I’m sitting in one of the most beautiful spots in Kananaskis country in Alberta, Canada. Surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountain peaks still wearing remnants of their mantles of snow around the clear glacial waters of the lake, I can’t think of a better place to share my last thoughts with the readers of the Gateway Gazette as it is about to come to a close.
My purpose in writing Faith Forum from its beginnings almost sixteen years ago has always been the same – to encourage the reader to think about God and explore what he might have to do with the reader’s life.
The basis for this thinking actually originates from God himself:
‘For God loved the world (Jim, Molly, Fatima, Abdul) so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish (die) but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world but to save the world through him.’ (John 3:16,17 NLT, parenthesis mine)
Why did he ‘give his one and only Son’ (in which he died an unjustified cruel death on a cross because of his love for each one of us and came to life again on the third day)? It’s because there is a blockage between ourselves and God that prevents a relationship between us that only he could provide a remedy for. That blockage is our wrong doings, or ‘sin’ as God’s word, the Bible calls it:
‘If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.’ (1 John 1:8-10 NLT)
As this piece says, if I confess my wrong doings to God, he will forgive me and cleanse me of them. By accepting his forgiveness I have now opened the door of my life to him.
‘Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.’ (Revelation 3:20 NLT)
This starts my relationship with the God of the universe – but it is a very personal and real relationship:
‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God…’ (Isaiah 5:1a NLT)
As the first piece said, I also have eternal life with God after this body dies:
‘And this is what God has testified: he has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.’ (1 John 5:11.12 NLT)
What if I made the choice to ask forgiveness and entered into this relationship with God, now what? Is that it?
It is actually just the beginning of my new life in Christ. Just as a person spends time with a new friend in order to get to know them, in the same way I will want to spend time getting to know God. There are some key ways to help this happen. One important way is to read and learn from God’s word:
‘But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 NLT)
Another important way is spending time talking to God, called ‘prayer.’ It is good to set aside time each day; thanking God, telling him your needs, and praying for situations and for others who have needs:
‘Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:6,7 NLT)
‘…pray for each other…’ (James 5:16a NLT)
Not only do I speak with God about these things, but as I read His word and am praying, I also need to be silent at times to give him a chance to impress upon me thoughts and things he wants me to know or do.
Spending time with others who believe and have a personal relationship with God whether in a church setting and/or a small group setting where God’s word is being studied and time is spent together in prayer, is also important for growth in the relationship with God.
‘And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.’ (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
As with any relationship, there are things to watch for so that my relationship with God is not hindered and damaged. One thing to remember is that I will always make mistakes (sin) which blocks my relationship with him, but God has made a way to fix that, too. If we go back to the piece that says if I confess my sin to him, he will cleanse me of it (1 John 1:9); that’s what I do, and I go forward in growing in my relationship with him as before. Another one is like in any relationship, time and busyness crowd in our lives and we lose that day to day connection with God. Again, if I simply come to him and tell him I’m sorry for that, he will forgive and I regroup and carry on in my relationship with him.
There are many pitfalls along the way that I need to be aware of in my new relationship with God. One is that God has an enemy, Satan, who tries to trip up both new believers and those who have been in the faith for a long time. He will tempt me to do wrong things as well as make me doubt that my relationship with God is real. When this happens, God is stronger than Satan, and through him I can have victory:
‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.’ (1Peter 5:8,9)
‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ (James 4:7)
Finally, and there are so many more things to be aware of but I can’t cover them all, a major pitfall can be the pull of other trains of thought in life that sound good, but can actually pull me away from God and I can become confused and doubt my relationship with him. Whether it is another kind of faith, books promoting positive thinking alone without God, or new age philosophies; these are best left alone. Truth nuggets where you find them are good but be careful not to embrace a whole other way of thinking that will pull you away from the truth you already know. There is a scripture that speaks towards this as an example:
‘So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.’ (Hebrews 13:9 NLT)
‘Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods (or what the world offers you). Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity’. (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)
If you have questions about anything that has been written here, or other questions about the faith, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be glad to discuss those with you.
I’ve enjoyed writing for the Gazette over the years. Thank you for reading the column and I trust they’ve been of value to you. All the best to each of you in the future, Gloria Wessner