Summary: Part 1. God invites us into a personal relationship where we know him and experience his presence.
For those who weren’t with us on Christmas Eve, we were lookin g at the birth of Jesus, of course, and God’s purpose for sending Jesus into the world. According to 1 Jo. 4:9, God sent his Son out of love for us so that we might have life, eternal life forever in heaven with God, and also life abundantly on this earth (John 10:10). Yet it concerns me that people, particularly Christian believers, are struggling to experience the full, abundant, fruitful, life of God. Why aren’t people becoming more loving, having more joy, becoming more kind? How can over 70-80% of a community fail to be in a worship gathering on any given Sunday morning? This concerns me because we were created to worship God and give him our devotion and love and be in fellowship with one another. Why is the rate of divorce among Christians is almost equal to the population at large? I know Christians presently going through separations and divorce, how can this be?
I can explain why people who are not yet Christians don’t experience this life because the Bible tells us they have not received Jesus and the life he offers. They don’t have the Spirit of God living in them and therefore they don’t have the power of God to change. The ways of God seem foolish to them. But what about Christian believers who have the Spirit of God and therefore have access to all the power and resource of God in their life?
As we went through our Bible study “Experiencing God” this past Fall I was reminded that it comes back to one thing, our relationship with God. The reason we don’t see any changes in our life is because we may have a Christian belief system but we aren’t necessarily in a close relationship with God, experiencing God in a personal way in our life.
Let me explain the difference. A belief system means there are certain things I believe to be true. I believe God exists, I believe God sent his Son, Jesus, who died and took my sins to the cross so I can be forgiven and live forever in heaven, that I have been “saved” by God’s grace. Perhaps we could recite the Apostles Creed by heart, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven in earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord…”. We call this orthodoxy, having the right beliefs. But what I’ve discovered is that having the right beliefs or belief system alone, doesn’t change a person’s life and cause them to live differently. Even practicing certain disciplines like prayer and reading Scripture, or attending church services doesn’t bring any change if we do them mechanically, in other words if we are just going through the motions because our Christian belief system tells us we should. What changes us is our personal relationship with God, and experiencing him living through us in a real and personal way.
Listen to what Henry Blackaby writes in Experiencing God,
“Everything in your Christian life, everything about knowing Him, and experiencing Him, everything about knowing His will, depends on the quality of your love relationship to God.”
The core of your belief system is probably summarized, like mine, in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Out of love God sent his Son to save us from what? Our sins, hell. Right, we know that. What did God save us for? According to this passage God saved us for eternal life. But let’s return to our memory verse to remind us what eternal life is. In Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:3 he says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son, it is being in relationship with God now and forever. This is not knowing about God, but knowing him in a personal way. Eternal life is something we are meant to participate in now and forever, the only thing which changes is our address (from earth to heaven when we die).
The first and primary characteristic of a relationship with God is love. There is a reason Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).’”
If we miss the fact that God saved us for a love relationship we miss the entire point. Blackaby writes again of a conversation he had with one of the members of his church who was always having difficulty in his personal life, his family, at work, and in the church: