I have a friend (yes – it’s true) who is becoming a great friend. This man is becoming my great friend because we are being brutally open, transparent and honest with each other. I need to be honest here….I haven’t had a friendship like this in a long time.
We meet on a weekly basis – not to talk about the weather, sports, the economy. We are doing life together …sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. Our friendship has turned from a religious experience to a relational experience.
Our lunch meeting yesterday got me thinking. What drives the “average North American Christian”? Is it about religion or relationship?
Here is the good news… recent research indicates that those who consider themselves religious tend to have lower blood pressure than the rest of the population, and they are less likely to be obese or to have cancer or to be hospitalized, and they have a 29% greater chance to live longer!
And religious people tend to have lower rates of depression, less suicide, greater sexual satisfaction in their marriage, and overall a greater sense of well-being.
The bad news for religious types comes to us from Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only He who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.'”
That’s some difficult news to accept. Is it really posssible that religious people will be stopped at the gates of heaven and told that they are not going to enter? Let’s take alook at these “religious” people
These are clearly people who know a lot about Jesus . . . who have done a lot of things in Jesus’ name . . . who are, no doubt, considered to be Christians by the people who know them. Except for one thing – Jesus says, “I never knew you.” Somehow, in the middle of “doing” Christianity, they forgot to BE who they were called to be. It is possible to be very religious, very involved with Christian things, and to miss Jesus!
How does this happen? Jesus said that what these people missed was “doing the will of My Father in heaven”. Well, in John 6:40, Jesus tells us exactly what that is. “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.”
You see it’s so easy for us to fall into this trap – we don’t look to Jesus – we look to ourselves – we count on our Christianity, our heritage, our church attendance, our religiousness, our spiritual track record as the thing that will make us right with God. But not of that can do it. That’s why Jesus came.
I know the challenge for me on a daily basis is to keep the main thing the main thing – I must continue to love and to serve others not out of my love for God – but out of his love for me!