"What Jesus wants is not just for us to follow a bunch of rules,but to have a relationship with Him."
This is a very common saying in modern Christianity and I 100% believe it and that's why I often use that phrase.
When many people hear that, they get excited,not because they are excited to have a relationship with Jesus, but because they think they are free to live anyway they like and just have a relationship with Jesus.
That's not true.
The real meaning of this statement is that Jesus does not want us to MERELY follow rules without us us being born of the Spirit and knowing Him.
A person who is merely following rules without truly being born again and accepting Jesus cannot be saved because the truth is that Jesus is the only Way to heaven.
So you must be born again.
Actually without being born of the Spirit, it is impossible to be holy. You will always be stuck in sin!
True biblical salvation is that you must receive Jesus,and accept Him as your Lord and Savior.
But now that Jesus is in your life,you will bear fruit of repentance showing you have been born of the Spirit of God.
What will show that you have been born of the Spirit is that now you will become holy,because you will have the fear of the Lord in you,and you will want to please God in all you do.
A person merely following rules is a person who hears of how God hates sin,but instead of first accepting Jesus and being born of the Spirit, this person does not surrender to God for Him to change them and fill them with His Spirit that will cause them to hate sin and love righteousness.
This person does not pursue and maintain a relationship with Jesus by reading the bible and praying.
Instead,this person decides with all their might that they will try their best not to sin again so that they will go to heaven.
But because it is impossible to be holy without Jesus,this person who does not have a relationship with Jesus (surrendering your life,depending on Jesus for strength to overcome, seeking Him daily by reading the bible and prayer),this person will always find themselves stuck in sin.
They really do want to be holy, and they really do want to go to heaven but they find themselves in habitual sin.Why?Because they are using the wrong way.There's no other way to heaven.
Jesus is the only way.
So while this person tries with all their might not to sin,they keep failing because only Jesus is holy and only Jesus can make a person holy.
What Jesus wants is for this person who is trying to go to heaven by trying with all their might not to sin,to recognize their need for a Savior, Jesus Christ.
And to accept Him as their Lord and Savior because He has already made a way with His blood.
Then after accepting Him He wants them to now have a close bond(relationship) with Him in order to overcome sin.
A relationship with Jesus is developed by reading His word,and obeying His word,praying, and completely surrendering and depending on Jesus to overcome.
So you don't just stay in your sin after hearing the word of God, you take the first step towards Jesus by repenting of your sins.
You abandon your sin,but then after repenting you start pursuing Jesus and staying close to Him because you know if you don't abide in Him,you will soon go back to your sin.
When you are relying on yourself to overcome, you won't see the need to pray daily or read the bible daily,and the result is that you will be walking in the flesh and will keep struggling with sin.
The fruits of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-26 will be in your life.
But when you know you depend on Jesus to help you overcome, then you will pray daily and you will read His word daily because you know how weak you are without Him and how easily you can fall into sin without Him.
So Christianity being about having a relationship with Jesus does not mean Christians are free to live in sin as long as they 'have a relationship with Jesus'.
Two can't walk together unless they agree,if a person has a relationship with Jesus, there's no way they will comfortably live in sin.
That's why even the new testament is full of lists of things God doesn't want His children to do.(1 Corinthians 6:9,revelations 21:8 etc).
A relationship with Jesus is recognizing your need for a Savior and accepting Him,depending on Him to save you from your sin.
You don't continue living in sin,if you continue living in sin then you don't have a relationship with Jesus because a tree is know by its fruit.
This is the rest Jesus promised.
Rest from the labour of me trying so hard with all my might to please Him,and now am resting by abiding in Jesus and He helps me stay away from sin.
This is the freedom He's given us,; not freedom TO sin but freedom FROM our sin.
Instead of me trying with all my might not to sin,depending on myself without having Jesus in my life,now Jesus has given me rest by accepting Him and He fills me with His Holy Spirit so that I don't depend on my strength to overcome, the Holy Spirit gives me strength. Because I know how vulnerable I am without Jesus,therefore I make sure to stay really close to Him, by reading his word daily, and praying daily, depending on Him and asking for His help in everything.
I stay close to Him and I no longer find His commandments burdensome, I find His yoke light because as I seek Him daily He causes me to hate what He hates and love what He loves,therefore I no longer struggle to obey,but instead i take delight in obeying Him because I love Him.
Having a relationship with Jesus doesn't make me stay in sin,instead it makes me more holy because I start to find sin tormenting, and I delight in obeying Jesus.
This is what a relationship with Jesus is and it is very real and it is the only way to overcome sin.