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Religion or Relationship

“Religion is like the vaccine that stops you from getting the real thing.”

Billy Graham

“Right living and right believing go hand in hand in Paul’s letter to Titus.” When I read this quote in The Passion Translation introduction to the book of Titus, I was stirred to ponder.

It’s true, the fruit that comes from our right thinking is seen in our right living behavior. We believe the truth and that produces righteous behavior, not the other way around. Beliefs before behavior. What we tell ourselves, affects what we believe and what we believe will have a correlated affect in our actions. Our trust in the truth has a knee-jerk reaction with our conduct. That’s why it’s important to know the truth. Jesus said it well in John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Knowing who God is, how He feels about us and our identity as His sons and daughters, causes us to love Him more. The continuous cycle of our relationship with Jesus, goes like this: The more we get to know God, the more we love Him. And the more we love Him, the more we will obey Him. As we experience God in our acts of obedience, our understanding of Him increases and the cycle starts all over again. Acknowledging God’s kindness, goodness and faithfulness, draws me into an intimate relationship with the Lover of my soul.

For too many years, though, I practiced religion. I tried to act righteous and do all the right things in hopes of earning God’s love, favor and acceptance, as well feeling okay about myself. I thought fruitfulness would beget intimacy and that right behavior would lead to right thinking and right feelings, but it never worked that way. I discovered intimacy with God and acceptance of myself are based on how God feels about me and what Christ has done for me. When I began to believe the truth, obedience followed, out of my love for God.

Right living and right believing do go hand in hand. Relationship with God begins with right thoughts and then right behavior will soon follow.

“Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.”

Dr. Thieme

Relevant Reflections:

  1. Which characterizes your walk with God: relationship or religion?

  2. How have you seen right thoughts result in right behavior?

  3. In what ways have you experienced the follower of Jesus cycle of knowing, loving and obeying God?

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