“How Do I Get Close to God?”
I recently had a talk with someone who asked if they could come see me. The guy had had some challenges in life and was trying to get “closer to God” to address those challenges. He even joked, “You know my wife isn’t a Christian and even she was saying, ‘Go talk to Steve’, so you know I need some help.”
As I listened to his story I realized I had a guy before me who obviously loved God and had been a Christian since childhood…but I also realized I had a guy before me who had a lot of ‘bad religion’ blocking up the “relational pipeline” to God.
“Steve, I try to pray, read my Bible, I’ve even tried to fast (give up food) but nothing seems to work. I know God loves me, but I thought if I did these things, I would feel it.”
Ah, the age old works based religion. It tries to turn an intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe into a mathematics formula; IF I do this, this, and this, THEN that will happen. IF I read my Bible, fast, and pray THEN my relationship with God will be better.
So I asked:
“You have children right?”
“So, when your kids want to be close to you what rituals do they need to perform first?”
He looked at me a little confused so I went on:
“You know, do they need to read a little story about you first or go without dinner to show how much they really love you?”
My friend smiled…he understood…
Of course his children can come and be loved by their father ALL the time because of HIS love not theirs.
That’s the trouble with bad religion; it puts the responsibility on the children to be the main drivers in the relationship. In any healthy family it is the parents who are pursuing the relationship not the children. Only crazy parents put up roadblocks to affection from their kids.
Instead we have unhindered access to God because of what Jesus has done… NOT because of what we need to do.
through whom (Jesus) we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
In our conversation we discovered we had both had done a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Discipleship Training School (DTS). While I appreciate a lot of that experience and really it was my first step into Christian ministry, it did have a couple troubling teachings that I was seeing in my friend as he shared.
In YWAM we were taught to “clear our heart” and examine ourselves before we prayed and approached God. Although this sounds “good”, in reality it was totally negating the sacrifice of Christ and creating artificial barriers to a relationship with God. My new friend could never feel “right” enough to see the closeness with His Heavenly Father he actually had!
In a way this thinking mirrors the Old Testament pattern whereby the priests would have to perform certain rituals and sacrifices before they could approach a Holy God. But now, through the sacrifice Jesus made of his very self, we can approach God boldly with no religious rituals to stop us:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Although it is healthy to examine our hearts regularly and certainly God, through His Spirit, will show us areas in our lives that will need attention in order to develop us into the “full stature” (Ephesians 4:13) any father would want for his child, it should NEVER be seen as an exercise needed to be in good relationship in the first place.
I love sharing this message! People need to know God loves them and there is NOTHING that can separate you from that love. There is nothing you can do to “get closer” as you are already in His heart. Even more exciting there is nothing you can do to LOSE that closeness. You just have to live knowing nothing can EVER separate you from the love of God!!
I’ll finish with one of my favorite verses in the Bible. If you struggle with accepting the fact that God accepts you…just read this:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…
…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 35-39
After reading that who do you think now is the one seeking to be close? 🙂
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