There Must Be More to Jesus

The problem with treating a relationship with Jesus as a means to an end and not an end itself.

presentedbythomasnelsonI don’t have the most impressive academic or career background. I didn’t thrive in school growing up. I left my family (and God) to move away to university, only to return home to three years of part-time jobs and a big question mark over my future.

One of the first things I did was go back to church. I missed the security I had in my relationship with Jesus growing up and had learned the hard way that living however I wanted didn’t actually bring satisfaction or peace.

So over that period I used my extra time to rebuild and strengthen my relationship with God. I learned what He thought about me (that I am loved and known by Him; that I am forgiven, cleansed, righteous, and complete; and that I am His disciple), what He wanted from me (to love and trust Him; to love others; to build the church), and that my experience of Jesus could never be complete simply by hearing about other people’s revelations.

Why do we always seek out more?

While I don’t always get it right, I do know that a relationship with God is not so different from our relationships with other people. It can get stronger or weaker over time, there are many layers, and there are endless ways we can engage with Him and get to know Him more. Sure, we can see the impossible happen through our relationship with Him, but that’s not the point. The point is the relationship.

So why do we try to make it about something more? Why can’t we be satisfied knowing that He knows every crack and crevice of us, loves us anyway, and only asks for our love in return?

When I finally got a full time job through a friend at church, one of our first work conversations was about the teaching at church. He wanted to know what I thought about it, and I’ll never forget what he said after my vague but positive response. “I don’t think there’s enough meat to the teaching, it’s more baby milk than the meat I need.”

Was I not smart enough? Was there a whole other level of teaching embedded in the Bible that I just wasn’t ready for? While I (perhaps naïvely) carried on, my friend left the church shortly after and moved to another one that apparently served up the sirloin steak he needed every Sunday to see him through to the next week.

This has always stuck with me because at the time I was really enjoying my relationship with Jesus, but it made me question the teaching I was getting and our need to seek out more. What was the “meat” he was looking to be given? I guess some people expect to get everything they need in one Sunday service, but from my experiences in time-rich, cash-poor seasons, Jesus wants something from us daily and we have to do our part.

Christianity isn’t a cost-benefit analysis

I think we can sometimes look at being a Christian as a sort of cost-benefit analysis: if I follow the rules, I’ll get more from Jesus; if I act a certain way, maybe I’ll get more from this relationship. It’s too easy to slip into the mentality that he’s a means to an end — to the life that we want or the safety we want when life isn’t comfortable.

We always want more and we want it with as little effort on our part as possible. It can seem like a contradiction, because God, His grace, and His love are freely available, but I really believe from my own experience that we get to determine the level of that love and grace that we understand and experience in our own lives.

What am I willing to sacrifice to get to know Him more? How can I expect to know His heart toward me or understand His plans for my life if I am not even willing to set time aside to listen? Personally, I really enjoy getting up when my world is still quiet so I can have some uninterrupted time reading and praying. Over the years I have gained a lot from journaling and writing down what I feel God is speaking to me in each season.

While it’s not the same for everyone, I think that praying to Him and putting time aside to let Him speak to you and guide you through life are daily essentials — if Jesus needed it and He was God, then it’s probably even more important for us.

If we look at our list of priorities is God three or four down the list and in a little box of His own that only comes out on Sundays or special occasions? Or is He first? I think He wants to be first with our time, finances, and thoughts — and then present in every ‘box’ of our lives. It’s not so He can control every area of our lives, it’s so we can have an all-encompassing, transparent relationship with Him.

Like anyone else, I love conferences, books, and podcasts that help my understanding of God and draw me closer to Him, but Jesus is the goal. He gave us His word so it would help us know Him personally. You could be an atheist and know the Bible inside out, understand the significance of the original language, quote every sermon on Scripture, and post motivational verses on social media every day, but I don’t believe  that makes you more intimate with or accepted by Jesus. Yes, it would be impressive and probably helpful, but if that’s our focus, then we are missing Him altogether.

There are dozens of things we could do that would make us look like better Christians. There’s a lot of “meat” out there. So we have a choice: we can focus on what we are missing, or we can take the meat as part of the meal and remember that He is already the bread and He already loves us.

All we have to do is use everything we have been given and all that is available to experience an honest relationship with Him.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Carlos Darby
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