For the Christian nothing should prove more important than his or her relationship with God. If we gain everything else, but do not maintain a strong relationship with God, we profit nothing (Matthew 16:26); no other relationship can replace our relationship with God. Our relationship with God informs all other relationships (cf. Ephesians 5:22-6:9); we must root ourselves in God in Christ (Colossians 2:1-10). We do well to understand how we effectively maintain a strong relationship with God.
God has made us and we are His offspring (Genesis 1:26-27, Acts 17:28). He has made all things which we are and have; everything we have derives from Him (Colossians 1:15-16, James 1:17). We prove entirely dependent on God for everything; without God willing it nothing would continue to exist (Hebrews 1:3). God is our Provider, and we are the recipients of His blessings.
Through our sin we have all strayed from God and broken faith and relationship with Him (Romans 3:23); we could not be reconciled to God based on our own efforts, because none are justified by works of the law (Romans 3:20). God, in His great love and mercy, has reconciled us to Himself through His Son Jesus (Romans 5:6-11). Thanks to Jesus we can be restored as adoptive sons and daughters of God the Father, and thus share in the inheritance of life in the resurrection (Romans 8:11-25). God therefore is our Father, and we are His children; we do not deserve relationship with Him but have access to God through Jesus and should be thankful and live accordingly.
We must never take our relationship with God for granted. Israel took its standing before God for granted, persisted in sin, and received severe judgment (Zechariah 1:2-6, Matthew 3:7-10). Our relationship with God does not justify participation in sin; instead, we ought to seek to become more like God based on our relationship with Him (Romans 8:29). We cannot imagine that we can maintain a strong relationship with God while persisting in the types of thinking, feeling, and acting which are contrary to His nature, character, and purposes! We easily fall into the trap of thinking that God will understand, and so we feel that we can give into sin and just repent later. Are we really repenting if we sin brazenly and expect to repent later (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6)? Such is why Peter reminds Christians that God is no respecter of persons and judges fairly: those who persist in sin will be condemned whether they had ever attempted to reconcile with God or not (1 Peter 1:13-21, 2 Peter 2:20-22). God is not only our Father, but also our Master, and we are His servants, and should act accordingly by serving Him always (Luke 17:7-10, Romans 6:14-23).
We must never presume that our relationship with God is based in our behavior. We love God because He loved us (1 John 4:10); no matter how much we obey God, and how well we serve Him, we never earn, deserve, or merit salvation or a relationship with Him on that basis. We serve God and seek to obey Him because of what He has done for us out of gratitude and especially trust, recognizing that His way is good and right for us, and sin is wrong and disfiguring (cf. Romans 6:14-23). God does not stop loving us because we prove weak and infirm; as long as we live we are never so separated from God that we cannot be restored and reconciled to Him (1 Timothy 1:12-17). God is not a heavenly tyrant looking for opportunities to condemn us; we can maintain strong confidence regarding this on the basis of Jesus. God gave us Jesus so we could be forgiven of sin; if God proved willing to do that, will He not also with Him give us all things (Romans 8:31-32)? God loves us despite our performance, our failings, our fears, and our difficulties; in His love we can find strength and confidence to overcome all such things. After all, God loved us when we were at our most unlovable: as enemies, as hostile to Him, as weak (Romans 5:6-11). God can sustain us through any difficulties we might encounter; we need not ever be separated from Him and His love (Romans 8:35-39).
The Christian, therefore, need never fear that he or she is separated from God, unless he or she has turned aside into sin without repentance and demonstrating a complete rejection of God and all for which He stands. We will go through difficulties and trials; our faith will be tested, perhaps sorely; we might lose hope at times. And yet we do well to always maintain our faith in God, trusting that He will see us through the difficulty, and to know that whatever strengthens our faith will enhance our relationship with God (1 Peter 1:3-9). God remains faithful; He has demonstrated His trustworthiness inasmuch as He sent Jesus for our sins and reconciliation. God can, and will, see us through, if we only trust in Him. His discipline may be sharp but it is in love and for our good (Hebrews 12:3-13). We may find ourselves abandoned by family or friends, bereft of material resources, scorned by others; if we maintain faith in God in Christ, deeply trusting in Him, we will be able to endure and receive the glory of the resurrection. May we continue to trust in God in Christ, striving to please Him in all things through faith, and never lose heart and hope!
Ethan R. Longhenry
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