Sunday, 13 July 2014

Christianity is not just a Religion. It is a Relationship!

The key message of religion is if you do good, you get rewards from a god. You don’t have to be in relationship with the god, just do as you are told, then all will be well. But Christianity is markedly different, it encourages us to relate with God as a father and friend! Wow! Christianity is founded on relationships, vertically with God and horizontally with man through the Cross.

I am all too aware that some of us were given the view of ‘Christianity as a religion’ when we were growing up. We were told to avoid sin, in order to please God and go to heaven when we die. On the surface, it looks like a good teaching, and yes as Christians we should strive to live right. But the motivation for living right is fundamental. Are we living right (obeying God’s commands) because we want to go to Heaven or are we living right in appreciation for what God has done for us?


One of the passages that talks about this is found in Luke10:27, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and,‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” 

Jesus calls these the greatest commandments.You and I know that for love to be love, it needs to be relational. Love does not work in isolation, you need someone to love. But how can you love? God shows us how, He gives us a template for loving. 

First we love God, then we love ourselves and finally we love others. Even though the 'loving yourself' part may not seem initially apparent in the command, we need to love/see ourselves the way God loves/sees  us. It only then that we can love others as we love ourselves, because quite frankly, we can’t give to others what we don’t have.

In today’s article, we will look at the first and fundamental Love: Love the Lord with All of your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.

We serve a God who desires full commitment from us. The passage above frequently uses the word ‘ALL’ to mean, 100%, not 99.9%. For this to happen, it means we know and believe that the One in whom we trust is able to keep us. 

How do we know this? We use history to remind us of how He has been our help in ages past, and so trust Him for the years to come. This means studying about God for ourselves, not just living on the few morsels of preaching we are fed every Sunday. But desiring Him so much that we hunger and thirst after righteousness on a daily even hourly basis and go to His Word, the Bible, and other Christian literature, to feed us.

The passage above shows us how we can love God with four different yet integrated aspects of our being:

Heart– The heart is the seat of passion, the seat of love. The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:21, “ For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” In other words, you treasure what you set your affection on. If your affection is God, you will treasure Him above any other thing and want to please Him. But if your affection is money, naturally you will do anything to get rich. Unfortunately we can’t have both of them, we can’t serve two masters. Again Matthew 6:24 tells us” No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” God wants us to make Him the Master and Director of our lives, He wants our hearts to be full of Him alone.

Soul-Your soul is your core, the real you, and your identity. It is the condition of your soul that affects the choices you make and the character you display. A good tree produces good fruit, because it is good. Same thing with the soul, it directs how we behave and the choices we make. If our identity is found in nothing else but God, we will reflect Him in our behaviour and live for God alone. But if our identity (our self-image, our worth, our validation) is found in money, pleasure,people-pleasing, career, awards, family, etc, we will naturally seek these things and put them first, above God, and this is idolatry. 

God doesn't want anything (no matter how good it is) to take His Number one place in our lives. The good news is that God knows what we need, He is a loving father with a mother's heart who delights to give us good gifts. If we will seek Him and His Kingdom first, we can be sure that we will get what we need (not want) - Matthew 6:33. And in Matthew 7:11, we are reminded "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Mind-The mind is the seat of knowledge, of rationality, of reason. God doesn’t want us to be robots, who love Him because we have been told to do so. God wants us to have a reason to love Him. And one way of doing that is through knowledge of who He really is. He is a God of love, He has been faithful to us and will never give up on us. 

He said this repeatedly to the Israelites, and frequently tried to get them to remember how He delivered them from Egypt, how He protected them from their enemies, how He provided for them, how He has been there for them. He did this to give them a reason to serve Him alone. In Deuteronomy 6:13,the Israelites were told, "be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." 
In the same manner, we too should remember times in the past when God has been there for us, times when He has healed us, times when He has not punished us as we deserved, times when He blessed us beyond our imaginations. We must not forget, and this will in turn cause us to worship Him because He is deserving of it. It is only in knowing God as He is, a God of love, that we can love Him.

Strength-God wants us to serve Him with our skills, our time, our talents and resources in every situation. Each of us has been blessed with amazing gifts and God wants us to use these gifts in His service to His glory and to the benefit of others. This is confirmed in 1 Peter 4:10 “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”He also wants us to be witnesses of His love in the way we live our everyday lives. This means speaking in love to others, encouraging others, forgiving others, helping others… It also means watching, reading and listening to things that honour God and enrich our spiritual lives.

So yes, God wants us to serve Him out of appreciation and love,not out of fear. He first loved us, even when we were unworthy of love, and He never gives up on us. I pray like St Paul that each of us will get a deep revelation (not information) of God's love. Amen.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:16-19.

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Image1 courtesy:http://college.wfu.edu/religion/wp-content/uploads/religious_diversity5.jpg 
Image2 courtesy:http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xL9GznUU18w/TbGLEiHbWNI/AAAAAAAAAH0/KkZQ_ZVG9E0/s1600/holding_hands_.jpg
Image3 courtesy:http://media.salemwebnetwork.com/crosswalk/resource/image/669.img?v=49

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