My story about learning to be real with God
By Pastor Todd
Everything in the Christian life is about relationship. God longs for a deep, intimate relationship with each of us, and He is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to know us more. When I thing about it, it seems that everything I learn about growing closer to God, He is already pursuing to get closer to me.
The hard truth we all need to face then is this: You and I know God as much as we want to know Him.
The fascination factor
Everything about Christianity makes sense when we are fascinated with Jesus.
Imagine if your hero or the person you idolized called you up to make an appointment to spend a day with you. The thrill you would get is the idea of what the Sabbath day is supposed to be. It is a day set aside for the person who fascinates you more then any other.
Abiding is not an effort or something you need to learn. When you are captivated with and by Jesus Christ, you just do it without trying or thinking of it. In fact, the normal Christian life is characterized by fulfilling the things Jesus commanded—naturally and even with excitement. “If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.” This is because His commands are designed to both reflect and enhance our relationship with Him.
So are all the circumstances in our lives. God orchestrates or allows them to thrust us into a closer walk with Him or experience His nature in a new way. He doesn’t just save us. He is our Savior. In times of pain, He is our comfort. When we are attacked, He is our shield and defense. He is our Wonderful Counselor when we are confused, our Prince of Peace when we are distressed, our Mighty God when things are impossible, and our Everlasting Father when we are abandoned.
Because He made us, God understands that our needs cannot be met with objects, concepts, or philosophies. They are only fulfilled through relationship with Him as we experience His awesomeness in unique ways. So He ruthlessly exposes the emptiness and inability of everything else we may trust in to meet our needs. While at the same time, He offers Himself as the only means of discovering true satisfaction.
One need we all have is for victory. God isn’t interested in giving us victory over anything in our lives. His desire is that we learn who He is as the victorious one, that we experience the part of Jesus that triumphs over sin and Satan. That’s his desire because he’s after deepening our intimacy with Him. Everything is relational.
I remember reading about Peter returned to his fishing. The resurrected Jesus called out to him on the shore. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” He was referring to the fish and Peter said “Yes, Lord.” As I pondered the story, Jesus started asking me the same question about things in my life that He didn’t want there. “Do you love me more?”
If I do love Him more, I will give the “fish” in my life. If I am unwilling to give them up, I don’t love Him more. This idea has become a phrase I often repeat when I am tempted: “Jesus, I love you more.”
The Walk of Truth
There is a path to intimacy. The end of the path is oneness: living in harmony and joy with another where each is being energized, inspired, and empowered to live to their fullest potential. To develop oneness, a relationship needs to be goal-oriented. It must focus on the ends, not the means. A goal-oriented relationship begins with accountability: giving the other person the right or authority to ask about my progress on goals and to discuss with me how much I am overcoming the obstacles to those goals.
Accountability never works unless there is a low fear of conflict. It blossoms in the soil of freedom to disagree, to point out the other’s shortcomings, and to fully express fears and desires. To maintain a low fear of conflict within a relationship requires a high amount of trust: confidence in the authenticity and integrity of another. Trust can only be present where there is truth: the honest, open, and transparent revelation of one person to another.
Here is sequence in which it happens. Intimacy comes from revealing the full truth about myself so I can be explicitly trusted. This trust gives freedom to another person to share with me the truth without fear of conflict, which enables us in a natural, healthy way to challenge each other to grow and hold each other accountable. This bond and its transparency hone our concentration on the things that matter most in life. It inspires, energizes, and empowers us to be all we were designed to be. The inevitable end is oneness.
Thus the starting point to intimacy is to learn to walk in truth. For years I struggled and failed at walking in truth while simultaneously convincing everyone that I was. The deep longing of my heart was to be loved, accepted, and respected. So I hid my failures and presented a glittering image of myself. I believed that revealing the truth about me would be too painful.
Ironically, the hypocrisy that was protecting me from pain was also keeping the deep longing of my heart unmet. While many people loved, accepted, and respected me, I was incapable of receiving what I needed. Deep down in my heart I knew it was my glittering image that was loved. I was left wondering how others would really feel about me if they knew the truth.
Now because of God’s love and grace, He did for me what I was unwilling to do and allowed the façade I built around myself to crash around me. He revealed what was real. While this process seemed devastating, it was also the first time I felt truly loved by God and others. Furthermore, words can’t describe the freedom and joy I began to feel growing within me each day as I walked in truth. Best of all, my relationship with God and others soared higher as I learned that intimacy began with truth.
The Reason to Celebrate Communion
The word communion comes from combining the prefix com, which means “with or together,” with the root unus, which means “oneness or union.” The Bible commands us to regularly celebrate communion and it is a process that reestablishes and maintains intimacy or oneness with Christ.
Put simply and briefly, Jesus states that the bread represents His Body broken for us. The Old Covenant (or Testament) makes stoning the punishment for sin, which is literally breaks the body. The vicarious nature of the death of Christ involves the full consequences of our sin placed on Him and leaving no punishment for us to endure.
As wonderful as this is, it was not sufficient for our Heavenly Father. This removal of sin makes eternal life possible. Yet He understood that our consciousness of our sin and the pain it caused Him, whom we love the most, would produce shame, guilt, and regret. These powerful emotions would face us every time we entered His presence and gazed on His face. He knew that a new covenant (testament) was needed.
“This cup is the New Testament in my blood.” The blood of the Lamb cleanses and washes our sin. It makes our sin completely disappear. Hebrews 9 and 10 make it clear that the purpose is that we “should have no more conscience of sins.” This allows us to “enter boldly before the throne of Grace” and “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”
Instead of rejection, shame, or guilt we feel love, in the presence of God. When we gaze into His face, we no longer think of ourselves as the cause of His pain, but as a source of great joy to Him. Instead of feeling that we don’t belong anywhere near a Holy God, we sense an incredible and deep peace as if we have finally found the place where we truly belong—a place that makes us feel at home. Communion restores the intimacy and oneness within our relationship with God
Communion also highlights the process of restoring our relationships with others. When like Christ, we purpose to endure the pain, instead of making them pay the price of hurting us, we understand what the bread is about.
We then go on to invest our life by graciously loving and restoring those who have deeply wounded us. We discover what need in their lives drove them to cause pain in others and we pour out our lives to meet that need—creating something good out of our pain so we can rejoice and give thanks for it. Then we fully experience the power of the blood.
Passion for Jesus
Let’s suppose I wanted to have a special date with my wife, Rachel. I order her favorite meal (mushroom pizza from Pizza Hut), give her flowers, and we then watch her favorite movie (Roman Holliday). She loves the evening. The next week I do the same: mushroom pizza, flowers, and Roman Holliday. And then same again; over and over and over, week after week. Even though these are all her favorite things, she will tire of them, and perhaps even wonder if my love is genuine or if I am just going through the motions.
Of course, my times with Rachel are not mundane, but fun, varied, and creative expressions of my love. I realized, however, that my times with God must feel drab to Him. Everyday, my devotions were pretty much the same. Every week, my worship at church was too.
God is an emotional God, and He gives us the power to effect His emotions. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18). As I began to realize this, my relationship with God started to become more dynamic.
Knowing that I could put a smile on His face just by coming into His presence created in me a desire to do that. Once I understood that He really enjoys hearing me sing, I began to make melody in my heart to the Lord. When I became certain that He loved hearing me talk I wanted to talk all the time to Him. Realizing the fact that Jesus is fascinated with me captures my heart and fuels a passion in me for Him.
Psalms tells us to “Bless the Lord.” We obviously have the power then to bless God. It has become an adventure for me to figure out each day a new way to bless the God who has so richly blessed me.