It isn’t just me and Jesus…

As a kid being a Christian meant I say I love Jesus and I get to go to heaven.  When I got older I learned more about this relationship we can have with God.  You go to church, pray, read the Bible, and live a moral life and you and God will be tight.  Church seemed to focus on helping you strengthen your relationship with God.  Looking back it seems almost like that friend that started dating and then no one else existed anymore.  Being a Christian seemed like “It’s just me and God, and I’ll spend time with him and my life will be awesome and I will be happy.”  It seemed that being a Christian was all about a personal relationship with God that made me feel good.  But I think being a Christian is much harder and less warm and fuzzy than that.  Salvation of course is a free gift, but when you accept you’re not just signing up for a club with nice friends and learning how much God loves you.  You’re signing up for a life that is very different.  Ya, I know, pick up your cross and such…but I think many of us fail, I know I did, to realize that the point shouldn’t be on our personal relationship.  I was reading something by Francis Chan lately and he mentioned the parable with the sheep and goats and brought up the question, “How many ‘Christians’ will be categorized with the goats?”  “But I prayed the prayer, I read my Bible and go to church and don’t don’t watch movies with sex in them…etc”

Somehow I think that despite hearing verses about taking care of the poor and denying ourselves we somehow think we somehow ignore these verses and think “All I need to do is spend time with God” and then forget about the rest of what should be involved in living a Christian life.  Tonight watching the Passion conference Francis Chan brought up the verse where Jesus says “when you host a dinner, don’t invite your friends, invite the poor..”  In the parable about the sheep and goats Jesus says we should feed the hungry, clothe the poor,etc.  If we follow Jesus‘ example we should hang out with “sinners.”  Somehow this seems to be mentioned much less often then when we are told we should work on our relationship with God.  In the past few years my “quiet times” have been hit and miss.  I spend to little time reading the Bible.  That needs to change.  However I’ve felt my passion for God increase in such a different way when having a conversation with an atheist who has misconceptions about the Bible or helping out hungry people then I ever did in a quiet time.

I think we need to make sure we don’t convey the idea that becoming a christian is signing up for a social club and going to heaven.  Life isn’t supposed to be just a serries of dates with God that I fit into my schedule. God asks so much more of us.  The good news is we can have a relationship with him because of Jesus’s sacrifice.  God’s grace is amazing and we don’t need to live in fear that if we screw up he’s kicking us out of the club.  We don’t go good things to get on God’s good side.  But he does want our heart and that means not living our lives for what makes us happy but for what God calls us to.  It’s not “normal.”  It’s not the american standard where the general advice seems to be “do whatever makes you happy.”  It’s living with a focus outside of yourself.  It’s an uncomfortable idea sometimes.  Sometimes I think I’d rather spend all my money and time making my life fun and comfortable.  But I know that’s not the life God’s called me too and ultimately God’s priorities are so much worthwhile than mine.  Being a Christian isn’t just about me and God and a personal relationship.  There is a lifestyle that should accompany it and it has a lot to do with other people, particularly people who have physical or spiritual needs.  Above all God cares about the heart.  All these actions should be in response to God’s love and your relationship with him and not a burdensome to-do list to keep God from getting mad at you.

 

Ephesians 3:16-19

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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How Do I Treat “Non-Christians?”

My church has been preaching with a slightly different focus lately.  We’ve been talking about living missionaly.  It kind of changes the focus from the church being the entity that introduces people to God and moves that mission to our personal lives.  We should build care about people and build relationships with people because that’s who God is.  God cares about them.  Hopefully we have opportunities to tell people about God and why he’s important to us but the focus is more about caring for people because that’s how God feels and how he wants us to live.

Of course the idea of telling people about God isn’t new.  I’ve heard it hundreds of times but somehow for most of my life I had this perception that you strike up a conversation with someone to “witness to them” because that’s what good christians do.  That makes God happy.  We don’t really care about the person, we care about some list of what it means to be a good Christian.  This list of course is a list of things to do and not do and the heart or motivation behind the actions is barely an afterthought.  Besides, people who aren’t Christians are some foreign species and some story about people pulling you down and they’re just plain different and so you just don’t relate to them like you do with your Christian friends.

While something as important as a relationship with God can change the dynamic of relationships, I’ve kind of realized that people who don’t go to aren’t so foreign.  Funny how we (churches I grew up in) have treated people who are outside of the Church in such an odd way.  It’s not normal to walk up to a stranger and jump into a conversation about their relationship with God.  Certainly we wouldn’t approach a stranger or acquaintance and start questioning their marriage relationship and start telling them what they should do to change it.  Why did we act like it was fine and even commendable to walk up to stranger and ask them “If you were to die tonight are you going to heaven?”  Perhaps there was a time and culture where this worked.  Somehow since starting to see people outside of the Church as friends and “normal” people I just don’t see how forcing a socially awkward conversations or even waiting for them to come to church and “join our club” is the best approach.  For now my approach is to be honest about who I am, don’t shy away from mentioning that I go to church, and try to be sensitive in conversations of when to bring up the more weighty topics of God and the Church.  More importantly, I hope the way I treat others honors God and that He continues to change my heart to truly care about them as He does.