January 6, 2017
The Rules of Relationship
By Skip Heitzig
A couple years ago after a church service, a man came up to me and said, "Skip, you talk a lot about having a personal relationship with God. Could you explain to me the difference between religion and relationship?" One of our pastors received an email not long after that was very similar: "Help me understand this whole 'relationship with God' thing you guys talk about. I mean, I read my Bible and talk to God and listen, but I'm not really hearing anything. How do you have a personal relationship with God?"
Here's the problem we often run into: God is invisible, and that makes the dynamic of having a relationship with Him all the more difficult. How can we have a meaningful personal relationship with a being who is so different from us? It's actually simple. In your relationship with God, two things must be present: love and trust.
First Peter 1:7-9 talks about "Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love," and goes on to say, "Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls." Let's look more closely at those two ingredients for relationship: love and trust (or believing, as it's called in the text).
First of all, our relationship with God must be based on love: "Whom having not seen you love" (v. 8). Peter was writing to believers scattered throughout Asia Minor who had never met Christ, but they believed in Him and loved Him. Unbelievers will say, "This isn't possible. How do you know you're not just loving a projection of yourself? You can't love somebody you don't see."Au contraire. My wife, Lenya, moved to Hawaii for two years when we were dating, and you know what? Though we were separated visually, I grew in my love for her through our letters and phone calls. Invisible doesn't mean unlovable.
So that's the first ingredient in a personal relationship with God: love. And how do you know you love Jesus?If you obey His commands: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). That is Christianity 101. If you don't love Jesus Christ enough to do what He says, then you don't love Jesus Christ.
Second, this relationship is based on trust: "Though now you do not see Him, yet believing" (v. 8)—or trusting; same idea. Love and trust go together. The soul that believes cannot but love, and the soul that loves cannot but trust. Even though "now [we] do not see Him" (v. 8), there will be a time when we will see Him. Until then, we walk by faith and not by sight—leaning on Him, depending on Him, trusting in Him. And these two things—love and trust—bind us together in intimacy with Christ.
And this is what Peter was getting at: a relationship with God that's based on love and trust is satisfying beyond words—"you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (v. 8). Joy is a theme found all throughout God's redemptive history. Inthe New Testament, Paul even commanded it, which seems odd—you can't command somebody to be joyful! But he did: "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). The essence of Christian joy is found when you choose to love and trust Jesus.
Let's end with verse 9: "Receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls." This simply means that what is invisible now and apprehended only by faith now will one day be visible and tangible. In other words, the joy you have now is not even fully developed yet! So let's press ahead, growing in our love and trust of the Lord, knowing that the relationship we have with Him—with all of its fulfillment and satisfaction—pales in comparison to what's coming next.
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