Building your relationship with God
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Devotional text: John 15:15
In John 15:15, we read this scripture quote from Jesus: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus was speaking to his disciples at the time of The Last Supper, when he said this to them.
Previously, in John 13:34-35, also at the time of The Last Supper, Jesus said to them, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Today, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have become his disciples. As disciples of Christ, he calls us “friends.” Furthermore, as followers of Christ, we already have available to us the life and lessons that his disciples learned from him when he was alive on earth. We have them through the four gospels of the New Testament.
From the quotes above, we find our relationship with God and with one another. As we look at building our relationship with God, we can start in Deuteronomy where we find these words from Moses: in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Moses said, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Does this scripture sound familiar to you? We find it again Matthew. This is the response Jesus gave to the religious leaders when they asked him for the greatest commandment.
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’.”
God’s greatest command focuses on love. Our relationship with God, just as our relationships with people, is based on love. We should love one another as God loves us, and we are to love God with all of our being.
We actually begin our relationship with God as we take to heart John 3:16, “For God loved the world (all of us) so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Our new life in Christ leads us away from worldly desires and temptations that are born of evil, those things that are not good for us, but tempt us through the evil that is in the world. When Jesus taught Nicodemus about the need to be “born again,” he was indicating that Nicodemus’ old life should pass away and the new life he received by believing in Jesus would bring him into real relationship with God.
So what does this say to us today? It tells us that we can’t live the new life and keep on sinning. If we truly believe, then our sins will become more and more abhorent to us. We will seek to draw closer to God and leave our sinning behind us.
For some, this becomes a life-long work. For others, it is easier. Everyone is different. We all have our desires, temptations, emotions and feelings about certain things in our lives.
The Apostle Paul puts it into perspective for us. In the New Living Translation, Galatians 5:17, he has written, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires just the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
However, backing up to Galatians 5:16, we read this advice from Paul, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”
Let’s see what the Bible has to say to us about growing in our relationship with God.
First, we have prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica the following: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Our prayers become our conversations with God. Just like in any relationship, we like to hear from our friends. As God’s friends, our personal prayers to him grow our relationship. We can talk to God about anything. He already knows our lives through and through. There is nothing we can hide from him. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hear from us on a regular basis.
When Paul wrote we should “pray without ceasing,” I take it to mean that whenever we seek God’s advice, we should pray; whenever we want to thank and praise God, we should pray; whenever the Holy Spirit brings to us someone or something to pray about, we should pray. I think you get the idea here. Always be open to prayer. Pray as the Spirit moves you. Your prayers will draw you closer to God.
One advice concerning prayer that I recently read has to do with how we approach God in prayer. The advice said to humble yourself as you approach God in prayer. Specifically, this means we need to recognize we are speaking to God, who already knows us and loves us beyond measure. It should be humbling to know that we are given the right to approach our great God.
Here is another word of wisdom concerning prayer: do not tell God what you want him to do and expect that he will do it. God will answer or not answer our prayers according to his great wisdom. If your prayer is telling God what you think he should do, don’t count on it. When we pray, we should end our requests by recognizing this: “God, let it be according to your will.”
Next week, we will continue to look at ways we grow closer in our relationship with God.