What is God like? A Relational God
God is a person, who thinks (mind), feels (emotion), talks (voice), listens (ears), plans and responds.
Like any person, God has many attributes, qualities and characteristics. In his essential nature as God, he is all-powerful, all knowing, everywhere present, eternal and unchanging. In his moral nature as he relates to us, he is holy, righteous, loving and faithful.
God has revealed himself as a relational God. Though one, He exists as three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God in his very nature lives in 'loving community'.
When he created us, he created us in his same image (Gen.1:26-27). We do not and will never possess his essential attributes, but we can take on his moral character qualities and we are made as relational beings to live in 'loving community'.
God created us to love us and give himself to us. We are relational beings who need the love and interaction of God himself as well as other people. God longs to have a close intimate relationship with us a friendship. He desires to walk and talk with us (Gen.3:8).
Scriptures that show us God's desire to have a close relationship to us:
- Abraham was called 'God's friend' (2 Chron.20:7). They talked together. God did not hide his intentions to destroy Sodom from Abraham (Gen.18:17).
- Moses spoke to God face to face as a man speaks to his friend (Ex.33:11).
- The greatest commandment given to Israel was about loving God with all their heart (Deut.6:5). His heart was always broken when his own people forsook him and turned to other gods (Jer.2:13).
- Jesus referred to his disciples as his 'friends' not just 'servants' (John 15:14-15). Jesus longed to gather the people of Jerusalem close to himself, but they would not respond (Matt.23:37).
- Jesus defined 'eternal life' as having a relationship with God when he said, 'Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' (John 17:3).
- The Bible's pages are filled with stories of ordinary men and women who got to know God in a personal and intimate way. Whenever anyone sought after God, they always found him.
Jer 29:11-13. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.Religion or Relationship?
What is God looking for? So what does this Almighty God really want?
- Worship? Many people focus on the mechanics and ritual or worship, thinking that God's greatest desire is to experience some liturgical worship event.
However, even outward forms of worship that God commands are not pleasing to him when there is no relationship. All expressions (forms or methods) of worship are to be expressions of our heart, Outward expressions of inward worship. God doesn't want robots. In fact the very things that we are commanded to do can become an abomination to God if our heart is not right.
Mt.15:8-9 says, 'These people worship me with their lips but their heart is far from me'. Is.1:11-20. 1 Sam.15:22. Micah 6:6-8. (See also Lam.3:40-41. Amos 5:21-24. Ps.51:15-19. Mk.7:6-7. Mt.15:8-9. Jer.12:2).
Religion often gets caught up in the liturgy and form of worship.
God wants YOU, not just your worship. He created you to give Himself to you and to have a love relationship with you. Respond to His love. He is drawing you.
- Service? Many people focus all their efforts into doing things for God or serving others, thinking God just wants people busy about the work of the kingdom.
However, Jesus will say 'I never knew you' to many people who did a lot of religious things (Mt.7:23).
The church at Ephesus was busy doing 'good works' for God, yet they had left their 'first love' (Rev.2:1-7).
- Relationship! God greatest desire is for a close genuine relationship with each one of us. When this is happening, worship and service will naturally flow. When this is absent, even worship and service do not touch God's heart.
In John 4:20-24, we see Jesus talking to the woman at the well about worship. He tells us that God is looking for worshippers, not just worship. He wants people who walk and talk with him daily.
Worship is a relationship - a daily lifestyle. It is a daily relationship with the living God. It's not just a song or something we do on Sunday. It's like a marriage - love only has meaning in the context of the relationship.
Don't get so busy serving that you drift from a relationship with God like Martha did.
God desires a personal relationship with each one of us. This involves fellowship, sharing, intimacy and friendship. This was His purpose in creating us. This is God the Father's heart for you! (Ex.34:6-7. Mt.23:37)
God desires a daily personal and intimate relationship with each one of us. Him sharing his life with us and us sharing every part of our life with him.
Knowing and loving God is to be our life's pursuit.A New Beginning - Starting your relationship with God
2 Cor 5:17. 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone (have passed away), the new has come (all things have become new)!'' (NIV)
Becoming a Christian means a new beginning and a new start. Our new beginning starts when we are 'born again'. At conversion, a 'spiritual birth' takes place and our life as a Christian begins. We need to understand and appropriate the change that took place at this significant moment in time.
John 3:1-21 shows us the need to be 'born again' or 'born of the Spirit'. In John 2:23-25, we see that many believed because of the miracles Jesus' did. Nicodemus saw and believed and made a profession of faith (3:1-2).
Nicodemus was born a Jew, one of God's covenant people. He lived an exemplary life as a Pharisee, a man of high moral character, and deep religious hunger. He was a teacher of the law. Pharisee means 'separated one'. There were 6,000 spread all over Palestine. They were teachers in the synagogues, religious examples in the eyes of the people and self-appointed guardians of the law and its proper observance.
Not all Pharisees were hypocrites. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council (Jn. 7:45-52). He defended Jesus (Jn.19:38-42) and helped Joseph bury Jesus.
Jesus ignores all of this... his Jewish heritage, his position, his good works, his entire religious life and even His profession. It's not enough to let you even see God's kingdom, let alone enter it. You (plural) must be born again! You need a spiritual birth - an inner change. A transformation by which you are -born from above - into another world - the heavenly kingdom.
Without it, there's no hope of eternal life.
Jesus didn't make it easy. His words shocked Nicodemus. Notice his response in vs. 4. 'How can a man be born when he is old?' I'm too old to start again (or misunderstood).
Jesus is using natural birth as an illustration of the Spirit's first work in our Christian life - being 'born again' or 'born of the Spirit'.
Let's look at how natural birth takes places and gain some insight into understanding spiritual birth. Jesus goes on to explain how to be 'born again'.Natural Birth.
The God-ordained means for reproduction (bringing a new person into the world) requires two people (male husband and female wife) making a decision (their will and desire) and the intimacy of the sexual relationship.
- Sending or giving of seed (the male's sperm).
- Receiving of seed by the female's egg.
Fertilisation or conception takes place (in the female). The miracle of new life! A new human being. Cells containing chromosomes and DNA with all the genetic information about what you will be like (heredity and genetics). This life is hidden, unseen and unknown (initially). Then growth and development takes places giving evidence to life. There is 9 months of pregnancy, then labour and pain. Finally, birth and the joy of new life!
Each family has hereditary factors (traits and tendencies) and environmental factors (nationality, law, language, parents, and peers). We reproduce after our kind. We take on our parent's image and nature. Growth takes place through nourishment and care (family). Maturity develops (reflection of heritage and responses to environment). Purpose and destiny unfold.
In Adam, 'flesh gives birth to flesh' ('sinful human nature').Spiritual birth
(analogy - never perfect). God is the Father who wants to have a family. He initiates (John 1:11-13. James 1:18) intimacy (coming together).
- Sending or giving of seed (male). God is the Father, the life-giver, the Creator. See 1 John 3:9 ("sperma") and James 1:18 ("spora"). God's Word (1 Peter 1:3, 23).
- Receiving of seed (female - bride). The response of faith in a receptive heart (John 1:11-13). Notice Mary's response (Luke 1: 26-38).
Conception takes place in us. The miracle of new life! A new being, a new creation, a new species. We receive the divine nature - God's genes and His image (2 Pt. 1:4). Initially this is hidden and unseen. Then growth and development take place, giving evidence to new life.
As in any family there are hereditary factors (traits & tendencies) and environmental factors (citizen of heaven - law, language, parents, peers, etc.). See 1 Jn.4:7 and Jn.3:3,5. 'After His kind' - God's image. Growth takes place through nourishment and care (family). Maturity develops (reflection of our heritage in the Father and responses to environment). A purpose, a future and a hope emerge (1 Pt. 1:3,4).
In Christ 'Spirit gives birth to spirit'. ('If any one be in Christ ... new creation ... old ... new')How to be born again:
- Leave (Repentance). We must be willing to leave our of way of living. 'Repent', which means to turn or change your mind, is the first word of the Gospel. It is not merely conviction of sin, sorrow or reformation. It is not being religious. Being in church doesn't make you a Christian. It's a complete change of mind, heart attitude and direction. It is turning from sin to God (faith).
- Believe (Faith). This is the second word of the Gospel ... believe. Repentance and faith are like 2 sides of a coin. Genuine faith is not just mental agreement (John 2:23-25). It is trust and confidence in God that results in personal surrender of our lives. Faith is active, not passive (refer to the Blondin story).
- Receive. Where there is a response of repentance and faith to the word of the Gospel, the Spirit comes to supernaturally cause a 'spiritual birth' to take place - new life, new nature, new family, new destiny.
Baptism (in water and the Spirit) follows. Water baptism is the first step of obedience and Holy Spirit baptism is a gift from God. These two important experiences, however, they are not necessary for salvation!Check up
: Have you been 'born again', 'born of the Spirit'? Check your birth certificate.
Evidences of the new birth:
- A hunger to know God evidenced by a hunger for God's Word (1 Pt. 2:2).
- The desire and ability to do what's right (1 Jn. 2:29). We don't keep sinning (1 Jn.3:9; 5:18).
- A change of nature evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit (love, peace, joy, kindness, etc).
- Spiritual growth and maturity. We become overcomers (1 Jn.5:4, 18).
- A new relationship with God (1 Jn. 4:7).
- An assurance of salvation.
- A sense of destiny and purpose and a hope (1 Pt. 1:3).
A close relationship takes time and effort. Like a journey, we can move forward each day.
What does it take to grow close to God?
- Desire - interest and passion. If you are genuinely 'born again' there will be a natural hunger and desire to know God more. We are motivated and directed by desire. We need to turn away from wrong desires and cultivate good desires. Get focused on.
- Time - priority and energy. Our calendar (use of time) reflects what we value.
- Skill - learning how to communicate through open sharing and active listening.
So where are you today?
- Haven't begun yet? Begin today.
- Just begun? Draw close we'll show you how.
- Stuck or on a plateau? Romance has turned to routine or maybe the romance wasn't ever there. Dry or desert times can be growth times. We live more by faith than by feelings. All relationships are tested, especially by storms or difficult times. They will cause you to grow apart or pull together. Seek him.
- Going backwards? Every relationship is tested by difficult or desert times. Disillusioned and disappointed? Unmet expectations? Take your hurt to God. Use it as a motivation to run to him not away from him. Be real and open. Share your frustration with him.
- Going strong? Fantastic.
We need to seek the Lord, that we may know Him intimately. In Phil.3:10, Paul said, 'That I may know Him' and in Eph.1:17 he prayed for a 'spirit of wisdom and revelation that you may know Him better'. This Greek word is epignosis, which means 'recognition, discernment, and acknowledgement and to become fully acquainted with (Eph.4:13).
Relationships are built through love expressed through times and experiences together.