Ritual or Relationship?

 

Do you ever felt like you are making great efforts to do all of the right things (or at least what you were told were the right things) to please God, yet He still seems distant or unreachable to you? Do you feel like a sense of guilt comes over you if you don’t pray or read the Bible? Or have you stopped praying and reading the Bible because you can’t seem to get anywhere, and everything you did read seemed so confusing and dull? Maybe you go to church because this is what you were told do, but you have never felt any real enthusiasm in being there. Or, are you doing as much as you can for your church, yet you still don’t seem to have any reward from God—or even worse—you just feel used by your church? Have you often asked yourself, just where is the fulfillment, the satisfaction and the real joy in following Jesus that others have told you about?

On the other hand, maybe you are one who really does find excitement and satisfaction with God and what He has done for you, but only after you attend church or various religious events and entertainment, thereby necessitating repeat visits to maintain this enthusiasm. All of these are common ploys of Satan to prevent you from having true intimacy with God. He tries to keep you in a mindset where you feel that you have to continually do works to be right with, or accepted by, God. When you left Satan’s domain and entered the domain of Jesus by getting saved, it certainly did not go unnoticed by Satan. And, in revenge for leaving him, he will persist in trying to keep you from having complete peace in Jesus. His goal is to turn your focus off of Jesus Christ and onto yourself (and ultimately onto him alone).

He wants you to wear yourself out in trying to be right with God on your own, to the point where you become bitter or discouraged and turn back to him. Actually, Satan would really like for you to hate God just like he does, and to never want to even try to follow the Lord again.

Since he has had thousands of years to observe others like you, he knows just what technique works to keep you from truly following Jesus.

What Satan tries to do here is to turn all of these ‘good’ efforts into a ritual. Jesus does not want rituals or your ‘works’; He wants a personal relationship with you. He wants yourcross worship trust and faith in Him alone. Religions have rituals, but they add up to nothing in God’s view. When Jesus died on the cross on your behalf, it was a complete work. There are no works, no rituals—there is nothing that you can do to improve on this or make yourself more acceptable to God on your own. Every time you try to do something to make yourself more holy before God, you are, in essence, canceling out the sacrifice that His Son made on your behalf. He already did everything necessary to make you acceptable to God.

You may now be thinking that reading the Bible, praying, or attending church are wrong. Each of these in themselves is right, and God expects them of you. But when doing them becomes your motive behind being accepted or becoming right before God, then doing them becomes just as wrong as worshiping idols. And you also enter the area of self-righteousness, which is just as sinful before God as idolatry or any other sin.

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When you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, you are entering into a personal relationship with Him. In our human relationships, one person does not work to make the other accept him or her; instead, each accepts the other for who he or she is, by faith in him or her. They no longer have to prove themselves; they now have established trust between them.

If you have just become married, and you constantly do things to make your spouse love you, then you have entered into marriage for all of the wrong motives (and your spouse will really begin to wonder about you).

Your marriage partner should love you for who you are, not so much for what you do. What you do is a by-product of love, a way of expressing it.

Similarly, Jesus wants you to have trust, and simple, child-like faith in Him. He never set up a complicated set of rules and requirements that you must follow to improve your standing with woman worshipingHim. These only lead to things like favoritism, jealousy, regression, and failure. If you yield your self (or will) to Him in a loving personal relationship, you will soon find that you will want to pray, you will want to read His Word, and you will want to be in a fellowship of other believers who also want to do the same thing. You will also find that that all of these efforts to please Him before will now be the by-product of a relationship with Him now. It is only in a true relationship, not in a ritual, that will you find real peace in God.

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Jesus is Not a Washing Machine

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21

I recently visited a historical village near where I was living. It had a nice arrangement of a house, church, courthouse, schoolhouse, boat-building barn, blacksmith building, and a general store, as well as a handful of additional accessory buildings, all located on a 6-8 acre plot of land. In each building, care had been taken to try to include period furnishings where possible. In the house, there were many objects connected to each representative member of a family of that day. It is amazing to think that this house and its contents were all that were needed to live in that time. They didn’t need an elaborate kitchen with granite countertops, track lighting, and stainless-steel appliances. No climate-control systems that can be monitored and regulated by a phone on another continent were needed. In fact, in the time of this village, phones were almost nonexistent. Yet everyone managed to get along somehow, through lean times or plenty.

But there was one aspect open for innovation and improvement—the washday. It was an all-day event and nobody really enjoyed it. It was, without a doubt, hard work. This house had the classic wash-bin, washboard, and wringer. An iron kettle of water had to be heated over an open fire. Each article had to be scrubbed clean on a washboard. Then everything had to be run through the wringer (watch your fingers!), rinsed, and back it went through the wringer. Next, they hung everything on the line to dry. And finally, they had to iron most of the items with an iron weighing almost as much as half of a bundle of clothes itself! As a result, the advent of the washing machine was generally a welcome sight.

How does Jesus fit in with all of this?

When we accept Jesus into our hearts and He cleanses us of our sins through His blood shed on the Cross, we are not given a blank check to start a life of wrongdoing all over again.

His sacrifice at the Cross atoned (made complete payment) for all of the sins of mankind (past, present and future). When we accept Him into our hearts, we are baptized with Him in His death. Our old sin-destined self dies with Him in the tomb, and our new self is born in connection with His resurrection. Therefore, old sinful self is now dead. To begin again right where we were before Christ set us free essentially makes us a dead person walking. You can’t be completely dead and completely alive at the same time! We can’t go back and live in sin again, and then take all of our sin-soiled garments to the ‘Heavenly Laundromat,’ and throw them into the ‘Jesus washing machine’ expecting Him to make us spotless all over again. You might ask, “Doesn’t God forgive us each time we sin and make us clean and whole inside?” Yes, He does, when we ask Him to. But He also expects us to repent of these sins (all of our sins, actually). That means we are to turn and go in the opposite direction, and not regularly continue to do them.

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Many stand firmly on the ground that Jesus completely fulfilled the Law of God set forth in the early part of the Bible, and we are now free of the requirement to obey it. Therefore, we can now do what we want to, essentially meaning we can freely sin, because His grace will carry us through. In fact, today the whole concept of sin is even considered to have been eliminated through His sacrifice on the Cross. Sadly, this is where we give the Devil his ‘wiggle’ room. When Jesus fulfilled the Law, He did not abolish it.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).

His fulfillment of it made it possible for us to now fulfill the Law through Him. But it was (and is) impossible for us to fulfill the entire Law, which is what we would have to do in order to be right with God. Christ never eliminated the ability to sin or the penalty of our sin. This same group that stands firmly on fulfillment also believes that God’s grace enables us to freely sin, because His grace is always greater. Once again, the Devil uses this as leverage to keep us in bondage. God’s grace has to be greater than all of our sins, otherwise God would not be God, and the work Jesus did on the Cross would be nullified.

If even the tiniest fraction of sin could be greater than God’s grace, He would no longer be omnipotent (all-powerful) and holy. As a result, the Devil would win.

As the prince of this world, the Devil is definitely a tough taskmaster, but if he could be god of all, the horrible result would be totally unthinkable!

Our ultimate goal should be to stop thinking that Jesus Christ is our ticket to do whatever we want. We may think, “Hey, it’s okay. I might look dirty now, but I’ll just drop these dirty clothes in the ‘Jesus washing machine’ and everything will be all right!” Acting this way means that we don’t want to let go of our sins, that self is still in charge, not Jesus. We want all of the benefits of being in Christ’s care, and at the same time, all of the pleasures of being in the world, or in the Devil’s care.

The only way to have all of the benefits of being in Christ and to stay there is to place our faith totally in Jesus and the work He did on the Cross.

When we do that, our interests in the pleasures of this world will automatically begin to fade. What was ‘fun’ before will be appalling, and the things of God that seemed ‘boring’ before we’ll find enjoyable. When a couple gets married, they cannot then go their own separate ways as if they had never married, and expect their relationship to prosper. The same is applicable when we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts. We must yield to Him in our relationship with Him if we want complete victory and happiness.