Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Having a Relationship with God

Posted: May 16, 2012 by Nathan in What Next...
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Getting the right perspective.

Many people at times fall into the trap of confusing knowing God and knowing about God. I know I’ve done it – thought I’d been getting to know God better and yet all I was doing was learning more about Him.  I even went off to Bible College with the aim of getting to know God better only to find out it was all about learning about Him and what others have said about him.  However the two things are very much interlinked. I know a little about Australia, I don’t know it at all as I’ve never been there.  However, if I were to go there I would increase my knowledge about it before I went in order to make the most of getting to know it whilst there.  What I mean is I would read up about Australia before I went to make sure I saw the best sites, visited a good range of places and saw all that I wanted to see. Likewise with God we know about Him before we know Him.  We read His word, talk to people who know Him, we are taught by our churches about Him before we get to know Him.

Getting to know about God is a lot easier than getting to know God. Getting to know about God is a case of learning, getting to know God is a case of relationship.

Knowing about God

It’s good to get to know a little about God before we attempt to get to know Him.  Why is this important? Forming a relationship with God is not the easiest thing you will do – after all relationships are difficult things. The more we know about God the easier we will find it to know Him.  If I were expecting an important business call from someone on the other side of the world I would want to know as much about this person as possible. I wouldn’t want to be thrown by them not speaking English or being an intern when I was expecting the boss.  The Bible shows us how God communicates. 1 Kings 19:11-13 tell us that God didn’t speak in the earthquake or the fire but in a gentle voice. If we do not know about God we may assume that he will speak to us in one way and miss the other ways in which he speaks.

Knowing God

As I said before, knowing God is about relationship. So how do you build relationship and is building a relationship with God any different from building one with those around us?

Keys to building relationship

1. Contact

Let’s face it it’s pretty difficult to form a relationship without contact.  It doesn’t have to be face-to-face, though that may help. The same is true with God we can’t start to form a relationship with Him unless we have contact with Him, spend time in His presence.

2. Communication

One of the main things that will help a relationship grow is good communication. With God that is done through talking to Him and listening to Him.  It’s what we call prayer and is a vital part of getting to know God.  It isn’t easy and takes some getting used to, but is worth persevering with.

3. Common ground

In most relationships that flourish there is an element of common ground.  You talk about things that interest each of you and discuss things that are important to you.  With God it is no different.  A lot of the common ground that you share is you.  God loves you and is very interested in you, what you think and how you are feeling.  God wants to know about you even more than you want to know about God.  God created you and knows all about you yet loves to hear you talk about yourself, what your worries are and what you like to do.

4. Commitment

With humans one of the ultimate signs that a relationship is going well is to commit to each other.  With a male/female relationship this commitment may take the form of getting married.  It’s a sign that both people make to show their commitment. God is wholly committed to you, so much so that He sent His Son to die for you so that you may be reconciled back to Him.  God longs for us to be committed to Him. He know our hearts and knows when we are committed to Him, but we might make an outward sign of commitment to Him by being baptised or confirmed or giving a public declaration of faith.

5. Continuity

If we had a friend who visited us every day for weeks on end and then one day just stopped coming round we’d think something was wrong. So it is with God.  He is constantly their for us but we tend to blow hot or cold.   We go through good stages where we seek him regularly but then life crowds in and we forget about him, our prayer life falters and our bible gathers dust. We need to try and be consistent in our relationship with God.

6. Compromise

In order for most serious relationships to work there needs to be some level of compromise.  Many of us like to get our own way but in relationship with others something has to give. I remember in the first few months of our relationship my wife and I had to work out what areas of our lives needed compromise. It wasn’t the easiest of things to do but we know that to work as a couple there were areas of our individual lives that we needed to change. This sounds very heavy but all I mean is that, for example, spending time with each other meant spending less time with our own friends.  We both wanted to spend time together and in order to do that we had to compromise in the times we saw others.  It wasn’t a big deal but for the relationship to work it had to be done.

With God the compromise is slightly different and can come across as slightly unfair but it is anything but that.   God is perfect, all His ways are good and just. He is all powerful and all knowing and all loving. He made the ultimate compromise in sending His son to die for all the wrong we have ever done and will ever do. Now it is our turn to respond. We have to remember that God always has our interests at heart.  Any changes in our lives that he wants us to make are for the good of ourselves.  God loves and accepts us just the way we are but for our own good He doesn’t want us to stay that way. If we want a good relationship with God there are changes in our lives that we will need to make. If you kept giving sound advice to a friend who constantly ignored it you would still love them but it wouldn’t do much to enhance your relationship.

Through all of the above we can begin to develop a relationship of love with God. It takes time and effort on our part.  It is an ever changing journey that will continue for the rest of your life.  It will, of course, have it’s ups and downs.  You will have days when you think you’ve cracked it and days when you feel like your right back at the very beginning.

So How does this Relationship Start?

Any relationship has to have a firm foundation or BASE!

B Believe in God and what the Bible states about Him, that He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and that He came to earth in human form as Jesus.

Genesis chapter 1 verse 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

A  Accept what God has freely offered you – forgiveness of all your wrongdoings and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not by yourselves, it is the gift of God – not through works, so no-one can boast.

S Switch to following God’s pathway for your life

Ephesians 5: 8-9

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of Light. (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.)

E Entrust your life to Jesus Christ and His direction.

Colossians 2: 6-7

So, then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted  and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.

Some people see Christians as thinking they have all the answers.  With some Christians this reputation is well deserved. However, the truth of the matter is that as Christians we know very little. By this I don’t mean that we are all uneducated, half-brained, blind sheep following aimlessly but just that there is so much to know and so little that as humans we can comprehend.  Becoming a Christian doesn’t suddenly give you all the answers and you certainly don’t have to have all the answers before you become a Christian.  Let’s face it if we had all the answers there would be no need for faith.

When it comes to God who is infinite we will only ever know a minute part of what there is to know. So, when do I know if I have enough information to make a wise decision?  Becoming a Christian is not the end of your journey into faith but almost the beginning. Once you become a Christian you will continue to learn and grow in your faith. Just as in deciding to marry someone or even to start going out with someone you don’t have all the answers before you set out on the relationship together. Becoming a Christian is, simply put, entering into a relationship with God. We don’t need to know everything about him in order to start that relationship.

 

So what do I need to know or understand?  I would say that the only things you need to understand or trust in before becoming a Christian are these 5 points

 

  1. That God exists
  2. That we do wrong
  3. That our wrongdoing separates us from God
  4. That Jesus died to reconcile us back to God
  5. That we need to ask Jesus to be our personal saviour (i.e. saving us from the results of our wrongdoing)

Now, I’m not saying that this is a perfect list (and I’ll be interested to hear other people’s opinions of it) but I hope it shows that the things we need to understand in order to become a Christian are not that complicated. If we can understand these 5 thing we can then wisely start our Christian journey. There is so much more that we will learn and struggle to understand but let us not complicate the beginning of our journey more than we need to.

 

The Christian faith is a lot to do with relationship and as we all know human relationship can get very complicated. However, the premise for a relationship is very simple. Two people meet, they communicate and the relationship is formed – it’s a very simplistic view but the reality is, at its very basic level, that is what relationship is about.  God wants to meet with us and to communicate with us. He does this in various ways one of which is through the Bible. The Bible is a mysterious collection of stories about God communicating with man. It’s complicated stuff but if you had to sum it up in one sentence you would probable quote John 3: 16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We don’t need to know all the answers before becoming a Christian, just as we don’t need to know how an engine works in order to drive a car. We need to know a little and be willing to continue to learn and discover and grow. You will never have all the answers but we were never meant to. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that we will never know it all, even when we think that we do!!

If, however, you do have unanswered questions that you feel are a block to you understanding the Christian faith please do ask away in the comments box below and I am very happy to try, in my inadequate way, to answer them.

None of us like change that much, we are comfortable with the constant and familiar. Change can make us feel awkward, fearful, anxious and uncomfortable. We look at our lives and have a “better the devil you know” attitude. My life may not be perfect but why rock the boat. We may look at Christianity and think that although it claims to offer good things I’d have to change too much to become a Christian.

I won’t lie to you, if you become a Christian your life will change! It may very well change quite dramatically. However, if anyone can manage change well it is God. Many people see Christianity as a set of rules that we all must follow and so it looks like we would have to suddenly change our lives to fit in with these rules.  This is a bit of a warped view of how God works. Christianity is far more about relationship than rules. Relationships do cause us to change, some fairly quickly others more gradually and all the changes are made because we want to change.

Consider two situations one falling in love and the other having a baby.  People fall in love because they want to, you don’t find many people who fall in love against their will. However falling in love brings change. There are the changes in your emotions and then there are the changes you make to accommodate the other person in your life. You don’t look at a stunning young man or women and say well I don’t want to date them because it would bring about too much change, I’d have to give up my weekends and a few evenings and I’ll have to buy some smarter clothes and even start cleaning my teeth. No, you meet someone you like and you want to make changes. As you grow to know and love that person you may want to make major changes in your life. That person is not forcing you to make them but you may want to make them to please that person. These changes can be made at your own pace, nothing is forced but over time you will have change quite a bit.  You are see very much you but as the relationship grows you will both change to please each other.

 

Now consider having a baby.  Babies bring massive change to people’s lives.  This time the change is much quicker. One minute there are two people in the relationship and the next there are three. The baby requires round the clock supervision, lots of attention, feeding, money spent on it, and so on. The parents suffer from sleepless nights, lack of time, a complete change in routine, a change in their relationship, constant visitors etc. However, most people who want a baby don’t mind the change in the slightest because the baby more than makes up for it.

 

Becoming a Christian can be like these two situations. Becoming a Christian is simply entering into a relationship with God. He doesn’t suddenly demand that you change to fit in with Him. God is far more likely to gently bring you to a place where you can see that a change in what you do will be of great benefit to you, not to Him.  The changes we may make over time when becoming a Christian are far more beneficial to us than they are to God. We may change the things we do because we want to please a partner and the partner benefits but with God we may change the things we do to please God but in fact it is us that benefits not God. It may please Him but it is us who really benefits.

Some people who become Christians go through the baby situation. They suddenly see that the way they have been living is wrong and change overnight. Their world is turned upside down by understanding who God is and the love He has for all of us. It is however, purely their decision. They’ve decided that they want to change and that that change would be good for them. In both cases change is driven from them not God. In both cases change is entirely positive.

 

A friend describes his life before becoming a Christian as being great. He was a generally good person. He was happy. He had no major problems in his life. He saw no need to change. However, after exploring the Christian faith he did become a Christian. He says that before he was a Christian it was like watching a black and white television. It was great, he didn’t know any different. There was nothing wrong with watching the television in black and white; he was more than happy with it. However, being a Christian for him is like watching television in high definition full colour. There is no way he’d want to return to watching television in black and white, it would be sorely lacking. His life has changed, changed for the better.  There is no way he’d want to go back to his black and white viewing.  He has changed because he wanted to change, not because he had to or felt obliged to.

In summary:

With Christianity change is for our benefit, it is not forced and it is always at our own pace. If the God who created us cannot manage change well then who can? Our lives do not need to be in a mess or bad for change to be really great!

I have asked around to see what questions people would like to see answered through this blog. So, this is the first in a series of the questions that people have asked to have answered.

This question can be taken on a number of levels so I hope I can cover most of the angles. My first reaction was that I believe that religion is a human construct. Religion to me, along with many others has negative associations and connotations. To me religion is man’s reaction to the belief that God exists. If you strip Christianity down to it’s essentials all the bells and shackles fall away and you are left with a simple relationship between you and God through Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. You don’t need rituals and doctrines, church buildings and church meetings. You don’t need the bells and smells, the lectionaries and holy days. Now, this is not to say that all these things are not helpful to people in their relationship with God, but they are not essential. In fact sometimes the trimmings of Christianity can get in the way of the relationship which needs to be at the centre. Christianity is less about religion and more about relationship.

So, I don’t need irrefutable proof that religion is man-made because I already believe that it is. Having said all that I know that that reading of the question was not what was meant. So, let me rephrase the question to hopefully bring about a little clarity for myself. What if the idea of the existence of God is a purely made up concept by man? What if irrefutable proof were found that God didn’t exist but was just a man-made idea?”

I have found this question quite a difficult one to get my head around. In some respects, for me, it’s been like trying to think of a new colour – a concept that is almost impossible to do. The piece I struggle with is the concept of finding irrefutable proof. Where would it come from? What would it look like? Would everyone accept it as irrefutable? In general terms it is far easier to prove that something exists than doesn’t exist. Photographs, film, footprints and I guess ultimately a body would prove to most people of the existence of the Abominable Snowman. However, what proof could there ever be that it didn’t exist?

People for thousands of years have tried to prove that God doesn’t exist. With all man’s intelligence, resources and theories no-one has even come close. In many ways Christians and Atheists are in the same boat. They both have strongly held beliefs that have no proof. They are either as wise or as stupid as each other. Both have weighed up the evidence and have drawn different, opposing, conclusions. The main difference, as I see it, is this. Some of you will have read this analogy before, but please bear with me.

When it comes to belief and faith I like to use the analogy of a chair. It’s perhaps because I’m quite a big guy so it is more relevant to me than others, but I hope you’ll understand the gist if it. When it comes to the question of belief in God billions of people around the world would say they believed in Him. Yet for only a much smaller percentage of the world’s population does that belief have any real meaning. Billions of people believe in God but far fewer have faith or trust in Him. Here is where the chair comes in. When it comes to a chair or a stool or anything you can sit on, when considering sitting on it we have to believe that it will take our weight. We don’t want to end up in a pile on the floor along with the remains of a chair that didn’t quite do the job. As a bigger than average chap I have to consider this more than most, especially when it comes to camping chairs or chairs that look less than robust. I can pick a chair up, examine it from every angle, pull it about, check the joints and even read the label for it’s weight limit. I can come to a stage where I can look at the chair and wholeheartedly believe that it will hold my weight. It is not, however, until I sit in the chair that I can be said to have moved from that belief in the strength of the chair to having faith that it will hold my weight. So it is with many people’s belief in God. They believe in His existence but have not yet moved to faith in Him. It is one thing to believe in God but another thing to put that belief into action by having faith in Him.

So with the Atheist they look at the chair, examine the chair, test it a little, read the safety label and come to the conclusion that the chair won’t hold their weight. With the Christian they also examine the chair, test it, read the safety label and come to the conclusion that the chair may well take their weight. However, for the engaged Christian they then take that belief a step further and sit down on the chair. It might feel a little wobbly, for a while they may feel uncertain that the chair will hold their weight but eventually the proof is in the sitting. Either the chair holds or it doesn’t. So, although in the testing of the chair the potential atheist and potential Christian are in the same boat it is when the Atheist walks away and the Christian sits that the difference occurs. The Atheist doesn’t continue his journey finding more and more proof for the non-existence of God. They don’t even continue, in a meaningful way, to experience the non-existence of God. However, for the Christian as they sit on the chair they start a journey where they begin to see God at work. They see prayers answered, they see prophesy fulfilled, they see things recorded in the Bible coming true, they experience the touch of God. Lots of little things that happen build up into an overall belief that God is real and working in their lives. Now, the atheist, quite understandably, will put this down to psychological factors, delusion, hype, hysteria and many other factors. However, to a Christian they are the same feelings as love, pain and fear. Things that you can’t always understand but are as real to you as anything you experience in the physical world.

Therefore, it is extremely hard to imagine irrefutable proof existing. It would be like finding irrefutable proof that pain or love didn’t exist. Once you have experienced something it is almost impossible to imagine not having experienced it. So, having said all that let me imagine that a proof did come forward that proved, without any shadow of a doubt, that God did not exist and that he was just a construct of the human imagination.

How does anyone react to something so huge? Something that was the centre of your life, that informed your thinking and your actions suddenly being swiped from under you. I guess you’ll get a much more objective answer now than if it really did happen. In the short term there would be a mixture of disbelief, confusion, anger, fear, despair, disappointment and so on. There would then follow a slow process of realignment where I’d have to get used to a new world view. However, in the long term I guess that not too much in my life would change on a day to day level. So why is that?

Many people who believe there is no God or just don’t know see religion as this big evil that suppresses the masses, spreads lies and is general a bad thing. However, and I’m speaking solely for Christianity here, I believe that the teachings of the Christian faith are basically an excellent way in which to live. If the Bible were proven to be a man written, man inspired, totally human creation I would still have to say that whoever wrote it was an extremely wise and informed person. I believe that if people followed the teaching of the Bible, whether they believed in the God behind it or not, the world would be a much better place. I have always found it hard to understand how someone, or indeed a society, with no faith can decide on the nature of right and wrong, just and unjust. This is not a criticism or saying that people with faith are better moral people. In fact the opposite is true. Christians have the perfect reason and motive to do good and yet we still do wrong. If you live in a society with no faith, no moral compass what is it that stops you living solely for yourself? How do you decide that it’s wrong to be cruel to animals but OK to eat them. What makes a civilised country civilised? How would a faithless society make laws and why would people abide by them? Most people would agree that they have within them a sense of decency, of right and wrong, good and bad etc. but where does that come from? Who is to say person A’s sense of right is better than person B’s when they differ? Having come to terms with there being no God these are the things that I would really struggle with.

So, I think my everyday actions (apart from dropping the Church services!!) would change very little. I would still believe that it was better to give than receive, love than hate, live at peace not war, care rather than ignore, treat people as I would like to be treated. I would still hold onto the teaching that it is a good thing not to murder, steal, lie, covet, commit adultery etc.

However, I believe that there would be a huge gap in my understanding of this world if I knew God did not exist. I do not believe science holds all the answers. The questions of Why am I here? What’s the point? Why bother? Why believe this? Why not live entirely for myself? What is my purpose? Why don’t we all just end it here? How do I decide what is moral and not? All of these questions and so many more would keep coming back to me again and again. Christianity doesn’t give you all the answers, far from it. However, the non-existence of God would create far far more. So I guess, at least in the short to mid-term I would feel lost, aimless and maybe even purposeless. I would need to find a point of reference from somewhere else. Things that I took for granted as being important because the Bible says they are such as family, honesty, other people, integrity, our planet, leaders and so on would have a huge question mark over them. Are these things important just because we’ve grown up being told that they are? What tells me what is important, moral, ethical or not? A government who changes it’s mind from year to year? The majority? Those who shout the loudest?

At the end of the day I believe that there will never be irrefutable proof that God doesn’t exist. For thousands of years people have been seeking for that proof it without success, who is to say that that won’t change. I also believe that proof will not be found (in this life) of the existence of God. Living as a Christian, I believe, takes nothing away from my life but in facts adds to it. I don’t sit around longing to do things that I’m not allowed to but I have had my life enriched by the Christian journey, by people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had and the comfort, peace and hope that my faith has given me. I personally believe that it is better to live with hope than live with no hope. Even, at the end of the day, if it is false hope.

I guess I must finish with the reverse of the question. What if irrefutable evidence existed that God did exist? How would that change your life? I suppose at the end of time or the end of our lives we will all get an answer. Either God exists in some form or other or He doesn’t. If the Christian is wrong and the Atheist is right then I guess the end of the story lies in a wooden box and a hole in the ground where the Christian and the Atheist lay side by side. Both having lead, more or less, the life that they wanted to. If the reverse is true though and the Christian is right and the Atheist is wrong then at death the story is much different. I don’t believe in God just so that if it just happens to be true I will go to heaven. Belief in God is not my insurance policy. I believe in God because all I have read, heard, seen, and experience point to the existence of God. I have seen the chair, tested it and have finally sat in it. It took my weight and I have continued to sit in it. I don’t believe in God to keep me from hell or from rotting in the ground, but it sure does make me think!!

Many people are happy with their lives. They may like to change one or two things but on the whole they are content with their lot. They have their routines and they like them it gives them security and structure to their lives. They know they are not perfect but they’ve never killed anyone and anyway they like their little forays into the world of doing wrong. It can be exciting, freeing and helps them to fit in to a world where, let’s face it, nobody is perfect. We’re not talking major crimes here just the odd time of drinking a little too much, the late night puff of weed, the bit of bitchiness at the school gate or flirting just a little too much at the office party – you know the kind of thing. These things can be fun, no-one gets hurt and they add a little bit of vitality to life. Why should they change? In fact they don’t want to change? However, if they became a Christian they would have to change!! Become all straight laced and high and mighty! They would have to change the things in their lives that they like doing and that is just not going to happen!! They may believe there is a God; they may even believe in Jesus and what he taught; they may even go to church once in a blue moon; but diving headlong into this thing they call Christianity? No! Too much would have to change.

 

But now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Many people are unhappy with their lives. Life has not been good to them. Perhaps that late night puff of weed developed into a full blown addiction and not just to weed but to much harder drugs. Perhaps in the struggle to make ends meet they felt like they had no option but to turn to crime. They might be trapped by all sorts of other addictions that have such a grip on their lives that the idea of change just can’t be comprehended. Their lives started on a slippery slope and the downward spiral has taken them to a place of seemingly no return. It seems to them that it would be impossible to change and become a Christian. They simply wouldn’t be able to. It would take too much and they don’t even have anything. Again too much would have to change and this time it’s not that they don;t want to it’s just that they don’t believe that they can!

 

Now, of course, none of this applies to us, because our lives are perfect! We are all sorted – we never do anything wrong – we have no addictions – we are happy all the time – our lives need no extra excitement – we are the all singing all dancing perfect person. We come from a perfect family and we have a perfect family. In fact we have no need whatsoever to change because we have it all! It’s about now that I wake up, the dream is over, the bubble has burst and I come well and truly back to reality!! When it comes to being perfect we are all in the same boat!! Some of us might like think that we’re in the first class cabins and some of us may feel we’ve stowed away and don’t even deserve to be there – but let’s face it when the boat goes down we’re all in the water. When it come to being perfect we are all a long way off. Whether someone has been a Christian for 70 years or one day – whether they’re from middle class respectability or gang culture – whether they have a criminal record as long as your arm or none whatsoever they all need to change. We all need to change.

 

Now, nobody likes change. It is seen as unsettling, awkward, a hassle, difficult, uncomfortable, abnormal, you name it, it never seems good. Change is big business. People are paid big bucks to “manage” change. However, let’s not blow “change” out of proportion. We change and adapt every hour we’re awake. It really is no big deal. When we first fell in love did we focus on the changes that we may have had to make? When we got rid of our old banger and bought a brand new car did we constantly bemoan the fact that lots of things were different? When we moved out of the slum and into a house did the change seem bad then? How we look at change depends on how we cope with change. Do we look at all the negatives or do we focus on the positives? When we go on holiday do we look at the hassle of packing, the nervousness of getting a plane, the uncomfortableness of the first night in a new bed, the pain of having to put on suntan lotion, the removal of sand from between our toes after a swim in the sea etc. etc. No we look at all the wonderful aspects of the holiday – the fresh air, time with family, the sun on our skin, the beauty around us, the wonderful food, the cultural spectaculars, the rest if gives us, the places of interest, the break from work and the list could go on and on. When it comes to Christianity the benefits far outweigh the changes that need to be made. More than that – in Christ we have the greatest manager of change that there ever has been. Why? Because Jesus loves you just the way you are! You don’t have to change to merit his love. It is 100% unconditional! Even though we might detest God, hold things against Him, curse Him – he still loves us! Now, that doesn’t mean that he wants us to stay that way. He wants the best for us – just as we want the best for our children, family, friends. Do we want those who we love to do things that hurt us, no! Do we stop loving them until they stop doing things that hurt us, no! The same is true with God. I love this phrase that holds a lot of truth – “There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing that we can do that can make God love us less.” God’s love for us is constant – never changing – unconditional. He accepts us exactly as we are.

 

When you start a relationship with someone they love you for who you are. In many ways there is no need for you to change your ways, your habits or your activities. However, in time the likelihood is that you will want to change. You will find out more about each other, what each other likes and dislikes. You will want to spend more time with each other – so you’ll willingly give up that Monday evening art class to spend the time with each other. You may discover that your smoking sets off their asthma and will see that as a great incentive to give up. All the freedoms you enjoyed as a single person suddenly don’t seem so important any more and you’ll gladly give them up. The same is true with becoming a Christian. God will not force you to change in any way at all. However, it is likely that you will find, as you get to know Him more, that you will want to change. You will see some things in your life as more important and some things as less. Jesus will only help you change your life for the better, on your terms, at your pace, on your say so. Let’s face it there aren’t many people who give up smoking and wish they hadn’t or kicked an addiction and long to go back to it. All change with Christianity is change for the good – no pressure – no arm twisting – and also no regrets.

 

Change doesn’t have to be bad, daunting and difficult. If it is managed well it can be freeing, liberating, exhilarating, life enhancing, fulfilling and affirming. Don’t let anyone look down on you because they think they’re in first class and you’re in cattle class – remind them we’re all in the same boat and that Jesus loves us all, just the way we are!! Then gently remind them that Jesus doesn’t necessarily want them to remain that way!!

 

Contrary to what the media would have us believe the vast majority of people in this world are not mass murderers, sexual deviants, fraudsters, cheats, thieves and so on. Most of us are law abiding, charitable, good people who care for our families and friends and even keep an eye out for the elderly person next door! We’ve never been to prison, don’t beat our wives and don’t even speed that often. So why do we need a saviour when we’re not bad people?

 

Well let’s start by being really honest with ourselves. We may be pretty good most of the time but can we really say we never have our bad moments? Moments where our goodness takes a back seat and the little devil on our shoulder wins? We may not have murdered anyone but we have thought unkind thoughts about others. We may not have had an affair but we have mentally undressed someone that we shouldn’t have. Even when we get outside our heads we’ve done little things that we’re not proud of. We’ve said things that were hurtful, unhelpful and undeserved. We’ve done things that we hope people don’t find out about even if it’s just talking behind someone’s back. There are things in our lives that we have done that are wrong. We’re not going to get the police knocking our door down for them but they are still wrong. The Bible tells us in the book of Romans that “all have sinned”. We also read in 1 John that

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

Many people think of themselves a basically good but the Bible clearly tells us that we all fall short of the standard that God has for us.

 

When God created man they lived together in the Garden of Eden. We are told in Genesis that God walked in the garden with them. God and man were together, there was no separation. However, man did what God commanded him not to do and sin entered the world and into the relationship between man and God. God and man were separated by this sin. In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that

what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

God who is all good cannot be together with fallen people and therefore there became this gaping void between man and God caused by man’s wrongdoings. We cannot bridge that gap. However good we are or however hard we try we cannot reach God on our own. It doesn’t matter if we are Hitler or Mother Theresa. We can never be good enough. It’s like people trying to jump across the Grand Canyon. You could train for years and not even come close to making it. Some, of course, would jump further than others. Some would train for years and some just going for it but the end result would always be the same.

 

So there’s the bad news – None of us are good enough to reconcile ourselves back to God. However, at the other end of the scale none of us are bad enough to escape the next part!!! God doesn’t want any of us to be separated from Him. Our sin had done this but God wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Probably the best know Bible verse John 3: 16 states that

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God sacrificed that which was most precious to him to bridge the gap between Him and us. No-one is beyond that love which caused God to give His son for us. No-one is good enough not to need the sacrifice that Jesus made and no-one is bad enough that their sins are not covered by that sacrifice.

 

If we believe that we are too good to need a saviour then we do not receive what God has done for us and Christ died in vain. If we believe we are too bad and are beyond saving we also do not receive what God did for us and Christ’s suffering and death was in vain. The price has already been paid to reconcile us with God the only thing we have to do is accept it or reject it. If we believe we are good and don’t need a saviour we don’t have to ask Christ to die for us because He has already done it. We just need to accept it. Why try and jump across the Grand canyon when someone has already hired a helicopter to take you over to the other side. It’s all paid for, the helicopters going anyway you just need to decide to get on board and enjoy the flight!

From Belief to Faith

Posted: September 29, 2010 by Nathan in What Next...
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Romans 10:9

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

All of us are at completely different stages in our life of faith. At one end of the spectrum there are some of you who have faith that there is no God and at the other end some people who have total faith that there is one. I guess that most of us sit somewhere in between. I just wanted to address the issue that some of you may have that you have a belief that God exists but want to translate that belief into something more. I would call it moving from a position of belief to a position of faith, or trust.

The Chair

When it comes to belief and faith I like to use the analogy of a chair. It’s perhaps because I’m quite a big guy so it is more relevant to me that others, but I hope you’ll understand the gist if it.

When it comes to the question of belief in God billions of people around the world would say they believed in Him. Yet for only a much smaller percentage of the world’s population does that belief have any real meaning. Billions of people believe in God but far fewer have faith or trust in Him. Here is where the chair comes in. When it comes to a chair or a stool or anything you can sit on, when considering sitting on it we have to believe that it will take our weight. We don’t want to end up in a pile on the floor along with the remains of a chair that didn’t quite do the job. As a bigger than average chap I have to consider this more than most, especially when it comes to camping chairs or chairs that like less than robust. I can pick a chair up, examine it from every angle, pull it about, check the joints and even read the label for it’s weight limit. I can come to a stage where I can look at the chair and wholeheartedly believe that it will hold my weight. It is not, however, until I sit in the chair that I can be said to have moved from that belief in the strength of the chair to having faith that it will hold my weight. So it is with many people’s belief in God. They believe in His existence but have not yet moved to faith in Him. It is one thing to believe in God but another thing to put that belief into action by having faith in Him.

So what does having faith in God look like?

The list below is by no means exhaustive but should give a good idea of the main elements that make up a faith in God.

  1. Believing that not only does God exists but wants a relationship with you.
  2. Being willing to enter into that relationship.
  3. Believing that the Bible is a major way that God has communicated with us and continues to do so.
  4. Putting in to practise the beliefs found in the Bible as best you can.
  5. Believing that God created us and all things.
  6. Believing that we have become separated from God through our wrongdoings.
  7. Believing that God sent His only son to die for us to bring us back into a relationship with Him by paying the price for our wrongdoings.
  8. Believing that God has sent His Holy Spirit to be our guide, counsellor and help.
  9. Trying to put God first in everything that we do.
  10. Believing that God wants the best for you and knows what is best for you.

Making the transition from belief to faith is a big step and not something to be taken lightly, but also not something to get hung up about. Some people make a huge “leap of faith” and go from believing to trusting in one quick step. Others make lots of little steps and get to faith that way. There are no set rules of how to come to faith but at some point you need to make the decision for yourself and pray a prayer similar to the one found right at the bottom of the page. Some of you may find that you’re not there yet and might like to try praying the prayer below asking God to help you in your search for Him.

When it comes to moving from belief to faith the Bible is very clear, all you need to do is “…confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” God has made it simple – after all there is nothing He want more that for you to make that step. Come on, what are you waiting for?

If you do make a decision to move from belief to faith please do let us know. We’d love to pray for you!! Also if you have any questions you want to ask before making that step let us know and we’ll do our very best to help. Just click on the contact button above.

Prayers that you may find useful

A Prayer for Help

God

I really don’t know if you are there or not.

I don’t know if you can hear me or I’m just talking out into space.

But I do want to believe in you.

If you are there please help me to believe.

Please reveal yourself to me in some way.

Please strengthen my faith

and help me in my times of unbelief.

Amen


A prayer of Salvation

God,

I recognise that I have been on a journey towards you. I thank you that you are real and love me unconditionally.

You say in the Bible that if I confess my sins and ask forgiveness, You are faithful and will forgive my sins and remember them no more. You will not hold them against me and You will give me everlasting life.

Father, I confess that I have done many things wrong in my life. I have not followed Your ways and have hurt you and others along the way. I am truly sorry for the hurt I have cause to those around me and to you. I repent of my wrong doings and ask for Your forgiveness.

Father, I believe that Jesus Christ, Your only Son, came to Earth and was born, that He lived among us, and that He was crucified to pay for our wrongdoings and for my wrongdoings. I believe that You raised Him from the dead and gave Him power over all creation.

God, I accept Your Son, Jesus, as my Saviour and I commit to follow Him from this day forward. Send your Holy Spirit to guide me, protect me, lead me and counsel me. Help me grow in wisdom, knowledge and love for You and Your ways. Give me the strength and courage to change my ways and resist evil and wrongdoings in the future.

God, I thank You for sending Your only Son to die so that I can live.

Jesus, I thank You in that You died for me while I was still doing many wrong things and had not yet accepted You. I thank You for forgiving my wrongdoings and for bringing me to a saving knowledge of You.

God I know this is the beginning of a new journey with you, a new chapter of my life. I ask that you would teach me to pray. Guide me. Increase my faith in you, and make me sure in the knowledge that I can rely on You, no matter what may come. Lead me to a good Christians and the right church where I can learn Your word and your will for me and where I can grow in my knowledge of You.

I ask these things in Your name, and I thank You for making me a Christian.

Amen!

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Having a Relationship with God

Posted: May 19, 2010 by Nathan in What Next...
Tags: , ,

Getting the right perspective.

Many people at times fall into the trap of confusing knowing God and knowing about God. I know I’ve done it – thought I’d been getting to know God better and yet all I was doing was learning more about Him.  I even went off to Bible College with the aim of getting to know God better only to find out it was all about learning about Him and what others have said about him.  However the two things are very much interlinked. I know a little about Australia, I don’t know it at all as I’ve never been there.  However, if I were to go there I would increase my knowledge about it before I went in order to make the most of getting to know it whilst there.  What I mean is I would read up about Australia before I went to make sure I saw the best sites, visited a good range of places and saw all that I wanted to see. Likewise with God we know about Him before we know Him.  We read His word, talk to people who know Him, we are taught by our churches about Him before we get to know Him.

Getting to know about God is a lot easier than getting to know God. Getting to know about God is a case of learning, getting to know God is a case of relationship.

Knowing about God

It’s good to get to know a little about God before we attempt to get to know Him.  Why is this important? Forming a relationship with God is not the easiest thing you will do – after all relationships are difficult things. The more we know about God the easier we will find it to know Him.  If I were expecting an important business call from someone on the other side of the world I would want to know as much about this person as possible. I wouldn’t want to be thrown by them not speaking English or being an intern when I was expecting the boss.  The Bible shows us how God communicates. 1 Kings 19:11-13 tell us that God didn’t speak in the earthquake or the fire but in a gentle voice. If we do not know about God we may assume that he will speak to us in one way and miss the other ways in which he speaks.

Knowing God

As I said before, knowing God is about relationship. So how do you build relationship and is building a relationship with God any different from building one with those around us?

Keys to building relationship

1. Contact

Let’s face it it’s pretty difficult to form a relationship without contact.  It doesn’t have to be face-to-face, though that may help. The same is true with God we can’t start to form a relationship with Him unless we have contact with Him, spend time in His presence.

2. Communication

One of the main things that will help a relationship grow is good communication. With God that is done through talking to Him and listening to Him.  It’s what we call prayer and is a vital part of getting to know God.  It isn’t easy and takes some getting used to, but is worth persevering with.

3. Common ground

In most relationships that flourish there is an element of common ground.  You talk about things that interest each of you and discuss things that are important to you.  With God it is no different.  A lot of the common ground that you share is you.  God loves you and is very interested in you, what you think and how you are feeling.  God wants to know about you even more than you want to know about God.  God created you and knows all about you yet loves to hear you talk about yourself, what your worries are and what you like to do.

4. Commitment

With humans one of the ultimate signs that a relationship is going well is to commit to each other.  With a male/female relationship this commitment may take the form of getting married.  It’s a sign that both people make to show their commitment. God is wholly committed to you, so much so that He sent His Son to die for you so that you may be reconciled back to Him.  God longs for us to be committed to Him. He know our hearts and knows when we are committed to Him, but we might make an outward sign of commitment to Him by being baptised or confirmed or giving a public declaration of faith.

5. Continuity

If we had a friend who visited us every day for weeks on end and then one day just stopped coming round we’d think something was wrong. So it is with God.  He is constantly their for us but we tend to blow hot or cold.   We go through good stages where we seek him regularly but then life crowds in and we forget about him, our prayer life falters and our bible gathers dust. We need to try and be consistent in our relationship with God.

6. Compromise

In order for most serious relationships to work there needs to be some level of compromise.  Many of us like to get our own way but in relationship with others something has to give. I remember in the first few months of our relationship my wife and I had to work out what areas of our lives needed compromise. It wasn’t the easiest of things to do but we know that to work as a couple there were areas of our individual lives that we needed to change. This sounds very heavy but all I mean is that, for example, spending time with each other meant spending less time with our own friends.  We both wanted to spend time together and in order to do that we had to compromise in the times we saw others.  It wasn’t a big deal but for the relationship to work it had to be done.

With God the compromise is slightly different and can come across as slightly unfair but it is anything but that.   God is perfect, all His ways are good and just. He is all powerful and all knowing and all loving. He made the ultimate compromise in sending His son to die for all the wrong we have ever done and will ever do. Now it is our turn to respond. We have to remember that God always has our interests at heart.  Any changes in our lives that he wants us to make are for the good of ourselves.  God loves and accepts us just the way we are but for our own good He doesn’t want us to stay that way. If we want a good relationship with God there are changes in our lives that we will need to make. If you kept giving sound advice to a friend who constantly ignored it you would still love them but it wouldn’t do much to enhance your relationship.

Through all of the above we can begin to develop a relationship of love with God. It takes time and effort on our part.  It is an ever changing journey that will continue for the rest of your life.  It will, of course, have it’s ups and downs.  You will have days when you think you’ve cracked it and days when you feel like your right back at the very beginning.

So How does this Relationship Start?

Any relationship has to have a firm foundation or BASE!

B Believe in God and what the Bible states about Him, that He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and that He came to earth in human form as Jesus.

Genesis chapter 1 verse 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

A  Accept what God has freely offered you – forgiveness of all your wrongdoings and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not by yourselves, it is the gift of God – not through works, so no-one can boast.

S Switch to following God’s pathway for your life

Ephesians 5: 8-9

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of Light. (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.)

E Entrust your life to Jesus Christ and His direction.

Colossians 2: 6-7

So, then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted  and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.