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When you think of religion, what comes to your mind—a set of rules, regulations and obligations or a deep, intimate relationship with God?
I like to consider myself someone who has a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I believe He died so we could have a living, vital relationship with God, not just a bunch of rules and regulations we're forced to follow.
Yes, there are certain guidelines God wants us to follow, but His purpose in giving them is to protect us from the consequences of sin.
When we have a real relationship with God through Christ, life gets exciting because He stirs up a passion inside us to love people—and we don't have to struggle to do the things He calls us to do. It just happens naturally.
If there's one thing people need to hear over and over again, it's this: God loves you. That's all there is to it. He may not like everything you do, but He's never going to stop loving you.
God is not impressed with your works at all. What He cares about is your heart.
I believe the greatest thing God wants to hear from us is, "I love You, Lord. Thank You for everything You've done in my life. I want to do what's right. Keep teaching me."
Many of us don't pray and ask God for what we need because we don't think we have a right to ask. But the Bible says God wants us to learn how to receive His mercy.
Hebrews 4:15 says we have a High Priest, a perfect Savior, who understands our weaknesses. He's been tempted just like we are, yet He never sinned.
Verse 16 says we can come fearlessly and confidently before God in prayer to receive His mercy and be forgiven.
"Legally" you become a Christian when you make the decision to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior. And after you receive Him, God begins to change you into a brand-new creation.
We shouldn't be making up religious rules to live by, like having to read our Bible every single day; nor should we do whatever we want to because we know we're going to heaven when we die.
Christianity is about living a vibrant, exciting life in Christ, and it goes hand in hand with developing a personal relationship with Him. Jesus wants us to be in love with Him.
I was thinking one day about how judgmental I used to be about the way some people dressed. Not long ago, I might have thought that I couldn't wear jeans and teach, but my son said to me, "Do you really think that God anoints polyester more than denim?"
It took some things like that to shock me into the realization that I was just holding on to a religious attitude, when God wanted us to freshen up our look in order to reach more people.
Sure, it's good to dress nicely when we go to church. But the bottom line is, we shouldn't be so focused on our outward appearance that we lose sight of our main goal: developing a close, personal relationship with God.
God wants to be involved in everything we do. He wants us to fellowship with Him, which means communicating with Him throughout our day just like we do with someone who's our close friend or family member.
Knowing God loves us, loving Him, spending time with Him, and being grateful for what He's done and is doing in our lives can help us have a real relationship with Him.