A relationship with God: A package deal
I hope you realize that Jesus died to be your Savior, deserves to be your Lord and is willing to be your friend. And you cannot simply pick and choose only one or two of those features. You see, when the Messiah enters a person’s life, it is a package deal.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Receiving Jesus as your Savior requires humility before God and an awareness that your sins have separated you from God. Trusting Jesus to forgive you involves accepting the fact that His death on the cross paid the price you were unable to pay for your sins. Nevertheless, Jesus became your substitute so that you could avoid paying the penalty your sins deserve. Knowing Jesus involves relying upon His death for your salvation, rather than relying upon your own good works. Conversion happens through faith in Christ alone on the front end of your relationship with God.
And when you accept Christ as Savior, you find yourself beginning to use the personal pronoun “my.” “Jesus is my Savior,” as compared to the way you may have described him prior to your conversion. A personal relationship with Jesus changes your entire outlook. It is impossible to know Christ as your Lord and as your friend without knowing Jesus as your Savior.
But since a relationship with God is a package deal, those who accept Christ as Savior immediately bow before him as Lord. You realize that you owe your entire allegiance to the One who gave his life for your salvation. Anyone who is not ready to surrender to Jesus as Lord does not yet know Jesus as Savior. And so, you see, it is impossible to separate the two. We are talking here about the flip sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other.
This doesn’t mean that you begin your relationship with Christ as a fully mature disciple, any more than a baby comes out of the womb as a fully mature adult. Growth requires plenty of time and countless opportunities to obey your Lord. Good intentions are wonderful, but maturity is not produced overnight. The Lordship of Christ is manifested in your Christian life through a process known as sanctification. Your spiritual conversion, on the other hand, was instantaneous, similar to the birth of a baby.
Sanctification begins the moment you are converted. Everyone who knows Jesus as Savior is also ready and willing to serve him as Lord. This eagerness to obey the Lord is huge! Without it, you do not yet have a relationship with God. The new heart that accompanies conversion brings with it a genuine desire to bow before the Lord in adoration and to serve Christ in a life of obedience.
Compare it to a man and woman on their wedding day. The willingness and desire to love one another are authentic, even though it will take a lifetime to follow through on that commitment. Tying the knot at the altar is analogous to spiritual conversion. The relationship is sealed and both parties are committed to the union. But the friendship that deepens over decades typically takes years to fully develop.
A friendship with Jesus is only possible for those who know the Messiah as their Savior and Lord. Jesus said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). He didn’t say, “My sheep merely know some historical facts about me.” Knowing Christ requires a relationship rooted in repentance and faith. The Bible uses the following terms to describe a person who knows Jesus: saved, redeemed, born again, justified, and forgiven.
Your friendship with Jesus will grow stronger as you put into practice those things that please the Lord. Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Obedience is the fruit of faith. And it is critical to understand the difference between faith and obedience.
Faith involves trusting Jesus to forgive your sins on account of the Savior's sacrifice on the cross. Obedience, on the other hand, is something that flows from faith in Christ. Christians “have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The stronger we grow in our friendship with our Lord and Savior, the more we obey God with our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Oswald Chambers was a Scottish evangelical teacher and minister who wrote the bestselling devotional book of the 20th century, My Utmost for His Highest. Chambers discovered this golden nugget of truth: “Obey God in the things he shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. God will never reveal more truth about himself until you have obeyed what you know already.”
And the stronger our friendship with Christ becomes, the more time we spend in fellowship with our Lord through prayer and the study of Scripture. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to the Lord in prayer. A strong friendship requires excellent communication.
God used Martin Luther’s writings to help spark the Protestant Reformation. Luther described the strong link between his personal prayer life and the assignment God had given him. “Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”
How much time do you and I spend in prayer and in meditating upon God’s Word? It makes all the difference in our life of discipleship and in our friendship with the Lord.
So, do you know Jesus as your Savior, Lord, and friend? If not, you would be wise to “come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). You will never know God until you “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). And once your journey with Jesus begins, it will last throughout eternity!
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.