What God Wants from Us the Most

I explained to Dana early on in our friendship that I liked long distance relationships. Yes, I wanted to marry her, but I didn’t really want to live with her. I wanted to marry her, but I didn’t really want to have to talk with her all that much. I wasn’t interested in having to share my stuff or my space or my time.

I think you get my point. What is marriage without relationship? And this is where I want to go with this analogy:

What does it mean to be a Christian, or to be religious, or to believe in God without a RELATIONSHIP with him? It means nothing. Here is the basic principle I want to talk about.

God created us to have a loving relationship with him.

There are vast numbers of passages in Scripture that reveal this to us. The whole Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of relationship to God. From God’s relationship with the Patriarchs, to God’s covenant with Israel and hatred of idolatry, to the sending of his own Son take our punishment and provide forgiveness, to the personal, indwelling presence of God by his Spirit, to the fulfillment of all creation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, uniting Christ and his Bride, the Church.

For now, I will only mention a few specific passages. The most decisive is where Jesus answers this all-important question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Of all the things that God has said he wants us to do, which is the most important? Jesus answers by quoting the Shema (Deut 6:4-6), “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Love. Not mere obedience. Not religious activity. Love. Love is relationship.

Here is another decisive verse that answers the question: “What does God want from us?” Heb 11:6 say, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Our basic belief in God is that he desires for us to draw close to him and seek to know him. This is relationship.

This is what makes knowing Christ much more than “religion,” if it can be called religion at all. Jesus made it clear that the religious people of his day had no hope without love for God (they even had the “right” religion). Knowing about Christ, believing in the fact of Christ or the gospel, and going to church OFFER NO HOPE FOR SALVATION! “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). Faith without works will not save you (James 2:14, 17), and the work of faith begins with drawing near and seeking God (Heb 11:6).

What we believe IS important. Salvation is only in the work of Christ when he satisfied God’s wrath for our sin on the cross. But be sure of this, a person’s faith in Christ’s saving work will result in LOVE.

So, this is the question I leave with you. How is your relationship with God?

Are you close to God? Are you drawing near to him? Are you seeking to know and love him? Have you settled for “religion?” Do you have false hope in your religious service or your mental acceptance of the facts of Christ?

Why We Love Love Stories [Podcast #14]

There are not many good stories without love in it. Actually, I can't think of one, but there might be one.

We can see in the very first verse of the entire Bible that a story has begun. As Genesis 1 proceeds, the stage is set and the main characters have been introduced.

In Genesis 3 the crisis begins as sin enters the world. There are many foreshadows of the coming of the hero and savior. The super-human Jesus Christ enters the scene, "takes the bullet" and delivers the people from destruction.

We are currently still in crisis, and Jesus is still saving people. But God has already told us what happens in the end! Justice and Love win! The enemy is defeated. And those who trust Christ live happily ever after.

Learning to Have a Love Agenda

God has recently been showing me deeper ways I can learn to love and encourage others. I want to be more patient, kind, encouraging, affectionate, and gentle—especially with my family. I have been asking the Lord for wisdom to understand why I am finding this so difficult. I think I have identified one important part of it. One problem is my agenda. When I have an agenda and people get in the way of it, I am frustrated. When I have an agenda, I simply do not see or have the energy to love people. And I am talking about a task oriented agenda. If my agenda were loving people, that would be produce a difference result altogether. For example, when the children do not do a job correctly, my agenda determines my response. If my agenda is the task itself, then I am frustrated and ungentle. But if my agenda is to relate to, love, build up, and train my children, then I will gently instruct and encourage them.

It seems that I am a fundamentally task oriented person. The physical and practical task, whatever it may be at the moment, must be secondary. People are always first. Love is always first. “Whatever you do, let it be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14).

The Power of Discipline and Love

I just uploaded my teaching from Sunday at Highland Christian Fellowship. It is a continuation of the series from 1 Corinthians 16 on Doing the Work of the Lord. In it I share some of my most life changing moments in learning to be disciplined and learning to love. I also explain the vision and purpose of our fellowship. Listen to it in the Teaching Audio player on the right sidebar or here.