FAITH IS A LIFESTYLE, NOT A RELIGION

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FAITH IS A LIFESTYLE, NOT A RELIGION

Is your faith a religion? Ever asked yourself that question? What is a religion, really? Googling the word ‘religion’ churns out this definition;

“the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”

What do you make of that? Sound like a passive relationship, doesn’t it? A unilateral selfless giving on the part of one party that is never reciprocated by the other. Do you ever feel like your life of faith is like that?

Well, beloved, if you have ever had those feelings, I want to challenge the way you think about your relationship with Jesus. Yes, our relationship with Jesus is one that involves unilateral selfless giving, which is almost never reciprocated by the other. But the one doing the giving is Jesus, not you. Not convinced? Have a little think with me.

When was the last time you did something FOR Jesus? Really, when was the last time you did something that benefited Him only? Not your church, not your local community, not your pastors, not anyone here on earth, just Jesus. When?

You know, we Christians have it good. If we compare ourselves with those practicing other religions, our religion is relatively ‘cost free’, isn’t it? Many religions compel their devotees to make food offerings to their deities, most of which is thrown away; because by the time the gods have ‘consumed’ them, they have been put out there for too long and have gone bad.

Yet other religions make their devotees mutilate themselves in the flesh and burn piles of offerings to them; all of which, we Christians are never called to do. Yes, some do it out of their own free will or because of some misguided doctrine. But as far as the Bible is concerned, this is all the sacrifice you need to do.

“With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” Romans 12:1-2 [Phillips]
Don’t skim that passage. Pay attention to the consequence of making yourself the sacrifice. In sacrificing yourself to Jesus, you have God re-mould your minds from within so that you may prove in your daily living , the plans that God has for you. And what are the plans that He has for you?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV]

So, by sacrificing yourself to Jesus, you get to live in God’s plans to prosper you. Tell me again, where is the sacrifice?

You know beloved, neither Jesus nor God our Father want anything from you. And that is why they say,

“I will not take a bull from your house,
Nor goats out of your folds.
For every beast of the forest is Mine,
And the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the mountains,
And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.” Psalm 50:9-12

For indeed, all they really want is this.

“My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.” Proverbs 3:1-2

Let your heart keep His law, says our Father. Not your hands, not your effort, not your toil; but your heart. Because all our Father wants is a close and intimate, sincere and genuine relationship with you, His beloved child. And that is why Jesus said,

“Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29

So now that we have received Jesus, now that we believe in Him, how should we relate to Him? Well, beloved, surely not as a religion. Our relationship with Jesus is a walk, a journey; not a series of rites and rituals. Faith is a lifestyle, not a religion. And this is what it means.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in [union with] Him [reflecting His character in the things you do and say—living lives that lead others away from sin], having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7 [AMP]

When we relate to Jesus, it’s like having Him walk down life’s road with us. When we come to a fork, we ask Him where we should go. When we see things along the way that confound us, we ask Him why those things are. And as we allow Him to reveal to us the beauty of His work and the magnificence of His plans, we will begin to pick up on His cues, learn His ways and be influenced by His character. And who wouldn’t want that for himself?

But not only that, when we do that, our faith becomes increasingly more established as we are continually being built up in Him. And that simply means that what used to faze you in the past, gradually loses its hold on you. Fears don’t consume you anymore, bad habits become easier to say ‘no’ to and problems don’t seem to rear their ugly heads quite as often.

You know, the moment you stop seeing prayer and Bible reading as a ritual and start seeing them as your preferred daily mode of communication with God our Father; the moment you stop beginning your prayers with ‘Lord please give me this and that’ and start each day asking ‘Lord what would you have me do today’; something miraculous happens. Your mind becomes clearer, solutions start to come, your problems no longer seem to be as big as they were before, and consequently, your fears start to melt away. And all this is because to you, faith has become a lifestyle, Jesus has become a partner on your daily walk, and you have become

“…woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.” Colossians 2:2-3 [MSG]
Let’s be honest, wisdom and knowledge is all we really need, isn’t it? In order to get that house you always wanted, that car you always wanted, or live the lifestyle you always wanted; you need wisdom to steward all that you are given. And all that wisdom is embedded in Christ.

And when you make Christ, the treasure trove of all wisdom and knowledge, your life companion; when you trust in Him to make your decisions for you, what naturally happens? That’s right, you become at rest, because you are focused on the confidence that Christ can never ever make a bad decision for you.

“So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 [MSG]

Focus instead on Jesus and make Him your daily companion. Turn to Him when you have troubles. Ask of Him when you need supply. Trust His leading when the way ahead becomes uncertain. For indeed, your relationship with Jesus is not a religion, but the lifestyle that will keep you always in His protection and provision because of His unending love for you.

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