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

The Practical Aspects of Prayer

To finish off this series on prayer, this post will lay out four practical aspects of prayer that come out in the life and example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first is simply time. In Mark 1:35 we read, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Even in the busyness of Jesus’ life and work of casting out demons, talking with his disciples, and preaching, he went into a solitary place to have communion with his Father in prayer. We likewise ought to set aside time to be alone and commune with God in prayer. Throughout the busyness of our lives as Christian young people, it is easy for us to overlook personal devotions, or at least, not make them a priority. We often find time for other things an allow those things to occupy our minds when we should be delving into the Word of God. Devotions in the morning allows God’s Word to be hidden in our hearts all throughout the day. At night, however, our minds are winding down; we grow tired, and maybe become preoccupied with thoughts of the day. Starting off your day in Scripture will lead you to think on God more throughout the day.

A second practical aspect of prayer is the place. As we have read in Mark 1:35, Jesus went into a solitary place, the desert, to spend time with His Father alone in devotion to Him. We ought to find our place as well. In certain places, we are unable fully to have communion with God because there are distractions surrounding us. Places such as restaurants, the classroom, and even your home study are not considered good places to communicate with your Father. They offer too many distractions that keep us from our giving ourselves to communication with God. Find a place free from those distractions. Matthew 6:6 states “enter into thy closet.” This means, find a quiet, peaceful place where where you can keep your mind focused on your prayers.

The third aspect is method. How do you use your Bible in prayer? What is your goal in doing so? When we read our Bibles, it ought not be a chore for us. We should daily desire that time away from the chaos of the world and seek the things of the kingdom. When we pray, we mustn’t use vain repetitions. This means, when we pray, we must not simply speak the same words we are so used to saying, but bring our current petitions before God. Matthew 6:7 says, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” We must warm our hearts with the flame of God’s Word so that when we pray our heart is completely fixated on Him. When we pray we should ask the Holy Spirit to enable us more fully to understand and comprehend the infallible Word of God. We must strive earnestly to pray as much as possible.

The last aspect we consider is discipline. This is the most crucial aspect we have to keep in mind. Prayer and constant devotion takes much work. Our prayers are always imperfect and tainted with sin, so we should not strive for perfection, but rather we must pray sincerely and from the heart. If a man loves God, then prayer is like breathing. Just as breathing is necessary to live, so is prayer necessary for a man to have communication with God. Prayer is something we do once or just occasionally. It is something that needs to be maintained and developed into a habit. Sometimes we may think that we have more years to develop a relationship to God and that when we get older and more mature then we will start developing our prayers. But this should not be the case. Especially for young men as future leaders in church and home, establishing good routines of prayer is crucial for the household of faith. Young women also need to develop habit of prayer and personal devotions in preparation for teaching and leading the children the Lord may give them. As you pray, your walk of sanctification is made stronger and increases more and more. We must not discipline ourselves out of a sense guilt, but rather discipline ourselves out of the love we have for Christ. May be strive to be faithful in the discipline of prayer.

Titus Langerak and Hannah Butgereit

Pray Without Ceasing

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle gives the members of the church instruction concerning their lives as children of the light. One particular command is “Pray without ceasing.”

What does this mean? How can we do this?  The Bible also commands, “6 days shalt thou labor and do all thy work…” How can we work or play and still continually pray?

Did you pray while you drove to school this morning? It says “without ceasing.”  That’s what it means right? Not ceasing, not stopping.  Why must we pray without ceasing?   Prayer is the chief part of all thankfulness. It is conversation with God. Talking to Him.

When we pray, we often ask God for guidance dealing with family problems, accidents, trials, and temptations. We ask Him for this and that, but is that the only time we pray to Him? When we need something? If this is the case all we are doing is making Him our servant.

Praying without ceasing does not mean that we always have to have our heads bowed and hands folded. Instead it means we must live consciously in the knowledge that God is with us and is always watching over us in everything that happens in our lives. We can pray to God whenever we are driving, sitting in a class, or at any other point in the day.

Another way that we pray to our Father is through the Psalms and hymns that we sing. When we sing of or listen to praises of His majesty we are praying to Him. Praising Him in song is praying to Him. If we are listening to the music of this world we are in no way praising Him or giving any glory to Him.

When we are with our family or friends it can be considered “awkward silence” when we are not having conversation with them. Is this the way it is with our God too? He is continually with us, our Father in Heaven, our Elder Brother, who is closer to us than our families. We should never have “awkward silence” with Him. We should always be talking to Him. We should constantly talk to Him whether we consider things to be going well or whether we consider them to be going bad.

Psalter number 203 reminds us that our conversation and communion with God is sweet when we seek His face, and also that living apart from Him is death. We are strengthened in our walk when we continually have conversation with God by praying without ceasing.

Kelly Lubbers and Collin Van Overloop