BIG IDEA: For most people, their relationship with God feels weird and awkward. But God wants a relationship with them that is close, inspiring, and transformative.
We all have relationships that feel weird. Awkward. Uncomfortable. We don’t necessarily want them to be that way, but they are. You struggle to communicate and gain the cooperation of your child. You’ve never felt close to your parents, but you wish they would express interest in you. You’ve drifted away from a close relationship with a friend. And for a lot of people, this same distance characterizes their relationship with God.
God can feel distant and uncaring, even angry or judgmental. People think of Him as a gruff old man, a disapproving parent, or a humorless critic. You believe in God, but you also wonder what He wants from you. Life is hard, and you feel that if He really loved you, He’d be of more help.
But what if God does care? What if He cares more than anyone else in the world? What if He wants to have a daily conversation with you? What if He wishes your life to constantly be filled with joy and peace? If that’s how God was, it would change everything, wouldn’t it?
Boiled down to its simplest form, the entire Bible—Old and New Testaments—is a record of God’s pursuit of intimate relationship with his creation. God made everything around us so that it would reflect his glory and creativity. He made us in his own image to do the same. And lie pave us the freedom to choose to love him…or not.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories to illustrate God’s radical and relentless love for people:
A man who had a hundred sheep lost one of them. So he left the ninety- nine and went looking for the one until he finally found it. The man was so happy he called his friends and family together to celebrate.
A woman with ten coins loses one of them. She turns her house upside down looking until she finds the lost coin. Like the man with the sheep, she celebrates recovering the coin with friends and family.
In the most famous story, a rebellious young man asks his dad for his inheritance (even though his dad is still alive) and then sets off on his own because he’s tired of living by his father’s rules. The young man squanders his money, learning the hard way that people who are your friends because of what they can get from you tend to disappear when you run out of stuff to give. When the young man realizes how much he’s messed things up, he swallows his pride and goes back to his father’s house, fully expecting to be punished.
INSTEAD, HIS DAD THROWS A PARTY AND INVITES ALL OF HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS, HE’S HAPPY HIS SON HAS COME BACK TO HIM IN HEART AND BODY!
What Jesus’ stories tell us is that God doesn’t only look down on the mass of humanity from afar and feel love. He knows us and loves us individually. He cares about us personally. When we’re lost, he finds us and brings us home. When we run away, he doesn’t write us off. He waits patiently for us to return, ready to forgive and accept us.
WE RESIST GOD BECAUSE WE DON’T TRUST HIM
What if I depend on God and he lets me down? What if he takes advantage of me? What if he doesn’t really have my best interests at heart?
When we decide that we can’t trust God’s love for us, our relationship with him becomes religion, which is just a quest to find the right combination of belief and ritual to get God to do what we want him to do. Because religion isn’t relational, it reinforces our sense that God is distant and judgmental. That kind of non-relationship with God eventually makes us judgmental. It’s no way to live. It’s definitely not God’s design.
The most powerful relational dynamic in the world is trust. When two people set aside their own agendas on behalf of each other, it creates an unbreakable bond of trust between them. Each knows that the other has his or her best interests at heart. God’s already demonstrated his trustworthiness. When he sent Jesus to die for our sins, he put our need for salvation ahead of his son’s suffering. By serving us, he invited us to trust him enough to obey him. So how do we pursue life-changing trust in God? It requires two things:
TIME: You can’t have a relationship with someone without spending time With that person—casual, unstructured time. In the case of God we spend time with him at church or when we serve in a ministry. But that’s not enough. We all need to spend time with him privately—reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping him.
TRANSPARENCY: In our best relationships, we share all of ourselves, holding nothing back. In spite of our dark corners and hidden skeletons, we want to be fully known arid accepted—loved as we truly are.
Yet we’re tempted to talk to God in formulas, using carefully selected words that brush over the messy parts of our lives so we don’t offend him. It’s easy to fall into this pattern. But don’t be polite with God; be honest.