How to Begin a Real Relationship with God
Have you ever had someone try to change you into someone you’re not? God has it happen to him all the time. Often, we try to make God into someone we think is preferable, picking and choosing certain characteristics that make us feel good while discarding others aspects of who he is.
Most often, the result is an imaginary "god" who is friendly and may help but has little to say about personal, moral decisions. Consequently, his "help" is limited to minor miracles rather than changing the direction or quality of a life.
According to the Bible, God is personal and distinct. His love and compassion are breathtaking and his moral standards are firm. Like a great parent, both forgiveness and direction are expressions of love. He dreams of and works toward a world in which people are growing wiser and loving better each other better than we see now.
According to Jesus, if one wants to know God, they must discover who he actually is rather than try to change him into something he’s not. In fact, one of the most important aspects of the resurrection is God’s reassurance that he can be known objectively as well as personally. If you’re ready to begin a relationship with God, the way is both simple and profound:
Know that God’s moral standard is higher than you think…
It’s far higher than any human can achieve. He’s perfect in love and compassion. None of us come close to his ideal so we need his help (Romans 3:23).
Realize that God’s justice applies to everyone (including us!)…
He will judge all humankind according to his standard (not ours). As humans, we can think our own actions (or inactions) are excusable. According to the Bible, we’ll all be judged without a curve. Heaven is going to be perfect and only perfect (or forgiven & growing) people are welcome (Romans 6:23).
Receive God’s grace and holiness as depicted in the cross…
How does God demonstrate his love and justice in such a way that we see him for whom he really is? Through Christ. The Bible teaches that the cross is both a powerful picture of God’s holiness AND God’s love. On the one hand, we see the judgment sinful people deserve. Christ was taking on the punishment for our sins. On the other hand, we see how much God loves us by giving his very Son for us (Romans 5:8).
Invite God to lead your life…
To receive God’s forgiveness and the new life he offers, one needs to “repent”. Repent means to say “I’m sorry for the past and I’m inviting you to lead my life in the future.“ It’s not a big ceremony, ritual, or process one goes through to earn God’s love. Rather, it’s much deeper! It’s a sincere decision to give one’s life to God. It’s a high risk move that requires faith. Nothing less (no outward act or religious verbiage or class) will be accepted by God (Romans10:9).
The resurrection shows his ability to change history—and us…
Who wants to worship a "god" they’ve made up? If you think about it, it’s pretty foolish to make a god in your own image. The resurrection of Christ, witnessed by hundreds who later died for their testimony confirms his power is true, that he really is the creator, God himself. More than that, the resurrection is a demonstration of God’s ability to change us, our families, and our world if we’re willing and humble enough to receive it.
If you would like to talk about these matters more, please drop a note to Mickey at firstname.lastname@example.org. More importantly, God himself is waiting to hear from you. His love for you is that great. In Luke 15, Jesus said that heaven celebrates when one person begins a relationship with God. Today could be your day.
Living Out Your Relationship with God
Like any friendship, the key to a close relationship with God is time spent talking and listening. God wants to speak to each of us through his word and Holy Spirit and, in turn, invites us to “pour out our hearts” out to him (Ps. 62:8). A real friendship with God is THE fuel that motivates our love for God, love for others, protects us from temptation, gives us strength, opens up doors and gives meaning to life itself. The impact of walking with God really can’t be overstated. We hope every believer enjoys this kind of intimacy with Him. Because of his great love for us, he longs for it even more than we do.
We encourage you to take time daily. The place and time aren’t as important as just making the opportunity. Below are some great online resources. On the other hand, perhaps you want to just read God’s word as he leads you. The important thing is to respond in some way to his invitation to walk with him. If you don’t have a Bible, feel free to take one from POG this Sunday.
How to talk to God (aka "prayer")
We pray because God hears and responds. He not only answers but changes our hearts (joy, hope, peace, courage) in the process. Here are some tips:
Avoid formulas and meaningless repetition (Matthew 6:6-8)
Be real-even when it’s negative (Psalm 62:8)
Give thanks (he deserves it and we need it)
Take time to worship (a small view of God leads to a small life)
Tell him your requests (1 Peter 5:7)
Pray for others too
How to listen to God
The big idea is allowing God to transform our minds so that we know him better and see the world the way he does more and more (Romans 12:1). We believe the Bible is God’s inspired word for humankind so we invite it to change our values and perspectives. Simply put, we need to open our minds to God’s word on a daily basis. Ask God to speak to you (we don’t want reading for duty’s sake). Sometimes it feels miraculous and other times it feels like we’re merely learning. That’s OK.
Where Does Point of Grace Fit In?
Jesus' vision for his Church and the individuals who compose it is breathtaking. Who doesn't want a life characterized by friendship with God, great friends, freedom from anxiety, deep satisfaction and a sense of purpose with the strength to follow through? When the church is fulfilling Jesus' dream, there's a collective sense of awe that God is present and doing great things--like helping marriages, raising healthy kids, feeding the hungry, helping neighbors and spreading the hope-giving news of God's love.
How does Jesus' vision become reality? At Point of Grace, we have a very simple plan to catalyze God's work in our lives and community. It has to do with simple habits that lead to great results. Popular author, John Ortberg, describes the difference between "training" and "trying." Just trying really hard to do something rarely accomplishes the goal. On the other hand, training leads to the inner strength to see real results. Just like working out physically, spiritual training requires disciplines that change us profoundly. Our character qualities, strength, reactions, values and virtues improve as we train to become more like Jesus. As we train spiritually, our hearts are changed. Then our families and friendships follow. Before we know it, God is using us more and more to help us change our part of the world.
As a church, our goal is to provide the opportunities for people to grow. Really, we're a spiritual "gym" full of people training to become like Christ (compassionate, kind, helping, loving, etc).
So what's the simple plan for spiritual growth at Point of Grace? Below are the three disciplines we believe will catalyze a vibrant and effective life in Christ. They correspond with our mission, "To know, follow and love like Jesus"
Step one: To Know Jesus
POG catalyst: the weekend service
It all begins by knowing Jesus personally, learning more about who he is, talking to him regularly and worshiping from the heart. While relating to Jesus is more than a church service, we invite everyone who calls Point of Grace home to be a very regular part of the weekend worship. We understand that taking time to focus on God through worship and thanksgiving not only honors him but changes us. Also, we take time at the weekend service to learn his truth and apply it in very practical ways to our lives. The practices of learning and worship go a long way toward change.
You can find out more about the weekend service here. You can learn more about how to cultivate a growing personal relationship with God here.
Step two: To Follow Jesus
POG catalyst: ministry teams
We invite everyone who calls Point of Grace home to take precious time and energy to serve somebody in some way on a regular basis. Jesus taught that every human ever created (that includes you) has been made for a purpose. We try to help people discover their God-given gifts and passion and provide an opportunity for them to use them in a meaningful, team-oriented way. It may be teaching kids, helping a neighbor rake, leading something, communicating with creativity or handling administration, etc. At POG, we know that everyone is created for a mission and every mission is important and when we do it TOGETHER, great things happen.
You can find out more about our ministry teams here. You can find out more about our community outreach here.
Step three: To Love Like Jesus
POG catalyst: small groups
Jesus was in a small group of twelve. He encouraged them and served them. He even washed their feet. In the same way, we invite everyone who calls Point of Grace home to give the gift of friendship by being part of a group. Jesus understood how important it is for his followers to receive and give encouragement to one another in the context of real friendships. If you think about it, Jesus didn't change the history of the world through mass rallies or political marches, he began very intentionally with a small group of friends who loved, protected and encouraged each other to love like their leader. You can find out more about POG groups here.
Our hope is that each person at Point of Grace would discover the growth and spiritual vitality that comes through training. God has given us his Spirit and love in abundance. Through worship, learning, serving and building strong friendships, his love is realized in everyday living. We hope our weekend service, small groups and serving opportunities will catalyze spiritual vitality in your life and impact our wider community too.
When followers of Christ follow Christ's model of friendship, service, worship and learning, his "body" truly becomes the hope of the world. Then, and only then, is his church a force for good unmatched by any other.