How important are relationships with God and with each other? – Part 5
We have so far looked at the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ; man’s relationship with fellow man and how to deal with others, together with reviewing relationships within the human family. In this Q&A, we are going to look at our vitally important personal relationship which we must have with God.
Our personal relationship with God.
So many today feel that they have a relationship with God while still trampling over His laws. But Christ tells us that we worship God in vain if we lay aside the commandments of God in order to teach and follow the commandments of men (Mark 7:6-8).
In addition, “once saved, always saved” is a false doctrine that we have covered at length previously, and we have to be obedient to the Way that God has called His people to live, that of obedience to His law—not walking all over it, thinking that it doesn’t matter. It does.
In his booklet “A World Held Captive,” Mr Herbert W Armstrong, late human leader of the now defunct Worldwide Church of God, observed as follows:
“MAN was created to have a personal relationship with God — to be begotten as children of God, finally born into the GOD FAMILY (page 6).”
“God created MAN in God’s own image — form and shape. Man was mortal like animals, but differing as to form and shape, and in MIND. To human brain was added human spirit, empowering human brain with intellect, thus making possible a relationship between man and God” (page 14).
The Bible shows that God had a relationship with a few in the Old Testament. Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:22) and Abel, Enoch and Noah are all mentioned in Hebrews 11:4-7. Later, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Rahab, Deborah, Job, Ruth, Esther, Samson, Elijah, Elisha, David, Samuel, Solomon, Isaiah, Daniel and a number of others are all shown to be in contact with God and He with them.
In the New Testament, the twelve apostles had a close personal relationship with Jesus. Of course, Judas betrayed Christ and was later replaced by Matthias. We could also mention other remarkable men such as John the Baptist, as well as other remarkable women like Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the sister of Lazarus; and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Paul, too, had a close relationship with Christ after his conversion, and so did James, the half-brother of Christ, and many others.
The names above are not a complete list but are among those shown to have been close to God.
In 2 Corinthians 6, we read that Paul was telling the Christians at that time (and by extension, God’s people today) not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (verse 14) and that we are not to be involved with idols: “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.’”
We are given clear instruction that our relationship is to be with the great God Himself and not with the ways of this world, when we become begotten sons and daughters of God through that relationship with Him.
In Revelation 3:20-22, we read Christ’s words: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
We must realise that it takes time to build a relationship with God; we don’t click our fingers and there it is. We have to make time for continuing prayer. Throughout the day we can be in contact with the great Creator God of the universe and He can be on hand to help even in the most minor of details if we involve Him as we should.
Here are just a few of many verses we can reflect on in respect to our relationship with God. First of all, we must realise that Jesus said that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44:65). We have to be called to His Way of Life to have a close personal relationship with God.
Moses says in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD your God, He it is that does go with you; He will not fail you, nor forsake you.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible observes: “…he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee; not fail to fulfil his promises to them, not leave them till he had given them complete victory over their enemies, put them into the possession of their land, and settled them in it. This promise, though made to literal Israel, belongs to the spiritual Israel of God, and is made good to every true believer in the Lord; see Hebrews 13:5: ‘Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
We are never alone when we are close to God, but that doesn’t mean that we will never have any difficulties. When this happens, we read in Psalm 34:17-19 what God will do for us: “The righteous cry, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”
We read further: “But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
It is incredible to realise that the One who created us all describes His people who are close to Him in this way: “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him’” (Malachi 3:16-17).
We can be encouraged with this promise: “‘For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,’ Says the LORD. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word’” (Isaiah 66:2). With this sort of attitude, our relationship with our Creator will be very close, fruitful and peaceful. Christ assured us: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
God’s people are instructed to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). What a wonderful promise that is for this time now, and the future is to be amazing. Peter adds the following:
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care on Him; for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
We have to have a child/parent relationship with our great Creator God, and we can see the dividends that this brings now. In the future, when Christ rules this earth, everyone will learn of God’s ways, and those who respond will also be able to have a good and close relationship with God (See Isaiah 11:9-10).
This personal relationship with God starts at the time when we realize our need for Him and do as the apostle Peter instructed in Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
Right from the outset of life on earth, Adam and Eve were offered the opportunity of having a personal relationship with God, as we read in Genesis 3:2-3: “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”’” As the serpent tried to derail our original parents from going God’s Way, Eve related what God had told them, but some doubts may have already crept in, because she added something what God had not told them. God had only said that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; but Eve went further and said that they were not even to touch it—something God had not said. Adam and Eve had direct communication with their Creator but still fell for the lies of Satan. Our adversary is so powerful that if we are not close to God and stay close, our relationship will falter: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
The world at large has no idea about the plan of God. We have been given a future that man, without God, can only dream about. This requires however, that we overcome sin, so that we can inherit eternal life. While eternal life is a gift, God is not going to bestow it on us if we live in rebellion against His Law. We read in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This personal relationship with God is vital and is an integral part of our Christian Way of Life which reaps so many benefits now – and for eternity.
There are quite a few metaphors that Scripture uses to describe our relationship with God and which show how important it is. For instance, we are clay in our Potter’s hands—the “WORK” of His hands (Jeremiah 18:1-6; Isaiah 64:8); we are the branches of the Vine and of the Vinedresser (John 15:1-8); we are the sheep of our Shepherd (John 10:1-18); and we are God’s friends when we do what He commands us (John 15:13-15).
In addition, let us conclude this installment with a few excerpts from our Q&A (which you should read in its entirety), titled, “What are some of the spiritual analogies applying to our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ?”
“When dealing with the Father’s and Christ’s relationship with His Church, we find that the Bible pictures the same through several analogies. One of these analogies is the concept of a marriage agreement—we read that both in the Old and in the New Testament, the ‘congregation in the wilderness’—Old Testament Israel—and the Body of Christ—New Testament Israel or the Church of God—are pictured as entering a marriage agreement with the LORD or YHWH, who was none other than Jesus Christ. In other words, the old covenant and the new covenant are compared with marriage agreements. We read that Christ—the bridegroom—will marry His Church—the bride.
“At the same time, we read that we are Christ’s brothers and sisters, and that God is our Father—as He is also the Father of Jesus Christ. When we receive God’s Holy Spirit, we are called begotten children of God, and we will become born-again children at the time of our change to immortal spirit beings in God’s Family. The new covenant also includes for us a promise of inheritance. We are called co-heirs with Christ. All these meaningful analogies contain very important spiritual principles and teachings for us…
“It is important to realize, in this context, that these are spiritual analogies… the main emphasis is on the spiritual ‘consummation’—an analogy drawn from the physical marriage concept…
“The marriage analogy expresses the thought that we must be OBEDIENT to our Husband—Jesus Christ. So we see that the marriage analogy complements the analogy of God being our Father and we being His children. God is not our physical Father, and we are not His physical children, but He is our spiritual Father, and we are His spiritual children. And as the spiritual bride or wife is to be subject to Christ in everything, so we, as spiritual children of God, are to be subject to the Father in everything. And as Christ loves His bride, so the Father loves His children. In fact, we read that the Father loves us with the same love with which He loves Christ, and that Christ loves His bride with the same love with which the Father loves Him (John 17:23; 15:9).
“The marriage analogy is complemented with the analogy of inheritance… Christ will consummate the marriage with us and share His inheritance with us, if we stay faithful. Another analogy describes vividly what will happen to us if we don’t remain faithful. It is the analogy of us being children of God—begotten children at the time of the receipt of the Holy Spirit—and born again children at the time of our change to spirit beings. But if we—as begotten children—become unfaithful, the analogy of physical abortion pictures our ultimate spiritual fate, preventing us from ever being born into God’s Family… As there is the possibility of a physical miscarriage or abortion, so there is the possibility of a spiritual miscarriage or abortion. God, our Father, will never abort us, unless we force Him to do so, by refusing to grow and to obey Him. When God aborts a spiritual child, it is because His child has rejected Him…
“Of course, there are further analogies in the Bible, especially referring to those who are being called to salvation in this day and age. The Bible calls them firstfruits—Jesus Christ being the first of the firstfruits… Another analogy compares the body and the bride of Christ with a temple—a holy building in the Lord—being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ being the chief cornerstone of the foundation of that temple.
“Considering all of the above-described analogies, we should take great comfort, but also great care that we, as Christ’s bride and His brothers and sisters, as well as God the Father’s children, concentrate on becoming worthy to stand before the Son of Man at His return, to be born into the Kingdom and Family of God, ‘consummating’ our marriage with Christ, and inheriting the promises.”
(To be continued)
Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link