“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.” Matthew 25: 5
We worship at a “church” community of really young people – singles, newlyweds, young parents; kids everywhere – it’s wonderful. Not only is there very little gray hair there, most all the men actually still have their hair – again, I say wonderful!
Last week, one of the teaching pastors, early 30’s guy, chastened the body by referring to the same consumer, celebrity thing, I wrote about in my last newsletter (“Mayday…”). He said “we’ve (the body of Christ) become church shoppers looking for customer reviews. Google searches now include Yelp endorsements for local churches!”
I didn’t know about Yelp scores but I thought, “of course – it makes total sense. If we’ve become consumers and not disciples, of course we need Google’s help”. Nevertheless, I must ask – what about God’s help in finding satisfaction in the Christian life? What does ‘Yelp’ for church shoppers say about how the “Bride” (The Church) seeks to connect with her “Bridegroom” (Jesus)?
Unfortunately, we see that our neighbors, the non-believing world, including its consumer driven companies, like Google, see Believers as another market share, objective shoppers, rather than a people seeking a growing relationship with their perfect Savior; Who satisfies our deepest longing for connection, not consumption.
So, again, I ask, is there a solution? Of course there is. It’s called… It’s called “developing a personal relationship”. Yep (not Yelp), it’s just that simple, just that challenging.
Having a personal relationship with our Savior is way more challenging than showing up at “church”, listening or watching others show-case the faith, or even doing religious things, including ministry. ’Being’ is actually far more difficult than ‘doing’. For in doing things, we can mask the shallowness of our relationship – that in fact we don’t know God, our Savior, very well.
Strike a chord? Well, I am only sharing what I’ve experienced and what I see and hear from so many.
We are meant to be in relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and deepening that relationship, not just “doing” Christian themed things. The first step developing an intimate, relationship with God is this…
First, remember how much we owe Him, how grateful we are and how much Jesus loves you and me – for “He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. Then, from His ever flowing stream of love, let us drink deeply as we seek to reconnect to Him, to simply “be” with Him.
Does that sound too sweet and soft, men? Well let me make it even more real. In scripture, the redeemed (The Church) are called the bride of Christ. That metaphor, “bride”, challenges me too, but let’s take a fresh look at it.
On the wedding day, every bride adorns herself in her most attractive ensemble as she begins her “marriage”; highlighting her appeal. She demonstrates the beauty, excitement and expectation toward Her Bridegroom’s love and commitment. Once married, real life sets in, but the grateful and committed couple will take up the challenge of living together, in love, despite all the worldly obstacles and barriers to loves development.
The fundamental way they will develop their relationship is by spending time, as much as possible, together. When not together, they will communicate as best they can, by smart device or letter. They will communicate about everything. Their conversations will move from love and devotion to laughs, decisions and conflicts. The more they concentrate on each other – listening, learning, asking, understanding, giving – the closer they will become; so close, in fact, that people will say they finish each other’s sentences, or even “look alike”; Right?
Now, I don’t care if all that makes us men feel uncomfortable, its simply the way intimate relationships grow – the more we devote ourselves completely to the one we love, the tighter the bond gets, the sweeter the fellowship gets, the deeper our trust grows and the more fruitful life becomes – naturally.
This kind of relationship building is not without effort, failure, frustration and doubt, but it grows more stable and satisfying over time as you figure each other out. This deepening love is more about trust than technique.
And, this is what Jesus wants from His bride – He wants us to “adorn” ourselves by “abiding in Him” (John 15) – to trust, to love, to know, to ask, to give. For from this abiding (i.e. intimate relationship) comes every good outcome that Christians desire and God wants to accomplish in and through us. By abiding in Him, we naturally experience a whole cluster of outstanding outcomes. We receive them and express them naturally from drawing closer to our “beloved” rather than from techniques or religious effort.
By abiding in Christ we naturally demonstrate – fruitfulness (v4), ability to succeed at the Christian life (verse 5), lack of failure or punishment (v6), answers to prayer, according to His purposes, (v7), God is glorified and we prove we are His true disciples (v8), we demonstrate the validity of His love (v9) we actually are able to keep His commandments – which further honors and pleases Him (v10), we are ultimately filled with joy (v11), have the ability to actually love others (v 12), we’re able to truly sacrifice for others (v13), able to develop friendship with others and with God (v13, 14), and able to move on and be free of all forms of slavery! (v16).
That is just the beginning of what intimacy looks like and what it produces – both in marriage and in relation to our Savior, Jesus. Finally, I want to say why this is CRITICALLY important…
If we, the Church, don’t stop wanting to be served and begin to be more intimate with our Savior (who wants an exclusive relationship with us), then we are going to continue to limit His blessing twice.
- The first is we’ll limit the blessing of really getting to know and appreciate our Savior deeply with all the love and truth, loyalty and trust that entails.
- The second is we will limit His blessing in our lives which naturally overflows with a blessing to others – our families and neighbors.
In other words, we can’t “do church” without “being” in intimate relation with Jesus. So the key for the “Church” is to re-fall in love with her groom, Jesus, and find a way to spend more one on one time with Him; alone!
This is what will be the emphasis of the Master’s Men, for our men, going forward, as we seek to change men, change families and change our communities, through our faith; the love of Christ.