I once heard a megachurch pastor describe his church as a store where people can come on Sunday mornings to be consumers of faith. He said this was by design, as Americans are generally more comfortable with transactions than they are with relationships. At a restaurant or a store, a person’s credit card gives them a special kind of power. They can have anything they see, whatever promises happiness at that particular moment. They can get their coffee personalized a thousand different ways, and while they’re waiting in the drive-thru lane for said coffee, they can order nearly any product in the world from the phone in their pocket. If we want to reach the lost for Christ, this pastor’s argument went, we ought to speak their language, and that language is consumerism.
This shouldn’t be controversial to say, but that is not the Christian faith. Jesus is more than a transaction. He is a Person, and the Christian life can only be lived in relationship with Him. Paul reminds the Galatians of this important truth, writing, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Jesus Himself modeled the kind of life Paul describes, being “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He also promised His disciples, “the Spirit of Truth… will be in you” (John 14:17) and then added, “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you” (John 14:18, emphasis mine), and also, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (v.23, again, emphasis mine). When we receive the Holy Spirit, we enter into a relationship with the Father and the Son also.
The Christian life is not a one-and-done transaction. It’s not a one-time prayer. It’s not walking down the aisle. And it’s not merely a moment of decision. It never has been, and thanks be to God, it never will be. When we walk by the Spirit, as we are necessarily called to do, we become more like Jesus. That’s why Paul could report that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). That’s a pretty great description of Jesus, if I’ve ever heard one.
Jesus is alive, and those who know Him have the privilege of doing life with Him. He’s always with us through His Spirit. And that’s better than anything we can buy at a store.
Written by John Greco