Tag Archives: relationship not religion

How to Truly Live the Christian Life

The Christian life is often very busy, isn’t it? Activity after activity fills the calendars of churches and the agendas of our lives. It can sometimes seem to gravitate to more and more doing, serving and doing some more.

Even our times of prayer–whether together or alone–can veer off from proper focus. For example, instead of first asking the Lord what He might want us to pray, we launch straight away into prayer based on what comes to our minds or is gnawing at our hearts.

Our activities are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. They can, however, help or hinder our Christian life.

The key to knowing whether they are helping or hindering is what or who are we connected to as we do these activities. Are we engaging in activities that truly build our relationship with Jesus and living for His glory?

Everything in our lives as Christians should flow from the intimate place of partnership and communion with Jesus, not the other way around. He is not only our Savior but our Lord and we want to seek His heart and thoughts rather than doing our own thing. We can’t come to know Him or His will if we do not make time to know and hear His voice, being in His Word and allowing His Spirit to lead all of our lives.

Relationship with God and loving Him must be first place in our lives, even when it comes to all else that relates to our sanctification and furthering His Kingdom.

We want to make our first aim to build friendship with Jesus above all. God alone is the source from which everything else in our life as a Christian flows. Without Him, we cannot truly bear good fruit or choose to live out godliness to the full. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (NASB)

Imagine this: You’re married. You love your spouse and do lots and lots of stuff for them; however, you never stop and ask them what they actually would like or you don’t actually do life together in partnership as one. You would both be living your lives, but not in a very connected way like a branch would be connected to its vine. How would that work for years of marriage? You probably get the picture now.

Friendship with God is far more than simply checking things off our “good Christian” list. He is our Creator who is Father, Savior and the Lover of our souls. We are called children of God, the Bride of Christ, not workers but lovers. In this, we are invited to learn from Him. He invites us to walk out our lives in partnership with Him as our Head or Leader, teaching us in His ways of life and love.

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42 NASB, emphasis added)

As those who have taken His name–Christian–when we made Him our personal Savior and Lord, we should desire to know Him more and do life His way. We need this time to learn how to live in step with His Spirit in our day-to-day lives. This is the “good part” that Jesus speaks of to Mary.

Without attempting to cause you confusion: Mary actually was doing an activity. However, this activity was one of relationship-building and discipleship. She was investing in her relationship with Jesus, to know Him and His ways as she took time away from other activities to listen to His Word.

Like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, there are certain activities we can engage in to help build our relationship with Jesus. Just as a husband and wife would talk together to grow closer and know what is on each others’ hearts, we are called to know our King. We are called to be disciples of Christ, positioned just as Mary was to partake of His instructions in the context of relationship with Him. (Is this new to you? For more on what it means to be a disciple of Christ, read this excellent article by Phylicia Masonheimer.)

Several of these relationship-building activities include spiritual disciplines such as:

Solitude: We draw near to Him by drawing away from other people and activities for a time to be alone with Him and engage in one of the other spiritual disciplines outlined below.

Silence, Listening and Prayer: We quiet our hearts in a time of silence to seek what He would say. We put our own requests aside to first start by asking Him what is on His heart for us or others, whether for us to rest in His love, to pray for ourselves or others as He leads, or repent for something His Spirit convicts us of.

Worship: We speak or sing to Him our “thank You’s” for giving His life for us, for caring for us, providing for us, healing us, etc. We sing praises and sing His Word to Him, as prayers or over ourselves to help our minds be renewed to think like He thinks.

Bible Study: We read our Bibles and ask the Holy Spirit to grow our relationship with God as we read His words to us. We ask Him questions about His Word and journal the impressions we receive from Him. We ask Him to use the Scriptures to renew our minds and show us the heart and character of Jesus so we can be transformed into His image.

Fasting: We fast a meal and instead use the extra time to spend with Him. Or we take a break from entertainment, social media or our phones and dedicate that time to Him.

Obedience and Service: We respond to the things He has spoken to us through His Word and by His Spirit–not because we have to but because of His love for us and ours for Him, obeying as He leads and serving others in partnership with Him.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How much of a priority do I give knowing Jesus in my daily life?
  • When was the last time I pulled away from all the “stuff” and simply loved on Him with no other agenda?
  • When was the last time I set aside my own requests, quieted my thoughts (even moving my phone to another room on silent) to see what He wanted to speak?
  • When was the last time I read my Bible and studied Jesus’ words with the help of His Holy Spirit?

Make it your aim to grow your relationship with Jesus as your first goal in this life, growing in intimacy with Him and learning to walk in His ways. From that place alone, let all other activity flow.

Results and Relationship: It’s Time to Abide

Recently I have embarked on another level of spiritual growth on the issue of being versus doing. God has shown me how often I was grading my relationship with Him based on how I feel or what I accomplish. Likewise, I have realized the Body of Christ as a whole tends to struggle with this issue.

As Christians we often declare that life with God is about relationship not religion. But we have often replaced relationship with another form of activity, one of seeking for results. Religion’s traditions, rituals and rules have been replaced with a striving to produce and see results.

In our quiet times with God, we often grade ourselves. Did we feel His presence tangibly, did we accomplish a lot in prayer or studying the Word? Often we do not even recognize we are viewing our time based on what we feel or accomplish ourselves.

We may even try Christian self-help strategies hoping for more answers to prayer. Yet life with God is primarily about friendship with Him, not getting our prayers answered. Prayers come as the fruit of that loving relationship.

In our congregations, we tend to base a successful outreach on how many people were saved or healed. Sometimes we even go after marketing strategies in attempts to get more results. But human methods will eventually fade.

At times we even view small churches as less than, or having something wrong. Nonetheless,  numbers and results we see are not necessarily an indicator of God’s approval or lack thereof.

God loves us before we accomplish anything. He is a God of relationship and love, not performance. Before Jesus had done any ministry, the Father’s declaration over Him was that He was well-pleased (Mark 1:11).

Numbers and results are not necessarily an indicator of God’s approval or the lack thereof. God loves us before we accomplish anything. He is a God of relationship and love, not performance.

It’s time for a 180. In John 15, Jesus said we would bear fruit (results) if we abide in Him (relationship). Only if we abide.

The Lord wants good fruit in our lives, but it cannot come unless we cultivate an ever deepening companionship with Him. And the fruit that comes through this friendship will alone be lasting.

This is the relationship Jesus opened up to us through His sacrifice on the Cross. This is the relationship we want others to enter into through our outreach. How can we tell them of their own need for relationship with the Creator if we ourselves are not truly pursuing it?

Abide in Christ, then fruit will come. Without abiding in Christ, we cannot truly know the heart of the King whose Kingdom we represent. Without abiding, we cannot rightly display the great love which He has for others.

May we set our hearts on knowing Jesus. Let ourwant for results or the desire to prove we are doing enough no longer hinder. May it be that we come to the place of knowing we are loved by God and rest in this truth.

As we love and obey the Father’s leadership, we can trust Him with the results. Let us choose to take Jesus at His Word, which He still proclaims to us today:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4 (NKJV)

People of Intimacy with Christ

You and I are called to be people of intimacy. We were made for a close relationship with God. Though distractions abound, we are not alone: God’s Spirit is our Help.

The Lord is our first love and He loves us extravagantly. Despite life’s challenges, our pursuit is this: be rooted in relationship with Jesus.

John 15:5 says that without Jesus, we can do nothing.  Outside of relationship with God, you and I do nothing of true significance:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4 NKJV

Fruit trees exist to bring forth a harvest of delicious fruit. But this can only come with the right location, water, and nutrients.

What ingredients are needed for our intimate relationship with God?

  1. Friendship with Jesus (the right location)
  2. God’s Holy Spirit (the water)
  3. God’s Word (the nutrients)

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