I don’t want you to be a Christian.
If your definition of Christian is looking at a list that says, “Mark the one that fits you: Islam, Judaism, Christian.” You mark Christian because you aren’t one of those other religions. Or perhaps your definition of Christian is a voting block on election day. Or maybe you believe you’re a Christian because you grew up in church or you attend a Christian church.
We must be clear: Jesus is calling you to a relationship with himself.
There are many implications to that truth. I fear that we lose that simple calling.
As I recently took some time away from any formal role in ministry, I spent time alone with God in His word and prayer. I was frustrated about where life and ministry were. I was venting that to God. Then I sensed Jesus interrupted my thoughts with this, “Do you want to be with me, or is it about your success in the ministry? Do you want a deep abiding relationship? If you had success in ministry without an experience of my presence in your personal life, would that make you happy?”
I was reminded that it’s easy to drift from the simplicity of a relationship. Perhaps your questions are more fundamental, “why would anyone want that relationship?”
Let me share with you a few things Jesus said about himself. If you’re familiar with the book of John, a book written by one of his followers, Jesus describes himself in some compelling terms.
There are seven I am statements throughout the book of John. Let me share these with you.
He says, “I am the bread of life.” Do you know he’s the one that ultimately satisfies the hunger that’s in your soul? Evaluate yourself this week and ask, “Is my soul hungry right now?” Jesus says, “I’m the bread of life.”
He says, “I am the light of the world.” To people stumbling in the darkness, Christ offers himself as the one that illuminates and guides. If you’re unsure how to navigate this crazy world in which we live. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
He says, “I am the door.” No one can enter the kingdom of heaven by any other means than Jesus. This is a sheep herding metaphor of how to gain access to the protection of the fold. He is the way to enter the safe shelter of the Father.
He says, “I am the good shepherd.” This is in stark contrast to the religious “shepherds” depicted in the Old Testament and in Jesus’ day who exploited the people. Jesus is good. He is the protector and provider of his people.
He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He holds the key to life and death. In times of pandemic, war, or the uncertainties of life, Jesus is the way of life eternal. Jesus made this statement immediately before raising Lazarus from the dead. Apart from Jesus, there is neither resurrection nor eternal life.
He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This builds on the previous two “I am” statements. Jesus is not merely one way among many ways to eternal life; He is the only way. He is also the truth. Many today talk about what your truth is compared to my truth. It becomes a subjective malaise. Jesus is the truth; his word is truth. All understanding of truth must be filtered through Him. He is the life. We might pursue things that promise life, but he provides the only truly abundant life.
He says, “I am the true vine.” Do you know what a vine is? I grew up in a farming family, and my grandfather grew grapes. I remember going out there and pruning the grapevine and picking those grapes. We knew those branches would only bear fruit if connected to the vine.
That’s the analogy that Jesus is using. He’s saying that by attaching ourselves to Christ, he enables his followers to bear fruit. Think about what that fruit is. There’s one undeniable place that it’s talked about in Galatians. Peace, patience, goodness, self-control. Just read that list sometimes and ask the question. How do I bear that?
How do I produce that? The way you produce this spiritual fruit is not by the next self-help book you read or by following four steps to a peaceful life. The only way is to be connected to the vine. As you’re bound to this one, Jesus, who says, come and follow me, and if you follow me, I will bear that fruit in your life.
Christianity is about a relationship with the living, life-giving person of Jesus.