We are nearing the end of a series of messages called, "The Basic Questions of Life." This series has examined some of the basic questions most folks ask at some point in their lives. Questions such as: "Is there a God?" "Is the Bible reliable and true?" "How did we get here?"
And the question for today is, "Why are we here?" This is another important question because it’s answer will define our purpose in life. Theologians, Philosophers, and lay people have asked this question for thousands of years.
But what does the most reliable book ever written say? There are several passages we could begin with, but the passage I want to begin with is Acts 17:27.
The 17th chapter of Acts contains a record of Paul’s visit to Athens, Greece (tell the story and share his sermon - up to verse 27).
This is the purpose of life and this is why we are here. God put us on this earth so we could enjoy a personal relationship with Him! The purpose of life is to know God on a personal basis.
I. Is a Personal Relationship with God Possible?
That’s a good question because there is a barrier standing between humanity and the Lord. This barrier is greater than the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, or any other barrier man has built. This barrier isn’t made of wood, concrete, or stone. It is made out of sin: our sin. Isaiah 59:2 says, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (NIV).
The God who created everything loves us but He hates our sin. He is offended by everything that is wrong, evil, and sinful. He is offended by sin because it is a violation of his rights.
You see, God is the most honest and trustworthy person in the universe and He deserves our faith. He is also our creator, and the wisest person in the universe, therefore He deserves our obedience. And when we refuse to give Him our faith and obedience, when we doubt and disobey, we have sinned against Him! We have violated HIS RIGHTS.
Let me put it like this. How would you feel if somebody broke into your house, vandalized your property, and stole your possessions? You’d be deeply offended because somebody violated your rights. Mark that feeling well, because that is how God feels when we sin.
Isaiah 59:2 makes it clear that we have a barrier of sin standing between us and God. But thankfully Jesus Christ breached that barrier and He can help us through it. Col. 1:21-23 says, "(21) Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (22) But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- (23) if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel" (NIV).
The Bible tells us that God is loving, holy, and just. That last word means "He must punish sin." And death is the only suitable punishment. But God has decreed that either the offending party must die, or an innocent substitute can take his or her place. And Jesus said, "I’ll be that substitute . . . ."
So it IS POSSIBLE to have a personal relationship with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. As Col. 1:22 says, "He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation . . ." (NIV).
II. How Do I Begin a Personal Relationship with God?
One of the most intimate relationships that two people can enjoy is a parent/child relationship. And that’s how the Bible describes the relationship that a person can have with God.
John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). If you want to have a personal relationship with God then you’ve got to trust Jesus Christ alone for salvation. You’ve got to come to the place in your life where you can honestly say, "I know that my sins are forgiven, my life is being changed for the better, and I’m going to Heaven when I die, solely because Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to pay for my sins and purchase for me a home in heaven."
But don’t stop there. If you want to enjoy all the benefits of a personal relationship with God, then you’ve got to maintain it. Col. 1:23 says that you need to "Continue in your faith." How do I do that?
III. How Do I Maintain a Personal Relationship with God?
For the sake of time, let me share four steps that have helped me since I was a young Christian.
First, you need to SLAY YOUR EARTHLY NATURE (Col. 3:5-9). The Bible teaches that everybody has a sin nature or an earthly nature: that is, a natural instinct to disobey and distrust God. Our sin nature causes us to sin, it brings us under condemnation, and it keeps us from getting closer to God. And that’s why God says in Col. 3:5-9 that you need to put your earthly nature to death.
How do we put Col. 3:5-9 into practice? When my earthly nature rears its ugly head in my life, I can kill it by realizing that the old Ricky Burke died 23 years ago when he came to Christ and the new Ricky Burke doesn’t act like that.
Somebody says, "Preacher, that’s pretty simple! But does it work?" It works every time - as long as I’m yielded to the Holy Spirit of God. And this brings us to the second step we need to take in order to maintain our relationship with God.
Second, you need to SURRENDER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT (Eph. 5:18). This verse is one of the most important verses for a child of God. It tells us that we need to stay filed with the Holy Spirit - that is, we need to yield the control of our lives to Him and live under His influence.
The Holy Spirit will give you the moral strength you need to say "No" to that which is wrong, and "Yes" to that which is right - if you will surrender the control of your life over to Him.
Third, you need to SET APART A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME FOR GOD (I Chron. 16:11). Set aside a significant amount of time in the morning, afternoon, and evening - time that you can spend ALONE with God. When you get alone with God ...
... savor God’s Word. Receive and savor the Bible like food, like an expensive treasure, like a love letter from God. Think about what you read, and put it into practice.
... talk to God. Base your prayers on what you’ve read and meditated on from the Word. Let Him know that you are fully submitted to Him and to following His will. Give Him your praise, thanks, worries, and requests. Risk being honest with God. Tell Him how you feel, what you’re afraid of, and what you need.
... listen to God. He will speak to you through the Bible, and through the Holy Spirit. He won’t speak to your ears in an audible voice, but He will speak to your heart and He will do it such a way that you know it is Him and you’ll know what He wants. Listen for God, and when you hear Him, respond with immediate obedience.
And fourth, SPEND TIME WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS. We talk a lot about the power of peer pressure. It has the potential to influence you for evil. If you get around a group of people who don’t care about maintaining their relationship with Christ (if they even have one to begin with!), they will eventually rub off on you.
Peer pressure has the potential to influence you for evil, but it also has the potential to influence you for good. If you fellowship with other Christians who are trying to maintain a solid relationship with Jesus, they will eventually rub off on you. So spend time with other Christians.
IV. What Are the Benefits of a Personal Relationship with God?
The most obvious benefits are: eternal life (a life with God that lasts forever), an abundant life in the here and now (a life filled with purpose, joy, and stability), and a good moral life (in which righteousness is the rule and sin is the exception). It’s too good to pass up.
So what about you?
Have you discovered the meaning of life and do you have a personal relationship with your God? If not, then I encourage you to apply John 1:12 into your life. If so, then I encourage you maintain your relationship with God by slaying your earthly nature, surrendering to the Holy Spirit, setting aside a lot of time for God, and spending time with other Christians.