This guest blog is written by Laura Goodman. Laura is a teacher at Community Bible Study, which meets at Pinedale Christian Church on Thursday mornings. Leaders at Community Bible study yearly write a personal devotional piece to share with the group; this is part of Laura’s devotional writing, about her personal experience with the desire to grow in relational closeness with Jesus. If you wonder what it means to “grow closer to God,” and want to know how that’s done, take this refreshing blog post as an inspiration and encouragement to begin with God right where you are.
As I look back, I realize that I was stuck in a spiritual rut for years without knowing it. I was stagnant. I would give God whatever time I had at the end of the day, right before bed, sometimes ending up falling asleep within a few minutes of opening my Bible. Worship at church on Sunday mornings was great, but only if we sang the songs I liked. The pastor’s message was moving, but I mostly thought it was just what everyone else needed to hear.
I was a fairly new youth pastor’s wife at the time and I wanted people to know that I had it together. That worked until I volunteered to teach a High School girls’ Sunday School class. What a challenge that was. Did I mention that my co-teacher was the most godly woman and the most gifted teacher I knew? I was put in my place, and I quickly figured out that I could do NOTHING without Jesus. It was a huge lesson learned as I realized I didn’t know quite as much as I thought I did and not nearly as much as I wanted to. God was so gracious to me, and through much humility, He gave me such a hunger and thirst for the Word that I had never experienced. It proved to be a pivotal moment in my walk with Christ.
But something was still missing. During a sermon our pastor asked the question, “If Jesus was all you had in heaven (no mansion, streets of gold, no reuniting with loved ones, etc.), would you still want to go? Would Jesus be enough?” Fear gripped me as I sat there, and I knew the answer was, “No, Jesus was not enough.” I had what I thought was a strong faith and a hunger for God’s Word, I loved Jesus for what He did on the cross for me, but I did not have a deep intimate love for Jesus that, in my human mind, would last for eternity. I think we can have great faith but still miss our True Love, and that is where I was. As I wrestled with that, I was determined that I would love him more, seek him more.
In the book Pilgrim’s Progress, the character Christian and his friend and fellow sojourner, Hopeful, go through numerous depressing and hindering trials, almost costing them their lives at times on their way to the Celestial City. When they finally get near the City, this is what they experience:
“. . . The beauty of the City and the radiance of the sunbeams coming from it were such a glorious sight that Christian became sick with intense longing. Hopeful also was stricken with the same affliction, and because of their pangs they lay there for some time crying out, ‘If you find my beloved one, tell Him that I am sick with love.'”
That is the intimacy I desired, and I immediately knew that my quiet time was the first thing that was going to have to change. The core to any relationship is quality time. In my previous quiet times I was not being silent before the Lord to listen, confess sin, to worship Him, and meditate on what I was learning and what He was teaching me. But where was I going to find the time when I wouldn’t be distracted by kids or fall asleep? I decided I would have to get up, exercise to get myself awake and then do a quiet time.
The first week was so hard. I would start off feeling great, but by midday I was tired, which made me cranky and tired for the rest of the day. But I stuck with it and now I don’t function well without it. It is a habit; it is a part of me. I enjoy that part of my day the most.
But not every day do I feel like worshiping Him early in the morning. On those tough days, my quiet time starts like, “God, I will praise you today even though I don’t feel like it because you alone are Worthy and if I won’t, the stones will cry out.” That very statement helps bring me into a worshipful state, and I am blessed even more those times because it puts me in my place. It helps me to see how much I need Him and how I really can’t do anything successfully without Him.
So now my daily prayer is that I would fall more and more in love with Him every day. I still am processing what that looks like by asking the question: “What is your part, God, and what is mine? You have to do the revealing and fill me with your Love if I do the seeking, right?” For I have figured out that surprise, surprise, I can’t do it on my own!! Although it has been a steady and somewhat slow process, I feel so much closer to my Lord and Savior than I have before, I have a growing love for Jesus that I have not experienced before. The greatest part about it is that I am never satisfied; I just continue to want more.
Maybe you have struggled with this too. Maybe I am the only one, and that’s okay. I am so thankful that God did not leave me where I was. May we be constantly humbled to have the experience of being drawn close to and loved by a sovereign and intentional God. May we all love Jesus as deeply as we see in Song of Solomon:
“For your love is better than wine.” Song of Solomon 1:2
“My Beloved is mine and I am His…” Song of Solomon 2:16
“…If you find my Beloved tell Him I am lovesick.” Song of Solomon 5:8
Jesus is God exactly but in a human body. You can understand God (as much as possible) by closely examining Jesus in the Bible. Because Jesus died and came back to life, you can have a relationship with God. Just as He was given great glory after his task on earth was done, so you who know God will share in His glory after your life here is over. Don’t stop yet! God has more for you to do…and more to gain.
22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
Obeyed the truth” means you trusted in Jesus to have your sins forgiven. God loves you so much that He wiped clean your record of crimes against Him and gave you a second chance. Now He wants you to show that kind of love to His other children. This is not an emotional or sexual love, but a love that gives and forgives and helps and encourages. God has put us together in a family and we must show our love for Him by being loyal to each other.
Prayer: Thank God for your church family. Ask Him for help to love them deeply in practical ways.
17 And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.”
It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, whether you are rich or poor, your education level, the nature of your childhood, or how long you have been a Christian; our loving Father evaluates each of us on the basis of our personal responsibilities. If you do things God’s way, you will often be going against the culture and many will consider you as “strange.” Don’t live in the fear of what humans will think of you. Live with the awesome reality that it is God who will evaluate your actions.
18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.
You have a set of habits, values and beliefs that come from your childhood and the people who influenced you during that time. God paid a great price—more than any amount of money you can imagine—in order to buy you back for Himself from the clutches of your sinful existence. He commands you to cut loose the attachments of your past and fully give yourself to Him. He is not a cruel taskmaster. He loves you so much that He punished His perfect Son to gain a relationship with you.
Prayer: Thank God for His great love. Ask Him for help to let go of your idols and fear of man.
(13) So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.
You must discipline your mind as we are not only commanded to love God with all our hearts, but also our minds. Don’t dwell on negative and untrue worries. Cast off hateful thoughts about people who have hurt you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Make a choice to rejoice in the Lord. Don’t invest your happiness in getting what you want on this earth or the praise of others. Look forward to the return of Christ.
(14) So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. (15) But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. (16) For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
Every true follower of Jesus has two natures which are at war with each other. You have the old nature with all its desires and habits and the new nature which is driving you ever closer to being like Jesus. You do not have to follow the old nature anymore. Make holiness your constant goal. Jesus is your in-flesh example. Avoid doing what is wrong and replace those thoughts and actions with pleasing God. Much of pleasing God can be wrapped up in one command. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Prayer: Thank God for giving you the ability to pursue holiness and helping you in the effort. Ask Him for wisdom to know His plan and desire for you each day.
10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.
The prophets and other Old Testament saints were rescued from sin by grace through their faith in what God had told them so far, but they didn’t know enough about Jesus to trust in Him. However, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus—which was already accomplished in the mind of God—was the basis for their justification. People today are saved by grace through their faith in a clear message about Jesus. We are blessed to know more!
12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.
Just as the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament to predict the death of Christ Jesus, so He uses people like you and me today to tell others the Good News about Jesus. If you are a Christian then someone told you the Good News. Amaze an angel and tell someone else!
Prayer: Thank God for the opportunity to be involved in His exciting plan to rescue people. Ask Him for courage to speak up and share the Good News with others.
8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
Like Peter’s original readers, we have never Jesus in the flesh. Faith is to trust in what you cannot see with your eyes. Trusting Jesus is NOT faith in a church or baptism or right living. It is not just going along with your family and friends. It is not belief in a religious system. It is loving someone you cannot see. When you really trust in Jesus and the claims He makes, it brings inexpressible joy.
9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
The most important result of trusting Jesus is escaping the punishment of your sins. That result alone should produce in you eternal gratitude to God and great joy.
Prayer: Thank God for saving you. If you have never trusted in Jesus and received forgiveness, then make that choice right now.
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.
Suffering is the primary theme of 1Peter. Enduring trials is a normal and necessary part of the Christian life. Trials are not accidental nor do they indicate that God is mad at you. God is doing a great work in your life. Don’t give up; rejoice in the Lord!
7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.
Trials reveal the genuineness of your faith and they make it stronger. Faith is an extremely important part of being a follower of Jesus. Without faith it is impossible to please God. He wants you to calm down and trust Him.
So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
Trust God with your dreams, your expectations, your passions, your safety, your children, your emotional well-being, your image and your future. Believe Him when He says He will never leave you. Trust Him with the impossible situations. Spend everything you have on pleasing Him. When you do that for the rest of your life, you become a trophy of His grace and you will never regret it.
Prayer: Thank God for the trials He is using on you to chisel you into the image of Jesus. Ask Him for strength and good Christian friends to go through the trials with you.
3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
We should be quick to praise God for His mercy in giving us a second chance. In the same way and by the same power that Jesus came back to life, so we have a new life.
Now we live with great expectation, 4and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
Also, we have great hope or expectation of a wonderful future inheritance that is as sure as Jesus’ resurrection. When things have gotten as bad as they can in this life, remember you have eternal bliss waiting for you.
5And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
Because you have trusted in Jesus, your future is as secure as the power of God. Your final salvation or ultimate rescue is certain but still future. You will be rescued from pain, death, crying, temptation and loneliness. Meanwhile, knowing your future should reassure you about the present.
Thank God for your inheritance waiting in heaven. Ask Him for help to keep your mind focused on the hope He has given you as you are tempted to despair throughout the day.
1This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
As one of the 12 apostles, Peter had special authority from Jesus to instruct the early church. God used the apostles to write the New Testament.
I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
Obviously, this letter got passed around. If you are a Christian, you are also one of God’s chosen people and a foreigner in the sense that you live in a world that does not know God. It is good for us strangers to group up and help each other in this foreign culture.
2God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
All three persons of the Trinity were involved in you becoming a Christian. Your Father knew and loved you before you were born. He chose you and the Holy Spirit sanctified you. He would never abandon His plan for you. Your first act of obedience was to place your trust in Jesus for forgiveness of sins. The cleansing you received was possible because Jesus willingly placed Himself under the Father’s punishment for your crimes against God. Continuing obedience to our Rescuer is a way of life for us Christians.
May God give you more and more grace and peace.
God wants you to experience even more of His kindness and peace of mind. As you take steps of obedience toward becoming more and more like Jesus (our example), you do experience more grace and peace. Share it with others!
Ask God to help you and those Christians around you gain more confidence in the great love of your Father and grow in your desire to obey Him.