To begin this morning, I want to ask you a question that I’ve often asked at the end of my messages, but I don’t think I have ever asked it right at the beginning. Preachers will quite often ask a question like this one as the concluding thought of the sermon – it’s the main point that everything has been driving towards. After all has been said and done, this is the question that they want you to take home and think about and hopefully act upon….
And the question is:
Do you have a personal relationship with God?
Normally this question is asked to encourage you to think about accepting Christ as your Saviour – to make that first time decision to follow Jesus and become a Christian.
But that’s not necessarily where I’m going with this one today.
The question is not “Do you want to become a Christian?” – The question is “Do you have a personal relationship with God?”
And maybe before you answer that question, I should define what a personal relationship is. You see, having a personal relationship with someone requires having personal interactions with them.
For example, I do not have a personal relationship with Donald Trump. I believe he exists. I believe he has said things and done things that have impacted my life (to a certain extent). I’ve even read some of his tweets and heard him speak on tv. But I do not have a personal relationship with him – because the two of us have never had any personal interactions. We’ve never had a conversation – we’ve never emailed back and forth. We’ve had no personal interactions with each other – and therefore I do not have a personal relationship with him.
So when I ask the question “Do you have a personal relationship with God?” – I’m not asking if you believe he exists or if you believe that he has said and done things that have impacted your life. I’m not asking if you’ve read some books about God or heard a preacher preach about God.
I’m asking if you personally have some sort of interactions with God. Are there times when you speak and He listens and are there times when He speaks and you listen? Because that’s what a personal relationship is all about.
It’s two people speaking and listening to each other – it’s the two-way street of communication. Without those back-and-forth interactions, it’s pretty hard to say that you have a personal relationship with someone.
As Christians we have the awesome privilege of having a personal relationship with God. God has invited us to have personal interactions – those back-and-forth conversations with Him – which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
We think it’s pretty awesome when we meet a famous actor or athlete – We’re thrilled when they say three sentences to us and autograph our posters. But how much more awesome is it that the Creator of the universe wants to connect with you and interact with you on a regular basis?!
And so this morning, I want to spend some time talking about how we can have a personal relationship with God.
And again, let me clarify that this is not about how to become a Christian – we talked about that two weeks ago when we talked about the Gospel. The Gospel is what Jesus did for us so that we could enter into that relationship with God in the first place. And of course, that’s critical, but today I’m going to assume that’s already in place and we’re ready to talk about how we grow close to God through our interactions with Him.
Well as I’ve already pointed out, God wants to have a personal relationship with us. And we can have a relationship with God because God is a relational being. He’s not a force or a thing – He’s a person. In fact, he’s a community of persons. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all interact personally with each other. And incredibly, we have been invited into that community. God wants to interact with us.
He wants to speak to us – and he wants to listen to us. And He does that through a variety of ways. So let me start by briefly touching on the basic ways that God speaks to us:
In the book, Visual Theology, Tim Challies proposes that there are four main ways that God speaks to us. God speaks to us #1. through the Bible, #2. through His Creation, #3. through his universal moral laws, and #4. through our consciences.
Now of course, the Bible is the primary and most specific way that God speaks to us, and that will be our main focus today, but let me just briefly touch on these others.
First of all, God speaks to us through our conscience and through his universal moral laws. These two kinda work together. Even before any of us ever read the Bible, God had already communicated to us what is right and what is wrong by stamping his moral law into our hearts and into our minds. It’s like we are born with a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Romans 2:14-15
What this passage is saying is that every person on earth is born with a conscience that has been stamped with God’s moral law. That’s is built right into us. From our childhood, we know instinctively that it’s good to share with others or that it’s wrong to hurt other people. We feel guilty when we do those wrong things and we feel happy when we do what’s right. Now of course, as we grow up, we can learn to ignore that sense of guilt and our sinful nature certainly corrupts our conscience – but none the less, it’s there. God has communicated his law by writing it right within our own hearts.
Every time we feel guilty for doing wrong, or a sense of joy for doing right – that’s God speaking to us through our conscience.
So that’s the first two ways that God speaks to us. He has written his law on our hearts and he reminds us of that law through our conscience.
Additionally, God speaks to us through his Creation. Psalm 19 says…
1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
God’s Creation speaks volumes to us. When we look at the expanse of space or at the intricate details of our DNA, or the beauty of a simple flower – It tells us that there is a God – that He is great and powerful – that He is wise and good – that he is glorious and absolutely worth of our praise and adoration.
You know, it’s not surprising that many people find they really connect with God when they are out in nature! Simply by looking around at the mountains and the trees, the rivers and all the stars, we are reminded all over again how great and how good and how present our God is.
God truly does speak through His Creation.
But as loudly as God speaks through his Creation and through our conscience and through His universal moral laws, the most clear way that God has spoken is through his written Word – the Bible.
Through the Bible, God reveals to us things that we cannot learn by simply looking at his Creation or listening to our conscience. In the Bible, God tells us clearly and specifically about His plans and intentions. He tells us what He has done and what He continues to do. He gives us specific instructions and warnings. And it’s not just a general message for all of humanity – but through the Bible, God speaks to us personally.
So for the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look specifically at how God speaks to us through the Bible. This week, we’ll mostly look at what the Bible is, and then next week, we’ll zero in on what the Bible does.
So the first question we need to ask is, what is the Bible?
Well, the Bible is a collection.
It’s a collection of various written works – written over the course of about 1500 years by 40 different writers living on three different continents. So as you can imagine, there is a lot of variety in the Bible. Some of these works are historical records, some works are poetry or songs, some are personal letters, others are famous speeches or sermons…. But what ties them all together is that each of these different works are the authoritative words of God. Every word written by those different authors, originated in the mind of God and God inspired these different writers to write exactly what he wanted.
20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20-21
What this passage is saying is that each of the books that we find in the Bible were penned by different writers, but they were all authored by God. Men wrote the words, but the words came from God. And that’s why we refer to the Bible as God’s Word. It is a collection of the different works (or different books) that were all authored by God.
And this collection is divided into two parts – called Testaments. There is a New Testament and there is an Old Testament. The Old Testament has 39 different books – and these books were all written before the time of Christ – some books were written even more than 1000 years before Christ. These books contain a lot of history – beginning with Creation and eventually focusing in on God’s interactions with one particular family which would grow to be the nation of Israel.
The New Testament has 27 different books and they were all written within 100 years of Jesus’ birth. The first few books tell the story of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. And the rest of the books focus on how everything has changed because of what Jesus did.
Together, these two testaments tell one big story.
Even though there is so much variety in the Bible – historical records, poems, songs, personal letters, famous speeches and more…. – they all fit together to tell one cohesive story!
All the different pieces fit together to tell us what God has been doing in the world since time began. And it’s incredible how unified this story is – even though this story was written by 40 different authors over a span of 1500 years – all the different parts are all in harmony with each other. They don’t conflict or contradict each other – they all say the same thing! Which is amazing!
I think of the many movies that end up as a big series – like the marvel movies or Toy Story 1, 2, 3, & 4…. Even though these movies were all written within a relatively small time span (compared the Bible) they still have all kinds of holes in the stories – where what happens in the first movie doesn’t seem to line up with everything what happens in the second or third. There are always these little inconsistencies…
But we don’t see that in the Bible. All the different parts say the same thing. Why? Because God is the author and this is His story.
And like every story, the Bible also has a hero.
The Bible is all about Jesus. He is the central figure in God’s story. And that’s pretty obvious to see in the New Testament, but that’s true of the Old Testament as well. Even though you won’t see the name “Jesus” in the Old Testament, everything in the Old Testament is written to point us to Him.
After Jesus was crucified and He rose from the dead, the disciples were having a real hard time understanding what was going on. And so Jesus appeared to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, and do you remember what Jesus did?
Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27
Jesus went back through the Old Testament and explained to them how the Old Testament was all pointing to Him.
The whole Bible is about Jesus.
And just by way of a little rabbit trail, this maybe a good place to remind us that the entire Bible is worth reading. I know sometimes we have a hard time slugging through Leviticus or Job or some of these other passages that seem long and tedious – and we may be inclined to stick with the New Testament or some of those action-packed Old Testament stories – but I’d really encourage you to be sure to spend time reading the entire Bible. The Bible isn’t meant to be read like a newspaper or a magazine – where we just pick out the certain articles that grab our attention and leave the rest. Rather, we should read the Bible like novel – we need to read it cover to cover – because it’s all part of God’s story! 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us….
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We can’t just cling to our favourite passages – ALL scripture is inspired by God. Or as the NIV puts it “All Scripture is God-breathed”. It’s the very words of God. And that actually leads me to the next point and that is that the Bible is God’s Word.
We mentioned earlier how the writers of the different books of the Bible all did so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Even though they all wrote from their own unique personalities and writing styles and even for their own different purposes, God worked through all of that so that they recorded exactly the words that He wanted them to write.
That’s what that verse in 2 Timothy 3 means – that “All Scripture is inspired by God” or as the NIV puts it “All Scripture is God-breathed”. It’s the very words of God.
And the words of God are extremely powerful! I mean, just think back to creation. When God wanted to create something of out nothing – what did he do? He simply spoke. In Genesis 1:3 – the first recorded words of God, we read:
3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3
There is some incredible power in the Words of God. In fact, in Hebrews 4:12 we read this:
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12
This is what makes the Bible such a unique book. There is no other book that has words that are alive and powerful. This is one of the reasons why we can say that God speaks through His Word today – to us personally. It’s not just the record of what God has said in the past, but through these words, God continues to speak to us today.
Tim Challies writes:
God continues to speak through the Bible today, opening the spiritual eyes of our hearts, to hear and understand his Word as it brings conviction and calls us to respond to God in faith. We refer to this work as ‘illumination’ – how the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and hear God as He speaks to us in the Bible.” ~ Tim Challies
The fact that God speaks to us through His Word today is the #1 reason why we need to continually spend time reading God’s Word. If this is the main way for God to communicate to us, how foolish are we to ignore his message?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but most of us can’t go 30 minutes without looking at our phone to see if someone has texted us or commented on our facebook post or instagram photo. It’s kinda sad, really. But if we’re so desperate to hear from people, why on earth, if you know that most powerful being in the universe has something to say to you, why on earth would you neglect to check at least daily to see what God has to say to you today through His Word?
God continues to speak through His Word – the question is are we listening?
Of course, that being said, even though God continues to speak through his Word even today, it’s important to note that the Bible is complete.
The Bible does not contain everything that God has ever said – nor does it contain every detail of everything God has ever done. In fact, as you read through the Bible, there are many details that God has left out. There are all kind of questions that God has not answered for us.
Regardless, the Bible is complete – in that God has given us everything that we need to know. The Bible wasn’t given to us to satisfy our curiosity or even to answer all our questions. The Bible was given to us so that we may know God and know his way of salvation. And that revelation is complete.
There is nothing that we need to know about God or salvation that isn’t found in the pages of the Bible. In fact, we need to be very wary about anyone who might try to add (or subtract) anything from the Scriptures we already have. Paul says in no uncertain terms in Galatians 1:8…
8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. Galatians 1:1-9
Paul seems pretty convinced that the Gospel message is not lacking anything – the Bible is complete. It has all that we need to know for this life and the life to come.
And that take us to our final point for the day and that is that the Bible is trustworthy.
The very character of God is that He is faithful and true. That’s the core of Who He is. And because the Bible is the God’s Word – we can trust that his words are also reliable and true.
Jesus Himself said in John 17:17, as He prays to the Father…
“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” John 17:17
If Jesus declares that God’s Word is truth, then either Jesus is a liar or God’s Word really is true and we can trust it without reservation.
And of course, we could look at all the evidence for the trustworthiness of the Bible – we could look to see how it matches up with history and archeology and geography and all those things. And personally, as I’ve seen how well the Bible lines up with reality, I find the evidence overwhelmingly in favour of the trustworthiness of the Bible.
What the Bible says happened, really did happen. What the Bible says God did, God really did. What the Bible says God is going to do, God is really going do. God’s Word is truth. We can trust that it is reliable and without error.
In a world of fake news, half-truths, and outright blatant lies, the Bible is our one source of absolute truth.
And so because of that, in conclusion, if you want to know what is true about yourself, about God, about life – then I want to encourage you to make a commitment to reading the absolutely trustworthy Word of God everyday.
The next time you look down at your phone to see if someone has sent you a text, remember that that Somebody has! The God of the universe wants to communicate with you. He loves you like crazy and He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He doesn’t just want you to know he exists – He wants to interact with you on a daily basis! And so He has sent you this massive text message called the Bible.
And it’s not just a collection of stories and proverbs – poetry and letters – all telling the true story of what God has done – but through all those writings, God wants to speak to you personally today.
His Word is alive and active – it’s powerful. It can change your life. But you’ve got to hear it – you’ve got to read it for yourself. Make a commitment today that you will spend some time reading or listening to God’s Word everyday.
And next week, we’re going to focus in on what God’s Word does in our lives. When we read or listen to the Word of God and we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through those words, it’s amazing the impact that can have on your life.
Just like how God said “Let there be light” and there was light – God’s Word is powerful – it changes everything! But we’re going to get into that next week. For today, go home and start that habit of being in God’s Word every day. It’s a habit that you’ll never regret.