Religion or Relationship
Lesson Plan

Today’s lesson focuses on the difference in religion and relationship with God.

Handout:  Religion or Relationship

Religion or Relationship

Quiet in your mind and heart, ask yourself this question.  Am I practicing religion, or do I have relationship with God?  Sadly in today’s world, there are so many people, Christians included, that don’t know the difference in religion and relationship.  As we go along in this lesson, we will see the difference in the two and see the importance of relationship with our Father.  
I looked up the definitions in the Dictionary of the two words.  
            Religion – a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally 
                              agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
            Relationship – a. Connection between persons by blood.
                                     b. A connection, association, or involvement.

Do you have a relationship, connection with God, or do you just go through the motions, practices and traditions of religion? 
James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Most religions do this.  Religion tries to be good enough through works.  Religion says, I’ve been loyal, I’ve resisted temptation, I’ve fed, clothed the poor and needy, I’ve helped the orphans and widows.  Religion is works and service to God in hopes of rewards or heaven, but in the end it brings a life of guilt, failure, and separation from God.  It brings before God good deeds and human righteousness which can never measure up to the holiness of God.  Man’s way to reach the Father is through religion.  However, the Father’s way for connection with man is through Jesus.  That is the one and only way.

John 14:6  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Ephesians 2:8-9  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

  1. In order to have relationship with the Father, one must come to him through Jesus.  This consists of:
    1. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting Him fully.
    2. Confessing sins, repenting of them, and asking forgiveness.
    3. Allowing the Holy Spirit control of your life and following as He leads, in obedience.
    4. Daily communication with the Father in the name of Jesus through prayer. 
    5. Reading, Studying God’s word to learn and know him more.

Let’s turn in the Bible to the book of Luke, chapter 15 starting with chapter 11. 

Luke 15:11  “And he said, A certain man had two sons:  12.  And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.  And he divided unto them his living.  13. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.  14.  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.  15. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  16. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” 
He has really messed up now.  He has gone as low as he can go and finds himself alone with no one to help him.  Let’s see what happens next.

Luke 15:17 “ And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  18. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.  19. And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  20. And he arose, and came to his father.  But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

Hallelujah!  The father saw him afar off.  This suggests that the father was watching and waiting for his son to return home to him.  That is what love and relationship is.  Let’s read on. 

Luke 15:21. “And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  22. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23.  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it and let us eat, and be merry:  24. For this my son was dead, and is alive again;  he was lost, and is found.  And they began to be merry.

What a wonderful relationship between the father and his son.  The son loved and trusted his father enough to know that even though he sinned and did wrong, that if he went back and repented, his father would help him.  The father in his love for the son does much more.  He is so happy that his son has come back home and repented that he accepts him with open arms and gives him the best of what he had.  Not rewarding him for his sin, but celebrates in happiness that his son had not stayed in sin but repented.  He ran and hugged his son and kissed him.  They had that connection of father and son; they had relationship, a bond that was shared only between the two of them. 
3.  Let us read on and see this story from another son’s point of view.  We will call him Religion.

Luke 15:25.  “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musik and dancing.  26. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.  27. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.  28. And he was angry, and would not go in:  therefore came his father out, and intreated him.” 

This older son, a type of religion, instead of being happy that his brother is home safe, is angry and won’t go in and join the merriment.  Let’s read on and see why in this parable, he is a type of religion.

Luke 15:29.  “And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:  30.  But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou has killed for him the fatted calf.” 

Like religion to God, the older son begins to remind his father of what he has done.  The good works he has done for his father in hopes of reward.  I have served you for these many years and never sinned against you and did all these things for you and yet my brother did wrong and you reward him and not me.  Next, we will read the father’s response to his older son.

Luke 15:31.  “ And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.  32.  It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

The father explains to his elder son, Son you are always with me and everything I have is yours too.  In other words, I give you everything I have because you are my son, I am your father, I love you, you have what I have because of our relationship, not because of what you do or don’t do.  We had to celebrate because your brother that we love so much is now home again. 
As believers, we must begin to understand that we cannot be good enough to get to the Father on our own.   Many times we say this to others, but do we really believe it and practice it ourselves?  So many believers receive salvation but they still live in fear that if they are not perfect then God will be angry at them.  So they work and work trying to do good in hopes God will be pleased.  Satan deceives our minds and makes us believe that God just tolerates us and that he is just waiting for us to do something wrong, or not do enough and that his wrath will be upon us.  God loves you.  He is not just waiting for you to fail.  He loves you. 

I read a story once this preacher told.  This preacher had gone with his friend to a football game in which his friend’s young son was playing.  The young boy was out on the field with the ball and made a great move around his opponent but then afterwards tripped over his own feet while running and in a series of bad moves, lost the ball to the other team.  The preacher felt bad thinking that his friend would be embarrassed at the bad moves his son had made, but much to his surprise the young boy’s father with a huge grin on his face in excitement said, wow! Did you see that great move he did around that guy?  That was AMAZING!  The preacher thought to himself, that is just how God, our Heavenly Father is toward his children.
The Father isn’t focused or dwelling on our bad moves…but he sees the one good move.  He sees that and cheers us on, helping us build from that one good move.  He is on our side.  He wants us to succeed.  Just like parents teaching their child to walk.  They do not get angry when the child tries and falls.  They do not focus on how many times the child falls, instead they cheer at the one step he takes and encourages him to take more.  What at truly loving and amazing Father we have.  He is the epitome of loveliness.

4. God wants his children to talk to him.  He desired relationship with us.  This is the whole reason Jesus came and died.  We could not reach God because of the huge gap between us due to our sin.  We had to have a way to become righteous enough to be able to come into his presence because he could not look upon sin.  Through Jesus and salvation, His righteousness is imputed to us and is sealed before any sin can defile it and that is how we can come boldly to God and tell him anything and everything.  We can ask him for things and pour our hearts out to Him.

There is nothing wrong with good deeds.  This lesson isn’t saying these things are bad.  We are suppose to do all those things like feed the poor, look after the orphans and widows and so many other things that God leads us to do to serve others.  However, we cannot depend on those good works to get us to the Father or to heaven.  Just like your friends and family here on earth, in order to have a good relationship with them, you must communicate with one another.  We talk to each other and share our thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.  God is the same way.  How would you feel if your family or friends only came to you in fear or they came to you hoping you will love them if they say certain things to you or practice certain rituals in front of you because they had to.  What if they never just came to you in a comfortable friendly way to talk and just have fellowship with you.  God wants our love out of our own choice not because of tradition, fear, or seeking rewards.  He wants true relationship.   Even though he knows all things, it is important for us to tell him what is in our hearts and on our minds.  It is important to talk to him.  He isn’t going to reject your or laugh at you.  He loves you unconditionally and wants to help you.  He is with you always.  You can tell him anything and everything.  He wants to be your father and much more.
Even the small things that we think would not be important to him, they are and he understands.  The things that are important to us are important to him.  There was a time when I myself was going through a very difficult time in my life with much pain and many other struggles.  I was seeking God but feeling as if I failed.  One day it just entered my mind a few things that I would like to have that I was out of.  They were very small items that I did not have to have but they would have been nice and made me more comfortable.  I could have gone to my husband and asked him to get those things for me but I thought well I don’t really need them so I decided to not say anything.  This whole thought process took maybe 30 seconds in my day and I never said anything to anyone or thought anymore about it.  That night lying awake in pain, I began to pray and seek God about situations in my life, but I couldn’t feel his presence and I felt like I was alone.  Satan began to whisper lies to my mind.  I thought in my heart, satan is a liar, God loves me and even if I can’t feel God right now, I know he is with me and will never leave me and he hears me I believe with faith.  I then went to sleep. 

The next morning, my husband came home from work with a shopping bag and gave it to me.  He said, I got you some things.  He said I don’t know why but it was on my heart so strong to stop on my way home from work and buy these things for you.  I almost didn’t stop but I just felt I had to.
I opened the shopping bag, and inside were small items that I had thought of the day before that I would like to have.  There was every single little item plus an extra item that was so nice that I hadn’t even thought of.  At that moment God spoke to my heart, he said, little child, I know your heart, I know your every move and your every thought.  The things that are important to you are important to me too no matter how big or small.  I understand your pain.  I am taking care of you always.
I began to cry in thanks to God and my husband did not understand what was happening because I had not told him.  I knew it was God.  My husband would never have been able to find the exact things without me explaining to him what to get.   God had showed him.  After I explained to him, he knew that it was God that had pressed upon his heart to stop and purchase those things for me.
That is how wonderful relationship is with our Father.  He loves all of his children.  What he does for one, he will do for another.  I challenge each of you to seek him more and more everyday and I promise you, if you seek him with your whole heart in faith, he will be more to you than you could ever even imagine.  It will be the most important and fulfilling relationship you will ever have.  First focus on relationship, the good deeds that come along with religion will follow.

Dear righteous Heavenly FATHER...

Thank you so much for who YOU are...there is none like You.  You are almighty, Holy, and righteous.  FATHER we come to you sincerely now, asking you to help us seek you fully with our whole hearts.  Father we desire relationship with you.  We love you and praise you and we want to know you more.  Help us to always focus on our relationship instead of just following tradition and trying to be good enough on our own.  We understand now that it’s all through Jesus and his shed blood and we thank you for making a way.  We thank you Jesus for dying for us so that we could have the gift of relationship with you.  Help us to show others how to develop relationship with God in their lives as well.  We will forever praise and worship you Father because you are truly worthy.  Thank you for all your many blessings and for your love.  In JESUS lovely, holy name...we pray, AMEN!  Thank You FATHER.

(May 12, 2013)