Systematic Theology Project «Return to STP Main Page | Printer Friendly | PDF Version
THE CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
A Christian's personal relationship with God is
fundamental to his current spiritual condition and his ultimate spiritual state. Prayer,
Bible study, meditation, fasting and serving fellow human beings are the chief means by
which such a relationship is initially established and continually deepened.
Salvation is an individual matter between a person and God. God will
grant salvation as an unmerited gift of mercy if the individual has the proper
relationship with Him. God will forgive our sins if we ask Him to do so in prayer. God
will greatly reward those who diligently study His Word and meditate on His way for the
purpose of better serving Him. Thus, it is of profound importance that one attain the
deepest and closest possible state of personal fellowship with God.
But the Christian does not merely seek to build and nurture this close
relationship between himself and God because he must do so. Rather, the true Christian
finds the developing rapport with his spiritual Father to be a uniquely satisfying and
joyous experience that transcends any physical friendship or association. This warm,
personal relationship gives the peace of mind, spiritual confidence and faith that can
only come from knowing that one really has contact with the Designer, Sustainer and Ruler
of the entire universe.
The intimate relationship that a Christian has with his God is that of
a familythe affinity is that of a son or daughter with his deeply loving and
concerned father. "As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord tenderly
sympathizes with those who revere him" (Ps. 103:13, Modern Language Bible).
The tie between a Christian and God far transcends the "blood" relationship
of physical families-it is the relationship of God's Holy Spirit (1
John 1:3). It is
through this spirit that we can have contact with God when even words cannot express our
feelings (Rom. 8:26). It is through this spirit that we are begotten as God's sons;
through it we gain the right to know God, and indeed to call Him our "Father"
(Rom. 8:15-16); and it is also through God's Holy Spirit that we gain brotherhood with
Jesus Christ so that He becomes our spiritual elder brother (Heb. 2:11).
As a physical and biological creation, man is constantly in need of
food, air, water and other necessities of life to maintain and strengthen his body. In
like manner, the Christian's life as a spirit-begotten son of God also requires proper
maintenance. The spirit of God is nurtured and grows within our minds in much the same
fashion as our muscles are nurtured and grow within our bodies. Constant, constructive
activity of a spiritual nature is essential if a Christian is to thrive and reach his
fullest potentialities. Personal and private devotion includes prayer, Bible study,
meditation and fasting. These serve to initiate, and then to augment and enhance, a
person's relationship with God.
Prayer is man's personal communication with God. When one prays, he
utters verbally or mentally his praise for God, his thanks for God's blessings, and also
his requests from God for himself and for others. Biblical example shows one should
maintain close prayerful contact on a daily basiseven several times daily (Dan.
6:10). The Christian's prayers are an offering to God; they are described as incense
stored in golden bowls before God's throne (Rev. 5:8). A Christian's prayers are not mere
repetitions or imposed or stylized prayers, but rather heartfelt, personal communication
with the Creator, analogous to communication with an intimate personal friend. A Christian
shares his hopes, dreams, frustrations, needs and desires with God as he would with a
physical father whom he loves and who loves him.
Jesus' instructions in Matthew 6:5-13 are the clearest in the Bible
regarding prayer. We are told to pray to our Father in secret; not to heap up empty
phrases; to address God as our Father; to hallow His name; to pray for His Kingdom to
come; to ask that His way be followed and His will be done; to thank Him for our
sustenance and other blessings; to forgive us for our sins; to help us forgive those who
sin against us; to keep us from temptation; to deliver us from Satan; and to help us
understand, appreciate and look forward to the majesty, power and glory of God.
While no one can dictate the amount of time one should spend in
personal prayer, Pauls admonition "be constant in prayer" epitomizes that
the proper mental attitude for the Christian is to always be close to God. Although
praying on one's knees is a common biblical example (Acts 20:36; 21:5), there is no
official posture or position of prayer. One can pray at any time, in any place, with any
position and for any reason, and know with full assurance that God is listening. Of
course, the attitude of the individual is critical in determining how God reacts to
our prayers. On the one hand, God states that it is our iniquities and sins which separate
us from Him, so that He will neither hear nor answer our prayers (Isaiah 59:2). On the other
hand, when we go to God in faith, with a humble and contrite spirit, He will both hear and
spiritually revive us (Isaiah 57:15).
In order to pray, we must realize that Jesus Christ is our Mediator (1
Tim. 2:5), our Intercessor (Rom. 8:34) and our High Priest (Heb. 2:17-18). He sympathizes
with our weaknesses and understands our problems, because He was "in all
points"."in every respect," (RSV)"tempted as we are"
(Heb. 4:15). It is only through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that we can approach God
the Father in prayer. This is a remarkable reality, truly an awesome opportunity to
literally come into the presence of God and have His full attention, interest and concern.
This is why the veil into the Holy of Holies (where God symbolically dwelled) was ripped
apart when Jesus died, as direct access to the Father was suddenly made available for all
mankind for the first time (Matthew 27:51; Heb. 9, especially v. 8). But even more than this,
our direct contact with God the Father can be bold and with confidence. Through
Jesus Christ our high priest, we can "come boldly before the throne of grace, that we
may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). Though God is
the very Creator of this vast unfathomable universe, He wants us to speak to Him strongly,
directly, honestly and resolutely. This means that Christians should pray to God
"with confidence" (RSV), asking Him to forgive them for their sins and to
provide them with their spiritual and physical necessities. But we must ask in our
prayers; we must make the conscious effort; we are part of the process. We must take the
active step of aggressively importuning God in faith. As Jesus told His disciples:
"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock,
and it will be opened to you .... If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to
those who ask Him" (Matthew 7:7, 11).
In the same way that prayer can be defined as communication with God,
so can Bible study be defined as God's communication to man through His written Word (Heb.
1:1). The Bible is God's instruction book on how man should live his life. It is also the
record of how God has dealt with men and mankind in the past, and how God wants human
beings to respond and react to Him. The Bible is the handbook to salvation, the textbook
of eternal life. Certainly no Christian could say he knows God if he has not read about
God in God's holy Word. He must learn to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
While the Bible may be and should be studied from different angles and points of view
(e.g., in a technical manner to understand doctrine), the most important Bible study for a
Christian is to humbly approach God's Word to learn how he might more perfectly live his
life before his Creator. A Christian studies the Bible with the full recognition that God
is instructing him that he must personally apply biblical laws, precepts,
principles and directives in his daily life. A true Christian seeks "training in
righteousness," and this can often come about only through correction of error;
consequently, the true Christian must search the Bible for God's correction in his life.
As Paul wrote to Timothy: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of
God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Closely related to and practically inseparable from prayer is
meditation. Meditation in the Bible is simply concentrated thinking on a spiritual topic.
It may include focused attention on a particular biblical concept or passage in order to
probe its deepest message or meaning (Ps. 1:2), or God's wonders and work (Ps. 77:12;
143:5). Meditation can also mean thinking before God, as it were, on a topic about which
we need to grow and understand. Similarly, meditation can be any personal thinking with
the conscious awareness that God is listening and concerned. Hence, meditation is closely
akin to prayer, and often indistinguishable from it. (The original words are often capable
of meaning either "pray" or "meditate.")
Fasting is illustrated throughout the Bible as a tool by which a
Christian can stimulate his personal relationship with God. It is not a means of penance,
but is rather a type of self inflicted trial that reminds one of his own humanness and
humbleness before his great Creator God. It is by definition a specified period of time in
which an individual goes without food (and perhaps without water) in order to remind
oneself of his ephemeral, fleeting existence. Fasting forces us to focus full attention on
drawing close to God. The examples of fasting in the Bible generally involve grave crises
indicating that it is not a ritualistic thing to be done on a periodic schedule.
Nevertheless, one should fast occasionally, even though he may not at the time be
confronting an emergency, so he will have the spiritual reserve necessary should an
unforeseen trial come along.
Prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting are not ends in themselves.
Rather, they are means through which we gain the spiritual strength and endurance necessary to
face the trials and tribulations common to all humanity. The human problems of survival,
health, happiness, family, marriage, success and other such activities of normal life
become challenges to the Christian rather than merely tests of endurance. It is through
facing and handling personal problems and even tragedies that a Christian builds faith and
develops the essential strength of character necessary for salvation. He views life as a
training ground where he can develop the positive qualities of love, patience, faith,
hope, and the other traits of God's Spirit.
Likewise, the Christian understands the purpose of godly correction,
and punishment. He knows God's ultimate purpose is to reproduce Himself through man, to
elevate man from human nature to God's own nature, from mortality to immortality. He
realizes that at times God must correct His children to stop them from hurting themselves
with evil and to direct them into the godly obedience that produces character and
happiness. The Christian realizes that all humans at one time or another need God's loving
correction and thus he responds to this correction in his own life with repentance and
submission to the laws which are intended for his happiness. God is a loving Father who
will, when the occasion arises, correct usnot in anger or out of spitebut
rather for our own good.
The twelfth chapter of Hebrews exemplifies God's attitude, His great
fatherly love, in correcting His children. We are told "not to regard lightly the
discipline of the Lord" (v. 5), because "the lord disciplines him whom He
loves" (v. 6). God is treating us as sons (v. 7) and if He did not correct us, we
would be "illegitimate children and not sons" (v. 8). God's motivation in
correction is clear: "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His
holiness" (v. 10).
In the last half of Matthew 25, Jesus Christ explains how we should be
developing a progressively more personal relationship with Him. He told His disciples that
when we serve otherswhen we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty,
clothing to the naked, welcome to the stranger and company to the sickwe are
actually serving Jesus Christ Himself.
When we extend ourselves to do good to the least of His brethren, then
we are in fact credited just as though we had done those same things to Jesus Christ
personally. It is a profound point. It shows that a Christian's relationship with God must
expand beyond internal spiritual thoughts and express itself in an attitude of outgoing
concern and compassion for one's fellow man by external physical actions.
Serving human beings is indeed one of the most spiritually penetrating
concepts revealed in the Bible. Only by loving one's fellow man can prayer, Bible study,
meditation and fasting have any real meaning,
James put it succinctly: "So faith by itself, if it has no works,
is dead ... and I by my works will show you my faith ... You see that a man is justified
by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:17, 18, 24).
It is with this overall understanding of God's ultimate plan well in
mind that the Christian, as a truly begotten son, develops his intimate relationship with
his spiritual Father through prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting and the full living
of the active Christian life.
This publication is intended to be
used as a personal study tool. Please know it is not wise to take any man's word
for anything, so prove all things for yourself from the pages of your own Bible.
The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
P.O. Box 747
Flint, TX 75762
Phone: (903) 561-7070 • Fax: (903) 561-4141
More FREE literature is available at our Internet Web Site:
The activities of the Garner Ted Armstrong
Evangelistic Association are paid for by tithes, offerings and donations
freely given by Christians and co-workers who are dedicated to preaching the
gospel according to Jesus Christ.