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Growing in Your Relationship with God

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Growing in Your Relationship with God

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If we took God literally for what He says in His Word, we might be surprised at what we would learn.

In this article I am asking that you evaluate your personal relationship with the God who created you and called you for His great purpose. If your relationship with God is as sound as the Bible indicates it can and should be, your life will change dramatically.

A closer walk with God is something we all want, but is elusive and maybe non-existent for reasons that I will discuss. When God enters your life, you will change. Nothing will remain the same. But you have to take God up on His offer of a relationship that is not only vital for you now, but a relationship God intends to be eternal.

Let’s delve into a familiar verse and take God up on what he says. “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist, says the Lord. But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:1-2).

This is a clear statement from God about whom He desires to have a meaningful relationship with. That is, to look favorably upon, take note of, have regard for. You can say that this is the one He will be with and dwell with. The Syriac version adds “in whom shall I dwell?” in answer to the question of verse one, “Where is the house that you will build me?” He says “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” But on this one will I look. You can also say this is a formula, that if followed, will have results far beyond our greatest expectation.

The people of Israel came to worship God at Jerusalem. They came three seasons in the year and brought the prescribed offerings. Those who lived in Jerusalem would come for their service in the morning and the evening. This is where God was represented to be for the people of Israel. Their worship was formal, institutionalized and prescribed. They would go to the temple or tabernacle to “come before the Lord,” to be taught by the priests, bring their offering and have their sins atoned for. It was the place where God chose to “place His name.”

Isaiah says this at a time when not only was Judah lax in their institutional worship, but even their revivals did not produce a permanent change in the individual—therefore the nation did not change. This is borne out no clearer than in the time of Jesus when there were those who were strict in their form, but certainly did not produce the righteousness of God.

Now Isaiah says something that shakes everyone up. God will look upon the one (the individual) who is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at His word. God created the universe, and there He dwells, but where He wants to be more than anywhere else is with the person and in the person who really longs to hear God and have God’s involvement is his life. Earlier Isaiah proclaims, “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy. ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’” (Isaiah 57:15).

The writer of Hebrews says of Christ that He is “a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” (Hebrews 8:2). This is the home of God and of Jesus Christ, in the one whom He chooses. “For you are the temple of the Living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell with in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’”(2 Corinthians 6:16).

Growth and change in the individual will not occur except that God dwells with the individual and in the individual. This implies a deep and personal relationship where there is literally another mind, the mind of Christ in the mind of the individual. (Please review Don Ward’s challenge to seek spiritual growth in the last issue of the United News. It’s available online at www.ucg.org/christian-living/council-choose-grow).

It is to the Laodiceans that Christ says He is knocking on the door, expecting to be invited in. It is the Laodicean mindset that says they are sufficient within themselves (rich and increased); that they don’t see the need for the close and intimate relationship that Christ is seeking with them. He implores them: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and he with Me"(Revelation 3:20). It is especially a close relationship when Jesus the Christ brings the food He shares with us. His bread, His Body, the deepest longings of our guest, are set on the Lord’s table of spiritual abundance, from which we dine and are satisfied with the best our God has to offer. There can be no more sweet counsel than between the penitent and his Savior (Psalm 55:14).

When He dwells with us, we get to know Him. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). This is not merely to know aboutHim, but to know Him in a very close and personal way. We need to be comfortable with what He teaches us, be ready to hear Him, willing to repent and change and be led by Him. The resistance of the Laodiceans to Jesus’ kind offer reveals a pride that prohibits this essential relationship.

We live in a time where we are “rich and increased with goods.” We live in a world where the medical profession convinces us of their strides to find cures of whatever ails us, seeming to ignore the new diseases coming along for which they have no answer. Our supermarkets are full, our supply systems are adequate for all our needs (for now). In spite of global financial downturn, we in the Western world have everything we need. We have a military that can protect us and a police force that is backed up with the rule of law in stable countries. Does Christ’s admonition to rely on him—give us this day our daily bread—hold a priority in our lives? Of course, the Laodicean mindset is referring to spiritual poverty. It’s not good enough to hold a membership in the Church of God, or derive our spiritual benefit from the numerous websites with the unlimited Biblical information they contain. The real question we need to ask ourselves is, does Jesus Christ dwell with us and in us in a way that He revives us, He teaches us, He corrects us, He saves us.

Paul, given understanding through God’s Spirit, describes the dominant and dangerous attitudes of the end of this age. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters [this is what the Laodiceans were doing], proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy…from such people turn away” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). These prevailing attitudes would conspire to give us a false sense of self satisfaction that we don’t need God in our lives. Consider, there was a time when people in general had no choice but to rely on God because they had not constructed for themselves as yet a secure and prosperous society. The truth is we need to have Christ and His mind dwelling in us more than ever!

“For what great nation is there that has God [the Creator of the Universe] so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him” (Deuteronomy 4:7). Is God so near that you are confident you can call upon him for whatever reason? “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble, therefore, we will not fear…” (Psalm 46:1-2). How far superior is our relationship with God than what the world presents us with?

How much do we need God to be a part of our lives? You need to answer that question honestly. Jesus will say to some people, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

For many, Facebook provides a very convenient way to update their friends about their lives. This shows a need for people to communicate and enjoy relationships. It’s too bad God doesn’t have a Facebook page. If He did, we could easily include Him. Don’t get me wrong—I think it’s a nice way to keep up with your friends, wherever they may be.

But what would you think of updating God on your day, your feelings, your failures, your sins, your doubts, fears, temptations and struggles? Is there confession, openness and disclosure with God? Do you pray for your children, your family, members of the Body of Christ who need lifting up? We lavish kudos on our friends on Facebook, but do we praise and thank God as much one on one? When it comes to satisfying our deepest needs, can God compete with Facebook? We accept only our friends on Facebook, but is God shut out of our lives? I write because I am as genuinely concerned about your relationship with God as I am about my relationship with God. Our eternal life will depend on whether we know God and whether God knows us.

Let’s define the terms of Isaiah 66:2:

1. “Poor and of a contrite spirit”: The person doesn’t think of himself as important. He doesn’t think of himself that way either in his own estimation nor does he seek importance in the eyes of others. He is broken and crushed by sin. He is unworthy of God’s love but deeply grateful for it. He takes nothing for granted.

2. “Trembles at my word”: It’s possible God could ask, “If you are not listening to Me, why should I hear you?” Does God have our attention through His Word? Do we really go to His Word in respect and worship Him? Trembling at His Word is more than casual reading or being exposed to it at Sabbath services. It means we accept God’s Word as applicable to us personally. We examine ourselves against the clear expressions of His truth. Isaiah again urges: “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). The person who God recognizes genuinely searches for God’s will and seeks truth at His mouth.

David was a person who simply believed God. He experienced the benefits of a relationship of trust and obedience. (See Psalm 103:1-5.)

Don’t allow this age to distract you from the most important relationship you can have. Seek truth from God. Seek a relationship where He is present. Seek the deepest satisfaction from the relationship He offers His children.