What is a personal relationship with God? It’s not the first time I’ve been asked the question, but it happened again recently and came from someone who is a believer, which kind of took me by surprise. And yet I suppose it shouldn’t take us by surprise, after all God is Spirit and we are flesh, we can’t see God but we can see one another. So what constitutes a relationship?
- First of all it involves distinct and knowable personalities – a relationship is is not mechanics, cold and mechanistic.
- Second there must be some knowledge/knowing of one another on the part of both parties – a relationship is not a one-way street. This is not just knowledge about someone, for example that they are real, they exist, they have particular histories and abilities, i.e. I can know about the Queen of England, or the Prime Minister, who they are and what they do, but that doesn’t mean I have a personal relationship with them – far from it.
- Third, there must be the ability to communicate, to engage with one another in an understandable way. It is not just the knowing but the ability to engage with one another in a real and meaningful way that makes a relationship.
So can we have a personal relationship with God?
So when it comes to our question, what is a personal relationship with God, can we answer those questions affirmatively, and the answer is yes.
- First, God, though he is Spirit, has revealed himself to be a distinct and knowable personality. He is not an energy/force, the original spark, some thing of which we are all a part, no, he is as all the great confessions declare the one true God, who is himself a community of being and relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and who has revealed himself distinctly to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is a knowable God. He is not cold or mechanistic, he is Life itself, he is Love.
- Secondly he has made us in his image – not the same, but in his likeness, and as such he has made us with distinct and knowable personalities.
- Thirdly, he has given us the ability to know one another. From the very beginning we see this in the biblical story. God and man/humankind knew who one another were.
- Fourthly, communication. The Bible makes it clear God could speak to man and man could speak to God; God could hear man and man could hear God. They could communicate to and understand one another.
A broken relationship
Of course relationships can break down, and certainly the relationship between God and man did when humanity broke covenant with God and decided to listen to and respond to the wrong voice. Since then humanity has either found it easier to write God out of the story/paint him out of the picture, create it’s own version of God (a version that would serve his own ends) or to create a vast array of religious exercises to compensate for the lack of relationship and so give the impression that he was there.
Thankfully scripture reveals that God is love and in his love he pursued us in order to restore the relationship, coming ultimately himself in the garb of human flesh and living the life we should have lived, never consciously or unconsciously falling short, he then took all that was wrong about us and the broken relationship and payed the price on an old rugged cross. Such was his commitment to restoring the relationship!
The response required on our part is the recognition of the brokenness in the relationship, and our own guilt in it, to repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ who alone cane save and reconcile us. Have you made peace with God? If not why not stop and do that just now.
A growing relationship
If you are Christian then don’t let the devil or anyone else rob you of the fact that God has reconciled you to himself, he has called you into a real and vital relationship with himself, and like any relationship you can grow in it.
- He wants you to get to know him better – he certainly knows you.
- He wants you to know his presence, he wants to know yours – take time with him.
- Live and do life with him as the God who is there, your Emmanuel, not as a God who is over there.
- He wants to speak to you, he wants you to speak to him; he wants you to hear his voice and he wants to hear yours – take time to listen, be in his word, listen to the voice of his Spirit; take time to talk to and ask God about your life and those around you, making bold requests as he directs.