This page features two writings, the first entitled "Being a Christian Among Your Friends and Family." The second is entitled "Relationship and Religion, Religious Spirits and Legalism."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Being a Christian Among Friends and Family                    


To love the Lord is a choice we make. For a believer whose family members (see pictured) and close loving friends have chosen "Yes," what a joy and a blessing this is, as they worship and grow in the Lord together. However, for the believer, whose family members and close loving friends have chosen "No," this can present a challenge as you seek to maintain these relationships with people who don't know or want to know the Lord. These might be close relationships with years of history and love.

Why do people choose to say no or keep God at a distance in their lives? They know you are strong in the Lord and want little or nothing to do with it. There are many reasons for this. Some know that God is out there but feel unsure, insecure and sometimes afraid about it, so they choose to ignore it. They might say “religion” is a very private thing, to say the word “Jesus” is immediately proselytizing to them. Walls go up, they might roll or flash their eyes, they might get defensive, critical or fearful. They might justify their unbelief by saying that religion has caused so many wars. They might criticize religion because they say it controls people or is after money. Notice the word "religion" and not relationship with Jesus. They might be proud of their independence, they can live on their own and don’t need God. They might be open to God only to a point, such as at Christmas or Easter or whenever there is a crisis in their lives.

Another reason for choosing "No" could be a simple lack of knowledge. They never learned about God as a child and now don’t have time. Or, it could be from a bad childhood experience when they were forced to go and resented it. Or it could be unresolved anger towards God from an illness, from a traumatic situation or from the loss of a loved one, such as a parent losing a child. It could be from to a previous bad experience in a church from a person in the church. They became so wounded and hurt by that church, they quit and abandoned God. Or, they know if they chose to commit deeper to the Lord, they might have to make changes in their life and are unwilling to do so. Or, deep down, they really don't believe God exists.

How do we deal with this? Let’s look at scripture. Romans 12:10-12 "love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer." Romans 13:8 "Owe no one nothing, except to love one another, for the one who loves another fulfills the law." Matthew 22:30 "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." 1 Corinthians Chap 13:4-7 "Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it’s own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

How do we continue our relationship with a non-believer we love, a dear friend or a family member? The answer is simple yet sometimes difficult. It's love. What does love mean? It means we must be patient. It means while we hold true to our belief and serve the Lord, we must be gentle with the non-believer we love. Speak good words, build them up with the good things you have in common. Let your good witness be an example. Romans 14:1 "Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions." Do not force anything but bear with the person with joy, believing, hoping and enduring. Pray for them. If a door opens in their hearts for Jesus, if they wish, you can help them walk through it. If the door remains shut, still quietly support them in prayer. Pray that their hearts will be softened, their wounds will be healed. Pray that God will become real to them. Pray that they may be rescued from darkness and separation from the Lord. Pray goodness into their lives, pray the Lord will bless them. And remember, do not judge, leave that to God. Romans 14:11-12 "For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall praise to God. So then each of us will be accountable to God."

                                                              

 Romans 8:35-39 "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted for as sheep to be slaughtered.'  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

Relationship and Religion, Religious Spirits and Legalism

Believing in the Lord is about your relationship with the Lord, not about a relationship with religion. We are in relationship with the Lord and our desire as Christians is to please the Lord. Apostle Paul said it in Phillipians 3:8 ”for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” Before his ministry, Paul was a highly respected member of the Pharisees, which were the select group in charge of the Jewish religious life at the time. But Paul realized through the grace of God that his relationship with Christ was far more important than anything of this world.

This is not to say churches today are not places of worship that people come into relationship with the Lord, to learn about Him and to worship Him. They are. However, each believer has our own direct relationship with Christ Jesus. No matter how poor, how rich, how successful, a pope, a president, a pastor or a brand new Christian, we are all in the same place. God is no respector of persons, he sees the heart of each person individually. God is the ultimate equalizer. We all are the same in the eyes of the Lord.

I have found the more you learn about the Lord, the more you realize there is to learn. No one will ever know it all, there is humility in that. If someone has been around the Bible longer and knows more, that does not make them holier than someone who knows less. So as you learn more about the Lord, always be humble. Be careful to avoid the spirit of pride which results in a religious spirit. A religious spirit thinks it is better than others because it knows more or has a higher position or has been doing it longer. A religious spirit looks down on people, judging people, excluding people, trying to impress everyone. This is detestable to God. Jesus said in Luke 6:37 “Do not judge and you will not be judged, do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it shall be given unto you." Romans 3:23 “We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.“

The Pharisees thought they were better than everyone else. They put legalistic rules in place such as forbidding healings on the Sabbath Day. Religious spirits are very much into legalism, into putting rules and stressful expectations onto people or themselves. Jesus repudiated these rules and went ahead and healed on the Sabbath. In fact, many of Jesus’s teachings challenged the hierarchy and their existing beliefs. This caused him many enemies which eventually led to his arrest and crucifiction.

Don’t let anyone, wherever you go, ever make you feel less-than. Always remember, in Christ you are more-than a conqueror! You have a relationship with the Almighty God and The Lord loves you. You have the approval, the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. With love and humility, don’t ever forget it!