Sunday I had the honor of preaching God’s Word to my church. I was teaching from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 11, and my fundamental point was that God doesn’t want a business deal with us, he wants a relationship. We often come to God with the attitude it’s not personal, it’s business. If we do our religious duty, say our prayers, go to church, etc, then God will keep his end of the deal and save us from Hell, fix our problems, etc. But, God doesn’t want a transaction, he wants a relationship. He doesn’t want a contract, he wants a commitment. He loves us and wants our love in return.
Having said that, I think the sermon caught a lot of people off guard. American evangelicalism has shoved a business transaction version of Christianity down our throats for over 100 years now. We’ve been so focused on manipulating people to “make a decision” or “repeat this prayer,” that we’ve come to think the decision or the exchange is the point of it all. And that model also fits well with the more fundamentalist/legalistic churches, like the one I grew up in.
To be sure, there is a transaction that takes place. We exchange our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. We give control of our lives to him, and he gives eternal life to us. But the problem arises when we think the transaction is the point, or the end, of it all. Actually, the transaction happens so that we can have a relationship. The relationship is impossible as long as we’re stained with sin. So God makes this exchange to cleanse away our sin, and then we’re free to enjoy a relationship with him as our Father in Heaven.
I was raised in a fundamentalist/legalistic church that was just like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, and I doubted my faith often when my prayers weren’t answered like I thought they should be. I once prayed for two years for God to cure my nearsightedness so I wouldn’t have to wear glasses… I thought I just lacked the faith and wasn’t keeping the rules well enough. In reality, I was as spiritually myopic as I physically myopic! God did cure my spiritual nearsightedness, and for that I am eternally grateful. I hope you enjoy this message and I welcome your feedback!