Whenever I hear the word relationship, I think about my wife. I worked so hard to date her! Admittedly it wasn’t that much, but the other day we were talking about our early dating years, and I remembered how much I would drive just to spend an hour with her. Then I poked fun at all the money I used to spend just to have an excuse to spend time with her.
I know that’s not all that crazy, that’s called dating, and any relationship requires some sacrifice (money, time, emotions etc.).
What would be crazy is if some super rich, powerful person, like Bill Gates, called me and said “Nate I’m going to give up half of my money (42.5 Billion) to be your friend. You should be getting a check in the mail any day. Please call me when you do so we can schedule a time to hang.”
Besides trying to control my excitement of how rich I just became, part of me would start thinking, ‘Why me? Why is Bill Gates so interested in being my friend that he’s giving up all that money?”
I think we all secertly wish that would happen.
I’m letting you in on another secret here…. I don’t have everything figured out. Sometimes I still have doubts, I still have a lot of questions, and I still wrestle with my beliefs.
One of those I’ve been wrestling with is – “Why do I follow Jesus?” and more specifically “Why do people need God?”
Let’s be clear – I do believe people need God. But why? What are the reasons we’re telling people they need Him? What are the reasons I need Him?
I’m probably asking myself these questions because I am surrounded by people who think they don’t need God. These people aren’t bad. In fact, they are AMAZING. I truly love my time with them because they are so full of passion, potential, and life. They have huge hearts. They serve others in ways that shock me. They are overall great people. Yet they think they don’t need God.
Sometimes I wonder …. Who can blame them?
Most of my life the story of Jesus (the Gospel) was presented to me as my ‘ticket’ into Heaven or my ‘escape’ from Hell. So at 7 years old I obviously didn’t want to go to Hell, so I prayed a prayer and became a Christian.
“Phew! Now I won’t go to Hell, and I can spend my eternity in Heaven when I die”.
Problems started as I got older and realized all the “fun stuff” I was supposed to give up because I was a Christian. I felt like I was missing out and I started wondering “is Heaven worth it?”.
Next, I was told that I needed God because I’d have a better life. That the reason to follow Jesus and his rules was ‘to avoid heartache and have the best life possible.’
SWEET! That helped me for a couple of years until I learned a hard truth. God’s better life doesn’t = more money, better looks, new car, and a larger house.
Honestly, following God can feel (emotional word) super inconvenient. You are supposed to give money away, give up part of your Sunday, give up part of every day to read the Bible and pray. That’s just the start of it! You have to fight against all the ‘sinful’ urges in your body.
If you’re evaluating from the outside it’s easy to see how some can come to the conclusion “Yeahhh I don’t see how that’s a better life”. You can explain peace, love, and joy to someone – but honestly, it doesn’t feel better.
Getting asked “Why” questions all the time makes you think. I work so hard telling people about sin, brokenness, Jesus, God, faith, etc. at the end of my awesome polished presentation, there is still the ‘Big Why?’
Heaven? – Not super compelling for a lot of people because many religions offer an afterlife. Sure you can debate which is correct but for most people – the root is not wanting to give up control.
Better life? – It’s really hard to understand how being ‘A Christian’ results in a better life. Sure there are some great life principals to be learned but, Christianity isn’t the only one that teaches them. And again….. Why should I give up control?
So Who Needs God?
In the midst of those doubts and questions that’s when I realized something. Something that’s a game changer.
It’s not about the gifts
Think about it. The 2 biggest reasons we tell people to follow God are ‘gifts’ they receive for doing so. Heaven and a better life.
But Jesus invites us to something much different – a relationship!
Remember the Bill Gates giving me money???
As ludicrous and unrealistic as that sounds – Christians believe something even crazier.
You may not believe in God, but what if we really had a relationship with the person/thing/deity/God/whatever you call it, that created the universe?
You gotta admit, it’d be amazing if there was a God and you got to know Him.
Even more crazy? He sacrificed a lot to make that relationship possible. He sacrificed his son – Jesus.
What’s the point?
The point is the question you should be wrestling with is “Do I have a relationship with the God of the universe?” not “Am I having a better life and am I getting into Heaven.”
A relationship with God is the entire reason Jesus showed up on earth. When we do wrong things, it destroys our relationship with God. It was so broken that the only way to fix it would take God’s work.
When Jesus died he wasn’t simply making sure we could get into Heaven or have a better life. When we say, that’s the reason we are diluting the power and magnitude of what he did. He sacrificed his LIFE for you to know him personally.
You can disagree with that and not believe me – that’s fine. BUT don’t run away from God because Heaven and a Better life aren’t compelling you. You need to honestly wrestle with the question, “What if there was a God and I had a relationship with Him? What if he really did do a lot so I could know Him?”.
Knowing God does lead to all the other stuff (heaven, blessings, and a better life) but when we make those the reason for knowing God – we are elevating God’s gifts and lowering God’s throne.
We are taking truths about God and making them the ultimate thing. Instead of God being the ultimate thing, we are changing the Gospel to ‘best serve’ the people we know.
When we do that – no wonder people don’t feel as compelled. We are replacing God.