A Real Relationship with God

Here are my notes for the fifth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

What comes to mind when you think about relationships?

What if your personal experience is not so warm and cozy?

Honestly describe your relationship with God.

  • How does it feel?
  • How do you maintain it?

Read Galatians 4:1-7—Paul contrasts slaves and sons…

  • What are the differences?
  • What are the privileges?
  • How does each feel?
  • What confidence does each possess?

Incredible truth: believers are adopted by God, we are his children whether we feel like it or not. But God wants us to feel adopted… to call him, Abba, Father.

What is the significance of Paul’s statement? How should it affect our relationship with God?

Read Romans 8:12-17

Paul says about the same thing, but notice he adds something (Romans 8:15-16). How is this like the Prodigal Son?

Sometimes guilt or perfectionism keep us from enjoying our intimacy with God, so how can Romans 8:15-16 help us?

We tend to take relationships for granted, but what makes close personal relationships so incredible? (Psalm 139:7) If Psalm 139:7 is true, then why don’t I feel close to God?

COMFORT: we often live life so comfortably and safely that we don’t need the Spirit to be comforted (John 14).

When was the last time you absolutely needed the Spirit to comfort or help you? How did he do it?

If you answered “no” to the last question, have you ever thought about living a more radical life for the kingdom of God? (Basically getting out of your comfort zone)

NOISE: If your life is not too comfortable, it is probably too noisy, it can be hard to hear the Spirit.

When was the last time you had nothing in life to distract you? (Not people, drama, entertainment, family, etc.)

The purpose of a retreat: to get alone with God, to speak to and listen from God, regaining intimacy with God. So, make sure to set aside time for God.

List some things that tend to distract you from a real relationship with God.

What can you change to better pursue God? To chase after him? To seek his face?

Read Galatians 3:13-14

  • Jesus died so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit.
  • Jesus purchased intimacy with God for us.

Are you guilty of taking the Holy Spirit for granted? If so, how can you reverse that trend in your life?

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • A study through Galatians helped me discover and destroy the strongholds of earning and insecurity. And it was while preaching the book of Galatians that I learned to enjoy being “known” by God. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Galatians 4:9) Have you ever thought about what it means to be “known”? Though I’d been telling people for years that I “knew” God, only recently have I explored the concept of being “known” by Him.
  • Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter.” Let me ask you a simple question: Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable? It is those who put their lives at risk and suffer for the gospel (Philippians 1:29) who will most often experience His being “with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NASB). Though this verse is true for all believers (of course God is always with us), if we are never alone or feeling like we need Him, how much do we care or need to know that God is with us?
  • Each of the twenty-three missionaries surrendered their lives to God that night and told Him they were willing to die for His glory. There was even an argument over who would get to die first. One of them had a small Bible that the missionaries secretly ripped into twenty-three pieces so each could glance at Scripture when no one was watching. The Word of God and the Spirit of God got them through the forty days of imprisonment.
  • One of the most fascinating things this man told me was about what has happened since. Now that they have been back in Seoul for a while, several team members have asked him, “Don’t you wish we were still there?” He tells me that several of them experienced a deep kind of intimacy with God in the prison cell that they haven’t been able to recapture in their comfort.
  • Our lack of intimacy often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
  • It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).
  • We have been chosen, grafted, adopted into the family of God. And now that we are a part of the family, the Spirit causes us to call out, “Abba! Father!” Remember that Abba is the most intimate form for referring to a father. It is like saying “Daddy”; it connotes a deep level of familiarity and intimacy. As God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, we can call out to God as our Abba. We will begin to experience this intimate relationship more deeply than we ever thought possible, so much so that we will begin to wonder, Does everyone feel this loved by God?
  • It takes faith to believe God is truly like the prodigal son’s father, who from afar “saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Lest there be any doubt, the father made it absolutely clear that his son was to be forgiven, with no questions asked. He invited his son back into his life without bitterness or requiring penance and guilt. In the same way, the Spirit speaks truth to our hearts, such as “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39) and “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). These are verses we could probably spout off, but often we need reminding of the power and veracity of them. And one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to do this reminding.

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How is God Personal?

This post is a challenge for each follower of Jesus. Are you able to see God in your life and describe that relationship as real, personal and/or practical. Don’t gloss over the question. If you say YES, then HOW is the relationship that way?

The answer is imperative because God’s plan for the advancement of his kingdom depends on his relationship to his people. Here is a sample of a few passages where God is real, personal and/or practical:

  1. Genesis 3:20-21 – Adam and Eve were able to walk with God in the Garden, and after they sinned, they hid themselves; and God provided animal skin coverings for them. (real, personal and practical).
  2. Genesis 16:1-13 – Hagar ran away from her abusive master Sarai. When all hope was gone, she discovers that God came to her, he sees her, knew her needs and provided for her. (real, personal and practical).
  3. 1 Kings 3:5-13, 4:29-30 – Solomon was told by God that he could ask for anything he wanted from God… and he asks for wisdom to better lead God’s people. God likes that answer so much he gave him fame and wealth, too. (real, personal and practical).
  4. Mark 6:7-13 – The disciples had Jesus in their midst, he had called them to be with him and then sent them out to preach. He gives them authority and guidance. (real, personal and practical).
  5. Acts 12:1-17 – Peter is in prison and the angel visits him, and the doors are opened. His release is an answer to prayer. (real, personal and practical).

The penetrating question is HOW is your relationship with God also real, personal and practical? For me…

  1. I sense that as I read the Bible and hear messages on Sunday, God opens my eyes, mind, heart and soul to what he wants to say to me (Matthew 22:37-38, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, John 14:26).
  2. In times of prayer I have received guidance, instruction, encouragement as I pour my heart out to him (Psalm 62:8, Lamentations 2:19, Psalm 23:3, 73:24, John 14:26, 16:13).
  3. I believe that he has given me the power to speak to others about him, to witness, share my faith and encourage others along life’s journey (Matthew 28:19-20, Romans 15:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13).
  4. I am aware of his constant presence (Hebrews 13:3, Nehemiah 9:31, Psalm 94:14, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
  5. How about just the fact that God has a purpose for my life, and a wonderful plan? (Psalm 139:16, Acts 1:8).

Sometimes we look at God, and believe that he will come to our aid in our time of trouble. But that is sort of opposite of how it works. God is always at work in the world and invites us to relate to him so he can accomplish his work through his people.

Let me repeat what I wrote above: God’s plan for the advancement of his kingdom depends on his relationship to his people. So he MUST work through us in ways that are real, personal and practice. The salvation of the world is at stake!

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God Takes the Initiative

God always take the initiative in the relationship we have with him, people do not seek after God. That can be a tough statement for a lot of people, but the Scripture supports it.

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” –Romans 3:10-12

Now ask yourself some penetrating questions:

  1. How many people are righteous on their own?
  2. How many people understand spiritual things on their own?
  3. How many people seek God on their own?
  4. How many people do good on their own?

Sin has affected us so deeply that no one seeks God on his own initiative. My first reaction is that many churches these days have “seeker sensitive services.” Sort of interesting that God’s Word says that their ARE NO SEEKERS, but I digress.

For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me… Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” –John 6:44-45, 65

Again, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Who can come to Jesus without being drawn by the Father?
  2. What does a person do who listens to the Father and learns from him?
  3. What is the only way a person can come to Jesus?

God came to all the godly characters in the Bible and revealed himself: for example, Saul/Paul (Acts 9:1-19), the Disciples (John 15:16, 19), and specifically Peter (Matthew 16:13-17).

You cannot know the activity of God unless he takes the initiative to reveal it to you. –Henry Blackaby

Here are a few more verses to support this fact (Deuteronomy 30:6, Luke 10:12, John 15:16, Philippians 2:13, 1 John 3:16, Revelations 3:20).

Henry Blackaby uses the words, “God pursues a continual love relationship with you that is real and personal.” At first glance I feel as if God is a stalker, pursuing us and we cannot get away from him. I prefer to say that “God takes the initiative in the relationship” knowing that “there are none who seek him. No, not one.”

I did not chose God, he chooses me, he loves me, and reveals his eternal purposes for my life.

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What is this Love Relationship?

The second reality in Experiencing God is that God pursues a continual love relationship with you that is real and personal. The pastor asked a difficult question in staff meeting this week. “How does it make you feel to have God pursue you in this love relationship?”

Different people will respond differently for a variety of reasons:

  1. Introverts vs. Extroverts
  2. Feelers vs. Thinkers
  3. Men vs. Women
  4. Adult vs. Child
  5. Depending on a person’s love language

Extroverts will tend to enjoy relationships in the “getting together” and conversation, whereas an introvert recharges in peace/solitude rather than surrounded by people. So, when God pursues the introvert, there may be a sense of “stalking” when one needs space. Love is there, but it can get crowded at times.

Feelers experience the emotion and warmth of the relationship, whereas a thinker knows one is loved outside of a feeling. Experiencing love is not based on how one feels but the truth and fact that one is loved (likely based upon one’s particular love language).

Men know what it is like to love another man like a brother, but the language of Jesus (another guy) pursuing us in a love relationship is fairly uncomfortable, whereas there is a trend for single women to view their relationship with Christ as “dating” him, being quite secure in their singleness. For men, the fact that believers (the church) are the bride of Christ doesn’t bring a comfortable image although we understand the concept.

Adults and children understand love quite differently in the fact that most kids accept and give love based upon the fact and reality that they are loved (by parents and others, unconditionally), whereas adults know what it is like to pursue and be pursued by a potential mate (and have people put conditions on their love).

Then there is the interesting fact about one’s love language. These love languages are:

The 5 Love Languages

To put this simply, in order to FEEL loved, a person must receive love based upon their own personal love language. If your language is receiving gifts and your mate is giving you quality time, you will not FEEL loved and your mate will not understand why. It is also interesting that we will often GIVE love the way we would like to RECEIVE love. Learn more about the 5 Love Languages, and actually take an inventory to discover YOUR love language. It is important to know this information because your primary goal in a relationship is to understand THE OTHER PERSON’S love language… and speak it to them, as uncomfortable as it may seem to you.

So, what does this have to do with God? Imagine if God pursues a love relationship the same way for every person. Some will feel God’s love while others won’t. As a male, introvert whose love language is acts of service, I feel loved by God in the fact that Christ died for me (Romans 5:8) and promised never to leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I don’t prefer the “love relationship” language, or the image of Jesus wrapping his arms of love around me, or the language and imagery of the consummation of the church when the Bridegroom returns.

So, the pastor’s question is a good one: how do YOU feel loved by God or how do YOU feel about God pursuing you with a love relationship?

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We are Created for Eternity

This love relationship into which God calls us is our life’s priority. Imagine climbing a ladder up to the top of your profession and not realizing until you get to the top that the ladder had been leaning against the wrong wall. The same is true in your spiritual life!

We are people who love to DO things; we’re active, goal oriented and sometimes we feel that if we do just a little more, God will bless us more or love us more. We need to learn how to rest in the love relationship God has with us. I would call this DOING vs. BEING. Being is the reality of being adopted into God’s family of faith, by faith… not by doing. We simply ARE God’s children when we received Christ as Savior (John 1:12).

We are not created for just this earthly life, we are created for eternity, to spend forever after with God. This life is preparation to be in his presence, becoming more like Jesus, conforming into his likeness (Romans 8:29).

Our satisfaction in life must be in God rather than our accomplishments. How often do we tend to forget God when things are good in life and all is well? Then we call on God and evoke the relationship card when we are in trouble. It’s an age old scenario. Once the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned them about getting satisfied and forsaking God (Deuteronomy 6:10-15). He point plank says it, “when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord.”

Paul’s aim was also at relationship and eternity (Philippians 3:4-14). He considered all his accomplishments, status, position and possessions as loss and rubbish in comparison to Christ. He wanted to KNOW Christ, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship in his suffering (Philippians 3:10 – we certainly don’t pray for THIS very much).

  1. Paul wanted to gain Christ at any cost.
  2. Paul wanted to become like Christ even unto death.
  3. Paul wanted to attain the resurrection from the dead.
  4. Paul wanted to press on toward the goal and win the prize.

Remember to seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness and all these other things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

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A Love Relationship with God

Today we move into the second reality that God pursues us with a continual love relationship that is real and personal. We must always remember that God is the one who takes the initiative in this relationship. The first question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I have such a relationship with God and why?”

The answer depends on whom you trust for your salvation. If you answer YES and it is because of your commitment to Jesus, obedience to him, faithful service to Christ, then you just might be off track. However, if you answer YES and are sure of your salvation because of your trust in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin, then you are right on target.

Blackaby mentions a man in church who was asked a question, “Can you describe your relationship with God by sincerely saying, ‘I love you with all my heart?'” The man could not. He said that he obeyed God, served God, worshiped God and even feared God, but could not say that he loved God.

THAT is what God wants. The Old Testament cornerstone verse is Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and the New Testament equivalent is Matthew 22:37-38, which Jesus called the Greatest Commandment (Mark 12:30).

These verses tell us much about the love that God has for us:

  • Deuteronomy 30:19-20 – God has set before you life and death… now choose life, so you will live, and love God, and listen to God’s voice, and hold fast to God.
  • John 3:16 – This is what God did since he loves us so much.
  • John 14:21 – This is what we will do if we love God, and what God will do for us if we love him.
  • Romans 8:35, 37, 39 – What can separate us from the love of God…?
  • 1 John 3:16 – pair this verse with John 3:16, since we demonstrate our love for God through actions.
  • 1 John 4:9-10, 19 – God showed his love by sending his Son, but the point is not that we love God, but that God loved us first.

A love relationship with God is more important than any other single factor in your life. Everything in your Christian life (about knowing him, experiencing him, and knowing and doing his will) depends on the quality of your love relationship with God. Everything God says and does is an expression of love. We are created for a love relationship with God.

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