Text Messages from God
“If God is out there, how can I find out what he’s like?” Ever wondered that? Well, can you tell what someone is like by reading text messages from them? God has sent us plenty of text messages. Try reading these texts from God to you. You may be surprised at how He comes across.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…. (Jeremiah 1:5)
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. (Isaiah 48:17)
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:3-5)
It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)
I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…. (Isaiah 51:12-13)
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)
You may want to save some of these texts. They’re pretty encouraging. You may even want to text Him back. Here’s how.
How to Text God Back
God’s communication system is way in advance of ours. You don’t need a phone to text Him. You can just think the texts and He’ll get them immediately. Or you can speak them out loud or whisper them and He’ll pick them up clearly. Just tell Him what’s on your mind. You don’t need any pre-set words.
Quite often He’ll answer by making one of the texts you’ve read speak to you personally. You’ll just know it’s for you in your situation. Sometimes He’ll give you a thought that seems to drop into your mind from nowhere, or someone will say something, and you’ll know that’s your answer. Sometimes you can simply tell that God’s working things out amazingly.
You will find many more messages from him to you if you start reading His “text-book”—the Bible. There may be a lot that you don’t understand or that doesn’t interest you at first, but keep reading until you find something that speaks to you. Start with the books of Psalms, Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes. Try the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Look up the texts above and read around them. There is no question that you will hear God as you read. It’s very exciting!
Here are some texts from people who have known Him well. They’ll give you some more clues to what God is like.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. (Psalms 139:1-4)
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. (Psalm 147:3-6)
I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. (Psalm 40:1-2)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. (Psalms 138:8. All texts from New King James Version of the Bible.)
Why would someone look for God?
Have you noticed that God sounds like a person? Many people think of Him as an impersonal force of some kind. The God of the Bible is not only personal, but He sounds very interested in us, doesn’t He? Why would we be interested in Him? Consider what God wants to give you by being in your life:
Stability: God is reliable, always there, and willing to give you complete attention at any time.
Guidance: God infallibly directs you in the way you’d choose if you understood all the issues.
Protection: God keeps you as safe as you need to be, but He won’t keep you from challenges which will help you grow.
Adventure: God will put you on a track way beyond anything you could dream up for yourself—more interesting, satisfying and fulfilling. He will stretch you, but He knows and respects your limits at each stage.
Love: God is Someone who truly does care about you and wants you to reach all your potential. He won’t let you down or walk away—ever. (But if you keep on choosing to reject Him, He will respect that.)
Empathy: God is Someone very kind who knows exactly what you are thinking and feeling and has been through human experiences and struggles. (More about that later.)
Peace: God can remove guilt, anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration, and give you inner peace and even joyfulness.
Discipline: God will require a lot of you but empower you to achieve it. He will kindly show you your shortcomings, but also inspire, encourage, and give you ability to overcome them.
Respect: Above all, God respects your free will—your choice—and will not force you to do anything. He does not want to brainwash you, hypnotize you, or take away your individuality. You will have to work at staying close to Him, not at escaping Him. You can quit anytime!
Are you interested? Then the next step is to get to know how God looks at things. His perspective is different from ours and may seem strange at first. We’re going to use texts from God found in the Bible as a window into His thinking.
God’s perspective: first, a problem
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord… (Isaiah 1:18)
God has a problem that He wants to talk to us about. WE are the problem. Here’s why:
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good. No, not one. (Psalm 14:2, 3)
At first glance, this seems outrageous! You know lots of good people don’t you? But think—do you know anyone who is always like this:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave itself rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
This is the “good” that God is looking for in us and not finding. It’s a completely selfless love. It’s beautiful, but surely it’s unreasonable to expect that anyone could always be like that, isn’t it?
Listen to God again:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)
God is not boasting; He’s just stating fact! So we’ll need to put our first reactions aside as we try to understand God’s perspective. Obviously it’s going to be very different from what we expect.
Love and Life
First, we need to grasp the connection between selfless love and life itself. The Bible says plainly,
Love is of God. (1 John 4:7)
These four little words state something huge and fundamental. God is the source of the selfless love we’ve read about. He is also the most perfect example of it. It’s what He is. It’s a love that doesn’t think of itself; it always puts others first. It is self-sacrificing; it delights to give and give of itself to make others happy. It’s a humble, warm, rich, great, endless love that loves someone whether he or she is loveable or not. It looks for nothing in return, it never changes; it’s a love you can rest in because it won’t be withdrawn if you get something wrong. That’s how God loves, and He joyfully creates that love in anyone who wants to do the same.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them to drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. (Psalm 36: 7-9)
“With You is the fountain of life” means that God is the source of life as well as love. The Bible calls this life “life more abundantly.” (John 10:10) It’s like an irrepressible fountain that just keeps springing up forever. The love and life that originate with God are inseparable. God’s life is a life of loving selflessly, and there is no lasting life without that love. This turns out to be true for us too:
He who does not love his brother abides in death. (1 John 3:14)
This is another enormous statement. “Brother” here means more than sibling—it means other human beings. It’s saying that a person who does not consistently love all others with God’s selfless love does not possess life from God’s endless fountain. He’s on borrowed time, and death is on its way.
Because these are mind-stretching concepts, it will take a while to digest them. Already we’re beginning to see why there’s a problem. Let’s look at the whole thing from another angle now as we dig a little deeper.
An invitation and a wish
As the Bible portrays Him, God is very awesome indeed. He’s the one who made everything, and He is the ultimate ruler of the universe.
“I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself….” (Isaiah 44:24)
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11,12)
If God is the creator and ruler of everything there is, He is entitled to set the rules. And when God makes rules or laws, they are about love and life—all of them!
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
God’s laws are also the laws of life:
“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them….” (Leviticus 18:5)
“And I know that His commandment is everlasting life….” (John 12:50)
In other words, following the laws of love is what it takes to live, like following traffic laws is what it takes to get safely to your destination. We saw that love and life are inseparable. But how can God or anyone command love, especially selfless love, when it’s so hard and we slip out of it so easily? Actually, what He’s saying is, “Choose to love my way, and I’ll empower you to do it.”
Here’s the invitation: (“Won’t you choose to love?”)
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live …therefore choose life, that both you and your descendents may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life….” (Deuteronomy 30; 15, 16, 19, 20 emphasis supplied)
Here’s the promise: (“I’ll empower you to love.”)
“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendents, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Just as physical circumcision involves a removing of flesh, so God will remove the part of us that prevents us from loving selflessly. More about that later.
And here’s God’s longing: (“If only you’ll cooperate…”)
“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear [respect] Me and always keep all my commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29)
God’s deepest wish is to be able to give love and life to us for our happiness. He longs to do it; but there’s that problem. Let’s look at it more closely.
The core of the problem
We’ve seen that the keeping of the law of selfless love brings God’s endless life to a person. But now let’s look at the other side of that. The breaking of the law, with its origin in self-centeredness, brings death—that is, it cuts us off from the fountain of life. What are we talking about here?
Being self-centered means “me first,” making sure my felt needs are met. It can even include looking after people who are important to me; but self-centered people often miss seeing what others need because they are busy with things that affect themselves.
At its worst, being self-centered leads to hurting others; but more often it means missing opportunities to bring them happiness and help or being selective about who is helped. It’s often just a preoccupation with self in the nicest way. Sometimes self-centered people are good to others because it’s expected or it makes them feel good about themselves. It is not safe to judge others’ motives, but if we are honest, we have to admit ours are not always completely pure.
The word used in the Bible for breaking the law of love by putting your interests before others’ is “sin.” Now we can see that sin is much more than lying, stealing, or killing. It could be failing to share something that’s rightfully ours with someone who needs it. Whatever form it takes,
Sin is the transgression [breaking] of the law. (1 John 3:4)
And there is only one result from sin:
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)
That’s any breaking of the law of unselfish love. Any moment of choosing to put oneself first leads to death. Think of a crane with a heavy metal wrecking ball hanging from a long chain. It only takes the failure of one link for a moment to break the chain, and the ball falls. But who has never been self-centered for a moment? So, not surprisingly,
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
It still seems unreasonable though, doesn’t it? Of course we all have moments of self-centeredness. Many of us put ourselves first a lot of the time, even with the best intentions. How can God expect otherwise? But you see, it wasn’t supposed to be that way, and it wasn’t always that way. This is where the Bible tells a story radically different from what many of us were raised to believe.
Briefly, God designed and created human beings perfectly selfless, loving, and happy, able to live forever. Each person was given free choice, (because forced love means nothing) but the original human beings used their free choice to disbelieve and disobey God’s law of love and life.
In our genes now is a tendency towards self-centeredness which only God can empower us to defeat. And because we live in a world where looking after “number one” is normal, we don’t realize what destructive potential one sin, or act of self-centeredness, has. In nuclear fission, it only takes splitting the nucleus of one tiny uranium atom to start a chain reaction and make a mega-explosion. It’s something like that. Certainly there is a mega-difference between living forever and not living forever. Like the one broken chain link or the one split atom, it only takes one sin to make that difference. Like it or not, that’s reality according to God.
To make it harder—sin puts a barrier between us and God:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1)
It’s hard to realize how very damaging sin is to us, and how offensive self-centeredness is to God. It not only blinds us spiritually, but it squelches our interest in things that will make us truly happy like getting to know God and helping others.
God hates sin because it hurts people. If we hold onto it, it’s like a wall around us, shutting out the God of love whose great joy is giving of Himself. Unfortunately, we just don’t recognize how self-centered we are most of the time. We often think we are pretty good people. But God sees differently, and because He loves us, it hurts Him too.
So now, perhaps, God’s problem is clearer: He loves us and wants us to live forever and be completely happy. Yet without some kind of enormous intervention, no one is going to. It’s a pretty big problem.
All this raises a question: If breaking God’s law of unselfish love leads to separation from God and death, why are we all still alive? The reason is that God has put an amazing rescue plan into operation, and the story isn’t over yet!
God is love (1 John 4:6 emphasis supplied.)
Because of this, God’s solution involves pouring out a breathtaking amount of His selfless love to us. Let’s look at the plan.
God’s fix for the problem
In a nutshell, this is how God has solved the sin and death problem:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
This is telling us that people will “perish,” or be fully destroyed, because of their sin unless they believe in God’s Son and what God gave Him to us for. But if they do believe, living forever is still a possibility. There are only two options here: destruction or living forever. Not a hard choice, is it?
Let’s unpick this a bit and see what’s involved. First of all, who is God’s Son?
The Bible calls Him “the Word.” This may seem a strange name for the Son of God, but there is a reason for it.
No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him [made Him known]. (John 1:18)
Like words portray thoughts, so God the Son is uniquely qualified to portray His Father to us. Part of His mission is to do that because we often misunderstand what God the Father is like. That stops us from trusting Him, so we keep our distance from Him.
We are told two astounding facts about the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
We read earlier that God is the Creator and Life Giver, but now we’re seeing He works through His Son.
The Word Himself said,
“I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Not only is the Word the direct source of our life, but in cooperation with His Father, He created and maintains everything there is.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [head] over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [hold together]. (Colossians 1:15-17)
It makes sense that a God who is love does not work in isolation, but in co-operation with another being like Himself.
Though He is unimaginably powerful, the Son of God took an incredible step: He became a human being. The Creator became a created being, yet He was still God. God the Son came down to us as a human being—fully human and fully God at the same time. The Bible calls this a mystery, and it is something we cannot really understand.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt [lived] among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
By becoming human, the Word, God the Son, showed us the character of God the Father up close. His life was a continual illustration of God’s love in action on our level. It was the Father’s way of getting nearer to us and making it easier for us to understand Him.
But He did more than that. In His own words,
…the Son of Man [sometimes the Word called Himself that] did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
He came to serve us (imagine that!) and also to pay a ransom for us with His own life. What is a ransom? It’s the price it takes to free a captive person. Why was His life required as a ransom? Because, as we have read, “the wages of sin is death.” We are death’s captives, as it were. He, God the Son, died the death that’s coming to us because of sin, so we wouldn’t have to. That’s a huge ransom!
Let’s spell this out. Our self-centeredness is going to cause our destruction. Because God is just and fair as well as kind, there is only one way for Him to stop that from happening. Someone who has kept the law of love as a human being has to step in and be destroyed in our place. The Word did that for each individual person, including you and me. Isn’t that breathtaking! And God the Father allowed His Son go through that for us, painful as it was for both of them. He “gave His only-begotten Son so that (we) should not perish….” There is more selfless love in what They did than we will ever understand, because there was an infinite amount of suffering involved for both of them. The more we look at Their sacrifice, the bigger it appears.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. (1John 4:9)
…when we were still without strength, in due time Christ [meaning “the Anointed One”] died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous [good] man will one die: yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
The Word can offer His death in our place as a gift to us because He never sinned Himself. He lived a human life full of God’s kind of love and never had one moment of self-centeredness. Amazing! That means He didn’t have to perish because of His own sins, but could take ours on Himself.
For He [God the Father] has made Him who knew no sin [His Son] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God [unselfishly loving] in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
A gift and more
Now there are two things we need to realize about this beautiful gift.
The first is that a gift is not ours unless we take it; so we will need to personally accept this one:
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing [counting] their trespasses [sins] to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
This tells us that God has fixed our broken relationship with Him through His Son. He will not just invite, but plead with us (through other human beings) to come individually to Him, and receive all He has for us. Ask yourself, “Do I want the biggest gift ever—the Word’s human life perishing instead of mine so that I can live forever?” If your answer is yes, you need to tell God that. (Remember how to text God?)
The second thing to understand here is that the gift comes with a Person:
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11)
This is the best part! The mind-blowing thing is that all this is not just something which took place long ago. The Word is alive now, and you can get to know Him. He did die as a human being, but He had the right and the power to take life again because He never sinned Himself, and because He is the Son of God. He’s not physically on earth any more, but He is alive, He cares a lot about you, and He’s very involved in your life though you can’t see Him. You can talk to Him, and you will become aware of what He’s saying to you and doing in your life. He is a friend like you’ve never had before. He wants you to get to know Him so that you’ll trust and love Him. Then He can start being for you all the things we listed at the beginning.
Here are some texts from Him to you:
“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28,29)
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Getting to know God the Son is something like meeting someone and loving them more and more until you realize they are a part of your life you never want to lose. Marriage at its best is a commitment on the part of two people to live in close relationship—to combine two lives into one. It’s choosing to love, respect, help and care for the other person more than any other. It’s the ultimate giving of yourself. Whatever is theirs becomes yours, and whatever is yours becomes theirs. They themselves become yours and you become theirs, yet you keep your individuality and power of choice. There are strong parallels between this and the kind of relationship the Son of God wants us to have with Himself and His Father.
“If any man love Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)
It’s also like the relationship a young child may have with loving parents. The child will respect and trust them and want to please them if he or she feels secure and loved. The child will confidently bring problems to the parents to solve, and will run to them for comfort and encouragement.
“Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone….If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-9, 11)
“As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13)
So we’re being invited to much more than escape from self-centeredness and death. We’re invited to know a Person who loves us truly, faithfully, and unendingly, a Person who suffered and died for us so He can give us happiness and fulfillment forever.
This might seem almost scary—more than we are looking for—but in fact it’s just what we are looking for, whether we know it or not! A man called Augustine once said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” But it’s not instant! We need to try out God the Father and His Son and decide for ourselves whether we can trust them. This will happen as we text God and see Him doing things in our lives and other people’s. It will also happen as we read His texts to us and find out more about Him.
God the Father and God the Son are not the same person, but they are the same in character and goals. This means that what you find out about one applies to the other. Sometimes, like any parent, the Father uses “tough love” so what He has done in a situation may not seem kind at first glance. We may have to look a little longer and deeper to understand. But remember His promises,
“You shall seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:14)
Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding…then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:3-5)
It will take some time and effort, but to get to know God is to find your heart’s desire and a quality of life you’ve never experienced before. The effort will not all be yours, either! If you just keep answering God’s texts to you, He will make Himself known to you in ways that will mean a lot to you personally.
If you take the gift, then what?
What happens when you are ready to make a commitment to God is truly amazing! As you get to know God, He gives you an increasing awareness and hatred of your self-centeredness and sins. You realize they have not only brought hardship to others, but also great pain to the Father and Son, who are now very real to you. When you bring to God the guilt and deep remorse He gives you, ask forgiveness, and choose to turn away from sin, He forgives your sins. Remember how Christ lived a perfect human life, and took the punishment for your sins? His life and death are counted as being yours, and because of them, you become entitled to a life that will last forever. As you give yourself to Him and ask Him to lead in your life, He does even more than forgiving you. He begins a wonderful process of transformation in you so you are not trapped in a self-centered life any more.
Up to that point, your experience at its worst may have been like part of this list:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Or at its best, it may have been like this:
“…what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will [choose] to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law [of God] that it is good. But now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” (Romans 7: 15-18)
Is any of this familiar? Somehow, even when we have good intentions, it is next to impossible to follow through consistently. But when we give our lives completely into God’s hands, He makes a major change in us:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” ( Ezekiel 36:26,27)
Remember the promise we looked at earlier where God said He would empower us to love? This is what the circumcision of the heart is all about. Our “heart of stone” is taken away, and in no less than an act of creation, we are given a “heart of flesh.” This is a tender heart of compassionate, selfless, loving service. The only place we can get one is from God!
What He actually does is give us a new dimension of mind by sending His Spirit into us. The “Spirit of Truth” or “The Holy Spirit” as the Bible calls Him is an actual Being who is also God. He comes to give us some of the thoughts and feelings of the Father and Son, so we can see other people the way They do. He also empowers us to act with love toward them as the Father and Son would act in our situation. The Bible says,
But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
A person who has Christ’s mind through the Holy Spirit will notice what others need, and gladly help them without expecting a return. He or she will have the same kind of loving interest and concern for people that God has. What an amazing thought! Not only that, but there is an incredible peace that comes with God’s forgiveness and love. It feels like a weight has been lifted off us and we can make a new start. This peace also comes from the Holy Spirit.
The Son says,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
The imagery of being born tells us that this heart change is just the gateway into a new life. We have the possibility of experiencing a lot of exciting growth.
But we all…beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
We become like the people we spend a lot of time with. It’s especially true that if we spend time with God, talking to Him, reading texts from Him, and doing what He says, it will change us. This is how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Doing all of these things is the way we say, “I want to be more like You, please change me.” The more time we spend with Him, the closer we’ll want to get, and the more we’ll experience and reflect His love and life through the Holy Spirit’s power re-creating us.
It’s important to make time daily to feel our need of God and renew our complete commitment to Him. Each day we may give our whole life into His hands and receive the Holy Spirit to change us. Each day we have the option of growing closer to Him or drifting away. But we won’t drift away if we keep focusing on the Father and the Son. The more important we make them in our lives, the more we’ll be like that description of selfless love we read, and the more joy we’ll have.
Just as a child cannot grow unless it eats and drinks, our growth will depend on daily “eating and drinking” all God says to us.
As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. (1 Peter 2:2)
Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
The words of God feed our transformed life and make it possible for the old self-centered ways to be replaced by selfless loving ones. If we don’t feed our new life, it withers and dies. That makes spending time with texts from God pretty important. We find that all God’s texts are more than inspiring words—they are empowering. The power of the Holy Spirit to change us is especially in these words. They feed our spiritual growth and defuse temptations to be self-centered again. When we mess up, they bring us encouragement as we go to God for forgiveness and a loving heart once more. They remind us over and over of God’s love for us and others, and the possibilities of a life lived with Him.
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10, 11)
God always sends His texts to do something life-giving. If you search in the Bible and ask God for help, you will find He brings some words to your attention that seem to be just for your situation. If you think about those words for a while, you will know they are more than words—they bring God close with power for change.
(Not) the end. . .
So now we’ve come full circle. We started with some texts from God that were strangely moving. Now that we have a better understanding, they are becoming more meaningful and powerful. If we keep going back to the “text-book” and searching for insight, God’s texts will shine brighter and brighter. It’s like looking at the beautiful night sky with the naked eye first, then having the opportunity to zoom in with better and still better telescopes. What we see just keeps getting more amazing and more beautiful.
Be aware that if you start a serious quest for God and His truth, everything in the world will come along to distract you from it. You have to be very determined, or you will wake up one day and wonder what happened to your search. But also remember that God is working to help you find Him, and He is very patient. The invitation is still open right now:
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 1:18)
And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
It’s for you!
Getting started on Bible reading
If you’ve never tried to read the Bible before, here are a few facts and suggestions that will help you to get into it.
First, the Bible is actually a library of 66 books. They were written by many different authors (but inspired by the same God) over a period of hundreds of years. The last book was finished around 2,000 years ago, and they were all written in ancient languages. There are many translations of the Bible into English. The texts we’ve looked at come from a translation called the New King James Version which is an update of a beautiful translation done in the time of Shakespeare. There are more modern versions also, but some of them are looser translations of the original languages.
Second, there is a lot of detailed writing about law, history, and genealogies. There are also some sections of prophecy which may be perplexing to a newcomer. These are not the easiest places to start. You can begin in the first book, Genesis, (which is really interesting) but if you try to begin at page 1 of the Bible and just read forward, you may get bogged down. Most people can relate more easily to the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, or the gospels of Luke or John as starting points. But there are wonderful things for you all through the Bible. Just keep looking until you find something that speaks to your heart.
Third, every time you want to read, talk with God before you start. Ask Him to help you to hear Him speaking to you. Ask for understanding. He will always give this to you if you persevere. He has so much He wants to say to you!
Fourth, find some Bible study guides to help you navigate through all the varied subject matter of the Bible. The Bible can answer so many of your questions and give you help with so many different challenges. You may want to ask someone who knows the Bible well to study it with you, or you can find lots of help online. Try http://truthlink.org/ —studies written to explain Bible concepts to a searcher with no previous experience of the Bible.
Fifth, if you want to look up a Bible reference or write one down, do it this way: Isaiah 1:18. Isaiah is the name of the book (you can find an index of the books in the first few pages of a Bible.) 1:18 refer to the chapter and verse. You would go to chapter 1 of the book of Isaiah, and then scan down until you see an 18. Many people underline things they want to find again with a colored pencil if they are using the Bible in book form rather than digital.
Sixth and last, be patient. If you don’t understand something, ask God for help and keep reading. There will be plenty that speaks to you plainly. When you do understand something, act on it if needed, and your understanding of other things will grow. God has new things to teach you forever. It’s a wonderful adventure. Enjoy!