Faith Relationships

Conversational Relationship with Jesus

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Every so often, a phrase comes along that captures an aspect of what it means to walk with Jesus. For many decades, my living for Jesus was more about performance than anything else. Me trying harder. Me maxing out my abilities, leaving me at times exhausted, and depleted, wondering why following Jesus seemed more like digging trenches than the life of peace and abundance I read about in the Bible.

The paradigm shifted when the infamous quote below pierced me like nothing I had experienced before:

“God made no provision for you to live the Christian life.  You are not supposed to go out and be a Christian. Rather, God made every provision for the Holy Spirit (God himself) to live his life through you. Therefore, you don’t have to try harder. Rather it’s about yielding more.”

James MacDonald

Knowledge is one thing. Serving another. Our humanness thinks knowing and doing equate to being. That is, If I know enough, if I try hard enough, somehow God will like me more, and will welcome me into his presence.  That, my friend, is bad theology. It’s wrong thinking about God and it’s wrong thinking about yourself.

So, what’s all this hype about having a conversational relationship with Jesus?  I was visiting with a friend who does not hold to Christ. His is a religion of rituals to many gods. When I asked him to explain what his relationship was like with these gods, he gave me a confused look.

 “I don’t know what you mean.  Relationship? How so?”

I grew up in a family where having a relationship with Jesus was important. Not that we were experts in walking with Jesus, but the idea of having a personal, individualized relationship with the God of the Universe was ingrained into my way of thinking about Him.

Yes, doing was also woven into how effectively I measured my relationship with Him.  If I dropped the ball, somehow, I thought God was mad at me. Disappointed at least. 

During a recent Mentoring Warriors Boot Camp, we discussed the various levels of relational depths that foster healthy mentoring.  That’s when the phrase “conversational relationship” with Jesus became a concept that resonated with us men.

In James 4:5, James, a brother of Jesus, explains that God longs for the spirit that he created in us. God is deeply relational. He looks at you and me; beyond anything else, he wants a living, ongoing relationship with us. Individually. And collectively through his Son Jesus. 

Core to the health of my marriage to Sandy is conversation. Conversations speak ultimately to the core of our souls. We want to be known and we want to know someone, intimately. In fact, the Bible explains that marriage is likened to the oneness God wants to have with us.  And, that oneness involves conversation.

The late Dallas Willard gives us three guidelines for hearing God.  Hearing God is essential to having a conversation with him. If I never hear from God, then it’s like me talking to a brick wall. Eventually, I’ll quit talking.

In his book, Hearing God, Dallas points out:

1.Love God with all our being.  To be in a healthy relationship with God involves the totality of our humanness. Yes, God is spirit and those who seek him must worship him in spirit and truth. Our humanness also involves our bodies. Loving God with our bodies is in how we practice self-care.  If I neglect my health, if I eat poorly, if I short-change my sleep, I will not be in a good spot to love God or hear him.

God is not a taskmaster. He is not whipping us to try harder, to perform more. What kind of a relationship would that be?  Rather, as Willard points out, “we are to be God’s friends”  John 15:13-15.

Think of your closest friend. The one who knows you best. Sure, there are seasons where your relationship experiences more presence than talk, but the reason you enjoy being in each other’s presence is because of the intentional conversations you’ve had with each other. So it is with God. Loving God fosters a conversational relationship with him.

2. Mere humans can talk with God.  Where did we get this idea God spoke with ancients of the faith, but not with us. As if the people in the hall of faith (Hebrews 11) are somehow special, and unique, and I am not. With 8 billion people on the planet, I can understand why we might conclude, “Who am I?” Honestly, that is how our humanness thinks, but that is not how God thinks.  He is completely omniscient (all-knowing) and at the same time supernaturally intimate. If all 8 billion of us were to seek him through His Son, Jesus, God would still have infinite ability to deeply connect with each of us. Yes, you can talk with God. Yes, he hears you. 

One of the primary ways God speaks is through the Bible. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

It is living and active and through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, God can use His Word to speak to us; to the big picture issues of our lives down to the nitty gritty we deal with every day. 

There are two challenges to consider when reading the Bible. The first is to read it for doctrine only. That’s what the Pharisees did. 

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, John 5:39 ESV

Jesus knew the chief purpose of all of Scripture is to point to a relationship with Him.  Don’t get me wrong. Right doctrine is absolutely essential. I will be the first to champion that cause. However, sound doctrine is not the reason we read the Bible. It’s about having a living relationship with Jesus.

The other challenge is in our efforts to hear from God in his Word, we get frustrated and stop reading it altogether. We give up, thinking God is either not there, or he has nothing to say about my life. When I trusted Jesus at age 12, the Bible was extremely confusing to me. It made no sense other than what I read in John 3:16 about salvation. It wasn’t until I was 16, when my friend Kevin was killed that my entire attitude towards the Bible changed. God speaks and he has something to say to me. He understands me and shows me His love through his Word.

There is a way to read Scripture that helps foster the very presence of God in real-time. We will share that in a future post, but be encouraged that God is eager to have a conversation with you.

3.  Hearing God doesn’t make you righteous. The infallibility of the the message does not mean we the hearer are infallible. God speaks and sometimes it’s a word of conviction and correction. As much as I don’t like to hear that from God, his every word to me is to bring me into a greater, deeper relationship with him.  We read in Hebrews 12 that God disciplines us because he loves us; so that we may share in his holiness.

God may have an individual word for you. It could be a call to realign your priorities with his. It could also be a word of affirmation and hope. In either case, receiving his word with a spirit of humility keeps us from falling into an arrogant mode of “God spoke to me.”, as if we are as righteous as God is. The only way we become positionally righteous is by faith in Jesus Christ. We experience righteousness as we grow in the Way of Jesus.

Having a conversation with God is to be an ongoing experience. It’s a key part of your manhood maturity.  Jesus is always open to you pulling up a chair and talking as holy friends.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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