Tag Archive | relationship with God

Studying Your Bible

by Jarrid Wilson

Over the last few months I have had hundreds of you request a post on “How to Study The Bible.” Well, here it is. I pray this post blesses you, challenges you, and inspires you to take the initiative to deepen your relationship with God.

Below is the formula I use when studying and journaling through the scriptures. This doesn’t mean it’s the only way to study, but I do believe this formula is a great way to strengthen your foundation in Christ.

1. Uncover

1. Time/Date/Author

2. Place/Location

3. Audience (who is the text directed to?)

2. Relate

1. How does it affect me?

2. How does it make me feel?

3. In what ways do I share a similar experience?

3. Apply

1. What did I learn?

2. How can it be applied to my life?

3. What is God trying to tell me through this text?

Why Should We Pray?

John Bornschein

In the powerful work, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Gary T. Meadors observes that dialogue with the Almighty is part of the fabric of the Bible: “Genesis 4:26 first mentions that ‘men began to call on the name of the Lord,’ and Revelation 22:20 closes the Bible with the prayer, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (compare 1 Corinthians 16:22). The entire history of redemption is framed in prayer. In between these terminal references we find a database about prayer that is so large it requires description beyond simple definition.”1 Why do we pray? Here are a few key reasons:2

1. We love Him. Just as a man and woman in love desire to be together and communicate, so we, if we love God, will desire to be with Him and to fellowship with Him in proportion to our love for Him.

2. We depend on God. He is our source. He is our life (Colossians 3:4). Through prayer, we receive the comfort, strength, and all the other resources we need in life, both naturally and spiritually. Prayer—relationship with God—is as necessary to the spiritual life as air is to the natural life.

3. Prayer allows us to resist temptation. Jesus warned His disciples to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41, NKJV). Living a life without prayer can leave us weak and exposed, giving an opportunity for the enemy to gain ground and potentially lure us into sin.

4. Prayer is necessary for people to invite God to act in salvation. God gave the earth to Adam and his descendants, so we must invite God to work here. If no one invites Him to work on earth, Satan—the “god of this age” because of humanity’s universal rebellion (2 Corinthians 4:4)—will dominate human affairs, and eventually the judgment of God will come. By inviting God to intercede often and specifically, multitudes can be saved who would otherwise be lost.

5. God commands us to pray. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (NKJV). Jesus also encouraged His followers to pray: “Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1, NKJV).

The need to pray is as great as the authority of God, who commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV). Prayer is so vital to all that God wants to do on the earth, and it is so essential to us, that He commands us to do it all the time. We should even deny ourselves sleep and food at times to pray more and with greater power (see Matthew 6:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 21:36; Colossians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 11:27). Or, as John Chrysostom wrote:

Prayer has subdued the strength of fire. It has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, burst the chains of death, expanded the fates of heaven, assuaged diseases, dispelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, staid the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In this communion with God, there is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine that is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings!3

The Gospel: A Continuing Requirement

Tullian Tchividjian

The story of Jonah shows us that the gospel—the good news that God relentlessly pursues sinners in order to rescue them—is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians. Jonah’s life proves this, because Jonah, who knows God, obviously needs divine deliverance as much as anyone else in the story. In fact, his need for rescue gets far more emphasis than anyone else’s. It’s his destitution, not that of the Ninevites, that gets the most play. That alone should be enough to convince us that God’s rescue is a continuing requirement for Christians and non-Christians alike.

The gospel isn’t simply a set of truths that non-Christians must believe in order to become saved. It’s a reality that Christians must daily embrace in order to experience being saved. The gospel not only saves us from the penalty of sin (justification), but it also saves us from the power of sin (sanctification) day after day. Or, as John Piper has said, “The cross is not only a past place of objective substitution; it is a present place of subjective execution.”  Our daily sin requires God’s daily grace—the grace that comes to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Churches, for example, have for years debated whether their worship services ought to be geared toward Christians (to encourage and strengthen them) or non-Christians (to appeal to and win them). But this debate and the struggle over it are misguided. We’re asking the wrong questions and making the wrong assumptions. The truth is that our worship services should be geared to sinners in need of God’s rescue—and that includes both Christians and non-Christians. Since both groups need his deliverance, both need his gospel.

Christians need the gospel because our hearts are always prone to wander; we’re always tempted to run from God. It takes the power of the gospel to direct us back to our first love. Consciously going to the gospel ought to be a daily reality and experience for us all. It means, as Jerry Bridges reminds us, “preaching the gospel to yourself every day.”  We have to allow God to remind us every day through his Word of Christ’s finished work on behalf of sinners in order to stay convinced that the gospel is relevant.

I find that I especially need a gospel refocus to help steer me away from a constant tendency to drift into a performance-driven relationship with God. I’m not alone in that tendency; Jerry Bridges observes how pervasive it is among us all:

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.

Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. We give lip service to the attitude of the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves. The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience.”

As I’ve said before, the difference between living for God and living for anything else is that when we live for anything else we do so to gain acceptance, but when we live for God we do so because we are already accepted. Real freedom (the freedom that only the gospel grants) is living for something because we already have favor instead of living for something in order to gain favor.