One of the joys of being a Christian family physician is being able to discover where my patients are on their personal spiritual journeys. I’m delighted when I can pray with and for them. And, it is a special privilege, on occasion, to guide them in beginning a personal relationship with God.
So, just how do I advise them. And, if you are interested in the same, just how does one begin a personal relationship with God?
Is it based upon devoting yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Is it based upon becoming a better person so that God will accept you? Nope, I do not believe it is based on either of these.
However, God has made it very clear in the Bible how we can know Him personally. And, you can choose to begin today …
Once you have asked all your questions, weighed all the evidence, and tested all the arguments for and against Christianity, you will ultimately be confronted with the basic question Jesus asked his own disciples in Matthew 16:15: “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
So, I ask my patients, and I ask you, “What is your reply to this question?”
If you have come to the same conclusion as Simon Peter, you are a few steps away from having a personal relationship with an amazing loving God.
It is my sincere hope and prayer that you will reach this conclusion, for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control only come to a person who has a personal relationship with God.
When we recognize God’s purpose for our existence and yield our wills to our Creator, then real life begins and eternal life begins.
You see, Christianity is not based on a religious building, religious formula, or religious rituals. True Christianity is a matter of what you truly believe in your heart. True Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship – a personal relationship with God himself.
To Begin a Personal Relationship with God, First Step through the Gospel
The word “gospel” means “good news.” So, what is the gospel, as explained in God’s love letter to us – the Bible? What do scriptures say about a personal relationship with God?
First, the Bible tells us that God loves you unconditionally and desires to have a personal relationship with you: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Principle One: God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
God created you. Not only that, he loves you so much that he wants you to spend eternity with him. Jesus came so that each of us could know and understand God in a personal way. Jesus alone can bring meaning and purpose to life.
But, what keeps a person from knowing God – from having a personal relationship with him? It’s your failure to admit your wrong decisions to God. The wrong decisions we’ve each made, those errors in thought, word, or deed that we’ve each committed comprise what the Bible calls “sin.” Sin is simply missing God’s best — of missing His plan for our life.
The Bible says that our sinful nature (our tendency to do wrong) is what separates each of us from God. As the Bible says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).
Principle Two: All of us are sinful and separated from God. Therefore we cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for our life.
Though God intended for us to have a personal relationship with him, we naturally want to do things our own way. And, the result is that we’ve all sinned. Who among us hasn’t lied? Who among us hasn’t lusted? Who has not coveted or stolen? We’ve all done wrong things. We’ve all done things we’ve regretted. We’ve all done things we wish we could do again and do differently.
But, even worse than that – deep down, our attitude is one of active rebellion toward God or passive indifference. But, either of these are evidence of what the Bible calls sin. As the Bible tells us: “All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
And, the result of sin (our wrongdoing) is death – or spiritual separation from God. The Bible teaches, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
Although we may try to reach God through our own effort, we inevitably fail. There is a chasm that exists between us and God. We might try to reach God through our own efforts – even through religion. We may try to do good things, or earn God’s acceptance through a good life or a moral philosophy. But our good efforts are insufficient to cover up (atone for) our sin.
How can we bridge this gulf? …
The Bible says that we each must stop trying to please God through our own efforts and realize (agree, confess) that a personal relationship with God is a gift that none of us deserves – and none of us can ever earn.
And, this is pretty bad news. So, are we without hope?
Thanks be to God, the answer is “No!” There is good news in the Bible, and it is this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
Principle Three: Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our wrongdoing – our sin. Through him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our life.
Simply put, Jesus Christ is God’s only solution to the problem of human imperfection and evil. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, our sin doesn’t have to separate us from God any longer. In his suffering and death on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin and in so doing, bridged the gap between us and God.
The Bible says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God.” (1Peter 3:18).
Instead of trying harder to reach God, we simply need to confess our sinfulness and accept Jesus and his sacrifice as the one way to God. As Jesus told us: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
He also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish.” (John 11:25-26).
But not only did Jesus die for our sin, he rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). When he did, he proved beyond doubt that he can rightfully promise eternal life – that he is the Son of God and the only means by which we can know God.
The Bible is clear, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Yet just having knowledge about God’s plans and purposes isn’t enough. The Bible explains that we each need to consciously accept Jesus Christ as the payment for our sin and welcome him into our life.
So, it is not enough just to know these three truths … you need to step in and truly accept God’s gift to you – His Christmas gift to you – His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12).
So, now you know the basic steps to begin a personal relationship with God – it’s though the death and resurrection of Jesus – it begins by choosing to become a Christian.
If you desire God’s gift of eternal life and fellowship with Him, you are as close to Him as a simple prayer and sincere act of faith on your part.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). He also said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).
Receiving Jesus is a matter of truly asking Him to come into your life, to forgive your sins, and to become your Lord and Savior. It’s not merely an intellectual undertaking, but rather, an act of sincere faith and heart-felt will.
If you want to receive Jesus now, and accept His gift of salvation, it’s a matter of believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins, and turning the rest of your life over to Him.
This is not a ritual based on specific words, but rather, a prayerful guideline for your sincere step of faith. The precise words you use to commit yourself to God are not important. He knows the intentions of your heart. If you are unsure of what to pray, this might help you put it into words:
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
If you sincerely asked Jesus into your life just now, then He has come into your life as He promised. And, you have begun a personal relationship with God!
What follows is a lifelong journey of change and growth as you get to know God better through Bible reading, prayer, and interaction with other Christians.
If you decided to become a Christian today – to begin a personal relationship with God – then, welcome to God’s family.
Now, as a way to grow closer to Him, the Bible tells us to follow up on our commitment.
- Tell someone else about your decision – your new faith in Christ.
- Spend time with God each day. It does not have to be a long period of time. Just develop the daily habit of praying to Him and reading His Word. Ask God to increase your faith and your understanding of the Bible.
- Seek fellowship with other Christians. Develop a group of Christian friends to answer your questions and support you.
- Find a local Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church where you can worship God and learn more about him.
- Consider being baptized, as commanded by Christ.