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A Close Relationship with God June 8, 2008

Posted by flashbuzzer in Christianity.
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This is the second post in a four-part series that I titled “Towards a Complete Christian Life.” The point of this post is to highlight the importance of having a close relationship with God.

To see just what having a close relationship with God entails, let’s take a look at four Psalms that highlight some aspects of this relationship.

Let’s begin by reading through Psalm 8. This psalm stresses the importance of praise in a close relationship with God. Note that the famous Lord’s Prayer also begins with an expression of praise, which further illustrates the importance of praising God.

In verses 1 and 9, the phrase “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” is repeated. In this case, the psalmist (David) uses repetition to emphasize a key point of his praise, namely the wide-ranging power and authority of God’s name.

Verse 3 brings up another critical point regarding praising God. Sometimes we want to praise God, but we can’t think of the right words. At those times it helps to stop and “consider” who God is and what He has done, not only in our lives but throughout all time.

A neat analogue to the concept of praising God can be found in married life. Often we see spouses praising each other by pointing out their significant other’s pleasing characteristics, such as “he’s a good listener” and “she really understands me.” Thus, just as in a healthy marriage, telling God what we admire most about Him strengthens our relationship with Him.

Question 1: have you ever been amazed by God’s creation?

Next, let’s read through Psalm 51. This psalm stresses the importance of repentance in a close relationship with God. As expounded cogently by Paul in the book of Romans, sin is an ever-present part of our life on Earth, which makes genuine repentance an essential aspect of our relationship with God.

Verse 1 is a superb reminder that when we have sinned and ask God for forgiveness, we must “cut to the chase” and avoid attempting to rationalize our sin. Instead of telling God, “well, what I did just now wasn’t that bad, but to make myself feel better I’ll tell you I’m sorry,” we need to immediately confess our sins (while either implicitly or explicitly acknowledging their magnitude) and ask Him for mercy and forgiveness.

In verse 10 we see that repentance does not merely consist of asking God for mercy and forgiveness. We need to desire inner change in our lives so that we can become more Christ-like; while we cannot be “sinless” in our life on Earth, we can “sin less.”

Verse 11 is a neat illustration of the intense desire and longing we should have for God. In particular, we should love God so intensely that when we have wronged Him, we should beseech Him to allow us to remain in His presence.

The wide-ranging benefits of repentance can be observed in verse 13. We see that repentance is important not only for renewing our close relationship with God but also for encouraging both believers and non-believers. By experiencing the blessings that result from repentance, we can share them and help other people to have closer relationships with God.

Question 2: have you ever prayed to God for forgiveness in a serious, meaningful way?

Now let’s consider Psalm 142. This psalm stresses the importance of prayer in a relationship with God. By lifting up our prayer requests to God, we acknowledge His sovereignty in this world and His ability to answer our requests (whether or not He chooses to answer them in the way we want them to be answered is another issue).

Note the word “mercy” in verse 1. When we present our prayers before God, we need to remember that He is in control of our lives. Failing to acknowledge His sovereignty in our prayers is a gross error that we must avoid.

Verse 2 illustrates the importance of being a) honest before God and b) specific in our prayer requests. Since God desires a genuine relationship with us, we must speak honestly with Him and lay our exact thoughts and feelings before Him. We see several examples of this in the Bible where godly people, including Job and Jeremiah, wrestled with God over some tough issues (and they did so without sinning).

Verses 4 and 5 remind us that we must depend on God first and foremost (as opposed to depending on our fellow man above all). It is essential for us to remember that while people can change, God never changes. We should be content in the knowledge that God was, is, and always will be our “refuge” and our “portion.”

The theme of “dependence on God” is further expressed in verse 6. The psalmist (David) admits that he cannot solve his problems by himself and cries out to the Lord for deliverance. This may be a difficult pill for us to swallow in the 21st century, as most (if not all) of us like to be in control of our lives. More often than not, though, our best efforts aren’t sufficient for solving our problems.

The psalm concludes with verse 7, which can be nicely linked with Psalm 51:13. Verse 7 reminds us that trials/temptations in our lives are actually opportunities for us to praise God, both during the trial/temptation and afterwards. Note that “the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” Thus, it should be apparent from verse 7 and from Psalm 51:13 that a close relationship with God can be a vehicle for making a positive impact on the lives of other believers.

Question 3: have you ever prayed to God fervently for something?

Let’s wrap things up by looking at Psalm 30. This psalm stresses the importance of thanksgiving in a relationship with God. By giving thanks to God for an answered prayer (regardless of the way in which it was answered), we demonstrate our gratitude to Him and show how much we value our relationship with Him.

Based on my experiences, I can say that reflecting on my prior difficulties allows me to praise God and thank Him in a more heartfelt way. When life is going smoothly and everything is just “hunky-dory,” I’ve found that it’s easy to become formulaic and robotic in my prayers. During/after some trial or temptation, though, I find that my prayers become more intense and genuine.

Along these lines, note in verse 11 how an complete reversal in fortunes can elicit joyful prayers of thanksgiving. The quote “I’ve been to Hell and back” is an interesting secular expression of the key concept in verse 11. As human beings, it’s easier for us to appreciate God when He sustains us during the storms of our lives.

Verse 12 nicely rubber-stamps one of the central themes in this post, namely the role that praise plays in a relationship with God (recall Psalm 8, Psalm 51:13 and Psalm 142:7). The other central theme in this post, namely inspiring others to praise God, is rubber-stamped in verse 4; the psalmist (David) encourages other believers to “sing to the Lord” and “praise his holy name.”

Question 4: have you ever seriously thanked God for an answered prayer?

My next post on this topic will focus on cultivating strong relationships with other believers.

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