When you hear the phrase “relationship with God”, what comes to your mind? Modern Christianity has latched onto this phrase as the cool thing to say, the trending topic if you will… but what does it mean exactly? How does a person go about having a relationship with God? What does that look like and how does that work?
I have encountered people who use that term “relationship with God”, and I have asked them, “so tell me about that relationship…” and they typically adopt a blank expression on their faces, like a deer in headlights, because they had honestly never thought about what it means themselves. Others have reverted to the typical “well, I read my Bible every day and attend church regularly.”
It’s not surprising really, because Christianity today has largely replaced a genuine relationship with God, for little more than typically Christian duties. Going to church, regular Bible reading, giving some percentage of income. And as long we check-off those boxes every week, we feel as though we have done something worthwhile… we are a “good Christian”. And let me tell you, I am not pointing any fingers here, because I was the exact same way, with the very same mentality. Until one day, when I realized that even though I was checking every single one of those boxes, I was still dead inside – there was no relationship with God at all. I had substituted a real relationship with a real and personal God, for a pseudo relationship fabricated by works and services. I didn’t know any better because no-one ever told me any different. But inside, God was calling…
What I want to share with you today, is how to have and enjoy a real and genuine relationship with a real and personal God. It is possible to have, and it’s what He actually wants. It’s what Jesus actually came to restore, but most people have been shoehorned onto the treadmill of mere Christian religion instead of true relationship… and they feel the same emptiness that I did, but because of fear, and peer-pressure from those around them, and the burden of all the things that we feel we must do each week, all these things combine to make it very difficult to pull out of the trap of “religious life” and the autopilot of the day, and take a step back to honestly ask the question: do I even really know who God is? Have we even spoken recently? I had to ask myself those questions… and I had to honestly answer “no” to both of them before I woke up and decided that what I was doing wasn’t worth my time anymore. I wanted a genuine relationship with God, and all of the other religious stuff, was just getting in the way. So today, if what I am describing sounds familiar to you, this study will set you free from that today.
There’s an amazing bit of scripture in John 14:21-27:
“He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Judas said to him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?
Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him.
He that loves me not keeps not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
These things have I spoken to you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Now unfortunately, verse 21 and verse 23 have both been used and abused by preachers to make people think that Jesus is saying something which He really isn’t. Many people think that Jesus is saying something like this: If you really love me, prove it by keeping the law of Moses!
And because people think that is what Jesus is saying, they get all works-minded and performance driven, and place themselves on a treadmill of works in a never-ending quest to prove their love for Jesus (as if He doesn’t already know their heart).
My friend, that is not really love, and it is not what Jesus is really saying here either. Jesus is not saying to prove your love through your performance. The command of Jesus that we are to keep (or guard) is not the Law of Moses, not the Ten Commandments – in-fact it may interest you to know that Jesus even makes a distinction between His command and the Law of Moses in John 15:10; not because Jesus and the Father are somehow in disagreement with eachother (not at all!), but in-fact because when Jesus walked the earth, the Old Covenant system was still in-effect. However Jesus fulfilled it completely and brought it to an end, ushering in His New Covenant. And He replaced the Law of Moses, with His Law of the Spirit of Life.
In-fact what Jesus’ commandment truly is, can be found in 1st John 3:23:
“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”
So with this understanding, we can begin to see what Jesus is really saying in our verses from John 14. Jesus is not saying to prove that you love Him by your-law-keeping or performance, but is instead saying to guard your belief on Him, and by believing on Him, it creates intimacy. Look at the rest of verse 21:
“… and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
This is what most believers are searching for. This is what most believers want to have… for God to manifest Himself to them. For God to in some manner be tangible to them. Most people have relegated it off to some sort of pipe-dream, but Jesus says here that not only is it possible, it is quite normal for a true believer. We have the very love of both Jesus and the Father, and Jesus will manifest Himself to us.
Then in verses 22 and 23 the natural question as well as Jesus’ response are recorded for us. Judas (not Iscariot; not the one who betrayed Jesus) asks, how exactly will you manifest yourself to us? Now this is key: look at Jesus’ answer.
… we will come to Him and make our dwelling with him.
Now thankfully this is not the entirety of Jesus’ response, or most of us would still be confused! I, personally after reading this was still wondering how exactly this was going to happen. So let’s look at verses 25 through 27 now:
Jesus says that these things He has spoken while He was with us on the earth. But now, something is about to change. Remember, He is about to be crucified. His earthly mission and purpose for coming is about to be fulfilled – however, look at verse 26:
But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father is sending in Jesus’ Name, He will teach you all things, and also bring to your remembrance everything which Jesus has said to you.
This, my friend, is huge! Unfortunately the Holy Spirit is often dismissed, ignored and generally pushed-off to the side in modern Christian culture. Most people are afraid of the Holy Spirit, if they even acknowledge His existence at all! Yet this is a vital part of our relationship with God as Jesus is pointing out right here in these verses.
Two big benefits are right in this verse 26… He will teach you all things. And don’t just limit this to things about the Bible; Jesus didn’t limit it, so don’t you limit it either! All things means all things. He can teach you how to be more confident, how to eat, how to be healthy, how to be happy. Anything! And again, this is the Holy Spirit of God doing this.
Another benefit is bringing to your remembrance all things that Jesus has said to you. This may not seem like much, but let me tell you – there have been times in my life, where the situation has seemed very bad, and when it appeared very dark, the Holy Spirit would gently speak a soft word to me, reminding me of something Jesus said that has instantly eradicated all fear and brought a tremendous divine peace that had me immediately grinning ear-to-ear and causing my entire being to just relax and rejoice.
These two things are very intimate, and very personal. These are interactions with the Spirit of God on a one-to-one level, and there is much more.
Notice what Jesus says in verse 27:
Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Again as you may recall, peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. It comes from His Spirit which He sends to indwell you. It is not some kind of mystical force that you can conjure up by trying harder or focusing more. This peace, along with everything else mentioned (including His Love), comes through His Spirit. (John 17:26, Romans 5:5)
We have done a great disservice to the Holy Spirit of God. We think of His Spirit as generally being an “it”, or a “force”, something magical or mystical, or not even there at all. I’ve actually had people tell me that they don’t even want what the Spirit has to offer, because it seemed too weird, and they were afraid of it. However Jesus had a much different view of His Spirit. In-fact Jesus thinks so highly of His Spirit, that He says these words in John 16:7:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.”
Take a moment and reflect on these words of Jesus. Imagine what His disciples were thinking here at that moment when Jesus spoke these words. They had walked with Him, talked with Him, they ate meals with Him, they saw all of His miracles, He was the absolute best thing to ever happen to them! And here He says, it is beneficial for you that I go away.
That had to be a real surprise for them to hear! And it’s something that we often don’t take seriously today either. Why does Jesus say that it’s better for us if He goes away? Because if He doesn’t go, the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if Jesus goes, He will send Him to us.
So in the view and estimation of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, isn’t just a curiosity for us to wonder about and then file off to the side somewhere like a side-attraction. No. Instead, the Holy Spirit is an essential member and active participant in our divine relationship. Jesus actually says that it is better for us, if He departs, and sends His Spirit to us, than if He stays on the earth! If you think about it, that’s an amazing and eye-opening statement about how good Jesus thinks of His Spirit!
In verses 12 and 13 of this same chapter, Jesus makes a point of saying that He has many additional things to say, although they couldn’t bear to hear them yet. However when the Spirit comes He will tell us and guide us into all truth.
The Spirit is alive, the Spirit has a voice, the Spirit speaks. The Spirit is not merely a mystical force.
As I mentioned earlier today in this study, there have been times when the Spirit has spoken to me, amazing words of comfort. There have been times when a single word from the Spirit of God has totally calmed every fear and transformed my day and even my life!
There have been times when as Jesus said in our earlier verse, the Spirit of God has been very tangible to me as though I was being embraced. And every single one of these moments testifies to the finished work of Jesus Christ, because it is His sacrifice, death, burial and resurrection that caused me to be born-again, sanctified and allowed for His Spirit to indwell me and made this unhindered relationship with Him possible!
And still, most people today have no idea what to make of the Holy Spirit. Most people probably think what I just described to you is weird, and perhaps even mentally unstable. If so, I’m in good company because the people in Acts were accused of being drunks!
I’ll tell you right now, that I am never alone. I have an intimate friend who goes everywhere with me and shares my entire life with me.
When I watch T.V. the Spirit of God watches with me.
When I am on my computer, the Spirit of God is with me.
When I play a game, the Spirit of God plays with me.
We literally are enjoying life together.
Of course when I read and study the Bible, the Spirit of God studies with me (and thank God for it!)
Though some people don’t understand this either…
People say the Bible is alive. They call it the living book. But I will tell you that the Bible is not alive! When you read your Bible and a certain verse seems to draw your focus, or “click” – it’s not the book itself doing that, because there are many people who read their Bible regularly and it remains totally veiled and dead to them.
The difference is the Spirit! The Spirit is the One who is alive! The Spirit is the one who draws you to certain verses and teaches you, just as Jesus said. The Spirit is the one who makes things clear and opens your understanding just as Jesus said He would.
And again, everything that I am describing to you today, is a testament to the finished work of Jesus Christ, because without Him, such a relationship would not be possible. It is because of Jesus, that today, you can truly Enjoy an unbridled, unfettered, completely unhindered relationship with God.
The point of everything I am sharing with you today is this… it is perfectly okay to carry the presence of God with you everywhere, at all times, because that is exactly what you were designed to do. As we have read today in scripture, God will always abide with us. His Spirit is indwelling you and I right now. And in-fact He is actually one with us — in union with us. Don’t ever lose that fact. God is not an “imaginary friend”… He is a Spirit, and one which empowers us, and completes us, and sanctifies us for all eternity. So yes, regardless of where we go, and wherever we may be, God is always with us, empowering us; and that relationship, that union, is something to always be cherished and enjoyed. It is a testament to the finished work of Jesus Christ.