Knowing God . . . Personally

If you do not know God personally, you are in danger of living and dying without really living. The night before He was betrayed and crucified, Jesus was in prayer. He said, “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent - Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3)

Speaking to Thomas, one of His disciples, concerning the way to Heaven, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  (John 14:6)

In 1 John 5:11-13, the Apostle John was inspired to write: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

To know God personally, you must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When a shaken Roman jailor asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 16:30-31)

Concerning Jesus coming into the world, John 1:11-13 says, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)

Good News

No doubt, you have heard the word “gospel” all of your life. It is a translation of the Greek word euaggelion (yoo-ang-ghel-ee-on), which simply means “good news.” The New Testament begins with four books that we call Gospels. They contain the good news about Jesus Christ.

What is the good news about Jesus? Paul summed it up in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Your problem, by nature and choice

To understand why this is good news, and to understand the absolute necessity of knowing God personally through a personal relationship with Christ, you must understand the truth about yourself apart from God.

Describing His mission on Planet Earth, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to save the lost.” (Matthew 18:11)

By nature, we are all bent toward selfishness and depravity.

We are in rebellion against God; separated from Him. We are lost; spiritually dead. We desperately need to be saved or we will die and spend eternity separated from God. This is a matter of life and death!

In the language of the Bible, we all have a sin nature. This is encoded in our spiritual DNA. King David said, “I was guilty [when I] was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

In the Old Testament, we are told, “there is no one who does not sin.” (1 Kings 8:46)

In the New Testament, we are reminded, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

You are probably familiar with the story of our ancestral parents, Adam and Eve. They were created to know and enjoy God. Surrounded by the beauty of a perfect world, they were to have dominion over all that He had made. They were given freedom of choice, because God wanted a love relationship with them, and love cannot be coerced. They were told that there was only one stipulation: “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Immediately, Satan, in the form of a serpent, called God a liar and tempted Man to disobey Him: “He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?’

“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’

“’No! You will not die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:1-5)

Satan was the first created being to rise up in rebellion against his Creator’s authority and purpose. In Revelation 12:9, he is spoken of as “the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world.”

Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.” (John 8:44)

Peter warned, “Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

“Satan” literally means, “adversary.” He is a fallen angelic being. He is at war with God. Unlike the “dark force” of Star Wars fiction, he is not a threat to God Himself. He is supernatural, but he is not all-powerful.  He does not know everything.  Known as “the ruler of the demons” (Luke 11:15), he has multitudes of fallen angels who are at his command. In league with them, unable to touch God, he strikes at Man, the object of God’s love.

Paul warned, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Man believed Satan’s lie. He disobeyed God. By believing Satan, he joined him in calling God a liar. By willfully disobeying God, he joined Satan in becoming the enemy of God. His relationship with God was broken.

Yes, Man’s spiritual eyes were opened, but not to cleanness, purity, peace, purpose and harmony. Instead, he saw himself naked, afraid, ashamed, and in discord with God and His purpose. He had turned his back on God and gone away from Him into spiritual darkness and lostness. The moment that Man sinned, he began to die.

Physically, thousands of babies are being born with the affliction of sick parents cursing their little bodies with the seed of AIDS. Spiritually, the entire human race, and all of God’s creation, has been infected with the virus of Adam’s rebellion.

Paul was inspired to write, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

You did not have to learn selfishness. You did not have to learn how to lie. You have a sin nature. The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

You are also a sinner by choice.

Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way.”

Rebellious Man rejects the One True God, and attempts to replace Him with gods that are without life and power. By making himself the enemy of God, Man chooses to be the object of wrath instead of mercy.

Paul describes this in Romans 1:18-25: “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

“Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

All of the senseless terrorism, immorality and conflict in our world are the result of man’s determination to go his own way without God. The Bible says, “As a result, people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20b)

Sin has put you in conflict with yourself and other people. Sin has separated you from God now. Sin can separate you from God forever. The Bible warns, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a)

Death is the absence of life. You can only experience real life by knowing God personally. To die without a personal relationship with Him means that you will spend eternity separated from Him.

Today, we are surrounded with warning labels. Seat belts and airbags are required equipment in automobiles. Airports must thoroughly screen all passengers in an attempt to protect us from terrorism. From childhood, we are taught to look both ways before crossing a street. We go to great lengths to protect our physical lives. However, this life will soon end. What then?

Jesus warned, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Is there any hope?

A story is told of a submarine that was disabled on the floor of the ocean off the East Coast of North America. Since the supply of oxygen was limited, a desperate rescue operation was quickly mounted. As divers pressed around the hull of the stricken vessel, they heard tapping from inside. It was the dots and dashes of the Morse code. Over and over, a sailor was asking, “Is there any hope?”

It is impossible to see the tragic result of our rebellion against God without asking “Is there any hope?”

God’s answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

God has built a bridge across the chasm that separates you from Him. He has made a way for you to come home and be reconciled to Him. Forgiveness is possible. A restored relationship is possible. A new beginning is possible.

The Only Way

An artist painted a picture of a young man engaged in a chess game with a satanic figure. His opponent was the personification of cunning and evil. His eyes gleamed with delight as he observed the bewilderment of what he perceived as a defeated challenger. The painting was titled “Checkmate” and hanged in a public gallery. One day, a great chess master stood before it for a long time. He studied the conquered countenance of the young man. He saw that Satan was confident of victory. Then he pondered the placement of the pawns and men on the board. His mind searched for a move that would allow the young player’s king to escape check. Suddenly, his voice rang through the gallery, “Young man, there is a move, but there is only one!”

This is God’s message for you. He wants to forgive your sin and deliver you from its bondage. He wants you to be justified and righteous. He wants you to know Him personally. He wants you to experience a fullness of life. However, He is telling you that there is only one way. Jesus said, “I am the way.” (John 14:6a)

How can Jesus say such an audacious thing? How and why is He the only way to know God personally?

First, Jesus is God. John began his good news about Jesus by writing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

Secondly, He became Man. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi that, “Christ Jesus…existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

2000 years ago, God invaded human history. He came down to walk among those who were in rebellion against Him, to do for them what they could not do for themselves. He humbled Himself and, for 33 years, He lived as a man in a faith relationship with the Father. The most familiar verse in the Bible succinctly tells this good news: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus did not come to be a great teacher, a good example, a physician or merely a worker of miracles. He came to be, as John the Baptist described Him, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus was without sin, but He took your sin upon Himself. Hundreds of years before His birth, the prophet, Isaiah, saw this: “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

When Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross, He was dying for you. He was suffering in your place. He was bearing your guilt. He was paying the price for your deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. God the Father was judging your sin in His Son. The Bible says, “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

When Jesus had suffered all the pain the human body can endure, when His blood had been shed for you, He cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

God’s great work of redemption was finished. Sinful men thought that Jesus was finished, but they were wrong. He was raised from the dead and is wonderfully alive today.

When women, who were followers of Jesus, went to His tomb on Sunday morning, after His death on Friday, they were stunned to be confronted by an angel. “’Don’t be alarmed,’ he told them. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here!” (Mark 16:5-6)

Because He is alive, we can experience full and eternal life in Him. Peter wrote that God “has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

An old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain - He washed it white as snow.”

This is why there is only one Way to know God personally. There is Hope; His name is, “Jesus.”

In Ephesians 1:7, the Bible says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”

Your Response

How can you respond to Christ and experience redemption from the bondage and penalty of sin? First, if you are sensing your sinfulness and desiring to know God personally, you must understand that God is taking the initiative in drawing you to Himself. It is not our nature to seek God. The Bible says, “There is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise and who seeks God. Everyone has turned aside; they have all become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 53:1-3)

It is God who is seeking you. When you realize this, you must not take it lightly. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44)

Grace and Faith

You do not deserve it, but God’s unmerited love is being directed toward you. This is called grace. The Bible says, “By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift - not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”

God is the only adequate object for your faith.  Believe Him.  Take Him at His word.  Stake everything on His faithfulness. You will not be disappointed.

Psalm 100:5 declares, “For the Lord is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.”

Jesus has accomplished all that is necessary for your salvation. You cannot add anything to what He has done. There is no work that you can do, there is no ritual that can be performed, there is no price that you can pay, there is no pilgrimage that you can take, and there is no sacrifice that you can make. The only thing you can bring to God is your burden of sin. All that you can do is surrender yourself, as a guilty sinner, to Christ, trusting Him as your personal Lord and Savior!

As a young woman, Charlotte Elliott was convicted of her innate sinfulness and wanted to come to Christ. When she asked how she could do this, a wise counselor suggested, “Come just as you are.”

After committing her life to Christ, she wrote: “Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou biddst me come to Thee - O Lamb of God, I come, I come!”

The Bible concludes with this invitation: “Both the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Anyone who hears should say, ‘Come!’ And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.” (Revelation 22:17)

Jesus promised, “Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)

If you have read this far, you can be confident that God is inviting you to receive the free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life that were purchased with the blood of Christ.

Repentance

Jesus began His preaching ministry by saying, “Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1:15b)

Repentance means to change your mind and to turn around. God is causing you to see yourself in the mirror of His word, the Bible. He is convicting you of sin. He is warning you of the consequences of going into eternity without accepting Christ as your only Hope.

Drawn by the Holy Spirit, you can stop right now, allow God to tear away your attitudes of pride and self-sufficiency, and turn from selfishness and rebellion toward Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Let go of your old life and receive His life in exchange. He said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)

He asked, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37, New American Standard Bible)

Concerning Christ, you have these promises:

“To all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

Those words were originally written to people who were required to acknowledge that the Roman Caesar was supreme, the only one worthy of their praise and submission. They were required to publicly declare their allegiance to him; to say, “Caesar is Lord.”   The early followers of Jesus, who refused to declare that the government ruler was divine, were severely persecuted, became social outcasts and were often cruelly put to death.

It was no small thing for a person to turn in submission to Christ and openly confess, “Jesus is Lord!”

To call Jesus “Lord” means you are turning from allegiance to, and dependence on, anyone or anything that you have trusted for forgiveness, worth and rightness. You are turning from any material thing or pursuit that enslaves your affections. You are turning from every ritual, superstition, good work, saint or spirit. You are turning from self to Christ. You are trusting only Him for your salvation. You are willing to openly confess your commitment to Him. You are ready to follow and obey Him.

If you are ready to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, you can pray in repentance and submission and this can be the greatest moment of your entire life!

Remember, you will not be saved by the magic of words, or by the rush of an ecstatic experience. Christ is your only Hope. He alone can save you.

Prayer is not simply repeating words. You can say mere words and nothing will happen. Prayer is opening your heart to God, crying out to Him. Do not be overly concerned about your words; He listens to your heart. Jesus told religious leaders who were trying to impress Him with their self-righteousness and money, “God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)

Understanding this, here is a suggested prayer that you can pray from your heart:

"Lord Jesus Christ, I confess that I am a guilty and helpless sinner. There is nothing that I can do to save myself, but I have heard the good news about what You have done for me. Thank You for dying in my place. I rejoice that You were raised from the dead. I am turning from sin to You. I submit to You and acknowledge that You are Lord. I am surrendering the control of my life to You. I am turning from every other allegiance. Right now, I trust only You as my personal Lord and Savior. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

If that is the cry of your heart to Christ, welcome to the family of God

Your New Life in Christ

When you called Jesus “Lord” and surrendered your life to Him, a miracle took place. The Holy Spirit came to live in you, implanting Christ’s life in you. Your old person died and you became a new person. Spiritually, you were born into God’s family. You are a child of God. Your new life is eternal; you are secure in God’s hand. Now, you know God personally!

Take personally the message of these passages from the Bible:

Jesus said, “Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7-8)

“To all who did receive Him (Jesus), He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Paul said, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment - to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.

“In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation - in Him when you believed - were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-14)

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish - ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Is this real?

Soon, you will ask yourself, “How can I know that this is really happening. How can I know that my sins are forgiven and that I have eternal life in Christ?”

You will probably be tempted to seek assurance in how you feel, but this is deceptive and dangerous. As a follower of Christ, you are not immune to the adverse circumstances and dangers of this world. Christians can suffer financial reverses. They can lose their jobs. Their hearts can be broken by family strife. They can be stricken with sickness. They can become the victims of natural disaster, accidents, violent crime, terrorism or war. Their commitment to Christ will bring them into conflict with the world’s value system. They can be misunderstood and suffer persecution because they are submissive to His Lordship.

Jesus warned His followers: “Because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me.” (John 15:19-21)

Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33b)

Your feelings will ride the roller coaster of circumstances. Do not trust them to determine the reality of your salvation. Trust God. Stake everything on His faithfulness. Believe the promises of His word. If you are trusting anything that you or anyone else can do for your salvation, you have reason to doubt. If you are trusting only Christ for your salvation, you can have absolute assurance.

Remember the promise of 1 John 5:11-13: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

After the Apostle Paul surrendered to Christ’s Lordship, he was beaten, stoned, suffered shipwreck, imprisonment and constant opposition.  He wrote this to the persecuted believers in Rome:  “As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:36-39)

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Copyright © 2007, 2009 Wayne Bristow