When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
~ Matthew 16: 13-16
When I read the above scripture, I closed my eyes and imagined the conversation Christ had with his disciples. It must have been very intense. I can just imagine what thoughts were going through the mind of Jesus.
Have you ever felt like people think they know you but they really don't? Doesn't it get a little irritable when people claim to "know" you when they have rarely held a conversation with you or probably never met you? Don't you feel a little uncomfortable or sad when people jump to conclusions about you, based on what someone else has told them about you rather than getting to know you for themselves? Guess what? God feels the same way. A lot of us KNOW OF HIM but have not taken the time to get to KNOW HIM for ourselves. I am speaking from experience. There was a time where I did not truly have the understanding that there was a difference between knowing about Jesus and truly knowing the person of Him. No one ever really explained to me that I had to develop a relationship with Him.
When I first began to go to church in 2004, I was simply going because I felt something drawing me. I enjoyed the service and felt good afterwards but I did not know that I had to cultivate a relationship on days other than Sundays. Being that I was from a Muslim background, where I simply prayed 5 times a day and sometimes went to the mosque on Fridays, being religious felt normal to me. I did not know any better. I was certain that as long as I was doing what was considered to be "tradition", then God was pleased. I never knew that God desired to be INTIMATE with a mere human like me. The folks that I went to church with, didn't disciple me and quite frankly, I did not truly know why I was going to church. If I am being honest, it was not solely about seeking and finding God. Although, I did have questions and truly desired to know Him, I also still yearned to belong somewhere and receive approval from my peers. It was refreshing to be around a group of people and belong somewhere but it did not last because once I found another group to "fit into", I moved on. It wasn't until I had my personal encounter with God in December 2007, that I understood that my seeking Him had to be an individual experience. He began to show me that the only way my FAITH in Him will not be shaken is for me to KNOW Him more than I know myself. I began to realize that He has to be so REAL to me, that it would completely transform me from the inside out. The war that was going on in my mind, was only going to be won by me be completely being assured of WHO He is to ME. The same goes for us all.
I love seeing a lot of folks in our generation embracing being followers of Christ and not being ashamed. I love seeing communities being built and love being spread in fellowship. But I sometimes ask myself this question:
Is true TRANSFORMATION occurring in the lives of these people?
Do they have the UNDERSTANDING that TRUE relationship with HIM?
Does HE really come FIRST?
It is awesome to have a community of believers to hang out with. It makes the journey sweeter and better. It keeps us accountable and grounded. It encourages and inspires us. But it should never be a crotch or just a label to have to belong to a group. Being called a follower of Christ should the new cool but we must be alert and careful to truly know who we are REPRESENTING. Your identity should be in CHRIST ALONE. It is a great and wonderful thing when we share the person and gift of Christ but it is even more important for us to emphasize the importance of developing a REAL, PERSONAL relationship with Him. It is the ONLY WAY to truly grow and be grounded in HIM, that we may be equipped to stand on HIS principles and way.