Juggling a Relationship with Christ

If I were to ask you how you were doing in your relationship with Christ...how would you answer?

If you are like a lot of people, immediately your mind runs to two areas of spiritual devotion:  prayer and getting into the Word.  From these two areas, we often assess our relationship with God.  Usually when looking at these areas, the common response I hear is that prayer is alright and Bible reading is non-existent or could do a lot better.

Responses like that make me sad for two reasons.  First, as Christians, we have identified only two disciplines and called it our relationship with God.  And secondly, we aren't very good at even those two disciplines.

Listen to the following verses from Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  (NASB)

According to this passage, we are supposed to be living sacrifices, set apart from the world (this is what holy means).  This is our spiritual act of worship and it encompasses so much more than just prayer and Bible reading.  It is every moment of every day living on mission for Christ.

Now to be sure, none of us will ever perfectly live out the life Christ has called us to.  However, I believe that the definition that we have adopted as our relationship with Christ has hurt us as a Christian community.  It relegates our relationship to Christ to a tidy 15 to 30 minutes we did or didn't set aside for Christ, rather than realizing that Christ is supposed to rule every waking minute of our days.

As I look through the Scriptures, I see 6 areas where God consistently calls us to be on mission for Christ, each and every day:

Prayer
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The Bible
Fellowship
Outreach/Service
Discipleship
Giving

Prayer is the outlet of our communication with God.  We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray continually".  We should be talking to God and, more importantly, listening to God, all the time.  Prayer is all at the same time the easiest discipline and the hardest.  It is the easiest because us presenting our requests or even just talking to God can be done so effortlessly...even without much thought.  It becomes hardest when we are actually trying to listen to His voice, allowing Him to speak to us and guide us and remind us of who He is and who we are in relation to that truth.

The Bible is God's communication about Himself to the world.  Through the Word we become familiar with the God we serve.  The lack of this knowledge produces a faith that is founded upon our feelings and confusion over whether the leadings that we have are truly from God, our own feelings or even the enemies temptings.  This is what Paul meant when he said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Knowledge of the Word gives a believer great confidence that we can know the will of God in a great many areas because He has already spoken. 

Fellowship isn't just church going.  It is found with the gathering of believers for encouragement to walk with Christ.  It is relational at its very core.  It is living life together as we learn to forgive one another, love one another, serve one another, teach one another, encourage one another, admonish one another, laugh and mourn together...until we all reach maturity and unity in the faith (see Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12, Romans 12).  All the one another passages are about the mingling of believers and cannot be fulfilled outside of it.  We should be looking for it at church, at work, at school and in our families...everyday.

Outreach/Service isn't just doing good things for others.  It is an intentional effort to share with those we are serving about the Christ who compels us to love our neighbor, care for the sick or imprisoned, feed the poor, clothe and shelter the homeless, etc...  Jesus told us that even evil people do good things (Luke 11:11-13).  But to do this service in the name of Christ is to invite the one looking at our actions to the One who motivates us to do so.  It can be done just by giving a glass of water in His name or baking cookies for your neighbors with a tag attached that Jesus loves them.  It is everyday acts of kindness that dares to name the One who makes the action worthwhile.

Discipleship is the discipline of going deeper with Christ than just Bible reading and prayer.  It is the deliberate action of being mentored and finding those to mentor within the body of Christ.  It is growing in our understanding of who God is through conversation, study and accountability. So few Christians read any books about their faith that our capability for sharing the Gospel, deepening another's faith or defending our own faith remains at an elementary level (see Heb. 5:11-6:3).  And yet, it is the very commission that Christ has given us all (see Mat. 28:18-20).  So all of us should find a mentor and be a mentor because it is usually as we are leading others that our faith flourishes the most.

Giving is not just making sure that we tithe.  Rather it is a gut check for each of us on how invested we are in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus Himself said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, were moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Mat. 6:19-21  You see, if we are not truly committed to our church, to our outreach, to our discipleship, to our fellowship, to our life of prayer, it manifests itself in a life that is unwilling to invest in the things of God.  However, the opposite is true too.  The more that we invest with our treasure, time and talent the things that are important to God, the easier it becomes to do so down the line...and the more the things of God actually mean to us.

No one does this juggling act perfectly.  But each of these disciplines intersect one another in such a way that doing them builds up the others.  Outreach and Giving often drives us to Prayer. Discipleship draws us to the Word.  Fellowship builds relationships that brings us to all of these areas.  It helps us avoid the jaundice account that our relationship with God is relegated to prayer and Bible reading only.  My prayer is that this holistic view of our relationship with Christ will help each of us stay on mission for Christ each and every day.

Lord bless you all. 


Comments

  1. While you make a great point that instant gratification is a real enemy to a person's self control, I would like to bring to light another enemy of self control, which is Entitlement.
    Today's generation is plagues by a sense of entitlement! We have been careless at times when we used the reward/ punishment system to discipline children. Though it is temporarily successful it is rarely a lasting means to create discipline in an individual. Allow me to explain. How many times have you been in the midst of a negotiation and heard this."What's in it for me?" Kids are so used to getting a reward for the smallest effort, that they won't give effort till they determine the reward. Wjat ever happened to putting others first, or even doing something cause it's right, not because we benefit. Entitlement is robbing our youth of the pride in a job well done. The job well done gives self esteem , esteem which in turn aides in the building of self control. Just my opinion... Jeni

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    1. Hey Jeni,

      I have a slightly different take.

      I agree with you that entitlement culture is huge within our society today. However, that entitlement comes from a worldview devoid of God. Adults and youth have grown up being told that this universe is all that there is. Even those who are "Christian" have been raised with this worldview. As a result, we are all being deprived of understanding what has intrinsic value.

      Things like the dignity of human life because we are made in the image of God, honor for elders, pride in doing a job well (whether paid or not), loses its meaning without its base. And because the base that is being taught is that "this is all there is", the result of that worldview is to get all that you can because your worth is only tied to what makes you happy. Since happiness has no intrinsic value in and of itself, it becomes the person's wishes that become the ultimate arbiter of truth for the individual. The foundation being laid now actually makes it nearly impossible for someone to discover or appreciate those things that are intrinsically valuable.

      It is why those who end up having so much are still miserable and even those who have little cry and beg for more (entitlement culture), but even when they get the "more", it is not appreciated.

      Until a person understands what it means to be made and redeemed in the image of God and the sacrifice of Christ, self control will only be seen in their eyes as that of a reward system of earthly gains easily cast off when something more shiny comes along.

      That's my take on it anyway.

      What is so bad is that the foundation is so wrong in our society right now, it has produced many of the ills we now see. Instead of looking for the source of the problems and correcting it, they are content to simply try to call the effects (that they have caused through the wrong foundation) as evil and try to find a solution to it without actually admitting there is a deeper problem they are not addressing.

      Thank you for your input though. (Just saw your comment today.)

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