Practical Steps for a Christ-Centered Relationship

Chances are, you have been told before that when dating, you should seek to maintain a Christ-centered relationship. But this is not as simple as it may sound. The Bible, after all, contains no step-by-step guide on how to please God in your dating, nor are there any children’s Bible stories which directly teach us how to date. The culture of Bible times was very different from our own, especially regarding marriage. This is not to say, however, that the Bible can simply be thrown out when we consider how we ought to date. Whether you are currently dating someone or are single and looking to the future, the Bible contains much wisdom for you on this subject. There are principles in Scripture which we can apply to our relationships, taking practical steps to ensure they always remain centered on Christ. We are concerned here with three such practical steps: attending spiritually formative activities together, doing devotions with one another, and dating for marriage.

At the end of Acts 2, we find a striking passage. After Peter gave his sermon on the day of Pentecost, we read that roughly three thousand people were converted to the faith, and that “all that believed were together, and had all things common” (vs. 44). The people had fellowship together and enjoyed the benefits of that fellowship, which included the spiritual growth and unity implied here. Growth in the faith need not be only a private activity. Rather, there is something beautiful about spiritual growth occurring corporately.

In a relationship, too, spiritual growth is a beautiful thing. To grow together, make a point of spending time with one another at the sorts of activities or events which stimulate development, not only those that “sound fun.” Instead of going out to eat next week, consider going to that speech being put on by one of the churches’ evangelism committees. Instead of heading to the beach tomorrow night, head to the Young Calvinists Talking Points event. Go to church together for one of the services next Sunday. More importantly, do these things with a purpose. In our circles, it is somewhat normal to attend such events together while dating (especially going to church together). But doing so ought not merely be a formality. Talk together about what you learned at the speech. Discuss differences in delivery or style between your pastors. Spiritual growth does not happen in an entirely passive way; you need to take the initiative if you want to grow together. When you do continue to develop in the faith together, Jesus will inevitably become more central in your life, as well as to your relationship with one another.

Another means of growing spiritually is by doing devotions together. If you are already doing personal devotions each day (and hopefully you are), it should be obvious to you that this causes you to grow closer to the Lord. Choose a book of the Bible and work through it together, looking for themes and application to your relationship but also to life in general. Pray for one another and for wisdom in your relationship. Pointing one another to spiritual matters, even from a very early stage, is Biblical. In the book of Ruth, a beneficial read for anyone in a relationship, Boaz pointed Ruth to God almost immediately after meeting her, and she said that this “comforted” her (see Ruth 2:5-13). Reading the Bible, discussing it, and praying together are invaluable ways of ensuring that Christ always comes first, even if you have not been together for very long.

Just as we ought not fear to point one another to Scripture and spirituality early in a relationship, we ought also not fear to consider from an early stage whether or not our significant other would make a godly spouse. “But,” you may say, “I’m not ready to think about that yet. I just want to enjoy spending time with him/her and go on fun dates together.” If that is your attitude, you should give serious thought to this question: am I ready to date? Dating is not merely an opportunity to have some fun. It is the means by which you determine whether or not God is calling you to marry someone, and we ought to take it seriously. This does not mean, of course, that we can never have fun in a dating relationship. On the contrary, if you are never having fun with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that too bodes poorly for the future. But if your only focus is to spend time and have fun with a person to whom you are attracted for physical and emotional reasons, you open the door for making your relationship entirely focused on personal pleasure. This is not how we should date. The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). To make your relationship purely about enjoying one another’s presence and the nice things you do for each other is to adopt a dangerous attitude, one which cares more for the things of the world than those of the Father.

Alternatively, we should date with a view toward marriage. In Genesis 24 we read of the marriage of Isaac. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, the servant found Rebekah and desired her to immediately come back with him. Rebekah’s brother and mother wanted her to “abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go” (verse 55). But when they asked Rebekah to choose in verse 58, she decided to go immediately. Again, it should be noted here that dating is a practice very different from that of Biblical arranged marriages. However, the attitude of Rebekah is an admirable one, and we can all learn from it in our dating. Do not simply delay thinking about marriage to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a time; instead, be willing to consider immediately whether it is God’s will for you to marry one another. In so doing, Jesus will become more central to how you date: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

There are countless different influences from the world around us telling us what our relationships should be like. For the child of God, however, the center must always be Christ, our King. Maintaining such a relationship is admittedly difficult, but the Bible does provide some help for us. By striving always to have Christ at the center of our relationships, we can effectively follow Paul’s advice to Timothy in II Timothy 2:22 together: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Matt Koerner

Christ the Rock

Acts 4:11 “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.”

Often when we think of Christ as a rock we think of him being our cornerstone. That foundation which the church is built upon and will rest on forever. The foundation which when taken away leaves the rest of the building to crumble and deteriorate, to be blown away as dust and forgotten. This is true of course and must never be forgotten, but we must also remember Christ as a rock of offense and a stumbling block to many. Isaiah 8:14 reads: “and he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

It is God’s justice that determines whether Christ is a stumbling block or a cornerstone to us. We, who have been elected before the world began, have the privilege to have Christ the cornerstone. Scripture is clear that God has chosen others to be in a relationship with Christ the stumbling block.

We are assured we are built on Christ the cornerstone. This picture is so clear even children can understand it. We think of the game of Jenga. When someone pulls out the bottom piece the whole rest of it will come undone. Christ is that bottom piece upon which everything else rests. As those assured that Christ is our rock, we do not have any right to judge others. Sometimes it seems so obvious to us that others stumble at Christ. We never have the right to judge. God alone is the judge. We are quick to find mistakes in others and accuse them, but we must first look at ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5). We must remain humble and pray for others that they might find their mistake and be led to know Christ the rock. We never truly know whether another is elect or not. Paul is the perfect example. Paul, or Saul, was the infamous persecutor of the church. Out of all the people in the world Paul would have been the first about whom people would have said, “He must stumble at Christ, there is no way Christ is his cornerstone.”

Romans 9 connects all the ideas together by speaking of Christ being laid in Zion as a stumbling stone and rock of offense. Whosoever believeth on the stone by faith shall not be ashamed, but those that seek Christ not by faith shall stumble at the stone.

What a boundless joy knowing that we have Christ as our rock. What an immense assurance to be founded on a rock. That rock which took upon Himself all our sins. The rock which was tempted like as we are yet stood firm and could not be rolled away. How blessed we are to have Christ the rock!

Luke Christian Potjer

Scripture

Article 7 of the Belgic Confession calls the Holy Scripture “the only rule of faith.” Lord’s Day 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism, when speaking of good works, describes these works in part as only those that are “performed according to the law of God,” that is, the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura, as we were reminded in the recent celebration of the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary, means that Scripture alone gives us everything we need to know for life and faith. II Timothy 3:15 teaches us that Scripture is “able to make us wise unto salvation.” Scripture indeed is important and should occupy an important place in our lives.

Why is Scripture so important? First, it is God’s Word. What could ever be more important and worth our time than the Word of our covenant Father to us? By it God reveals Himself to us so that we can know Him and live with Him in sweet fellowship.

Second, God’s Word is Jesus Christ our Savior. He made the perfect sacrifice to satisfy for the sins of all His people. Therefore when we appear before God in the final judgment, we are not condemned, but have Christ’s perfect righteousness counted as ours. There can certainly be no greater gift, no more amazing grace than that Word!

Third, Scripture gives us everything we need to live and die happily: knowledge of our sin and misery, how we can be delivered from our sin and misery, and how we can show our gratitude to God for that deliverance (Lord’s Day 1). We can only know those three things through God’s Word, which shows us our sin through the law, reveals Christ’s work on the cross for us, and instructs us in our lives of thankful obedience.

Scripture is everything for the child of God. There is never an hour or circumstance in which God’s Word is not there for us. In joy, it directs us to praise the One from whom all blessings flow. In sin, it rebukes us, calls us to repentance, and assures us of forgiveness. In sorrow, it gives us the only comfort there can ever be in life or in death, that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. In doubt, it shows us God’s unchanging love and faithfulness and gives us hope for the future. The following poem, by Amos R. Wells, says it nicely.

When I am tired, the Bible is my bed;

Or in the dark, the Bible is my light;

When I am hungry, it is vital bread;

Or fearful, it is armour for the fight;

When I am sick, ‘tis healing medicine;

Or lonely, thronging friends I find therein.

 

If I would work, the Bible is my tool,

Or play, it is a harp of happy sound.

If I am ignorant, it is my school;

If I am sinking, it is solid ground.

If I am cold, the Bible is my fire;

And wings, if boldy I aspire.

 

Should I be lost, the Bible is my guide;

Or naked, it is raiment, rich and warm.

Am I imprisoned, it is ranges wide;

Or tempest-tossed, a shelter from the storm.

Would I adventure, ‘tis a gallant sea;

Or would I rest, it is a flowery lea.

Scripture indeed is everything for the child of God, and the study of Scripture is infinitely profitable. Let us now be faithful and diligent in our use of this great gift.

Emily Feenstra