Do you believe that you can be in relationship with God? The scripture tells us that this is part of our redemption: now God is our Father; and Christ Jesus is our Brother. Jesus Himself told us, “In this manner therefore, pray: Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9 NKJV). Paul the Apostle told us that we are adopted sons and daughters of God: “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15 NLT). We have an eternal Father, and now we are His adopted children. But have we chosen to be in relationship with Him on purpose? Do we invite ourselves into relationship with God? What would happen if when I asked for Christ to reveal Himself in my life that Jesus really did show up?
I sit in church and pray, trusting that the Holy Spirit is there and moving among us. We believe the scripture when Jesus says: “For where two or three have gathered together in My Name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20 NASB). But what would I do or say or feel if He really did show up in the flesh? In John Chapter 20, after His resurrection Jesus did show up in the flesh. Besides being stunned I am sure, the scripture says that the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (verse 20). Is this a consistent response to the presence of the Living God?
For a moment I considered the few times in the scriptures that human beings came in contact with the Living God. God appeared to the patriarchs several times: to Abram /Abraham (Genesis 12, 17, 18); twice in the same chapter to Isaac (Genesis 26:2 and then v. 24); to Jacob (Genesis 28, 32, 35). God appears to Moses at the Burning Bush as the “angel of the Lord (Exodus 3 and see Acts 7:30); but also as Almighty God at Sinai on several occasions (Exodus 19 and 24). Moses is recorded to have met with God several other times in Exodus, confirmed in other scripture references.
Joshua heard directly from God (Joshua Chapter 1) then saw the “captain of the Lord’s hosts” which may have been a theophany or an appearance of God or of Christ (Joshua Chapter 5). Gideon also saw the “angel of the Lord” but later in the story is seems his visit is from “the Lord” Himself (Judges 6). The Lord appears to young Samuel (1 Samuel 3) and to David (the Angel of the Lord in 1 Chronicles 21). Isaiah meets Him in the temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah Chapter 6). In Amos chapter 9, Amos saw the Lord “standing on the altar” (Amos 9:1). Stephen saw Jesus at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 7); while Saul (later called Paul) saw a bright light and heard the voice of Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts Chapter 9). John the beloved Apostle saw the risen Christ on the Island of Patmos (Revelation Chapter 1).
What is consistent in these appearances on the part of those drawn into the presence of God? Great humility, unworthiness and repentance. It seems that those who encounter the Living God come away from the experience with great fear and reverence for someone greater than themselves. Their hearts are humbled and they seek after God with reckless pursuit. To them there is nothing else of value in all of life. I contrast this with those who recount a “near-death” experience (see http://iands.org/about-ndes/characteristics.html).
For a short while I was challenged to believe that those people who survived death and were given a second chance at life through a “near-death experience” had perhaps come in to the presence of God, and it made a profound impact on their renewed lives. In their stories they talk about the light and the warmth and the feeling of love and acceptance. They also mention encounters with deceased loved ones and some kind of spiritual being, not one in particular but one related to their cultural understanding. Why is this important? Many folks with this type of near-death experience note it as a turning point in their lives, and one that makes them appreciate life and relationships more. But not many are convinced of or drawn into a deeper passionate relationship with their Creator. So what did they experience anyway?
Certainly our relationship with God is not for a brief moment, like the revealed presence of God or Christ mentioned above. Ours is a relationship for eternity. Jesus told us that, “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3 NIV). Jesus makes mention of what we can expect in our eternal relationship when He says the following in John’s gospel Chapter 14: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3 NASB). So it seems that our eternity is about relationship. We will be with Jesus in His Father’s house forever in relationship.
Will it be a time of reverent fear and humble repentance like with Isaiah? We certainly see great humility and reverence around the throne of God in Revelation Chapter 4. But the book of Hebrews also suggests that ours will be not be a relationship of insecurity but of confidence: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB). If we can draw near in reverence and confidence now, how much more then when it is our destiny to be in relationship forever?
This idea of an actual relationship with the Living God can have a profound impact on our lives today. We do not need to survive a “near-death” experience to have the course of our lives change forever. The Spirit of God is here and ready to reveal the power and truth and presence of God to us where we are. This power and presence can shape our tomorrows in a significant way, if we accept that Christ is real and among us, because He desires a relationship with us today. Paul writes in Galatians 3:25 (in the Message): “But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God.” We are there now, so let us welcome Him in!