One morning, around this time last year, I set out to do what I like to call my ‘quiet time’, which is where I intentionally spend time with God through bible study, worship, prayer, or whatever else I feel led to do. Everything was good and dandy, up until the point when I made the decision to rush through my quiet time to start doing the rest of the things on my to-do list for the day. As much as I claimed to want to hangout with God, my mind was pulling me elsewhere, in a hundred different directions. I felt slightly bad, but somehow I convinced myself that it was better to do it quickly and get it over with, than not do it at all.
However, the Lord crushed my devious plan before I could even put it in motion. While brushing teeth, He softly said to me, “You can’t cheat God.” Once He spoke those words I was instantly embarrassed and ashamed. How in the world did I think God would find nothing wrong in my false desire to seek Him? How did it get to the point where I encouraged myself to “play the role” rather than have the real thing. Did I really think God would accept the time I spent with Him? All of these questions were rummaging through my head, but the sad reality is, this is what we do.
We choose the staleness of religion over the freshness of a relationship with God all the time.
So why did I really decide to rush my time with God? Because in my heart of hearts, the other things I had to do were more important to me. It’s safer to go through the motions and say “Dear Lord thank you for this day. Thank you for waking me up blah blah blah,” than being real and saying “You know what God, right now I’m not feeling like spending time with You. I’m stressed out and all these things that I have to do are clouding my judgement. Lord help me to genuinely seek You in this time.” No, we don’t want to do that. That’s too much work. Too much exertion of energy. Too much vulnerability. Or even worse, I run the risk of actually allowing God to speak to me and change my course of action. So we stick with the former prayer, and think it’s okay because, “hey, at least I prayed.” You can fool man and you can even fool yourself, but you can never deceive God.
We choose religion over relationship because it’s easier. It’s so much easier to follow the script than to build a real relationship with someone. This makes me think of a business calculus class I took while in college. There were so many formulas that were involved in order to get one right answer. And I can’t help but realize how many of us, including myself, at times treat our relationship with Christ like a math problem. How could we ever think we can substitute an authentic relationship by just saying the ‘right things’ and by doing the ‘right things’.
But the malfunction of formulas is that, we know they don’t work well with actual people. We as humans are pretty good at knowing whether someone is faking it or being honest. A person can say and tell you all the right things but their tone, attitude, and body gestures can say otherwise. We know when someone genuinely wants to get to know us versus a person who has ulterior motives. We all have that one friend that only calls when they need something. It’s annoying, and eventually you’re going to try and distance yourself from such person or the relationship will naturally die off. So why do we feel that is it okay that we act this way towards God? As if He was not the one who gave us the ability to have good judgement and detect people’s motives in the first place. He sees you at your core. He knows your thoughts from afar and He is familiar with all of your ways. (Ps 139: 2-3). He’s seen the facade your putting on even before the creation of time. So cut it.
We choose religion over relationship because we have trust issues. We’re scared to really let God into our hearts. The real issue is,we are scared to submit to His will. It’s more comfortable to stay in our ways and continue doing what we want to do versus being convicted by God about anything. We fear that God may deter us from the plans that we have already set out to pursue for ourselves. So what happens is, you put a wall up and the relationship becomes strictly surface level.
In Mathew 6:7 – Jesus says “when you pray don’t babble as people in other religions do. They think there prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Religion says If I follow a certain pattern, God will hear my prayer. But relationship is about your heart. Just like with any other relationship, if you refuse for your heart to be involved, the relationship can only go so far. Relationship says let us open up and do life with each other. And Jesus has already done His part of the bargain. He has already opened himself fully to us by becoming the antidote for our sins. Because of Jesus, we can now be reunited with the Father and have an authentic relationship with Him. Don’t spoil the work that Christ has done for us by repeating religious prayers and never letting your guard down. He wants your heart. And until you are ready to give Him that, you will never know Him. You can know the Bible in and out, be the first person in church and last person to leave, have ministries all over the world, but if you don’t let God into your heart, you will never experience what Christ actually died for.
A strong relationship can only work when two parties mutually decide to know each other on an intimate level and keep making it work. Continuing to say Yes. Yes to the relationship over and over again. Now if God was moved by works or formulas it would be must easier, but what fun would that be? When we walk in religion, we are deactivating the power of God. We are not allowing Him to move and have free reign in our lives.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chron 7:14
God is jealous over you. Humble yourself and give Him the integrity He so rightfully deserves. Even if it’s just one area of your heart that you are withholding from Him for whatever reason, be real. If your in a religious coma, lay your emotions on the table, put your pride aside and speak to Your Father about the issues that are waging war in your heart. After all, He already knows.