Human relationships are our context. They have to be; they are all we know. I can hear my wife now; “I have a relationship with our kitty cats.” That is not the same as a relationship with another human. The reason I bring this up is that one of the most common sentences a new Christian will hear as they make their faith commitment is “you are starting your relationship with God.”
Naturally, we see the word relationship through human lens.
In relationships we think of sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings with another. We think of spending time with another. We think of being honest. We think of being trustworthy.
But what about a relationship with God?
Often this type of relationship is referred to as a covenant relationship and even though that term is tossed around a lot, what does it mean? “A covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general. It is central to the Abrahamic religions and derived from the biblical covenants, notably the Abrahamic covenant.” For the Christian we are under the “new covenant” which means “a new relationship between God and humans mediated by Jesus which necessarily includes all people, both Jews and Gentiles, upon sincere declaration that one believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and God.”*
This may sound a bit easy?
Just declare that you believe in Jesus and that is it. You probably will do this in church which means that you will go to the altar. If you are a brand new convert, you may be baptized.
You are saved, all your sins are wiped away and you are on the road to a “new relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Many say that is it. It stops right there, but does it? Does Jesus really require more?
Yes He does.
For some, they think like John Bevere** as he writes about human relationships: we “know it would be the right thing to do, and on some level, [we] desire it, but the reality is [we are too attracted to our lifestyle]. It is one thing to desire [a relationship with God]; it’s another thing to actually do [what God wants us to do]” [brackets indicate my editing]. . . . “To enter a covenant relationship with the most wonderful Person in the universe, you have to give yourself fully to Him, which includes all aspects of His leadership” [Bevere, 61].
Our churches are probably full of people who don’t know that Jesus wants more than just a declaration. Pastors will quickly point to several areas of Christian growth in the convert who wants more. One sign is a determination to read the Word of God. There are a thousand of reasons to not read the Bible but a growing Christian will find the time to do it and the reading will be a serious reading. Often a reader will pray for enlightenment about The Word because they know they are in the presence of God when they open the Book. Another indicator is the growing ability to forgive others and understand others and their conditions. Judgement decreases and empathy and love for others increases. Faith living is common among growing Christians. Times get tough and when they do, growing Christians can stand on their faith and trust God to get them through the hard times. Worldly temptations are easier to deal with because the growing Christian can dodge the traps of this world. Satan is all over the place; in the car we think we just have to have, the young woman or man we want to lust after when we are already committed in marriage or the food we overeat when we are really full and don’t need any more. You know the list of sins can be endless and we live in world that lures us to sin. The growing Christian has an honest concern for the spiritual welfare of others. When an opportunity arises, the growing Christian will talk about God [plant a seed]. They will allow God to work through them to grow His Kingdom.
In short, the growing Christian has a willingness to obey God.
They know the altar call is not the end.
They know that baptism is just the beginning.
God expects more of us and they know it. Bevere says that the church may be taking in converts under false pretenses. There is very little talk of what happens after the initial commitment. People don’t want to hear about changes to their lifestyle but that is what is called for in the Christian life. The message is “you are saved, your sins have been forgiven and you are on the road to heaven!” That my friends is a recipe for a stagnant Christian life.
What many think is that between the declaration of our love for Jesus and going to heaven, nothing is required.
We certainly do look through a human lens when we hear the word relationship, but when you go to any couple who has a long-term relationship and ask them what has allowed them to be committed to each other for so long, you won’t hear them say “nothing is required.”
They will probably say something like they have worked hard to make their relationship last.
With our relationship with God, it is work well worth it…
*definitions from Wikipedia
**author of Good or God?