Relationship vs. Religion

@ac_rj_br

“Religion is too much work. I’m lazy.” -Karen

Last week I went out to run some errands, and I met a lady who I will call Karen for the sake of this blog. Karen made a comment about the sweatshirt I was wearing and it sparked a conversation between us.

Since no one was behind me in line, I carried on a conversation with Karen that transitioned from my sweatshirt to religion. Karen told me that she grew up Pentecostal, but that she is no longer practicing. Curious as to why, I asked her and she told me the following:

“Religion is too much work. I’m lazy. I don’t want to get up and get dressed for church. If I had my way, I would stay at home all day. People ask me if I’m going to heaven, and I don’t know. I’m probably going to hell because I cut my hair. Religion is too much work. You have to get up and pray. Go to church. I grew up Pentecostal. My beliefs haven’t changed but I’m not practicing.”

Before I could respond, our conversation ended because someone came behind me in line. Thus, I wanted to write this blog for Karen and every one of my brothers and sisters who may believe what Karen believes. I want to tell you the following:

A relationship with Jesus saves you not religion or rules

When Karen was sharing her heart with me, I thought about the scribes and the Pharisees. I thought about what Jesus told His disciples and the multitudes about them: “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4 ESV).

I thought about the people Karen encountered throughout her life who taught her that Jesus wasn’t the only way to salvation and heaven. Somehow, along the way, Karen started to believe that not cutting her hair, going to church, praying etc. made her worthy of heaven, not Jesus alone. I wondered how long Karen labored to keep rule after rule after rule until she finally gave up–believing that it was all too much work.

It made me sad when Karen said she didn’t know if she was going to heaven or hell. It makes me think about Jesus’s admonishment to the scribes and Pharisees: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13 NKJV).

I can’t change the lies that Karen has been told, but I can tell her the truth. I can give her access to the King by telling her about Jesus. I’m planning to see Karen again and when I do, I’m going to tell her that the Lord loves her and wants to have a relationship with her. I’m going to tell her that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6). I’m going to tell her that she has been saved by grace through faith. It is a gift from God, not of herself or works (See Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is my hope that when I speak to Karen, the Holy Spirit will open her eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to discern that she is not saved by her works but the finished work of the cross. It is my hope that she experiences the love of the Father, revealed and manifested through Jesus Christ, that will enable her to know that: (1) She will never be able to earn her salvation. Jesus earned her salvation by the shedding of His precious blood.

I want you all to join me in praying for Karen’s heart to be open and receptive when I speak to her. I also encourage you all to be bold and courageous when you encounter people like Karen who need to know the truth of God’s word and the Father’s love, revealed and manifested toward us through Jesus Christ.

As always, be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our brothers and sisters, who are in darkness, don’t need more condemnation. They need to know the love of the Father! Be blessed and encouraged!

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