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   This type of relationship has enough force to literally change who and what you are. Once you begin to flow in the love of God you begin to have a greater appreciation for yourself. You begin to accept yourself, even with all of your shortcomings and your faults. This does not mean that you like all the things that you do. 


   Even Paul could not do that. He said that he could not understand why he did the things that he did not want to do and why he did not do the things that he wanted to do. He even asked the question about this situation. He said, “Who will deliver me from the bondage of this death?” His answer was a simple one. Jesus will deliver me from this


   You do not possess the power to produce lasting change in your life. You can modify your behavior but are capable of producing very little change. Here is the good news. Give your life to Jesus and intertwine with Him. Relax and let Him change the things that need to be changed. As this begins to happen, you will be amazed at the level of love that you develop for other people. You will find that your love level not only goes up, but you will begin to be more accepting, forgiving, and compassionate with others. It is a three-step process: God to you, you to God, and then you to others. 


   It is sad that many people turn Christianity into a religion rather than allowing it to be what it was intended to be by the Lord--a relationship. Let us spend just a little time looking at what Jesus says about this. Before this discussion can take place, it is important to understand some of the culture of the day. 


   Consider the following quote from “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus,” by David Bivin:


“Baptism in Jewish practice was the submerging in water of an article such as a cooking vessel or utensil in order to cleanse it from certain kinds of ritual uncleanness; or, the submerging in water of oneself in order to become ritual clean. Immersing oneself was also one of the initiatory rites, along with circumcision and sacrifice, performed by proselytes. A man (or woman) performing this rite was not physically assisted by another person. He walked into the water alone and dipped himself. John the Baptist (literally, “the baptizer”) was not down in the water with those who were dipping in the Jordan River. He was called “the baptizer” because by exhorting the people to repent he caused them to get into the water and immerse themselves. The earliest representation of baptism is found on a fresco in a second century A.D. catacomb near Rome. This wall painting portrays John the Baptist, standing on the bank of a river, extending a helping hand to Jesus who is coming out of the water and up the bank.”


   This was a very common practice as it relates to the temple. Before one would climb the steps to the temple mount and participate in temple services, they would go through “ritual cleansing.” That is, they would dip themselves in a pool of water to “cleanse” themselves of any uncleanness. It is interesting to note that there were seven (7) steps down into the pool. In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus points to seven (7) “religious” ideas that in actuality leads to defilement rather than cleansing. Jesus said:


          1.  Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.


          2.  For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do.


          3.  For Moses said, Honour your Father and your Mother; and, whosoever curseth Father or Mother, let him die the death. But you say, if a man shall say to his father or mother, it is corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And you suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother.


          4.  Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many more such like things you do.


          5.  There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. 


          6.  And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats.


         7.  That which cometh out of the man, that defileth him. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.


   It really is a question of the heart. Religion, like outward dress, only covers over and has no power to change the inside. Jesus is about relationship and producing heart change. It is religion that defiles a man. 


   Can you see that it really is Jesus period and not Jesus plus? Jesus alone is sufficient. We do not need all of the add-ons. Do you want an intimate relationship with Him? You must first be convinced that He loves you, longs for you, and has an eager desire for you. You may say, “I do not know how to do that.” That is all right. Let Him convince you. You may say, “I cannot find Him.” That is all right also. Stand still and let Him find you, because He is pursuing you. Then begin to walk through the stages of relationship with Him, allowing Him to lead you. Go through the stage of acquaintance where you begin to know who He is. Then begin to go through the stage of friendship that is built by experience. Then let Him bring you to intimacy. This happens as you twist and bind your life with His.


   It really is as Peter said, “Add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge.” Add to your relationship a courtship of love that will draw you deeper into intimacy. You will find that it truly is a fantastic voyage.                                 Return to Beginning


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