I started college back in 2007 when cellphones had hinges, calls were free after 9pm, and you called your parents to apologize if you accidentally went online. The rich kids had texting. For the rest of us, though, texts were ten cents apiece. So, trying to replicate the grand experience of texting, a classmate and I would type and save “memos”, then exchange them via Bluetooth. We called it “poor man’s texting”. The one problem – it only worked if we were in the same room. So we sat thirty feet apart in the college lobby, waiting several minutes for our sluggish phones to pair and for the memos to transmit. Never mind that it would have been much simpler to speak to him face to face; we wanted to text like everybody else, for pete’s sake! And it was awesome!
Turns out, that painstaking process was the entire depth of our friendship. When the fun of “poor man’s texting” had run its course, we realized we couldn’t even carry on a conversation. I knew nothing about him, his personality was nothing like I’d envisioned, and we had remarkably little in common. My “friend” was a total stranger to me – and since we never moved past that, our fledgling friendship soon dissolved.
As a Christian, it’s easy to get swept up in the fun of a process and miss the whole point. I’ve always truly loved reading my Bible, but at some point I realized I’d spent years “poor man’s texting” with Jesus. I was sitting in the same room, reading His message and sending back a prayer of my own, but I never actually developed a relationship with Him, or learned His character. Today, I see “poor man’s texting” sweeping like a plague – these are not the rebellious, but the clueless. Church-loving teenagers become convinced that they are following after Christ when they’re really just enjoying the lifestyle. Young adults who once thrived on ministry and missions trips are now face-planting into the filth of this world because they never sought after His presence. Older Christians embrace the safety and satisfaction of a good church, but their convictions waver and their counsel starts sounding more like Oprah than Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 13, Jesus is speaking to “great multitudes” who are eager to hear Him. He tells them a parable about seeds, with no explanation, just a mysterious “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear”. When His disciples ask why, He tells them, “because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” Do you ever feel that way in the Christian life? You’re faithful to hear the preaching and read the Bible, and you walk away unmotivated. You pray, with no answers. You get involved, but outside of planned activity you’re bored with spiritual things. You are eager to be a “Jesus freak” and communicate with Him – but there’s a nagging feeling in the back of your soul that just isn’t satisfied. How do you break out of this rut?
Stay close to Jesus – not within hearing distance, but within understanding distance. Dwell, not in His general vicinity, but in His presence. How do I get there? Read Psalm 15 carefully; it describes the man who stays close to God and gives us practical direction:
- He does the right stuff for the right reasons.
- He consciously dwells on Scripture.
- His interactions with people aren’t dictated by his flesh.
- He pays attention to people’s character, not how nice they are or how well he “knows” them.
- He is faithful, no matter what it costs him.
- He is a good, ethical steward of what God has entrusted to him.
You want to avoid becoming a spiritual casualty? This man “shall never be moved” – particularly for verse 2, “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” These priorities feed your walk with God, which in turn gives strength to these priorities. That’s a rock-solid relationship.
As you go through the motions this week, examine why you do what you do. Because you love the activity of going to church, reading your Bible, talking to God, working in ministry, being involved in His house? Or because you long to stay close to Him? The closer you are, the more you can hear; and the more you hear, THE MORE YOU HEAR. It’s time to quit being “friendly strangers” and finally learn the character of the One you thought you knew already – because He is absolutely, definitely worth getting to know better.