There are many statements in the Christian world that have become grossly axiomatic. None more than the statement, “Jesus wants a personal relationship with you.”
Let me explain.
The word “axiom” comes from the Greek word (axioma) which means “that which is thought worthy or fit” of belief. Therefore, an axiom is a relative statement that is thought to be so worthy or fit of belief that it is to be accepted as true without controversy. And with axioms, most of the time, if you disagree with them, it will cause some degree of controversy from the community that subscribes to them–as I suspect will happen with this post.
The main way an idea or thought becomes axiomatic (or thought to be true) is through repetition of the statement itself. Once an axiomatic statement infiltrates a community and is stated over and over and over within that community, that statement becomes truth for that community–even though it may or may not be true in the first place.
Smell what I’m stepping in?
Therefore, the statement, “Jesus wants a personal relationship with you,” has been repeated so many times in the church as both God’s primary goal for humanity and the end goal of the Gospel that it has become axiomatic.
However, is this God’s end goal for humanity and the Gospel?
I would argue not because:
1) Jesus’s primary goal was and is NOT to have a relationship with humanity.
2) The primary goal of the Gospel and our preaching should not be so that people may have a “relationship” with Jesus.
Let’s start with # 1 today and we’ll get to # 2 later this week.
Let me start by asking a question then.
Where in the entirety of scripture does it state that Jesus (or God) wants a relationship with you?
Where did you read this? Where did you hear this? Where did this concept first come into your mind? Was is through the teachings of the Hebrew Bible? Jesus? Paul? Peter? If we can’t point to a text to show the origin of this statement, then where did this statement come from and why has it become the end goal of our preaching and teaching today?
Second, can “having a relationship with Jesus” be found in the writings of the early church fathers and leaders? If not, what language did they primarily use to describe their interaction and understanding of God relationship with them (and vice versa)?
Is the end goal of the Gospel simply to be forgiven of sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus or did Jesus die for something much greater, personal and close to God’s original intent for humanity and Himself?
Now, I understand that the Bible does not speak directly to all truth claims held by the church. For example, the word “Trinity” is not found in the scriptures. However, the reality of God being three-in-one can be clearly derived from the text. Therefore, you may argue and say that God obviously WANTS a relationship with His people because it can be clearly derived from the narrative of Him pursuing them/us in the desert, coming to them/us at Pentecost, and sending His Holy Spirit, etc.
However, it’s abundantly MORE clear in the text that Jesus did NOT come to have a relationship with us but to bring us back into perfect UNION or ONENESS with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
First, notice I said “back.”
In the beginning, Adam did not enjoy a “relationship” with the second person of the Trinity in the Garden. Adam experienced perfect UNION with the entirety of the Godhead when the fullness of God the Father, Son and Spirit breathed His RUACH (or breath/life) into Adam causing Adam to become a LIVING being–not a human being. Why was Adam considered a living being? Because he “accepted Jesus Christ” or had a “relationship with God?” No. Adam was considered alive because God breathed the full essence of Himself (which is Spirit) into Adam making Adam a living tabernacle (or tent) that housed the very presence of All Mighty God. What made Adam alive was not that Adam was living, but that God was living His fullness in and through Adam! Therefore, Adam’s hands were not flesh, they were gloves.
When Adam and Eve sinned, this union and oneness was broken thus leaving Adam and Eve to try to fill this void with everything except God. Sin was not the product of the fall, disunion with God was.
Second, notice I said, “union or oneness.”
Because God breathed into Adam the full essence of the Himself, Adam had become one spirit with God as Paul will allude to in 1 Corinthians 6:17 when he states for all believers that:
“He who is joined to the Lord becomes ONE spirit with Him.” – 1 Cor. 6:17 (ESV)
Notice it does not say, “has a relationship with God” but says, “becomes ONE spirit with Him.” That is a little different than “relationship,” wouldn’t you say?
Adam was brought into such perfect union with God that he was made ONE with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
And because of Adam’s union with God–Adam naturally had a relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
So we see from the very beginning, God desires union with humanity–not simply a relationship. The relationship comes naturally from union!
Was Adam a robot? No. He had his own personality, intellect, will, and emotions–or what some will call the “soul.” Adam also had his own body as we see in the text.
Was Adam God? No. Adam did not become the first, second, or third person of the Trinity. But, instead, he had been brought into such perfect union with the Father, Son, and Spirit that he could confidently say that he had become ONE with Him.
This is the same reason why Jesus could say that He and the Father were ONE and NOT claim the be the first person of the Trinity! Adam could say that he was ONE with God the Father, Son, and Spirit and not claim to be any of these.
To illustrate God’s union with Adam, guess what God does? He gives Adam Eve–and makes the two ONE flesh. Notice God did not tell Adam and Eve to simply live in a healthy and loving relationship with each other. He made the two ONE (although they were different) to provide Adam with a tangible example of what had just happened to him.
That is why “marriage” is more than simply having a relationship with someone. It’s two people giving so sacrificially and covenantally that they give up all rights to be made ONE with the person they are uniting themselves with–and in that is life through death!
What if I told Monica 13 years ago that I just wanted to have a “healthy and growing relationship with her”–but not marry her? I’d probably be married to someone else today!
Space excludes me from unpacking this more here today.
However, I would encourage you to read back through the text with this lens of relationship with God through union and I promise you you’ll have your mind blown.
I think the text that best summarizes the intent and goal of Jesus’s life, death, and burial comes from His own mouth and language (as recorded through John) right before He was to go to the cross when He prayed this:
“20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:20-26
I pray you will abandon your attempt at a relationship with Jesus and will awaken to what is already true of you–that you have already been made ONE with God the Father, Son, and Spirit through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son and therefore have been brought into the love relationship that God has eternally shared with Himself.
Your hands aren’t flesh–they are gloves.
And remember, what God joins together let no man separate.