This devotional was originally published on April 6, 2017.

Sometimes I look too hard, think too long and analyze too deeply. While not bad practice in certain situations, the answer to my question is often apparent. It is right before me, lost in a maze of questions, doubts and elaborate examination. I fail to see the obvious. It can be the same with religious thinking.

In our culture, rules, penances, mystical incantations, rote recitations, and even physical punishment substitute for religious belief. People are fooled into believing that religious activities will suffice when it comes to a relationship with God. Some are even fooled into believing that there are many ways to God.

That is not the case with authentic Christianity. As Christians, we are not bound by religious contrivances. We are set free though our relationship with him. And only through him.

When Jesus was asked by Thomas how to follow him, he answered:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
— John 14:6

Paul admonished the believers in Rome when he instructed them:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23

When the Jewish leadership confronted Jesus about his claims, going so far as accusing him of being demon possessed, Jesus pointed directly at the Father:

“My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.”
— John 8:54

Denying the miracles he had performed, the truths he had taught and the claims he had made, blind to the reality that the long-awaited Messiah was standing before them, their final accusation at this time was that Jesus was not 50 years old. They missed the obvious.

In response, Jesus offered the ultimate defense of his deity. Using the same phrase that is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Jesus’ day to describe the voice from the burning bush in Exodus, Jesus simply responded, “I am.” (John 8:58)

They were thinking in terms of time. Jesus’ response was timeless. They said he was not old enough. He responded that he had always been and will always be.

They accused him of having lived too few days to be God. His answer to them was a declaration of eternity — past, present, and future.

His affirmation was, “I am.” His response declared his eternal existence.

Do not get caught in the trappings of religious activity. “I am” wants a relationship with you.