Before I begin, I have been guilty of all six of these on this list.
And because of that, I now see the difference in my relationship with God.
This post is a bit of tough love, but I want you to see where you may have left the simplicity of relationship, and chosen religion instead.
Your relationship with Christ should be simple, not complicated.
We sometimes think the more things we do for God, the closer we are to Him. We roll up our sleeves to get busy working for His kingdom, often before we’ve spent time sitting at His feet.
That’s where this list comes in.
So let me open your eyes to the state of your heart, and encourage you to draw near to Christ.
Let’s make sure you, who are so excited to do kingdom work for the Lord, are in a genuine relationship with God, and not one based on works.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.”Romans 8:15
6 Ways to Tell if You’re in a Religious Relationship with God
1. Going to God is not the first thing you think about when you have a problem: It’s your last resort.
When you hear bad news from the doctor or get a bad report from work, what’s the first thing you do? If it’s not going to God in prayer as a believer, you may be in a religious relationship with God.
Think about the times you’ve had a problem that needed to be solved.
You did everything you could, getting advice from everyone you can think of, then finally throwing up your hands to say, “well all we can do now is pray…”
I want to challenge you let God be the first one you go to. God desires to be first in your life, and that includes your solution to a problem.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”1 Peter 5:7
When I cast my cares on the Lord before I do anything else, He gives me His peace.
And when I have His peace, I’m able to hear from Him and make wise decisions, instead of remaining in fear and anxiety.
I can go forward in faith, not fear, because I am reminded in that moment of God’s great love for me, and how He promised to never leave me or forsake me.Restful Faith
2. You go to church only because your family and friends go.
Sitting in the church pew, you find your mind drifting off during the message, or during worship, looking at the clock and planning where you’ll go for lunch. And when church is over you feel good, because you got your “God time” in; you’ve checked it off your spiritual checklist!
If this sounds like you, you may be in a religious relationship with Christ.
Brother or sister, I don’t want you to stand before Jesus on judgment day, hoping He will take into account all the brownie points you’ve earned by going to church.
Jesus will look at you, with love in His eyes and tell you He never knew you.
I challenge you to evaluate why you go to church. And on the flip side, if you don’t go, why do you stay away? Deep down, is it an excuse to run from God?
When you say, “well they hurt me at this church,” or “I don’t like the way the preacher preaches…” Is it really an excuse to say in your heart, “Finally… I don’t have to keep pretending.”
And now you find yourself in between churches.
I pray you will go to the Lord, confess your sins, repent, and ask Him to lead you into a real relationship with Him.
The key, my friend, is to be open and honest with God. He already knows what’s in your heart. He’s omnipotent.
3. You keep glancing at the clock during your morning quiet time.
If you get up in the morning thinking, “Shoot, I have to have Bible study before I start my day,” you may be falling into a religious relationship with God.
I get it, some days are just like that.
But if you’re forcing yourself to spend time with God morning after morning, you may be operating in religion. Know that it won’t last. I promise you’ll burn out and give up.
This is for me too. Because I’ve had those days where I would get up, look at the clock and go, “OK I need to spend this much time with God, then do this and that.”
Now if you’re practicing discipline, and need to start your day that way, then by all means.
Just don’t stay there.
Because when you’re in relationship, not religion, you find yourself waking up and just loving on the Lord. He’ll be the first thing you think about.
Think about why you do the spiritual things you do.
Why do you pray? Because you know you need to? That’s a good start, because you do need to.
But have you ever found yourself just talking to God all throughout the day?
While you’re at your desk at work, washing dishes at home, or playing with the kids. That’s relationship, and it’s beautiful.
I want you to be in a relationship with the Lord.
I want you to experience the joy of His presence. When He speaks to your heart, I want you to hear Him. Really take a moment and think about this.
3. You’re spiritually gifted, you know the Bible well, and you’re proud of it.
David took a census of Israel and was punished by God. Have you been in a sense, taking a census of your spiritual life?
Do you think, “Well surely I spend more time with the Lord than this person. I pray longer and louder, I have a beautiful prayer language, and I know the Word of God like the back of my hand.”
Who in the Bible does that sound like to you?
That religious group who was constantly at odds with Jesus because Jesus challenged their prideful lifestyle? You know.
The Bible says God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. When we come to God in humility, knowing we are nothing without Him, we are walking in relationship because we know and value the immense goodness and mercy of God.
That gift you’re proud of is from God. That Biblical knowledge you have? Only the Holy Spirit can reveal the true meaning of the scriptures to your heart and bring them back at just the right times.
What is there left to boast in; To be proud of? The Lord.
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.Isaiah 64:6
This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!Jeremiah 9:23-24
5. You overcomplicate your spiritual journey, often adding to what God told you to do.
We often overlook the simplicity of the gospel. Being in a relationship with Christ is so simple that many times it trips us up.
In this fast paced, knowledge worshiping society, we think things have to be complicated to be true.
That we have to grasp these spiritual concepts with our minds.
But just like our emotions, our minds get in the way. Why? Because God is Spirit. He speaks to our heart. It’s when we get caught up in our emotions, or begin to overthink our spiritual walk, that things begin to go awry and we start operating in religion.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”Proverbs 3:5
Childlike faith is where it’s at.
I heard it said that the true sign of maturity as a believer is how thoroughly we trust God; how quickly we obey the Lord because we love and trust Him.
Maturing in Christ not about how well you follow the rules, but it’s about believing God and just being His child.
6. You don’t love Jesus.
Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.John 14:21
That’s the big one on this list.
Do you really love Jesus? Or do you just want to?
Honesty is the first step. Like I said before, it’s time to get open and honest with God. Your eternity is at stake. If you’ve been consistently ignoring what Jesus asked you to do, following the way of the world, then I urge you to ask yourself: Do I really love Jesus? Am I truly a Christian, or do I just sound like one?
If your answer is, maybe I don’t, then I commend you for being honest but I implore you stop whatever you’re doing. Stop striving…
Cease all operations and run to Jesus.
Look up and confess your heart to God. Cry if you need to.
It can be as simple as, “Lord, I know I need to have a relationship with you, but I don’t know where to begin. Will you show me the way?”
Ask God to give you the desire to be in relationship with Him. He’ll do that. Brother or sister, its time to give your life to Christ.
In all six of these areas, there’s a lot of pretending, boasting and faking involved.
And it’s a lot of work! Which is the definition of religion: working our way towards God’s acceptance and love.
A religious relationship with God will keep you bound, exhausted and fed up, throwing everything away and leaving the church.
I urge you brother or sister, evaluate your relationship with God and ask Him to show you the areas in your heart where you’re in religion, not relationship.
Now for the good news… Being in relationship with God is exciting!
It’s such an adventure getting to know Him and learning to trust in Him. Feeling His great love for you. I want you to get excited for God.
Yes, you will have to let certain things go. Jesus Himself encouraged us to first count the cost of being His disciple because it is hard sometimes.
But can I share something with you?
Once you say yes, just come as you are.
- Come to Jesus as you are: With cigarette, beer bottle, or whatever in hand.
- Open your heart to Him, confess your sins and give Him your life.
- Spend time with Him everyday. Through prayer, praise and worship. Even if you don’t feel like it.
And as you grow in relationship with God, you’ll fall in love with Him.
He will become your Comforter and Best Friend; surprising you with His love, kindness, mercy and goodness.
You’ll soon find yourself laying everything His feet, the things you were afraid you’d have to give up, because you’ll realize you don’t have to turn to those temporary pleasures. You’ll find all you need in Him.
Everything else will pale in comparison to Christ.
I want to help you get started on your relationship with God.
I created a free Mornings with Jesus planner to help you find ways to spend time with God during your day.
Be blessed and encouraged, and comment below if this post has opened your eyes to some areas you’ve been in religion in your life.
Get your free planner HERE.