Friday, February 22, 2013

A Relationship Gauge

Do you want to have a relationship with God? More than that, do you want to have a close, meaningful relationship with God? If you do, there are some things you need to do. You see, like any relationship, a good one doesn't just happen. A lot of people say 'relationships take work', but that isn't true. A crummy, no good relationship doesn't take a lot of a work. A relationship that is one-sided doesn't take a lot of work on one person's side of the coin. But a good relationship, ah yes. Good relationships take work. And so, to have a good relationship with God (and not just a One-sided one), you must work at it. Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us exactly what we need to do in order to dwell with God on His holy hill.
"LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change, he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved." Psalm 15
First, we should note that this psalm is describing someone who is already in the relationship with God, and so in New Testament speak we mean that this person has been baptized and is enjoying a covenant relationship with God. But like all relationships, things can fall apart. This list provides a checklist of sorts, things to make sure we do (or don't do) to keep ourselves close to God.

Now, what do all of these things mean? Let's quickly look at just a few.

"He who walks uprightly" - Hold on, it's about to get technical in here. The word literally means "complete, perfect, full" or "without blemish". This is a person who doesn't walk in sin, but instead walks in a way that is perfect, blameless. In 1 John 1:7, we see that Jesus' blood will cleanse us if we walk in the light, thus making us perfect and blameless before God. If we will confess the sins we do commit (v. 9), we will be forgiven. Thus, to walk uprightly means to stay away from sin, but when we do sin, we confess that sin to our heavenly Father, who craves that intimacy with us and is faithful to forgive us to ensure that our relationship stays close.

"He speaks the truth in his heart" - Basically, this means you are who you say you are. You don't live a hypocritical life, or put on some sort of front. We know that God sees our hearts (since He formed our innermost parts!), and He can see if we mean the things that we say and do. He knows if our faith is genuine. He knows if we went to worship Him because we love Him, or if we simply went because people would look down on us if we didn't. If your heart doesn't reveal that truth that you proclaim, your relationship with God isn't real.

"He does not backbite with his tongue" - Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." If the words that we speak aren't kind, our heart isn't loving. If our heart isn't loving, how much contact have we had with the God of love? You see, God is love, and when we approach His throne in prayer, we ought the leave the throne room changed. Our hearts ought to be more loving, more forgiving, gentler and kinder. Because of the love and mercy God above has extended to our lowly existence, we should graciously love and forgive those around us. But if we backbite and tear down and destroy, we aren't behaving like God, nor are we behaving like we are in a relationship with Him.

"In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD" - Question: what do your friends say about you? Are your best friends Christians? Are your role models Christians?  Are the people you talk about the most Christians? You see, if we live our lives praising and admiring those who are evil and wicked, are we living a life that is in a close relationship with the perfect and sinless God of heaven? 2 John 10-11 tell us that we are not to greet those who abide in false teachings and trespasses, because if we support them, we are sharing in their evil deeds. What do the people in our lives say about us? That we honor and uphold truth, or that we condone wickedness? If you want to be close to God, you must resist anything and everything and everyone that has the Devil's fingerprints all over it.

While we could talk about every single phrase within this psalm, we won't for time's sake. Instead, let's focus one final thought on the last line of the psalm:

"he who does these things shall never be moved". You see, when my relationship with God starts to slip, starts to suffer, guess whose fault it is? Well it isn't God's. God never moves. He is always watching for and anticipating our return, just like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). He is always there, ready to receive us when we draw near to Him (James 4:8). That means that when our relationship starts to drift, it is my fault. I am the one who moves. And yet, if I will do all of the things that Psalm 15 mentions--if I will keep myself from sin, and walk uprightly in the light of Christ--I will not be moved. I will not wander away from God. Because as long as I am trying my best, God will keep me there, in the hollow of His hand.

How blessed we are to have a Father who is so merciful and forgiving and welcoming. How blessed we are to have a Father who is always ready to keep our relationship alive, even when we abandon Him for days, weeks, and years.

If your relationship with God is suffering, move back to Him. Draw near to Him again. Do your best to implement Psalm 15 in your life. Keep yourself from backbiting, from hypocrisy, and from hurting others. Keep yourself on the righteous path, confessing your shortcomings to the forgiving Father. Whatever sin stands in your way (and it is always sin that separates us), remove it. Cling to God again; He will not resist. He never resists.

Thanks be to God that He loves us enough to welcome us back into the fold every single time.

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