How Can I Know God?
Close your eyes and picture your favorite place. It might be the secluded beach you discovered on vacation. It might be a mountain hideaway with a log burning in the fireplace. Maybe it’s your own backyard. Or perhaps it’s your favorite double diamond slope. Picture it empty. No one’s there right now.
Now think of yourself. Your work’s all done. Papers are filed. Bills are paid. Customers are happy and the boss is happy. Nothing is left undone. You went to church yesterday and got all blessed up and today you’re right with God. Now picture that perfect you in your favorite spot.
Keep dreaming. Along with you is your favorite person. He or she is also on top of it all. There are no secrets between you, no hurts. You’re there now together, no pain, no shame, in your favorite spot.
To top it off, God shows up. He wants to kick back with you for a while and enjoy your company. You’re not embarrassed because everything’s cool between you. You enjoy your day with him and your favorite person. The three of you chillin’. Nothing’s wrong, everything’s right. And you’re wishing this could last forever.
That’s exactly what God wants, too. That was his original design. Back in the day when God created the world (You can read about it in Genesis 1-3, in the Bible) he made it all perfect. There was a beautiful relationship between man and woman, between us and nature, between us and God.
But our Creator isn’t into forcing relationship with us. So he gave Adam and Eve a choice. They chose poorly. They chose rebellion and individuality. Before you get too hard on them know this; everyone since has made the same choice. God has a few rules (check out the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20). We all choose to rebel against them. God calls that “sin”.
Sin brings alienation. Think about it. You and someone you know have some unresolved issues between you. It doesn’t even matter who’s at fault or who started it. The reality is, when the phone rings and you recognize that person’s number on caller ID, you don’t want to pick up. If you’re at the store and you see that person you duck around to the other aisle, hopefully before you make eye contact. That’s alienation and that’s what goes on every day between people and God. The only problem is, God’s done nothing wrong and he’s not avoiding you.
God has set minimum wage in this case. He says, “The wages of sin is death.” His goal in giving us rules and setting the wage was not to give him an excuse to whack us. If that were the case we’d have been extinct long ago. Death is separation. You die physically, you’re separated from your body. Spiritually we are dead as well. We are separated from him and will be for eternity. His goal was to guide us back to him. If everything was cool in our world and in our lives nobody would ever come back to Him. We’ve made a mess and he is the solution.
But there is still this problem of the wage we’ve earned. God is a holy and absolutely just Being who says, “I will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” He loves us though, and offers a solution. That’s where Jesus comes in.
Two people trying to avoid divorce sometimes go to a reconciliation specialist. That’s God’s whole goal with us. He wants us reconciled to him.
“This is how much God loved the world: he gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, The Message).
His Son, Jesus, who is totally God, equal with the Father, became totally man. No, I don’t really understand it either, but it’s true. That’s why Christmas is such a big deal. It’s not about the gifts and food. It’s about God becoming man to reach out to us.
What Jesus Christ did is equally amazing. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NLT). God took your sin and mine and everybody else’s and put it on his Son when Jesus was executed. Then three days later God raised Him from the dead. That’s why we celebrate Good Friday and Easter. Jesus was no victim. He was willing to pay the wage we’d earned and able to conquer its penalty.
A Choice to Make
Now we’re back to the choice thing. God is still not going to force Himself on you. You can choose to stay in your rebellion with all the mess that surrounds it. Or you can choose to believe and receive Jesus. The Bible calls that “faith”. Faith is accepting the payment Jesus made on the cross.
The rewards for choosing well are great. “To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NLT). The wage for choosing poorly horrific. God is not going to force himself on you. You have to choose. If you want to choose his way, just talk to him about it. We call that praying. Say something like this:
“Lord Jesus, I want you to come into my heart right now. I am a rebel. I’ve broken your rules and made a mess of things. I believe in you and thank you for what you did for me on the cross. Please forgive me. I want a relationship with you on your terms. Thank you, God. I want to be your child.”
You’ve just made a life-transforming decision with truly awesome immediate and eternal results.
Adam and Eve, you, me and everyone else chose rebellion. But if you just prayed that prayer you’ve just reversed your path. The results of your choice? Some are immediate. Others begin now and develop over the rest of your life. Ultimately everything changes.
You’ve now got a guilt-free relationship with God. The Bible 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, NIV) “He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12, NLT)
He gives you a new outlook. Look at what he says:
“Celebrate God all day, everyday. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:4-9, The Message)
He gives you a changed life now. Then, as you learn to follow Him, old habits fall away and new, better ones form.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, NIV)
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce evil results . . . But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” (Galatians 5:19, 22-24, NLT)
God doesn’t promise you’ll have no more problems. But he does pledge that when they do he’ll help you through your struggles. Not only that but he’ll help you grow in the process.
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1:2-4, NLT)
The Best is Yet to Come
Remember the mental picture of your favorite place, you and God in perfect harmony? The Bible promises such a place!
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and there was no sea anymore. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.” (Revelation 21:1-4, NCV)
The whole thing comes full circle. It’s the way God designed it. It’s what he will do.
But now he’s given us a little heaven on earth. He’s given us a new family. We call it the Church. He says it’s a family.
“You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Ephesians 2:19, LB)
If you’ve just become part of his family by praying the prayer in this booklet, would you please tell us by sending us an email (link here). Or tell our pastor, in person, or on your Sunday communication card. We’d love to help you grow and say to you,
“Welcome to the Family!”