Priority 2 : Fellowship and Communion With Jesus

Chapter 15 - Religion or Relationship?

There is something so special taking place in the world today. People that have gone to church for years, people that have had various creeds they had been following, people that had a certain faith in following the steps of their parents are finding a new awakening taking place in their heart. God is putting His finger on millions of lives and they're not being turned away from things that are real to them but they're finding a sense of incompleteness. This awakening is causing them to reach out to see if there is something more that God has for them. And as a result the nominal Christian is beginning to find a new stir as the life of Jesus touches them and they have awakened and they have met God. And their religion turns into a relationship. When you meet Jesus that's exactly what happens.


The definition of religion tells us what it is. Religion is a system of faith and of worship, a system of discipline. Religion is something that has become a binding substitute for a God ordained relationship. Before Jesus came, God in an effort to point people to His plan instituted a religion for the Hebrew people and it was filled with forms and with rituals. Other types of religions based on followers, depending on the country, have their religions. There are so many different kinds of religions today you would have a hard time identifying all of them. In India there are over 800000 separate gods. But in Hebrews 8:10 he said the old laws, the old religion that was written on tables of stone that became such a binding way for the children of Israel that they could not even abide by the laws, he said He had taken them out of the way and instead had written on their hearts, brought them into a relationship with Himself and He said, "I will be to them a God and they will be to me a people. We will change religion into a relationship. They will be mine, I will be theirs." Praise God.


I would like to have you turn in your Bibles to a verse of Scripture over in Isaiah 57. We're going to give you a number of verses to follow along. I trust that God will minister to our hearts as we look at the relationship that the Lord desires for us to have. Reading verse 15, "For thus says the high and the holy One that inhabits eternity whose name is holy. I dwell in a high and holy place, God's throne, God's dwelling place in heaven. With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."


I want you to think of God as awesome as He really is. Think of the billions of stars out there. Think of the universes that exist, think of the vastness. Mentally travel out there ten trillion miles and draw a line. Take a fast rocket out there for a couple of million years. Take another look out there and you'll find just as much on the other side. When you stop and think about it, can you comprehend space? It is vast, it's beyond our comprehension. When we think of one personality being in control of the whole thing, it makes God look awful big doesn't it? I think of a verse in Isaiah that tells us that God measures all of the vast heavens with a span of his hand from the tip of his finger to the tip of his thumb. God is big, God is mighty. And if he didn't control those things think of all of the collisions you would be having all of the time.


God's plan is so intricate that the entire universe moves like the fine machinery of a clock. This universe as big and vast as it is stays right on all of the time. It is so accurate, they have instruments where they can count back down through the years, 2000 years, 3000 years, 4000 years and they can tell you exactly where each star was at a given time. Someone has even invented a little model where you can create the heavens the way they are on any given day just by adjusting them. Isn't God a big God? People recognize there has to be a great Creator. Many of them know Him as the great Creator but can you imagine this now, this great Creator that dwells in a high and holy place somewhere running all of this told me that I want to live inside of your home. And so I'd just like to tell you this today. If you love God, this One who is in charge of everything is living in your house. I dwell in this place but also with you to revive you, to help you, to strengthen you. Then He tells us all of the good things He does for us.


When you think of God I want you to think of this personal relationship now. He is your personal God, He belongs to you. You don't have to say like some of the writers, He's the God of Abraham. Or He's the God of Jacob. But you can say He's my God. In Him I'm going to trust. Beautiful relationship. When we think of God we think of worship. Every person that's born in this life has a sanctuary that's built, God shaped. You put anything else in there and it's like putting a piece of a picture puzzle that's cut wrong, it just doesn't fit. And the world today keeps cramming something else in that void God left for Himself. It's there. Man has to have an object, somebody to worship, somebody to fill that void. And they're reaching for one thing and then another but its God shaped and a man or a woman will never be completely happy and satisfied and fulfilled until God comes in and takes the place, until He's invited in and takes that place. And then it is not just knowing that He's there. It's not just having some ritual to follow but it's becoming related to Him, He is my God, my very own God.


Talk about worship. Worship is so important. True worship. They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. And in our day there is a great new awareness of the meaning and the value of worship. We can worship God as you're doing now seated, listening to the Word of God. You can worship in through singing. These girls at this meeting the other night worshiped God, one of the girls told me that it was 2:30 in the morning and Jesus came and filled her with His Spirit. The leader of the missionetes made a statement that time stopped with these kids because they were in worship. You know when you're just loving Jesus it turns into a little bit of eternity. Time somehow stops and it becomes a state of being, you're in His presence, you're loving Him. Oh how we need worship.


We're living in such a busy, rushed world. We must have time to quiet our hearts and just worship our God alone. Not just the whole church but we need that secret place, that place of quiet rest of drawing from Him. When God says I am your God, I'm going to live with you, God is telling you He belongs to you, and He is your personal God. When we think of God it also speaks of a real respect. A respect because of who He is. Respecting His Laws, His desires, His person, his house, respect of warnings. When we think of God it not only speaks of worship and respect, it speaks of reverence. We're coming to a point in just a moment showing you how God does want us to be relaxed in His presence. But there's a difference between being relaxed and not having respect and not having reverence. And I would say one of the key dangers of some of the casual ways that people look at God and think of God today is the lack of respect that enters in. Ways that we associate the blessing of God. Tying it in with something that may not be acceptable as far as our lives are concerned. It's easy to show a lack of respect, a lack of reverence in an effort to lean away from the bondage of ritual and formalism to lean clear over and to bring God into disrespect. But because of who He is you can show the utmost respect for Him and still be totally relaxed in Him. God wants us to know who He is. He wants us to show this reverence. Hebrews 12:25-29, "see that you refuse not Him that speaks for if they escaped not who refused Him that spoke on earth much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven whose voice then shook the earth who has promised saying yet once more I shake not the earth only but also heaven. And this once more signifies the removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made that those things that cannot be shaken will remain. Therefore we who are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptable with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire."


We need to be reminded of the reverence to God, reverence to His house, reverence to the things of God. Not taking the things of God too lightly. This is very, very important. It also speaks of a trust and a confidence that God will finish what He started. Then I'd like you to notice some other areas. He's our Lord. I came to 6800 times He's spoken of as Lord in the Bible. The Lord means hey God you're not only my God but you're also my Master. The word Lord means master. That means we're his servant. And he said because He is our Master He wants us to walk with Him and to do those things that He tells us. Not only is He our God, our Master, but everybody needs a good friend and this relationship says I want to be your friend.


John 15:14. Jesus said, "I have called you friends now, not only am I your God out there that you may worship but I'm coming a little closer to you now. I'm your Master, now I'm your friend." Proverbs 18:24 says that there is one friend that sticks closer than a brother. So Jesus is with us. Matthew 28:20. He said, "I'd never leave you nor forsake you. I'm with you always." Hebrews 13:5-6 says, "Because I am with you, you don't need to be afraid of what anybody can do to you because I am with you." This relationship is so beautiful to know that He is with us. He's not only our friend, members of your family can be your friend too, He's our Elder Brother.


For you boys and girls I'm going to tell you a story that happened when I was just a kid about 8 years old going to school, riding a school bus. I was always in trouble with big bullies. We had a big bully on the bus named Lester. He used to take my thumb and bend it back until it would pop. He used to torment the daylights out of me. Sometimes I would walk the 3 or 4 miles just to get away from Lester. He would always find a place by me and if it wasn't empty he would move the person and he'd sit down there and it was literally awful for me to ride home. One day, I had an older brother who always rode his bicycle. He never rode the bus. I couldn't get him to ride the bus, he would ride the bicycle. My brother isn't really a big man but he was sure a big boy, at least I thought he was because he was 8 years older than me. Instead of getting shoes half sold to the shoe maker he would cut out big old pieces of the tire, good year tire, heavy tread and he'd nail those on the bottom of his shoes. One day his bicycle broke down and I knew about it. Lester didn't know about it. And so my brother didn't know I was going to get him involved in anything but I made it a point this time to look Lester up and get where Lester was. And I tormented that young fellow who was about 17 years old. I tormented him until he couldn't stand it. He was going to tear me limb from limb. But I wasn't afraid of him at all. He thought what on earth has come over you, you little fellow, what are you doing here? We got ready to get out of the bus he started yanking me; he was going to give me what for. And all at once I saw Lester take a little orbit out of that bus. With a great big good year tire tread pushing him. He wore good year tire tread where he sits down for a long time. I suddenly wasn't afraid anymore because I knew my big brother was there on the bus with me. So I wasn't afraid.


Paul tells us we don't need to be afraid what man can do to us when we know that we have our big brother there. He is there. Hebrews 13:5-6. He says you don't need to be afraid because your big brother is there with you. And He has ways and means of handling situations. Not only is He your friend but this is the best of all. David discovered this in Psalm 103 and verse 13, where he said "like as a father pities his children so the Lord pities those that love him." Jesus was praying one day and it was just before He was going to go to the cross, He was under tremendous pressure in his heart and He said I want to have a visit with my father, I need special strength and there was such a good relationship that I have with my heavenly Father so he went alone and kneeled down. And instead of just talking with God like He usually did He used a special word, He said, "Abba Father I'm preparing for this but you will be with Me." He called Him Abba Father. Now that word Abba means my very own personal Father. It's one thing for God to be your God, another thing for Him to be your Lord and your friend. But stop and think about this, He said He wanted to be our Father born into His Father, born into His family, members of His big family, His own children. Oh what a difference this is than just having some forms and other things but no real personal relationship. That religion takes on meaning when it becomes a personal relationship. My very own father. Somebody has said whatever term you use to call your dad in enduring terms, and it's not a show of disrespect, Jesus was saying, "Dad I'm coming to you now I need a little special help." If you call your father dad, think of the warmth, the meaning that that word has. When you can add that word Abba, God you're not only controlling all those stars and everything out there, all this world and all of the things you have to do, you live at my house and you're my Father, my own personal Father.


Then in Romans 8:14-17 Paul is telling us that we can because God has given us the spirit of adoption; He's brought us right into His family. We can use the same term. In Galatians 4:6, to make it all the more real so you won't just have to hold your tongue in your cheek and say well I'll do it because you say to do it, no. God said He gave us the spirit of His Son Jesus down inside. So now we can really say it and say it right because we have the very spirit that said it in Jesus' life. And we can say Abba Father, that word is only used three times in the Bible but it denotes the very closest, the most wonderful relationship you could possibly have. A place of respect, of loyalty, serving Him not out of fear but because you love Him, that close wonderful relationship. And this wraps all of the other things up together. God isn't in four different pieces but He's known to us in all four of these ways where we can have the love for our father, our respect, our reverence, confidence and we can still be at ease with Him.


There's not one parent here that wants to have their children cringe in fear and be able to say my family is the most obedient family in the world, they better be. They might be when you're around them. They might be on the outside while their heart is seething. But God has something better for his people. God wants us to enter into a relationship. When we have a need or a problem to come and say "Dad I don't know how to handle this," that might not be the term; it may not be familiar to you. "Father I don't know how to handle this. I need a little special help." And you can chat, you can visit.


When we went to Germany I told the German congregations how I felt about God after that experience I had with Him. I told them how that God told me "you can't prove anything to Me anyway, just be at ease and relax, be yourself." So I told them I'm just being myself. There was a real godly woman, I didn't meet her but I heard about her. She had done quite a good work in Germany. She didn't have a chance to meet me or hear it in the context of how I gave it. But she put out a warning to different congregations around. She said beware of that man that comes from the United States that is so at ease around God. I went to different congregations and they were all ready for me and she did a lot of good publicity for me. They came out; they wanted to see who this fellow was that was so at ease around God. But God wants you to know, He occupies all four positions at once. As our God He has to have that respect, that love, that reverence. As our Father He wants that love, that warmth, that obedience. As your Lord and Master He wants your service, He wants your loyalty. As your Friend He said "I'm going to be with you closer than a brother."


Philippians 4:5, he tells us the Lord is at hand. Jesus said I'm standing right at your elbow, I'm your friend, I'm your Father, I'm your Lord, I am your God. Relationship sure means a lot more than religion. And this is what's happening around the world today. Religion is having to back up and give place to relationship. And if you have had a lot of religion but you haven't yet had a relationship, and you haven't met Him, He's not real in your life. Today open up your heart and say I accept you as my Lord and my God.