A good Christian relationship isn’t always the best. Most of the people who come to me for temperament counseling are professing Christians, good Christians. They go to church regularly, give generously, read their Bibles often and pray a lot. Good thing, really, because a discussion of how we’re wired wouldn’t make much sense without an underlying belief in the God who created us.
But is being a “good Christian” really the point?
But when I dig a little deeper, I often find people who go to church regularly and speak fluent “Christianese” but have no idea of what a relationship with him actually looks like. They believe that if they keep their behavior inside the lines, they are “good Christians.” They have a “good Christian” relationship, with God and with their friends and family. They see their faith as something similar to loyalty to a cause, and like good soldiers, they follow orders.
I get it. Because I was there for a very long time. I was saved, but I wasn’t discipled.
There is a world of difference.
And so for years I muddled through and tried to figure out why this seemed so hard. I read my Bible like a textbook, looking for information. I went to church every Sunday, and for the rest of the week Christ barely crossed my mind.
Reading my Bible was a chore I checked off my list. Then I felt guilty because I wasn’t giving Him the attention I knew He deserved. But I did my best to follow the rules. I was a “good Christian.”
I knew there was supposed to be something more.
But I just didn’t know how to get it. No one I talked to seemed to know either. I was told I was going through a “dry spell” and to just keep plugging away.
So I would occasionally have stretches when I really felt Christ’s presence, when I talked to Him all the time and couldn’t wait to read my Bible, but they were few and far between.
I would lose it and not know how to get it back.
Then I finally found the right people to talk to. I discovered that using a few skills – skills that could be learned – took my Bible reading to the next level. Once that happened, the relationship just flowed from there.
So I’d like to offer three things I wish someone had taught me when I was first saved.
1. Your Bible is not a textbook.
Although we all start by reading for information, especially if we didn’t grow up in church, there is a difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing them. Instead of just reading for facts, learn to read for relationship.
So how do I do that, you ask? It’s actually pretty simple.
First, slow down.
Pick out just a few verses. Read them, and then read them again. Read them out loud, or have your bible app read them to you.
Try it with Matthew 11:28-30. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Just read those verses, no more.
What words jump out at you?
Why do you think those words are hitting you? Is there a change you need to make? When I first did this, the words that hit me were easy and light. I realized that I had been running myself ragged doing a lot of stuff, and maybe Christ didn’t want or need me to do all of it. Maybe he just wanted me to focus on a couple of things.
I didn’t hear that until I stopped rushing by those verses.
There is a place for reading large chunks of scripture, but if that’s all you do, it will quickly begin to feel like a chore. Put away your reading plan for a minute. You don’t have to finish the bible in a year. Slow down and let him speak to you.
2. Behavior does not equal relationship.
Good works and “following the rules” are a result of your relationship with Christ, not the means to it.
Have you ever had someone whom you just couldn’t bear to disappoint? Maybe it was a parent or grandparent, a coach, teacher, or friend. They spent time with you and believed in you. They were your biggest cheerleader. They gently and lovingly pushed you to be the best you could be. You did your best not because you were afraid of being punished, but because you couldn’t stand the thought of letting them down.
Are we “good” because we are afraid of getting into trouble, or because we don’t want to disappoint the one who died for us?
3. Figure out what’s working and do more of that.
We all tend to focus on the problem areas. We’re taught from a young age to find the malfunction and fix it. Obviously there’s a time and a place for that, but if all we look for are problems, that’s all we’re going to find.
Think of a time when you really felt connected to Christ. What was going on at the time? What were you doing? How can you bring some of that back into your life?
Your walk with Christ is unique to you, and your habits don’t have to look like anyone else’s. You don’t have to do things a certain way just because everyone says you are supposed to.
Do what works.
So there you have it – the three things that took me from being a “good Christian” who simply warmed a seat on Sunday to having an actual relationship with Christ. I strongly urge you to think hard about where you are with him.
The last thing you want to hear at the end is “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
What’s your biggest struggle with your relationship with God? What needs to change?