I have made good progress on my topical study of what God desires of His followers and I thought I would start posting them to be read. Here is a short introduction that really focuses the book on its main theme. I pray to enjoy it and that it will really make you think.
Introduction-Of God and Men
Many times, I rack my brain trying to think of what might be the best, or most needed, thing to write on. I have done a lot of study and I can see the resources available. There are great books for faith and other topics, but there is one point that seems to be missing all together, at least from a writer in the last hundred years. It is odd when I think about it. Perhaps the first thing that happens when someone comes to Jesus is the joy of a new life. Through that joy, they want to know about God. It is a natural reaction and a beautiful desire. They have started on the journey of a relationship with God. They want to know God more, and part of that is wanting to know what God wants them to do. Here is where is book is concerned. The goal is to spell out God’s commands in Scripture and what He desires of us.
Every Christian, whether a new believer or one with a near life time with Christ should desire to draw in a deeper relationship with God. Now I know you likely have heard the term “relationship with Christ,” but many of you do not really know what that means. It’s not your fault, no one really tries to explain it. It’s not that they try to avoid telling people, but more that it is difficult to put into plain terms. I will do my best to give a satisfying answer, but bear with. As I said it is difficult.
Picture several relationships you have with other people. Think on your parents, a significant other, family relationships, or friends. Specifically think about good relationships, ones that are growing and in which you enjoy a closeness with the person. Think about what makes those relationships work. You likely talk to them often. You might confide things to them and share secrets. Those closest are there to help when you are going through hard times. You joke, you laugh, you cry. When you really draw close to family or friends you want to make them happy. You think about what they desire or need and try to do it. You seek to learn more about them and spend as much time as you can with them. These are the marks of a good relationship, and they apply in our relationship to God.
You might be thinking, ‘Woah! Hold your horses! How can I do the same kind of stuff with God that I do with a person?’ There is dangerous assumption there, as if because God is not a physical human being there is no way to interact with Him. That is false. We interact with God all the time and forget He is not stuck up in heaven. I know at times God can feel distant and we often feel as if He is not there, but that is more our attitude than it is fact. God is always there and always ready to be close to us, but often we are not engaging Him. Like any relationship, it is easy to blame the other person, unlike any other relation though God is perfect and the blame rests squarely on us. There are many ways we interact with God and we must be conscious of them so that we can improve them. That is how any relationship grows.
The first thing you thought of when talking about a good relationship was likely communication. Then, unsurprisingly when you thought about God you had to take a pause to try and see how that really works with Him. Obviously, you do not sit across a table from God and hold a conversation, but does that mean you do not communicate? Can God talk to us? Yes. How? Through the Bible, through circumstances, and through others. The Bible is God’s word to all people and as such reading it the same as hearing God speak. In the same way, when we listen to teachers and preachers present the word of God we are also hearing. God speaks to us, and we need to listen to Him. Listening involves reading His words and apply what God has asked us to.
‘Ok,’ you may be saying, ‘God can talk to us, but can we really talk to Him?’ Well, I am sure you have not forgotten about prayer. In prayer, we talk to God and believe it or not He listens. He hears all we say (see 1 John 5:14). For most people, prayer seems like a request list that never gets an answer. I need to note that God does answer our prayers, but sometimes the answer is no. When you pray for something and it does not happen that is God telling you no, or just not right now. They are not unheard or unanswered. A second point needs to be brought up as well. There is far more to prayer than just requests. Paul points this out in Ephesians 6:18 “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request.” He has 2 categories, every type of prayer and requests. Looking at Jesus’ life we see some different prayers. He often thanked the Father and in His last moments before He was arrested He poured out His heart and thoughts. God is like that close friend we talked about earlier. You can tell Him anything and honestly you should tell him everything. I often pour out all that is on my heart and present it to God. It is after such prayer that I always feel God’s peace. This is the peace Paul peaks of in Philippians 4:6-7 and nothing compares to it.
Hopefully you believe that we can communicate with God, and that He communicates to us. However, there is another part to prayer. Another thing we pointed out in good relationships was time spent together. Prayer is spending time in God’s presence. Through Jesus we have access to the Father and we sit in His presence. Again, if you love someone you seek to spend time with them. The more we come to know and love God the more we will want to pray. I am not saying you will magically begin praying all the time and never get distracted. I love prayer and yet I often get distracted by something and before I know it I am going to bed and have not prayed. Things always come up, but just like you would make time for a spouse or loved one, we must also make time for God. We need to make that time, keep that time, and protect that time intentionally. If we do not we will become burnout, anxious, and stressed (by the way this is personal experience talking and it really is not a fun place to be, trust me).
So we talk with God, we spend time with God, that really leaves only one more thing that is natural and necessary to good relationships, seeking to serve the other person. Think about close family, friends or a significant other. When you really care, you tend to help them clean, or buy them gifts, or help them in other ways. You look for things you can do that will make them happy. No longer is it just about you, but about that other person as well. If we are said to love God then shouldn’t we look to do what will make Him happy? What is it that makes God happy? 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” God desires our love and attention and if we love the things of this world we do not really love God. John has more to say in 3:23-24, “Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.” When we keep God’s commands we show that we love God.
The next question you may want to ask is ‘what are the commands of God?’ And now you have hit the main point of this book. If we seek to do what God wants us to do, then we first we need to learn more about Him and His word. We must seek to learn what God likes and approves and carry it out. As we journey through the coming chapters remember what we have talked about. This is all about the love we have for God and the desire to do as He asks. In short, remember we are striving to build a relationship with God. If you look through this book and forget that, then it will be of no benefit to you. Good works on their own will not save you, and faith in God is dead if you do not obey His commands. With that I pray this book will help you to grow closer to God. Know that what you read will challenge you and that at times you will not like it, but please keep pushing forward to grow in your relationship with God. God bless and know that whoever you are I am praying for you through thus journey.