What God really wants from us
God doesn’t need more religious people…if what you mean by "religious people" is folks who perform ritual without emotion or folks who blindly pursue their own desires or man-made doctrines. Empty ritual without true submission to God’s will has a strong tendency to result in hypocrisy. Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for their "religion" which was an outward show of piety that did not affect their hearts (Matthew 23:3, 14-15, 23-28).
God doesn’t want just more church attendance. He wants people to worship Him in truth and in spirit (John 4:24). He desires that man honor Him by singing praises to Him (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). God wants man to remember the death of His Son by means of the Lord’s supper, a memorial instituted by Jesus Himself (1 Corinthians 11:23-28; Acts 20:7).
God doesn’t want us to just give money in the name of religion. He wants us to give ourselves to Him so completely that we would surrender any material thing that we have in order to serve and please Him (Matthew 19:16-22; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). God wants man to give of his own prosperity to support the mission of preaching the gospel to others and helping needy saints (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Philippians 4:15-18).
What God really wants is a relationship with the creature made in His own image – us! That relationship is made possible through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Man separates himself from God by his sins (Isaiah 59:1-2), i.e., the sinner becomes spiritually dead (James 2:26 – death is a separation; Romans 6:23). Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross and man thus has the opportunity to be reunited in fellowship with His Creator.
Man enters into fellowship with God by responding to the Lord’s offer of grace. Nowhere do the Scriptures tell man "to pray and accept Jesus as His Savior" in order to have this relationship. The Scriptures DO teach that we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-27). To be "in Christ" is to have fellowship with Him and to enjoy all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3, 6, 7, 11, 13; 2:13). The apostles preached the necessity of water baptism (for the remission of sins – Acts 2:38) and Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9).
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were guilty of practicing a religion made empty by its hypocrisy. Today, many preachers are guilty of preaching a "relationship" which is also empty, having little practical consequences for daily life. Don’t want to worship God on the Lord’s day? No problem…as long as you have a "relationship." Don’t want to do the right thing in situations? No problem…God just wants a "relationship" (see, however, Luke 6:46). What God really wants is for us to love Him in deed and in truth, not just in word or in tongue (1 John 3:18; John 14:15, 21, 23). That kind of love results in obedience, not bondage.