Relationships: Relationship with Jesus
This is the third in a series of essays examining various aspects of relationships. The essays are intended to be read in sequence. The first two were “Is There No Hope?” and “Earthly Relationships” respectively. A link to the next essay in the sequence is provided at the end.
In the previous essay, “Earthly Relationships”, we learned that a healthy relationship in this world requires accurate understanding and a loving attitude. In this essay we apply those lessons to our relationship with Jesus.
Situation: Jesus Christ
2,000 years ago an innocent man was crucified because he made some outrageous claims:
- That He is God in the flesh, the Creator of the Universe, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah come from Heaven to earth
- That He alone, of all religious leaders and teachers, is telling the truth; all others are teaching falsehood
- That every single person is appointed to die physically, thereafter to be judged by Him personally
- That His judgment will result in (1) An eternal life of joy with Him in Heaven or (2) eternal torment without Him in Hell
- That the criterion for entry into Heaven is perfection
- That no man can measure up to His standards of perfection; therefore every single person is destined for eternal torment in Hell after they experience physical death
- That His mission to earth is to extend a free offer to every person as follows:
Anyone who accepts His free gift (limited time special offer good only until physical death) and establishes an intimate personal relationship with Him in this life will get to continue that relationship with Him in Heaven forevermore as well. All who decline His special offer will be barred from Heaven and destined for eternity in Hell. (RSVP mandatory, now or later)
- How can He make this offer? Because He personally paid the admission price for each individual’s ticket to Heaven: He gave His life on the Cross on our behalf.
Jesus substantiated His claims through various miraculous acts and demonstrations of power, including resurrection from the dead and thereafter appearing to many in physical form. These are the facts of the situation. The facts are recorded in Biblical accounts as well as in other historical documents.
The remainder of this essay will proceed on the basis that the offer is valid as stated. Therefore the offer must be accepted by each individual before activation. The question then becomes, “How does one accept the gift and establish an intimate personal relationship with Jesus?” Let’s turn to our earthly relational situations for clues to the answer.
By extending a personal offer to each person, Jesus has already established a personal relationship with every single individual on earth. It is now each person’s turn to evaluate that offer and respond. RSVP is mandatory – either in this life or at judgment after death. Many will choose not to accept His offer in this life. I pray you are not among them.
A Personal Relationship
We can accept His gift by believing that Jesus is who He claims to be and that He is telling the truth. To accept His gift, simply make a conscious decision:
- Admit that you have broken God’s laws, have sinned, and fallen short of his standard of perfection (Rom 3:23)
- Believe that Jesus is who He claims to be, the Son of God who came to save you from your destiny of eternal torment (1Co 15:3-4)
- Turn from your old ways, repent, and follow Jesus as the only way to the truth and the light (Rev 3:3)
- Ask Jesus to dwell in your heart, and accept Him to guide and lead you through this life into the next (Joh 5:24)
Building a healthy relationship with Jesus is a bit more complicated, but no more difficult than building a healthy relationship with your spouse, your children, your friends, and so on.
We have determined that building a healthy relationship requires two key factors: Accurate understanding (an experiential process) and a loving attitude (a state of the heart). Let us now examine each in more detail with respect to Jesus:
Accurate Understanding of Jesus
In the layoff situation we saw how the wife had built a correct personal experiential base of her husband over time by experiencing him through personal interactions. In the grandfather situation we saw how I built a correct personal experiential base of my grandfather over time by experiencing him through his writings and the recollections of relatives. Similarly, we can build a correct personal experiential base for Jesus the same way by experiencing Him through His deeds and sayings, and through the recollections of close associates. These are all recorded in considerable detail in The Bible, notably in books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and part of Acts.
Through careful Biblical study we have access to many situations that allow us to personally experience Jesus in many dimensions, as well as additional interpretive materials to help us (e.g. Paul’s letters). For example, studying His Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us how we as individuals are to relate to each other as neighbors (Luk 10:26-37). Studying His demonstration of empathy as He wept for Mary and Martha due to the death of their brother Lazarus teaches us how to comfort one another in time of distress (Joh 11:35). Or studying His anger at the money-changers in the Temple teaches us how to react when confronted with evil. (Mat 21:12)
How do we study Jesus in these situations? Exactly the same way we study our spouses: We observe, interpret, apply, communicate, and learn from each situation described in The Bible. Not only does The Bible allow us to experience Jesus more deeply and accurately with each situation; it also teaches us to experience each other more deeply and accurately in everyday life – if we simply apply the same methods and tools.
But just as our personal experience base for our spouse is built up over time through a variety of situations, so our personal experience base for Jesus must be built up over time. Just as the process of understanding our spouses is a lifetime adventure, so the process of understanding Jesus must be also a lifetime adventure; otherwise we remain immature in our relationships. (Heb 5:12-13)
Love, Jesus’ Most Important Commandment
Jesus clearly taught that a loving attitude is essential not just to maintaining healthy relationships, but for living life itself:
When Jesus was questioned, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘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.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mar 12:28-31) (Mat 22:36-40)
Jesus further emphasized His expectations to the disciples at the institution of the Lord’s Supper:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (Joh 13:34)
Paul expanded on the need for love, essentially stating that a life without love is futile:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1Co 13: 1 – 3)
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1Co 13: 4 – 8)
Loving Attitude toward Jesus
The job search and Nashville situations demonstrate how a pattern of behavior tends to develop in a relationship, and how that pattern tends to reinforce either the positive (loving) or negative (selfish) experiential knowledge base of the relationship. The sick man situation represents a quintessential illustration of a relationship built on a loving attitude. Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is the greatest demonstration of love ever:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)
A loving attitude is living a life in which one continuously chooses to do something for the benefit of another in spite of personal cost. Another way of stating that is: To live a life where we always put another’s needs ahead of our own, in spite of the cost. ALWAYS – even to death:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (Joh 15:13)
… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:5-6)
Situation: Dirty Clothes
The husband worked in a dirty job and came home covered in mud each day. After greeting his wife, he would immediately proceed to the bathroom tracking mud throughout the house, throw his dirty clothes on the floor, and take a shower. Afterwards he and his wife would eat dinner, and he would sit down to watch TV while his wife cleaned the kitchen and then cleaned up the mess in the bathroom.
One day the wife said to her husband, “Honey, please remove and put your dirty clothes into the hamper I’ve placed for you by the front door. Every day you leave mud all over the floor that I have to clean up.” A loving husband, wanting to please his wife, would consciously choose to say, “Sure,” and diligently follow through on the commitment because he loves his wife and because love is consciously choosing to do something for the benefit of another in spite of personal cost. An unloving husband would ignore the wife’s request and continue with his practice because it’s personally more convenient for him.
It is the same situation in our relationship with Jesus. He told us clearly what He desires, and we should respond in love, wanting to please Him. These are His exact words:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Joh 14:15)
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (Joh 14:21)
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. (Joh 14:23-24)
Jesus has asked us to put aside our dirty clothes. He has asked us to repent of our sins, believe Him, and build an eternal personal relationship with Him. If we truly love Him we’ll say “Sure,” and diligently follow through on our commitment – just like the loving husband did with the dirty clothes to please his wife.
It’s not a matter of following specific ritualistic requirements. It’s a matter of love, of totally dedicating yourself over to the beloved, the one true Lord, Jesus Christ, and establishing an everlasting relationship with Him.
Relating to Jesus
Finally, how does a person maintain a healthy relationship with Jesus? He consciously chooses to do that which pleases Jesus every day and every moment, even at great personal cost. He lives his life focused on Jesus; he is attentive and considerate of Jesus’ eternal perspective of this life at all times versus a perspective limited to this lifetime alone. He keeps his mind trained on answers to the questions, “What would Jesus do in this situation? What does Jesus desire from me in this situation?” and acts accordingly.
He relates to Jesus on the same intimately personal level, with the same loving attitude of service, attentiveness, and consideration as
- The loving wife related to her husband in the layoff situation
- The loving couple related to each other while the husband was traveling in the separation situation
- The way I related to my grandfather in the grandfather situation
- The way the loving wife related to her husband during his job search situation
- The way the loving husband reacted to his wife’s request in the Nashville situation
- The way the sick man reacted to the gift of life from the donor in the sick man situation
- The way the loving husband reacted to his wife’s request in the dirty clothes situation.
He approaches all situations with an attitude of love for Jesus, for the key in all situations is the attitude of the heart. It’s not a matter of religious rituals; it’s not a matter of following certain specified laws and regulations. It’s a matter of the heart driven by an attitude of love.
One’s attitude inevitably determines the direction and the destination of one’s journey: A man facing North will inevitably reach frozen territory. A man facing West will always follow the sun. A man facing east will always head toward darkness. It is the same with your heart: A bitter heart will bear bitter fruit. A divided heart will bear little fruit, going round in circles and not progressing anywhere. A righteous heart dedicated to the Lord Christ Jesus will bear much delicious fruit. For this is what the Scripture says:
- Love your God with your whole being.
Jesus said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the first and great commandment. (Mat 22:37)
- Have an exclusive relationship with God and God alone through Jesus Christ
for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exo 34:14)
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (2Jn 1:9)
- Because man cannot serve two masters.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Mat 6:24)
- Do everything as onto God
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col 3:17)
Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (Eph 6:5-10)
- Seek the Kingdom of God and all else will be given you.
But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luk 12:31)
Let me repeat that as a regular paragraph:
Love your God with your whole being.
Have an exclusive relationship with God and God alone through Jesus Christ because man cannot serve two masters.
Do everything as unto God wholeheartedly; seek the Kingdom of God and all else will be given you.
If you do all the above, you will have a healthy relationship with your Creator, Christ Jesus, and with everyone you know. Your intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the key to life itself. Nothing less can do.
© 2012 notasitlooks