What are God’s desires for Christians? He just wants us to pray and read the Bible, right?
Well, actually there are a lot of ideas about what God wants his people to do. Unfortunately not all the ideas are based in Scripture. In fact, some of the ideas that Christians use to guide their lives, or to assure themselves that God is honored by their lives, are downright false. Sometimes we create alternate Christian realities that insulate us from truly knowing and following what God wants for us. What does God actually want for us? In this series we’re going to find out that it might be surprising. God’s desire for us is sometimes in direct conflict with what Christians desire for ourselves. Because that can be very hard to take, we can create false ideas about what God wants us to do, or how he wants us to live. So let’s do some fact-checking about ideas that Christians believe about what God wants for us.
Have you heard any of these phrases?
- Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship.
- God isn’t interested in making you happy; he’s interested in making you holy.
- OR it’s opposite: God always wants me to be happy.
- God’s love for me is determined by my behavior.
- God is not OK with doubt and anger.
- God does not expect that much from me.
Each week as I have displayed these lists of phrases, I’ve thought, “Whew…what are you all going to think? There are some phrases each time that seem like they absolutely should not be on a fact-checking list, as they are phrases that are obviously true.” Same goes for this week.
Right off the bat, that first one is one that Christians say so frequently that it can’t possibly need to be on this list, right?
Actually, last week, I had one of those strange moments when I was writing one line of thinking, while at the same time considering another thought to myself. I wrote that, “God gives us free will because he does not want us to be robots, but wants us to be in a real relationship with him,” and at the same time as I was writing, the thought hit me, “next week you’re going to be fact-checking this!”
Am I now disagreeing with myself? I’ve probably said this phrase thousands of times: “Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship.”
So what is Christianity? A religion or a relationship? When we think of religion we think of harsh rules and dead rituals, and in our evangelical tradition, we have reacted quite strongly against that, saying that Christianity is not a religion, instead it is a vibrant relationship with God.
Let me start this fact-checking by saying, I agree with that! Take John 15:12-17, for example. There Jesus says to his disciples, “I call you friends.” He says that he so deeply wants to be in friendship with us that he lays down his life for us. It’s not just an acquaintance; Jesus says he wants to be in close friendship with us.
He is describing real give and take.
Think about relationships with me. How does a relationship start? And how is relationship maintained? It takes lots of communication. Real time spent together. That’s what God desires to have with us!
As a result, some Christians are very anti-religion because they feel it goes against the concept of relationship. But does it? Is religion automatically bad? In our next post in this series, we’ll look at the concept of religion more closely. For now, let’s take time to dwell on the words on Jesus in John 15:12-17. He wants to have a close friendship with us! In fact, he did lay down his life for us to make that friendship possible. Consider your own relationship with Jesus. Would you call it a friendship? How does it compare to your human friendships? What would it look like for you to pursue closer friendship with Jesus?