Have you ever wondered where the Pharisees went wrong? In the Gospels we find them frequently condemned by Christ. Yet, in many ways it seems that they sincerely pursued a godly lifestyle. Where did they miss?
In reflecting on the teachings of Scripture, it seems that though the Pharisees conveyed a number of superficial problems, the underlying issue resided in their lack of a personal relationship with God. Their idea of godly living seem to be confined to obeying the writings on stone tables inside a gold box contained in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. They seemed to lack any personal dimension to their relationship with God.
Relationships without a Personal Dimension
We all have relationships without a personal dimension, and in some cases they are okay.
I think of our relationship with our government. We are required to pay taxes and keep laws, and the government is required to maintain an environment in which we are protected and can perform the functions of life effectively.
Assuming that those holding office do their job reasonably well, and we do our part, this all works just fine absent any personal component. In fact, for most of us, the less personal interaction with the government the better.
The federal government and the states have written documents that are to regulate this arrangement. As long as governments are faithful to the provisions of those documents regarding them, and we keep our obligations, this impersonal arrangement works quite well.
This seems to describe the Pharisees’ relationship with the Lord. All parties maintained their obligations according to the legal documents, and doing so fulfilled one’s obligations, or at least that is what they thought.
Arrangements Needing a Personal Relationship
However, imagine how this would work with marriage. Probably all of us would agree that it would not work at all. A couple might have a legal marriage on this basis, but not a genuine marriage. It could never function as God designed a marriage to function.
Instead, God designed marriage to be relational at a personal level with conversation, emotional interaction, a sharing together of life’s joys and challenges, and a oneness of heart and mind.
God’s Design for a Relationship with Him
A relationship on the Lord is designed to function like a marriage relationship rather than like a relationship with the government. It needs to be personal.
This type of relationship is clearly advocated in the Old Testament.
We find God pursuing a personal relationship with Adam and Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and every other Old Testament saint. Even with Jonah, who tended to be rather prickly in his interactions, God worked to develop a relationship.
This personal element of our relationship with God is graphically played out in the Psalms, which are largely personal in nature.
The personal dimension is also found in instructions and commandments, such as the foundational command to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind. God calls us to engage every dimension of our personality in our interaction with Him.
In the New Testament we find Jesus making a personal appearance. And after the giving of the Holy Spirit, personal interaction with God becomes even more intimate and all-encompassing. Commands to pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything describe ongoing personal interaction.
A Personal Relationship as a Requirement for Working
A marriage relationship functioning like a government relationship would just not work. Neither will our relationship with the Lord work on that basis. Let me offer two general reasons why not. First, doing so will not meet the requirements of our relationship toward God. Second, doing so will not supply us with His provisions for us.
This is a huge subject with many verses of Scripture addressing it. Let me just cite one to give us a sampling. In John 15:5 Jesus taught, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in Me and I him bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing.” This passage insists that our relationship with Christ must be personal. It speaks of abiding, or residing, with each other, a reference to personal togetherness. This verse also tells us that it is in the context of “abiding” that we are supplied with the life necessary to bear fruit.
It is possible to have a relationship with God of a governmental nature. However, Scripture indicates that this superficial relationship is of no spiritual value and can even be offensive to God and harmful to others.
This leads us all with the question, “How personal is my relationship with the Lord?” Do I walk with Him, interact with Him, maintain fellowship with Him at a personal level? The answer that question may tell us a lot about where we are spiritually.