By Kurt J. Kolka
Faith is the beginning
The Bible tells us Hell is the default destination for every person because we all sin and fall short of what God intended us to be. Yet God provides a different route people can choose to take — one leading to heaven. There is only one doorway to this route and it is through faith or trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Trusting in Jesus means more than believing the Bible to be true. It also means trusting Jesus with our everyday life. People who truly believe in or put their trust in Jesus show changes in their life.
If we look at those who followed Jesus in the Gospels and believers in the book of Acts, we see people who repent (turn away from their lives of pursuing their own desires) and a surrender to God (choosing to live their lives for Him). The Bible tells us God does not intend for our relationship with Him to end with that change however. Rather as Christians we are meant to grow closer to God as time goes on. But how does this happen?
Author and founder of DesiringGod.org, John Piper says, “A relationship with God happens most fundamentally by the Spirit through the Word [the Bible]. Don’t try to run away from the Bible to find a relationship with God in the woods or in some kind of aesthetic encounter with nature or with a great piece of art. Those are all supplementary. Yes, the heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). God does use great art and great poetry to awaken us. But if we don’t center on the Bible where He is speaking authoritatively and infallibly, then our relationship will become distorted by error and sin.
“So let the Bible be the place where God meets you and speaks to you, and let the Bible be the place where you speak back to Him. The relationship is in this communion: Him to us, and us to Him.”
Rev. Scott Distler, lead pastor at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church and the local TV program, “Folks Listen,” says “To have a relationship with God, we must communicate with Him regularly throughout the day.”
Scott says devotional time with God is necessary, but we should keep God in our thoughts as we continue through our daily activities. There are two aspects to relationship with God says Scott. The first is reading His Word, so God can communicate with us. The second is obey what He says to do in the Bible. “If we are not obeying God, we are not trusting Him.”
Priority to God and His plan
Rev. David Longstaff from Grayling Baptist Church agrees, “We must be intentional about our faith. We must train ourselves to think of Jesus first when we wake up in the morning. This resets our minds. It trains us to put Jesus first right from the beginning.
“When you trust in Him, you’ve got to trust the journey He is leading you on. It doesn’t mean everything is always going to be in abundance. But I can tell you this, be content where you are at for the season you are in. Thrive where you are at.”
Dave reminds his congregation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, where He tells the crowd to trust God for their needs and to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
Prayer is literally talking to God Another aspect of a relationship with God is prayer. Lariann Evoy Hortop, a Free Methodist from Gladwin, notes this.
“Jesus is the One I can go to and talk about anything. He will listen to the cries of my heart and He will laugh with me during joyful times.
“Once you speak to Him from your heart whether it be simply asking, ‘are You really there?’ Or telling Him you are sorry for all the wrongs you have done and you want Him in your heart…You will know He is real.
“As you come to know Him and begin talking to Him (praying) I can only tell you with assurance that you will desire to know Him more. It’s like a new relationship with someone you may desire to get to know at a deeper level. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will want to be with Him,” explains Lariann.
“Being what I call a Jesus follower isn’t always easy. I won’t pretend it is. You will still have hardships in life. The thing is that now, with Jesus in your life, you are not alone and you can cry out to Him! He will give you peace and joy in all circumstances.
“A Jesus follower needs to attend a bible preaching church for fellowship with other believers and to learn from others and worship. Joining others is very uplifting. I enjoy attending church simply to see and talk with others who know Jesus. It’s encouraging.”
Sin is not the end of the relationship
“The Lord often draws us closer to Him through the imperfection of mankind through sin, the actions of others and the missteps we take in make in this dance of life,” says Rev. Francis Schaefer, a Lutheran pastor. “In the last three years I have lost my parents, a marriage of 36 years end, a career in the ministry come to an abrupt end, estrangement from a daughter, and being shunned by a church body that I was baptized. ”It is in these turbulent waters of life the Lord extended His hand to me and raised me from the waters of despair,” says Francis. “He took my wounded soul and scarred faith and gently placed the salve of His love and tenderness upon me. There was no quick fix and painless Bactine moment. Each touch of His hand brought pain but the His gentle voice reassuring me that I am still His child. “It is a process of moving from darkness to light and the same process going from a life which seemed to have lost everything to a life which understands that Jesus is enough. “He deepens my faith through His word and promises.He strengthens my crippled life with support and love.He brings a cast of people to help and encourage. “Isaiah says that we will soar like eagles. Today I, like that eaglet flap my wings and still nose dive. But i look up at the heavenly blue skies and know one day I will soar.”
Finally, The writer of Hebrews says this about maturing in our faith, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”