Rules or Relationship?

How to step away from the "Christian Checklist"

I remember it as though it occurred yesterday.

Having lain unsleeping for two hours, tossing and turning, 4am roused me out of bed completely. I descended the stairs to the cold family room, pulled a blanket around me and started reading.

It was early spring, so the resurrection called. I knew the story – Crucified, died and rose again.

What I didn’t know was Him.


Of course I knew OF Him – I’d grown up in the days when Easter and Christmas were talked about in my public school for the Christian holidays they represented.

And I’d spent several years as a “Checklist Christian,” you know the kind…where you “do Christian things,” like:

  • Go to church
  • Read the Bible daily
  • Pray for other people
  • Pray for self
  • Serve and be helpful
  • Try to be good
  • Wonder if this is all there is…?

And at 4am in my family room, I was also angry. Lonely. Frustrated with the “effort” I’d put in over the years trying to “do Christianity.” The result was (in my humble opinion), lame.

And I told Him so. “If You’re such a great God, You could help me get it. I don’t get it. And I can’t get it without Your help. Please help me get it.”

Nothing happened.

So I read.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face (John 19: 1-3).

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull.  There they crucified him (John 19:16-18).

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (Matthew 28:5-6).

A moment of clarity descended upon me like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Suddenly, I came to full understanding of the personal nature of what Jesus did – He died and rose again for ME.  For you.  For His glory.

And I wept.

I realized the depravity of my spirit without Him. The depths of my sinful nature, and the condemnation that should fall on my head, but instead was absorbed by Innocence, nailed to a cross, deemed guilty, for crimes I committed and still have yet to commit.

He took my place.

And I could hardly stand it.

At that moment, I did the only thing I knew to do – and that was anything He wanted me to do. While I had “accepted Christ as my Savior” years before, to me, that just meant that I believed it all to be True. What’s different now, is that instead of knowing about Him, I actually know Him. And I think the tiny pinprick of relationship that He and I are cultivating, as blindingly powerful and unfathomable as it is, is but a microscopic spec
of what is possible.

God Speaks to His People

I used to think that God only talked to some special people, but now I realize that He speaks to all of us – but most of us don’t know that we need His help in the listening.

When He asked me that morning, “Whom shall I send?” I remember offering up, “Send me, I’ll go.” And that was the moment that I joined His army, and started having an awareness of the game we’re all in. It’s like no other. Battles are won on our knees, fights fought within our hearts, and with a helping hand and a kind word.

And whether you know it or not, you are also in an army, also playing the game of life. He is the ultimate game-maker, don’t you think? This world is a magnificent arena. But the rules are a little different. The enemy tries to keep us from being aware of the True nature of the game. He distracts us with consumption, makes us weak with comfort and pampering, fostering self-absorbing attitudes, taking our focus off of being more than a “Checklist Christian.”

I confess I’ve been useful to the enemy both as a “Checklist Christian,” and as one who has real relationship with the Creator. The game we play has a simple mission: learn and fight to win, but according to His methods (they’re not the ones we are familiar with – but they’re all in the Bible) and take as many people as you possibly can with you. The other guy’s goal is to take as many people into eternal death as possible.

And the absolute best way of winning souls (and ultimately the entire game) is not just through the preaching of the Truth at sinners, but more so by letting Him live unhindered through you. Our side has to show the world that it’s better to be on our team than the other guy’s. Not an easy task, given that most people, on both sides, don’t even know that they’re playing, and those that do, don’t read the book on how to play consistently enough to draw power and wisdom from it.

Want to improve your relationship with God? Want your marriage and family to represent Christ’s relationship with the church? Here’s how:

  • Get His help – confess you can’t do this on your own and ask Him to “help you get it”
  • Ask Him for a revelation of who He really is, and who you are in relationship to Him
  • Recognize that only He can save you – you can’t earn a spot in the army (and know that you can’t really choose whether or not to play – regardless of what you “decide” you’re still on the playing field, still in the game, it’s just a matter of which team at which moment you are playing for)
  • Read your Bible daily – it’s where His Truth is
  • Ask His help in doing what it says – it’s too hard to do on your own (prayer is just talking and listening to God)
  • Do your best to obey His orders (what the Bible says – and eventually, other directions He gives and confirms to you) – in His strength, via being content with what He allows you to have. J
    Know that if you don’t do what God says for you to do, your relationship with Him will not grow. Disobedience is sin, and sin always separates us from God.
  • Repeat (“not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4) knowing that when (not IF, but when) difficulty comes, you are not to give up, but stay the course, even if things appear to be going badly. We are never more like Jesus than when we are loving people who don’t deserve it. This is one of the ways He “grows up” our faith. We cannot do hard things until we have done hard things. Read the verse again. J

And the end result is peace, joy, and comfort in the midst of difficulty. But along the way, you’ll wrestle out your faith with Him and struggle. Giving up simply means changing sides. Yeah, I know, ouch. Been there.

But remember, there are only two sides – the decisions we make in the midst of the moments of every day communicate which side we’re actually on.

So, do we really believe what we say we believe?

Dare you to share how God’s grown your faith today. Double-dog-dare you today to stop being a “Checklist Christian” and ask God to change you, change your heart, and change your life. Tell Him you don’t get it. And then do what He asks you to do. J

Doing this already? How has He changed YOU or how have you heard Him? Let’s chat in the comments below today! 🙂

Thankful for the journey.

Love to you,



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