I can’t help sometimes but wonder if we as a church are on the right path. Or more importantly, if we as Christians are pursuing our faith in the right way. I think the Christian journey of faith has become somewhat convoluted and dysfunctional and has been corrupted like a battery found in a flashlight after many years. It feels like something is broken. It feels empty of some viable ingredient. It doesn’t taste right!
The other day I was in a conversation with a friend about his church. It was a church that I’m totally unfamiliar with, yet I was interested in what they were all about. For the next thirty minutes I heard about all of the regular events the church puts on, the bible studies and book reviews, and the beautiful choir they have, with new robes! I was invited to come and listen one Sunday!
This got me thinking, in fact I spent the entire next day praying, reading and considering what the Christian church overall has become. More importantly, what have I become as a follower of Jesus? That day, I searched web site after church web site looking for identity markers that would explain just who they were as a church and how they were getting there. One after another I read about the many traditional events they participated in, as well as the regular studies and small groups they have. In a way, it seems like our journey of faith has become extremely “mechanical” in our approach to Jesus.
I started to consider the Gospels where much of the character of Jesus is displayed. Did He seem to care about the “events” the religious community sponsored? No, not really. What were the priorities that He favored, in fact insisted upon? It seemed like Jesus was always talking about “knowing God” and not just doing stuff! He focused on the “relational” side of who we are before God. He held high the relationship that He had with God the Father, and was constantly inviting others to instill that priority in their lives. What was He saying?
When I think of “relational” stuff, I first think about marriage. Is marriage more than just going to work, coming home to a family and then going to sleep? Is marriage a routine that you get into while doing “married” things? If married couples eat together, live together, save money together and have kids together, is that it? The Gospels show that Jesus was much more concerned about the intimacy of relationships, not sex, but actually knowing the heart of the other person. Afterall, I can live with someone and play house with them and still not know them, right?
In the Christian church today, we seem over focused on the things we do for God instead of knowing God Himself. I know, I know, that’s a broad and controversial statement, but its true. So many churchgoers today have bought off on the lie that “service” is the way to salvation. They feel that if they are “serving” or “doing” Christian things it means that they have a saving relationship with their Creator. If I serve at the food kitchen and go to church, what else is there? I’m good, right?
Christian service is not the way to a saving relationship with Jesus. No, its not. It’s a lie that the culture has produced. Let’s face it, saving is what we need, yet we long for value in our lives too, meaning and a purpose.
Everyone needs to be valued, it’s the way we were wired. In the culture we place value on various things. The more that something is valued, the more it shows up in our agendas. If I find my value as a hockey player, I find myself playing it on a league every week and spending endless hours in practice. I receive value from it so I indulge myself in the activity.
But in a relationship with Jesus the opposite is true. If I spend all of my energy “doing” stuff for Jesus, and not spending time with Him, the value I place on my relationship with Jesus is false. Jesus doesn’t need me to do anything. After-all, He created the heavens and the earth! What He is looking for is people that will chose to know Him and through that relationship find their value, worth and purpose.
So how many people in the church today understand that to have a saving relationship with Jesus is much more than doing stuff to earn points or participating in a churchy tradition? Jesus said something that should stop us in our tracks.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
We always seem to focus on the “doing” part, keeping the commandments. But Jesus first identified the relational part, “If you love me …”
Loving Jesus involves spending time with Him, listening to His voice, feeling the Spirit speaking to our hearts. Too many Christians feel that the busyness of the church equates to a saving relationship. It does not. It simply makes us “feel” valued or accomplished. Jesus also said something else quite challenging.
Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
In this decision to “come after me,” it involves a deep intimate understanding of who Jesus is and a willingness to be with Him, everything else follows …