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. (James 1:27)
I would have to say that I do not have a “religion.” Religion (as defined by Dictionary.com) has to do with “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.” Religion is “the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.” “Religion” seems to have a lot to do with what one does according to what one believes. I can go to church religiously because I believe going to church is a good thing, or because that is what a “good” Christian does. I can be a big believer in physical fitness and may visit the gym religiously, or I may be a strong believer in oral hygiene and brush and floss religiously. I could be an environmentalist and champion the care and maintenance of the earth religiously. I might even feel so strongly that I would risk my life in defense of the planet like the adherents of Greenpeace. Taking all of this into consideration, I must reiterate that I do not have a religion. Instead, what I have is a personal “relationship” with my Creator.
There are several reasons why my relationship with my Creator is greater than any religion. First of all, He is Creator of the universe and everything that is in it. Because of my relationship with Him, I am his child (John 1:12). As His child, I share in the inheritance of all that He owns (Romans 8:17).
Secondly, there was nothing done on my part to earn this position. From the fall of man, described in Genesis 3, we have been separated from God because of sin (Romans 3:10, 23) with no hope for reconciliation for eternity (Romans 6:23). That separation is what the Bible calls “death.” In that condition, there was nothing I could do close the gap of separation from my Creator. Understanding this, God stepped from eternity into time in the form of Jesus Christ to pay the “wages of sin” that I owed (John 3:16). What I could not do for myself, He did for me. My part was simply to accept His free gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). What is even more remarkable is that I did not even have to generate my own faith. The faith I needed to make this transaction, He gave to me, so that all I had to do was act on the faith that He provided.
Thirdly, there is nothing that I have to do to maintain my status. When I accepted His offer of eternal life, He took up residence in me by way of His Spirit (Luke 11:14; John 14:17). It is His Spirit in me that empowers me to live a life that pleases Him (Romans 8:5, 14; 1 Corinthians 3:16); there is no need for me to artificially generate a righteous life. He even intercedes for me when I am unable to verbalize my own needs (Romans 8:26-27). His Spirit in me strengthens me to overcome sin (1 John 4:4).
Finally, I have the promise of eternal life with my Creator. There is no “religion” on earth that can guarantee eternal life to its adherents. “Religions” offer the “possibility” of eternal life, if, when weighed in the cosmic balance, one has accrued more good deeds than bad, but the final determination is unknown until one passes from time into eternity. How can one ever know one’s standing! I do not have that dilemma. The Bible tells me that my place is secure. I am assured that whoever (that includes everyone and excludes no one) believes in Jesus has (present tense) eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:28; Romans 6:23; 1 John 2:25; 5:11, 13).
Because of all of this, I have a strong desire to gather “religiously” with the family of God with whom I will spend eternity. This is not an obligation, but a privilege. As a child of God, I have a strong desire to please my Savior, not requisitely out of necessity, but out of love. As a child of the Creator, the King of the universe, I have the honor to work for the advancement of His Kingdom. What makes this “burden light” is that I do not have to do it in my own strength (Matthew 11:29-30). For all of these reasons and more, my “relationship” is far superior to any “religion.”