How to Have a Relationship with God
Developing a relationship with God is similar to developing a relationship with a human being. We don’t get to know a person by looking at them. We have to communicate with them. We need to share our thoughts and feelings with them, and they share their thoughts and feelings with us. Doing things with a person, such as working with them, eating with them, visiting with them and seeing them with other people in different circumstances helps us to get to know them so that we can have a relationship with them. This applies to our relationship with God as well.
Good relationships are built on trust and understanding. If you see a person for an hour once a week, it will take a long time to get to know them. If you are with them for an hour once a day, you will get to know them more quickly. If you are with them throughout the whole day, you will get to know them very quickly. This is the only way to develop trust and understanding between people. All of these principles apply to getting to know God, and to having a meaningful relationship with Him.
There are 10 main ways to get to know God. These are not in a definite order of importance.
1) Confession and repentance.
2) Bible reading and internalization.
4) Fellowshipping with people who have a relationship with God.
5) Singing good hymns.
6) Communion and foot washing.
9) Working with your hands.
10) Sharing your time, energy and possessions with others.
Why are we separated from God? Sin separates us from God and from each other. Sin breaks relationships. Sin causes most of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual suffering. God uses other people, and the circumstances of life to humble us and break us down. God uses the consequences of sin, and the suffering it causes to help lead us to repentance. God also uses the kindness and blessings that he bestows upon us to help lead us to repentance. (Rom. 2:4) We have to return to the fold of the sheep, and to the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Returning means repentance and confession. This is the beginning of the relationship with God.
This attitude of humility and brokenness has to be part of our daily experience, if we are going to have a relationship with God. Picture God as your loving father in Heaven. A Father who is righteous and holy. A Father who is better than our earthly father. A Father who loves us in spite of our sin, with an unconditional love, and with an unselfish love that knows no limits or bounds. This is God's desire for each one of us, and all of our life is a journey where God is pleading with us to come home to Him, and to be reconciled, so we can share the joys of heaven with Him and the saints.
The prodigal son parable applies to each one of us, just like the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. It doesn’t mean that we have run away from our earthly home, and our earthly parents, but it does mean that we have a broken relationship with God our Father, and we are dead in our trespasses and sins, just as the prodigal son had broken his relationship with his father, and he was dead in trespasses and sins.
There are 4 areas in our personality and character where we are always falling short.
1) Pride 2) Selfishness 3) Disobedience 4) Rebellion
These 4 areas are part of our sinful nature and we will struggle with them throughout our entire life. It’s easier to control and recognize the outward sins that are obvious, such as lying, stealing, adultery, cheating, anger, and murder, etc. Even when we do something good often the motive is selfish and proud so that we can get approval from other people, or so that we can get attention and feel better about ourselves, or so that we can get something in return. It’s easy for us to fool ourselves into thinking that we are better people than we are. In 1st Corinthians 13 we read about examples of people having great knowledge, great faith, great sacrifice, and giving all that they have away to the poor, and even giving their life, but what is the motive? What’s the reason why we do what we do? The inner desires and motives of the heart are what God is interested in. If the motive isn’t godly, unselfish love, it means nothing of value to the person. It’s of no profit or benefit to the person. It’s hay and straw that will be burnt up, rather than gold and silver that will endure.
The first thing God requires is that we believe He exists and that we are diligently seeking Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)
The second area we have to look at is, are we willing to give up our selfish, self-centered ways in order to have a relationship. Denial of ourselves is essential. Our sinful, selfish nature has to die.
The third area is the sin that separates us from God, and from other people and from ourselves. Wherever there is division there is sin on one side or the other or both sides. If both sides are righteous and loving and forgiving, there can be no division, but rather joyful, peaceful unity. In our broken relationship with God, there is sin on our side, but righteousness, love and forgiveness on God's side.
There is no way for us to get rid of our sin, or to get rid of our sinful nature that wants to keep on sinning. But God has provided a solution. He put our sin and punishment on His Son the Lord Jesus Christ who was the perfect and holy sacrifice, the Lamb of God. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, and destroyed the power of sin, death and the devil. (Rom. 6) (1 Cor. 15:54-57) (Heb. 2:14-15) All of the blessings of Jesus’ victories are transferred to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus and His teachings, and who is willing to become His humble servant.
For the follower of Christ, there will be a struggle and a battle with sin, the world, and the devil. That’s why we have to become not only a follower of Christ, but soldiers for Christ as well. God has provided us with spiritual armor to equip us for this battle. (Eph. 6:10-17) The helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the girdle of truth, the shoes of the gospel of peace, and the only offensive weapon in the armor is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. We cannot attack the enemy with a helmet, or a breastplate, or a shield, or a girdle or shoes. Those are defensive weapons to protect you. You cannot win a battle by being defensive only, you will eventually lose. To win a battle you need a strong defense and a strong offense. So, how do you use the Sword of the Spirit?
The Word of God needs to be read and understood, and meditated upon day and night. It needs to fill the mind and the heart so that it separates bone from marrow, and it analyzes the thoughts and motives of our heart and mind, and it performs spiritual surgery on the inner person. “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and motives of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)
The Word of God needs to get into our heart, mind, spirit and body, not just memorized but internalized. Just like food that needs to be chewed, swallowed, digested and absorbed into every cell in our body. That’s why memorization is not enough. Memorization is a mental process, it’s a brain exercise, something like chewing and swallowing is a physical process. We have to start by memorizing scripture, just as people have memorized written material for thousands of years prior to the printing press being invented. Before the printing press was used in the 1500’s, written material was very rare so people had to memorize whatever they heard. But to get the Word of God into your heart and spirit, it has to be internalized. It has to be absorbed into the inner person, just like the nutrients from food are absorbed by the trillions of cells in the body, after the digestive process takes place. With constant review of memorized material, the words will eventually be internalized.
We do not study Scripture as much as Scripture studies us. It’s a light to our feet, and food for the inner person. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God”. (Luke 4:4) It’s manna from heaven, and a sword in our hand. We have to long for the pure milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2), so that we can grow from being carnal, fleshly babies, into spiritual, mature followers of Christ, who are able to eat solid food. (Heb. 5:12-14) (1 Cor. 3:1-3) If a person finds that they are unable to get free from sin, and they are falling down in defeat, it’s because they are on a starvation diet and not being nourished by the Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)