A few months ago, I led a Bible study with the teen girls on the concept of having a relationship with God.
It was a culmination of all God had been teaching me the previous several months, but in all honesty, I didn't feel worthy to lead it.
It was hard to put into action what I was talking about, and I repeatedly failed in this area. Sometimes a relationship with God is hard and I don't want to put in any effort.
So if you're feeling that way, I completely get it.
But I think God wants to do in you what He did in me.
I wasn't an expert in what I was sharing; I was still learning—and failing. But God wanted to use me, and who am I to say no?
So I presented this concept of what God had revealed to me about faith to the teen girls at my church, and I felt like God wanted to share it with a broader audience.
(I've mentioned Cross Style Church and their conference that I attended before, and much of what I have here is what I learned during that week. However, as with my previous article, if you find anything that doesn't seem to line up with the Word of God, it's more than likely my fault rather than theirs.)
In James 2, the author talks about the concept of faith versus deeds, and brings up Abraham:
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'—and he was called a friend of God." —James 2:21-23
The word for "faith" here in this passage is pistis (pronounced "pestes"), a noun. It's different from the word "believed" in verse 23, which is pisteuo (pronounced "pes-too-oh"), a verb. "That's great," you're probably thinking. "So what?"
So the verb form is what we normally think faith means. "Have faith. Believe." It's believing in God, believing He can do, that He's able, powerful, etc. And that's definitely a huge part of it! But it's not what James is talking about when he's discussing faith vs deeds.
The noun is our focus and incredibly important to truly grasp this message. Pistis is not the act of believing God. While a verb is what you do, a noun is a person, place, or thing. So this faith is not so much doing as it is being.
Pistis is the "faith" that comes up throughout the New Testament, used a total of 244 times. (You can use Blue Letter Bible, an online Greek-English study resource, to see which passages those are. Also, Blue Letter Bible is simply a fantastic tool for studying the Bible and you should definitely utilize it.)
What we discover next is going to totally change how you view faith. It has for me.
This word being a noun, a state of being, means that this "faith" that's used over and over and over again in the New Testament is actually about...relationship.
It's this intimacy we, as believers, have with Jesus. It's a merger. And I'll explain what that means in a moment. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 6:15-17, 19-20:
"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him...
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
So he talks about our bodies not being our own and not uniting ourselves with a prostitute because when it comes down to it, the messages is this: We are cohabitating with Jesus. We're one with Him now.
This means that He sees through our eyes and hears through our ears and knows our thoughts and our feelings because we are one.
It's not only me or only Him.
And that may sound unbiblical at first because I'm sure you thought of John the Baptist's "I must decrease and He must increase," but there's a difference. John was talking about the flesh, about self-reliance and self-centeredness. But this is about us as individuals.
The unique self that God created us as with likes and dislikes and dreams and passions and values and how we look and where and when we were put and the families we were given. It's that unique self completely filled with Christ. It's all of Him and all of me, merged. Not so the unique self can be glorified, but so that God can be glorified.
Think of two hands linked together, like when someone intertwines their fingers with someone else's:
That's what a merging faith looks like. It's a whole new entity; no longer me or Christ, but me&Christ. As one.
So we have this faith that's being instead of doing and this realization that we are One with Christ. This merger, this intimate relationship, this living with Jesus. And that's what Abraham did, as we see in James 2.
Abraham didn't have the Scriptures back then. Have you ever thought about that? Nothing was recorded by hand really until Moses, which was many, many, many generations after Abraham. Abraham just had this being faith where he was of one heart and mind with God. The two of them were so in sync with one another, they fit like cogs in a machine, working together.
And we can have that.
That's the cohabitation with Christ, having the same heart and mind and feelings and thoughts, being His hands and feet. That's a relationship with Jesus.
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." —Psalm 1:1-3
I've heard this called the "Quiet Time" psalm, where people point to it and say, "This is why we should have Quiet Times." But I want to highlight the second verse.
It says "he meditates day and night." Not "he meditates for an hour or so every morning." It's this constant thing, this obsession. It's reminiscent of Paul's command in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to pray without ceasing.
And I am in no way knocking Quiet Times. I believe those that set aside times with God are extremely beneficial, and, unlike Abraham, we actually have Scripture now and so should be utilizing it. We look at Scripture to better understand God's heart and character and who He is and the Truth.
We need Quiet Times, but that's not a relationship with God.
I think we can all agree that Christianity is not just about staying out of trouble or abstaining from premarital sex or gossip or cussing or drinking or drugs or pornography.
So let's take that one step further and say that relationship with God isn't just Quiet Times or prayer sessions or tithing or serving or doing the right thing or being plugged into your local church. Those are all incredible, but they're not all there is.
Relationship with God is living with Him. It's being. It's this moment-by-moment, in sync faith. It's this merger where not only does He see our thoughts and feelings, but we see His.
When it comes down to it, there's nothing you can actually do to bring this about. It's Jesus in you.
If you're saved, then you have the Holy Spirit in you and you have access to this pistis faith, this relationship, this living with Him. And it's not only available to the "worthy" or "super Godly" people, like those in the Bible or figures in history who lived their lives for Him; it's available to all of His children.
But sometimes it can be hard to want it, to even want to spend time with Him. Feelings and feeling up to something are a part of human nature, so it ebbs and flows. Sometimes we desire things, and sometimes we desire them less or not at all.
But our relationship with Christ does not have to be subject to that.
If you feel distant from God, that's natural; humans experience highs and lows, mountaintop experiences and valley depths. But how we feel doesn't change the Truth.
And the Truth can be found in Psalm 16:
"The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance…
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the paths of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." —Psalm 16:5-6, 9-11
And Psalm 63:
"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night." —Psalm 63:3-6
And Isaiah 58:
"And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." —Isaiah 58:11
And Psalm 36:
"How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light do we see light." —Psalm 36:7-9
And Psalm 90:
"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." —Psalm 90:14
All of these are why Paul can say that whether he is rich or poor, in need or not, he is content and satisfied and able to do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13). It's because he's in this relationship with God where he's satisfied.
Do you want that?
Do you want this satisfaction in Christ, this depth and joy and pleasure and fullness that the Bible describes?
Then hunger for it. Ask Him. Because you can't bring this about by yourself or find it anywhere else.