. Following a system of rules can be like a hamster running on an exercise wheel and getting nowhere.

If you are at that point, it is time to transition to a relationship. Only then will you experience the emotional response of joy and peace that only comes from God. 

Religion vs relationship – what is the difference?

You may be wondering,  “What’s the difference between a religion and a relationship?” Boiling it down to its simplest terms, religion is a system about what we do and what we believe.

A relationship is how we relate to the deity that is over that system, although Wikipedia indicates that not all religions have a god or gods.  

The two should be connected, but often are not. You could do all of the prescribed religious practices and religious traditions and never have a close relationship with God.

Doing good deeds, being a good person, and following a set of rules can run you ragged if that is all you have. 

What does the Bible say about religion vs relationship?

As counterintuitive as it may seem, “religion” often corrupts us. It can become all about the outward appearance and what people think about us. It can be about gaining popularity or control over others and not a matter of the heart. 

Jesus addressed man-made religion in the New Testament. 

Here are some of Jesus’ words. 

“What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” Luke 11:42 NLT

“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ ” John 8:3-6 NLT

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” Matthew 23:27 NLT 

Photo of people in church and an overlay with thoughts from the previous Scriptures about religion vs relationship.
Religion vs relationship – religious practices are of no value if we don’t have love for God and love for people.

These religious leaders were all about religious duty without regard for God’s love for mankind. They had no connection with a personal God and therefore no evidence of a changed heart.

Yes, God’s law is important, but so are human beings. There has to be a balance, and that does not come without a personal relationship with the God of the universe. 

Jesus summarises all of this religious activity in His famous “Sermon on the Mount.”

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lod, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ” Matthew 7:21-23 ESV

“I never knew you.” There was no relationship.

Even before Jesus arrived on the scene God wanted a personal connection with mankind in their worship, not mere actions. 

“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 NLT

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:  your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51:16-17 NLT

Religion vs relationship in today’s world

Gone are the Biblical days of animal sacrifices. But other religious rituals are present. It is so easy to get caught up in the doing that we miss the right relationship that God wants to have with us. 

Many people hope they will have eternal life by doing all the right things. But this hope is only wishful thinking. While God loves all of us, Scripture is clear that we can not earn our way to heaven. Here is the truth of the Gospel. 

“Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 ESV

”  He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:5-7 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

Photo of people in church and an overlay with thoughts from the previous Bible verses which talk about religion vs relationship.
Religion vs relationship – We are not saved by the religious things we do but by the grace of God and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

As good as we may be, our own righteousness will not get us to heaven. Scripture says that we all have sinned and miss the mark. (Romans 3:23).

We may have a lot of knowledge of God but even the demons know the word of God and they won’t be joining us in heaven. 

Don’t get me wrong. It is important to do the right things, but they will not buy us a ticket to heaven. 

So what are we to do?

Actually, it does not depend on us at all. 

 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV

To have an intimate relationship with Christ Jesus means:

  • His way is our way
  • His truth is our truth
  • His life is our life

When we get to know Jesus on this level, He becomes our best friend. Mature Christian faith is a love relationship with our creator, the God of the universe. 

So how do we get to this point?

It doesn’t all happen overnight. It is a gradual process. God’s word along with prayer and interaction with other people who love Jesus are what help us gain maturity in our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The first step is acknowledging that we are separated from God and need His mercy and grace which was earned for us through the blood of Jesus and not through our own effort. 

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have an intense love for us. 

“For God (the father) so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV (explanation added) 

When we accept this gift from God, then His spirit comes to live in us, helping us become the person He created us to be. 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV

 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Romans 8:9 ESV

Have you heard God’s voice speaking to you as you read these Scriptures? Have you transitioned from religion to relationship?

If you don’t know Jesus, you probably have questions. The people at Chat About Jesus have answers.

You can chat with them online from anywhere in the world. They are available any time of the day or night. If you live in the United States, you can also text or call them. 

Religion vs relationship.  It makes a Huge difference. Make sure you have chosen the correct one. 

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