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A Personal Relationship with Christ: Its Basis in Scripture and Experience

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The United Methodist Church's mission statement is to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Accordingly, the UMC excels at meeting social needs such as the needs of the homeless and socially marginalized, treatment of life-threatening diseases like malaria and AIDs, and natural disasters. Their statement stresses obedience to Jesus and imitation of His example, but lacks an emphasis on personal connection. So I persuade my UMC church to adopt this mission statement: "to bring people to a life-changing personal relationship with Jesus Christ." But there is a problem: the words "personal" and "relationship" are not applied to Jesus in the NT. So we must ask these 5 questions, which serve as the basis for this thread:

(1) What NT imagery and terminology implies the equivalent of a personal relationship with Christ? And in what sense is such a relationship "personal?"

(2) Human relationships are personal partly because we have feelings towards friends and family members. Well, we can't just THINK our way towards God. So can we FEEL our way towards Christ? Church leaders often warn us against confusing faith with feelings, adding that feelings can be deceptive. Sometimes life's tragedies deprive us of our ability to feel loved by Christ. Sometimes life circumstances reduce our faith to blind trust in an seemingly irrelevant God because we feel no love for Christ and no personal connection with Him in our hour of greatest need.
Are there holy emotions? What is the proper connection between feelings and a personal relationship with Christ?

(3) Human relationships become personal because we converse with those we love and they converse with us. Can we have a personal relationship with Christ if we have little or no awareness of Christ speaking directly to us, apart from Scripture? How, then, can Christians know that Christ speaks to them?
(4) Human relationships are personal partly because we are aware of an acquaintance's personality as distinct from character. How many Christians can describe the historical Jesus' personality as opposed to His character? Can our relationship with the Risen Lord be personal in the sense that we experience Christ's personality and not just His character and teaching?

(5) Jesus teaches us to address God as "Abba Father" in prayer. Yet the OT warns us that, literally speaking, God is neither human nor male; and God warns us of the dangers of humanizing His thoughts and ways:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9)."
How can we take this warning seriously without undermining the intimacy of perceiving God as our heavenly "Dad" (Aramaic: "abba")?
How can we avoid the idolatry of recreating a humanized God in our own image?

What do you think?
 
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1.) (John 20:17) "...I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my god, and your God." (Eph. 3:17-19) "That Christ may dwell in your hearts...to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge...." (Phillipians 3:10) "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection...."

2.) Holy emotions would be those that originate in the spirit, and then are perceived in our soul and body. Yes they do exist. We can have a joy in our spirit, though our outward circumstances are in chaos. By the same token, we can be troubled in our spirit, and yet have no reason on the outside for that concern.

3.) We have not only the Bible, the written Word, but we have the Spirit of Christ in us. (Rom. 8:9) Our spirit can hear the voice of the Spirit of Christ.

4.) The historical Jesus personality was not and is not opposed to His character. Every believers relationship with Christ is personal and distinct from other believers.

5.) God is Male. He is masculine. Jesus Christ is the express image of God. The image of God in every way. Thus the Son was given a male's body. (Heb. 1:3)

Quantrill
 
Member
Quantrill: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts...to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge...." (Phillipians 3:10) "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection...."

Good ones! But consider this: Paul teaches that we can know Christ personally. But he does not teach that we can know God. Rather, he teaches that God an come to know us! By this, he implicitly invokes the analogy of the sexual connotation of Hebrew "knowing" and means that we can sense our mystical union with God without really knowing Him.
(a) "For who has known the mind of the Lord (God)...? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)."
(b) "Now that you have come to know God, or rather, be known by God...(Galatians 4:8):" Notice how Paul corrects himself here.
(c) "Anyone who loves God is known by Him (1 Corinthians 6:3):" Notice that Paul doesn't say, "Anyone who loves God knows Him.
(d) "For now we see [God] in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Quantrill: "3.) We have not only the Bible, the written Word, but we have the Spirit of Christ in us. (Rom. 8:9) Our spirit can hear the voice of the Spirit of Christ."

True, but, practically speaking, we need to clarify how we know when the Spirit is speaking to us. Otherwise, our alleged relationship with the Spirit may not be very personal at all.

Quantrill: "4.) The historical Jesus personality was not and is not opposed to His character. Every believers relationship with Christ is personal and distinct from other believers."

I think you miss the point: true, character and personality are inseparably interwoven into who we are, but they are nevertheless different. For example, Jesus loved to use hyperbole and to use hyperbole in His teaching, but these are not character traits. In my experiences of Christ's presence, I believe I ;have encountered His affectionate sense of human and that divine personality trait has added intimacy to my personal relationship with Him.

Quantrill: "5.) God is Male. He is masculine. Jesus Christ is the express image of God. The image of God in every way. Thus the Son was given a male's body. (Heb. 1:3)"

"I am God, and not a male (Hebrew: "ish"), the Holy One in your midst (Hosea 11:9)."
"God is not a male (Hebrew: "ish"), that He should lie, nor a human, (Hebrew: ("adam"), that He should change His mind (Numbers 23:19)."
In the OT feminine imagery is often applied to God and Jesus likens God to a woman in the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33) and in the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10). So when Jesus teaches us to address God as "Abba Father" in prayer, he does not intend this in a literal sense, but rather wants to help us establish an intimate personal connection with God through a helpful image.

We refer tp the 2nd Person of the Trinity as "the Son" precisely because "He" was given a male body. But Jesus preexisted not as a human, but as "the Word" (Greek: "Logos"). When "logos" is used philosophically, as it is in John 1:1-18, it means "the rational self-expression of God" as opposed to God in His unknowability.
At the recent global General Conference on homosexuality, a female United Methodist bishop rebuked delegates for referring to God as "He" and reminded them of the UMC's proud heritage of ordaining women. This annoyed me because I prefer to follow Jesus' example of referring to God as "our Father" and there as "He," so I can have a personal relationship with God. To refer to God neutrally as "our heavenly Parent" makes our relationship with God less intimate and personal. In our affections, we don't think generically of our parents, but individually and personally of our mother and father!
 
Active
Quantrill: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts...to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge...." (Phillipians 3:10) "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection...."

Good ones! But consider this: Paul teaches that we can know Christ personally. But he does not teach that we can know God. Rather, he teaches that God an come to know us! By this, he implicitly invokes the analogy of the sexual connotation of Hebrew "knowing" and means that we can sense our mystical union with God without really knowing Him.
(a) "For who has known the mind of the Lord (God)...? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)."
(b) "Now that you have come to know God, or rather, be known by God...(Galatians 4:8):" Notice how Paul corrects himself here.
(c) "Anyone who loves God is known by Him (1 Corinthians 6:3):" Notice that Paul doesn't say, "Anyone who loves God knows Him.
(d) "For now we see [God] in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Quantrill: "3.) We have not only the Bible, the written Word, but we have the Spirit of Christ in us. (Rom. 8:9) Our spirit can hear the voice of the Spirit of Christ."

True, but, practically speaking, we need to clarify how we know when the Spirit is speaking to us. Otherwise, our alleged relationship with the Spirit may not be very personal at all.

Quantrill: "4.) The historical Jesus personality was not and is not opposed to His character. Every believers relationship with Christ is personal and distinct from other believers."

I think you miss the point: true, character and personality are inseparably interwoven into who we are, but they are nevertheless different. For example, Jesus loved to use hyperbole and to use hyperbole in His teaching, but these are not character traits. In my experiences of Christ's presence, I believe I ;have encountered His affectionate sense of human and that divine personality trait has added intimacy to my personal relationship with Him.

Quantrill: "5.) God is Male. He is masculine. Jesus Christ is the express image of God. The image of God in every way. Thus the Son was given a male's body. (Heb. 1:3)"

"I am God, and not a male (Hebrew: "ish"), the Holy One in your midst (Hosea 11:9)."
"God is not a male (Hebrew: "ish"), that He should lie, nor a human, (Hebrew: ("adam"), that He should change His mind (Numbers 23:19)."
In the OT feminine imagery is often applied to God and Jesus likens God to a woman in the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33) and in the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10). So when Jesus teaches us to address God as "Abba Father" in prayer, he does not intend this in a literal sense, but rather wants to help us establish an intimate personal connection with God through a helpful image.

We refer tp the 2nd Person of the Trinity as "the Son" precisely because "He" was given a male body. But Jesus preexisted not as a human, but as "the Word" (Greek: "Logos"). When "logos" is used philosophically, as it is in John 1:1-18, it means "the rational self-expression of God" as opposed to God in His unknowability.
At the recent global General Conference on homosexuality, a female United Methodist bishop rebuked delegates for referring to God as "He" and reminded them of the UMC's proud heritage of ordaining women. This annoyed me because I prefer to follow Jesus' example of referring to God as "our Father" and there as "He," so I can have a personal relationship with God. To refer to God neutrally as "our heavenly Parent" makes our relationship with God less intimate and personal. In our affections, we don't think generically of our parents, but individually and personally of our mother and father!
To know Christ is to know God. We only begin our relationship with God and Christ here. We have an eternity to learn about God and Christ.

We know by our spirit. If your spirit is alive unto God, you know.

With any encounter with Jesus Christ, you encounter both Jesus the Man and Jesus as God. The God/Man.

(Hosea 11:9) is not saying God is not masculine. It says that God is not man in that He acts like man. It has nothing to do with gender. God is masculine. The parable in (Matt. 13:33) is about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not about the gender of God. The parable in (Luke 15:8) is about lost sinners. It is not about the gender of God.

Jesus was given a male body because God is masculine, and the Son is masculine. Both God the Father and Son have always been masculine. This is why Jesus Christ is the 'express image' of God. Concerning the Methodists, they are wrong if they think God is not 'He'. Jesus referred to God as Father because God is masculine.

Quantrill
 
Member
Quantrill: "(Hosea 11:9) is not saying God is not masculine. It says that God is not man in that He acts like man. It has nothing to do with gender. God is masculine."
On the contrary, the word "masculine" is meaningless apart from gender identity. Why are you ducking my point about the frequent feminine OT imagery of God? Apparently I need to start a thread on the gender of God to educate you about the biblical case for referring to God as "She:"

"Was it I who conceived this people? Was it I who gave them birth, that you should say to me, "Carry them in your bosom like a beloved little mother with a baby at the breast (Numbers 11:12)?"
"You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who writhed in labor pains with you (Deut 32:18)."
"Now I cry out, as a woman in labor pains, gasping and panting (Isaiah 42:14)."
"For thus says the Lord: Like a son comforted by his mother, so I will comfort you (Isaiah 66:12-13)."
"Listen to me, house of Jacob,...who have been borne by me from the belly, carried from the womb until old age (Isaiah 46:3)."
"O Lord,...I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child, like a weaned child on its mother's lap (Psalm 131:1-2)."
"Therefore, my womb trembles for him, I will truly show motherly compassion upon him (Jeremiah 31:20)."

Quantrill: "Concerning the Methodists, they are wrong if they think God is not 'He'."

Your caricature is a deliberate distortion: only the progressives avoid references to God as a "He." But they are right to claim that God can with equal justification be referred as a "She." I myself always refer to God as "He" out of respect for Jesus' preference for "Father."

Quantrill: "The parable in (Matt. 13:33) is about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not about the gender of God. The parable in (Luke 15:8) is about lost sinners. It is not about the gender of God."

The fact that both are parables of the kingdom does not account for Jesus' embracing feminine imagery for God. After all, Jesus could have restricted Himself to masculine imagery for God.

Quantrill: "Jesus was given a male body because God is masculine, and the Son is masculine. Both God the Father and Son have always been masculine. This is why Jesus Christ is the 'express image' of God.

To be male is to have male genitalia. Neither God nor the preexistent "Word" ("Logos = Christ") has genitalia. Belief in the masculinity of God has 2 functions: (1) to reinforce ancient patriarchal cultural dominance over women and (2) to enable us to imagine a personal God who wishes for a personal relationship with us (the subject of this thread). Quantrill, you need to ask yourself this question: what qualities does God have that make Him masculine rather than feminine in a way that transcends cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity?
 
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Active
Quantrill: "(Hosea 11:9) is not saying God is not masculine. It says that God is not man in that He acts like man. It has nothing to do with gender. God is masculine."
On the contrary, the word "masculine" is meaningless apart from gender identity. Why are you ducking my point about the frequent feminine OT imagery of God? Apparently I need to start a thread on the gender of God to educate you about the biblical case for referring to God as "She:"

"Was it I who conceived this people? Was it I who gave them birth, that you should say to me, "Carry them in your bosom like a beloved little mother with a baby at the breast (Numbers 11:12)?"
"You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who writhed in labor pains with you (Deut 32:18)."
"Now I cry out, as a woman in labor pains, gasping and panting (Isaiah 42:14)."
"For thus says the Lord: Like a son comforted by his mother, so I will comfort you (Isaiah 66:12-13)."
"Listen to me, house of Jacob,...who have been borne by me from the belly, carried from the womb until old age (Isaiah 46:3)."
"O Lord,...I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child, like a weaned child on its mother's lap (Psalm 131:1-2)."
"Therefore, my womb trembles for him, I will truly show motherly compassion upon him (Jeremiah 31:20)."

Quantrill: "Concerning the Methodists, they are wrong if they think God is not 'He'."

Your caricature is a deliberate distortion: only the progressives avoid references to God as a "He." But they are right to claim that God can with equal justification be referred as a "She." I myself always refer to God as "He" out of respect for Jesus' preference for "Father."

Quantrill: "The parable in (Matt. 13:33) is about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not about the gender of God. The parable in (Luke 15:8) is about lost sinners. It is not about the gender of God."

The fact that both are parables of the kingdom does not account for Jesus' embracing feminine imagery for God. After all, Jesus could have restricted Himself to masculine imagery for God.

Quantrill: "Jesus was given a male body because God is masculine, and the Son is masculine. Both God the Father and Son have always been masculine. This is why Jesus Christ is the 'express image' of God.

To be male is to have male genitalia. Neither God nor the preexistent "Word" ("Logos = Christ") has genitalia. Belief in the masculinity of God has 2 functions: (1) to reinforce ancient patriarchal cultural dominance over women and (2) to enable us to imagine a personal God who wishes for a personal relationship with us (the subject of this thread). Quantrill, you need to ask yourself this question: what qualities does God have that make Him masculine rather than feminine in a way that transcends cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity?

That is correct. That is why I used the word 'masculine'. Because God is masculine. There is no case for calling God 'she'. Make any kind of thread you like. (Ps. 91:4) says, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust:...." But, guess what? That doesn't make God a bird or chicken. See also, (Matt. 23:37).

No, any Methodist or anyone else is wrong to address God as 'she'. Your 'respect' to Jesus in this regard means very little.

Just because a woman is used in a parable doesn't make God a 'she'.

Neither the preexistent Christ, The Son, and God The Father, had a human body. That doesn't mean they were not masculine. Their Spirit is masculine. Did the Christ Who was born in Bethlehem have male genitalia? Of course. Is the Christ who was resurrected, raised with male genitalia? Of course.

God is masculine because that is the way He has so presented Himself in the Bible. Your 'two functions' are nauseating. God is not interested in presenting 'qualifications' to appease your liberal thinking. He simply presents Himself as He is. Thus neither am I interested in your 'qualifications'. God presents Himself as masculine because He is.

Quantrill
 

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