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Relationship Not Religion

17 December, 2017

I have a confession to make. This might come as a shock to some, especially coming from a pastor, and especially at a Christmas service:

I don’t like religion.

But you know what I discovered? God can’t stand religion either.

Listen to what he said through the prophet Amos:

I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Amos 5:21-23a

わたしはあなたがたの祭を憎み、かつ卑しめる。わたしはまた、あなたがたの聖会を喜ばない。 たといあなたがたは§祭や素祭をささげても、わたしはこれを受けいれない。あなたがたの肥えた獣の酬恩祭は/わたしはこれを顧みない。 あなたがたの歌の騒がしい音を/わたしの前から断て。

What are we to make of this, especially at Christmas time when we have all the tinsel out and the food prepared and we’re singing all the songs and we’re all having a good time together?

It’s the Christmas message which explains what we’re to make of this. Basically it’s this: Christmas is not really about religion, it’s about relationship.
宗教 関係

At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus was God in human form. When He was born, the Kingdom of God broke into the Kingdom of men, and when that happened, our relationship potential with God changed. That’s why Jesus came: to restore our relationship with God.

Jesus said,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10


He also said,

“if the Son [that is, Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:36


Sounds great. But what does it mean?

The thief is the devil. He hates God and he hates God’s creation. So he comes to steal and kill and destroy us and our families.

He does this in three ways:

  1. He creates doubt so that people will reject God.

    His favourite words are “Did God really say that?” He wants you to believe that either God doesn’t exist or if He does, He doesn’t care about you, and even if He does care, you don’t have to care about Him.

  2. He fills our world with countrerfeit philosophies so that people will replace God. (‘Countrerfeit philosophies’ is a fancy term for big fat lies.)

    Materialism, greed, vanity, lust, selfishness, gluttony and drunkenness, relative truth, and religion. All of these are idols that the devil sets up in our lives to replace God. And people love them, at first anyway.

  3. He leads people to sin so that they will be dead to God.

    Sin breaks our relationship with God and alienates us from His holiness.

Listen to what the apostle Paul wrote:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power.
2 Timothy 3:1-5a

しかし、このことは知っておかねばならない。終りの時には、苦難の時代が来る。 その時、人々は自分を愛する者、金を愛する者、大言壮語する者、高慢な者、神をそしる者、親に逆らう者、恩を知らぬ者、神聖を汚す者、 無情な者、融和しない者、そしる者、無節制な者、粗暴な者、善を好まない者、 裏切り者、乱暴者、高言をする者、神よりも快楽を愛する者、 これらは全て罪のことについて書いてあります。 信心深い様子をしながらその実を捨てる者となるであろう。これは宗教のことをさしています。

This is why I don’t like religion and this is why God hates religious meetings that are all ceremony and no power.

If you see a place of worship with symbols and bells and smells and music – doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque, a temple, a synagogue or a church – but no power of God to save from sin and change lives, don’t go in there.

Remember, Christmas is not about religion and it’s not about rules, it’s about relationship. A relationship with God. When Jesus was born, the Kingdom of God broke into the Kingdom of men, and when that happened, our relationship potential with God changed.

The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came to bring full life and freedom through a new relationship with God. Freedom from doubt. Freedom from the lies of materialism, greed, vanity, lust, gluttony and drunkenness, relative truth, and freedom from the confines of religion. Freedom to have and enjoy a relationship with God.
悪魔は私たちの人生に盗みを働き、殺し、私たちの人生を破壊する為にこの世に来ました。これとは対照的に、イエス様は、神との新しい関係を通して私たちに完全な人生と自由をもたらす為に来られました。物欲という思いから自由にしてくれて、貪欲、虚栄心、欲望、食欲と酔い、見せかけの真理、そして宗教という縛り、制限から私たちを自由にしてくれます。そして私たちに、神との関係を楽しむ自由をくださいます。(イエスは神と新しい関係をもつことを通して満たされた人生と自由をもたらすために来ました。 物質主義、貪欲、うぬぼれ、情欲、暴飲暴食、酒酔い、相対的真理、 宗教 神との関係)

How does Jesus do this?

Jesus had an exceptional birth and He had an exceptional death, and pretty much everything in His life in between was exceptional, too. His teaching was exceptional. His power to heal was exceptional. His ability to forgive those who had done the unforgivable was exceptional. His ability to love the unlovable was exceptional.

His life was filled with miracles. And this life of miracles was bracketed by the two greatest miracles of all.

With His birth (the first great miracle), which we are celebrating tonight, Jesus left the glory of His throne in heaven and became a helpless baby in the arms of a young Jewish woman. Tonight we celebrate that great miracle in which God Himself became a man.

With His death and resurrection (the second great miracle), Jesus took the punishment for our sins, exchanging His purity and holiness for our sinfulness, and demonstrated his power over sin and death.

That’s the crux of it. Jesus resurrected from the dead. Three days after dying, he rose from the dead. If you go to Jerusalem today you won’t find Jesus’ body anywhere. It’s not there. They couldn’t find the body because Jesus resurrected.

This caused all sorts of problems for the people who had killed him and it became a source of great joy and wonder for the young church which then began to explode with growth. It grew because people were overjoyed to be free from sin and to experience a real relationship with God Himself by believing in Jesus.

Jesus came to bring a true form of godliness with power. Remember, it’s not about religion or rules or even riches. It’s about relationship with God.
イエス様は奇跡の力を持って「神からの真実」をもたらされました。 覚えておいてください、それは宗教や規則や富についてではありません。それは神との関係についてです。(宗教や規則、富についてではなく、神との関係についてです。)

When Jesus was born, he brought the presence of God into our world. When Jesus resurrected, He conquered sin and death, and brought new life.
イエスは生まれたとき、神の存在を私たちの世界にもたらしました。 イエスは復活したとき、罪と死を征服し、私たちに新しい命をもたらしました。

When we put our faith in Jesus and turn from our sins, Jesus forgives us our sins and shares His new life with us.

When we put our faith in Jesus and turn from our sins, we receive a special gift from God. That gift is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus.

If you want a gift this Christmas, there’s nothing better than the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit continues the work that Jesus began, renewing our lives and giving us a true form of godliness with power:

  • The power to turn from the sin in our lives.
  • The power to restore the broken relationships in our lives.
  • The power to forgive those who have hurt us.
  • The power to see ourselves and others as God sees us.
  • The power to heal the physical and mental illnesses in our lives.
  • The power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God.

The Bible tells us that God loves the world so much – not just Christians, not just religious people, not just Jewish people not just rich people or poor people, or black, white or yellow people, not just straight people or beautiful people – but the whole world – God loves the whole world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that whoever believes in Him would not die but have eternal life.
聖書は、神が単に、宗教的な人々だけにではなく、単に富裕層や貧しい人々だけにではなく、同性愛主義者でない人や美しい人々だけでなく、黒人や白人や黄色人種でもなく、ユダヤ人だけではなく、キリスト教徒だけでなく、神は世界を非常に愛しているということを教えてくれます。全世界 – 神はこの全世界を非常に愛し、神の唯一の御子イエスをこの世に賜わったので、彼を信じる者は誰も死ぬことはなく、永遠の命を得ることができます。

That’s why we celebrate Christmas. Because it is the realisation of God’s great plan to save us and to restore our relationship with Him through Jesus.
だから私たちはクリスマスを祝うのです。私たちを救い、イエスを通して神との関係を修復させる神の素晴らしい計画の実現がクリスマスだからです。(クリスマス イエスを通して私たちを救い、神との関係を回復するための神のすばらしいご計画の実現)

It has nothing to do with food or symbols or music or smells or clothes or trees or turkeys or Santa Claus.

We don’t sing tonight because we are religious. We sing because we’re so grateful to have a relationship with God.

If you are turned off by religion but you want to be right with God, this is the right place to be and this is the right time. You can start a relationship with God tonight. If you believe in the Christmas miracle – that God sent His Son Jesus into the world to live and die for you, and if you turn away from your sins, put your faith in the risen Jesus and commit to following Him – then you can enter new life tonight.

We’re going to take communion shortly. I’m going to invite everyone to examine their lives, silently confess their sins to God in prayer, and make a commitment to give their lives to Jesus, to receive His Holy Spirit in their hearts and to follow Him every day. If you’ve never done this before but this sounds good to you, please come forward with the others to receive the elements of communion and start a new life with God.

In communion, the bread is a symbol of the body of Jesus and the grape juice is a symbol of the blood of Jesus. Eating the bread and drinking the juice is an outward sign of an inward change. It’s an outward sign of a new life starting within. Receiving them in faith, you begin a relationship with God, and a life in Christ.

May the joy of Christmas be yours.