Christianity is unique among world religions because its followers know the God they worship. In fact, Biblical Christianity is really a relationship with Jesus Christ as opposed to a religious system. Christians don’t follow religion, they follow Jesus.
The believer’s relationship with God that is central to Christianity has literally transformed lives and changed history as men and women who are brought to a saving knowledge of God by faith confidently live out their new lives in Christ as God works in them to make them more like him and accomplish his plans (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13).“Christianity is unique among world religions because its followers know the God they worship.”
Ask any Christian what keeps them going, and they won’t hesitate to say that it’s Jesus Christ.
They know him personally. God, as the Holy Spirit, lives in them, works in them and witnesses to them. They have been restored, their sins forgiven, and their priorities made right.
At some point in life God revealed himself to them, they encountered God as a result, and they accepted his free gift of salvation by repenting of their sins, believing in Jesus Christ and asking him in faith to save them.“Ask any Christian what keeps them going, and they won’t hesitate to say that it’s Jesus Christ.”
In this lesson we’re going to look at how people can know God personally and relationally. We’ll also consider some examples from early Christians. By doing this we’ll learn why a relationship with Jesus is absolutely central to Christianity and how it changes lives.
Only God Gives Us an Understanding of Himself
The Christian’s knowledge of God is not a mere intellectual knowledge, or an ungrounded mystical knowledge.
It’s not a knowledge that comes from man for “the world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21). In fact, when the world seeks after God by its own means and definitions apart from God’s, man is only left with agnosticism at best (Matt. 13:16-17).
Nor is it knowing a false view of God. There is an alarming trend in the world today where people, and even some Christians, hold to the false idea that they can know “the god of their understanding.”“The Christian’s knowledge of God is not a mere intellectual knowledge, or an ungrounded mystical knowledge.”
However, the God of the Bible has fixed attributes, he means what he says, he is unchanging, and while he works in us in unique ways tailored to our personal needs and according to his plans for us, his nature and who he is does not vary based on man’s opinions of him (Heb. 13:8, Jas. 1:17). God is not every man’s own god. Sadly such thinking is a side-effect of 21st century post-modern relativistic thinking.
Some contend that God is found in nature, science and through the five senses. While each of these can tell us something of God, none can tell us what to do with God or how to have a relationship with God.
God’s fingerprints are indeed all over his universe. Signs of his intelligent design echo out to us (Ps. 19:1-2, Acts 14:17). We can see God in nature, and throughout creation, but we cannot know him properly from the natural world.
What we see and experience in nature (what theologians call general revelation) is a picture of God’s righteousness and glory but such pictures do not do anything by themselves to us to make us know God personally.“We have a sense of God in us, but like with nature and because of sin, we don’t know how to find the God we so desperately need on our own accord.”
Some profess that all humans are born with an innate knowledge of God. Again, this is only partially correct. We are created in God’s image, we possess infinite value because of that and are each formed by God’s breath of life (Gen. 2:7, Ps. 139:13-14). Our soul is God’s creation. But sin causes us to be born in darkness (Eph. 5:8, Rom. 3:23, Ps. 58:3). We have a sense of God in us, but like with nature and because of sin, we don’t know how to find the God we so desperately need on our own accord (1 Cor. 2:14).
We see God in the universe and we sense him but we cannot get to him on our own. Both are signposts or evidence of God that is external or outside of ourselves, both are from God but neither save us by themselves. Rather general revelation merely makes our sins inexcusable to God (Rom. 1:19-20).
Think of it like this. Imagine that God is an artist. One day you walk into a gallery and see a painting. It’s a beautiful work of art. From it you gain a sense of the artist’s intentions, craft and ability.
However, you cannot know the artist simply by looking at his art. You might also have an innate sense of what constitutes good art, its appealing to you, inside yourself you know it represents something more, something greater. While this can help you appreciate the art more, it still doesn’t help you know the artist like you need to.“The knowledge that saves us from sin and restores us to a proper relationship with God, can only be acquired, and it is only acquired through God himself.”
In order to know the artist of any work of art he has to reveal himself to you. You won’t get to know him simply by looking at his art. You either need to know how to contact him by him giving you directions to him to meet him or he needs to contact you directly.
The same is true in Christianity. We sense there is more to life but sin clouds what that more really is. We see God around us but its not enough on its own to bring us to him. Instead, we need to know how to get to God via the Gospel and his Word. God needs to reveal himself to us.
Because of sin we are born in darkness as enemies of God, rebellious and desperately needing redemption and restoration to a proper knowledge of God as our Father. However, such knowledge, the knowledge that saves us from sin and restores us to a proper relationship with God, can only be acquired, and it is only acquired through God himself.
Christians know God through his revelation to them in his Word and through his son Jesus Christ.
20) And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.1 Jn. 5:20 (KJV)
3) And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.John 17:3 (KJV)
Put simply, God gives us an understanding of him. That’s the entire purpose of God’s redemptive plan through his Word and Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). In fact, it pleases God to reveal himself to us (Gal. 1:15-16).
This is not a general revelation, but a special revelation that comes by faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 10:17).“Anyone can know God personally, and relationally when God reveals himself to them and they accept his free gift of salvation.”
This faith is not blind, rather it is substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1, Heb. 11:6).
Anyone can know God personally, and relationally when God reveals himself to them and they accept his free gift of salvation.
9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.Romans 10:9 (KJV)
8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
All those who are saved can attest to this and that the fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Prov. 1:7, Jer. 33:3, Prov. 8:17, Phil. 1:6, Phil. 2:13).
Examples of God’s Relationship with Believers
Throughout history Christians have described characteristics of their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The examples are endless but let’s consider just a few from Scripture to get a better idea of how God impacts and transforms the lives of those who know him.
Consider St. Thomas. When Jesus appeared to him after rising from the grave, he wanted to make sure it really was Jesus.
Jesus knew this and asked Thomas to touch his wounds for proof. Thomas did and in astonishment said, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28).“All believers encounter God, and all who do not know God must confront God in one way or another as they realize they are sinners and have to decide whether to accept his salvation or not.”
Jesus was uniquely Thomas’ God just as he is my God and your God if you have believed on him as your savior. God is personal to each believer and he reveals himself to each of us.
Jacob, after his famous wrestling match with Jesus in an angelic form said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Gen. 32:30).
All believers encounter God, and all who do not know God must confront God in one way or another as they realize they are sinners and have to decide whether to accept his salvation or not. When we do accept him, we can also proclaim, like Jacob, that our life is preserved.“Jesus died for you and for me. He took your sins and mine on the cross and as such he has felt everything that you have gone through as a result of your sins.”
St. Paul said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). God is a source of strength and grace for the individual weaknesses of each believer. We are privileged to rely on him.
Moreover, Jesus died for you and for me. He took your sins and mine on the cross and as such he has felt everything that you have gone through as a result of your sins (2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 5:19). He took the punishment sinners deserve and brought peace between God and man (Rom. 5:1, Is. 53:5-6).
Kind David praised God’s strength with his remark, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Ps. 23:4).
David know that God would be with him even at the moment of death, and that knowledge was greater than his fear of dying. God comforts all his children and brings them all through to the other side and to eternal glory when they are called home (2 Tim. 1:10, 1 Cor. 15:55).
Isaiah spoke of God’s holy nature and how he was (by his own merits and life) not worthy of being in God’s presence. He said, “Woe is me! for I am undone…for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:5).“God’s presence in our lives lets us look to things of eternal significance and value. Looking to Christ takes our focus off the temporary troubles of the world.”
God is absolutely holy, perfect and sinless. That’s scary for the lost but a blessing to the saved as it allows Christians to bask in God’s glory and properly understand who they ought to be and who God is making them into (set apart like Christ).
God brings us into closer relationship and fellowship with him by showing us glimpses of his holiness – teaching us that we are not the center of the universe. God’s presence in our lives lets us look to things of eternal significance and value. Looking to Christ takes our focus off the temporary troubles of the world
Even the church itself, in arguably the earliest Christian creed (a codified statement of belief) referred to by St. Paul circa 50 AD affirms…
3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (KJV)
The church knew the Gospel right from the start: “Jesus died for our sins.” Jesus proclaimed this good news, then his followers spread the Word across the world just as believers continue to do today.
Again, these are just a few examples of what God does in the lives of those who believe in him, but through them we see just how deep, precious and awe-inspiring Jesus’ relationship with believers is.
Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship between each believer and Jesus Christ, and between Jesus Christ and his bride the church.
In this lesson we learned that man on his own cannot come to a proper knowledge of God.
Rather, God gives man an understanding of himself and an opportunity to know him personally by revealing himself to him through his Word and through Jesus Christ.“Those who are brought to a saving knowledge of God by faith confidently live out their new lives in Christ as God works in them to make them more like him as he helps them accomplish his plans.”
When we accept what God offers through his revelation, salvation and redemption from our sins through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, we then enter a personal relationship with God.
The effect and impact of Jesus’ relationship with believers is profound as God completely transforms those he saves (Jn. 3:3, 2 Cor. 5:17).
Those who are brought to a saving knowledge of God by faith confidently live out their new lives in Christ as God works in them to make them more like him as he helps them accomplish his plans.
We saw examples of this as we learned what some early Christians had to say about their relationship with God.“What have you done with God’s message? Can you, like Paul, say that you know whom you have believed?”
Thomas showed us that God is personal to each believer. Jacob taught us that God preserves Christians. Paul demonstrated that believers are privileged to be able to rely on God’s grace, even in their weakness. And David taught us about the supreme comfort that God gives believers, while Isaiah showed us how simply looking to God changes us and helps us be more like him.
All throughout history God has revealed himself to man. Some have accepted him, others have rejected him. What have you done with God’s message? Can you, like Paul, say that you know whom you have believed? (2 Tim. 1:12)
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your personal savior, if you don’t know him personally, I pray you will choose to believe in and follow him today, for the truth of Christianity and its good news is that you can know God today (Rom. 10:9).
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