Bible Faith Fellowship: Substance Over Form

What Must I Do to Have a Right Relationship with God?

Four Steps to Finding God's Plan for Your Life

How to Have a Right Relationship with God

Do you know what will happen to you when you die? What must you do to please God? Have you ever thought about these questions? What is the basis for your belief? More importantly, what assurance do you have for whatever you believe?

Would you like to have peace of mind about these questions? Let's face it, life on this earth is really only a transition, and we do not know how long we have. Since our future with (or without) God is forever, and choosing to be a believer can only be made before we die, knowing (and doing) the basic requirements for a right relationship with Him is vital.

Presented in a straightforward, Scripture-based approach, this tract is intended to help in the important decisions concerning these related questions using bold print to highlight Bible passages and italics to emphasize or clarify significant points.


Understanding Some Basic Spiritual Principles

While we don't admit it, or talk about it much, the thought about what happens to us when we die does become uppermost in our minds at some point in our lives. As the GI's used to say: "There are no foxhole atheists in war."

Among other verses pertaining to the topic, the Bible presents a sobering statement to contemplate: "...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment..."

Recently you may have heard about or seen a number of articles, books and movies relating to out-of-body, near-death or other like experiences. Some people describe seeing a bright light or a tunnel with a light at the end. Others involve ghosts, psychic phenomena, "guides," "channeling," reincarnation, astrology, UFO's, extraterrestrial beings and so on. To a certain extent these accounts and stories may actually (and probably do) have a misleading influence on what some people might believe concerning the whole question of life and death. The truth of the matter is, except for what the Bible, the only authority on the matter, has to say there is just conjecture, speculation, and, quite frankly, some pretty strange notions about this phase of our existence.

The Bible, talks about two deaths. (From the beginning, God created us as three-part beings - body, soul, and spirit.) The first death, physical or temporal death which all humanity experiences, is separation of the soul and spirit from the body The second death, spiritual or true death, is separation of the soul and spirit from God (which all the unjust and unrighteous will experience after the resurrection and the final judgment).

Of course, the second death, as described in the Bible, is more than just being separated from God: "...their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur." This is the second death...the lake of fire is the second death... "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (This lake of fire referred to will not be activated until the time of the final judgment.) Jesus also referred to this place of separation and misery as outer darkness or a furnace of fire on numerous occasions and six different times He mentions there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

While it may sound like old-fashioned fire and brimstone, and whether these vivid descriptions of judgment are to be interpreted literally or allegorically, God's purpose in telling us is to warn us that the choices we make can and do have consequences despite the world's tendency to often make light of it. Yes, there are some seemingly credible stories, and even a few references in the Bible, about certain people returning from the first death to tell about it; however, you will never hear of anyone returning from the second death. In any case one thing is certain, and should be obvious: being separated from God for eternity is definitely not where you want to be.

The final "great white throne..." judgment has yet to take place, but true believers will not be subjected to it nor to its outcome for many people - the second death. The Bible tells us: "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection." (believers). "The second death has no power over them...."

Why and how did physical death originate? After all, when Adam was created, God did intend he would never die - spiritually or physically. For his own good, even before Eve was created, God gave Adam a single commandment: "...but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..." When Adam disobeyed (by his own choice, God fulfilled His previous warning to him: "...for when you eat of it you will surely die..." This sin resulted in the immediate spiritual death of Adam, separating him (and all people) from God, and eventually concluded with physical (the first) death entering into the world for everyone. Nevertheless, because of His great love for us, God also initiated redemption, reconciliation, and manifold promises, including eternal life, through His Son Jesus Christ.

The essence of the Gospel (which means good news) is this: Jesus Christ, by His own resurrection, overcame death and the fear of death which has held man in captivity since Adams's fall in the beginning. "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil...and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Because of His triumph, He can assure us: "Do not be afraid...I hold the keys of death and hell." It is without argument that no other person or religion can make or invoke these claims. Paul the apostle tells us true believers in Jesus Christ can be confident about the ultimate outcome: "O death where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?" and, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Having an understanding of these spiritual principles provides a basis with regard to the four steps necessary for a right relationship with God:

  • Repent
  • Believe
  • Confess
  • Grow

STEP 1

Admit you are apart from God in your life and that you are in need of repentance and a right relationship with Him.

Along with the basic human nature to resist (and even oppose) the things of God, we are often reluctant in this decision because of the widely held (but erroneous) belief that to please Him we need only be a good person and do good deeds. Pleasing God is not a question of "good works" or being a "good" person or even being a church member, but of a right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. And the starting place for this right relationship is repentance: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Repentance is simply the act of turning away from sin, and our totally self-directed life, toward God. The Book of Proverbs tells us how easily we are deceived into making decisions based on our own, rather than God's concept of righteousness: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."

Perhaps you are thinking, "But I'm not a sinner. I lead a decent life. I don't drink to excess or cheat or steal, and I basically try to follow the ten commandments. I even attend church occasionally and donate to a number of charitable organizations. After all, I'm only human - nobody's perfect. Besides I know lots of people, some of whom I see as religious hypocrites, who act a lot worse than I. If I'm not doing anything wrong, I don't see why I have to repent."

Repentance is necessary if you sincerely desire a change in your relationship with God and your life: "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ...There is no one righteous, not even one. ...now He commands all people everywhere to repent," and Jesus cautioned (italics added): "But unless you repent, you too will all perish (in the second death)."

Peter's response to the question of what must we do to really know God on a personal basis begins with: "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out..." When we repent we are making a conscious determination in our heart to submit to God and to remain pliable to correction and direction (repentance is ongoing) - in effect clearing our conscience by deciding that we truly want a right relationship with Him. In turn, God actually helps us through the process by turning sorrow (about our sinful condition) into true repentance: "create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me," said David in Psalm 51.

True (Godly) repentance is more than just regret or remorse. It is such sorrow as to cause a complete change in behavior - or, in other words, a changed life. For example, when Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector met Jesus, he took immediate action regarding his life saying: "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much." The need for repentance stems from the fact that every person born into this world becomes a partaker of Adam's original transgression against God discussed earlier. This is called the doctrine of original sin, and it set in motion the process of the human sin nature being passed along through inheritance - generally as it were, just as you inherit certain characteristics from your parents over which you have no control. So, we are sinners apart from a just and holy God because of

  • Inherited sin - original (Adamic) sin nature,and
  • Our own sin - Individual human tendency toward sin through pride and self-will.

Both sin forms demand repentance. (We are still accountable for our own transgressions and, as much as we might like to, we can't lay it all on Adam.) The apostle Paul tells us: "...it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." So, while good works do have their place, and certainly devout, temperate behavior is also a desirable, Godly, principle, they alone cannot substitute for repentance, faith, and redemption through Jesus Christ.

Finally, we know God hears us when we sincerely repent because: "...a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" and "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Experiencing repentance prepares us for accepting Jesus Christ on a personal level.

STEP 2

Believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He rose from the dead and that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Despite its being such a simple act of faith, the world has great difficulty accepting this truth because to the human mind, God's ways seem foolish: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." In speaking to Nicodemus (a learned Jewish teacher of the law) on relating to God, Jesus reinforced this principle: "...no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again." With this in mind, recall Jesus' familiar exhortation in that same conversation (italics added): "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (in the second death), "but have eternal life." And who else but Jesus can say: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."

As clear as His message was, in the days when Jesus walked the earth performing miracles and healing, many refused to believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God, including the religious leaders. (This is still true today.) For example, even though they were aware that Jesus resurrected His friend Lazarus from the dead, in what we probably would consider the ultimate miracle, they were not persuaded that He was the Son of God. Jesus spoke directly to their unbelief: "If you cannot trust Me, at least let these works that I do in My Father's name convince you." Remember it was the apostle Peter's confession: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." when Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus then unveiled the source of Peter's revelation: "man has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven."

Later, after the Lord's death and resurrection, Peter proclaimed the way to a right relationship with God for everyone (italics added): "Salvation (eternal life) is found in no one else for there is no other name (Jesus Christ) under heaven given to men by which we must (can) be saved. ... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (from the second death)."

With this knowledge, and having made a decision in our heart to accept Christ, we come to the all-important step of putting our intentions into action - confessing our belief with our mouth.

STEP 3

By faith, ask Jesus Christ into your heart as Savior, Lord, and Master in your life.

Since we have been taught to be independent, to make our own decisions and to not trust in anyone but ourselves, this confession runs contrary to our normal thinking. This conscious commitment to trust Jesus with our life and decisions requires true faith. Faith is a universal and immutable principle with God and is defined in Scripture: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In fact: "...without faith, it is impossible to please God." and "by grace we are saved through faith: it is a gift of God."

Grace is God's unmerited, undeserved favor toward us. It's not something we can earn, nor is it something for which we must be found worthy because being worthy isn't a condition of God's love. It is, however, God's free gift to us available only through faith in and a personal relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.

The Bible explains the depth of God's love for us this way. "You see, at just the right time, when we still were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possible dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Thus by God's grace, He is able to accept you because

  • He accepts Christ's perfect, redeeming and atoning death for you as full payment for your sin debt; and,
  • You are made righteous (by faith in Christ) through association with His righteousness.

It is the apostle Paul who gives us clear and explicit instructions as to how to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in this pivotal, key verse: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe, and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." God's Word makes this confession imperative if we are to have a personal, right relationship with Him. You can make this commitment in your own words or, if you prefer, here is a simple prayer that you can say aloud to God.

"Father in heaven, I come to you with an open heart in need of your forgiveness and saving grace. I acknowledge and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me and He arose from the dead that I might have the promise of eternal life. So I ask for your forgiveness and for Jesus Christ to come into my heart and life as Savior, Lord and Master from this time forward. I give you, Lord Jesus, charge over my life, I commit myself to you and I thank you for saving me. In Jesus name, Amen."

(It is important once you have made Jesus your Savior, to end your prayers "in Jesus name", or in the "name of the Lord Jesus Christ." By doing so, you invoke the promise of the power and authority of His name in your prayer: "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.")

STEP 4

Begin to read the Bible starting in the New Testament Gospel of John.

To learn more about God, and to grow, new Christians need to begin reading the Bible. Consider starting with the Gospel of John; this is a relatively easy book to read, it especially emphasizes the love of God, and will inspire you to begin building a deeper relationship with Him. Try one of the newer translations, available at your Christian bookstore, such as the New International Version (NIV), the American Standard Version (ASV), Amplified (AMP), The Message, or The Quest (NIV), all in modern language and most with easy-to-use, helpful references included. It is a good idea to write the date of your decision in your Bible. This becomes a constant reminder that you truly have made a commitment and will reassure you when the inevitable doubts try to come in.

As you prepare to read the Bible ask God, in Jesus' name, to illuminate His Word - to impress on you what He wants you to learn during that particular time. You will be amazed and rewarded by what He will show you if you just ask. Since God intended for us to increase in faith and knowledge, as well as to mature in our relationship with Him and other believers, attending a church that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ should become a priority.

Summary

  • Repent - Admit your need of God's forgiveness and grace.
  • Believe - Acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • Confess - By faith, invite Him into your heart and life.
  • Grow - Read God's Word, the Bible; attend church.

Remember

God's love for you is an unconditional, everlasting love, and He wants to be your God. Although His grace is free, you have to make the choices - repent, believe in His Son, Jesus Christ as your redeemer and confess that belief with your mouth so that you will have forgiveness, acceptance, life abundant now, and life eternal in His presence.

As the ultimate expression of His love: "...God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." In the end, the Bible says in John 3:18, people will not be condemned because of their sins, but because of their choosing to reject a loving God's remedy for their sins - Jesus Christ!

Some Final Thoughts

In closing, I would like to address some common and relevant questions concerning the other religions and denominations of the world that do not preach the true and Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Isn't God a loving, forgiving God, a kind of one God who encompasses all religions and differing beliefs? Is it so important to acknowledge and accept Jesus as the Christ in the manner put forth in this booklet? Is confessing Jesus Christ the only way to a right relationship with God and eternal life? Well, it is true that God is a loving, caring God well beyond our human comprehension. And He is certainly aware of all the religious beliefs that exist in the world, including those that deny Jesus Christ is the Son of God. To answer these questions, though, we must look to the authority of God's written word. The Bible is replete with the incontestable authority and preeminence of Jesus.

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him." "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men." "Now this in eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Sounds pretty clear and incontrovertible doesn't it? And, except for Jesus Christ, there is no other person or prophet or leader of any religion or faith that rose from the dead and showed himself to His disciples with "many Infallible proofs" as Jesus did before ascending into heaven. You cannot find his remains in a grave because, as the angel at the tomb proclaimed, "He is not here; He has risen, just as He said." and He will return as He has promised. Believing and confessing that fact is the foundation of coming into a right relationship and eternal life with the living God. It is the cornerstone of becoming a Christian, not dead religion or do's and don'ts or even church membership, but life - from the life giver - Jesus Christ.

To be perfectly clear on this point - anyone who is trusting in or relying on any other name, belief religion, denomination, sect, doctrine, or good works alone for eternal life with God (regardless of all the claims made for them) is making a tragic mistake, "when that great and dreadful (judgment) day of the Lord comes," since only a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving power will stand at that time.

Likewise this same mistake, and grievous outcome, holds true for those who either trust to fate in life's decisions or who profess no religious conviction and believe they can escape accountability for their choices and actions by denying God's existence, life after death and judgment. Considering the obvious implications, it seems a serious oversight to put off such an important decision. Why not have the peace in your heart and joy in your life that can only come from believing in and accepting Him?

About the Benefits of God's Love in Your Life

While the primary focus of this tract has been a right relationship with God and eternal life, it is important to recognize the impact of His love for us in this life. Jesus said He also came "...that you might have life and have it more abundantly." Because He empowers us with His life, we are more able to love others and to see people and their needs from His perspective. Life is more abundant when we fulfill His plan for our lives.

By trusting God with your life and His Word in your walk, you will find His strength sufficient for all of the challenges you face: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Incredibly, Jesus encourages us with these words: "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" and Peter reminds us, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." When you become a child of God through Jesus Christ, you have the ability to overcome the power of this world and to know and to do His will in your life.

He is faithful in His promises to His children and "...His mercy endures forever..." "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." God says: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." and, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." It's hard to comprehend, but He knows and loves you to this extent, "Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

Because of this deep and unconditional love for us, we can stand approved of God through Jesus Christ knowing we have a genuine self-worth based not on man's values, but upon a confidence toward Him. In turn, we are free to develop true, meaningful relationships with others and, thus, become vessels fit for the Master's use. Our life then takes on the full meaning God intended for it to be. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Jesus gave us a very important parable about acting on His word: "everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock." "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who build his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

My earnest prayer is that you will decide to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord (italics added): "who is able to keep that which (you've) committed unto Him against that day."

May God richly bless you and keep you in remembrance of one of the most astounding things Jesus ever said concerning those who believe in and follow Him: "...rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Think of it - your very own name: "written in the Lamb's Book of Life!"

To Him be the Glory and Honor and Praise Forever!

Pastor Gene