by Stefan Bomberger
This winter, we launched into our new teaching series called Knowing God. This series is focused on growing in our “personal relationship” with God. I’m sure, as Christians, most of us have heard the following phraseology: “We must move beyond ‘religion’ to a ‘relationship’ with God.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard it so many times, it comes off a bit cliché. What exactly do we mean by a “personal relationship” with God?
I remember back in my college days, my campus ministry took a Spring Break trip to Panama City Beach for a national conference. The goal was to enjoy great fellowship, teaching, and then hit the beaches for daily evangelism. I don’t know if this is still the case, but ten years ago this was THE happening place for Spring-breakers. Students, running away from God, were headed there to throw themselves into all kinds of darkness. So we thought it would be a good place to go and spread some light!
Anyway, one day I’m out sharing my faith with two girls who grew up in a Lutheran church. After a few minutes of dialogue, it became clear to me that neither of them were saved. So I told them what most good evangelicals would have told them. I told them they needed a personal relationship with God. I told them they needed to move beyond their religion, to knowing God personally.
After I shared this, one of them curiously asked me, “So, ahh… what kind of religion are you from exactly?” As she asked the question, I could tell she thought I was from a very unusual stream of Christianity. In her mind, I seemed way out there. On the same page, theologically, as Christian Science or some other spin-off sect.
“Just regular, age-old, Christianity,” I responded somewhat taken-back she might think what I was sharing was so odd. “Christianity is all about a personal relationship,” I continued.
“Well then, where in the Bible does it say you need to have a ‘personal relationship’ with God?” she asked.
“Everywhere,” I assured her, while sheepishly realizing I could not think of one passage in the Bible where those two words (personal and relationship) appeared side-by-side. In that moment, I must admit, I really didn’t know how to defend or articulate it from the Scriptures. “What exactly did I mean?”, I began to wonder to myself.
I’m happy to say I’ve grown quite a bit in my faith and knowledge of the Bible since college. Today, I would be ready to give an answer for the hope I have. I’m sure you’re all thinking: “Well I hope so – he’s one of our pastors!” I say all this to make a point. Sometimes we never really scratch beneath the surface of our “Christianeze” to deeply ponder what we believe and why. Let me ask you. What does the Bible really say about knowing God – personally?
Over the next few months, we’re going to systematically unpack this for our consideration. To move beyond cliché phrases and really dig into the rich truths underneath them. If you find yourself in the similar place to where I was on that beach ten years ago, then this series will save you some embarrassment (ha)! But, on a more serious note (and way more importantly), it will prepare you to deepen your personal relationship with God. To learn what it looks like to walk with God in the good times and the bad. To commune with Him when He feels near and far. To experience His grace even when you’re feeling weak and inadequate. Our prayer, as a pastoral team, is that when this series concludes our soul-cry will echo that of Paul’s: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)!