When an individual acknowledges God it is because The Holy Spirit has enlightened them.
As the person then opens their heart more fully, the same Spirit responds in communion (which can be exhilarating).
As this communion continues, many people in an effort to further this relationship, or get more of God, turn to organized religion (an institution).
The institution then expresses a set of beliefs it has embraced which can be perceived as a requirement of God if we are to have more of God.
These beliefs are generally derived from three primary avenues of thought:
1. Recorded historical biblical instructions given to other people(s) by God in response to particular circumstances they faced in their lives.
2. The testimony or beliefs of a strong leader.
3. The testimony or beliefs agreed upon corporately by the institution members.
In my life as I consider the methodology taught by the churches I have associated myself with it, It has been demonstrated that a correct relationship with God will contain certain measurable actions from me. Some examples of these actions are;
1. Acknowledge my depraved nature and request forgiveness by God.
2. Acknowledge Jesus’ death and resurrection as the only means by which by which a relationship with God can be established.
3. Be baptized.
4. Worship God in gratitude for what he has done you.
5. Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
6. Study the Scriptures.
7. Become involved with a local group of believers.
9. Serve the body of believers.
10. Become active in humanitarian service.
11. Become active politically.
All of these actions are potentially correct but inadvertently an incorrect message is sent that these actions are needed to make possible a further response from God.
I believe God is honored by these actions and as we practice these things a natural human design (of His making) impacts our life. We experience a sort of fulfillment that feels good and makes sense to us. The ‘math’ is understandable, “If I do this, I will feel this”. Yet along the way, the actions alter the simplicity of what is taking place. Instead of a simple pursuit/response relationship, the relationship becomes action/response and the action becomes necessary for response.
I think organized religion exists because of our thirst for more of God. One problem we face in wanting to satisfy this thirst and we must deal with is the Old Testament. These books in the bible, particularly the first five where the law is given, are just what I have described. God presents rules clearly saying; “if you do this, then I will do that”, or “if you do not do this, then I will not do that”. It was very clear. The rules of engagement were clearly defined. Modern mainstream Christian religions all agree these laws were for the most part negated when Jesus personally interacted with the world on our behalf. The examples are too many for me to go into in this moment, but for example; we no longer believe we must sacrifice animals to be forgiven. As we teach the history of the bible and discover these action/response examples, we assimilate the concept as being required. We somehow forget these were commands issued by God to a people in a time.
So this brings us back to where we started, the person who has begun to engage God, seeking more or him. If my premises are correct as written in my opening statements, two circumstances occurred;
1. There was an acknowledgement of God attributed to the Spirit of God.
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44
2. As person then opens their heart the Spirit of God responds. "When the
Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” John 15:26 (Jesus is speaking to believers).
These two actions are the fundamental basis by which every action takes place in a believer of Jesus (and therefore a relationship with God). The action and order of events as laid out by Jesus are clearly demonstrated in this order.
1. Action by God, response from us.
2. Willingness by us, action from God.
The action in both examples is from and by God. There is something to be said that response and willingness is an action too, but it is only within ourselves, an exercise of our free will in response to His action.
This brings us to the modern church in its current model. If ‘God information’ and ‘Christian identity exploration’ are to be pulpit driven, and the corporate testimony of the assembled believer is to a model of a Christian life, then our public profession must always be that these conclusions are drawn from an experience by which God has performed an action, (or intervention into us as), as a result of our being willing to receive it. This presents a problem. This simple message of ‘our willingness/God’s action’ might possibly drive a preacher crazy in its simplicity and repetitiveness. There is also some question as to whether this simple statement is sufficient to support the model of service and action created by the modern church.
I believe we must however keep our message of what a Christian life should look like in its simplest form, “our willingness to respond to God’s action”.
I suspect that if we keep our message simply focused, our visible results may look very similar to the ‘requirements’ described above but perhaps to a greater degree than we have ever seen, hoped or imagined. I believe any time we place any value on any of our actions (beyond the exercise of our free will) we have diminished the work of Jesus Christ and the need for His intervention, life, and death on our behalf. If we maintain correct perspective, these very actions then become a response to Him rather than a negotiation with Him.