Print Code: JTBA4 | Print Sizes: S, M, L, Oversize | Greeting Cards | Original Artwork: SOLD, Watercolor Pencil and Colored Pencil on Matboard
True Christianity is having a loving, personal Relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross. False Christianity is practicing a Religion about Jesus while lacking a Relationship with Jesus. It often emphasizes an outward adherence to rules, obedience to rituals and/or mental assent to a body of doctrines instead of having a living faith in the actual Person of Jesus Christ. May we discern the difference between Religion and Relationship, and may we flee Religion to lay hold of a Relationship with Jesus.
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God…See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks…At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” (Hebrews 12:22-23, 25-29)
True Christianity is having a personal Relationship with God–NOT a Religion.
We believers have entered into an eternal, loving Relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross for our sins.
(To learn how to enter into a personal Relationship with God, please see, Message).
Oh, the sweetness of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord intimately and personally!
We believers are God’s very own treasured possession (Revelation 5:9). We enjoy intimate fellowship and communion with him in worship, prayer and the Word of God. As we spend time with him, the warmth of his tangible Presence fills our souls, and we are filled with his goodness and love through the Holy Spirit. So close is our Relationship with God that he likens it to a Bridegroom and a Bride or a husband and wife (Ephesians 25-27, 31-32; Revelation 19:7-9; Isaiah 54:5). Like a Bride with her Bridegroom, we love to steal away and be with him. There is no other place in heaven or on earth we would rather be than with him.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25)
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul years, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:1-2, 10)
True Christianity is not a Religion about Jesus; it is a Relationship with Jesus.
The actual substance of our “Christianity” is Relationship, pure and simple.
God attaches no Religiosity to our Relationship with him. He requires no devotion to anything else but himself.
God’s people are free–free to delve into the depths of intimacy in their Relationship with God.
“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
There is Relationship, but there is also Religion that man has made and attached to Relationship.
Hebrews 12:26-27 warns us that there will come a Day, the Last Day, when God will shake this Creation. This Creation includes everything that man has made independent of the Spirit of God. On the Last Day, God will shake and remove all manmade Religion so that only Relationship will remain.
The essence of the Kingdom of God, insofar as it refers to the body of believers, is Relationship and will not (and cannot) be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). This Kingdom, this body of Christ, this spiritual household of living stones founded upon Christ the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-10, Ephesians 2:19-22) is the church. The church is the people!
Biblically speaking, the “church” is not a building, nor is it something we do, nor is it a place we go, nor is it a religious organization or institution, nor does it have a name or a million different names for that matter, nor is it divided into different denominations.
The church is the People who believe in him and who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9)!
Yet when we use the word “church” what comes to mind first? A building? A religious organization? Or the invisible, spiritual body of believers?
In regards to the “church” you are involved in, what is manmade and what is God-made? What is of the spiritual Kingdom of God and what is of the earthly realm of men? Do you participate in religious services or do you commune with the Living God? What are you building? A church with a man at the head and your own name on it? Or the Kingdom of God whose true Head is Christ? Are you deepening in Relationship or steeping yourself in a Religion when you assemble together? Are you maturing in Relationship or maintaining a Religious system?
On the Last Day, of all you have devoted yourself to, participated in and labored to build, what will be shaken and what will remain?
As Evangelical Christians we hold our Relationships with God very precious and dear and esteem them to be of the utmost importance, therefore we must ask ourselves:
When we meet together, are we genuinely seeking the Living God, or are we seeking after other things?
Have we given place to religious spirits that skew us off our course into God’s presence and cage us from pursuing Relationship freely and fully?
And what is it we are actually doing when we assemble together? Do we worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) or are we running through a religious routine absent of the Presence of God?
If we turn aside from pursuing pure Relationship and become ensnared by Religion, we have lost our way. If we give place to religious spirits instead of the Holy Spirit, then we are practicing an idolatrous form of counterfeit “christianity” and have become the modern fulfilment of Isaiah 1:21, “See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She was once full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her…”
At the time of this prophecy, Israel was religiously well-endowed yet spiritually complacent and impoverished. They had Religion, but they had let go of Relationship. They were still religiously running through all the motions of “church”, but their hearts were far from God:
“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13)
This lack of love and genuineness cut deeply into the heart of God, the spiritual husband of Israel (Isaiah 54:5), and he said to them:
“Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom [addressing Israel as if they were the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19)]; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! ‘The multitude of your sacrifices–what are they to me?’ says the LORD. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations–I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen…” (Isaiah 1:10-15)
How tragic that Israel continued all of her religious practices and yet the Lord actually found them detestable!
Yet despite Israel’s false religiosity and idolatry, the Lord still loved them and yearned for them to come back to Relationship:
“‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?…
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man–the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.
They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes declares the LORD.” (excerpts from Hosea 11)
The Lord is always longing for Relationship with his people, and even when they stray far away from him he still longs for them and calls out to them to return.
And what about us Christians today?
We as believers must ask ourselves:
Do I pursue Relationship or do I practice a form of evangelical Religion?
Many of us have fallen into the trap of participating in and maintaining manmade Religion which will be shaken and destroyed on the Last Day. Many of us have chosen to engage in its practices and submit to its rules. Others of us have inwardly disagreed with Religion yet still tolerated it in our midst (Mark 7:1-13, 2 Corinthians 11:20, Acts 4:18-20, Acts 5:27-29). Our participation in and toleration of these things is, at best, superfluous to the commands of Scripture, and at worst, deterimental and in direct opposition to them.
Religion which is devoid of Relationship will always harm Relationship.
On the Last Day, when Religion is shaken and Relationship remains, our personal choices concerning these issues will be revealed and judged. What we have been truly devoted to will be exposed. (This is a sobering thought!!!)
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
God, we cry out to you, please grant each one of us sufficient grace to follow you wholeheartedly and purely in Relationship. God, please forgive us when we have wandered away into Religion, and please bring back our brothers and sisters who are ensnared in Religion. Give us unfaltering courage to flee out of the counterfeit christianity we have become so accustomed to. Help us return wholeheartedly to you in intimate Relationship. Give strength and courage to our elders and leaders to resist religious spirits and to always lead your flock into Relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes…” (Revelation 18:4)
“‘In those days, at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.
My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place. Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, “We are not guilty, for they sinned against the LORD, their true pasture, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.”
Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock.” (Jeremiah 50:4-8)
In my drawing, the mighty Lion of Judah (Jesus) (Revelation 5:5) is roaring. The Word of God that proceeds from his mouth is powerful (Hebrews 4:12, Jeremiah 23:29, Revelation 19:13,15), like a lion’s roar. By his Word he will judge the world, the words of our mouths, the works of our hands and the motives of our hearts.
I have chosen to use the conventional imagery of stained glass church windows to represent “Religion” and the “religious manmade church” (which is altogether something different than the Kingdom of God), which will be shaken and destroyed on the Last Day. (Important Note: This imagery represents the invisible spirit of religiosity and NOT physical churches or church buildings. Where we meet for fellowship, whether it be in a home or a cathedral, is irrelevant. What truly matters to God is the spirit in which we meet, whether it be in the Holy Spirit or in a Religious spirit (1 Samuel 16:7).
In my drawing, God’s Word, which proceeds from the Lion of Judah’s mouth, shatters Religion and the manmade “church”, which has not been built true to the plumb line of God’s Word. It is, in part, another picture of 1 Corinthians 3:10-17:
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-14)
Revealed underneath the religious facade of stained glass windows (Religion/false christianity) is the Bridegroom (Christ) and the Bride (Believers), which represents Relationship, which is true Christianity.
In my drawing, the Lion of Judah possesses a shepherd’s staff, for he alone is Head of his Church, and he alone is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).
Sheep (representative of believers) flee out of empty, dead religiosity and flock back to the Lion of Judah. This symbolizes Hosea 11:10-11. (I do not apply this verse in its historical context, but rather, I apply the general principle of this verse to my drawing):
“‘They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes,’ declares the LORD.” (Hosea 11:10-11)
Like doves fleeing out of Egypt (a symbol of the world) (Hosea 11:11) his children (the sheep) come trembling back to the Lord and to his Word. His children “…come trembling to him from the west” (Hosea 11:10). In my drawing this represents the contemporary Western (so-called) ‘Church’, the once great citadel of Christendom now largely apostate.
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Psalm 95:6-8)
Relationship is what God truly wants with his people. As a passionate Lover of his Bride (Exodus 34:14), his jealous anger is aroused when anything comes in between them. On the Last Day, God will certainly shake manmade Religion, which is a barrier between him and his Bride. But my prayer is that God’s jealous love for his Bride will compel him to shatter Religious barriers today so that his people may enjoy the fullness of intimacy with their Lord who died in order to enjoy this with them.