How Can We Reconcile Violence in the Bible?

Through Jesus we can discover our response to violence and oppression

Seldom a day goes by when we don’t hear of terrorists who commit violence and murder in the name of their faith. These religious zealots believe a higher calling gives them the right to kill others in order to elevate their beliefs.

This seems barbaric, ignorant, and misguided. We, as followers of Jesus, would never do that. But Christians have. In the name of religion they killed. And we only need look at the Old Testament for a precedence that seems to give permission.

Old Testament Violence

As the nation of Israel leaves Egypt and comes to reclaim the territory God gave them, he tells them to annihilate the inhabiting people, to utterly destroy them and their pagan practices. As I read these accounts in the Old Testament, I struggle with the violence I encounter. I don’t get it. It doesn’t seem justified, and it’s not fair.

Yet, I see four things that somewhat help me reconcile the violence we read about in the Old Testament.

It Was Specific: God does not give a universal command for his people to kill all their enemies, regardless of geography or situation. He directs this instruction only at the people living in the Promised Land, occupying the territory he gave his people. To apply this to any other circumstances is inappropriate and a misuse of scripture.

It Was For One Season: God’s command to wipe out the inhabiting peoples only applies to one period of time: as his people take back the territory he gave them. He never says this instruction to kill and destroy applies for all time or extends indefinitely into the future.

It Was an Anomaly: In a general command, one without limits, God tells his people to treat the foreigners living among them as one of them, as native born (Leviticus 19:34). This is far different than his one-time instruction to kill.

It Was Fulfilled: Even if we disregard that the command to kill was specific and for a limited time, remember that Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17). It is over, in the past. The old ways are gone.

Still, these seem to me as poor justifications for the Israelites to kill. Though I’m content to accept God as sovereign and freely admit that I can’t begin to understand him or his ways, I still struggle with the Old Testament’s slaughter of people. (By the way, it’s hard to convert people to your way of thinking when they’re dead.)God says we are to love our enemies, pray for them, and live in peace. Click To Tweet

New Testament Nonviolence

I am, however, comforted by the New Testament, which doesn’t perpetuate God’s people inflicting violence on others. I’m encouraged by what Jesus and his followers say to counter the Old Testament’s accounts of violence:

Love Your Enemies: Jesus says we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). When we love people, we want the best for them. Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 for details of what love entails.

Pray For Those Who Persecute You: Right after Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he adds that we should pray for those who intend us harm (Matthew 5:44). By the way, this includes the terrorists who today kill people in the name of their religion.

I’ve never thought to do that until right now. It’s going to be hard. Will you join me?

Live in Peace: Paul writes to the followers of Jesus who live in Rome, instructing them to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). In the book of Hebrews we read the same thing, along with the kicker to be holy as we do (Hebrews 12:14). Our holiness points others to God, allowing them to see him for who he is.

Though the violence in the Old Testament perplexes me, what applies to us today comes from the New Testament: Love our enemies, pray for those who intend us harm, and strive to live in peace with everyone.

That is how we are to respond to the violence around us today.

How Can You Shrink Your Church?

We live in a world that thinks bigger is better, but that’s not always true

Our modern-day society evaluates things based on size. We celebrate magnitude, with bigger being better.

This includes church. We often assume that bigger churches, in terms of both facility and attendance, equates to God’s sure blessing and his implicit approval. But we are wrong to do so.

I once attended a conference where many of the attendees were ministers. Invariably every conversation I had with a pastor included a mention of or a question about church size. I expected this and resolved not to play their game.

Some wanted admiration, but I refused to stroke their narcissism. Other pursued affirmation, and I determined not to falsely feed into their insecurities. This happened with every conversation. The social time at this conference drained me.

No one was content with the size of their church. Everyone wanted to lead a big (or bigger) congregation—or at least head a fast-growing church. It seemed these pastors’ esteem or paycheck was at stake. This doesn’t seem God-honoring.

Though businesses talk about rightsizing and downsizing, I never hear of churches thinking that way. And while businesses often divest themselves of assets and product lines that don’t align with their goals, and thereby lose customers in the process, churches seldom do. Though we shouldn’t run a church like a business, perhaps this is one lesson we should learn from corporate America.

Instead of pursuing church growth strategies, maybe we should look for ways to shrink our churches. Might we experience greater spiritual success if our gatherings were smaller?

Here are some ways to shrink our churches:

Think Small: Large churches, as well as some medium-sized churches, struggle in helping people form connections and build community. This is the impetus behind the small group concept. What a large Sunday gathering can’t provide to attendees, small groups can—assuming they’re run right. But a small church doesn’t need small groups because their small size facilitates connections and community.

Jesus focused on twelve people and gave special attention to three. His actions should guide our desire to think small and to then act that way.

Have an External Focus: Most churches have an inward focus. They give their attention to the needs (demands) of their members to the exclusion of their surrounding community. At best a church may allocate 10 percent of its budget and time to people outside their group. What if we made it 100 percent?

Eliminate Paid Staff: A church with a payroll has skewed perceptions and priorities. Members insist on being served and employees react to keep their paychecks coming. What would a church look like with no paid staff? It would be simpler for sure. More people would be involved. And it would be smaller. This would be a good thing.A small church doesn’t need a building. Click To Tweet

Sell Your Building: Owning a facility is a burden. It costs money, demands time, and sucks the attention away from people. People matter; a building doesn’t. So go ahead and sell it. It will free you. Besides, a small church doesn’t need a building anyway.

Send People Away: When a congregation grows too large, get rid of some of the people. But first empower them. Equip them to go out and start something new: a house church, a community outreach, or a service endeavor. Send them out and don’t expect them to come back. That will keep your church small and advance God’s kingdom, too.

Pursue Spiritual Depth: Many have said that most churches are a mile wide and an inch deep. They have no spiritual depth. They perpetuate a superficial community, functioning as little more than a Christian social club. Instead, seek spiritual intensity over trivial pleasantries. This will push away the noncommitted consumers and feed those with a true spiritual hunger.

Stop Counting: In the spiritual realm, numbers don’t really matter. So stop tracking them. Don’t fixate on attendance and offering. Forget quantity. Dump the bigger-is-better mentality. Instead, think less is more. Because it is.

This vision to shrink our church is not hyperbole. These recommendations are a serious challenge and aren’t intended as an intellectually provocative treatise.

Yes, this is counter cultural to our celebration of size. This turns conventional thinking upside down. It will be difficult to pursue and offend many in the process. They’ll reject us and retreat to church as usual.

Does this sound familiar?

Jesus was counter cultural and eschewed conventional wisdom. His way was difficult, but only because it was so different. He offended many with what he said and did. They rejected him and returned to their religious status quo.

Don’t expect many followers if you shrink your church and pursue a small church mindset. That’s okay because smaller is the goal.

The Bible Provides Direction for Our Life

Read the Holy Scriptures as a guidebook more so than a rulebook

Though some people read the Bible out of a sense of obligation—and granted, sometimes we have seasons where we just need to push through—others read its words to inform their daily living, among other things.

Yet, we must exercise care in how we apply God’s Word to our lives.

Enjoy the Narrative: As we read the Bible, we are best to read it as narrative rather than a book of rules. Granted, the Law of Moses is prominent in four of the Bible’s first five books, yet we don’t follow the Law’s 613 commands anymore. As a narrative we may see the Old Testament Law as a modern-day principle to live set apart from the world and to worship God as holy.

In reading the Bible as narrative we can revel in the story of the historical records, ponder the message of the prophets, contemplate the meaning of the poetry, consider the application of the epistles (letters), and marvel in awe at the end times passages.

Consider the Context: We would be in error to pull the words of the Bible out of their historical setting and apply them literally to our modern-day situation. This is most apparent when considering the instructions in the New Testament’s various letters. Each one was intended for a certain group of people to address specific issues. If we take these targeted instructions and turn them into generalized commands, we misapply the scriptures. Plus, we will find conflict, for what Paul tells one group to do for their certain situation sometimes goes against what he tells another group to do for theirs.

Only when we consider the context of each passage can we rightly discern the truth as it relates to us today. Just because someone in the Bible did something, doesn’t mean we should do likewise. Just because a command is given to one person doesn’t mean it applies to us. Context is crucial.

Embrace the Genres: The Bible is a compilation of works by different authors, writing distinct types of literature. As such, the Bible includes biographies of Jesus, the early history of his church, a collection of letters (which address questions and problems we can only guess at), future-focused allusions, sagas of epic proportions, poetry of wisdom and poetry of prayer, and warnings from the prophets.

Each one carries a different intent, which we need to treat as such as we read. Just as it would be unwise to turn one of David’s prayer laments into a command for action, it would be likewise foolish to take what God said to one person in an history passage and apply it to us today.

For example, when Abraham’s two wives and their two sons have conflict, God ultimately tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:10-12). But this is merely a history of what happened, not a rule for us to follow when our family members clash.Just because the Bible describes something occurred, doesn’t mean we should do the same. Click To Tweet

Apply the Examples with Care: Scholars make a smart distinction between descriptive passages and proscriptive passages. That is, the portions of the Bible that tell us what happened do not equate with the texts that tell us what to do. Just because the Bible describes something occurred, doesn’t mean we should do the same. Though the Bible tells about spitting on people, pulling out their beards, ostracizing them, and killing them, we shouldn’t.

For example, consider the description of what Nehemiah did to men who disobeyed: “I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair (Nehemiah 13:25, NIV). We would be wrong to assume this is how we should treat people in our churches when they do wrong.

Employ Prayer: We need to read the Bible through the lens of prayer, seeking God’s Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, direct our contemplations, and inspire our conclusions. Without Holy Spirit assistance, the words of the Bible become little more than words and our reading has limited merit.

As we read the Bible, we plant seeds in our mind, but God makes these kernels of truth grow. We see this principle of God as the source of growth in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

Though the Bible can provide direction for our lives, we need to be wise in how we apply it.

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Are You a Sunday Morning Spectator or Performer?

Church services have become an event, with consumers who come to watch a show

Today’s churches contain two types of people. And each of us fits in one category or the other. We are either performers or spectators.

If this seems callous, consider that we live in an entertainment-centered society. We watch TV, go to movies, and attend performances. We go to the game, attend a concert, and watch videos online.

What do these have in common? Each example has performers to entertain us in one way or the other. The masses are spectators, mere consumers of the event. Though we may participate in a way, our involvement is limited to clapping, cheering, or fist-bumping the spectator next to us.

Church is no different. We are spectators there for entertainment, be it emotionally or intellectually, by the performers. The masses consume the church service. Yes, we may sing along with a couple songs (though many people stand mute during the singing), mumble out a heartfelt “amen” upon occasion, or shake hands with our seatmate during the compulsory greeting time. But the service structure restricts our involvement.

We’re there for the sermon, that is, the lecture, and for the worship set, that is, the concert. And when it’s over we often critique the performance.

Performers: The performers at a church service are the people who stand in front of us, often on a stage. The elevation allows the spectators a better view.

The star of the show is the minister, who gives the lecture and may also serve as the event’s MC. The opening act is the worship team, consisting of singers and musicians.

If this description offends you, consider that most churches don’t select a senior minister or teaching pastor until after they have auditioned and delivered a stirring oratory. People with spiritual insight but no speaking ability have no place in the modern church. And usually the worship team members must try out before they can sing or play. People with musical passion but not enough skill are turned away and relegated to spectator status.

Yes, we expect our performers to excel in presentation, and if they falter, they are replaced. After all, we don’t want a lack of excellence to mar the performance and drive away the spectators who have a plethora of other Sunday morning performances to select from. Remember, we live in a consumeristic society.

Spectators: The majority of people at church services are spectators. We sit and passively watch the performance. Though we can view the elevated stage to witness the event, we may best see the back of the head of the person sitting in front of us.

We come. We watch. We leave.

Maybe we leave happy over a satisfactory performance, but maybe we leave unfulfilled, as empty as when we arrived. We wanted community but got a show.

We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming carefully presented spiritual content. At best we experience an event that may sustain us until we repeat it next week.We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming spiritual content. Click To Tweet

Instead Participate: The solution is to break down the wall between performer and spectator. Church shouldn’t focus on providing a performance but on offering community by letting everyone participate equally in the service.

We should all be able to share with others during our church services. Or at least have the opportunity to share. Paul tells us how. “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation,” (1 Corinthians 14:26, NIV).

When we start doing this in our church services, we will eliminate both the performers and the spectators, turning us all into full-fledged participants. Then we will build a true community of Jesus followers.

It will change everything.

[This is from the June issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

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Considering the Sabbath: Are You Free or a Slave?

Don’t be a slave to the Law or to legalism, but be free to accept Sunday as a gift from God

The fourth of God’s Ten Commandments tells us to not work on the seventh day of the week and to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). Nowadays, some people make an attempt to follow this command, albeit with adjustments. However, many people dismiss this as outdated, as irrelevant in our modern, on-the-go, 24/7 reality.

Though many people do not actually go to work on Sunday, to them it is a day like any other, and they may do as they please. It is enough if they happen to squeeze church into their Sunday schedule, but the rest of the day is theirs to do whatever they wish.

They point out that Jesus comes to fulfill the Law. He says so. Consequently, the Ten Commandments and all of Moses’s Law no longer apply. But in the same breath, Jesus first says he does not come to abolish the Law (Matthew 5:17). Therefore, perhaps the Law still stands.

Which is it?

Consider the timing of when God gives all these rules to his people.

They have been slaves for many generations. He releases them from their servitude. He provides them with rules to guide them as a free people. One of the instructions is to not work on the seventh day and to keep it holy.

As slaves, the people worked every day and never got a day off. They had no weekend. They enjoyed no rest. Their masters (that is, their slave drivers) saw to that.

Then they become free and God gives them a day off, a day to rest where they don’t have to work. And to guide them in this day off, he shifts their attention from endless labor to him. Make this day holy, he teaches.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man,” (Mark 2:27). It’s so we can rest as a free people.Legalistically, some people don’t work on Sunday. They’re slaves to the Law, not free in Jesus. Click To Tweet

In our practice, we shift the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first, the day we call Sunday.

Some people are slaves (either in actuality or in practice) and must work on Sunday. Other people are slaves to the Law. Out of legalistic fervor, they don’t work on Sunday.

The people who are truly free navigate the middle ground.

We are not slaves to work or slaves to legalism. Sunday is a day of freedom for them. We are free to rest and to have a day that is different from all others. We are free to worship God and honor him on a day set apart, a day that is holy.

How to do that is for us to decide. God gives us the freedom to do so.

How a Business Mindset Influences the Church

A church and its congregation shouldn’t let a corporate mentality infiltrate it’s thinking

In “Why Business Practices Hurt the Church” we discussed how business thinking has improperly affected the big-picture perspectives of church. Yet the business mindset goes deeper than that, negatively influencing church practices and attendee attitudes.

Spiritual Outcomes Are Not Quantifiable: The business world measures everything, but when churches try to do that, they end up with a focus on finances and attendance.

Churches shouldn’t measure their success numerically. And when they do, they shift the focus from what matters to God to what matters to humans.

We can’t measure changed lives, but that’s precisely what matters most to God.

Measure What Matters: I once attended a church’s annual meeting. They spent much time talking about the 103 baptisms they did that year and the 103 people who joined their church. It was a grand celebration of their success and the marvelous manner of God at work.

However, as an addendum to the end of their meeting, they shared their beginning and ending membership numbers. The difference was not 103 but one! In a busy year with 103 baptisms and 103 new members, they had only grown by one person. That meant 102 people quit their church.

Don’t measure what makes you feel good, but count what matters.

Churn: The business world calls this loss of customers churn. If a business churns customers so fast that all their effort is spent trying to stay even, then something is wrong, seriously wrong. But this church wasn’t smart enough to realize that—or at least to admit it.

Some churches call this the back door. They grow when people come in the front door and shrink when these folks slip out the back door. Another apt term is leaking. Some churches leak people—a lot of people.

Churn is bad for both businesses and churches. It must be fixed, yet the approach to do so differs. Businesses address churn by looking at customer service and product offerings. Churches should not. Their problem goes much deeper than service and product, but until they realize this, they’ll never fix it.

The Consumer Mentality: When people feel free to leave a church, often over the smallest of slights, they view themselves as a customer shopping for the church that offers the most value. This is a consumer mindset, not a godly perspective.

We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Instead we should look for a faith community we can help.We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Click To Tweet

Consumerism Turns the Church into a Service Provider: When people go church shopping, the church becomes a service provider. Which church offers the best services? Then the focus shifts to programs, service styles, and preaching power.

Instead of asking, “What can the church do for me?” the better question becomes “What can I do for the church?” Don’t seek to be served but to serve.

Customer Complaints: The business that wants to improve, grow, and remain viable listens to its customers. While we all like to hear good news from happy people, the real value comes from the frustrated people who still care enough to share their opinion. So the wise business leader listens.

Yet when most people apply this attitude to their church and share their “concerns” with their pastor or church leaders, they do so with the wrong motives. In reality they want to turn the church into their vision of an ideal congregation that fits them perfectly. Their so-called concerns are little more than a selfish attempt to change the church into what they want for themselves.

Church is Not about the Customer Experience: Businesses talk much about the customer experience. They strive to make the experience of each customer the best they can in order to retain patrons who will continue to buy from them.

When church leaders apply this to their congregation, they begin pandering to the demands of members in order to maintain their attendance and receive their offerings each week. Yet each move in this direction is a step away from God.

Members Are Not Customers: Applying business practices to church implies that members are customers. This carries with it all sorts of negative connotations, such as a consumerism mindset and the need to maximize the lifetime value of members, that is their donations.

The best response is for churches to do away with membership. After all, it’s not biblical.

While modern business practices do much to advance the cause of capitalism and commerce, these same thoughts hurt the church. We must keep this from happening.

The Bible Can Provide Direction for Our Lives

We can receive focus for life decisions from the Word of God

The Bible offers much for us, assuming we bother to tap into its treasure-trove of knowledge. One of the Bible’s uses is to provide direction for our lives.

To realize the Bible’s insight as applicable to our lives, however, we need to read it, study it, and discern it. Looking for quick answers usually doesn’t work out so well.

Be wary of these ill-advised shortcuts and follow the one reliable technique:

Random Verse Selection: You’ve likely heard of a person, desperate for answers, who holds up their Bible and demands, “God speak to me.” Then they open the Word of God to a random page and read the first verse they see.

Sometimes they actually receive an applicable verse that offers comfort, confirmation, or instruction. However, the selected verse often provides confusion or a laughable text, given their situation. This is an especially dangerous method when making critical life decisions.

Asking God to direct us to a random passage and faithfully expecting him to do so is not something we should avoid, but we should exercise great care if we do this. And it should never be a regular practice.

Word Studies: Looking up verses in the Bible that contain a certain word or phrase can provide an incredible amount of insight. I do this often and am amazed to see how words connect throughout the Bible, with one verse illuminating another.

Yet, we need to be careful with word studies. When used wrongly or indiscriminately, this in-depth analysis can lead us to bad theology or unwarranted conclusions.

For example, assume we’re doing a word study on marriage. Some scholars place extra emphasis on a word’s first appearance in the Bible, claiming it should guide our understanding of subsequent appearances.

The first mention of a form of the word marriage in the Bible occurs in Genesis 4:19, as in, “Lamech married two women.” The implication equates marriage with polygamy, hardly a worthy conclusion. Be careful of word studies, especially when the goal is to use the results to make a decision.

Proof Texting: An extension of word studies is proof texting. Proof texting involves taking various verses from different sections of the Bible and linking them together to form a conclusion, often a predetermined one. It uses the Bible to justify an agenda.

The problem when doing this is the likelihood of taking verses out of context to prove a point. This may result in applying a verse literally, when the context is figurative or even rhetorical. It could involve looking at the words of an ancient work and forcing them into a modern context they were never meant to address.

Just as with word studies, the concept behind proof texting can produce valuable results. However, if we don’t exercise extreme care, the more likely outcome is manipulating the Bible to say what we want it to say.The better solution is to follow a regular Bible reading plan. Click To Tweet

An Intentional Study Plan: As an alternative to the three above approaches, the better solution is to follow a regular Bible reading plan. This might involve reading the Bible through in one year. Another option is spending an extended time studying the words in one book of the Bible or the writings of one author, such as Luke, John, or Paul.

As we read and study the Bible, God will speak to us. He will reveal truth. And since we’re following a preconceived plan, we protect ourselves from interjecting our own agenda into what we select to read, which can easily happen when we don’t have a plan and follow our own whims on a haphazard basis.

The Bible can give us valuable direction for making life decisions but only when we read it wisely and don’t try to use it to meet our own agenda.

Does Dropping Out of Church Mean Turning Your Back on God?

Church attendance may relate to faith or the two may have no connection at all

It borders on gossip, but I occasionally hear a whispered concern about so-and-so not going to church anymore. They dropped out, which in the minds of some people means these nonchurch attenders have “fallen from their faith,” “have backslidden,” or are now “going to hell.”

On a broader scope, I keep hearing reports that Millennials (or some other demographic) have turned from God and left their faith. What is the reason for this conclusion?

It’s simple. They’ve dropped out of church.

Ergo they must have abandoned their faith. However, just as some people attend church and don’t really know God, others know God quite well but have given up on church.

We need to, once and for all, disconnect the assumption that church attendance equates to faith—and that regular attendance implies a vibrant faith. To the contrary, I’ve heard many people say they stopped going to church to preserve their faith in God, that church attendance damaged their state of spiritual being more than it helped.

Don’t take my assertion that church attendance is not an indicator of faith as an excused to stop going. However, if going to church presents an unhealthy burden for you or causes you more harm than good, then perhaps you need to find a different church.

And by different church, I don’t necessarily mean a different denomination or a different style of service, but to perhaps re-envision what church is

At the basic level church is where two or more people gather in Jesus’s name (Matthew 18:20). This might mean in a church building on Sunday morning. Or it may mean at a coffee shop Wednesday afternoon or a restaurant Friday evening. How about a sports event on Saturday or dinner on Sunday? What about a game night or movie outing?

Before you bristle at the implication that playing games or watching movies in Jesus’s name is on a par to Sunday morning church attendance, which one offers more Christian community? Which is the setting where serious faith conversations are more likely to occur?Bible warns us to not give up meeting together, but it's not a command to go to church. Click To Tweet

When the Bible warns us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), it’s not talking about going to church. It’s really talking about meeting together. This may mean meeting at the coffee shop, restaurant, sports event, Sunday dinner, game night, or movies.

We are not to live our faith in isolation but in community. However, we must dissuade ourselves of the notion that this community should happen on Sunday morning.

If the traditional form of church has let you down, don’t give up on all forms of Christian community. Find one that works for you and pursue it at all costs. Your faith may depend on it.

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The Bible Informs Our Understanding of God

We get to know God better as we read about him in the Bible

The Bible helps us understand God. Read itIs the Bible a book about God or a book about his crazy people? The answer is yes. In combining these two ideas, we can say the Bible is a book that addresses God’s relationship with his creation. Therefore we can better understand God by reading about how he interacts and deals with people.

The Bible mentions God thousands of times. He appears in every one of its books,  (though his presence in the book of Esther is implied). His being permeates every page of the Bible.

To better understand God, we need to set aside the world’s unbiblical view of him. Humanity has a skewed perception of his character. And often they are just plain wrong. Popular culture is not a good source to learn about God. The Bible is.

Love: The prevailing theme I see in the Bible is love. The Bible shows God’s love of us and looks at how people respond to that love.

God loves us and we can love him in return. That’s what he wants. Though he won’t force us to love him, he does desire us to choose to do so. It’s called free will.

In the Old Testament, we see this love for him borne largely out of a healthy fear. In the New Testament, our love comes from the mercy he offers us through Jesus.God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him. Click To Tweet

Patient: Though the Bible contains a plethora of themes that reveal much about God, I see patience as a key one. God is patient with us. Like a loving parent, he gives us chance after chance. He wants us to learn and to do what is right. Like the father in Jesus’s parable of the wayward son (the Prodigal), God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him.

Personal: It’s clear God wants to have a relationship with us, so we can be in community with him. He walked with Adam in the garden. He revealed his being to Moses. He affirmed David’s heart toward him. He talked to Paul. He gave visions to many. He guided people to write about him and then compile these writings into the Bible we enjoy today. And, most importantly, he dispatched Jesus to point us to him and provide a means for us to be with God.

Eternal: The Bible shows God as existing outside of the time-space he created. Though beyond comprehension, he is eternal, with no beginning or ending. And he wants us to join him in that.

Though the Bible reveals much more about God, these four traits are a great start: God loves us and patiently waits for us to have a personal connection with him that will last through the rest of eternity. And that’s good news.

Let Us Draw Near to God

4 insights in how we are to approach God

Draw near to God.Because of who Jesus is and what he did for us, our relationship with God the Father changes. Through Jesus we have a new connection with Papa that we didn’t have before. We can now approach him.

In fact the writer of Hebrews encourages us to do just that. He says, “let us draw near to God.” Then he builds on this instruction by listing four aspects of our approach as we draw near to him (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Sincere Heart: Having a sincere heart suggests a proper motivation. While we can approach God when we’re in a jam, if that’s the only time we seek him, I don’t think this pleases him too much. And although we can, and should, come to him with our worries, that misses the point of drawing near to God.

The purpose of approaching God is to just hang out. This means we seek to enjoy community with him and want to worship him. We do this best when we go to him without selfish motivation or a self-centered agenda. Sincerity of heart best sums this up.

Full of Faith: Having faith in him and through him should fill us with assurance. We are his child. We can trust in this reality as we go to see Daddy. We grasp onto this by having faith in him, a belief we can’t manufacture, but accept in confidence of who he is and our right standing with him. This is the assurance faith provides.

Cleansed of Guilt: A guilty conscience robs us of our joy. It takes away our peace. Can we rightly approach God when we lack joy and have no peace? Of course we can, but it’s better when we can draw near to him with a clear conscience, with our hearts made clean. Shame loads us down, but through Jesus our hearts are sprinkled clean. The guilt is gone. Our conscience is clear.

Washed Pure: Jesus not only appeases the guilty conscience of our hearts, but he also washes our whole bodies clean. He makes us pure, both inside and out. It’s all so good.Because of Jesus and through him, we can draw near to God. Click To Tweet

The question in all of this becomes, are these four conditions we must meet before we can approach God or four realities we realize because we are able to approach him?

The answer is both. Jesus makes these things possible, and our job is to cling to them when we approach God.

Because of Jesus and through him, we can draw near to God. Thank you Jesus.