This article, by author and pastor, Dr. Tim Keller is a helpful introduction to what it means to move from knowing ‘about’ God to entering a genuine relationship with Him. Dr. Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Some say it is a philosophy, others that it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is really an experience. None of these really gets at the heart of the matter, however. Each of those things is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God. A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing Him directly and intimately.
Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
What is Christianity? CHRISTIANITY IS KNOWING GOD.
Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize the desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house–these breakthroughs arouse in us an anticipation of something which, as it turns out, never occurs. We eventually discover that our desire for that precious something is a longing that no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades away even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing ever delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness or denial, but, at best, there is only a postponement. “Nothing tastes,” said Marie Antoinette. There are several ways people respond to this:
In order to form a personal relationship with God, we must know three things:
On the one hand, you may feel very much that you “need” God. Even though you may recognize that you have needs only God can meet, you must not try to use Him to achieve your own ends. It is not possible to bargain with God. (“I’ll do this if You will do that.”) That is not Christianity at all, but a form of magic or paganism in which you appease the cranky deity to get a favor. Are you getting into Christianity to serve God or to get God to serve you? Those are two opposite motives, and they result in two different religions. You must come to God because 1) you owe it to Him to give Him your life (because He is your Creator), and 2) you are deeply grateful to Him for sacrificing His Son (because He is your Redeemer).
On the other hand, you may feel no need at all or interest in knowing God. This does not mean you should stay uncommitted. If you were created by God, then you owe Him your life, whether you feel like it or not. You are obligated to seek Him and ask Him to soften your heart and enlighten yours eyes. If you say, “I have no faith,” that is no excuse either. You need only doubt your doubts. No one can doubt everything at once–you must believe in something to doubt something else. For example, do you believe you are competent to run your own life? Where is the evidence for that? Why doubt everything but your doubts about God and your faith in yourself? Is that fair? You owe it to God to seek Him. Do so.
Make a list of issues that you perceive to be barriers to your crossing the line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:
Content issues: Do you understand the basics of the Christian message–sin, Jesus as God, sacrifice, faith?
Coherence issues: Are there intellectual problems you have with Christianity? Objections to the Christian faith which you cannot resolve in your mind?
Cost issues: Do you perceive a move into full Christian faith will cost you something dear? What fears do you have about commitment?
Now talk to some Christian friend until they are resolved, or contact our church office at (206) 838-9277. We will be happy to connect you with someone you could talk to about these matters.
The Reason for God, by Tim Keller
Hope Has It’s Reasons, by Rebecca Pippert (Harper and Row)
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan)
Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP).
–Adapted from Timothy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City.