I was telling my wife the other day that I go through spells over the movies I like to watch. In other words, sometimes I like science fiction, sometimes I like old John Wayne movies and sometimes I don’t like to watch any movies. When I am in the mood to watch a movie, I understand that each of them have their own characteristics. Some remind me of the old days, the times when life was more simple, or at least it seemed, and other make me look forward to the future. One of my favorite lines in the older movies is when someone changes their lives and begins to follow God. To which, the others in the movie will say something like, “you must have found religion”.
I love that question, because it reminds me that many people don’t know the difference between “religion” and “relationship”. Don’t get me wrong, religion is not a bad word. In fact, it is a very common way of talking about life with God. But unfortunately, many people misunderstand the difference. Technically, religion is a word that describes a list of do’s and don’ts or regulations, laws people try to live by. For example, people will say, God says don’t do this or that, so we don’t do this or that or God says do this or that, so we do this or that. Sounds clear enough. But life with God is not just about doing or not doing. Certainly, God wants obedience, in fact, obedience is the key to many blessings from God, but what God really wants is a relationship with us. More specifically, a saving relationship.
When Jesus died for the sins of the world, God opened the door of heaven to anyone who would open their heart to what He has done. He paid the sin debt for mankind, but man must believe in his heart and confess with his mouth that Jesus was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9). That begins the relationship, but a saving relationship with God. God did the work through Jesus, to satisfy Himself of the debt all people owe Him. Therefore, what people really have is a saving relationship with Christ or God. He came to the earth to save us and to create a relationship between us and Him. To have a relationship, technically is not a saving relationship. Meaning, anyone can have a relationship with God, but that relationship could be horrible. The person my hate God for various reasons. To have a saving relationship is far different. That is a relationship between God and man, where man understands the mercy of God and His grace to save the person. Which, also moves the Holy Spirit into that person. That’s right, at the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the person. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “John 3:5-7 (NASB) 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The point Jesus was making is, to be born again also means, the Holy Spirit comes to live within the person.
So I often wonder, if people who profess to have a life with God understand that what they really have is a saving relationship. To have a relationship with God is great, or could be great. But to know you have a saving relationship is similar to what Jesus was teaching Nicodemus. Nicodemus had a relationship with Jesus, but after that conversation, he had a saving relationship. What about you? Are you like the Nicodemus who first came to Jesus or the Nicodemus who left Jesus that night with a different relationship?