Our Relationship to God—Romans 2:17-18
"Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law;..." (Romans 2:17-18)
Although Paul is specifically speaking to the Jews, many people are like this. They rely on their association to the church denomination to save them. If you ask them, they will gladly tell you their alliance, all the while, ignoring the fact that they are a Christian first.
They know all the doctrines and rules, somehow thinking that this brings them into fellowship with God. However Jesus said in Matthew, "you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition."( Matthew 15:6 ) and then goes onto say, "They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." ( Matthew 15:9 ) Meaning that creating the hoopla and traditions around 'Christ' misses the whole purpose of Christ. We can go to church and get caught up in the experience, but unless we are able to discern tradition from truth, we really are not benefiting ourselves, making it easy to exchange the relationship for the encounter.
The Jews battled the same thing. Because they were God's chosen people and had the Law, they pacified themselves with that knowledge. The Jews looked at the Law as what saved them, instead of realizing that through the Law they were in need of a Savior. The Law wove a wonderful picture of Christ from beginning to end. They thought they could obtain righteousness by observing the Law instead of arriving at the necessary conclusion of the Law.
Because of it, the Jews became so legalistic that the Pharisees and Sadducees burdened the people with traditions and customs because of their zeal for the Law. But God said in Hosea 6:6, "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." It was always His plan to have genuine relationship with us, but they exchanged the later for the letter.
Sadly, many Christians are in the same boat today. They look at the church, with each doctrine dictating what they think, missing the point of it all. The point is to know Jesus and to know our relationship with God is based solely upon Christ. I love the old bumper sticker that you see around town, 'No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.