Religion or a Relationship with God?!

Preached by Andrew Smellie, September 23, 2007

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Are you looking for a comfy couch (Religion) or a relationship with God?

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This past Sunday, a Syracuse newspaper ran an article about the earth-shattering, upset victory that the 0-3 SU Orange football team pulled off over a ranked Louisville squad with the HEADLINE:


According to the reporter, 40,000+ screaming fans became “believers” after having experienced a miraculous religious experience (The SU team was heard singing the gospel tune “Amen!” as they ran down the tunnel after their victory.) But the question remains for those excited fans in the dome that day, as well as for us who claim to be Jesus’ fans–have we sold out all the seats in our hearts to God or have we scalped the tickets to the highest bidder the world has to offer?

A relationship with God costs everything because it’s worth everything, but most choose a lifeless, superficial yet COMFORTABLE set of ceremonies called “religion” and forfeit the true joy and powerful heart changes that even the greatest victory this world has to offer cannot bring about.

“Religion or a Relationship with God”
Preached by Andrew Smellie
Sunday, September 23, 2007

Romans 8:17
• Being like Jesus in the Bible was never described as being comfortable.
• If you are a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ, then you are united with Christ and added to God’s will to receive the same inheritance as Jesus received!
• The problem is that people want the rewards of God’s “will” but they do not want to “do God’s will.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4
• The religious world has watered down the sacrifice of Christ from a crucifying cross to a comfortable couch.
• There are people with Ph.D.s teaching false teachings.
• False religion is not some new phenomenon.

Jeremiah 7:1-11
Question: What are you here for: to be like Jesus or is this a self-help session for you?
• God is watching.
• God is calling you to reform of your ways – to repent.
• People can give use deceptive words, which will result in you taking God’s grace for granted.
• People who practice and teach false religion are stealing people’s faith. . . “den of robbers”

Mark 11:15-18
• False religion was the reason why Jesus drove out those who were selling out to the world instead of being sold out for God.
• People thought that Jesus was some wimpy, effeminate dude.
• It took courage for Jesus to do what He did.
• Jesus quoted Jeremiah 7:11
• The religious people wanted to lay Jesus out because they were afraid of Him.
Question: How deep was Jesus’ conviction about false religion?
• Jesus loves the purity of God’s house so much that He is willing to protect those who are wholeheartedly and earnestly trying to seek God and He will not allow the wolf to come in and attack His sheep.
• The word religion comes from the Greek word threskeia, which means to have an external worship that consists of ceremony.
• Religion can become so familiar to us.
“The greatest trick of the devil…is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.” – Donald Miller

1. A relationship with God requires authentic faith.
• You cannot have a relationship with God if you do not have a sincere and authentic faith in God.
Question: How is your faith this morning?
Question: Are you really trusting God in the critical areas of your life?
• If we are willing to compromise, this shows how in-authentic our faith in God truly is.
• You can be religious about getting your haircut or getting your nails done.

Mark 7:1-8
• The worship of God from people who practice false religion is in vain.
• We must have an authentic faith.
Question: How is your worship today?

John 4:23-24
• God wants your heart.
• God wants you to be emotionally connected to Him.
• God wants you to repent. He wants you to be eager to change.
• You have got to fight to be faithful.
Question: Do you have the authentic faith that God can do more than you can ask or imagine?
• Everybody is religious about something.

James 2:22
• Faith and actions go together.
• Your actions are an outpouring of your faith.
• Your actions have no inspiration to help others to be more like Christ if you do not have faith.
• Grace and faith are needed to have a relationship with God.
• God wants to have a relationship with you.

Romans 14:23
• If your relationship with God is not based on faith, then it is sin.
• Faith is enduring despite going through test, trials, tribulations, persecution and suffering.
• Faith is relying on His power.
Question: Is your pride going to stop you?

Proverbs 3:5-8
• Don’t be wise in your own eyes.

Romans 8:28
Question: Do you really believe that in all things, God works for your good?!
• God is trying to refine your faith.
• God wants the trials to get rid of the crust surrounding your heart.
• You got to be fighting to be righteous because it is YOUR training to be godly.
• Religion just for the sake of looking good has no power.
• Religion without authentic faith has no power.

Question: Why do you what you do?
• You cannot play or be fake with God.
• You have got to be willing to look your worst to do your best for God.

2. A relationship with God requires a pure heart.
Psalm 24:1-6
• The difference between a religious heart and a godly heart is having a sold-out heart for God.
• God wants all of your heart—he wants an unadulterated heart . . . un-divided.
• God wants to be your first love.
• We belong to God.
• The world does not see it that way.
• Everything we have and do is all God’s.
Question: What have you allowed to take up seats in your heart?
Question: What is your first love?
• You need to ask God to forgive you of your spiritual infidelity.
Question: Do you come back to God and ask for His forgiveness when you sin against Him?

Psalm 51:10-17
• David is an example of someone who had a heart that was willing to repent and to change.
Question: Is your heart broken?
Question: Are you willing to crack that religious veneer that surrounds your heart to allow God to get those adulterous things out of your heart?
Question: What is the outcome of your brokenness?
Question: Are you really broken about your sin before God?

Psalm 73:1-28
• It is so easy to be corrupted by the world.
• It is so easy to get discouraged.
• The world tries to convince you that compromise is the way to success and happiness in your life.
• Either you have a foothold on God or Satan has a foothold on your heart.
• People talk about God and they say that they are Christians but they are not.
• Hypocrites who claim to be Christians even though they are not influencing people.
• It’s a battle to be righteous—even to have a quiet time with God.
Question: Have you felt that?
• It is good to be taken back to God.
• Religion’s goal is not to be near to God.
• A relationship with God’s only goal is to be near Him.
Question: What do you do when God takes you back?
• Share about it.
• Evangelism is the overflowing of your heart.

3. A relationship with God attracts others to follow.
Matthew 5:14-16
• Your faith attracts God. (Hebrews 11:6)

Acts 17:16-34
• Your faith attracts people to God.
• Paul did not sit on a couch.
• The world’s idols greatly distressed Paul.
• Paul could not hold it in—he had to share his faith with people.
• Evangelism was a daily thing to Paul. (look at the market place!)
****So if we have free-time, SHARE!
• You actually share your faith with people who do not know you.
• It is not comfortable to share your faith.
• Question: Are you greatly distressed by the religiosity of the world or are you desensitized by the world and you try to blend in?
• You are selling out to the world if you do not speak up for God.
• Religion is talking about the latest ideas.
Question: What is your view of the world?
Question: Do you have the spiritual eyes to see the world or do you think that everything is fine?
• You are going out to meet people called out with a common purpose not merely some church.
• God is seeking after you.
• There is a reason why you are here.
The difference between the religiosity of the world and a relationship with God are the following:
1. Repentance of sin.
2. Being raised with your God.
Question: Do you have the faith to repent, to change and believe that God would do what He said He would do?
• Your faith is a light to the world.
• Some will scatter like roaches looking for cover and some will follow you like moths to a flame.
“Somewhere along the way the movement of Jesus Christ became civilized as Christianity. We created a religion using the name of Jesus Christ and convinced ourselves that God’s optimal desire for our lives was to insulate us in a spiritual bubble where we risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing, worry about nothing.” – Erwin McManus (The Barbarian Way, page 48)