I hate it when people label me as "religious".
Christianity is a religious term, just like Buddhism and Hinduism and Catholicism. But I don't practice a religion.
My faith isn't a religion. It's a relationship that I work at, that I cultivate, that I have with God. Just like any other relationship I am a part of - such as with my parents, my siblings, my relatives, my friends.
Knowing the difference between these two words - "religion" and "relationship" - is very important for any individual to understand about the Christian faith. Not only do we follow Christ, but we also love Him, and we obey His Word because our love for Him compels us to. I don't have to do a daily a, b, or c to make sure my faith is secure and that, if I die, I'll go to heaven because I remembered to follow those requirements.
The Christian faith is based on belief and trust that once you ask God to forgive you of your sins, believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth to take the penalty for every crime you've committed against the Triune God, the Holy Spirit will come and reside in your heart and make you a new creation.
This does not mean that you are now perfect. This does not mean that you will never sin again.
What it does means is that you believe that Jesus' blood was enough. That His grace is all-sufficient to cover ANY sin - whether big or small in our eyes (because in God's eyes, it's all the same). And that no matter how many times you slip up and falter and stumble, God will never let you go and say "You've had too many chances. You're on your own."
Being a Christ-follower is about cultivating a relationship with your Savior. It's not a matter of "how good you can be for how long", but about living day to day with His glory as the forefront of your actions, the reason you do what you do, so that others can see His hand in your life.
Because my faith is a relationship with Christ, it will look different than my pastor's relationship with Him, my best friend's and my coworker's. Just like the bond I share with my Mama is different than with my Dad, or the closeness of my friendship with my best friend is a different relationship than with my boyfriend. My relationship with Christ will differ from yours. And that's okay. There's no one way to be a lover and follower of Christ.
It's all you and God. This is where personal convictions come in, such as how God convicts you to do or not to do certain things. Tattoos are a good example. Personally, I don't view it as a sin to get them and I have several. He has convicted me to never smoke or do drugs, but for other Christians, maybe that's something they're okay with doing. It doesn't matter what the world thinks of you, or even other Christians. Your relationship is between you and God.
Yes, we are called to encourage and admonish each other as siblings in Christ and warriors in His army, and if a professing Christian is blatantly sinning or living a life of lust and greed and worldliness, we must speak to them with God's Word in hand. Nevertheless, He is the ultimate Judge and will deal directly with their heart and soul in His timing.
In the meantime, I'm gonna keep living for my God because what I have with my Creator is more than just practicing rituals and obeying rules. It's more than a religion. It's about a relationship.