What Does It Mean to Have a Relationship With God?

What does it mean to have a relationship with God?

O that all believers would make it a priority to grow in answering that question! That they would join those in church history who have gone deepest in their relationship with God! I'll mention John Owen as one example. He has written a book called Communion with God, which is another old-fashioned way of saying "relationship with God."

What a relationship with God means is that we are receiving communications from God about himself both through his word and through history. He comes to us in Jesus Christ, in his teaching, in his cross, in his apostles, through his word, and he is speaking to us. And his speaking is made vital to us by the present presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. That's half the relationship. He takes the initiative.

We receive his communications and, by the Spirit, are made alive to them. We see them coming—his communications of himself, his character, and his work on our behalf—and we are awakened to them. We are made to admire them, to delight in them, and to be happy, hopeful, and encouraged. Then we return to him—likewise through the word, by the Spirit, and through the name of Jesus Christ—prayers, acts of gratitude, resolutions to fight the fight of faith, and acts of obedience. The result is that our lives are going Godward while his life toward us is coming manward. That's the relationship.

A relationship with God happens most fundamentally by the Spirit through the word. Don't try to run away from the Bible to find a relationship with God in the woods or in some kind of aesthetic encounter with nature or with a great piece of art. Those are all supplementary. Yes, the heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). God does use great art and great poetry to awaken us. But if we don't center on the Bible where he is speaking authoritatively and infallibly, then our relationship will become distorted by error and sin.

So let the Bible be the place where God meets you and speaks to you, and let the Bible be the place where you speak back to him. The relationship is in this communion: him to us, and us to him.

And it happens all throughout the day. We remind ourselves when we get discouraged, "Don't be discouraged, Don't be dismayed, Fear not, I'll be with you wherever you go" (Isaiah 41:10). You remember those words and call them to mind, because they are from a promise in the Bible. Then you say, "Thank you Lord. I will take this next step of obedience." And at that moment a relationship has been enjoyed and a communion has been experienced. And that's how you walk moment by moment with God through this life.