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It's Not Just a T-shirt, It's My Life (3 of 5)

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

One thing I particularly enjoy about being a grown up is... I get to pick my own clothes. I can be as picky as I want to be. Unlike a lot of young people today, I had to wear, basically, what was bought for me. Uh, I lived with my grandparents. So, let me put this in perspective: my grandma and my aunt took me clothes shopping most of the time. Honestly, I didn't mind too much. For the most part, I never really was in to all the latest fashion trends. Every now and then, it bothered me but for the most part, I marched to the beat of my own drummer. There were a few things I was VERY particular about though and to this day, I still am.

One thing I am extremely picky about is t-shirts. Not only does the material matter to me and the size matters (I don't think it should be so tight you can see what I last ate) but I believe out of every other piece of clothing, t-shirts are billboards. I am particular about what mine read. If I am going to be a walking advertisement for something, I want to be sure I 100% support it and not just the t-shirt. I could care less if the shirt "looks" cool or everyone has one. I truly take into consideration what message I am sending to anyone and everyone who possibly could read the t-shirt, including myself. I have, on more than one occasion, purchased a t-shirt to support a cause but never worn it or gotten a t-shirt because I had to wear it for the "event" I was participating in only to never wear it again. Rest assured, if you see me wear a t-shirt with anything on it, I stand behind it and you are welcome to ask me about it. Also, I don't feel the need to provide advertising services for free so purchasing a t-shirt for the sole purpose of advertising a name brand, to me, is pointless and a waste of money. Shouldn't the company be paying me to advertise for them?

I have a t-shirt that reads, "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship." I have no issue wearing it. Some people, I have learned, have an issue when they read it. This is a great way to start a conversation and share the Gospel.

  • Webster's Dictionary defines religion as, "a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices."

  • Most religions (i.e. Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) are similar in that they are built upon the concept that man can reach a higher power or state of being through his own efforts.

  • Most religions reward man for his strict adherence to whatever its tenets are.

  • Most religions have a set of rituals, ceremonies and practices that are to be or have to be practiced, performed and observed.

  • Most religions require that you be "born in to" the religion or under-go a "process" to convert to become part of the followers.

  • Most religions have a "formula" to determine good, good enough, bad, etc. They are "do this" and "do that."

  • Most religions have no direct "link" for man and "their god" or higher power.

Christianity, when compared to the above, does not fit the "definition."

  • The Bible tells us there is nothing man can do to make himself right with God (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23). We cannot reach a higher power or state of being through our own efforts. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves (Romans 8:3, Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21.)

  • We are saved by Grace not through works (Ephesians 2:8)

  • Christianity does not have a set of rituals, ceremonies or practices that must be practiced, observed or followed. Communion and baptism are the only ritual-like practices that are clearly expressed in the New Testament scriptures. Over time, rituals were implemented into the Christian faith through various denominations. There is a difference. As one grows in their Christian walk, they will learn of the difference.

  • To become a Christian, one does not have a conversion process external to one's self. When you confess you are a sinner, ask God for forgiveness, are genuine in your request and accept that Jesus Christ is who He said He is and is Lord of your life, you are reborn a Christian. (That is the cliff notes version.) It is the first step in your journey. It is faith in the one true God and faith to take the step to the grace, mercy and life He offers to those who turn to Him; to those who accept His gift.

  • We have a God who loves us so much He wanted us and He made a way for us to make it to Him! No other religion does that; none!

Given all of that (and there is so much more) you can see why Christianity is a relationship - the relationship that God has established with His children. The best way I have heard it put is like this:

"Christianity is not about signing up for a religion. Christianity is about being

born into the family of God (John 3:3). It is a relationship. Just as an adopted

child has no power to create an adoption, we have no power to join the family

of God by our own efforts. We can only accept His invitation to know Him as

Father through adoption (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). When we join His family

through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to

live inside our hearts (1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22). He

then empowers us to live like children of the King. He does not ask us to try to

attain holiness by our own strength, as religion does. He asks that our old self

be crucified with Him so that His power can live through us (Galatians 2:20;

Romans 6:6). God wants us to know Him, to draw near to Him, to pray to Him,

and love Him above everything. That is not religion; that is a relationship."

Believe it or not, the Bible tells us about, "religion:"

  • James 1:27 (KJV), "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." In other words, to God, the system of worshiping God is not a matter of observing rites and rituals; rather, it involves practical help for those in need and living a pure life.

  • Colossians 2:8 (KJV), "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." We find this when man creates or manipulates religion based on false gods and worldly philosophy rather than God's word.

  • Luke 20:46-47 & Matthew 23:27 tells us of religion where tradition, ceremony and rule-keeping (as illustrated with the scribes and Pharisees) are, more often than not, corrupt and do not keep with Christ's teachings. They may "appear" on the outside to be one thing but on the inside, they are something completely different.

  • There are 2 very important passages of scripture: 2 Timothy 3:1–5 and Matthew 7:21–23 that describe human traditions that give the appearance of devotion but ultimately have little to do with the soul of the participant. In fact, they can be quite the opposite.

To be a true Christian, to live out the Gospel and to grow in your faith, you will have no doubt that Christianity is indeed a relationship.

With this relationship comes a very important factor or detail - your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

  • Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! ~1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV

  • Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~John 14:6 ESV

  • I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33 ESV

  • Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. ~James 4:8a ESV

  • I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20 ESV

  • In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. ~Ephesians 3:12 ESV

I can keep going and going. You cannot rely on your parent's faith/relationship, not your pastor's. You can't rely on a friend's, neighbor's, cousin's, stranger's or a tv personality's. Sure, they may walk you up to the door. They may point you in the right direction. In some cases, they may even make the introduction. Ultimately, however, you have to establish your own relationship. You have to cultivate it. You have to grow it. The beautiful thing is IT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP (that is why they call it a personal relationship.) It is like any relationship you have in life - it is unique to you. You will get out of it what you put in to it. It is something you work on. It only widens and deepens the more you get to know Him. I can't brag on my love for Him because, the truth is, I fall short more often than not. What I can do is boast about Him because never has He failed me, given up on me, turned His back on me or left me hanging. Sure, I've fallen short to Him (more than once) yet He is always - and I do mean always - there. I may get a bit aggravated with Him. I may not always like His response or His timing. To be honest, I have screamed at Him, cried to Him, pleaded with Him, sat in silence with Him, thanked Him, sought Him, laughed with Him, served Him and so much more. In Him, I find a peace and assurance I can only get when I truly believe with all my heart.

This is the beauty of being a Christian! When you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, life takes on a whole new meaning! There will always be ebbs and flows, ups and downs, hard times and great times. Life will happen whether you have Him in it or not but I can tell you this, I cannot imagine living my life without Him in it. I cannot imagine a day or half a day or even half of a half of a day not knowing Him. It is not because I have a religion that taught me if I do this plus this and this I will get that. No! I was not raised in any religion, in fact, my testimony is personal between me and Jesus when I was very young. I cultivated my relationship with Him without any formal religious influence until I was well in to adulthood but I was already a Christian. What are you waiting for? He formed you. He knows your heart. There is absolutely nothing about you - nothing - you can hide from Him. He doesn't want you to. He wants you just as you are - right now. He doesn't care how far you have run, just come home. He doesn't care how long you've not reached out - just call on Him. He doesn't care what you've done - isn't it time to know what you can do? Haven't you been carrying burdens, sin, regret, fear, anger, resentment, worthlessness, despair, anxiety, just not knowing, things that you need to put down, long enough?

I am "religious" about many things - brushing my teeth, taking my meds, feeding my cat, taking a shower, putting on deodorant - I do them without fail, almost at the same time every day. I have "rituals" when it comes to performing certain tasks that I just do not break because they are, for me, engrained in how I do things. I do not think of myself as a religious person. When I am asked, "What religion are you?" or "Do you subscribe to a particular religion?" I always respond by saying, "I am a practicing Christian (not just professing because there is a difference) who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." For me, its more than wearing a t-shirt, it's my life!

Join us for our next post in the series, "A Rose

By Any Other Name Is Still A Rose." We will be finishing up

the series the first of next week. We'd love to hear from you!

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