|When we talk about the
Lord, we should communicate more than reciting
doctrines about Him. Christianity is more than religion, it's a
personal relationship with God. If I was to talk about my wife, as a
list of facts I've learned, you would seriously wonder about the depth
of our relationship. Why? Because relationships are much more than
lists of facts. A relationship is nonexistent where there are only
facts. I propose to you: If your knowledge of God consists of
information you've gleaned from studying, it's a religion of the
letter, not of the Spirit. A religion of book learning, not of actual
relationship with God.
Those who have a living relationship with God, will
naturally seek to learn more about Him. They'll desire to get closer to
Him, learn what He's like. Paul shows this is normal:
10 That ye might walk
worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,
being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of
We'll definitely seek to increase our knowledge of God, if
we have a true relationship with Him. Our relationship won't, however,
be like studying for a mid-term exam!
LOVER OF MY SOUL
We find in an old hymn the wonderful words, "lover of my
soul". The following hymn was written by John Wesley and is entitled,
"Jesus, Lover Of My Soul". It goes:
Jesus, Lover Of My Soul
Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, Hangs my helpless soul on Thee,
Leave, O leave me not alone, Still support and comfort me:
All my trust on Thee is stayed, All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head, With the shadow of Thy wing.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, More than all in Thee I find,
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, Heal the sick and lead the blind:
Just and holy is Thy name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am, Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, Grace to cover all my sin,
Let the healing streams abound, Make and keep me pure within:
Thou of life the fountain art, Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart, Rise to all eternity.
The words of John Wesley express a deep relationship with
the Lord. Such words couldn't have been written by a man, if he didn't
know God in a personal way. This kind of speech comes from a love
Look more closely at the different verses.
The first verse starts out with that term "lover". This
first stroke of his verbal brush sets the stage for an intimate
relationship. Not just one of rote doctrine. The verse continues
expounding John's confidence in how he could experience the warmth and
strength he needed. Book learning doesn't tend to sustain a person in
the great trials of life.
The second verse leads us into John's position of utter
surrender in looking to this lover as his only help and sustenance. In
my books, this second verse is sheer poetry that beats Romeo and Juliet
The third verse leads us into true worship, true adoration.
It even has the taste of Shakespeare's . . . "How do I love thee? Let
me count the ways." It adoringly recalls His acts of love, then looks
straight at Him. It lifts Him up, while remembering our own
In the final verse, we see John's approach to this lover is
not without due regard to His proper reverence. God is close to us, but
there's not an over-familiarity. In one modern song you find this
over-familiarity which calls God the Father, simply, daddy.
This wonderful, truly reverent, close relationship,
flourishes in purity and flows into that which is truly living. He
appropriately brings his verses to a close with the partaking of the
living water. The offer Jesus wanted the woman at the well to partake
of. The words found in this hymn echo the words found in a psalm:
1 I love the
LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my
supplications. 2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore
will I call upon him as long as I live. 3 The sorrows of death
compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble
and sorrow. 4 Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I
beseech thee, deliver my soul. 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
yea, our God is merciful. 6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was
brought low, and he helped me. 7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for
the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. 8 For thou hast delivered my
soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. 9 I
will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. 10 I believed,
therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: 11 I said in my
haste, All men are liars. 12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all
his benefits toward me? 13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call
upon the name of the LORD. 14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in
the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is
the death of his saints. 16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy
servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. 17 I
will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon
the name of the LORD. 18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the
presence of all his people, 19 In the courts of the LORD'S house, in
the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.
The psalmist pulls out many of the
things we find in John
Wesley's hymn. This relationship with God is the common experience of
those who love God in truth. Those who know God as He wants us to know
Him, not just as doctrine:
11 And they shall not
teach every man his neighbour, and
every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me,
from the least to the greatest.
The writer of Hebrews pointed this out. A true relationship
with God isn't just book learning.
Looking back to the 116th Psalm, we see the same pattern,
as Wesley's hymn, of looking to this lover in our need, verses 1-4.
From verse 5 we see the characteristics, much like John
pointed out, of God's righteousness, grace and mercy. The
characteristics swirl in the blend of this wonderful relationship with
God. He's holy, and this we can easily appreciate. Without mercy and
grace, though, we're already condemned trash with no hope. We're able
to have a restored loving relationship, because of this extension to
bring us back to Him. This manifests His going out of His way to have
us as His, when we certainly don't merit such an act of love.
Verses 6-9 remind us of God's taking action on our part,
because of His love for us.
Verse 11 is worded rather unusually. In the Geneva Bible
there's this paraphrase: "In my great distress I thought God would not
regard man, who is but lies and vanity, yet I overcame this temptation
and felt the contrary." I think this is a pretty good
The following verses take us through a joyous situation
that describes a family get-together. The family of God, that is, with
true fellowship centering around worship of God.
Ask yourself, "Am I conscience, within myself, of a deep
relationship with God?" You can answer that kind of question, with
ease, about any person. If you have it with God, you should be able to
answer it just as clearly and unshakably. If you can't, this is a
serious condition needing to be remedied immediately! Your eternity
depends on the answer!
CHARACTERISTICS OF A
Stop and think, if someone wants to talk with you about
God, is it a burden to know what to say about Him? If we're in love
with Him, we should naturally flow in talk about Him. He should be such
a rejoicing to our soul, that we eagerly want to talk about Him.
When I was at Prairie Bible Institute, the thing that stuck
most powerfully in my memory was the attitude of my fellow students.
There were many different personalities and levels of spiritual
maturity, yet, for most, there was fire for God. These people
spontaneously talked about God in every pondering of life. They were on
fire for Him. They would naturally think out loud about His glory with
me. Others might ponder the great burden of the world, who was ignorant
of Him. Still others just bubbled over with His love. They looked
compassionately at others to see how they could minister Jesus to them.
This is a normal state for those who really love God. Are you in this
normal state? Be honest, if you aren't, there's sickness present.
This makes me think of the prophet Elijah. From Elijah's
observations, there was no one who really loved God anymore. God told
Elijah however, there were still some who really did serve him. They
were a small percentage of Israel's whole population, so from man's
viewpoint, Elijah thought he was one of a kind:
2 God hath not cast away
his people which he foreknew. Wot
ye not what the scripture saith of Elias (Elijah)? how he maketh
intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed
thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and
they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have
reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to
the image of Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a
remnant according to the election of grace.
Those who are really in love with God
may be scarce. This
rarity may cause some to wonder if the normal, healthy relationship
isn't abnormal. They might conclude this is too much to be expected. If
your relationship is a good, healthy one, you'll not truly wonder about
this, for the spirit of life flowing in you clearly testifies. Elijah
didn't wonder if his relationship was over-doing it, his grief was
caused by the coldness of everyone else. The person who wonders, is the
one showing the signs of ill-health. He's the one who gives evidence of
SYMPTOMS OF FALSE
There are those brought up in a "Christian" home. They went
to church and were nurtured in a moral fashion. They respect the idea
of going to church and leading a moral life. Because of this, they
unsafely assume they have a real relationship with God.
Familiarity with an environment doesn't mean didly in a
relationship. Either we're in love with God and know Him vibrantly, or
we don't. He wants to have that vibrant relationship with us and will
have it, if we truly seek Him (Rev. 3:20). The problem is found in the
old-self not wanting to sacrifice certain things. We may want to know
God and be zealous in some way, but if we've hardened our hearts toward
something of His nature, we'll be deceiving ourselves.
Suppose we loath someone's moral stand, refusing to accept
it. If they're right, and what they say is God's way, we actually loath
something that's of God's very nature. We may eagerly go to church,
have a WWJD bracelet hanging from our rear-view mirror, a Christian
fish on the back of our car and talk about God a lot. Unknown to us,
we're deceiving ourselves! Our religion's a hobby, as it were, creating
a God of our imagination, instead of the true God described in the
Bible. We may think, "I'm zealous for God, so the relationship I have
with Him must be real." If our hearts hardened in this manner, we
deceive ourselves. We have already refused Him in an area we secretly
cherish and won't give up. This is where "not truly seeking Him" slips
in unnoticed (Romans 10:2,3). It cuts off any further truthful seeking.
If our own natures, our own walks aren't broken, this deception will
keep us from ever truly coming to Him. We must be zealous to examine
our own hearts clearly by His Word (John 4:23,24).
IS THERE ROMANCE?
Is there a vibrant joy in our relationship with God? There
should be this form of romance with Him. It's always overflowing with
joy and peace. Just as there should be this continual romance in a
healthy marriage, so there will be one with God. Look at the Psalms
that testify to this:
I will praise thee, O
LORD, with my whole heart; I will
shew forth all thy marvellous works. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in
thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is
fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
15 As for me,
I will behold thy face in righteousness: I
shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
Psalm 17:15 (Psalm 111:1-10)
This is just a small sampling out of the Psalms. They
demonstrate a rich, fulfilling relationship with God. This certainly
isn't a dry book relationship! Any true, living relationship with God
will always issue in richness. If, in our marriages, this richness was
once there, but is gone, we know we need to do something to restore the
relationship. If we don't, eventually the marriage will end up on the
rocks. The same holds true with God.
Think about it, what could we do to rekindle the fires in
our marriages? We might spend time thinking about the other person.
Think about things like how we can enrich their lives and make them
feel loved? How we can show interest in them? Stop thinking just about
ourselves and our interests. Determine to keep our commitments to help
nurture our spouse, to be faithful. Determine to build our life around
the fellowship of our spouses, instead of considering them as some
necessary obligation. These are just some ideas that would
revolutionize the dry and dead marriage. These same principals go into
our relationship with God.
King David made these parting words to his son about his
future relationship with God:
9 And thou, Solomon my
son, know thou the God of thy
father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for
the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations
of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if
thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
If we want real fire in our relationship with God, what
could be plainer than that?
Do we have this rich fellowship? If we don't, there's still
some dishonesty, there's still something we haven't released before
God. We have another love that's truly greater than our love of God.
Believe me, there's nothing on this earth worth holding so ferociously
that it's worth sacrificing a clear spirit. This may be something so
small as having a "time to ourselves". We may do all kinds of work for
God and things we feel we should do, but what about the time that's
ours when all the duties are done? Is that exclusively ours? I'm not
necessarily speaking of using our time for anything evil. I'm speaking
of it being "ours". We either fully give ourselves to God, or we're our
own Lords of some portion of our lives. This principal is great, don't
miss it. We're either fully surrendered or we aren't.
When we break before God, there's nothing in this world
that can compare with what awaits us. The things of this world don't
hold a match to a close relationship with God. Paul made this
8 Yea doubtless, and I
count all things but loss for the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have
suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may
win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness,
which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the
righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the
power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being
made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto
the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained,
either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may
apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I
do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto
those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as
many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise
minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Paul sacrificed prestige, power in Israel, safety, comfort
and respect (2 Corinthians 4:8-18). Paul attained more than most Jews
of his day could ever possibly dream of. After having lost it, he
considered it as cesspool material. Paul, after having looked back, was
excited about progressing in the same road he had chosen.
Take note: If you read the story of Paul's conversion
carefully, you'll see the new road wasn't one he had really chosen. God
chose him. Paul, right after his conversion, started mightily using the
very scriptures he was already familiar with to prove the truth of
Christ. He knew these verses before he came to God. Knowledge doesn't
hack it. A personal encounter with God is the only way to be struck
down and finally break with God. From then on, it's no longer mere book
COMING TO GOD
If we don't have this relationship, you might rightly ask,
"How do I get it?" I remember a friend of mine, when I was about 11
years old, said, "You know, if you and I were to die today, we would
both go to hell." This concerned me greatly. I asked, "How do you know
that?" He answered that we have to be born-again to go to heaven. I
didn't understand what it meant to be born-again, but I sure wanted to
know after I found the threat of hell loomed so closely! The passage my
friend was referring to is:
3 Jesus answered and said
unto him, Verily, verily, I say
unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of
God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?
can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born
of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the
Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born
again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so
is every one that is born of the Spirit.
I started reading my Bible from the
start in Genesis 1:1
through to the end. I had to know the answer. I wondered if I had to do
sacrifices, like the law was telling about. Some of the stuff seemed
pretty tough to carry out. I was told that Jesus became the sacrifice,
so the sacrificial system came to an end. There was a lot I didn't
understand. Growth came slowly, while I tried to fit the pieces
together. I became born-again, not through a clear understanding, but
through God's grace. Jesus also gave this promise:
6 Blessed are they which
do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled.
I didn't know what it meant to be born-again, but I wanted
God. He met me the rest of the way. If we truly want Him, He will hear
our cry. He will fill us with His righteousness and give us that
special event of the spirit, a new birth, even though we may not
comprehend the meaning of such a term. After all, Jesus said the spirit
birth is that born of the spirit, which is separate from the flesh. If
we could figure it out by our flesh, intellectually, it would not be
the spirit birth:
14 But the natural man
receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned.
We can't truly understand this event until we've come to
God through hunger and thirst. When we call upon Him for His mercy, the
new-birthing is done by God, not us. After the event, we'll understand
the term, "born-again".
I've briefly answered the first half of the question of
"How do I get it?" for someone who has never tasted of the Lord. For
those who have tasted but "the honeymoon is over", the call is afresh
to repentance. Believe me, the fault in the stale relationship doesn't
fall with God. Jesus also gave an alter call for this:
15 I know thy works, that
thou art neither cold nor hot: I
would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and
neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou
sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;
and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and
blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the
fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be
clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint
thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I
rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I
stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the
door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
These words were specifically issued to the cold Christians
in the church in Laodicea. Jesus said He's knocking at the door of our
hearts. He wants back in, open that door through repentance and He will
come back in.
The "honeymoon" shouldn't come to an end with God. Just as
the expression, relating to a human marriage, indicates the end of a
sweet, blissful state, such is a bad sign. Self-seeking has replaced a
real love, and so the honeymoon's over.
In full determination of heart, follow David's advice to
his son Solomon, diligently and honestly seek God. Be able to sing with
John Wesley the lines to his famous hymn.
messages on this subject, please see "I Beg of
You!", "Wake Up For God", "Basement Christian" and "Revival" in tract
form or at the library.