Going to church once or twice a year can’t earn us our salvation. Nor will it give us the life of abundant joy that a relationship with Jesus can


Source: © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we approach the Christmas holidays, I can’t help but ponder the swells of people who will attend a church service. Maybe you’re one of the many people who go to church at Christmas because you feel like it’s the right thing to do; perhaps for the sake of ticking a box with God during this holy time, or because it feels Christmassy.

This mentality is rooted in religion—not relationship—with God.

Religiosity tells us that if we’re good people who occasionally—or even religiously—attend church, follow moral laws and teach our children right from wrong, we’re set for heaven.

But if this is the case, why did Jesus, the perfect and holy sacrifice, die on the cross for our sins? If we can earn our salvation by our own means, what is the point of the cross? Christianity is the only grace-based faith. Our sanctification is entirely because of Jesus—not because of our own religiosity, perfection or striving.

Getting to know God

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Seeking to know someone requires time, a desire to understand them and a willingness to be vulnerable with them. This is what an intimate relationship looks like, and this is what Jesus wants with us.

A relationship with Jesus is redemptive, life-giving and fulfilling. Religiosity is empty, confusing and pointless

Spending time with Jesus will transform your life. As you learn to sit in the presence of the Lord—in the depths of scripture, in listening and praying, and in joining a community of faith-filled believers—you will experience the most real and deep love you have ever known. You will be filled with the truest joy, the result of redeeming grace.

Here are a few practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to experience a more fulfilling walk with God.

1. Make time to read your Bible

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Reading the Bible will change your life. While reading scripture might start out as a simple discipline or act of obedience, as time goes on you will love and crave the word of God more than you could ever imagine. This is why we are so committed to our work at Eastern European Mission - ensuring that everyone in Eastern Europe and beyond who wants one can have a Bible in their heart language, free of charge. Once someone who is seeking with an open heart has had a chance to read God’s word, they can’t help but be impacted by it.

2. Pray

Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Prayer is powerful. God hears your prayers; he sees you, knows you and loves you. In prayer, we humbly seek the Lord’s heart and help, diving into further intimacy with him through personal conversation.

3. Listen for the voice of God

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

In the process of learning God’s heart through scripture and prayer, we learn the voice of God. It may not sound as we think it should, but we know it by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

4. Get involved in a faith-filled community

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)

You might be against organised religion. Maybe you’ve been hurt by a church. For that, I’m so sorry. That’s not God’s design, nor is it the heart of Jesus. I encourage you to find a community of believers who lift you up and call you higher according to God’s word—a safe space of faith-filled, Jesus-seeking Christians who worship together, eat together and abide in Christ through the highs and lows of life.

A relationship with Jesus is incomparably redemptive, life-giving and fulfilling. Religiosity is empty, confusing and pointless. In preparation for Christmas this year, rather than simply attending a service with out of ritualistic obligation, consider pursuing an intentional lifelong relationship with Christ.

Run to the feet of Jesus and spend time with the one who loves you most—the one who already knows the depths of your heart. Come and see what true freedom looks like—freedom from bondage, brokenness and fear. Get to know the real Jesus. I can guarantee you that it’s more than you could ever ask or imagine.