For the first 16 years of my life I thought securing my eternal destiny in heaven and being approved by God was all about following the “rules” and being a good person. My mom reinforced that understanding by taking my brothers and me to church every Sunday and on special religious holidays. I heard all the Bible stories, went through confirmation class and knew about God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. By my early teens, I could recite the liturgy with my eyes closed. Church became a ritual and something I felt necessary so as to not incur the wrath of God upon my life.
In all those years growing up in church, I never once heard anyone talk about having a personal relationship with God/Jesus. The priest was the only one who could communicate with God. I did hear about Jesus dying for my sins so I could be saved and spend eternity in heaven with God, which is an amazing gift of grace, but it never went any further than that. It was more about “fire insurance”- making sure I would not go to hell upon death, than about entering into a loving relationship with God through Christ that would impact my life now, here on earth.
I first heard and witnessed this type of personal relationship with God at a church camp when I was 16. I met a bunch of kids that talked a lot about their relationship with Jesus. They spoke of him like he was their best friend. They also emanated an attractive authenticity and a sense of peace and joy that I had not seen in those I knew from my church. I was very curious and wanted to know more.
They pointed out that our creator, God, loves us so much that His desire is to have a personal relationship with us. Not a rote one that is laden with rules and regulations, ritual, head knowledge, or focusing more on the “don’ts” instead of the “do’s.” One where it’s more about the head than the heart. (Jesus spoke of this in a warning to the Pharisees – those more concerned with the religion than the relationship – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” Matthew 23:13)
God sent His one and only cherished Son to take the penalty for our sins and to set us free from the law to enter into a direct relationship with Him. They also explained that when Jesus left this earth He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in those who believe to help them live a free, victorious, and extraordinary life. Spending eternity with Him in heaven is awesome, but the benefits of a personal relationship with God can start NOW! I entered into that type of relationship with God the next summer, and it changed my life!
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
A personal relationship with God is a priceless gift given to us through God’s Son Jesus. (Romans 6:23.) We are ALL given this gift. Some will admire the wrapping so much they will never open it. Others will set it on the shelf and after time will not notice it anymore. And some will open it and discover the precious gift within. Are we so caught up in the “wrapping” of religion or become so familiar with it, that we never discover the gift of relationship? It’s so easy for religion to get in the way of the relationship. We can get trapped in the formality of systems, programs, or traditions that we lose sight of the One we are to worship. We worship the outward appearance more than the inner relationship. Just as the liturgy became so routine when I was young that I had no clue as to what or who the liturgy was about. It became an expected behavior and response with no understanding in the heart.
The gift of God’s unconditional LOVE and His desire to be in a personal relationship with us is the ultimate gift. It is far more valuable than any earthly wealth or possession. Delight in the gift daily and cherish it. Talk to God as you would your best friend. Spend time getting to know Him and as you do He will pour out His love, wisdom, guidance, help and peace to you. He will set you free from guilt, unforgiveness, shame, woundedness, anger, disappointment, fear, and doubt. Picture Him standing in front of you with an outstretched hand waiting for you to take hold and allow Him to guide you lovingly through all of life’s obstacles and tribulations as a most trusted friend.
Tear off the wrapping and open the gift!
For His Glory!
Please contact us at True Identity Ministries (info@TrueIdentityMinistries.org) if you’d like to know more about how to open the gift and enter into a personal relationship with God.