This post is from a larger series under the category Friend to Jesus. It is a detailed exploration of the three stages of faith: the believer, the servant and the friend of God. If you want to start at the beginning, it begins with the post How Looking at a Caravaggio Painting Can Change Your Life and then continues chronologically.
Everything you want in life is right outside your comfort zone. Robert Allen
I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love. Sylvia Plath
God draws, but He draws the willing one. John Chrysostom
As I thought about this woman that I mentioned in the previous post, it dawned on me just how imperative it is to continually pursue God. As an example of this, I know of someone who recently has walked away from their faith. This was a person who some years back was serving and living a life that was exemplary when it came to being a Christian. However, over the last couple of years, I began to see that this life began to wane and he did not take his relationship with God very seriously over these last years. Slowly over time, it began to show, and not only with the obvious outward signs. Sadly, since that time, he has made many poor decisions, which has not only impacted him negatively, but his family as well. It’s been a little bit like watching a train wreck.
Of late, I have been thinking about how unhealthy it can be to not have Jesus at the center of your life on a daily basis. Yet this happens all the time. In general, the church today places such emphasis on evangelism, “getting people saved and into heaven,” but focuses too little on discipleship—learning how to live a life with Jesus. The Barna Group has some staggering statistics, confirming the fact that the church is good at “making converts, but not disciples:”
- In a recent study, when Christian adults were asked to identify their most important goal for their life, not a single person said it was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
- Less than one out of every five born again adults had any specific and measurable goals related to their personal spiritual development.
- Less than 1% of all Christians perceived a connection between their efforts to worship God and their development as a disciple of Jesus.
- The most widely-known Bible verse among adult and teen Christians is “God helps those who help themselves”—which is not actually in the Bible, and conflicts with the basic message of Scripture.
Living with Jesus every day—this is really where life begins, not when you say the sinner’s prayer. Life is always continuing and we need to move with it. However, too often in Christian circles, being reflective and deliberate about our relationship with God is put to the side. For whatever reason, people tend to stagnate rather than thrive after making a commitment of faith. Questions don’t get asked. Masks begin to be worn. We play the part, but in reality, we don’t know how to genuinely be in friendship with God. Living the Christian life and going through the motions is easy, being in relationship with Jesus is a whole different matter. This is what he was talking about when he told the parable about building your life on the sand—that it was unsafe to build on something that is temporary.
After becoming a Christian, I learned an important lesson—if you have any amount of biblical knowledge, watch out. You eventually will become the expert, the guru. People will perceive that you have it all together, look up to you, and believe that you and God must be best buds. But all of this can be dangerous, because it can perpetuate a serious problem—you will begin to learn how to live an inauthentic life; you will learn how to fake it. In the end, you will paint yourself into a corner to which there is no escape. Because you have played the role of the well-behaved churchgoer, you won’t know how to play any other part. Sadly, I know this from first-hand experience from years past.
But religious knowledge is never the standard for having a relationship with God and too often in the church, this is what we emphasize. It’s easy to know a lot about someone; it’s a whole new thing to know someone. This makes sense—it’s much more easy and comfortable to just know about someone, simply knowing the facts (e.g., “she works at a hospital, likes to eat salads at lunch, has three kids, and drives a white Toyota Sienna.”). There’s distance and safety and very little mess. But knowing just the facts about someone does not mean you know them. Lots of us know a lot of stuff about a whole bunch of people, but it goes about as far as that. Our knowledge is a mile wide, but an inch deep. For some, it can be rare that they have genuinely deep and strong friendships. They keep people at bay, at a safe distance and they don’t go too deep. We can also do the same with God.
But we need to move beyond just knowing about God—we need to push to know him personally. John Wesley once wrote, “Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame, if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago.” In that statement, Wesley was saying that it was not a good thing if he hadn’t grown beyond where he once stood in terms of knowing God. We need to keep moving on as well, being restless and asking for more. This should be our end goal. I think C.S. Lewis said it in the most direct way possible:
Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature—either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures and with itself.
Those are strong and difficult words, but they are true. Yogi Berra said it in a similar way, but in a way only he could: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” As Christians, we need to continually change and grow and move beyond just knowing about God and genuinely encounter him. At the end of the day, we need to know where we are headed.
In: Friend to Jesus
Tags: c.s. lewis, Christianity, Faith, God, John Wesley, spiritual growth, Yoggi Berra