"I want the presence of God Himself, or I don't want anything at all to do with religion...I want all that God has or I don't want any." - a.w. tozer
curtis and i have been talking on and off lately about "religion"... what it is, what it isn't, what it ought to be and whether it should be thrown out all together. this quote is pretty close to what i would say, too... pretty close to my hearts desire.
the tricky thing here is that, as andy stanley said, "direction, not intention, determines your destination". you can "want all that God has" - intend it, if you will - but if you are not going in that direction with your choices, your destination isn't going to look much like what you intended. and this is where what would fall under the catagory of "religion" can be helpful; it gives a structure to inform our choices. a map, if you will, to help us choose our direction wisely.
following the map for the map's sake is insufficient. and this is where "religion" is a risky proposition. tozer makes this point with the little word "or". "i want God, or i want nothing to do with religion". he knows that our disciplines and practices are empty and hollow unless they lead us into the heart of God. going through the motions doesn't give you "all that God has", because God is inherently not interested in our motions; they are fully insufficient anyways. we are none of us holy, and our best effort is simply not good enough. but there is good news here - God "desires mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings". or, in the message translation, "I'm after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings."
yet our love finds it's framework in the disciplines and practices of our faith. because i love curtis, i want to show him. i want to know what he wants, i want to make him happy. and from God's point of view, because he loves us he wants us to, in the words of ralph (a la simpson's valentine episode), "choo-choo-choose" him. not check off a list of "to do's" that will satisfy some vending machine God, but choose him. choose to engage our hearts and minds in putting hands and feet to our intentions.
because your direction determines your destination; not your intention.