What does it really mean to have a relationship with Jesus? Most at this point are stymied by the inability to objectify the reality that exists between them and Christ. Many seek to answer the question with canned sayings holding little or no actual meaning. “Well, I trust Him,” or “I try to do the best I can to please Him.” Others venture more deeply into the platitudes with, “I know that I walk with God because I pray and read my Bible all the time and I know He answers my prayers.” How could one argue with such a display of religious piety? Yet it still does not answer the question that we are tendering. What does it really mean to have a relationship with Jesus? Let us not forget that God is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him. Thus His apparent answers to our prayers are not actually an indication of our faithfulness, but rather is a testament to His faithfulness to us. “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is” (2 Tim. 2:13 NLT).
Relationship with Christ is a gift
We must first understand that whatever a relationship with Jesus comprises, it is that which has been given to us by God through His grace and not that which is created by force of our own human effort. Notice when people speak of their relationship with Jesus that it is usually couched in an ideology of what they are doing and affording for themselves. Such actions cited often encompass reading the Bible, praying, church attendance, service, witnessing, mission projects, etc.
Stop for a moment and evaluate. How is my Christianity being evidenced through the divine manifestation of Christ in my life? Can one who is not even a believer practice my version of Christianity? Conceivably can the unbeliever go to church, pray, read the Bible, offer service, share the Gospel, and participate in a mission project? Quite obviously, given that many have come forward to confess being a lost church member while having done such things for years. The Scripture records in John’s gospel,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.John 1:14-18 ESV
Grace upon grace
The force of the prepositional phrase “grace upon grace” emphasizes grace being given for the purpose of promoting grace. Grace had to create the means by which grace could come. Hence grace propagating grace. Therefore John asserts, “of His fullness have we received” for Christ did all through grace. Christ through His grace established the foundation for which the operation of grace could accomplish God’s good pleasure. Grace could not achieve in function what it did not possess in form. Thus, grace could not accomplish the holy purpose of God apart from first eliciting the just approval of God upon its proposed operation. The proposed gospel of grace effecting salvation could have not arbitrarily come by merely any sacrificial means.
Salvation could have only come through a just acceptable sacrifice. Grace therefore had to proceed upon the grounds of God’s holy decrees, meeting God’s righteous demands, satisfying God’s just indictments, while propagating through grace God’s goodness. All before the goal of grace could be truly actualized in Jesus Christ through the gospel of peace.
What does it mean to have faith?
Relative to our initial question, Paul’s epistle teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8 ESV). Here it is clear that we are saved by the construct called faith. So what does it mean to have faith? Is faith operationalized through a prayer? Some religions claim to embrace faith through the ceremony of baptism. Yet, others say faith is expressed through the sacraments. Religion is not without a short list of pious decorum depicting the exercise of faith ranging from observing dietary laws to striving to be good.
The exercise of faith is not delimited by an act or event as in something that we do. Rather it is characterized by covenant making confidence in the atoning action of Christ, in response to His invitation for us to come to Him. Through His redemptive efforts Jesus pleased the Father’s holiness on our behalf. The word faith in Ephesians 2:8 is used as a genitive of means signifying that salvation is embraced by the avenue of faith, as if faith were a doorway leading into the divine court of the throne room of God. Faith in this verse is not about our personally possessing enough faith but rather traveling the road of faith as directed by God for us to tread on. Thus, one is either in faith or not. To assign amount and quality is to personalize the creation of your faith versus embracing personally that construct of faith provided by God. The exercise of faith is following as from the Lord in the way He is leading us to follow Him.
Otherwise faith, upon our having to create and possess a particular quality or quantity of it would in fact become a works salvation. For by the essence of our faith we would have been saved rather than being saved by the grace afforded by Christ. Would not this give us reason to boast? Therefore, faith above all is a confident hope in Christ that engenders a desperate dependency upon Him. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 ESV).
Faith is not confidence in a prayer or any other pious act. It is an earnest expectation based in believing Christ’s gospel truth. Faith is resting in the efforts of Jesus to please the Father’s holiness and thereby reconciling us to Him.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest.Heb. 4:1–3 ESV
Faith believes what the Bible asserts as true concerning God, ourselves, and the remedy applied through the shedding of Christ’s blood connecting us relationally to the Father.
• How is my Christianity being evidenced through the divine manifestation of Christ in my life?
• What evidence is there in my life that I am a Christian?
• Do I seek to propagate my carnal version of Christianity in hopes of passing it off as authentic?