Phil Cox


(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

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Stubbington Baptist Church
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith

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.

Colossians 2:20-3:1
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Such regulations:

  • Are the world’s rules (v20) not God’s
  • Are based on human commands
  • Appear to be wise
  • Lack any value

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.

Galatians 3:2-5
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

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.

Revelation 2:1-5
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first...

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
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

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.

Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."