When I look at the different people around my church, and talk to them about what they know about God or listen to discussions during our Sunday School classes, I realize that many people have an incomplete understanding of even the the basics of the Christian faith. I think the our Christian education is like swiss cheese. There are holes in what we know, or in how we have applied what we know, or even more so we don’t know enough it seems or lack the training necessary to help others learn.
WDA has spent years considering how we need to help people grow to maturity. I would love to say that the process of discipling someone is a clean step by step process where we learn one thing and go on to the next. The difficulty is that we tend to leap around without a clear idea of what we need to know and what we need to teach. WDA has a progressive plan for helping people grow. We begin with the basics and using tools such as the R-CAPS grid, we make a plan that allow people to grow in phases.
The challenge for any disciple building process is that people don’t always begin with one person at the beginning stages of faith in Christ and continue with them to maturity. The disciples were with Jesus as he discipled them over a period of three years. Not only were they with him, they left their jobs and followed him for the majority of that time. This is not only impractical it’s seems impossible in our modern context.
My experience as a discipleship pastor has shown me that building disciples takes more time than I ever expected. Some contexts provide a more robust opportunity such as the college campus, however the week by week discipleship in the church means that we have to commit to stay with one another long enough to grow. Having a plan enables your ministry to know not only where you are going but you can build out that plan, considering the time and commitment necessary to see people grow to maturity in your context.
With WDA’s R-CAPS Grid you can learn to see that discipleship is more than content alone, but is structured around relationships, focuses on application, involves praying with and for one another and builds situations where people can learn with others and do ministry.
WDA is working in a variety of ministry settings, with our 28/20 project, our Restorative Ministries, our International Leadership Training and Next Generation Ministry. One thing that we have learned. Discipleship requires a plan and takes time.
Take some time to learn more about our philosophy of ministry by reading Disciple Building a Biblical Framework. Contact WDA to learn more about how you can develop a plan for your church and ministry which can help fill in the holes and develop leaders for years to come.
My daughter defines “friendship” as a relationship where “you can just be yourself”. We all need relationships with people who love us and accept us completely, a place where we feel safe and secure. Every relationship is unique, but healthy relationships have this in common: they are based on trust, loyalty, and commitment. They are places where “we can just be ourselves”.
An environment of honesty, good will, and unconditional love reassures us that we are relationally protected. When we are with people who love us in this way we are able to be transparent, which serves to deepen the relationship. We all need relationships with safe people who love us if we are to thrive and grow. This is also true in our relationship with God. If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence. Conversely, if we feel condemned by God, we will not have a healthy relationship with Him. Being secure in our relationship with God requires two commitments. The first involves His eternal commitment to us, the second involves our commitment to stay in the relationship with Him.
God is committed to keeping us as His children.
Jesus spoke of His love for His followers by comparing Himself to a shepherd who walks in front of his flock, guarding them, leading them to good places, and reassuring them with his voice. “I give them eternal life,” He said, “and they shall never perish: no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
This remarkable assertion is founded on God’s unswerving commitment to those whom He loves. Because of His unending love and unstoppable power, He is willing and able to guard us. (II Timothy 1:12) Even our own sins and lack of faith will not lessen His commitment to those who are committed to Him. Timothy writes that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (II Timothy 2:11-13) His love for us is not grounded upon our performance, it is grounded upon His perfect love and character.
If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence.
Make no mistake, God is holy and hates sin. But we still sin, even though we don’t want to. When we do, we need to remember that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. We have Someone who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-2:2) Because Jesus Himself suffered temptations and yet did not sin, He is able to be the sacrifice for our sins and also to help us when we are tempted. Through Christ, God remains steadfast in His love to us.
We are committed to continue as His children.
Someone said that home is where they have to take you in when you knock on the door. Unfortunately, not all homes are so welcoming. But God always welcomes His children. And He wants us to be assured of our place in His family. Because we are His children, members of His family, we have a role also; our responsibility is to remain in His family.
John wrote his letter, the book of I John, so that people would know whether or not they were Christians. Central to his message was the confidence that Christians can have in their relationship with God. He writes: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13) The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
John says, “I write these things” so you can have this assurance; so you can know for sure you are a believer. What are “these things” that he writes? He is referring to three evidences laid out in his letter that show a person that he has become a believer. These evidences are our love (4:7), our obedience (2:3-6) and our faith in Christ (4:15, 5:1a). It is not that we will demonstrate perfect love, obedience and faith but that we will experience each of these in ways we cannot explain apart from the fact that Christ is changing us on the inside. In these ways, the true believer remains faithful to the end, “continuing in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23)
At times we all face doubts, accusations, and even suffering. When this happens, it is essential to remember that we are God’s children, committed to follow Him. The fact that we are God’s children does not mean we never sin or disobey God. Nor does it mean our salvation is dependent on our obedience. It does mean that we continually participate with God in our sanctification, working with Him by faith to grow in Christlikeness. As true believers we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” because we love Him and trust Him, pressing on to fully gain the salvation that is already ours through Him. (Philippians 2:12) To those who recognize both the divine and the human aspects of following the Living God, this approach is both mysterious and practical at the same time!
The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
Put another way, God has given us everything we need to live a godly, holy life and be sure of our salvation. But we must make every effort to grow in righteousness, remembering that we have been cleansed from past sins and called to live as children of God. This way we confirm that God has brought us securely into His family.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:3-11
There is a basis for us to be secure in our relationship with God and be certain of our salvation. The basis of this security is God’s eternal love coupled with His ability to keep us to the end. This is confirmed in our lives when we have a trusting dependence on Him and a maturing character.
We can be secure in our relationship with God.
A healthy relationship is based on trust, loyalty, and commitment.
God is committed to keep us as His children.
We can know we are God’s children and be committed to Him.
God has equipped us to live godly, holy lives assured of our salvation.
If you were God, what are some of the changes you would make in your own human character?
What are some of the signs in your life that God has begun that process of change?
Read and meditate on the book of I John.
Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store
“May the force be with you!” This now-familiar “benediction” of the Star Wars series has emerged as one of our cultural icons, characterizing an accompanying (albeit impersonal) power that is able to provide strength and comfort for lifes challenges. Unfortunately, this is also how many Christians view the Holy Spirit. For them, the Holy Spirit is a mysterious “force” who somehow influences and impacts their lives. Admittedly, explaining the Person and work of the Holy Spirit can be daunting. But the rewards of understanding God through the Person of His Spirit far outweigh the difficulties.
Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this only another name for God? A force? An impersonal “it”? A separate personality? The Holy Spirit, like the idea of the Trinity, can be a difficult concept to understand. (In fact, almost all the cults stumble over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, denying the existence of the Holy Spirit as God.)
Fortunately, we have the light of Scripture to show us God’s will and reveal His truth. This is particularly valuable in our understanding of the Holy Spirit. At this point in history, God is invisible to our human perception. But though invisible, He is still there, and He is active in the affairs of our lives. Even though the wind is invisible we can describe it and see its effects. In a similar way we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see Him in the Bible and witness His effects in the lives of believers. (John 3: 5-8) By studying how the Scriptures describe the Holy Spirit, we can know God more fully .
The Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit
It is important to recognize that Scripture does not always give lengthy explanations or formal lessons about God and His Kingdom. The Bible is not an entire account or testimony of the acts of God toward His creation and His people. As such, we find that Scripture clearly teaches us about the Holy Spirit but does not set out to prove the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Bible writers assume and teach the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity
In many cultures, it is common when first meeting others to inquire about their family relations. By knowing someone’s family name, it is possible to gain insights into the community roles and context of the new acquaintance. In a similar way, knowing how the Holy Spirit relates to the other persons of the Trinity gives us a better understanding of who He is.
As we read through the Bible, we can observe that God the Father’s role is primarily that of planning and initiating. Jesus, God the Son, executes God the Father’s plans. His Messianic role as suffering servant and delivering king is central to who He is. Finally, the Holy Spirit’s role is to apply the plan to believers.
We can see these roles of the Trinity in the work of salvation. The Father plans and sends the Son. Jesus the Son executes the plan by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His dwelling in their lives.
The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
Sometimes the best way to relate to people is to learn what they do. Actions, as the saying goes, speak louder than words. The Holy Spirit takes many actions on behalf of believers, and it can help us understand God the Holy Spirit by considering these ministries.
The Holy Spirit automatically gives certain benefits to us when we first repent and believe in God’s salvation. Titus 3:5 tells us, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” John 3:3-8 and Ephesians 2:4-5 also speak of this regenerative ministry. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Christ’s sacrifice and sets us apart for God’s purposes when we are first saved. (Hebrew 10:13-14). He indwells us, seals us, intercedes on our behalf and gives us spiritual gifts. (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:26-27; I Corinthians 12:7-11) The Holy Spirit accomplishes each of these acts on our behalf at the moment of our salvation.
Other ministries of the Holy Spirit, however, are applied to the believer only as we cooperate with Him. John tells us that the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin and teach us truth as we yield to His influence and power. (John 16: 8- 11, 13-26) He guides us, empowers us and fills us, manifesting His grace in our lives as we seek God’s will. (Galatians 5:16-18; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 5:18) In essence, the Holy Spirit walks with us, affecting us throughout our lives by an ongoing process of making us holy. (Hebrews 10:13-14)
The Holy Spirit not only works in the lives of believers, but He also convicts “the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment,” making people ready to hear our Gospel message. (John 16:8-11). Finally, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, literally “breathing” God into the writers. He is the ultimate source and authority of the Bible. (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21).
Therefore, we should be humble and grateful because of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. He is a personal God who is at work in our lives, helping us as we strive to obey and follow Him. We must seek Him in the Scripture and in prayer, continuing a lifelong process of cooperating with Him.
We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself as God the Holy Spirit.
Scripture assumes and teaches the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
The role of the Holy Spirit is better understood in relation to the roles of the other persons of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His indwelling.
Some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit are automatically applied to the believer at salvation.
Other ministries of the Holy Spirit are applied only with the believer’s cooperation.
We should humbly and gratefully cooperate with the Holy Spirit throughout our lives.
Ken Hewett, WDA’s International Director, recently returned from leader training in Malawi.
We wanted to share his journal.
“We received an e-mail on Thursday night saying instead of going through Amsterdam and Nairobi, I would be going through London (with an 8 hour layover) and Johannesburg. Also, instead of leaving at 5:30 Friday afternoon, I would be leaving at 10:45 that night The 8-hour layover and the late departure meant I arrived in Lilongwe at noon on Sunday rather than at midnight on Saturday.
I arrived in Lilongwe 30 hours after my flight left for London, but my suitcase didn’t make it. I waited around for the next flight from Johannesburg, but it wasn’t on that flight, either. After filling out all the paperwork, I made it to the hostel in time to have dinner and go to bed; then I went back to the airport the next morning and my suitcase arrived at noon. (Whew!)
I took an afternoon bus to Blantyre, then on to Lunzu, where I arrived at 9:30PM. I was really tired, so Paul said we would start the
seminar two hours late today. I really appreciated it because that gave me some time to rest before the teaching began.
I have enjoyed seeing the pastors again. They have all been through the basic training on disciple building, so I am giving them more advanced teaching.
Please be praying for wisdom and strength as I begin my hectic schedule here in Malawi. Ken
Two Days Later: August 22
“On Thursday morning my interpreter, Paul and I hopped on a 15-seater bus headed for Golomoti Center. By the time we were loaded we had 28 men, women and children on board. Each stop some got off and others got on. The lady sitting next to me had a chicken on her lap, which is a usual sight in Africa.
We arrived at my ‘hotel’ at 3:00 and I checked in. I have a bed with a mosquito net and an attached bathroom, which was nice. However, there is no water in the toilet, sink or shower. One of the girls brought me a 5 gallon bucket of water. So with the soap, washcloth and toilet paper I brought along, I’ll get by just fine. Betty and I have stayed in this kind of ‘hotel’ before.
There is supposed to be a restaurant here, but I haven’t found it and I’ve been all over the place. The owner brought me a piece of paper and a pencil and asked me to write down what I want and I’m trying to think of what would be safe. I picked up some water and tangerines in the small village, so with the peanutbutter I brought along, I’ll be fine.
Be praying for me as my second seminar begins tomorrow. This will be a little different than my usual seminars because I will be helping the pastors know how to teach their people to be strong in their Muslim community.
Thanks for your prayers and encouraging words.
Report from Ken:
My church for the second seminar was built of sticks, just like the one for the first seminar. They weren’t made very well, so it was good there wasn’t a wolf (or windstorm) around or it would have all come tumbling down. The pastors in the first seminar were middle aged men who had been pastoring for quite a while. They had been through the basic seminar and they are teaching the Phase II material on Knowing God, which was translated for them by Paul, our associate staff in Malawi.. They only have one booklet for two people to share, so they are praying for finances to print more.
The group in Golomoti was much younger than the first group. They hadn’t been through the basic seminar on disciple building, so we met as long as possible each day, to pack all the information into those three days. On the first day I talked to them about children, young men and old men (from I John). They were really encouraged when we talked about them being the young men, in the prime of their lives with a life of ministry ahead of them. They really soaked it all up and now it will be Paul’s job to follow them up. He’s good at that, though. They were a fun group to work with.
We finish up tomorrow afternoon, then we’ll head to Monkey Bay. I’m feeling strong and the group has been understanding the material. Thanks for your prayers. It is difficult to find water here. Please be praying there will be more in Monkey Bay.
“In early 2012, a Women’s Bible Study from Fletcher, Oklahoma, decided they wanted a project to support in Africa. I had met a group of women from the town of Lunzu, when we previously had a seminar there and these women had said they wanted to help the widows and orphans of the Lunzu area. The Bible Study group in Oklahoma decided these women would make a good project, so they began supporting them. I bought a sewing machine for them and they used the support from the women of Oklahoma to buy thread, material and the ingredients to make bread.
They have been selling the clothes and the bread to make money to buy rice and other staples for the older women who are caring for their orphaned grandchildren.
Before going back to Malawi this year I was able to raise $300 to buy them another treadle sewing machine. On Wednesday a man came to our seminar carrying a sewing machine on his back. The women were so excited! They ran home and got one of the dresses they had made and showed me how the machine worked. They were excited that they would be able to help even more women and children.
Thanks for praying for physical and spiritual strength. I’m doing great. Ken”
“It only took three hours to get from Golomoti Center to Monkey Bay. We rode in an open pickup that stopped wherever people were standing on the side of the road, and if you wanted to get off you just rapped on the top of the cab. We were constantly stopping and starting. I was fortunate enough to get a seat up by the driver with another guy, but Paul and my interpreter were stuck in back. They were able to find a seat on a bag of rice though, so they didn’t have to try to stand up.
I felt like I had died and gone to heaven when we reached my room in Monkey Bay. There was hot and cold water, electricity, air conditioning, and I had a woman named Blessing who cooked for me. I had stopped eating the food in the hotel in Golomoti because it was so greasy. Everything was swimming in grease.
The Monkey Bay group was a mix of young pastors and some who had been pastors for about fifteen years. On Tuesday we had a really lively discussion that lasted quite a while. I asked them if there was anything in the Church in Malawi that bothered them and they said it was the shamanism and witchcraft that was creeping into the churches. They were standing up and speaking and one could hardly wait until the other finished to begin sharing his experiences. They were hugging each other and praying for one another and I finally turned it over to Paul so he could talk to them in their own language. He was really speaking powerfully as he told them the answer to this problem was discipleship, helping their people grow in Christlike character. They all agreed with him and said they wanted to kidnap me so I would stay and help them. I don’t think Betty would like that, though.
I catch the bus for Lilongwe tomorrow morning at 5:30. It’s quite a long trip, so I have to travel on Friday even though my flight isn’t until Saturday. The schedule is for me to arrive home at 8:30 Sunday night, if none of my flights are changed. Thanks for praying for this trip. I’m coming home encouraged by what the Lord is doing in Malawi, despite the shamanism and witchcraft that is creeping in. Ken”
Monkey Bay is a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Malawi. It is a tourist town, so there are lots of places Blessing can find food I can eat and there was plenty of bottled water.
I just saw Ken today as he arrived home Sept 2. Thanks for praying for Ken and all of our international trainers.
You have begun a journey to know God, but did you know that you are actually joining a story in progress?
God has desired to have a relationship with you for a long time and has prepared the way for you to enter into that relationship. When a person comes to faith in Christ and passes from spiritual death to life, a transaction takes place that has many far-reaching implications. One of these is complete and full reconciliation with God and the start of a new relationship. It is a relationship that is fuller, deeper, and richer than anything we can possibly imagine.
This invitation to relationship should not surprise us since God, at His core, is a relational being. Ken Boa, in his book That I May Know God writes “As a communion of three Persons, one of God’s purposes in creating us is to display the glory of His being and attributes to intelligent moral creatures who are capable of responding to His relational initiatives.” Later in the same book he writes, “If I had to choose one word to summarize the theme of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, that word would be relationship.” The truth is, we will never want to know God as much as He wants to be known by us.
There are fundamental differences between God and man that impact the relationship and make it unlike human relationships. For example, God is infinite, while we are finite. He is all knowing, while we have very limited understanding, both of the world we live in and the people around us. God is the Creator; we are created beings. He is invisible; we are visible. He is unchangeable; we change. God is perfect; we obviously are not.
Some of these differences may seem to make our relationship with God more challenging than ordinary relationships. For example, it can be hard to talk to someone who isn’t visibly present. It can be difficult to listen to someone who doesn’t generally speak audibly to us. It can be intimidating to think about a close relationship with someone who is so different from us.
However, the differences between God and humans also offer the opportunity to have a healthier relationship with Him than we ever can with each other. Much of the dysfunction in human relationships is a result of our posturing and pretending and our attempts to protect ourselves from hurt and disappointment. There is no need to play these games with God, although we often still try. He is unchanging and always true to His character. He is utterly dependable. We never have to worry what kind of mood He is going to be in or whether He is going to respond in a certain way or not. These truths should give us a great deal of confidence in our relationship with Him.
The truth is, we will never want to know God as much as He wants to be known by us.
As with any relationship, our relationship with God is reciprocal. There are certain things that God does to establish and maintain the relationship, and there are specific things we must do for the relationship to grow and develop. Understanding this dynamic and how it affects the relationship is very important.
We can better understand the reciprocal nature of our relationship with God by understanding our different roles. In a nutshell, the primary difference in our roles is that God is the initiator, and we are the responders.
King David of Israel, known as the psalmist because of the many Hebrew poems (psalms) he wrote, uses rich, colorful language to describe His understanding of the nature and character of God. It is fitting to consider the psalms in the context of relationship because they are written out of the author’s personal relationship with God. There are many places in Scripture that speak of God’s initiative toward us, but one passage, Psalm 139, perhaps describes this better than others. These verses convey the following truths.
God takes the initiative in His relationship with us.
He knows us intimately. (Psalm 139: 1-4)
God knows everything about us — our actions, our movements, our thoughts, our words. In fact, because He is all-knowing and exists outside of space and time, He knows these things before they even happen. He knows us far better than we know ourselves. Knowledge can be scary in human relationships. We choose what we think is safe to disclose to one another, and we go to great lengths to protect information we don’t want others to know. We are free to be totally open and honest with God because He knows all about us anyway. And the amazing thing is that He loves us unconditionally despite full knowledge of all about us that is unlovely .
He protects and shields us; He is our security. (Psalm 139:5-6)
“You hem me in, behind and before,” writes the psalmist. “You have laid your hand upon me.” The laying of God’s hand upon us is a picture of his all- encompassing care for us. In other Psalms, David uses many pictures to describe God’s care of him including that of a shield, a fortress, a hiding place, a refuge, and a shelter. He paints the following picture in the first two verses of Psalm 91: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ “
We are free to be totally open and honest with God because He knows all about us anyway.
God is completely attentive to and involved with us. (Psalm 139:7-12)
“Where can I go from your Spirit?” wonders the psalmist. “Where can I flee from your presence?” He then reflects that no matter where he could possibly go, God would always be there for him. David knew that He could never go beyond the reach of God’s personal concern.
This is a significant distinction between our relationship with God and that with any other person. No human, no matter how much he or she may want to, can ever always be there for us, either physically or emotionally. At some point, distance or other factors will prevent it. However, we can never go anywhere that God will not be with us.
Donald Glenn, in his book Tradition and Testament, tells of an old mariner’s chart, drawn in 1525, on display in the British Museum in London, which outlines the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote:
“Here be giants,” “Here be fiery scorpions,” and “Here be dragons.
Eventually , the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: “Here is God.” Our dragons and giants may be different than those feared by the early explorers, but we have them just the same. We should remember that whatever or wherever they may be — there, too, is God.
God created us and sustains us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (Psalm 139:13-16)
One of the things we most value about those we are close to is that there is a strong bond of understanding between us. These special friends seem to understand what really makes us tick. Who knows better what makes a clock tick than the craftsman who builds the clock? Likewise, who knows us better than the God who created us? He knows us inside and out, better than anyone else ever can. He created us in His image to reflect His glory, yet He has created each of us uniquely with a predetermined number of days that we shall live upon this earth.
The verses discussed above demonstrate that God desires to know us. Of course, King David lived 1,000 years before God even more clearly and forcefully demonstrated initiative by sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. When humankind asked Jesus how much He loves us, He opened wide His arms and died for us. In a foreshadowing of what would one day be accomplished on the cross of Calvary, David wrote “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
We have responsibility in our relationship with God.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,” was God’s word to the Jews living in captivity (Jeremiah 29:10-14). The heart represents the center of one’s being; the seat of emotions and will. Scripture includes several commands that relate to the heart: We are told to love God with all of our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5 and elsewhere), to trust with all of our hearts (Proverbs 3:5), and to repent with all of our hearts (Joel 2:12).
Our seeking is not to be a casual endeavor. Consider the contrast between two men who go on separate camping trips. The first man realizes during the week that he has misplaced his pocketknife. It was a good knife, although relatively inexpensive, and one that he had owned for several years. He would like to find it, and every day he keeps his eyes open for it in case he should happen to stumble across it.
The second man realizes the night before he is to leave to return home that he has lost his car keys. Early the next morning, he receives a call from his wife saying that their teenage son has been in a car accident and is in intensive care in the hospital. There is no casual searching here. He has got to find those keys! He scrambles around on his hands and knees, tears his tent and camping gear apart, and frantically retraces every step he made the previous day. The first man’s search for his knife is a half-hearted effort; the second man’s search for his keys is with his whole heart.
A teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Of all the things we’re expected to do, what is the most important?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). According to the response that Jesus gave to the teacher, everything taught in the law can be summed up in this one commandment.
We have a responsibility not simply to acknowledge God’s existence or even to acknowledge His rights as creator, but to love Him with our hearts, our souls, and our minds. This is another way of saying that we should love Him with every part of our being. We also have a responsibility to obey the commands of God. This is love in action; love with shoes on. According to the words of Jesus, obedience is how we show our love for God (John 14:21). The Apostle John, who recorded these words, later reiterates Jesus’ words by stating flatly, “This is love for God: to obey His commands” (I John 5:3). John also argues that if we say we have come to know God (have a relationship with Him) yet do not obey His commands, then we are lying (I John 2:4).
James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). This verse speaks of another responsibility we have in our relationship with God. It also speaks of our outward actions (wash your hands) and our inward thoughts and motives (purify your hearts). Each is important as we draw near to God. Because we are sinful beings, we will continue to do things that create distance in our relationship with God. Each time we become aware of this distance, we should once more humble ourselves, confess our sin and draw close to God. We draw near in need; He draws near in fullness.
Notice that each of the responsibilities discussed above comes with a promisea positive benefit for us as we fulfill the responsibility. This pattern further illustrates the reciprocal nature of our relationship. When we seek God, He allows Himself to be found by us, and He reveals His gracious plans for us. When we demonstrate our love by obeying God, He shows His love to us and reveals Himself to us. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us.
Ultimately, our response is always to God’s initiative.
God is the initiator; we are the responders. We can never “get the draw” on God. He has drawn first. After all, it was He who placed within us a “God-shaped vacuum,” spoken of by the French mathematician Pascal, expressly so that we would seek to fill the vacuum with Him. God’s initial words to Adam, the first man, after he had fallen into sin, were “Where are you?” This same call has echoed down through the corridors of history as God continually reaches out for relationship with us.
He will not force Himself on anyone. He will allow Himself to be found and enjoyed by anyone who calls upon Him.
However, God does expect us to respond to His initiative and follow after Him. In fact, there is no relationship apart from our positive response to Him. He will not force Himself on anyone. He will allow Himself to be found and to be enjoyed by anyone who calls upon Him. As we focus on God’s initiative toward us, and the response He desires, we gain a better understanding of what Jesus meant by the “abundant life” in John 10. When we respond to God’s love, we are able to love Him and others, and enjoy healthy relationships with God and with those He has placed around us.
Meditate on the Scriptures in this Pocket Principle, especially Psalm 139.
Participate in times of praise and worship to God, acknowledging His love, initiative and accessibility.
What will you do this week to respond to God’s initiative and work in your life?
Pocket Principles® are currently offered along with Guided Discussions. The content of the Pocket Principles® will reinforce truth learned in the group discussion. Each workbook is formatted for use in a small group, where pocket principles may read prior to each discussion. Also, if a group member misses a meeting, he can read the corresponding Pocket PrincipleTM to review the information missed.
Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store