Lent – Religion or Relationship?

In Philippians 3, Paul is starting to write on the kind of life that believers are called to live. Paul was from a culture and custom where working yourself towards God and towards righteousness – demonstrated by physical acts like circumcision (3.2) – was expected and was, frankly, prized. This, though, is what he had left behind. 

Paul lays out his credentials and says, basically, that if anyone was ever going to either be righteous by birth (vv.4-5a), or by hard work and dedication (vv.5b-6) then it was him. Can you honestly say you have more confidence in the flesh than Paul did? 

All of this, though, Paul [came] to regard as liabilities because of Christ (v.7). Paul knows that rituals and religion can never replace relationship (v.8), and uses particularly strong language when he says that he counted all this as rubbish (excrement, dung) that [he] may gain Christ…(v.9).

All of this to say, Paul came to a point in his life where he knew that religion is just not as good as relationship, and that he truly wanted the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness…that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness…(v.9b).

Paul had realised this, have you?

Are you content with knowing of Jesus,

knowing who Jesus was reported to be,

knowing what Jesus is reported to have said and done, or do you want more than that?

Are you content with a religious understanding of Jesus,

or are you pursuing a relationship with Him? 

Paul writes that everything in vv.2-6 is just not as good as everything in vv.7-11. Very simply, it comes down to religion (I had…I have…I was…I do…) versus relationship (His sake…in Him…faith in Christ…on faith…His resurrection…His death…). 

Think on this:

This Lent season, we can approach the coming weeks

from a religious perspective or from a relational perspective.

The former, as Paul wrote, will lead us towards doing much to try and earn what has already been freely given in the context of a relationship. Giving up something temporarily cannot earn you what has already been given. 

The latter, approaching Lent as a time to strengthen relationships through choosing to focus on what is already yours, will do just that (James 4.8a). 

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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