Most of us have heard the phrase before that “Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship”. It has become a somewhat cliché catch-phrase, or something clever and witty to say. Many people say it, many people hear it, and nod in agreement,, but their relationship is really empty on the inside of them; and I am speaking of believers when I say that. And please understand that I am not saying that in a judgmental way and certainly not in a condemning way. I am going to be completely open and honest right up-front that my intention today in this study is to encourage you in your personal relationship with Jesus and how to live every day through that relationship, because really that’s the only way to live.
I have encountered a vast number of people in my time, who will readily claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus because it is expected of them to say that. It’s the “proper Christian response” but inside they are desperately hurting and empty and their spirit is starving because they honestly don’t know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. So, these people walk around empty, but too afraid of the ridicule of those around them to actually admit that they don’t understand, and suffer in ignorance. In many churches today, Jesus has been reduced to nothing more than a Fire Net that saves you from going to hell when you die and that is it. Yet He is so very much more, and He came to give you much more as well. He’s didn’t come to just be merely a Fire Net, He came to give you Himself, and to enable you to live through Him, and this personal relationship is what we will be studying today.
I’m going to say some specific things today that the Spirit has laid rather heavily on my spirit, regarding the relationship with Jesus that we as believers should be having and experiencing. Some of the things that I say today will be challenging, some of them may be off-putting. However please understand that my intention is not to offend anybody or lay a burden or a guilt-trip on anyone – believe me, I don’t ever want to do that… my desire and intention is to exhort you to live in and through the kind of personal relationship with Jesus that will empower, uplift and strengthen you.
There are a lot of weak, infantile and easily defeated Christians out there today, many of whom wouldn’t even recognize Jesus if He stood right in-front of them. I have spoken with many believers who do not even recognize the Gospel when they are questioned about it, and many of whom defend error as if it was the Gospel. Many are deceived and do not even realize it, and many are starving to death spiritually, and don’t even know that they are hungry; or they know that they are hungry, but they have no clue what will actually satisfy them, so they are trying to gobble-up everything in-sight, always hoping that the next thing will be the answer that satisfies their spirit… but it never is – it’s the spiritual version of the dangling carrot.
A lot of desperate, hungry believers are searching for “new knowledge” they are searching for what amounts to nothing more than glorified, Bible trivia. Religious facts, they have no spiritual discernment to realize that what they are doing is filling themselves with something that will ultimately not help them. And they become so distracted and so busy reading this article, that article, attending this conference, that seminar, that their life is a whirlwind; an overwhelming jumble of religious information, christian-themed trivia knowledge – and they’ve missed the personal relationship with Jesus. The first scripture that we are going to look at today is Ephesians 5:18-20:
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”
Notice that verse 18 is making a contrast, being drunk with wine, meaning being filled with so much +wine that it has an influence and effect on you, versus being filed with the Spirit. So much so that the Spirit of God has an influence and effect on you. Now a very vital point of interest here is that the phrase “Be filled with the Spirit” is a passive-command in the Greek text. Which means that the scripture is not telling you to go and fill yourself with the Spirit, but instead it is telling you to allow yourself to be filled. And the way this happens is through the personal relationship as the next verse 19 indicates… speaking to yourself in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
I know some modern translations say speaking to one another, however the context here and the way the Greek word is used, it is indicative of “your own self” in this case.
You see, it’s very easy for believers to worship and sing to God on Sunday when surrounded by other believers – again, it is the expected “Christian behavior” and no-one wants to be the odd one out. I’m not accusing you or saying that you are necessarily doing that – I’m asking if we actually speak and sing and make melody to the Lord personally, even when no-one is watching. You might think, “oh certainly not! That would be weird!” To that I ask, Why? This is part of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ… your relationship with Him should not be strictly corporate, nor should it ever be about a show, or doing the “Christian thing”” when other people are around. No. It’s about you, and it’s about Him, and when you are in His presence the rest of the world falls away and to you it is like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist anymore. I’m sure I look and sound like a crazy fool sometimes when I’m worshiping God and experiencing Him, but I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks because to God I am the most beautiful person to ever exist. That’s not pretentiousness, or arrogance – that’s Biblical reality – the way God sees you is spelled-out perfectly clear in Song of Solomon 4, but don’t go there and read that if you are a prudish type of person because God describes your beauty in His eyes in very intimate and personal detail. That’s the way that He sees you.
In many places this personal relationship with God has been sacrificed on the altar of works and service, and I must tell you today that Jesus did not suffer the agonizing torture and death on the cross so that He would been more workers or servants. I know that statement is crushing to human pride and it is meant to be… Jesus suffered and died on the cross not so that you could live for Him, but so that you could live through Him. He came to give you His very life and all that He is so that ou could stand in His righteousness, stand in His Holiness and Justification and Be one with Him and the Father beyond even your wildest dreams and expectations and enjoy a personal, intimate and unhindered fellowship with God the likes of which the prophets in the old Covenant longed for and even the angels desire to look into! (1st Peter 1:12)
I’ve plainly asked people if they have a relationship with Jesus, and on more than one occasion received answers such as “well I’m serving in this ministry at my church…” Yes, but do you have a relationship with Jesus? “Well, I’m participating in this outreach…” Yes, but do you have a relationship with Jesus? “I’m attending this conference, and going through this book study…” Yes, but do you have a relationship with Jesus?
You see, it’s very easy to live our lives in the box of our own human knowledge, reasoning, intellect, to be what the world considers “good and wise” in our own mind and service, and do what seems right to others who are on the outside looking in, and we may appear like we have it all together to other people… but it really does no good to us and ultimately it destroys us. Proverbs 14:12, says that there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
The truth is, that you may not think much of God when you are alone and no-one else is around, but it’s often those times that you need Him the most and He is just as present to be with you then, and perhaps even more personally sometimes than the typical half-hour that is spent corporately at a church-building. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). That is a promise, and the way is open through Jesus Christ.
Notice that in our text verse 19, speaking to yourself, in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, and making melody in your hearts. This is not just Bible reading, this is not just bearing your burdens and requests to God – nothing is wrong with either of those things by-the-way so don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – but this is speaking about enjoying the relationship with God, enjoying who He is, His character, His nature and the reality of what He has done for you personally, this is personal!
Look at verse 20, Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
The attitude of this is one of thanksgiving. Not desperation. Many people go to God in desperation, crying bitter tears and wailing about whatever situation currently has their focus and attention. There are times for that, however this is not one of them, and if you find your time with the LORD is predominantly one of sadness, mourning, anger, bitterness or fear, I would humbly submit that you have missed the point. Because you should be enjoying your relationship with God. You should be living through Jesus Christ and His finished work for you. Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross so that you could continue to suffer and die on the earth. No, He is the One who said, that you are loved, you are valuable, and that the Father will give you whatever you ask for in His Name, and that while you may experience pressure on this earth, you have already won because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. So have joy and peace in Jesus Christ. (John 16:23-33, 1st John 4:4). He didn’t just say that He overcame the world, He said You have (past-tense) overcome the world as well, because you are one with Him now in Christ Jesus. That is why you can have thanksgiving and joy and peace in your heart. It is all wrapped-up in the foundation of Jesus and what He has done for you – and it’s purely an act of divine love!
Knowing this then, look at the verses that follow in your text from Ephesians 5, now verses 21-27:
“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
These words in these verses, only come after being filled with the Spirit, and the truth of the foundation of your personal relationship with God in Christ. If the vertical relationship is not flowing, the horizontal has no avenue of success. Your relationship with everyone else (including your own spouse) is supported by your personal relationship with God.
Notice that in every case, submitting to one-another in verse 21, wives submitting to husbands in verse 22, the church body submitting to Christ in verse 24, and the husband loving the wife and sanctifying cleansing her in 25 through 27, are all built upon the foundation of Jesus and His finished work.
I know that it’s a popular saying, wives like to say that they can’t submit if the husband is not “godly enough” and husbands like to say that they can’t sanctify and cleanse their wives until they “submit properly” but neither idea is really Biblical as we see here in these verses.
There are no conditional statements here. The foundation is Jesus Christ and what He has done, not what your spouse has done or is doing. This is what it means to “Live through the relationship of Jesus Christ”.
It is your relationship with God in Christ that makes this a reality in your life. Not just an outward appearance, not striving to do it in your own strength, it comes from living through the relationship of Jesus Christ. Remember, In Him all things are held together and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17) that includes your relationship, your marriage, as well.
I encourage you today… Jesus gave you His own Spirit, the very same Spirit that raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11) and He wants you to be filled with that Spirit, and experience the fullness and completeness of Jesus Himself, in whom dwells all the fullness of God (Colossians 2:9-10).
All of with and much more comes from the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Some people have no idea what they are missing, most in-fact don’t. If what we have studied today has opened your awareness to some things; to the possibilities that Jesus has actually made available to you, then I encourage you today. Don’t spend another second in emptiness. Don’t spend another second settling for the dead status-quo of the “normal christian life”. That’s an existence, not a life, and it’s not the abundant life that Jesus came to give you. I urge you to repent of that right now. Change your mind to agree with the truth of scripture and the reality of the finished work of Jesus Christ. And enjoy the relationship with your loving heavenly Father. Life in Christ and through Christ, and never be hungry or thirsty again.