Religion or Relationship

Scripture: Proverbs 21:3, ‘To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.’

 

Observations: As always ‘what is right and just’ is what is right and just in God’s eyes, not what we think is right and just. The previous verse has just said, ‘all a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart,’ which means that what we think is right isn’t always what God thinks is right. In fact, God is ultimately more concerned about our character than our behaviour. It’s not enough to just obey the laws, which in the Old Testament time meant doing the appropriate sacrifices. Ceremonial obedience means nothing if we’re not doing what God wants in all the other areas of our life. Because ceremonial law was such a massive part of life in the Old Testament the idea that there was something higher was very confronting. And yet over and over throughout the Old Testament we see the Prophets criticising God’s people for obeying the ceremonial law, but not living as God desired. A classis example is Isaiah 29:13, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’

 

Application: There is something fundamentally different between religion and a personal relationship with God. Religion is all about doing what needs to be done in order to be saved, it’s about doing the bare minimum. Whereas a personal relationship with God is all about living to please God, it’s about doing all that we can. Religion is about duty whereas a personal relationship with God through Christ is about love. Are you more about doing what is right and just in every area of your life, or are you more about doing the bare minimum, what is expected? Do you just go to church, put something in the offering bag, read the Bible and pray, but your relationship with God doesn’t impact your work life, or your personal life? Do you sacrifice rather than give to God?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that it is so easy to see my faith in terms of ticking off the right boxes, and that what I do isn’t a gift of love, but a sacrifice for which You owe me. Lord, forgive me when my faith become religious duty rather than heart-felt devotion. Lord, fill me with Your Spirit that my heart may be softened towards You, that I will always remember Your great love towards me in Jesus Christ, that I might give to You out of an overflowing sense of gratitude and joy. Lord, help me to live in a way that honours You, that I might do what is right and just. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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