You've spent three days wandering around in a forest trying

to find your way out... looking for something to eat...
scared to death. Just when you feel like you might as
well lie down and die, a man comes crashing through the
woods singing at the top of his lungs....


"Oh, hello! - Didn't know anyone was out here.
You all right?"


As the man draws closer he can see you're half dead with

fear and hunger. He gives you a drink from his canteen

and some food from his knapsack.


"You're lost. Come on, I'll show you the way out."


Soon the man has you walking on a white stone path you
never once crossed in all your frantic circling and zigzagging.


"Down the way a bit," says the man, "is a patch
of fog. Be sure to stay within the sound of
my voice."


Conversation continues as you enter a low spot shrouded
in thick fog. Yon are telling your new-found friend all
about your life and what you plan to do when you get back
to civilization ... and all the things people have done to


Several times he has to interrupt you.


"You're drifting away from me. Be sure to stay
close. Keep listening for my voice."


Now you're telling the man about your problems and what

it was that caused you to stumble into these woods in

the first place and how depressed you've been in the past

six weeks. Suddenly you stop and ask,


"How come you aren't answering me? I can't

see anything in this fog. Are you still there?"

"Hey! Where are you!"




You look down at your feet and can see you're on a path
but it's no longer the path you were on with your friend.
Who knows how long you'd been walking this path thinking
you were walking with your friend...but you were walking


Indeed I count everything as loss because of
the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus
my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the
loss of all things and count them as refuse,
in order that I may gain Christ and be found

      in him.                        Philippians 3:8



For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21


We'd probably all agree that the Christian faith boils
down to a personal relationship with Jesus. Paul's
life was lastingly changed, not when he mastered a

cer­tain body of spiritual truth, but when he met Jesus.
The drastic changes which have occurred in our lives
came not with some new idea, but when we entered into a
relationship with Jesus Christ.


But, as time goes on, it's very easy to think we have a
relationship with Jesus Christ when in fact our side of
the relationship dried up and died way back the road.
We're still walking along talking to Jesus ... so to
speak ... but we're really only talking to ourselves. We
left his road long ago and we never even noticed it.


There are two ways we tend to allow our relationship
with Jesus Christ to drift into the unreal. The first

is when we allow the person of Jesus in our lives to be
replaced with religious ideas.


It's so easy to substitute ideas,
doctrines, for a relationship.


- You don't have to open your heart to a doctrine.
- You don't have to share your life with an idea.


So as time passes, instead of walking under the yoke with
Jesus, communing with him,

laboring with him, we turn ourselves into walking
catalogues of scripture verses and theological truth.
The fire of the relationship is burned to the ash of re­ligious



It's like a husband who still lives in the same house with
his wife, eats at the same table, sleeps in the same bed
...but he hasn't been in a genuine personal relationship
with her in years. She's an idea in his mind,

a thing he tries to manipulate,
a threat to his freedom,

a voice which nags him.

How long it has been since he looked upon this woman

as his friend!


The other way we lose touch with the living Christ is
when we try to twist the relationship into something we
want to make it... to control and manipulate to the point
where the real living Christ is left far behind and now
we are walking hand in hand with a delusion.


- We utter Jesus' name.

- We seem to hold fellowship with other believers.


But this Jesus of delusion leads us away from real life
and real people.


We are so wrapped up in this warped vision of Jesus that
we can walk right past the hungry and see nothing,

hear the cries of the sick and shrug them off,
ignore the victims of this world's rejection.


Our hearts, instead of being tender toward God and man,
become hard and bitter and mean underneath our religious


So, how do we maintain a relationship with the crucified
and risen Christ that doesn't drift into stagnation or
wander off into some weird delusion?


Indeed I count everything as loss because of
the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus

my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss
of all things, and count them as refuse, in
order that I may gain Christ and be found in
him, not having a righteousness of my own,
based on law, but that which is through faith
in Christ, the righteousness from God that
depends on faith; that I may know him and the
power of his resurrection, and may share his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death....

Philippians 3:8-10


We need to ask ourselves again and again,


"Do I, in fact, enjoy a relationship with Jesus
that's real, alive, fresh? Does this relation­ship

  which I have with Jesus Christ right now
satisfy my thirst for God?


- Does it put me in touch with reality?


- Does it open my eyes to people around me and
  their needs?

- Does it guide my life?


- Does it give me power over evil?"


The same Jesus who called Paul called you and me into
such a relationship with himself ... and he sustains us
in this relationship. But here are some things to consider

about our part of it.


1.  If we want to stay in touch with Jesus we need to
make sure we're abiding in the vine not in some


I am the vine, you are the branches. He who
abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears
much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

                                                               John 15:5


Each branch abides in the vine.  No branch draws its

strength from other branches. Thank God for the chance
to come together and call on the Lord and worship his
name together. But the power of our corporate life hinges
on the integrity of our individual life before the Lord.


Nobody can do your repenting for you,
or seek God's face for you,
or do your praying,

your listening,
your obeying,

or your worshiping for you ... you do it!
You abide in the vine.


In fact, our gathering together week-by-week will become
an escape from reality instead of a door to it if, as
individuals, we aren't doing our homework.


I am the vine, you are the branches. He who
abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears
much fruit, for apart from me ...
apart from a
personal, living union with me ... you can do


2.  If we want to keep our part of the relationship fresh,
we have to stay near the cross.


- The cross is the place where the curse broke
and the door opened.


- The cross is where Jesus did the thing he came

   to do... ..and it is the place where we truly
come to know him.


When I came to you, brethren, I did not come pro­-
claiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words
of wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among

 you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

                                       I Corinthians 2:1-2


For Christ did not send me to baptize but to
preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom,
lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are

perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the

power of God.                I Corinthians 1:17-18


And I when I am lifted up (on the cross)
will draw all men to myself.


"I just can't seem to get to know Jesus."...Then take
a walk up the hill and look again at the dying man
hanging on the cross against a black sky and ask the
Spirit of God to open your eyes.


"I have this load of guilt and all this bitterness in

my soul which seems to keep me from approaching God."

...Take your guilt and bitterness to Calvary and bathe

them in the Lamb's blood.


When John the Baptist announced Jesus to the world he
did not say,


"Behold the greatest teacher the world has ever


He said,


Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of
the world.


God help us to stay near the cross where the Lamb died
and where we were---and are---set free.


3.  To keep our relationship with Jesus fresh, we need
to function as part of the body.


We abide in the vine individually, but we function



For by the grace given to me I bid every one among
you not to think of himself more highly than he
ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,
each according to the measure of faith which God
has assigned him. For as in one body we have many
members, and all the members do not have the same
function, so we, though many, are one body in
Christ, and individually members one of another.

Romans 12:3-5


The Body of Christ is not a gas station where we come and
get out individual fill-up and drive off. The Body of

Christ is Heaven's Pot Luck Banquet where each of us who
has any food at all brings a dish full and it's trans­formed

into something supernatural for others .., especially
for the hungry guests who had nothing to bring.


God help us to function as part of the body,

- Not as its critics.

- Not as constant takers.

- Not as patrons standing above it in aloof superiority.


God help us to come down from our high horse and
- join the Body,

- fit in,
- share,

- open our hearts,
- take some risks,
- put something into it.


And, as we fit in, our vision of Jesus will come clear as
never before. We will hear his voice and know his peace
as never before.


The glory which thou hast given me I have given to
them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in
them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly
one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent
me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

John 17:22-23


This prayer is being answered, but whether we as individ­uals

are part of the answer is up to us.


God help us to humble ourselves and fit in with brothers
and sisters.


4.  To keep our relationship with Jesus fresh, we need to
     go out, into the world where he sent us.


Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second
time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great
city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell
you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh,

according to the word of the Lord.        Jonah 3:1-3a


Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

and said to them,


      Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and

on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance
and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name

to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses

of these things.       Luke 24;45-48


Somehow when we go out and do this, when we immerse our­
selves in that sea of harassed humanity, when we plunge
into the streets of Nineveh where people don't know their
right hand from their left, our relationship with the
Lord comes alive.


The promise, "Lo, I am with you always..." is tied to
the command, "Go, make disciples..."


We can sit around inside church walls and hold hands and
love each other for a hundred years, and we will never
taste the power of the Lord's presence as we will when
we go out, beyond ourselves, and touch the world
with the life of God.


As the Father has sent me, even so I send you...

...into the world with a living word,

with bread from heaven.

"As you do this you will know my presence."


  Indeed I count everything as loss because of he
surpassing worth of
knowing Christ Jesus.

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all
things, and count them as refuse, in order that
I may gain Christ...            Philippians 3:8


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

                                            Philippians 1:21


May God bring as to the place where we count everything
as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing

Christ Jesus our Lord.


As we gather together around his name, may the Spirit
of the Lord refresh, purify and quicken our union with him.