You can read all the manuals on prayer and listen to other people pray, but until you begin to pray yourself you will never understand prayer. It’s like riding a bicycle or swimming: You learn by doing. Luis Palau

This is what we are after, isn’t it? We want change for our lives. However, we want the real thing as well. Be entirely honest with yourself, are you the same person you were a year ago? Five years ago? Forty years ago? This might possibly be the greatest danger in being a Christian—not truly making strides in our lives.

Along these lines, I once heard a pastor say this, Trust this Jesus—this all you need to do. Maybe he misspoke, but that was completely an untrue statement. This is what so many people are told when they come to faith and it only gives them permission to continue to be the broken individuals they are, not growing and not changing into the incredible people they were meant to be. Being in relationship with Jesus goes way beyond just trusting. So really dwell on this question—are you any different than you used to be?

  • Is anger always at your side and comes out whenever it wants?
  • What about the inability to overcome the continual depression and joylessness?
  • Or the art you’ve acquired to being committed to absolutely nothing or anyone?
  • Or the perpetual lying and half-truths?
  • Or the endless relationships you’ve had that go about an inch deep?
  • Or wasting your life away with procrastination or laziness?
  • Or the past that always stands between you and where you want to go?
  • Or how you allow shopping or sex (or anything else other than God) make you feel secure and happy?

We could go on and on with these kinds of examples. This would be a great time to take a moral inventory and really look at your life. Again, being a Christian on one level is about constant change. Are you a sinner? Of course you are. Just like me. And this is exactly why God is always at us to become more, more in terms of who He desires us to be—more whole today, sinning less tomorrow, and becoming just a little bit more like Jesus. Let’s make no bones about it, this is no simple or easy task, but this is what we must be after—we need to everyday become different people than who we were from the previous day.

This is why change happens in large part because we do something to bring about that change. This reminds me of a story. The very first client I ever had came into my office, sat in the chair and demanded in no uncertain terms that she didn’t think she was going to get very much out of this “counseling thing.” I think I might have surprised her, because I agreed with her. I said to her that she was probably right—in a certain way. I explained to her that this time that we shared together was most likely going to only make a small impact on her life. What she did outside of the time that we met—this was what was going to make all the difference. It’s exactly the same here. Simply learning about the different stages of the Christian walk will do absolutely nothing for you. Knowledge is just knowledge unless it’s applied to one’s life. Too often books or things we read just become information to us and not much else. God wants us to have more than the facts. Again, everything will depend on what you do with the information that you obtain.

Let me make one final word at this point. Throughout this writing I am going to be labeling these three distinct relationships that we can have with God; they are unique words which have distinct meanings: believer, servant and friend. Unique to this is that most often when reading a Christian book or blog, the use of the words believer and servant are usually positive ones. I fully agree that these can be good terms to characterize a person who is a Christian. However, for the purpose of this blog, they most often will be used as negative terms. In the end, God wants us to be his friend, not just a believer and not just a servant.  As Jesus clearly shows he wants more from us and as he directly says I no longer call you servants, instead I have called you friend. (John 15:15) Let me end this section by briefly offering definitions to these distinctions that hopefully will fill in your understanding of what we will be talking about throughout the blog. In the following posts, we will fully explore what each of these are all about:

  • Believer: A person who just believes in God, but does not actively follow him. “Believing” in this case is simply giving mental assent to a religion or creed—this is the person who has very little conviction about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, these are people who have grown up in a church (Catholic or Protestant), but have never fully given their lives over to God and applied the scriptures to their lives. A term you may have heard that would apply here is “nominal Christian.” A nominal Christian is one who says that they are a Christian, but rarely goes to church or is someone who selects “Christianity” as their religion, but would also say they are “non-practicing.” Examples of characters in the Bible who would be characterized as believers would be: Esau, Saul, Solomon (toward the end of his life), Ahab, and Judas.
  • Servant: A person who has gone beyond just believing in Jesus, but bases much of their relationship with God on rules and regulations. This person may know a tremendous amount of “stuff” about God, but practically speaking, does not know Him personally and has not genuinely experienced three important aspects; these would be grace, genuine self-forgiveness and personal healing for trouble spots in their lives (e.g., anger, sexual addictions, depression, etc.). These people are easily bound by legalism, because they have not experienced this grace and freedom. People caught in this phase of faith often use religion to their benefit, are very adept at hiding problems in their lives, and yes, sometimes are even leaders in the church. The two clearest examples of this type of person would be the religious leaders, the Pharisees that Jesus would often challenge and confront and as we will explore in detail in the blog, the character of Peter that we read about in the gospels (before Jesus’ resurrection).
  • Friend: A person who has undergone a transformation and is beginning to know healing, maturity and the freedom of following Christ. This person can genuinely say, I know grace. This person is beginning to hear the voice of the One they follow (John 10:27) and graciously encourages others to do likewise. This person looks carefully in the mirror at their lives and seeks out healing for the wounds that have occurred to them and the brokenness that they have brought into their lives. Those who have become friends of Jesus are not bound by rules and regulations, but through the Spirit live lives which are characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Those that we find in the Bible that we would characterize as being friends with God would include: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Ruth, Peter (after Jesus’ resurrection), Barnabas, and Priscilla.

In the next post, we will begin to explore what it looks like to be “just a believer” in God.

In: Friend to Jesus
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