May 6, 2014.
In today’s post, I want to discuss our personal relationship with the Almighty. Before I get into that, however, I want to emphasize that I am not advocating for the individualistic, personal God that American Christianity preaches. I don’t think that God is in any way individualistic. I think he is focused on the church as a whole. I think we can and should have a personal relationship with Jesus, yes, but the notion of “give me Jesus, forget organized religion” is simply not biblical. The kingdom of God, the church, was foreknown before the dawn of time. Jesus dying for us as the church was not plan B. Since the fall, a messiah was prophesied to come and restore our relationship with the Almighty. Christianity is dependent on Eastern thinking when it comes to the family.
I say all this just to clear up what I am saying when I discuss a personal relationship with Jesus. This too, like the fellowship of the brethren, is an important aspect of our walk. In what few years I have walked this earth, I have learned that faith is not something that can not be forced on anyone. It can be encouraged, but not forced. If we believe in God, if we believe Jesus is the son of God and that the bible is the word of God, then it is because we have decided that on our own. At least this is the case for true belief. I would like to turn to the example of our Messiah.
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
This was not an unusual occurrence. We read that many times Jesus would find a solitary place to kneel down before his Father and approach his throne in prayer. This tells me that Jesus thought it was important that he have a personal relationship with his Father. Even when he brought his disciples, he removed himself from them and went to pray alone. I think we can take this example of a relationship through prayer and easily apply it to our lives. But it’s not only prayer that we are to have a personal stake in.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:15)
I know I have referenced this verse a lot, but I think it is very important. This is an admonition from Paul to Timothy to be a student of the word. It is true that we can be students together and gain many insights to the word of God through other people. But notice how Paul words his admonition here: Do your best to present yourself to God. There is a personal element in this charge. Listen to what Peter tells a crowd as he is preaching one of the first gospel sermons:
“And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
We do have a charge to take our faith into our own hands. To make it personal. To study and pray on our own, so that we may come to the knowledge of truth on our own, and thus have a solid faith built on the Spirit of truth.
So yes, Christianity is community based. And yes, Christianity is personal. It’s been that way since the beginning. It was not good that man should be alone, so God created woman. Yet in the garden, God walked with Adam and Eve, interacting with them on a personal level. This is the way He set it up from the beginning. This is what it will return to one day. In the meantime, let us strive to grow closer to God and man.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 26, Luke 22, Acts 2, 17.
God be with you.