Nov 6, 2009

A personal relationship with God?

I've been around "Christianese" my entire life and I've learned the language. You know, the ways that Christians talk to each other, with certain catch phrases that are understood only within the context of like minded folks. People outside of Christianity, or even those outside of certain Christian denominations are usually totally clueless when those speaking Christianese start throwing commonly used phrases around. Some that come to mind:

*set this place on fire*

*die to self*

*move of the Spirit*

*attack of the enemy*

*led by God*

*love offering*

*covered by the blood*

While all of these phrases and hundreds more like them are based on real truths found in the Bible, unless one is familiar with their meanings, they are totally confusing and meaningless, and in fact sound downright weird.

Once my husband and I were visiting an elderly orthodox Jewish lady, a Holocaust survivor, a feisty lady who was always up for a good debate. She point blank asked us, "what do you people (referring to the fact we are Christians) mean by born again?" My husband promptly said "I'm glad you asked that question" and proceeded to tell her the biblical story of the man in the Gospels who asked that same question of Jesus. A prime example of a commonly used Christian phrase that was totally meaningless to someone on the "outside".

Another phrase that Christians use a lot is this one: "It's not about religion--it's about relationship" which might be spoken to someone who desires to know more about God, or to know God in a meaningful way but they have been trapped in religious traditions or teachings that might be based on a "good works orientation" which has left them always striving to be "good enough" to approach God and has not freed them to have an intimate personal relationship with their Creator.

This past week I've been thinking about what exactly does it mean to have a personal relationship with God?

In the first place, this relationship was intended by Him from the beginning. We were created by Him and for Him, and in His own image. He knew our name even before He created the foundations of the earth. Amazing, but true. He even knew the plans He had for us as individuals, from what would be our family of origin, to what specific gifts and talents we would have. His plan from the beginning was to have fellowship with His created beings in an intimate way and to provide for our every need.

We know this intimacy was broken way back in the garden, when Adam and Eve chose to disregard God's best way, and thought they could choose their own. Sin entered the world, and mankind has been sorrowfully struggling ever since.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ was sent from God to live the holy life we could never live, and die the death that we deserved. All to restore us to a relationship with God...a personal intimate relationship with One who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Through Jesus, God became approachable. Our broken relationship with our Creator can be restored. We can fellowship with Him intimately. He's not "the man upstairs" or some other vague "higher power" but He is our Father who desires for us to get to know Him and His ways.

A friend of mine, someone who is fun to be around even though our beliefs do not line up with each other's, recently posted a note on Facebook telling of her take on "religion". While she says some nice things, such as "gratitude is a way to put a smile on God's face", she doesn't believe in the written revelation of God, what we call The Bible. She is correct though, when she says that no one can "prove" their beliefs are the "right" ones. That's why Christianity is all about "faith". Faith is what we believe in even though we can't always prove it or see it.

Christianity is the only religion where God reaches out to man to restore relationship with Himself. All other religions are about man trying to reach God by "doing" something that might please Him. Christianity says "while you were still an enemy, God provided a way to save you."

Do you have a personal relationship with God? You may come to Him because He has already provided the way. Jesus is the door. Come in! When He calls you, won't you say, "here I am"?

Christian, let's all be more careful when we throw around phrases that those who don't know our Savior may find confusing. May our speech by clear and always pointing to the cross. There's enough static and confusion in our world already. May we heed Paul's instructions:

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:2-6


Jess said...

Hi Jacque ~

What a wonderful post! I so appreciate your concise, inspiring explanation of Christianity.
Jesus IS the Door to fellowship with our Heavenly Father.

Guess what? My husband's roots are in Italy as well! Maybe Sicily.
His folks were not very good at sharing the family history.

What else do we have in common Sweet Friend?

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

That's very interesting. I sometimes feel kind of pushed aside when people in a group I'm a member of (such as co-workers) use catch-phrases to each other kind of "above my head" AND are sort of sneering that I don't understand -- sort of a "you do not belong" attitude...I try to never do that with my beliefs and hope I have not excluded anyone with my own speech...not that I ever speak of my religion to anyone who does not ask directly and then only rarely...

Oh gosh, I see this with the "geeks" too -- they love to exclude others with all their in-the-know talk!! They are the WORST!!! I can't make heads nor tails out of their rapid chatter!!!

Jacquelyn said...

Hi Jess! I've been praying for your fundraiser. It was tonight, right? How'd it go?? I know you've been SO busy! Would you send me an email so I have your address. I couldn't locate it.

Thanks for your comments here. I knew I couldn't give an entire explanation of Christianity in one blog post but I'm glad you thought it was concise.

More in an email! Thanks!

Jacquelyn said...

Dear Penni,
I really appreciate your honesty here. I do not ever want to make people feel "less than" because they don't share my faith. All I need to do is remember what God has done for me, a great sinner saved by grace. I find your kindness to be quite attractive from everything I have read on your blog, and also your generous spirit in sharing your talents.

Ha ha! speaking of geeks! My son has called me "pathetic" when trying to teach me techy things on the computer. I have to agree with him...but hey, at least I'm trying!

Shirley said...

Very good post and so true! It's something that I came to realize some time ago and have worked to remove a number of the 'catch phrases' from expressions of my faith, although I'm sure there are some that linger.

And it took me years to learn the difference between religion and relationship. Religion is about ME...relationship is about God and me.

Rose said...

What a very thought provoking post. The only exclusive part of our faith should be JESUS. Other than that we should try very hard to not speak "Christianese." Thanks for the reminder.

Jacquelyn said...

Shirley, I love the way you put that: "religion is about me, relationship is about God and me"...So true!

Jacquelyn said...

Rose, Not to put words in your mouth but I'm pretty sure what you are saying about Jesus being our "exclusive" is that we do not compromise that Jesus is the only way, the door, to God our Father. He said that about Himself, and so we believe it. Our pastor points out though that really Christianity is the most "inclusive" religion there is, because ALL are invited to join! "For God so loved the WORLD that WHOSOEVER believes in HIM shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 Now that's pretty inclusive!

Deborah Ann said...

Wow, Jacque, I couldn't agree more. In order to bring unity to the Body, we have to do what Paul did (when in Rome...). How are we going to do that when our catch phrases are going over people's heads? Another pet peeve of mine - praying in tongues in front of people who aren't familiar with it. It just brings confusion and division. If we keep proving how different we are from other believers, that's all we'll ever get - difference!