Christianity as a religion (Catholicism and Protestantism) is man’s attempt to meet, connect and know God. Religion is actually part of the problem in developing this relationship to its fullest. Are you merely accepting it or pursuing it? ♦
There seems to be a standard manner of spiritual conversion that has become mechanical and efficient. One hears the gospel of Christ – that Jesus was God in the flesh who died for our sins and rose from the dead – then one merely acknowledges belief to be saved.
And that’s it. We’re in! We’ve got our ticket to heaven.
Of course, we don’t want to get there too soon. After all, we’ve still got a lot of living to do. We want to finish school and get that degree, marry our sweetheart. Get that job, travel the world, start that business. We’d love to someday raise a family, but only after we establish a path for ourselves in the world and make a steady income.
We certainly want to be a contributing member of society. As they say, we shouldn’t be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.
So What’s Wrong With This?
Actually, it’s not really wrong, technically. In fact, the Scriptures clearly say that If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9).
But that’s just it. It’s become a technical action to “receive” Christ and leave it at that. Oh, yes, there’s somewhat steady church attendance and church volunteering. Even some community service. Maybe a weekly small group gathering as well. “Hey, we’re studying the book of Mark!”
What more can a busy, productive person do?
Well, for one, we can miss the relationship building with God, the person. The danger here is that we can easily be lulled in a casual relationship with God. Like the friend who lives across town that you get to see only every once in a while. You know them, but there may not be full knowledge of one another through limited encounters. It’s only after what A. W. Tozer calls “long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.”
As strange as that sounds, that’s the kind of intimate communion that we need to have with God:
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
That we know Him, really know Him. Christianity as a Religion (Catholicism and Protestantism) is man’s attempt to meet, connect and know God. As we should well understand, religion is actually part of the problem in developing this relationship to its fullest. Man tries pretty hard to meet the grade and earn his way to God’s favor. Man’s religions have created extra-curricular practices, requirements, milestones, and bonus points.
The Bible actually never really lays it out that way. We’ve made it all so complicated.
When we get past formalities and rituals, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is a personality we can know and communicate with through our minds, will, and our emotions. Jesus lived as the God-Man who thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as we do. He knows what it is to be human; He knows the highs, lows, fears, pains, wins and losses that we all as humans experience every day.
Direct Access to God
And we can go directly to God Himself. No need for any intermediary. It’s like having God as your real best friend.
This is a very big deal.
God is now longer available through burning bushes, or mountain peaks or special prophets, or only His Holy Word, the Bible. His previous holy separation was symbolized by the inner chamber of the Holy of Holies, physically modeled in the Hebrew desert Tabernacle and later in the Holy Temple built in Jerusalem where all were forbidden except the High Priest. But Jesus is now our superior High priest (see Book of Hebrews chapter 1) whose death caused the Temple curtain separating the inner sanctum from the outer court to be torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Symbolically and in reality we now have direct access to God. And it’s the Holy Spirit that is the spiritual vehicle by which we can operate in partnership in this world connected to the spiritual realm with our Helper, Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, and Guide.
Biblical Men as Models
It’s not like we haven’t had this laid out before us in Sunday school classes, church sermons, Bible study lessons, devotional guides, or by good teachers. As Tozer highlights in his classic Pursuit of God, Moses knew God – “Show me now your way, that I may know you, that I may find grace in your sight…show me your glory.” David knew God – his psalms are loaded with cries of the seeker and the transcendent joy of the finder. Paul knew God – “that I may know Him” was the consistent overarching goal of his heart. He lived for nothing else.
Yes, these people longed after God, in desperate pursuit. We too need to long after God, our personal Master and Creator, to seek Him really and fully and without embarrassed withholding after we initially “accept” Christ into our hearts. Anything short of that will manifest a life that is short of the full fruit that our King would produce in and through us for our own great joy, His pleasure and Kingdom purpose.
Have you merely accepted Christianity or are you pursuing it?
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. – Exodus 33:13
Thanks for this essay. That’s a great point, that it’s all too possible to just check off the box. Finish education; develop a career; get saved from eternity in the bad place; raise a family; etc… Have I got all boxes checked? Great; then I can die safely. Uh…
It is all too easy to get the impression from church (or from evangelists!) that all one need do is “receive” Christ and leave it at that. Someone will read your essay, or this comment, and ask, “Well, what else must I do?” and thus unfortunately miss the whole point. True confession: I sometimes resemble this!
I’m struggling how to communicate the point, and among my less bad ideas is this one: God doesn’t want to give us a grade or see what boxes we’ve got checked. What he does want to do is integrate our stories into his big story. So rather than “Have I done enough?” I ask myself, “What story am I in?”
That’s not entirely thought through, but at this stage in my journey that seems to fit better than the checklist or report-card (or final exam) analogy.
Collin, I get your analogy and think it’s moving in the same direction. I plan on building on the challenge to a deeper abiding walk with God in subsequent posts over time. In a nutshell, it is about our life integrated 100% into God’s tapestry. This is done through intimacy and surrender with God as personal Best Friend, Lord, Counselor, and Guide. The key to full God-integration is full 100% surrender of life control to a new World Order; namely, Him. The “accepting” Jesus thing is therefore only the first step in a long journey of learning to surrender full stop. Unfortunately, for most of us, it takes a lifetime to learn what real surrender really means. I realize that I’ve fluctuated for most on my life somewhere between 40-90%. Not a great report-card, but once I understood what was happening and who was controlling things really (me), the shift was sudden and complete. Amazed that the light didn’t really go on sooner though. So grateful for God’s grace and patience.