Relationship not Religion

Eat This, Not That! is a book that provides guidelines to help you eat healthier and essentially lose weight. I have never read the book, but I seem to recall that it quickly became popular upon its initial publishing. Since then, there have been numerous revisions to keep the content current with ever-changing diets. The book offers food choices that are more diet-friendly than others, based on calories, fat, sugar, etc. The gist of it is exactly what the title tells you…eat this food, instead of that food.

Isn’t this similar to how many folks view the Bible? A list of guidelines or rules for how we should live our lives. Many rules that I know I don’t always follow to a T.

Don’t gossip…guilty (and before you judge me, don’t forget that celebrity about whom you were recently discussing the latest tea. But, this isn’t about you, so let me get back to pulling that plank of wood out of my eye).

Don’t curse…guilty

Don’t be a glutton…guilty

Don’t kill…guilty (ok, ok, I’ve never killed anyone in the sense of taking their physical life, but our words can kill a spirit, so yeah, there’s that)

Don’t, don’t, and don’t some more.

Although the Bible provides us with full instructions for obedience, we are merely flesh. The likelihood of us following every “rule” perfectly, all of the time is slim to none. And if our efforts for perfection are rigorous, not only are we exhausting ourselves but we are missing the most important part. The relationship with the Father.

Following God’s Word as if it is a list of rules is practically living a life in vain. Romans 7:6 tells us that when Jesus Christ died for our sins, He made it possible for us to live a life free from captivity. His sacrificial act of love was in part done so that we could establish a relationship with Him and learn to live in the power of His Holy Spirit. That is what He wants most from us. Relationship, not rules. Relationship, not religion.

Relational intimacy with God exchanges our willfulness for willingness. It begets obedience to Him, and over time all of those commands start to feel less daunting. The deeper our relationship with God, the more we naturally want to please Him (Colossians 3:23 CSB). We experience conviction when we knowingly go against His Word. Even when the wrongdoing seems diminutive, the Word is capable of dividing the spirit from the soul like a two edged sword. I love the way the AMP version of Hebrews 4:12 puts it:

“For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 AMP

Spiritual Diet

I accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized at a very young age. The decision to follow Christ was an immediate choice during a summer church revival. My relationship growth with Him, however, was more gradual.

I must admit, I had spiritual naivety. I didn’t realize that it would take time. Time for my relationship with Christ to develop into what it is today. It no longer surprises me, however, because it says right there in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, we are flesh. And because of our worldliness, we can only handle the milk of the Gospel. Similar to a baby. Give a baby anything other than milk, they will not be able to handle it. But as the baby grows you can introduce solid foods into its diet.

As we mature in our spiritual relationship, we too can handle more solid food. We can better digest the Word. Illustratively, the milk of the word is all of those rules people get so caught up in. But the solid food or meat of the Word if you will, is when those written words of the Bible give us new life. It gives us spiritual discernment and brings us into willing agreement with the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 5:13-14).

As with any relationship though, for it to grow, we must spend some good ol’ QT. Quality time! We must be intentional in our actions by reading God’s Word and having regular conversations with Him. And when we converse, we need to remember it’s a two-way thing. Consequently, we must take time to listen.

Desire…Curiosity…Need

The growth of my relationship with God over the last several decades seems to have been triggered by desire, curiosity, and need.

Back in 2013, I had already been promoted at work just a few years prior. Yet, here I was again, praying and waiting patiently for another promotion at work. Sadly, once I had gotten it, it was not nearly as fulfilling as I had imagined. I enjoyed the job as well as the money that came along with the work but if left me still desiring more. Desiring what I realized the world could not give me. I kept thinking to myself, “this can’t be life.” So I prayed…

My desire for more struck a level of curiosity for what my purpose was in life. I began to ask God what my purpose was and why I was here. At first I was not consistent with this prayer. But as desire and curiosity grew I began to pray about it consistently.

After several years of asking God and unbeknownst to me, it began to happen. As I spoke to God about my desires and curiosities, I began to find myself needing Him. Not that I didn’t need Him before (because I did). But this was different. I needed Him more and more because trouble came knocking on my door. Actually, it seemed more like trouble had kicked in the door and invaded my life. Trouble that He not only allowed but trouble for which only He could provide help. So I prayed…

With each prayer and with each turn of a page in the Bible my intimacy with God continued to grow. Unlike the book I mentioned above, revisions to the Bible are unnecessary. His Word is the same always. What was written hundreds of years ago can still be applied to life today.

As we grow in Christ, we mature spiritually and find that less is more. Less of the world, more of Him. Less of ourselves, more of Him. Less rules, more intimacy. Less religion, more relationship.

Although I am still waiting for some prayers to be answered I am grateful for the storms, the pain, and the tests of life. Without them, I would not have the relationship with God that I have today. It is an intangible priceless gift.

How is your spiritual diet? Do you feel full? Or are you yearning for more?

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