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Following Jesus Knowing Christ
Engaging the Intimate Relational Process
Table of Contents
Evangelicals, Spirituality and Practice
Tension, Comfort Zones, Boxes
Between the Manger and the Cross
God's Glory: (1) His Being (2) His Nature (3) His Presence
Making a Connection
Learning Our Part in the Relationship
A Heart Vulnerable in Relationship
Examples of Relational Consequences
Learning From the Disciples in Relationship
The Authentic, Genuine Me
The Demand of Grace
Relational Work Wanted
Knowing Where Our Relationship Is Focused
Two Critical Errors of Relationship
To Journey in Eternity
The Relationship of Eternity
The Relational Imperative
That Which is Common
Its Relational Consequences
Relationally Accountable No Matter What
Honest Relational work
Sin's Relational Control
Worth the Change
Two Cautions in Relational Work
Redefining the Self
Saved to What?
Heart Merger: The Son Doing Relationship With the Father
The Only Relationship That Works
Being Relationally Loved
Being Relational: the Pursuit of Peter
Life Faster Than Grace
Clarifying the Terms
Clarifying What We Follow
Contingencies and Conflicts
Disciple to Friend to Family
Serving Is Not Our Vocation
How Relational Consequences and Outcomes Happen
Relational Responsibilities, Not Contingencies
I. Worshipping God and Others
The Nature of Involvement: Attachment and Priority
Broader Issues of Relational Work
II. Loving God and Others
From Appearance to Substance
The Substance of Love
The Extent of Involvement
Total Involvement Undifferentiated
The Relational Outcome
The Forgotten Person
How Do We Do Church?
The Relationship of Fellowship
Examining Our Results
Churches to Take to Heart
Equalized in the Relational Process
The Church as Equalizer
A Foreign Language
The Experience Gap
It's in the Story
The Whole Story
For Christians to genuinely know God (or any other person) we have to go beyond merely having information to the relational experience of God. This will require examining the person and words of Jesus in a deeper way than we're used to. That means we need to shift our focus to thinking relationally and begin engaging Jesus in the relational process. The relational work involved in this process is complicated by how we commonly define ourselves and, as a result of this definition, how we proceed to do relationships, and then do church. This intimate relational process is initially examined in Jesus' relationship with his early disciples.
A relationship involves two persons. The quality of connection those two persons make in their relationship depends on their willingness and cooperation to be involved with each other. While our tendency to deal with tension in a relationship is to maintain comfort zones, this puts God in a box and constrains his person. The relational focus on Jesus' person and words (especially between the manger and the cross) helps us to understand who, what and how this God person is with whom we need to connect. Better understanding the person that Jesus vulnerably brings to us in the relationship helps us to understand the person we need to bring to him in our relationship in order to make intimate relational connection. Grace demands a very clear way to do relationship with God.
Relationships and their process are dynamic by nature. To go from intimate connection to ongoing involvement with God is a relational process complicated by many issues, particularly how we define ourselves and do relationships. These issues get us into making substitutes in life and settling for less. This stands in contrast and conflict with the relationship Jesus brought in his person and established for his followers. And the difference in relationship between what Jesus brought and what we often want is vital to understand. It is also critical for us to grasp the relational process because of the confusion Satan creates by his counter-relational work. His work is examined as well.
Establishing intimate relationship can be elusive; and we have to admit and own up to where our heart is and how we make intimacy with God difficult. We need redemptive change not only in what we are saved from but also for what we are saved to. All this effort is the relational imperative and it's all about relational work. And that which is common in our daily life is the most problematic issue affecting intimacy with the holy God and our spiritual growth. Examines the effects of the common and ordinary on our involvement. In how we actually function in the relationship, the distance our heart maintains is the primary indicator of the quality of our involvement in that relationship. Our greatest sin as Christians is relational distance from God.
There is no substitute for deeper relational work, nor shortcuts either. Since intimacy with God involves our hearts coming together, it's always our heart that needs to be like his heart, particularly in how he sees us, defines us and does relationship with us. What we are saved to opens us to experience intimate relationship as Jesus has with his Father and being loved as Jesus experiences from his Father. The relationship Jesus brought and revealed is the only one that works, as illustrated in his interactions with Peter. When our faith precedes the basis and base he established for relationship with him, we no longer trust him to wash our feet and go to the cross for us.
The relationship of following is distinct from serving. "Follow me" is relationship-specific, not work-specific and is characterized by intimate trust, not by deeds, by sharing together in intimate relationship, not in activities. This goes beyond our usual perceptions of "conforming to Christ's likeness." In the relational process of discipleship, a progression develops from being a disciple to friend and, then, the ultimate relational outcome emerges from friend to the experience of being a full family member as son/daughter. This is the true vocation of his disciple. Relational consequences and outcomes are examined. And God's love comes with relational responsibility, not with contingencies.
Since God doesn't do relationships according to the common and temporal, we cannot maintain intimate relationship with God within the limits of our terms and our comfort zones. This tendency is a constant tension in our relationship which, if left unaddressed by relational work renders the relationship increasingly to compromise. The two areas of greatest consequence in the relationship are the vital relational acts of worshipping God and loving him. Worshipping God is the nature of our involvement with him; and only wholehearted worship puts us in rightful relationship with God. This functional posture of worship serves as the primary determinant for what a relationship means to us. Loving God is the extent of our involvement. Love is not about what to do but about how to be involved in relationships. Love is fundamentally about making ourselves vulnerable to intimacy, which includes being vulnerable to our own heart.
To go to the next level and experience deeper relationship, the relational process must engage the cooperative effort with his Spirit and a corporate effort among his people extending the relationship. As Jesus' relational substitute, the Spirit extends and completes the relational process that Jesus vulnerably established. God also broadens our relational context to discover others: both his people and all others. This involves being family together with his children and extending his family love to others. How we do church and how God does church are examined.
Relational work is the only primary significance our actions can have--all else is secondary. But we all face an experience gap between what we believe and what we actually experience with Jesus. So, how we engage him in the relational process is important. How much of Jesus' whole story we embrace and how much of our story we let him embrace will determine the relational conclusion we can experience.
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