If you could ask for one thing to make your life better, what would it be? If your answer is anything but “God,” you are missing out on the greatest possible good.
How to Have a Right Relationship With God
The most important thing in your life is your relationship with God.
God is the “Greatest Good.” There is nothing better for a person than God. Nothing is superior to Him in any way. God has no competition in His inherent value and worth. There is no other relationship, and no other object, that is of greater importance to a person. None.
And the condition of your relationship with God determines your eternal destiny.
All of life revolves around God. This is His universe created for His glory and pleasure. You can’t understand the meaning of life without knowing Him and why He does what He does. Being in a right relationship with God is what brings meaning and purpose to life in His world.
Most people I have talked to about this topic assume they already have a relationship with God even though for some, it seems as if much of their life is lived as if He doesn’t exist or that He isn’t that important to them.
In one way, these people are right:
All people do have a relationship with God. It is either a good one or a bad one.
If you were to ask people what kind of relationship they have with God (whether it is good or bad), I think most would say it was good. In my experience, most people tend to say they are good people and can’t imagine God coming to a different conclusion. The big problem here is that this answer is often formed according to their standards of what “good” is and not God’s.
To substitute God’s standards for our own is a terrible, terrible mistake.
If this is God’s world, and He is the supreme authority on everything in it, shouldn’t we be more concerned about God’s evaluation of our relationship with Him rather than our own? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about what He thinks about us than what we think?
Of course we should.
Fortunately for us, He has made His opinion known on the matter so we don’t have to wonder. It isn’t a mystery.
Let’s look at God’s opinion of what it means to have a right relationship with Him.
To fully understand this, we have to start at the beginning – with the very first relationship between God and man. By understanding why God created humanity, what went wrong, and what God has done to fix what went wrong, we can better understand ourselves and the terms God determines for us to have a right relationship with Him.
Why God Created Man
God’s original design was creating man in His image and likeness.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
– Genesis 1:26–27
This likeness means that God made man to reflect His own character in a special way:
“The essence of human nature is its being [created in] the image of God. The entire world is a revelation of God, a mirror of his attributes and perfections. Every creature in its own way and degree is the embodiment of a divine thought. But among creatures, only man is the image of God, God’s highest and richest self-revelation and consequently the head and crown of the whole creation, the imago Dei and the epitome of nature.”
– Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 21
Originally, man reflected God’s nature just as God intended him to. It wasn’t an exact reflection since man isn’t exactly the same as God, but it was inherently good and without corruption.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
– Genesis 1:31
Additionally, man was to live under God’s rule by doing what God asked Him to do and not doing what God told man not to do.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
– Genesis 2:15–17
God had one special command for man to follow – not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this one command God demonstrated that He had the right to tell man what to do and man had the obligation to live under God’s rule by following this command. The command shows that God is the authority in the relationship and man is subservient by nature to that authority.
What Went Wrong in Man’s Relationship With God
God warned Adam from the very beginning that not following His command would result in dire consequences. Those consequences were death – both spiritual and physical.
Adam and Eve did not choose to obey God but instead rebelled and ate from the tree anyway. God’s judgment upon them was immediate since He was faithful to what He had said He would do.
God banished Adam and Eve from His presence in the Garden of Eden. Eventually, they would physically die. Spiritually, they were cut off from a right relationship with God.
From this event, we learn the following principle:
For the wages of sin is death
– Romans 6:23
From the very beginning, God had a rule. Anyone who disobeys His commands receives the penalty of physical and spiritual death. This disobedience is what we call “sin.”
Unfortunately, since all of us are descended from Adam and Eve, we inherit by birth their corrupted human nature that is unavoidably liable to both sin and death.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
– Romans 5:12
Every human being – you and me included – sin because it is our nature to do so. We sin frequently and easily. There is not one person who doesn’t sin.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
– Romans 3:23
Man was made to glorify God in all that we are and all that we do. Instead, we all choose our own way. In return, we are all under the judgment of God.
We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
– Ephesians 2:3
God’s Plan to Fix the Broken Relationship
Fortunately, God does not leave us without a way out of this terrible situation. Jesus, who is God’s Son and fully divine, agreed to come to earth, take on a body, and through physical death take the punishment for sin that His people deserved.
God’s motive in sending Jesus is love. He desires that people would put their faith in who Jesus is and what He did so people might not suffer spiritual death but instead have eternal life with Him forever.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life
– John 3:16
Jesus never sinned. He never rebelled against God. He lived a perfect life and became a perfect sacrifice for sin to appease the wrath of God and bring all who put their faith in Him back into a right relationship with God.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God
– 1 Peter 3:18
Jesus is the righteous one who suffered for the sins of the unrighteous. Jesus is like a bridge that spans the gap in our relationship with God. He is the only one who can bring us back into a right relationship with God. There is no other way.
When one of Jesus’ followers, the Apostle Peter, was told by the Jewish religious leaders to stop telling people about Jesus, Peter said this:
“Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
– Acts 4:10–12
God has provided no other person and no other means to be saved from our sins. Jesus is the only way.
How Should We Respond to Jesus’ Death?
Forgiveness of sins is not automatic. God doesn’t forgive everyone just because they need forgiving. He requires something from us.
But what he requires from us isn’t our works. It isn’t something we do. It isn’t about going to church, or trying to be a good person, or even by being a better person than you are now, or being nice to people, or giving to charity. It isn’t about being “less bad” than someone else you know.
God has decided that it is only by faith in who Jesus is and what He has done that the blessings of Jesus’ death and resurrection are given to you.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
– Ephesians 2:8–9
God does not allow you to work for, or earn the forgiveness for, your sins. You can’t pray enough to be back in a right relationship with God. You can’t do religious things to try and gradually earn God’s favor for forgiveness. It is simply by faith (which means trust) in the person and work of Jesus on your behalf.
God is clear by what He says in the Bible that you cannot work to be forgiven. You cannot earn it in any way.
See for yourself in the following verses:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
– Romans 3:22–25
Notice that God does not accept works as a way to be justified (declared innocent):
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
– Romans 3:28
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
– Romans 4:4–5
You may have seen the term “grace” show up in several of the passages above. Grace simply means the free, undeserved gift of God. Salvation is a gift that is received by faith. You cannot earn this gift. God will not accept any payment for it. Salvation is entirely a gift of God and is given to you by faith in Jesus.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 6:23
Jesus fixes everything that Adam ruined. Adam’s sin (and ours as well) separated us from God and brought death. Jesus’ death brings people back to God along with new life. Sin brings death and judgment. Jesus brings life and forgiveness.
So if God has mercifully provided a way to be forgiven through faith in Jesus, why don’t more people take advantage of this?
Because people are rebellious by nature, they even try to come up with their own solutions of getting back into favor with God. People try all sorts of things – from religions they create, to doing good works, to trying to become better people on their own, to praying certain prayers a certain number of times – all in an attempt to find forgiveness or go to heaven or get back into a right relationship with God.
But God will not accept these efforts.
Because man does not get to set the terms of the relationship; God does.
Anyone who tries to be forgiven by any other means than the means God has provided (faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ) will be rejected.
It sounds too easy doesn’t it? Just trust? That’s it?
Though it may sound easy, it is the one of the hardest things to actually do, and we can’t actually do it without God’s help. Man doesn’t want to trust God. Man doesn’t want to put Himself under God’s rule and authority.
Just like Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s first command in the Garden of Eden, so today man rebels at God’s means of bringing them forgiveness.
It is very sad and very tragic. God offers forgiveness through faith in Christ but so many people reject His kindness.
But this doesn’t have to be you!
What You Must Do
If you want God’s gift of salvation and forgiveness and a right relationship with God, you must do the following:
- Believe that Jesus is who He says He is (God come in the flesh)
- Believe that what Jesus accomplished on the cross is the only way you can receive God’s forgiveness and ask God for it
- Entrust your life to Jesus
Let’s look at each of these:
1) Believe That Jesus is Who He Says He Is
Faith in Jesus means you trust that Jesus is who He says He is.
Put simply, Jesus is God. He is the second person of the Godhead and equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (what Christians call the Trinity). This belief that Jesus is truly God and a part of the divine Trinity sets Christianity apart from all other religions.
The Bible tells us that Jesus has the same nature and glory as God:
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
– Hebrews 1:3
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the exact image of God and the Creator of all things:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
– Colossians 1:15–16
Somehow, in a way not fully understood to us, God the Son took on a body so He could die on a cross for our salvation:
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
– Colossians 1:19–20
This truth about Jesus is so essential to our salvation, and so powerful, that Satan (the devil and enemy of all that is good) will do everything possible to keep you from believing it:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
– 2 Corinthians 4:4
Jesus knows that people struggle to believe this truth about Him. In fact, one of His one apostles (a man named Thomas), did not believe until Jesus appeared to Him after His resurrection:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
– John 20:26–29
Thomas finally believes and calls Jesus both “Lord” and “God.” How does Jesus respond to Thomas’ words of faith? He commends Thomas for believing. He does not correct or rebuke Thomas but affirms that what Thomas said about Him is true.
Even though Thomas believed upon seeing Jesus, Jesus tells him that those of us who believe without physically seeing Jesus are blessed.
If you are having trouble believing who Jesus is, ask God for the faith that you need to believe.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
– John 3:16–18
2) Believe That Jesus Accomplished Your Salvation on the Cross
Not only do you need to believe that Jesus is truly God, you need to believe that what He accomplished on the cross by paying the penalty for your sins is the only thing that will save you.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
– Acts 4:12
This is not a popular message today since so many people think that there are many different roads to God. But there aren’t.
Consider this analogy.
What if God gave humanity a single cure for all types of cancer and there was only one? It would be an amazing gift wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t we want to be thankful for such an amazing gift?
But imagine if there were some who, instead of being thankful, complained bitterly that there was only ONE cure for cancer and not many. They complained it was “arrogant” and “narrow minded” to accept that there was only one cure.
Would these people really have a right to complain against God? If God gave one perfectly good and completely effective cure, and one cure was all that was needed and possible, why would you complain about that instead of being joyful and thankful?
That is how so many people are today about Jesus. Instead of being incredibly thankful that God Himself would take on a body to die for the sins they committed, they complain bitterly and charge Christians with “arrogance” to say there is only one way.
3) Finally, Entrust Your Entire Life to Jesus
Trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior will cost you something. It will mean you start to live under His authority just like man was originally made to live.
God is offering you forgiveness but He wants you to give up your rebellion against Him. He isn’t asking you to be perfect, nor is He expecting that you won’t fail, but He is asking you to turn over the control of your life to Him.
Remember the very first sin in the Garden of Eden was Adam and Eve exchanging God’s commands for their own way. That sin resulted in the terrible situation mankind is in now. Through Jesus, God wants to change us back into people who love Him and trust Him enough to obey Him.
Remember God’s original design for man? He made man in His image to reflect who He is. Guess what God wants to do through all those who trust in Christ?
Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
– Colossians 3:10
In Christ, God is reforming His image in us that was corrupted by Adam’s sin. All those who have believed in Him will be slowly and surely transformed to become more and more like Christ – a process that will be complete after you die and are in His presence.
Don’t worry if you don’t think you can do it because you can’t do it on your own. Trust Jesus to help you turn from living in rebellion to Him to living in greater and greater faithful obedience to Him and to more and more live the life He always wanted humanity to live.
Cast yourself completely on the mercy of God. Give up all other efforts of trying to be forgiven any other way. Trust in Jesus alone as your Lord and Savior. Give your life to Him and let Him clean you up. It doesn’t matter how bad you think you are. Jesus’ power to forgive and turn your life around is far more powerful than your sins.
Benefits of Believing in Jesus and Entrusting Your Life to Him
The benefits of trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins are tremendous. Let’s look at just a few:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
– Romans 5:1–2
This particular passage mentions several great benefits of faith in Christ: justification, peace with God, access to God, and hope.
“Justification” is a theological word that means God declares you “not guilty” for your sins. He considers you “right” (or “righteous”) in His sight even though you don’t deserve it. Why? Because if you have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, God sees the death of Christ on your behalf as paying the penalty you deserve.
God doesn’t punish twice – he doesn’t punish Jesus and the one who has faith in Jesus. Jesus’ death is a “substitute” for the penalty you deserve. Jesus takes your punishment and through faith, God sees you as “justified.”
Peace With God
Second, this justification means that you now have peace with God. God will no longer be mad at you. He will no longer want to pour out His wrath against your sin. His condemning anger is taken away. He chooses instead to be merciful to you and treat you as if you were innocent. That is incredible. Who would do such a thing? Our very forgiving and loving and merciful God would do such a thing.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
– Ephesians 2:4–5
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
– 1 John 4:10
Relationship With God
Third, this forgiveness gives you access to God. That means you will have a relationship with God. You can pray to Him and He will hear. Jesus provides a way for you to approach God, not as a condemned sinner, but as a forgiven child and part of His family.
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
– Galatians 3:26
Finally, forgiveness in Christ gives you hope. You don’t have to worry that God will condemn you and punish you when you die. You have hope that you will be with Him forever. The relationship with God that Jesus’ brings to you in this life will continue on for eternity.
I know God will do this for you if you come to Him on His terms. Why?
There are two reasons.
Frist reason: God has promised He will. God is trustworthy and never fails to fulfill His promises. Jesus will not turn you away if you come to Him in faith to be forgiven:
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
– John 6:35–40
Second reason is this – He did it for me and I personally testify to the truthfulness of His promises in my life.
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