Is Jesus our Significant Other?

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

Unlike many of my peers at college, I did not receive a purity ring* from my family or church when I was in high school. I know that if I had asked for one, I would have been given one, but I never felt like I needed a ring on my finger to show the commitment I had made in my heart to abstinence before marriage.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe the commitment to purity before marriage is an awesome, biblical, and God-honoring commitment to make. I think purity rings can be a great expression of the commitment to put God’s will above our own desires.

But one of my issues with the purity ring phenomenon was that it seemed like a gender-based practice. None of the Christian guys I knew ever received a purity ring or other sort of token to symbolize their commitment to God’s design for purity before marriage, which seemed to suggest that there was an implicit difference in the way women ought to relate to God.

For example, I sometimes hear phrases such as “Jesus is my boyfriend,” or “I’m married to Jesus first” when women talk about purity rings or their relationship with Jesus in general. And this is not without some foundation; the Bible does sometimes compare God’s love to spousal love, and several theologians have also written about the intimate qualities of God’s love. There are passages in the Bible that compare Jesus’s relationship with the church to marriage, such as Ephesians 5:22-32. These verses, however, refer to Christ’s relationship with the church, not to our personal relationship with Christ.

This is an important distinction to make, because the problem with professing engagement or marriage to Jesus is that it plays into a culture that promotes the role of a significant other over that of God in our lives.

Such thinking also gives rise to the problem of what happens when you are no longer single. Are you dating both God and your significant other? Does God take a backseat?

 

 We Need to Expand Our View of God

 When we confuse our Christian calling with a marital calling, we fall into the worldly trap of confusing God with a spouse. We then miss out on the reality of how life-changing a relationship with the triune God is because we have created a limited role and view of God for our lives.

Jesus is so much more than a substitute for a significant other. Jesus is God Himself. He’s the one by whom all things are created, and for whom all things are created (1 Cor 8:6). Jesus is also our almighty Savior, who came down to earth as one of us to be near to us and even die for us, showing us a love that we can’t fully comprehend, even after a lifetime of journeying with Him.

The God I know and love is the God the psalmist sings of in Psalm 95: 3-7:

For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Let’s not view Jesus as a significant other or as a placeholder for that person, but as the praiseworthy, mysterious, and powerful Savior of the world that He is. This means turning from focusing on how God can fulfill my needs and desires, to loving God for who He is and responding to him in worship.

As I try and reframe my thinking about God in this way, I find myself having a renewed understanding of the depth of God’s majesty, love, and grace, being more attuned to the Holy Spirit, and drawn into deeper relationship with Jesus. Each day, I want to continue to expand my view of God from narrow definitions that fit my needs, to a truer understanding of our mysterious and awesome God.

 

*Purity rings (which have also been called abstinence or chastity rings) represent chastity and are usually worn as sign of one’s commitment to practice abstinence until marriage.

It Starts with Believing God is Good

Written By Gabrielle Triyono, USA

We all have probably said “Thank God” or “God is good” many times in our lives. But do our choices and way of living truly reflect what we say? It wasn’t always the case for me.

Growing up as a Christian, I was taught that God is good. I have also seen Him do good things in my life. But even though I’d witnessed God’s miraculous hand upon my life, I still had moments of doubt and fear in what God was asking me to do.

For a while, God had put in my heart to let go of a relationship. I’d seen God’s faithfulness and goodness when He had asked me to let go of things previously, but my desire for this relationship blinded me from seeing God’s way as good. I pressed on with my own will and decided that God’s way wasn’t good enough.

I soon found how wrong I was.

This relationship ended up pulling me away from God. I got distracted and lost sight of what God was calling me to do. The books that God put in my heart to write got delayed, and I was not able to give myself fully to serving in the ministries at my church. Because Jesus was never the center of our relationship, both of us were not growing spiritually.

I came to the realization that if I stayed in this relationship, I would never reach God’s destiny for my life. I finally had the courage to believe that God’s way was best, so I obeyed and let go of the relationship.

Since then, I have seen Him move more in my life than ever before. God opened the door for me to be a leader in the singles ministry at my church (even though I had only attended the ministry for a couple of months). I was also invited to speak, share a sermon, and lead worship for my church’s singles ministry Christmas event. It was humbling to see how my message resonated with people walking in different seasons of life; many shared that it was just what they needed to hear.

I have also been deeply encouraged by how God has used my writings on “Living Revelations” to reach out to others, some of whom have written testimonies to share how they appreciate the relevancy of the pieces as well as my transparency.

I’ve seen Ephesians 3:20 become real in my life: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” God certainly gave me more than what I could imagine. He opened more doors for my ministry. And He was moving more in my life.

That episode helped me realize this important truth: Realizing God’s goodness positions us to walk in obedience to enter into our destiny. Psalm 18:30 reminds us, “As for God, his way is perfect . . .”

I can’t help but wonder about the many times we have missed out on God’s blessing by refusing to obey Him because we refused to believe that His way is perfect. I had to learn the hard way that God’s way may not feel like the best way, but His way is always the best.

Simon Peter’s first encounter with Jesus is a good example of the importance of trusting in what Jesus is calling us to do. In Luke 5, we see Jesus asking Peter to sail to deep waters to fish again. Peter had just spent the whole night trying to catch fish but caught nothing.

His response to Jesus was, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (v. 5). Peter was exhausted, and the way he responded suggests that he did not feel Jesus’s idea was a good one. But despite his doubts and hesitant feelings, he did it anyway.

What was the outcome? Overwhelming blessing.

Peter and his fellow fishermen caught so much fish that the nets began to break (v. 6). Luke 5:8-9 says, “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus . . . For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught . . .” (emphasis mine).

Peter came to a realization of God’s goodness. If he had followed his feelings and not listened to Jesus, he would never have been in the position he was in—at the feet of Jesus, in complete awe of his power.

Maybe we’re like Simon Peter. But just as his experience showed, our feelings don’t make reality. God wants to overwhelm us with His goodness and blessing, but it starts with our obedience.

Will we respond to Jesus like Simon Peter, and say, “Because you say so, I will do it”?

If you haven’t seen the hand of God move in your life, now is your chance to see His goodness poured out in your life. And if you have seen God move in your life, believe that He will do it again.

Will we follow what Jesus is asking us to do in faith, despite our feelings and doubts? Will we come to the realization of this simple truth that God is always for our good?

We don’t have to be afraid of what is to come. As long as we are walking with God, His goodness will always follow our lives. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”

There is nothing better than living in the will of God.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

What if My Life is In A Mess?

Written By Charlie Sandberg, USA

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Christmas is God’s declaration that He will renew and remake our world. This work includes remaking us from the inside out. As Jesus does this work, He is full of mercy. He doesn’t throw up his hands in frustration because the job is taking too long; instead he patiently works in our lives until the work is done.

I once thought Jesus’ work in my life would be wrapped up in a few weeks. So I was always a bit ashamed when things in my life were less than perfect.  Then, my wife and I remodeled our kitchen and I learned an important lesson.

Remodeling our kitchen was a massive project.  Partly because I had never used power tools before, and partly because we were taking out walls and putting in new fixtures.

My friend Rod drove out from Minnesota to help, and I’m so glad that he did. For starters, he knows his way through a remodeling project. In his spare time, he buys homes, fixes them up, and sells them to families in need at a reduced price. But mainly, I was glad he was there to encourage me.

You see, about halfway through the project, I was certain I had destroyed my kitchen. It looked like a bomb went off. Like one big mistake. Huge holes in the drywall. Dangling electrical wires. Dust everywhere. I was so overwhelmed by the mess and so fearful my house was beyond repair that I stopped functioning. I just stood in the middle of the mess wishing it would go away.

Rod isn’t what I’d call a sensitive man, but he noticed I wasn’t doing well. So he called a five-minute break, handed me a can of Country Time Lemonade, and said, “Charlie, you’ve got to learn to be okay with the mess. It’s just part of the project and I’m not leaving until it’s done.”

Those words weren’t just what I needed to hear about my kitchen. They were words for my soul.

Up to that point, I thought God wasn’t okay with the mess. I thought that everything in my life needed to be neat and tidy. That the holes in my character frightened Him deeply. That sometimes He wondered if starting a work in me was just one big mistake.

But Rod’s words shifted something in my soul. They helped me to see that my life is a remodeling project and for the time being, God doesn’t have a problem with the mess. Sure, dust is everywhere. Sure, sometimes he removes a drywall and exposes things I’d rather not face. But God isn’t overwhelmed. He’s busy taking out the old things and bringing in the new.

Christmas reveals this truth in such a clear way. After all, the story of Christmas is about a gracious God who cares about the mess we are in. So Jesus comes as a merciful Savior and His mercy means He’s incredibly patient as He works to renew and remake our lives.

So now I am practicing letting myself be a work in progress. Believing Jesus notices all the things about me that need to be redone, and yet He loves me anyway, and is okay with the mess because He is remaking me from the inside out.

A Moment to Reflect

Christmas reveals that God isn’t looking for perfection. He’s looking for humble people who will trust Him to do a work in and through them. So today, sit for a moment and let yourself rest in the reality that God isn’t overwhelmed by the mess. He loves you wholly. And He will finish His good work in you.

What Do We Do Now With All Those Christmas Gifts?

Can you believe it? Christmas Day has come and gone—just like that.

Over the last month or possibly just this past week, you probably spent a great deal of time writing Christmas cards—purchased from a store or handmade with love—and choosing the ideal gift. The latter is an art in itself. Sometimes, it might even feel like you’re treading through a minefield—getting the wrong gift is akin to setting an explosive off.

You thought long and hard about what to buy for your friends and family, hoping that they would love what you got them. After getting the gifts, you wrapped them up in the fanciest or cheesiest wrapping paper you could find and topped them all off with a ribbon and possibly a beautifully calligraphed tag (that you spent hours trying to master).

Next comes the gift exchange and finally, the time to open the presents you’ve received. You approach with the subtle hope that as much thought and love had been poured into them just as you did for the gifts you prepared. Whether you are a ripper or a peeler, you finally get to the moment of truth—the moment you find out if you like what you see.

So . . . are you happy with all the Christmas gifts you have received?

Well, there are bound to be some presents we absolutely love and some others we’re a little confused by (to put it mildly). Based on what I’ve observed from all my Christmas experiences, here are the three most common ways Christmas gifts are dealt with. I’m curious to know what’s yours.

 

1. Use it.

If you’ve received something that you like and are able to use, my heartiest congratulations. It could be that new lip tint that is trending this season, or that new book that you’ve had your eye on, or that latest gadget that everyone has been dying to get their hands on. But let’s be honest. Even those have a shelf life. Give it a couple of weeks and soon our attention will be drawn to something else.

Nothing seems to truly satisfy no matter how useful it is, does it?

 

2. Shelf it.

These are the gifts that befuddle us and make us wonder why anyone would spend money to get them or whether any thought has been put into them. You know what I’m talking about—those liquor chocolates, tacky socks, and bath bombs etc. They are usually left where we last placed them and tucked in a corner till the next spring-cleaning. Out of sight and out of mind. I have seen this happen too often in my own home. These gifts are tricky to handle and often leave us helpless because it seems rude to throw them away and yet we have no use for them.

Is the value of the gift determined by the giver or the recipient?

 

3. Recycle it.

Yes, you read that right. Some of us are guilty of this (the more practical lot). The unwanted gifts are nicely rewrapped and placed in someone else’s hands the following Christmas. Or we might donate them to the local thrift store to appease our conscience, believing that at least it will go towards a good cause.

Should we ever give given gifts away?

 

 

Whichever option we identify with, if we are honest with ourselves, there can never be a gift on earth that can truly satisfy (what with our endless material wants and earthly desires).

However, we know that there is a gift from above (James 1:17) that truly satisfies and never disappoints. It is an indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) that we can unwrap and unpack over and over again for the rest of our lives—revealing more truths and wonders each time we do so.

It is a timeless gift that never goes out of style. It is original and uniquely ours—written with our names on the gift tags. A gift that keeps our interest piqued at all times and that we desperately need, not just want.

And that gift is Jesus, my friends.

He’s the perfect and irreplaceable gift that must be received and shared.

If you have yet to receive this gift, will you open your hearts to receive it today?
If you’ve yet to share this gift, will you do so even though Christmas is over?