(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Relationship with God
29th June 2006
I was recently asked to give three talks on relationships - Relationship with God, relationship with others, and relationship with yourself. But I was only given 15 minutes for each talk. So they weren't really teaching - they were just a set of thoughts that I hoped would help my audience in some way. Here's the first of them. I hope to post the other two in the coming weeks.
Many years ago, I was in the leadership team of Fareham Community Church. The overall leader there at that time was a man called John White. Not the famous one – another one. He should be famous; he’s a great shire horse for God – there’s no burden he’s not willing to carry for Jesus – a great man. He and I spent some time discussing the question “what is the purpose of preaching” (we were talking about preaching to the church, not to the lost). I suppose there are many valid answers, but the best answer we came up with was this: “to help God’s people fall more deeply in love with Jesus”. To this day, that’s what I try to do when I preach (how much I succeed is another matter, of course).
We hear so much preaching about what we ought to do, and what we ought not to do. Although there must be a place for that sort of thing, I think I’m coming to the view that most of it happens not because that’s God’s top priority for the church, but because most preachers are Pharisees at heart.
What about rules about when or how you should pray? Here’s my answer:
If someone offers you a set of disciplines, and if you personally find them helpful, then use them. If not, don’t.
Why do we hear so much about what we should do – that is works – rather than about how great Jesus is? Because our teachers are Pharisees!
We can’t have a great relationship with God by doing stuff. We need to fall in love with Jesus. And when we truly love Jesus, we’ll do stuff just to please Him.
No wife comes to love her husband by doing the washing; she does the washing because she loves her husband. No husband falls in love with his wife by putting the rubbish out; he puts the rubbish out because he loves his wife. Ideally, anyway.
In a marriage, first love can die. This is true of our Earthly marriages, but it’s also true in our marriage to the King of Kings – we are, after all, the bride of Christ. Are we still in love with Him as we were when we were first joined to Him?
So I’m not going to preach you a sermon about the discipline of prayer and Bible study and personal holiness. I’m going to ask you to let yourself fall back in love with Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:6
How do we fall back into love with Jesus? Or deeper into love with Jesus? By gazing with our minds eye into His wonderful face!
I think this is why we feel closer to Jesus in church gatherings. Whether we’re breaking bread – remembering his death, reciting a liturgy – recalling important teaching about His kingdom – praying, or singing His praises, we are choosing to focus on Jesus Christ. We are – to put it poetically – gazing into the face of Christ.
Some people find the breaking of bread is the time when they tend to meet Jesus most profoundly. For me – it’s praise, or silence. For many, it’s very helpful to open our hands when praying. We’re all different. But adoration is important.
Allow yourself to be more like Mary than Martha – focus more on adoring Jesus than on serving Jesus – although both are important.