Transaction or Relationship?

It matters how we think about God.

Some Christians see the faith as strictly transactional: “If I do this, then God will do this.” But the essence of our faith is relational. It is a personal relationship with the Triune God as well as with one another. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” encapsulates the essence of our faith: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Western Christians consider the essence of Christianity as holding right doctrine. Right doctrine is essential in teaching and proclaiming the truth, but postulating right doctrine can also become transactional, rather than relational: “If you have the right doctrine, then you must be a good Christian.”

God has called us, his people, to collectively enjoy Him, to worship Him and take delight in Him and to love Him. God “has transferred us into the kingdom of his Beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13) with the very end in mind as given in response to the first question of the Shorter Catechism: In order that we might have a direct experience of joy in our fellowship with him.

We often define “fellowship” as a church meal, or perhaps something we do in a church hall. But the New Testament Greek word for “fellowship” means “the sharing of a common life.” We have been called to share in the same common life that the Trinity shares with one another. We have been called, as the Apostle Peter puts it, to be “partakers in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Few of us are contemplatives. It is only through contemplating the beauty of Christ, on fasting, on being silent before God and relishing being in his Presence that we can we come to enjoy him. Sadly, we rarely can sustain these transcendent experiences for any extended period of time because sin is still locked into our members and our bodies are decaying. If it hasn’t happened now, it will eventually: You, like me, will become ever increasingly frail. Our ability to concentrate will diminish. All is not lost, however. The short bursts in which we experience these highest of encounters with our God in this life are just a foretaste of the unimaginable bliss we will experience with God and one another in the life to come.

 

But even in this lifetime, even if we become totally infirm, and dementia reduces our brains to mush, Saint Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Something mystical and wonderful is happening to us on a level beyond our understanding. The Holy Spirit is at work within us. This work will not stop because of any physical condition we might be undergoing. The Holy Spirit is renewing our inner self day by day which means he is also renewing of our fellowship with the other two Persons of the Triune God. Even if we can no longer speak or even understand what is being said to us, the Holy Spirit is speaking to our spirits and reassuring us that God has not abandoned us, but that he is with us always.


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