Relationship Is Not the Goal

By Pastor Matt Gerwitz

Ecclesiastes 12:8-14

8 ¶Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 ¶Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Now that I’m in my final days as the pastor at OneWay, I’m finding that it’s not going as expected. Not in a bad way, mind you, but in a good way. For example, I wasn’t expecting to learn any earth shattering truths as I worked my way through II Corinthians on Sunday mornings. But during the course of my studies over the last three weeks I have experience just that.

What I want to share with you in today’s devotion will likely go against everything you believe about Christianity. If not, at least it goes against everything many modern churches teach. Before you dismiss these comments out of hand, I would urge you to study the Scriptures for yourself. If you determine that I’m wrong, I can accept that.

That said, let’s have at it.

Some 20 years ago my wife and I decided to leave the Baptist Church we were attending in order to find something new. We ended up at a non-denominational church which seemed to fit us well, given the pastor’s preference for the KJV 1611 and his line-by-line teaching style. One of the first things I learned sitting under this pastor was that an intimate relationship with Jesus was the goal of Christianity.

This message seemed refreshingly simple; so much so that I accepted it at face value and ran with it. Yet over the last three weeks I have been disturbed to realize I cannot find a Scriptural basis for this belief. I cannot find any place in Scripture where we are told to pursue intimacy with either Jesus or the Father. I don’t even see any place where it’s implied as a goal.

Fear God, Keep His Commandments

As you read through today’s devotional text you undoubtedly noticed it was Solomon wrapping up his comments for the benefit of his kids. He talks about his words of wisdom, his many books, and the knowledge he taught the people throughout his reign. And while all of these things are certainly good, look how he wraps it up in verses 13 and 14:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

If I read that correctly, the goal of my life is to fear God and keep his commandments. Words of wisdom are good. So are study and books. But these things are to be tools used in the ultimate goal of fearing God and keeping his commandments. Using and being familiar with them are not a goal in and of themselves.

Likewise, developing an intimate relationship with the Lord is not supposed to be the goal. Rather, spiritual intimacy is a benefit that comes as a result of fearing God and keeping his commandments. A good way to help understand this is to think about a marriage.

If intimacy with your spouse is the goal of your marriage, what happens when the intimacy is not there? You and your spouse grow bitter and drift apart. Likewise, if you both strive to love and serve one another according to Ephesians 6, intimacy will be one of the lasting benefits. And you won’t have to work at it!

I have done enough marriage counseling to know (I’ve received marriage counseling as well) that when a husband and wife do not follow Ephesians 6 they also drift apart. At that point intimacy between them dies right along with the rest of their relationship.

The point I’m trying to make is that while our relationship with Jesus and the Father is just that, seeking intimacy is not a goal I can find in Scripture. What I see is that my duty as a Christian is to fear God and keep his commandments.

Let me leave you with another portion of Scripture found in James 4:

 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

 Even this one portion of Scripture that suggests we should draw near to God is not written in the context of relational intimacy. It is in the context of submission to the Father and resistance of the devil. It is in relation to the cleansing of sinners and the purification of hearts. And how is all this accomplished?

By fearing God and keeping his commandments. That’s the whole duty of man.

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