Thursday, October 2, 2008

Personal Relationship with Jesus?

You hear all the time that it is "not just enough to know about Christ. You have to know Christ. You have to have a personal relationship with Jesus." I personally do not know how you can seperate the two, but I have some questions for those of you who are on a first name basis with good ole JC. Since your relationship with Him is so personal and close, these questions should be really easy. Think of it like one of those relationship quizes in those chick magazines: "How Personal is your Relationship?"

1. What is His favorite color?

2. What is His favorite song?

3. What is His favorite food?

4. Does He have a favorite sport?

5. What does Jesus like to do to relax?

6. Can you name three of Jesus' childhood friends?

7. What is His favorite academic subject?

8. Did His mom have a nickname for Him growing up?

9. While on earth, what did Jesus like to do with His free time?

10. How tall is Jesus?

11. What does Jesus look like?

12. What is Jesus' real birthday (and not that ceremonial commemoration date)?

Having trouble? I don't understand why you are having to resort to guesses and speculation. You tell everyone that you and your buddy Jesus are tight. I have close friends and I can easly rattle off more than a couple of these questions for each of them. These are not dry, theological questions. We are talking about relationship stuff. If you couldn't answer any of these questions about your sweetheart, then I'd be willing to bet that you'd be in big trouble. It looks like your relationship with Jesus is rather impersonal. If you are supposed to have a personal relationship with Christ, why are you guys so distant? What's wrong?

The truth is that your relationship with Christ is not close and chummy. In fact, the two of you are down-right unfriendly. Oh, it's personal all right! Deep down there is a part of you that hates His guts. The chasm of distance between you and God is so great that you are powerless to resolve it peacefully. The sin inside of you is so great that you bring nothing to this relationship and it is impossible to know Christ in any possitive way. Blinded by your sinful nature and rebellion, your relationship with Christ is toxic and violent. It is filled with your selfishness, narcisism, vitriol, and hatred. You despise this "friend" so much that you use His name in place of explatives and resent that His standards are so high. When He asks you to do something, you tell Him what you think He wants to hear and then you go do whatever you want to do. You spit in His face and stab Him in the back. You betray Him in the privacy of your own room and deny Him to your friends. By your own power, this personal relationship that you are so proud of is nothing more than you talking to yourself. Like a self-absorbed "friend" who never listens, never trusts, never submits, and never helps, you treat your supposed "best friend" like garbage with your thoughts, words, and deeds. You say your close, but anyone who takes an honest look at the whole situation would tell you different. Frankly, you treat Jesus like crap. That is why you sin in secret: so that poeple do not know the truth about you and how you treat this personal relationship with Jesus. You know that God sees your private sin, but the fact that He knows the truth is of little concern to you. If we all knew the truth as you and God know the truth, we would all agree that He'd be much better off without a self-righteous jerk like you.

So great is your distance from Him--so impersonal is your relationship--that you cannot discover a thing about Him on your own. Everything that you know about Christ has been spoon-fed to you. And how did you come to know these things about Him? You heard and learned about Him through His Word, which was delivered to you by the very dusty, rigid religious organization that you so despise and ridicule... the church. The church introduced you to Christ in one form or another. The church: that human organization of "self-rightous hypocrites" that Jesus Christ instituted so that you might hear and believe in Him and be saved from your sinful condition.

Your personal relationship with Christ was (and remains) totally one-sided. Check the score board. Christ brings sacrifice and you bring complaints and whining. Christ brings salvation and you bring your rejection and compromise. Christ brings His Spirit and you bring your real best friend, the Devil, whom you flirt and cheat with every chance you get. Christ brings true good works and you bring sinful desires and laziness. Christ brings His Word and you bring your many words, your selfish bargins, your broken promises, and your needy feelings.

Thankfully, Christ also brings infinite mercy. There is forgiveness for all of your faults in this personal relationship. Jesus knew going into this arrangement that you were no good. He knew that you were going to contribute nothing but trouble and so there is and endless supply of grace which is poured out for you. It wipes away every sin. It compensates for every short coming. It creates faith where nothing but fear, unbelief, and doubt existed. You might be tempted to take at list a little credit for it, but this personal relationship is nothing but Christ and His perfect work. Through these gifts, you are finally able to know Christ. And through Christ, you know God the Father.

And these gifts do not come to you through your feelings, but in spite of them. When you feel close to Christ, the gifts are there. When you feel distant from Christ, the gifts are still there. When you feel angry, hurt, bored, and lonely, the gifts remain and they are freely given to you. When you come crawling back to Christ with the sulferious stench of Satan on your clothes, the gifts remain to restore, regenerate, and return you to the Kingdom of God.

These gifts are not locked away in some Gnostic secret held by a select few. They are not hidden behind the veil of mystic thought or personal meditation. They are not defined by some creation-hating, Platonic concept or the latest new-age quackery. Jesus loves you so much that He provides these gifts to you through concrete, physical means that are very real and tangible. This is the way that He has always dealt with His people. He knows that your intelect is flawed, so grace does not come to you through human reason. He knows that your feelings are fickle, so grace does not come to you through your spiritual or emotional state. He knows that your worship is imperfect and inconsistant, so grace does not come to you through your talents. He knows that your prayers are incomplete, so grace does not come to you through carefully crafted petitions and penance. He knows that your works are filthy rags, so grace does not come to you through your own effort. The truth is that through all of those subjective means, there is room for doubt. There is a weak link in all of these false systems of forgiveness: they all depend on you, on who you are, and on what you do... and we've already established that everything that you handle falls apart or blows up in your face.

That's why grace comes to you through dependible, consistant, objective means. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, these gifts flow directly from God to you. This supernatural power is found with physical things that you can see and touch and it brings you into direct contact with Jesus Christ in an intimate and lasting way. Grace flows to you in the waters of Baptism. It is present under the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. It exists in the spoken Word of God through preaching and in the forgiveness of sin that is spoken to you by His servants who remain on this earth. Through these Means of Grace, Christ abides in you and you abide in Him. Through these means, you receive Christ in abundance. You come to know Him in the way that He would have you know Him: by receiving Him in your ears, on your lips, and in your heart.

When you receive Baptism, you know that you receive the Holy Spirit. At the Lord's Supper, you know that you receive Christ's body and blood. Listening and reading God's Word, you know that the Holy Spirit is working in you as you receive Christ's Gospel. You have been taken out of the equation so that only the divine perfection of God remains to complete the essential task of absolving and vivifing you. You can count on divine perfection.

To know Christ is to know Truth. Truth is not discovered by your power. It can only be revealed to you by the power of God through His Word and promises. Never forget that the true God is the Creator of all things. The Godhead has chosen to deal with us in the physical world through tangible miracles, covenants, and signs. His Son came in a physical incarnation to save us. God creates physical things to care for and sustain you. Both His wrath and His mercy are communicated not in mere concepts or principles, but physically and spiritually in this world and the next. Holy Scripture is filled with examples that demonstrate this truth. He continues to relate to you through the physical means that He has promised.

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