The current move in our religious life seems to be incongruous to, a sharp detour from, the divine instructions. Our current tilting towards or rather tripping into the transactional theology has downplayed the relational theology. This, in no small measure, has devastating effects on the spiritual life of the church
At the beginning of every year, people tend to make some resolutions that they hope to spark positive change. Churches organize prayer programmes that will usher in a better life for members and the nations of the world. Nations, communities, groups, associations, families, and individuals are not left out in their move to make some resolutions at the outset of every year. It will interest you to know that 90% of these resolutions are transactional in nature while 10% are relational. It will also interest you to know that some of the church programmes we organize towards the end and at the beginning of every year are transactional in nature.
Today, we live in a highly consumer-driven and on-demand culture society. Hence, our prayer time is spent focusing more on what we want, or what we think we need, or what we want to get from God than simply resting in God’s presence. We spent hours praying to God without knowing Him, without a personal relationship with Him – it is highly paradoxical. The Gospel goes beyond transactional. It is dangerous to reduce the presence of God to mere transactions. The present rising cliché of “name it and claim it” theology has had devastating effects on spiritual depth and understanding. When we pray, we expect an immediate answer. When we do something good, we expect God to compensate us immediately. This new theology is antithetical to biblical instructions.
In God’s creation, the passage of time is marked by days, months, seasons, and years. We experience each interval, whether it is twenty-four hours of a day, thirty days of a month, or several months of a season, or twelve months of a year without interruption. Yet, when the year begins to wind down, we often feel surprised and wonder where the days went. We lead busy lives, and it can be easy to simply let the year come to an end without much thought or feeling, especially, we the Christians we organize a series of programmes such as the moment of miracles, eleventh-hour miracles, last minutes miracles, etc without given thought to how these miracles will be handled. No adequate time is given to members to set aside special time for personal prayer and quiet time with the Lord that will help us conclude the year in a meaningful way and prepare ourselves for the New Year. No wonder New Year Resolutions are made out of emotion without depth of thought.
It is very important we take enough time to reflect on the year we’ve just passed through whether it is worthwhile or not to make the necessary adjustments or improve on the current conditions of our lives. If we take time to consider the many ways the Lord had cared for us, physically, materially, and spiritually, in the last oneyear, a sense of thankfulness will arise in our hearts. This will, again, engender miracle or blessings in the New Year. We’ll realize that in both our difficult circumstances and joyous occasions, the Lord has been constantly caring for us. It is because of His mercy that we have not been consumed (Lamentation 3:22-23).
Prayer can be transactional, relational and transformational. Transactional prayer or religion centres on contract or economic deal-making. For example, when a pastor says to his congregational members, if you can give so and so amount of money, you will see the hand of God or God will do want you are asking Him to do (even though you are a sinner). You must give to get or you must give to receive (Luke 6:38). It is what I call the Principle of Transactional theology. If this kind of theology is not carefully handled, it will be devastating to the spiritual health of man. There is nothing wrong with transactional prayer but the Gospel of Christ, our prayer, and dealing with God must not be reduced to a transaction. The danger here is that the unsaved or unbeliever will say: “so if I can give to the work of God (even though the source of the money is not clean), I will be saved and/or blessed”. This is purely transactional. This will be discussed extensively in our next article by God’s grace. Given this analogy, we have reduced God to an ATM machine: when we need Him, we go to Him for transactions. For example, during the eve of every New Year, people come to church to seek His hands (and not His face). This is not good for our spiritual life.
The current move of God is that He’s transitioning us from knowing His works to knowing His ways. Therefore, let us move from transactional prayer to relational one. And when we do make this transition, everythingchanges—our prayers, our worship, and our lives. We will no longer treat God like an ATM machine, or even see ourselves by what we do for God, but by what He’s doing in and through us as we walk with Him. Thus, God wants relationship more than transacting business with Him. Relational prayer is very important at this end-time period. Our relationship with God must be cordial first. When we seek His face, His hands will be released to us. God wants Relational Prayer first. The Transactional Prayer is embedded in Relational Prayer that will give birth to Transformation. Thus, both Transactional and Transformational Theologies are subsets of Relational Theology. Hence, God said in 2Chronicles 7:14-15 that:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place.
There are three realms associated with this kind of theologies: transactional, transformational, and relational. These realms are the earthly realm, supernatural realm, and heavenly realm. All these realms will be explained in great detail in my next article. But to get to the relational level, we need to get to the heavenly realm. Hear what Mel Wild says here:
In the lowest, earthly realm, we might see the works of God. In the second realm, or supernatural realm, we do the works of God: the focus on miracles, healing, and trying to figure out how to do the “stuff.” But in the highest, heavenly realm, the focus is on knowing His ways. Living from heaven to earth always starts and ends with God. It’s never based on needs, learning how to get prayers answered, or even about ministry. Every problem we face here on earth is seen as an opportunity to deepen the relationship in heaven. Prayer becomes communing with and learning the Father’s heart, and the fruit of this relational exchange is that we’re a little more like Christ in our experience.
This is how God fathers us in all things. This is how our souls are trained to walk in rest. And from this place of rest, God determines what we need, what we’re to learn, what we’re to do, and He makes provision for all of it. It must be emphasized here that this is the very opposite of doing things from a transactional understanding of God, even our trying to enter into the rest in God with this paradigm. We’ll still be praying prayers that have already been answered and trying to attain things we’ve already been given as a free gift. Whatever we need is found in the relationship, God will provide everything. This sounds strange and scary to people who have a transactional view of God! It did to the children in the wilderness, too. The truth is, it locates our heart. We also cannot live this way if we’re living from the first two realms. Because it’s more than just saying we believe it, and you can’t hype your faith up enough to make it work. Only by total surrender, learning to live in the heavenly realm (rather poorly at first!), can our hearts be transformed so that as we learn God’s ways, we’re also learning to trust Him in all things.
Still on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we ask questions: why Christmas? Or, why did God send Jesus to the earth? Many answers that are transactional in nature are given. Some say: to save us from the hands of the devil; to take away our sins; to redeem mankind; to remove our shame; to heal all of our diseases; to conquer death so that we could go to heaven; etc. All these answers are true. But sincerely, this is barely scratching the surface of the Gospel. All these are the TRANSACTIONAL elements of the Gospel message. But, according to Kevan Grinwis, to say that Jesus came to redeem us implies that He came to purchase us back FROM something which further implies that He is ultimately restoring us TO something. He is restoring humanity to holiness, honor health, life, and many more. But, Bible says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Let us hear this again from the Book of John 10:7-10:
“7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
We can see that the Gospel is beyond TRANSACTIONAL. Jesus is the Eternal Life, through Him salvation came to man without transacting any business with anyone. Jesus said in John 10:17 that “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father”.
Kevan Grinwis elucidates further thus:
The Gospel is a story of broken relationship. It is a story of furious longing and violent love in which our Father stopped at nothing to purchase back His sons who had foolishly sold themselves into bondage and chosen a life of sin and shame. It is a story of restoration to the relationship for which we were eternally created.
Think about it, when we read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, we would miss out horribly if we stopped at the fact that the father gave his lost son a new ring, a new robe, and new sandals for his feet. There’s so much more to the story. There’s the fact that he was waiting and watching. There’s the running. The embrace. The father profusely kissing his son who, very likely smelled like pig dung. Then, there’s the party. I can imagine the prodigal son sitting at the table, next to his father. I can’t imagine that he was all that focused on the ring, the robe, and the sandals at that moment. But, I imagine that he just sat in wonder and amazement at this father that still was willing to call him son and still wanted to be in relationship with him after where he’d been and all that he’d done.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrews used a word commonly translated in English “to know”. It is the ancient word “Yada” and it means to know intimately. It’s not an academic knowledge or a cerebral attainment to a truth. It’s not the ability to rightly disseminate fact from fiction or the strict adherence to right doctrine. In fact, it’s the word that Moses chose when he first wrote down the historical account of Adam and Eve. In the NASB translation of Genesis 4.1, we read that Adam “had relations” with his wife Eve, and she conceived. The KJV says, “Adam knew his wife…”. While, the NIV says, “Adam made love to his wife…”. The word here in the Hebrew text is the word “Yada“. It is the word that is used to describe Moses relationship with God when the Scriptures say that Moses knew God, face-to-face, as a man knows his friend. It is the word that Solomon chose to use in Proverbs 3 when he instructed us to acknowlege God in all of our ways.
This, my friends, is the concept that Jesus had in mind in John 17.3 when He said…
“‘This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’.” – John 17.3 NASB
Today, I encourage you to see Jesus as the door that He described Himself to be, to see that the Gospel is a story of restored relationship first. There are transactional elements, yes. But, when we make them paramount, we miss the main point. We begin to believe that Jesus came to give us something, which essentially is true – but the “something” is Himself. Let us rather seek His face rather than His hands. For, it is in the light of His face that we behold the glory of the Gospel, and thereby reflect the reckless, extravagant love of the Father which transforms us, and re-images us to our eternal purpose in Christ – sons, stewards, and ambassadors
WHAT SHOULD WE DO NOW?
The answer is very simple. We need to offer a fresh consecration to the Lord. Before anything else, we need to understand that sins can negatively affect our relationship or walk with our Maker in the New Year if we don’t confess them before crossing over so that they will not be carryover sins. In 1 John 1:9-10, the Bible says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” After confessing our sins, the intimate fellowship with the Lord should begin immediately without wasting time. This time of intimacy with God is also when we can offer a new consecration to Him. With a new year before us, we can give every aspect of ourselves and our lives to Him. By consecrating ourselves to the Lord, we can be kept walking in the Lord’s way, grow in His life, allow God to work in us, and be brought into the enjoyment of the riches of God’s salvation. We can consecrate ourselves to the Lord by praying something simple like this:
Lord Jesus, thank you for all you have done for me over the past years. Thank you for your faithfulness, mercy, and love. Lord, I love you. I offer myself to you again. I give the New Year to you. I want to grow in you each day. Keep me in your way. Lord, I allow you to work in me throughout this year and beyond in Jesus’ name.
It is very inimical to Christianity when we reduce the Gospel to a mere transaction, we sell it tragically short of its majesty, beauty, and incomprehensible glory (apology to Kevan Grinwis). It is therefore imperative to make a paradigm shift from transactional Gospel to Relational Gospel.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
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