You Can Be as Close to God as You Want to Be
“I believe, but I don’t feel close to God like some of you. Not sure why. I’d like to.” My friend’s words caused me to remember my own faith journey.
In Sunday School, my young heart warmed toward God when I heard the stories of David and Goliath and Zacchaeus, the wee little man. My grandmother made sure I treated God with respect. No food in my mouth when we blessed our meal.
But I didn’t understand the part about being a sinner who needed saving. I wasn’t sure what people were saved from. That changed when a youth leader explained John 3:16 at a weekend youth camp and the Holy Spirit cut through my blameless veneer. I’d wronged God. Jesus had gone to the cross for my sin.
The realization broke—and healed—my heart. The gospel became personal. Jesus didn’t just love the world. He loved me!
I returned from camp on top of the world—a citizen of heaven—a child of God. Could anything be better?
But the glow faded. Instead of sprouting wings, I bristled when Mama said, “Clean your room.” I fussed when my little sister got into my stuff. Knowing Jesus assured me of heaven when I died, but it didn’t seem to make much difference now. Even reading the Bible raised more questions than it answered.
In college, I spent a weekend with some vibrant Christians. Their lives created a thirst to know God better. At a friend’s Bible study, we listened to Bible teaching audios. This group treated the Bible as if it meant what it said.
I’d filtered the Bible through my own understanding. What agreed with my world view I kept and dismissed the parts that didn’t. No wonder it didn’t make sense.
A Turning Point
I wanted the peace my friends who simply trusted the Scriptures shared. But could I let go of relying on my own understanding and fully trust the Scriptures?
God tenderly wooed me to trust Him. I exchanged my know-it-all approach for childlike faith. The Scriptures came to life. Questions, I thought would never be answered in this life, became clear. Scales fell off of my eyes.
“I feel I’ve been living blindfolded all my life, and now I see,” I told my friend. “I even view the evening news differently.” Life brimmed with the presence of God.
Perhaps like me and my friend, you want to feel closer to God. You can! Here are some tips to help you get started.
3 Tips to Grow Closer to God
- Ask your heavenly Father for a closer relationship.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV).
- Read the Bible with childlike wonder.
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do’” (Luke 10:21 NIV)
- Invite Jesus to be your life, not just a part of life.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
What You Should Do – Crosswalk the Devotional – September 23
by John UpChurch, crosswalk.org
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. – Colossians 1:10-12
Hundreds of times I’ve found myself bemoaning some predicament or difficult decision. Often, I’m on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. Although the words may vary somewhat, they all pretty much amount to this:
“God, can’t you just tell me what to do?”
I’m a planner. So, what I really mean is this: “If You could just spell out every step for the next few months—or years—that’d be great. Maybe a detailed list?”
What I keep forgetting is that God already did that. He even put it all in a list for me in Colossians. Sure, it isn’t exactly a step-by-step guide, but close enough. His planner for our daily life goes like this:
Bearing fruit in every good work: Since He’s prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), that makes this one even more straightforward. But how can we identify these? By…
Growing in the knowledge of God: He’s the one who prepared these good works. So, He’s the one we should cozy up to and learn from through His Word and consistent communication. And when we do, we get some boom to go with it…
Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might: God is radioactive. As we walk in those good works by getting to know Him, His power rubs off. True, we don’t get the X-Men glowing face like Moses, but we can still put on quite the light show (Matthew 5:16). You get that power…
So that you may have great endurance and patience: When good works flow from our knowledge of God and His strength, we suddenly care a lot less about those worries that used to drag us down. We can endure because God’s Kingdom is present in our life right now (Matthew 6:33). With such a focus, that means we should be…
Joyfully giving thanks to the Father: Rolling in those pre-prepared good works with God-strength and God-focus makes us want to do the God-is-good electric slide (your results and dance moves may vary). We just can’t keep our mouths shut because He…
Has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light: In fact, that’s the biggest, boldest thing on our God-given to-do list. We do the good works He’s planned with His strength and our eyes on Him, all because He qualified us.
Because we’re human, we all experience feelings of inadequacy from time to time. But the real issue facing us is not whether we are sufficient for a task, but how we will respond to such a challenge.
The Israelites felt inadequate as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. The size and strength of the enemy contrasted sharply with their own weakness and inability, and they didn’t trust the Lord’s promise. So they refused to conquer the land and as a result were made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. How tragic that they never saw the land God wanted to give them.
Like the children of Israel, we become fearful and expect to fail. As the obstacle grows in our mind, we run from the challenge and toward safety. However, turning away from a God-given task will lead us not to security but into bondage. Faith, on the other hand, will set us on the path our Father has planned for us.
When the Lord calls you to an assignment beyond your abilities, rely on what you know about Him and His promises. You will discover that our faithful God always empowers us for the work He wants us to accomplish.
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” – Hebrews 9:14 NASB
Troubled by church practices and teachings, Martin Luther summarized his concerns in 95 theses he nailed to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1517. His actions inaugurated the Reformation. He also became the center of controversy as men and nations took sides on the issues he raised.
Through these experiences, he gained a deep understanding of the importance of grace. He reflected what he learned in a hymn he wrote in 1524, translated into English as “In the Midst of Earthly Life.”
He described how the “snares of death surround us” and “powers of hell” can overtake us. Through our sins and mistakes, we stir up God’s wrath. Our only hope is to cry out to Him. We need God to save us and have mercy on us. Only He is our refuge “when our sins oppress us.”
Luther recognized the importance of the atoning work of Jesus. “Where shall we for refuge go, where for grace to bless us? To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!” His blood was shed to “win full atonement for our sin.” He prayed, “Lord, preserve and keep us in the peace that faith can give.”
Today, remember that Jesus died for you. Because of His sacrifice, you don’t have to carry guilt and worry. You can be clean and free! You can have peace and eternal life. Trust your life to Him. And praise His name.