“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27 NKJV).
Although there are hundreds of religions in the world today, yet there is only one true and living way to having a true, intimate, loving and eternal relationship with God, which is through faith in the person and the finished work of Jesus at the cross (Heb. 10:19-20).
By offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, the Lord Jesus has abolished the enmity between the holy God and sinful men. The believers in Christ now have boldness to approach and stand before God without any sense of fear, shame, guilt or condemnation (Eph. 2:14-18; Rom. 8:1).
No one can seek and find God, or have a loving, intimate and eternal relationship with God unless he first finds, acknowledges, and believes in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus clearly said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6 NKJV).
John the Beloved writes, “No one who rejects the Son has found the Father; he who acknowledges the Son has found the Father also.” (1 John 2:23 TCNT).
Religion seeks to make peace with God, but not through God’s appointed Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus. You cannot make peace with God unless through the one and only Mediator appointed by God – the Man Christ Jesus.
The Scripture states: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:5-6 NKJV).
In the first part of this piece we began to examine the profound differences between “Relationship” with God and “Religion” about God. This is absolutely necessary because many people in the world today are confusing relationship with religion; not knowing that having a loving and intimate relationship with God is profoundly different from just having or practising a religion.
Let us briefly recap the differences pointed out in the first part of this piece.
First, A loving and intimate relationship with God is purely based on grace, but religion is purely based on works:
Intimacy with God cannot be earned, achieved or attained by any man through his self-righteousness, performance, or good works. It is God’s gracious gift to all men which can only be received by faith in the person and the finished work of Jesus at the cross.
Sadly, religion rejects God’s gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, but pursue self-righteousness through the works of the law as a means of earning God’s love, acceptance, favour, or blessing. Religious folks don’t rely completely on the finished work of Jesus at the cross, but on their good works (Gal. 2:16, Rom. 10:1-4).
Second, A loving and intimate relationship with God is Christ-centered, but religion is Self-centered:
Because religion is always seeking to appease, please, or impress God through self-righteousness, performance or good works, it makes men to be preoccupied with themselves. But, a loving and intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ turns your focus and attention away from yourself to Christ, who reconciled you to God by His death on the cross (2 Cor. 5:18, 1 Tim. 2:5-6).
Third, A loving and intimate relationship with God is Love-driven, but religion is Fear-driven:
Religion drives, motivates or compels men to pray, give, obey or do good works using the fear of punishment from God as a motivation. But, those who have an intimate and loving relationship with God are driven, motivated and compelled by the love of God, which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit at the New Birth (2 Cor. 5:13-14, 1 John 4:18).
Let us now consider more remarkable differences between relationship with God and religion about God.
Fourth, A loving and intimate relationship with God leads to Freedom, but religion results in Bondage:
Because religion employs or uses fear of punishment from God to drive, motivate or compel people to submit, obey, or adhere to its system of rules; it enslaves and torments people because fear has torment.
The Scripture states that: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NKJV).
Religion forces or binds heavy yokes and burdens on people that no one can bear. Religious folks everywhere are fainting, grumbling, groaning or moaning under the heavy burdens of religious rites, rules or regulations.
The Lord Jesus sharply rebuked the religious Jewish leaders, saying, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt. 23:4 NKJV).
Religion has no power to set anyone free from the power, penalty, or presence of sin. Therefore, religious zealots, without intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, are perpetual slaves of sin and are constantly living in fear of the penalties or wages of their sins (John 8:34, Rom. 6:16).
But, when you are born-again through faith in the person and finished work of Jesus on the cross, you are completely set free from the bondage, power and penalty of sin.
Paul bears witness to this truth, saying, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2 NKJV).
Freedom is the hallmark of knowing and following Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of a loving and intimate relationship with Jesus.
This is why Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NKJV). “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36 NKJV).
This is why the Scripture admonishes believers to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1 NKJV).
Fifth, A loving and intimate relationship with God is primarily about Being (who you are), but religion is primarily about Doings (what you do):
Because religion has no power to change or transform the heart of a man, its emphasis is therefore on man’s outward appearance, performance, actions or works. Religion primarily focuses on the outward man, but neglects the inward man.
Religion seeks to change the outward man without first transforming the inner man; it seeks to change a man’s acts without first changing his heart; it seeks to change a man’s doings without first changing his being or nature.
Religion is preoccupied with your doings rather than your being, with your acts rather than your heart, with your outward appearance rather than your inward transformation, and with what you do rather than who you are. This why religious folks are a bunch of hypocrites!
Jesus said to the religious zealots, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Matt. 15:7-9 NKJV).
God changes or transforms those who come to Him through faith in Christ from inside out. Through the New Birth, God gives the believers a new heart so that they may begin to walk in newness of life. God transforms the believer into a new being, person or creation in Christ, and not to a rehabilitated, reformed, or refined old self.
The Scripture testifies, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 RSV).
Sixth, A loving and intimate relationship with God results in walking in the light, but religion results in walking in darkness:
Even though religion claims to make God known to people, however, it maligns God and confuses people about God’s true nature and character. Religion misrepresents God; it paints God in a bad light. Religion casts a veil upon people’s minds, thereby causing them to walk about in darkness with a distorted or twisted vision, image or concept of God.
The Lord Jesus came into the world to fully reveal God’s true nature and character to us. Jesus said, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18 NKJV).
It is therefore impossible for anyone to know God intimately unless through Jesus Christ.
Jesus clearly states: “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matt. 11:27 NKJV).
Therefore, knowing God or walking in the light of God begins with acknowledging, believing and receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. It is following Jesus that guarantees having and walking perpetually in the light of God.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NKJV). “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46 NKJV).
Lastly, A loving and intimate relationship with God will continue throughout eternity in heaven, but religion will end in this world:
All those who have believed in the Lord Jesus have received the gift of eternal life, thereby having an intimate, loving and eternal relationship with God (John 3:36, 1 John 5:12).
Jesus assures, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24 NKJV).
Beloved, while religion ends in this world, intimate relationship with God continues after this life. However, you cannot start having an intimate and loving relationship with God after death; you have to start now in this world. God’s gracious gift of eternal or everlasting life (knowing God, intimacy with God) is available to you only in this life.
If you despise, disregard, or reject God’s gift of eternal life to you through Jesus Christ, but continue to adhere to your religion or religious rites, rules, or regulations; you will not see or meet a loving Father but a fierce Judge at the end of your brief sojourning in this world.
Therefore, choose today between having a loving, intimate and eternal relationship with God and having and practising a mere religion.
The choice is purely yours, but not the consequences of your choice!
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for offering me the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, so that I may enjoy a loving and intimate relationship with You throughout eternity in heaven. I receive this precious gift today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.