The User, The Loser, and The Lover
Allow me to discuss three default positions in which we can find ourselves with respect to our relationship with God. Two of these are unhealthy and even dangerous, whereas I believe one is what God wants for everyone. I have discovered that the category in which we fall depends to a large extent on the kind of gospel message we receive when we become Christians. Please note that we are focusing on our own personal relationship with God, not trying to pigeon hole others into a category. We are reflecting on ourselves, how we relate to God and whether we need to reevaluate our approach.
Generally, when it comes to our relationship with God, we can take one of three postures:
- The User
- The Loser
- The Lover
We will examine the traits of each disposition together with a checklist.
Those with a user mentality usually see God as a means to an end and "use" God to get what they want. It is not about us serving God but rather, Him serving us. Users unconsciously (or consciously?) pray, “Lord, MY will be done.”
Users are calculating; they hedge their bets. Users can find themselves operating with a “Jesus plus” formula, often engaging in practices or beliefs totally opposed to God’s character and will, as long as the results or benefits meet their needs. They believe they can "motivate" God into action even to do things He may not want to do. Many times, Users fail to give God thanks for his blessings. Remember, Jesus pays attention to expressions of gratitude (see the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17: 11-19).
Persons with this attitude treat Jesus like the rich crazy uncle; they do not want to be around him or seen with him, but want his money. So their relationship with God becomes purely transactional; God has something they want and they have something He wants. It is a relationship devoid of affection or any desire of intimacy.
The prayers of those with a User mentality are full of requests and even demands. Users are angry when they don't get their way. Like the children of Israel in the desert, they too dare to tempt God to prove His love for them by giving in to their wishes. Sadly, for Users the cross is not enough; Jesus must continuously prove Himself. Be wary of those who regularly say, "Lord if you do so and so... then I will serve you."
We are all guilty of this at times.
Bear in mind the Preacher’s admonishment to “Remember the creator in the days of your youth…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) and consider how many of us give the worst years of our lives to God and the best to Satan. Users live carnal lives at best, with their operating systems heavily coded to love the world (1 John 2:15-17). So like Simon the Sorcerer, they see God as a means to the power they have always craved (See Acts 8: 9-24).
Unfortunately, in many instances preaching and teaching turn people into users. Jesus is offered as a Saviour who will bless His followers with all they desire, but excluded is the important fact that He is also our Lord. He asks the uncomfortable question, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46, ESV). To stop being Users, we will need to change our perspective of God. We will need to renounce our thrones and gladly (maybe grudgingly at first) cast our crowns at His feet (Revelation 4:10, 11). We need to focus on what King Jesus wants of us rather than what we demand of Him.
Have you been a User lately? Take a look at the User’s checklist below.
1. I get angry or withdraw from God when my prayers are not answered in the ways I expect.
2. My prayers are dominated with requests, even demands to God.
3. I view the Bible largely as full of promises to claim.
4. I am a child of the King so the rules of life do not apply to me. I am the head and not tail (which invariably means that someone else will catch their tail around us).
5. God will overlook my sin. After all, I am forgiven in Christ.
6. Good things happen to me because He loves me. Bad things happen to others because they do not *insert your reason here*.
7. I give to get.
8. I find myself overly preoccupied with my earthly success and get uncomfortable, even bored, with talk about eternity.
9. I don't have time for this "worship" stuff and expressing to God how I feel about Him. He already knows!
10. I believe that God helps those who help themselves. (By the way that is nowhere in the Bible and it largely runs counter to the message of the Bible! God helps those who recognise they cannot help themselves and need Him).
With the next disposition, we swing the pendulum to the opposite end! By "Losers" I am not referring to people who are failures or do not succeed in life. Indeed, Losers can be very successful people, even ones that we admire. By Losers I mean those of us who lose out on the grace and love God lavishes on us. Losers miss out on all that God has in store for them; they exchange God's wonderful grace for wretched works of condemnation and endless striving. Losers are performance-driven and focus more on themselves than God. Condemnation oppresses them. They fail to grasp the glorious implications of the gospel- that our heavenly Father, through the wonderful sacrifice and work of Jesus Christ, has set us free from sin and death. That we are gloriously draped in the righteousness of Christ and empowered by His Holy Spirit to do good works, not as a means of earning salvation but because we are saved.
Like Martha, we can lose out by missing the moment or failing to choose the better part (Luke 10:38- 42). Like the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, Losers fail to realise that all that the Father has is theirs to enjoy (Luke 15:25-32). Legalism, condemnation and works are the main traits of the Christian who has a Loser disposition. This mindset may stem from the type of relationship we have with our parents- namely authoritarian or absent parents. We may also be exposed to a “gospel” message that only focuses on the judgment and wrath of God.
Now, you may be thinking that it is better to be a User than a Loser, but make no mistake: all Users are Losers in the end. So have you been a Loser lately? I myself have struggled with this disposition in my early years as a Christian. However, I am grateful that God has lavished me with His love and grace through family and friends. He also renewed my mind and allowed me to see His consistent loving character, even in the Old Testament. You too can begin to move away from a Loser’s disposition by meditating on Romans 8, which starts off with the wonderful declaration of “No condemnation to those in Christ!”
1. You are continuously burdened by condemnation.
2. You do not think God can truly forgive you.
3. Your image of God is one where He looks at you disapprovingly or is angry with you - all the time!
4. You feel like God tolerates you rather than loves you.
5. You are afraid to do anything for God because of a fear of failure.
6. You feel that you must do things to be approved by God; that God's love must be earned.
7. You do not think you can ever be delivered from your struggles.
8. You are fearful of facing God.
9. You feel as though God's promises apply to other Christians but not you.
10. Bad things happen to you because God hates you or is not interested in you.
So we now come to the disposition that I believe God wants us to have in our relationship with Him; God is looking for Lovers. Here, our love is in response to His love for us. It is God’s love that moves Him to create, save and restore us. Consider the following Scriptures:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17, ESV)
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, ESV, emphasis added)
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1–3, ESV)
This is the gospel truth: God loves us. This is not a mere transactional or business relationship; God wants to be intimate with us. Whereas both Users and Losers are caught in the darkness of religion, Lovers are embraced in the light of relationship with their Heavenly Father. He wants us to experience the wonderful and unfathomable riches of His love towards us. It is so intense, so rich and so beyond human comprehension that the apostle Paul felt he needed to pray for the Ephesian church so they could grasp God’s love (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Lovers understand that they are only scratching the surface of God’s love and that the appropriate response to it is gratitude and obedience. As far as they are concerned, God does not have to prove Himself to them. He has already demonstrated His love through the supreme sacrifice of giving us His Son.
Lovers are resilient because they do not connect God’s love to their circumstances- good or bad. They are convinced that nothing can separate them from God’s love and because of this, they exhibit an attitude that is more than able to overcome the challenges that life brings their way. Unlike Users and Losers, Lovers have a sense of “otherness” about them because they also love their neighbours as themselves (Matthew 22:34-40). God’s love moves Lovers to give, not in order to manipulate like Users, or to earn God’s favour like Losers, but rather to be a blessing to others.
Indeed, you see a powerful juxtaposition of the attitude of a User and Lover in Luke 7. When Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his home, He (Jesus) was greeted with little affection or courtesy. The sinful woman, however, is the one who lavishes love, affection and gratitude upon Jesus. She knew the extent of her failings and helplessness and while deserving of judgment, she was surprised by God’s love, even overwhelmed by it. When was the last time you were similarly overwhelmed? This is my prayer for you, for me: that we will receive a fresh revelation of God’s love for us and that we become His Lovers as a result. May the following checklist always describe your disposition before God:
1. Do you love his appearance? Do you desire to see him return? (2 Timothy 4:8)
2. You agree that “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)
3. Your prayers are dominated by adoration, appreciation, gratitude and wanting His will to be done in your life.
4. You are focused more on the Giver than His gifts.
5. You are moved by His love to be a blessing to others.
6. God loves you regardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself.
7. You are amazed every time you think about the cross and what Jesus did for you.
8. You view the Bible as God's story of restoration and reconciliation with His creation.
9. You obey God, not because you want to earn His righteousness but because you love Him and want to please Him.
God wants all of us to become Lovers. Here are some recommendations that may help you along the way:
1. Acknowledge your default negative position and repent.
2. Ask the Lord to heal you of the hurt, experiences and false teachings that led to your default position (User, Loser or both).
3. Ask God to restore in you a true heart of worship and devotion for Him.
4. Be mindful of your prayer patterns. Begin by focusing on God's love for you. The ACTS model is good for this: Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication.
5. Remember, prayer starts with asking that the Lord's will be done e.g. Luke 11
6. Read regularly from the gospels and aim to read through an entire gospel account once per quarter. That way, you would have read the four gospels in one year.
7. Meditate on your spiritual identity in Christ. Books like “Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson are good for this. Read through Ephesians 1-3 and look for verses that describe your new position in Christ.
8. Learn to give God thanks in everything!
9. Affirm to yourself and to God that you want Him more than His “bling” and things.
10. Spend time with Him. Schedule a physical walk with Him in a garden or some other green space.