Relationship With God 103: Connecting With God

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Communication Barriers With God

A relationship with God either thrives or falters

Jesus asks for full submission

  • We have to faithfully give up everything else for Him (Luke 9:24)
  • The Bible is vague about specific details on what we must give because it varies on the person and timing
  • Christianity is a near-constant battle between your body’s impulses and the Holy Spirit’s commands (Romans 7:22-25)

God gave Scripture to us to allow unintelligent people to become wise (1 Corinthians 1:27)

God has to deliver us through an emotional wilderness

God requires a wilderness for us to grow to full submission (Exodus, Matthew 4:10)

  • He typically sends new believers through hardship as a rite of passage
  • Some Christians refuse to accept the reality of the wilderness

Full submission isn’t being free of all sinning (1 John 1:8)

An entirely submissive Christian is willing to do absolutely anything God wants

Signs of struggling in a wilderness

  • Defining the future from past and current events
  • Failing to take appropriate personal responsibility
  • Desiring a more effortless or enjoyable life
  • Excessively complaining or negative
  • Compelled toward instant gratification
  • External locus of control (seeing oneself as a victim)
  • Self-pity or self-loathing
  • Strong sense of worthlessness
  • Enviousness and jealousy
  • Unwilling to try an alternative method
  • Anything that defies the rules of success

Signs of surrendering wholly to Christ

  • Genuine worship and devotion to God
  • Diminished concern for public or private circumstances
  • A heartfelt expression of faith
  • Willing to part with any physical possessions
  • General loving nature toward others
  • A stronger focus on God’s desires than personal goals or others’ desires

We must pray earnestly and wholly to God

Prayer is humanity’s most neglected spiritual discipline

  • Set aside time daily to pray to Him

Prayer is talking with God, not merely asking for things or help

  • Upcoming opportunities and risks
    • Since the seemingly best option might be a bad idea, pray that God accomplishes His will
    • Ask for wisdom for decisions
  • Feelings, desires, and thoughts
    • Ask for Him to remove all your anxiety
    • Give all your concerns to Him
    • Ask and submit every problem to be in His will
    • Pray for peace from the Holy Spirit
    • Pray for a more Christ-like heart and a stronger passion for people He wants you to love
  • Others’ thoughts, ideas, and feelings
    • Ask for God to work on their hearts and minds
    • Ask for God to give them strength and guidance
  • Relationships and social dynamics
    • Ask for God to properly resolve problems and bring His glory through it
    • Ask for hunger to follow Him and study Scripture for them and you
  • Churches and groups you associate with
    • Ask for unity and diversity in the Church
    • Pray for leaders’ strength to uncompromisingly maintain their calling
    • Pray for effective and Christ-minded leaders to step forward in your group
    • Pray for the group to take on a discipleship culture, especially with younger members
    • Pray for more frequent meaningful relationships with no more anonymity in the group
  • The Church at large
    • Pray that members give more joyfully, faithfully, consistently, and boldly
    • Pray for members to share the Gospel in their separate lives
    • Pray for a biblically consistent and spiritually driven sharing of God’s Word
    • Pray for prayer warriors to step in and spiritually empower the Church
    • Pray for preparedness for persecution
    • Pray for people to desire spiritual change more than political change
    • Pray for members to deliver the Gospel through their careers in the world

We pray through our hearts, not through speaking

  • Speaking, however, can make prayer feel more real to us
  • Prayer shouldn’t be a mindless behavior (Matthew 6:7)
    • Praying is constant communication with God in between life and works for literally everything
    • The Bible doesn’t say you must pray before food, but praying for food can inspire gratitude

God doesn’t “need” you to pray

  • He asks us to pray to strengthen our faith
  • Also, God is a gentleman and doesn’t cross boundaries into our realm of influence until we ask

Jesus gives Christians the best way to pray (Matthew 6:9-13)

  1. Use one of God’s names and remember that He’s your heavenly father
  2. Ask for His will to be done on earth in the same way He has it in heaven
  3. Ask Him to provide today’s physical needs
  4. Ask Him to forgive any sins in the same way that you’ve forgiven others’ sins against you
  5. Ask for protection and safety from evil and destruction

God will always answer your prayers if you have the right attitude and pray with His desires in mind (Mark 11:24)

  • God likes devotion and answers bold and specific prayers more frequently than tame and vague ones
  • God doesn’t usually give what we don’t ask for, so ask persistently and intentionally (Luke 18:1-8)

Most spiritual problems come from not spending enough time with God

  • People who legitimately pray several times a day don’t become spiritually complacent

Even exceedingly busy schedules give plenty of time to pray

  • Time in the bathroom
  • Commuting
  • During routine or mindless work
  • Personal hobbies, exercising, and leisure

You can intensify your prayer with fasting (Mark 9:29, Acts 14:23)

  • Fasting is critical for growing in Christ, but only for the right reasons (Matthew 6:16-18)
  • Even fasting for a few hours or a day has an effect
  • Many Christians don’t fast to their disadvantage

Listen to God through His Word if you want a relationship with Him

God speaks to His people primarily through His Bible

  • God does speak through other revelations and visions, but they’ll always echo the Bible’s message
    • God’s wisdom is always pure, peaceable, gentle, fruitful, unbiased, and genuine (James 3:17)
    • God’s Word always leaves an impact on someone listening, including the speaker (Isaiah 55:11)
  • Every Christian has the right and responsibility to investigate and interpret God’s Word for themselves

Spend time daily in His Word

  • Set aside devoted daily time to read, digest, research, and analyze
    • Some Christians falsely believe God’s inspiration doesn’t require diligent Bible study (Acts 17:11)
  • Pray for His wisdom and sight as you read His word
  • If you even vaguely understand who God is, you’ll understand the need for philosophical thinking about Him
  • Grow daily in your relationship with Him by preaching the Gospel to yourself daily
  • God honors His promises for all believers through the Holy Spirit for all generations

Interpret the Bible wisely

  • God gives progressive revelation through Scriptures where both Old and New Testaments form a unit that reveals it
  • Assume the Bible has God’s authority
    • The Bible interprets itself: Scripture will explain Scripture
  • We can only understand and properly comprehend Scripture through faith and the Holy Spirit
    • Interpret personal experience in the light of Scripture, not the other way around
  • God wrote the Bible to change our lives, not increase our knowledge
    • If He cared about giving us information, the Bible would have included many more details
  • Listen to Scripture’s common-sense interpretation first, then its historical context, and finally Bible scholars’ opinions and commentaries

Honor how the Bible forms its grammar and syntax

  • Scripture has only one meaning meant for literal interpretation
    • Understand the Bible grammatically to understand it theologically
  • Interpret words with the meaning the author would have used at the time
    • God wrote Scripture to people in a historical context to answer specific issues
    • Look at the Bible through biblical history
  • Interpret a word by its relation to its sentence and context
  • Interpret a passage in harmony with its context and setting
  • Interpret the prophets’ words in their usual, literal, and historical sense unless their fulfillment indicates a clear symbolic meaning
    • Statements are only figurative or symbolic if one of the following applies
      1. An inanimate object describes a living being
      2. Something’s expression doesn’t match its description
      3. Specific historical facts or events are symbols of spiritual truth only if Scripture says it is
    • Prophecies sometimes fulfill in installments where each fulfillment is a promise of something else coming
  • Proverbs have a specific purpose
    • Often figurative and points beyond itself
      • Poetic guidelines, not guarantees
      • Worded to be memorable more than precise
    • Intensely practical, typically for teaching how to live more than understanding God
      • Gives wise advice about how to approach specific elements of life
    • Only supports selfless living, but people can wrongly apply it to selfish behavior
  • Parable elements are symbols of specific realities, so only make conclusions with the main ideas and figures

Some Bible study techniques are better than others, but there’s no “perfect” way to read the Bible

A. Read a book of the Bible in one sitting at least 2-4 times with at least two different translations

B. Ask a few questions about each book as you read them

  • Main personalities
    • Who was the author?
    • To whom was he writing?
    • Are there any other significant personalities in the book?
    • How do they relate to one another?
  • Historical setting
    • When was the book written?
    • What was the book’s historical setting written to?
    • What is the historical background of the recipients?
    • What was happening in that part of the world at that time?
  • Purpose
    • Why was the book written?
    • If there was a problem to correct, what was it?
    • What was the writer trying to accomplish?
  • Themes
    • What is the primary emphasis of the book?
    • What are some of the recurring ideas?
    • What subjects does the author address?
  • Other observations
    • Style of writing
    • Keywords in the book
    • Lifestyle, culture, customs, and habits of the personalities
    • The geography of the setting

C. Research

  • Make a book summary as an outline, chart or diagram
    • If you need a starting point, use a reference book’s outline or theme
    • As you complete your study, you’ll develop your own
  • Find reputable sources
    • Cross-references
    • Concordance
    • Introductions to specific Bible books
    • Bible handbook
    • Commentaries
    • Bible dictionary
    • Bible encyclopedia
    • Up-to-date Bible atlas
    • Online resources

D. Apply it

  • What specific problems do I currently have and how does this passage apply to this?
  • What should I do with this information?
  • How can I know right from wrong from these passages?
  • Who should I be, given these passages?
  • Where am I going and where should I be going with this in mind?

E. Find other unconventional ways to read the Bible

  • Read it chronologically from when it was written instead of its original format
  • Study a specific word and what that word meant historically
  • Find a heresy and discover where the Bible shows how it’s wrong

Christians frequently want to know God’s will

God’s will isn’t usually as complicated as we believe

  • God’s will is the same as success where knowing it isn’t as difficult as doing it
    1. Be holy like Jesus
    2. Live by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father
  • His will isn’t a precise target to aim for with innumerable ways to fail
  • His will isn’t a maze with special rules and guidelines necessary to understand how to succeed
  • At the same time, His will isn’t a free-reign opportunity to do anything we want

God’s will doesn’t usually give specific details

God typically gives an occasional command while someone travels along a wise path

  • He quickly chastises sin (Psalm 23:4) but gives us the freedom to explore

God’s wisdom has three portions

  1. Unchanging reality He formed before time began
  2. His desired version of reality that changes from humanity’s choices
  3. His directions which aren’t technically “wrong” or “right” to follow (the most significant cause of Christians’ anxiety)

God directs for several reasons

  • To build character and attain holiness
  • To help us submit and conform to the kingdom of heaven and God’s glory
  • To help us make wise decisions

Some things are never God’s direction

  • Feelings or hunches toward certain decisions
  • Randomly selected Bible verses that confirm a belief or choice
  • Anything that contradicts a clear passage in the Bible

We should want wisdom more than specific guidance

  • Wisdom is both fear and knowledge of God
  • Biblical wisdom is living a disciplined and prudent life in that fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10)
  • Wisdom to Christians is more precious than silver or gold (Proverbs 8:11)
  • We should have an attitude of seeking longingly for wisdom
  • Wisdom is the way of life and gives freedom through understanding it (Proverbs 4:6-7)

Improve wisdom through several disciplines

  • Pray consistently and regularly
  • Ask advice from wise people in the Church
  • Read the Bible consistently and deeply
  • Taking enough time to deliberate decisions
  • Research ideal decisions and desire to gain any necessary knowledge
  • Focus solely on things you can change in yourself and ignore changing your environment

We only seek God’s will for a few reasons

A. A personal timidity from our choices

  • Sometimes our choices mix into following God

B. A desire for perfect personal fulfillment

  • God will usually stop us from what we think we want because He has something better for us

C. Anxiety from too many choices to choose from

  • Indecision isn’t a spiritually-minded behavior

D. Fear and cowardice about the present or the future

  • By following God’s will, you should be confident and therefore carefree about Him managing the future
  • Anxiety is a sin (Philippians 4:6-7) and interferes with the ability to hear His will

E. The desire to please Him

  • We should have more of an attitude of “the Lord is leading” than “God told me so”

Our human faithlessness complicates God’s will

Nothing in the Bible guarantees the following

  • Health, physical wellness or continued life on earth
  • Success in any form
  • A leisurely or effortless life
  • Financial prosperity
  • Literal, individualized messages or words from Him or angels
  • Reasonable and low-stress challenges
    • God frequently gives you more than you can handle to force your reliance on Him
  • Any of the above for someone you care about
  • A consistent lifestyle
    • Christians often transition through seasons of hardship and testing mixed with temporary prosperity
    • Mature Christians typically expect future difficulty during abundant seasons

We are responsible for our actions (Galatians 6:7-8) but tend to blame other people and God for their results

  • God might redeem us from a poor decision on our end, but spiritual salvation doesn’t guarantee any physical redemption

Some people excuse their sinful lifestyles

  • “God is still working on me”
  • “We’re all in the same boat”
  • “It’s not that bad”
  • We will often make God’s desires complicated through negativity and faith

The people who keep asking for God’s will aren’t willing to honor the part of His will explicitly indicated in the Bible

To stay in God’s will, align your heart correctly

A. Have an eternal relationship with Christ (2 Peter 3:9)

  • Deeply understand Jesus and who you are with him
  • Place “Christ above all” as your pursuit and treasury instead of your religion or mystical experience

B. Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17)

  • Depend on Christ and the Church for growing, not your feelings or knowledge

C. Let God set you aside for a holy purpose (sanctification) (1 Thessalonians 4)

D. Submit and humble yourself to everyone (1 Peter 2)

E. Suffer righteously (1 Peter 4:19)

  • God designed hardship to grow us with a predictable pattern
    1. God educates us through permitting difficulty and hardship
    2. We endure the trials long enough to learn the lesson
      • If we refuse to learn, we endure progressively more severe situations until we learn
    3. The struggle disappears to begin a period of rest when we learn what we need to know
    4. Repeat with a different lesson

F. Thank Him for His availability and your situation (Ephesians 5)

You can do whatever you want within His will

If you align your heart with Him, anything you consider doing is His will

  • Eat and drink what you want
  • Travel or live anywhere you want
  • Associate with anyone that you want

God doesn’t care about doctrines, churches or living situation as much as your relationship with Him

  • Career and college decisions don’t matter as much as Him
  • Relationships with others, including romantic ones, don’t matter as much as your relationship with Him
  • Family relationships don’t matter as much as your relationship with Him (Matthew 10:37)

If you need ideas for spiritually constructive tasks, try one of the following

  • Do something to increase your enjoyment of God
  • Ask God to do something humanly impossible that advances the kingdom of Heaven
  • Work to improve the quality of your family life
  • Make new progress in a specific spiritual discipline like fasting or Bible study
  • Find and remove the single most massive time-waster in your life
  • Find a helpful new way to strengthen your church
  • Pray fervently for someone’s salvation
  • Try to make this day, month, and year different from the last one
  • Find one way to improve your prayer life
  • Do something that will matter in ten years and do something that will matter for eternity
  • Instead of asking “why” from God, ask “how” to use the situation
  • Pray for God to search and use you
    • One of the rewarding prayers, but also one of the riskiest to your lifestyle

Your relationship with God goes beyond yourself and Him

You are part of the Body of Christ, and He’s called you to love and be loved (John 13:34-35)

Loving others is complex and challenging (1 Corinthians) and covered more in-depth on future pages

However, the Bible clarifies a specific priority of our relationships with others

  1. God above anyone else (Luke 10:27)
  2. Spouse, even if you dislike them (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  3. Children, with no partiality, irrespective of adopted or natural-born, at least until reaching adulthood
  4. Other Christians, also known as your spiritual family (Matthew 12:46-50)
  5. All official authority figures (Romans 13:1-7)
  6. The poor, orphans, and widows (James 1:27)
  7. All extended family (e.g., children and parents after adulthood, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews)
  8. Everyone else
Next: Relationships With Others