The term “Christianity” has been dubbed as one of the world’s most dominant religions or religious affiliations. By societal standards, it is classified as a religion just as Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. For centuries, many have seen Christianity through the eyes of religious works and a set of church rules and regulations. However, religion or religious activity is not something that should be named among Christians.
If we look back at the very beginning of human creation, God had a relationship with Adam & Eve because He was with them in the Garden of Eden. God desires to have a relationship with every human being. It is the essence of communing with God through prayer, worship, and reading of His Holy word. There are examples of those in the Bible who had an authentic relationship with God. One example being that of Moses:
In Exodus 33, Moses is tasked with telling the Israelites of God’s displeasure with them. While God spoke of His promise which was to give the Israelites the land which had been promised to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, He also showed displeasure with their sin. In verse 5, God calls the Israelites a “Stiff necked people” meaning that they were living in sin and disobedience. God gives Moses a command to tell the Israelites to go to the land flowing of Milk and Honey (verse 3) but God also warns that if they go, He may not protect them from the enemies on the path to the Promised Land because of their sinfulness. Going further into Exodus 33, we can see that Moses and God have a conversation, and Moses ultimately asks to see God’s physical presence:
The first part of verse 11 says: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”
In verses 12-17 it says:
“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
The key part of those verses involved God’s statement “I know you by name”. This suggests that because Moses and God already had a relationship, that Moses was known by God. Another examination of this text involves Moses asking the question about being distinguished (different) from everyone else on the face of the Earth. Essentially, it is God’s presence that creates a difference in the life of every believer. Having a relationship with God and abiding in His presence creates a separation from the world.
One final point to make about Moses and God’s relationship is that in verses 18-24, Moses asks to see the Glory of God. However, because God is so powerful He cannot show humanity His face, so instead Moses sees the backside of God.
What can be noted based on the account of Moses and God, is that Moses had an authentic relationship and encounter with God. That is what many Christians should be experiencing. The world views Christianity as a religion in part, because many have lived their lives as such. Religion suggests that there is a specific pattern or way of operating. However, relationship involves an actual encounter with someone which means that there is openness in communication and daily living.
Religion only appeases those who are living based on rules or rituals. While God gives every believer a set of expectations and commands to live by, God does not want us to live by a legalistic approach. Organized religions live based on legalism which means that there is a strict adherence to law based on behaviors. In Colossians 2: 20-23, the Apostle Paul actually discourages legalism in the body of Christ:
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.”
The key difference between legalism and relationship is that having a relationship with God, automatically alters your behaviors because your heart becomes more like God’s. If you are operating out of a human based system of living, then your behaviors will be changed without having a change within your heart. That is something God does through relationship.
The lesson that we can learn from Moses is that we must actively pursue God for His presence. The way to escape the entrapment of religiosity or religious practices, is to understand that God wants to know you and be known by you. How does that happen? Through daily prayer and an earnest worship unto God. Talking to God is like talking to another human being. If you don’t have active communication with your friends or family, then the relationship dies. Or if you don’t communicate with someone you don’t know, you don’t have access to who they are.
God wants to reveal Himself to every human being. However, He won’t badger or force you into a relationship with Him. God desires that we love Him for who He is – not through the motions of religion or rituals. However, through actual daily encounters with God. The world has some of their accusations correct in that, Christianity has become a religion. Unfortunately many churches have bought into that claim.
However, true Christianity isn’t a religion, but it is a collective and individual body of believers who have chosen to seek after the things of God. The purpose for gathering in a corporate setting weekly, is to add strength between fellow believers, and to increase accountability in your walk with the Lord. If you want to be distinguished from the world as Moses desired, then seek after God. He gives you an opportunity to have a better life, and a relationship that surpasses anything you can even imagine.