Knowing God without being religious.

Religion does not satisfy the longing of the soul because it does not answer the basic questions of the innermost being. Religious people all over the world are entangled in rituals and ceremonies to get a good report from a god whom they really don’t know. They know God is for real but they do not know Him personally. A lot of people trust their imaginations, while many are satisfied with the myths and legends handed down to them traditionally. In such cases you do not have any historical records or evidences to back you up. 

But for a Christian it is entirely different. His faith is based on the written Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of mythological stories. It has been a proven historical document. It gives us a clear understanding of who God is and how we can relate to Him. It tells us that we can fathom God’s person not more than what He desires to reveal to us. So we read thus in the letter to Colossians:

 “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”‭‭.    (Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬ 

The Golden Rule

We live in a world which is becoming more and more selfish by the day. Whatever happened to others we want our convenience. At the expense of others we want to progress. We are willing to forego principles for profit. We go for short cuts even though we know it is wrong. We try to explain away our wrong doings saying everybody does that today, or, the system is like that and we cannot escape it.

Are we becoming more and more self-centred? We expect others to respect us when we don’t show any respect to others. We want everyone to listen to us when we are not willing to listen to anyone. We want to be served first in the queue though we know we are not first. We want the best part of everything when we are not willing to let others have their choice. We don’t want to give way to other traffic when we expect everyone else to give us way.

Jesus said, “Do for others what you want them to do for you….” (Mat.7:12 GNT) If you want others to respect you, learn to respect others. If you want others to be kind to you, learn to be kind to others. If you want others to listen to you, learn to listen to others. If you want your neighbours to be good to you, then learn to be a good neighbour to them. In essence, we are to develop the character quality of our Master Lord Jesus Christ. This we ought to do in spite of how others behave. Let our words and deeds prove that we treat others the way we want them to treat us.

Our Identity

One of the major issues among the younger generation is identity crisis. Hence they succumb to peer pressure, inferiority complex, dare devilry, idolizing and imitating their heroes, etc. They try to be like somebody else and never want to be themselves. They struggle to create a fake identity instead of realizing their own. This is because they have not understood their unique identity and their God-given potential.

Countries can issue unique identification numbers to its citizens because God has made each individual unique. No two individuals are identical, not even the so called identical twins. God has made you for a specific role in this world which no one else can play. You cannot be somebody else either.

This becomes more significant to a Christian in the context of the family of God. Apostle Paul elaborates this with the analogy of the body.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? (1Cor.12:14-17 NLT)

You are precious to God because He sacrificed His Son Jesus to save you. You are forgiven and God has declared you righteous because you placed your trust in Jesus. You will not be judged for your sins anymore. You have been adopted as a child of God and by this you are made an heir of God’s riches. The Holy Spirit of God is living in you as your companion, guide, comforter and all the more as the guarantee of your eternal salvation. You are the apple of His eye. If you belong to Him you have His backing.

Forgiveness

Relationship issues are on the increase these days. There are clashes, wars and brutal killings demonstrating hatred among people. Family ties, the strongest of relationships, are also deteriorating. Everyone wants to get even with those who have offended them. It gets worse between communities. Peace negotiations and treaties between communities can only remain on paper because nobody is  willing to forgive the other.

Unforgiveness could turn out to be a health hazard. The Lord Jesus taught us to forgive others, even our enemies. The Bible says that God forgives any sinner who admits his sinfulness and reaches out to God for mercy. Those who have received forgiveness from God should be willing to forgive others. Jesus illustrated this through the story of an unforgiving servant recorded in Matthew 18.

A servant who owed a huge amount pleaded for mercy and his master cancelled his debt. He could never have paid back that amount during his life time. Even though he had received such mercy he was unwilling to forgive someone who owed him a meagre amount. He took legal action against that debtor. This made the master very angry. He summoned the servant and gave him what he deserved.

It may not be easy to forgive someone who has hurt you very deeply. But that is what we are commanded to do. Jesus was responding to Peter’s question as He narrated the above story recorded in Matthew 18.

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Mt.18:21 NLT)

God in His mercy has cancelled our debt. We have received the forgiveness of our sins. We need to forgive others as well. Is there someone who has offended you? Are you keeping that score
and waiting for a chance to repay? May be you are bitter towards that person even though you are not planning to take revenge. Why not forgive that person today, deliber.ately and consciously.

Obey Rules

We are naturally inclined to bending and breaking rules. Disobedience is not seriously viewed by many. Children should obey parents, citizens should obey the laws of the country, and workers should follow the rules of the enterprise. Laws govern the life of every society. As Christians, it is as important to abide by the rules of the earthly government as it is to follow the laws of God.

We often take for granted traffic violations like, jumping signals, parking in the wrong places, over speeding, riding without helmets, etc. Accepting and offering bribes, employing illegal and unethical methods to make profits, exploiting the poor and the helpless for personal gains, cheating the government by evading taxes, are all amounting to the violation of God’s laws.

“Everyone must obey the state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God…. That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay them your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honor for them all.” (Romans 13:1-7 GNT)

As God’s children we must be examples before others. Children should be taught to abide by rules or else they will grow up as rebellious people.

Living it out

Christian life is the most difficult thing to fake and very difficult one to live if we try in our own strength. Jesus Christ is the only one who can live that life because it is His life. We can only allow Him to live it out in and through us. When you accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord He comes to live in you. Then, to the extent you allow Him to be your Lord and Master, He will live His life in and through you. To the magnitude you submit to His Lordship He will use your body to demonstrate His characteristics of love, peace, patience, holiness, justice, righteousness, and so on.

The evidence of this new life is in the fruit it produces. This is called fruit of the Spirit because it is produced by the indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ. “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….” (Gal.5:22-23 TLB) So, it is not a religious ritualistic self-effort, but a life of constant submission and willful obedience to the Lordship of Christ.

Jesus made it clear to the disciples when He compared a Christian’s relationship with Him to that of a vine and its branches.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (Jn.15:1-8 NIV)

Jesus expects His followers to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Mt.5:13-14 NLT)

A Christian’s life should influence others and add flavor to the community. Every Christian should bring blessings to fellow citizens through prayer, Godly conduct and helpful deeds. Thus they should bear witness to the grace and glory of God.

Growing in faith

As you made a decision to trust Jesus as your Savior, you were born into God’s family. You have been given a new life. The old ways of thinking and behaving are gone and you have become a new creation in Christ Jesus.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! (2Cor.5:17 TLB)

Christians are called to live this new life in this world. This world is not permanent and everything except death is uncertain here. We are on a journey from and through this world into another, which is undying. There are mountains and valleys, storms and whirlwinds but we have a trustworthy guide who promised to stay with us through thick and thin and lead us through. We trust the promises in His Word.

Study God’s Word

The Bible is to Christians like the compass to the traveler. We need to study it closely and refer to it frequently to be able to make the right choices. It is the light that keeps us from stumbling in the dark trails of life.

“Your words are a flashlight to light the path ahead of me and keep me from stumbling.” (Psa.119:105 NLT)

We need to read, study, meditate up on and live by the Word of God. It requires deliberate effort and determination. There will be numerous other things that may cause you to give up on your commitment to follow God’s ways and His will. Remember, this is a priority in Christian life. Psalm 119 describes in detail the significance of God’s Word in the life of a Christian.

“How can a young man stay pure? By reading your Word and following its rules…. I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin.” (Psa.119: 9, 11 NLT)

The Word of God is the food for our soul and without regular intake of it we will be susceptible to all sorts of spiritual ills. God’s Word is the spiritual sword that can help us in our defense against the attacks of the enemy. “So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up….And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.” (Eph.6:10-17 NLT) Remember Jesus used it against the devil when He was tempted.

Follow a plan from among the various Bible study plans available. The most important thing is to do it. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and He will be the best teacher. “But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.” (Jn.14:26 CEV)

As you study His Word make sure to obey whatever God tells you. Bible study without obedience is of no value.

Talk to God in Prayer

As you listen to God through His Word, talk to Him in prayer. Worship Him and praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Thank Him for all the benefits you have received. Confess to Him any sin in your life and thank Him for the forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Ask Him for your needs and intercede for the needs of others. Claim the promises in His Word and trust Him to lead you and guide you.

Remember, this is not a religious ritual. This is the communication between you and your Heavenly Father. As His child you have the freedom to directly talk to God and as the Father He loves to hear you.

Worship God with other Christians

You cannot keep a fire burning for long with just one log of wood. But when you have several logs put together the fire keeps burning bright. Similarly, the gathering of Christians for worship, study and prayer is inevitable because it brings glory to God and encouragement to one another. Join other Christians and worship God in a local church where God’s Word is preached and taught.

Talk to others about Christ

Tell your friends and family what God has done for you and how trusting Jesus has changed your life. This will make you strong in faith and also bring glory to God.

Persisting in Prayer

In Luke 11:5-11 Jesus illustrated the need for persistant, shameless prayer in order to receive answers from God. He gives the example of a friend who goes for help at the odd time. The friend was hesitant to get up and give what he a asked, but because he shamelessly persisted his friend gave him what he wanted.

Jesus tells that we should keep on asking, seeking and knocking until we get the answer. God works in answer to prayer in the life of a Christian. Prayer, simply, is talking to God. God loves to hear His children. Bible tells us that His ears are always attentive to our prayers.

Have you talked to your heavenly Father today? Make it a point to do it every day, every time you need His assuring presence.

In another illustration Jesus reminded us to trust our heavenly father because he is far more better than the human fathers. No  father will give a snake to his hungry child when he\she asks for fish. Our heavenly Father is good all the time and worthy of our trust.

Knowing God Personally

God knows everything about us since He created us.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. (Ps.139:1-2 NLT)

We cannot know God unless He reveals Himself to us.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. He is the one through whom God created the universe, the one whom God has chosen to possess all things at the end. He reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of God’s own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. (Heb.1:1-3 GNT)

Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal God to us and to reconcile us with Him.

Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things. For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. (Col.1:15-19 GNT)
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (Jn.14:6 GNT)

The Bible says that God will accept anyone as His child provided he/she acknowledges Jesus as his/her Savior and Lord.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (Jn.1:10-13 NLT)

Jesus promises to come into your life if you invite Him. He, then, assures you of His ever abiding presence with you.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in…” (Rev.3:20 NLT)
“…God has said, “I will never leave you or let you be alone.” (Heb.13:5 NLV)

You can accept His invitation and ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord in the following words:

Lord Jesus, Thank you for loving me enough to die on the cross for me. I open the door of my life to you and invite you to live in me as my Saviour and Lord. Forgive my sins. Thank you for the assurance that you will never leave me. Amen.

Starting Right

The Bible says that God created us in His image, with the ability to think, relate and choose. He wants us to have unhindered relationship and constant communion with Him.

Broken Relationship

But sin has separated us from God. We try in vain to please God through our charity, piety and religious rituals. The Bible says that no one is made right with God through his/her own efforts. God’s justice is far beyond our reach, so no one can satisfy it and justify himself before God. Hence, God in His love offers a way for us to reconcile with Him through the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus who paid the price for our sins. Thus God has made Jesus the only Saviour of His creation.

Reconciliation

All those who believe what Jesus has accomplished through His death on the cross and accept Him as their Saviour, Lord and God will be reconciled with God. God will forgive their sins and accept them as His children. This is called regeneration or a new birth. Jesus will live in them and remain with them for ever. This is the assurance of the Bible. One who has made such a decision is a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that no one is born as a Christian, but has to be born again.

New Life

The Christian life, according to the Bible, is a new life. As we continue to yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, our attitudes, thoughts, words and actions will be renewed by the Spirit of God. God our heavenly Father loves to commune with us and reveal His plans for us. This is understood by regular study of God’s Word, prayer and fellowship with other Christians.