Day 110 - Relationship or Religion

 
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Thoughts that have come from various quotes taken from the book, "Victor - Breaking Free From a Victim Based Society" by John H. Hovis. Click here to link directly to the audio file.
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“The difference between religion and relationship is identity. Religion uses roles to empower the identity we want or think we need in an effort to make the best happen for the Church. Relationship allows identity to empower the roles we have in the Church so that God’s Plan can be more fully put into place.”
As quoted from the book "Victor - Breaking Free From a Victim-Based Society" by John H. Hovis Page 78.
Identity plays such a powerful role in so many things in our lives. Religion is no exception. Identity, if applied in the wrong way in our religious expressions, can turn our experience into something it was never intended to be.
God didn't set out to create a religion so that we could find ways to serve Him. He has always wanted us to flourish under the love of relationship. Identity is what makes it possible for us to live fully in relationship and fight off the bondage making ways religion tends to offer up.
You see religion, in its worst form, is focused on the entity of the church, not the individual of the congregation. Religion wants to make your identity all it can be so that you are more useful to the mission of your local church. That’s not such a bad result, but being the primary goal is not such a good victor making, relational strategy.
Identity isn’t there for a result. It is there for a purpose. That purpose isn’t to build a big church. It isn’t even there to convert others to our way of belief. Now, there’s a statement many will argue with me on.
No, I believe identity’s purpose is to relate to this God that created us in ways that make it so we can’t help but to talk about Him. It isn’t an issue of conversion and growth God is worried about. It is an issue of conversations and relationships that fuel the fire of God’s love in world changing ways.
It is when we are so connected to this God that people notice the difference in our lives. Identity’s purpose is so obvious to those around us when we are relating to God rather than using religion to somehow justify our existence to our piers and to God Himself.
Relationship with God empowers our identity in ways that make the roles we play in life so much more impacting from a heavenly perspective. Religion worries way too much about roles first and then works to focus on matching those roles to the right identities so that maximum impact can be had in the church. Roles being used to define identity is such a victim thinking way of approaching life both in our religious world and in the secular world as well.
It is when we know who we are that we will know what to do in our life. Religion gets this all backwards and uses roles to try and identify and utilize identities. Here's what the Bible says about the role that we all play as we know what our identity is.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)
Religion is working to try and train up a bunch of ambassadors. Again, not a bad strategy but it just can't be the primary focus of what religion is all about. Taking any good strategy and making it a means to an end is a sure fire way to see the victimizing effects of religion take hold. Victim thinking can't help but to happen when we allow roles to be what are promoted through identity rather than relying on who God says we are to empower those roles.
I think that is what Paul is saying in his last sentence of today's reading. "Be reconciled to God." It is when we are so connected to Him that we start to understand more completely who we are. When we have a grasp on who we are it is so easy to see what it is we are to be doing with God through the lens of that identity. Getting to this point takes relationship, not religion.
When we use a religious approach to identity and roles we fall into patterns where victim thinking can really take hold. The religious approach has to rely on results in order to measure success. As I have stated over and over again, anything associated with identity that has a chance of failure will ultimately get us to doubt that identity. It is when we have connected our identity to roles and the results of those roles don't turn out how we thought they should that we face pain.
God can't stand His children to face the kinds of internal pain that comes with doubting who we are. I think that's why God hates religion - religion looks to results as confirmation of identity and that will ultimately fail us in ways that will cause us pain. He wants His Children to live powerfully in who they are no matter the results of what they do.
Today you have a choice. You can live in religion or in relationship. I hope you choose relationship. That's the place where you have the best chance to live like the victor God has made you. Don't let the success or failure of what you do be a measure of who you are. Live freely in the fact that you are God's Child and even your failures are useful to your Heavenly Father who loves you so much.


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