I hate religion.
There, I’ve said it.
Actually, that’s not such a shocking thing to say in our church, as it’s a pretty strong theme throughout our culture. I was once asked to speak at a university Christian Union a few years ago, and I opened with that statement and got the reaction I hoped for (stunned silence!), but it allowed me to speak about the difference between worship based on religion and worship based on relationship.
The enemy’s greatest weapon
Religion is the enemy’s greatest weapon against an effective church, because it lulls a person or group of people into thinking that what they’re doing is right and good, when in fact it is drawing them further and further away from God’s heart, and making them feel good about it too! Religion is anything that comes from us relying on our own strength, experience, knowledge or preference, and is justified because in the past it worked and ‘was clearly right and must, therefore, have been blessed by God so let’s keep doing it because we don’t want to do anything that displeases God’.
Jesus said that religion was like a little yeast that gets worked into the bread dough, and puffs it up when it gets baked – which is awkward when you’re trying to make flat bread. In the same way, a little religion puffs up our heads in the success of ministry. God is the God of today and tomorrow, as well as yesterday, and God is the God of new (and different) things, as well as old. Religion will stop us in our tracks as we seek to walk in God’s new thing today, and God’s newer thing tomorrow. Religion will make us think that we’re doing the right thing. Religion will make us think we’re doing what God wants, and honouring and obeying His word, and anyone who does differently is clearly in disobedience. It’s such a subtle thing, but its aim is always to pull our hearts away from God’s heart.
Relationship is living
Relationship is ‘now’, is growing, bears fruit, enjoys intimacy, handles change, brings peace and confidence. David, in today’s verse, asked God to search his heart and reveal anything that was pulling him away from God. That’s a big prayer to make because the results could be quite uncomfortable – but David wanted nothing in the way of his relationship with God.
As worshippers let’s make David’s prayer our own, so we always bring pure, heartfelt worship to God’s House.