People hear me say I am not a religious person. Hearing this from an ordained minister raises an occasional eyebrow. However, it is true.
Religion is defined as people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life.
Therein lies the crux of the problem.
We are endowed by our Creator with the right to choose and the ability to create. Throughout the Bible is a recurring theme: life verses death.
In the garden, God said to Adam, “I give you a choice.” The choice was obedience.
God said, “Now listen. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will die.”
By this God meant spiritual death.
Well, Adam and Eve made the wrong choice. They experienced spiritual death. They became aware of the guilt and shame and hid from God.
Flash forward a few thousand years. God says to Moses, “Here are two mountains. One represents death and cursing (negative flow), one represents life and blessing (positive flow).”
He then instructs Moses and all of Israel to, “Choose life.”
Years later, God speaks to Joshua: “I set before you life or death,” and again he finished with, “Choose life.”
When he declared his mission, Jesus stated, “I have come to give you life and life abundantly,” John 10:10.
He also said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,” Luke 4:18-19.
In the end, this relationship with God is about coming into an increasing and unfolding dynamic called eternal life. The reason we turn from sin and darkness is that it is fruit from the wrong tree. It is a turning from death to life, from darkness to light.
Now back to religion.
In America we have become experts in religion. Our opinions of deity and our information of God lead us to a spiritual identity. We collect spiritual facts like baseball cards. In a self-centered society the gathering of information has become the end in itself.
Should not study or become highly skilled in our knowledge? Of course not.
I am saying knowledge is not the end but rather the beginning. Information should lead to revelation.
The Bible without the spirit leads to death. It is a living book. The more you read it, the greater the potential of revelation. Revelation leads to understanding and understanding to wisdom.
If you know people who claim to know God, but they are mean, bitter, spiteful, etc. you can be sure they only know about God. God has declared when you hang out with him, you begin to experience love, joy, peace, faithfulness and self-control ... his fruit.
The Bible declares it is with joy we draw from the wells of salvation, Isaiah 12:3.
Jesus said the people who knew him would go and impact their world around them. He said they would minister healing and cast out devils. He said they would be alive. The church is not about gathering once a week for information exchange. That can be important but if that is all there is, it is quite possible you are simply being religious.
I love the church. The church is the expression of Christ’s body in its pure form. However, if your walk with God is summed up in church attendance and God trivia, may I challenge you to meet with Jesus and get acquainted with him?
Try scheduling him in your day planner or take a walk with him. Chase after him until you discover him present in your life. Jesus is the God who talks to you, speaking through the Bible and in your heart. Be open to learn that prayer is a dialogue and a conversation, and worship is about an encounter.
God did not send Christ to give us the ultimate self-help program. He came to recreate us from the inside out. Have we arrived? Not yet. Is there anyone that has got it all? Not yet. Are there any perfect folks out there? Not yet.
He is not finished with us. He will not be done with us until we meet him face to face.
It is not about my knowledge and beliefs. However, knowledge and belief should lead to an encounter with a living being who transforms me. The end is an active living relationship that is based on the fullness of life. Like God said, “Choose life!”
Bob Reasner is pastor at Abundant Life Assembly of God, 32940 Sterling Highway, Sterling. He can be reached at 262-7266 or www.abundantlifealaska.org. Sunday services are: Education 9:45 a.m.; morning worship and children’s church, 11 a.m.; evening worship at 6 p.m. Midweek service for adults and children at 7 p.m. Wednesday; and Youth church is 6 p.m., Saturday.
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