How Close Are We to God?

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

When studying God’s inspired word, it is very encouraging to read of examples of people who were very close to God. The relationships that we maintain can either make us stronger, or could destroy us at the same token. Relationships are essential necessities in our lives. Christians understand that God must come first above all things (Mt. 6:33), and furthermore our relationship with God will determine our destination for eternity- heaven or hell (Rom. 6). Is the relationship we have with God as strong as it ought to be, or is God as a mere acquaintance? There is no other relationship more important than the one we have with God!

Looking at the Old Testament, there are several examples of men and women who maintained a close relationship with God. I would like to examine just a couple of examples of men who were noted as being very close to God. By looking at the examples found in the Scriptures, we can learn so much of how God expects his creation to live. Paul noted in Romans 15:4 that we can learn from the example given to us by the things written earlier in the Old Testament.

The first example to be considered in this study is the life of Enoch. We find in Genesis 5:21-24 that Enoch was not for God took him. Enoch was one of two men that were specifically noted to have walked with God (Gen. 5:22). The other man who walked with God was Noah, Enoch’s grandson (Gen. 6:9). Enoch did not taste death because he walked with God. This simply means that Enoch lived in harmony with God. For any man to be in harmony with God, man needs to be in subjection to the will of God. We find in Hebrews 11:5 Enoch had a witness, or a testimony, of how he was pleasing to God. Enoch had established this reputation by how he lived. This was not a one time event, but rather a lifetime commitment! We can walk with God like Enoch if we live to please God and maintain our faith (Heb. 11:5-6). We need to strive for that kind of relationship.

Abraham was close to God, in James 2:21-23 we read of Abraham being referred to as the friend of God. Abraham had the close relationship with God that we need to strive for today. Abraham was faithful to God throughout his life when he left Ur and was willing to sacrifice Isaac to God (Heb. 11:8-10; 17-19). God needs to be our closest friend, but in many cases people do not want to give God the time of day like we do for our other friends. Knowing how to develop this relationship like Enoch and Abraham will help us become closer to God.

Knowledge is necessary in order to have a good relationship. If I want to have a relationship with another person, I need to know what kind of person he/she is as well as some common interests that we may have. God has offered us His word in order for us to learn of Him. God already knows us perfectly and knows what is best for us. We need to make the decision if we want to be reconciled to God.

People need to realize that if we do not have the right relationship with God, we will be doomed for all of eternity. Hosea told the Israelites in Hosea 4:6 that God’s people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. In order for people today to gain knowledge of God, it is going to take time in studying the Bible. It will requires intense study to be the workman that is not ashamed, who rightly divides the word of truth as described in 2 Timothy 2:15. For man to be complete, fully furnished for every good work, every man must know God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Without God, we are nothing and have nothing!

Another paramount aspect of any relationship is communication. In our relationships with friends, we know that those who talk daily with each other are closer friends than people who only talk to each other once a month. If we go without talking to a friend for an extended amount of time, would the relationship survive? The answer is no. To have a strong and healthy relationship, communication must take place on both sides of the table.

The same is true in our relationship with God. If we go for long periods of time without praying to God, our spiritual lives will be very weak, making it easy to fall away from the truth. God has already told us what He wants in the relationship through the Scriptures. Now it is our turn to return the communication. Paul said to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Prayer is the avenue that allows us to communicate with God. We are able to talk to other people face to face and discuss anything that may be on our minds. Are we able to tell God anything as well? Are we able to pray at any time and in any situation, or do we pray just out of habit as a meaningless ritual? Answering these questions will show the status of the relationship that you have with God.

Jesus prayed to God on several occasions. Right before Jesus was about to be arrested, Jesus was in prayer to God in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke records for us the intensity that Jesus was praying and the agony He was feeling in Luke 22:44. Jesus was aware that His hour was rapidly approaching and did not desire to endure the suffering as a man. Yet He prayed knowing the will of God and said to let God’s will be done. Communication is vital in any relationship; remember to pray at any opportunity, whether it is in times of joy or of suffering.

The best relationships have individuals that are honest and faithful to the other. Fidelity is something that is not strived for in today’s society. This is evident when we look at figures like to crime rate across the country, divorce rates, and at businesses where cheating and dishonesty are the means in order to achieve a promotion. Fidelity is a jewel that has been thrown out the window by society. Society says to look out for #1 and do not concern yourself with others. However, the rules and philosophies of society will not save us on the Day of Judgment.

God has told us that He will always be faithful to us (1 Cor. 10:13). Will we be faithful to Him? We are told in order to be rewarded with heaven that we must keep busy and remain immovable in our convictions and desire to serve God (1 Cor. 15:58, Gal. 6:7-10, 2 Tim. 4:6-8, Heb. 11:6, Rev. 2:10). God considers faithfulness very seriously and we should too. This relationship that we have with God is not a game to play around with whenever it is convenient. Unfortunately this is exactly how some people view this relationship. We are either with God or against Him, we cannot straddle the fence!

The Bible is explicit when it discusses the lines that are drawn between good and evil, between righteousness and sin, between God and Satan. Paul said that those who would walk contrary to God have become enemies of the cross (Phil. 3:18-19). We are either a servant of God or of sin (Rom. 6:16, 20-23). Jesus said that we cannot serve both God and mammon (Mt. 6:24). God has drawn the lines, which side are you on? Remember that there is no middle ground with God and we are either with Him or against Him!

The Israelites in the Old Testament were guilty of trying to straddle the fence as well and were called adulteresses and harlots (Hos. 3:1, 4:15, Ams. 2:7-8, 5:25-27)! We are not able to be pleasing to God and serve our own desires at the same time. God will not allow it and will punish us for it on the Day of Judgment (Rom. 6:23). Like Amos said in chapter 3 and verse 7 and 8, “Surely the Lord does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” Amos had told the Israelites of the destruction that would befall them if they did not repent. Judgment is coming, “Prepare to meet your God!” (Ams. 4:12).

God needs to be the closest friend we have. He has shown us His love by extending grace through Jesus Christ (Jno. 3:16, Eph. 2:4-6) and by providing for our every physical need (Mt. 6:33, Jms. 1:17). God has been and will always be there for us. There is no one that is able to be as faithful as God. He has done all of these wonderful things for us so that we may desire to have the right relationship with Him. God desires to have a special people that will strive to be close to Him. Will we be the people who are close to God like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, and others, or will we only be a mere acquaintance? It is our choice to make for ourselves. No one can make the decision for us neither can we make the decision for another. Consider these things and see how close you are to God.

The Words of My Mouth and the Meditation of My Heart Be Acceptable

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

It is understood that certain things are acceptable and other things are not. When unacceptable things are done, there is punishment. Conversely when acceptable things are exercised, there are awards. It is acceptable to drive a vehicle with a driver’s license, but it is not acceptable to drive without a license. When an individual is found driving without a license, there is a punishment that has been described by civil law for the law breaker. This is understood and such a law is enforced by the government. When we consider the things within our lives, we must realize that there are things that God has specified which are acceptable and unacceptable. The Christian has to determine from God’s word that which is acceptable and pursue it.
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God’s Simple Word

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

When considering the awesome power of God, each person needs to realize that God’s hand is not “too short” to do anything. Consider Genesis chapter 1. When God created all things at creation, God merely spoke and it was. That is awesome to think that just by verbal command from God, everything was created from nothing! If God spoke man into existence, certainly God has the power to save man from his sins.

It is amazing that God does not expect the impossible, but the simple. In Romans 12:1-2 we find that Paul tells the Roman brethren that being a living sacrifice is a reasonable service. Pleasing God is not the impossible but rather is completely possible! Note that God’s word is simple, not crafty or deceiving. This is the point that Paul was making to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Here the text reveals that the gospel of Christ comes across as being foolish to those who choose not to believe, but to those that believe, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:18; Rom. 1:16). By using the simple things of this life, God puts the wisdom of the world to shame. The Almighty that created the worlds has made reconciliation possible for man.

God has set His plan for man’s salvation. It is man’s duty to take heed to what God has said and be obedient (Eccl. 12:13-14). Yet, man has rejected God’s plan and devised his own way for salvation. Any other plan devised other than God’s plan leads to destruction (Mt. 7:13-14; Prv. 16:25). God said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). This ought to humble each man to realize that God is so much superior to man. Therefore let us come to listen to the glorious gospel of Christ!

I have noticed that many of this present world desire religion to be flashy, entertaining, an emotional rollercoaster, and more complicated than what God has planned. Such people need to review the “old paths” and test their traditions and contemporary activities and see how far they have strayed away from the truth. Consider the means by which we are saved. God says that we must hear the word (Rom. 10:17), then believe the word of God (Mark 16:16), repent of sins (Acts 2:38), confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (1 Pet. 3:21). Now man says that you feel when you are saved, the need to only believe that Jesus is the Christ (faith-only doctrine), and even go as far to say that God is too loving of a God to punish His creation. Such people that would teach, advocate, or condone such doctrines have become enemies of the cross of Christ!

Those who earnestly desire to follow God will look to the Scriptures and find His simple will. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt. 5:6). God’s word is what is able to satisfy the hunger for righteousness because it is His word that equips us to do good works (2 Tim. 3:17). The gospel of Christ teaches us to be baptized to remove our sins (Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:5-11). For the person who believes the gospel of Christ, that person understands that it is necessary to wash and be clean (Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5, 1 Pet. 3:21). Is it such a hard and complicated thing to understand? What if God asked us to do some great thing, would we do it? If so, then why is it that people rant and rave about baptism? The reason is simple- they are still too proud to submit, not desiring to serve God. Our attitude needs to be of that like Isaiah when he declared, “Here am I! Send me” (Is. 6:8). When God commands, we ought to jump at the chance to obey.

The Preacher concluded the matter as this: “Fear God and keep His commandments…” (Eccl. 12:13). This is the most we can do, and ought to be our greatest joy knowing that we serve the true and living God! We can understand God’s will and in turn obey it. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul urged the brethren in Corinth to consider their ways and make sure they were abiding by God’s truth. The sweet psalmist of Israel said that the word of God is able to make wise the simple (Ps. 19:7). God’s will is reasonable (Rom. 12:2), living, and powerful (Heb. 4:12).It is possible to please God. God has told us what He wants; will we hear and take heed to the things that He has spoken? Remember that it was God’s word that caused creation, and it is His word that saves man today!