Consider Carefully Your “Relationship” With God

It has been a cool thing for a while to say that Christianity “isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”

As much as I understand the phrase and can, at times, be sympathetic to it, it still bugs me.

Add on top of that the new style of “evangelism” popular today is one of “relationship.” Again, I get it, but again, it bugs me.

I’m on a kick lately to try to say things biblically. If the Bible doesn’t say it like that, perhaps we shouldn’t either.

The Word of God is inspired, it is “God-breathed.” God said things just the way He wanted to.

Now, I will admit the point that as we translate words from the original languages into our own, things can get lost, which is why we should take advantage of the available translations.

But still, try to go with how God says things, at least make the effort.

Never once does the Bible use the word “relationship” in regard to what we have with Him (I looked it up in many translations, even the NIV).

We can love each other, we can know each other, but never once is what we have with Him called a “relationship.”

We are said to be His, the Father’s, sons, so in that way we are compared to a relationship we can understand. We are said to be His, the Master’s, slaves, so in that way we are said to have a slave/master relationship.

But the word is never used.

I find this intriguing, our desire to force our own happy notions on things rather than use God’s explicitly stated words. It’s curious to me.

Perhaps it’s just our desire to be “relational” with the world around us, like why we prefer the NIV to the Old English King James, because we can “relate” to it more.

“Relationship” is an interesting word, one I think we view as being happy, cozy, warm, friendly, and most of all totally non-demanding.

Girls talk about being “in a relationship” with a guy. Until they break up and get in a relationship with another guy, then another, and another. “Relationship” means “friend.” When we speak of “being in a relationship with God,” I think many use the same small idea.

Just waiting for the inevitable breakup.

I think the danger in our day is not religion, but over-familiarity that borders on tempting God.

Go ahead and keep using the word “relationship.” I know what you mean and, in general, it’s fine.

But I do think we should think long and hard about it. Jesus is more than your friend, He’s your God, King, Lord, Master, Father, and many other authoritarian words.

He’s not your besty, nor your lover; He’s God.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear

Heavenly Reward is not Beneath You

My son and one daughter (the other daughter is rather nonplussed with sports) are both in competitive sports. With all fatherly humility–they rock.

Our house is filling with awards. It’s cool. It’s fun. It proves once and for all that my family is way better than yours.

There have been times where my kids have not won. It’s true, I will admit it. But what is cool is that losing bothers them! They want to do better. They want the award. They want to know they won.

There are some in our world who think this is bad. Now, certainly it is something to be careful with. Winning at all costs is bad. Striving to win, however, is good.

Not keeping score in Little League is ridiculous. Giving ribbons to everyone who participated is nonsensical. Strive to win.

The Bible speaks of heaven as a reward. It even hints at degrees of reward in eternity and degrees of punishment in hell based on earthly performance. There are many who piously claim they are above this.

“I serve Jesus because I love Him. I do not stoop to compete for some crown.”

Well, hey, get over yourself. Actually, don’t, cuz then you’ll be one more person I totally defeat.

God promises us rewards for service rendered. He does this as a Father encourages His children. It’s not some sort of law principle. It isn’t something that eliminates love, or grace, or whatever.

When you do good you get good. You reap what you sow.

One reason why our world is so sports obsessed is because we inherently love the idea of competition. Even my non-sportsy daughter is very competitive in playing piano. She wants to do well and she wants reward for it.

If you are a father who never rewards good from your kids, or punishes bad from your kid, you are a messed up individual.

My Father in heaven rewards good and punishes bad. It’s one reason I love Him. There is a score. Are ya winning?

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

The Sermon on the Mount and Law Principles

The Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 5-7, is one of the great portions of your Bible.

Unfortunately, there are some who don’t think it applies to us.

This assumption is based on the fact that it sounds like “law.” As in, it is based upon law principles–if you do this, then you will get this.

If Israel obeys their covenant with God–they will get to stay in the Promised Land.
If Israel disobeys the covenant–they will get kicked out of the Promised Land.

The opposite of law is grace, for most.

Grace principle is, presumably, you can do whatever you want and it won’t make one bit of difference in results.

If these are your assumptions, it is easy to see why the Sermon on the Mount would be chucked as being law principle.

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Therefore, if I don’t show mercy to others, I won’t get mercy from God. I have to DO something to get mercy. This is a law principle.

I think this whole thing is completely missing the point. We are indeed told that we are not under law but under grace. We are not in the Old Covenant. I do not have to keep the laws of Israel that they were to keep to stay in the Land. The Church is not called to stay in any Land.

We are told that we no longer need to observe sabbath days, food laws, sacrifices, temples, priests, circumcision, etc. All these were particular laws for Israel as part of their land covenant with God.

To say that this means law principle is out is a stretch. As Paul said, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.”

Based on the definition above, “reaping what you sow” is a law principle. Paul says not to be deceived, what you do matters, don’t mock God by saying otherwise.

Jesus was very clear and repetitive about the idea that what you do shows what is in your heart. If you are not a forgiving person, don’t expect to be forgiven by God.

The only people who should have a problem with that statement are people who don’t want to forgive others. That’s a problem.

We have too long bought into the notion that the Gospel is just what Jesus did for me, and have all but eliminated the idea that by faith we join in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. That we’re raised up to newness of life.

If you have faith in the Gospel, your life begins to look like Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is a description of what the life of Christ looks like. It is pure grace.

The Sermon on the Mount is the best description of what grace actually looks like. Live it.

To those who still think the Sermon on the Mount is law–you will do much more for the doctrine of grace by living the Sermon on the Mount, than any explanation of grace you may attempt to argue.