“I found it!”, a sudden rash of bumper stickers boldly proclaimed some years ago. They referred to the discovery of God, the discovery of a new life in Christ. Most bumper-sticker readers gave fleeting attention to the message. Some were irritated. They began to display a bumper sticker of their own: “I never lost it!”
The truth is, however, we’ve all lost it—”it” being the intimate and personal relationship Christians can have with God. We had this relationship and we lost it—in our first parents, Adam and Eve. God created them in his image to mirror his character and his righteousness.
The ultimate purpose of all humans is to reflect God’s glory forever, and in so doing, to partake of God’s immeasurable joy. Human beings were made to be in contact with God—in an intimate relationship with him. Deep and enduring joy comes only from personally knowing him.
Our first parents had that personal contact with God. They could have maintained that relationship, enjoying all the benefits and delights that were part of it. If they had, how different the human story would have been! Unfortunately, humanity’s stay in paradise was brief. A rebellious, lying spirit entered the picture. Satan seduced Adam and Eve, telling them that if they disobeyed God, they would find even greater happiness than they had. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and they fell or crashed into a state of sin. They made a choice that changed everything.
Alienated from God
Sin is contrary to God’s righteousness and holiness, and works against all that God represents. Sin produces misery, suffering and grief. God hates sin because it hurts people. He does not compromise with sin.
Once Adam and Eve opened the door to sin and rebellion, they alienated themselves from God. They exchanged righteousness and holiness for sin and evil. And it wasn’t only Adam and Eve who sinned. Everyone—the entire human race—has followed in their footsteps. That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 3: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (verse 10); “all have turned away” (verse 12); and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (verse 23).
Each of us has a sinful nature that spiritually alienates us from God. We are sinful. No aspect of our nature is untainted by sin. Until sin’s hold is broken, it reigns over us. Sin forms a barrier that disrupts our fellowship with God and interferes with us receiving the richness of his blessings in Christ.
For us to be reconciled to God, sin had to be dealt with. The barrier had to be broken down so we could find him. That is why God came in human flesh as Jesus Christ. So greatly did God want us to be reconciled to him, he provided that Jesus would suffer the results of sin—death—for us. “God so loved the world,” John 3:16 simply but eloquently states, “that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, “he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). Because Jesus did this, our sins are forgiven. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8).
The way back
God’s greatest desire is for us to find the way back to him—to find him. To an audience of unbelievers, Paul spoke about God’s desire that people “would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). So greatly does God want us to find him that in Jesus Christ he paid the ultimate price to make it possible.
But where is God that sinners may reach out for him and find him? Actually, he is everywhere. He is, as we have read, “not far from each one of us.” We humans have lost contact with God, but he has not lost track of us. He knows everything about us. “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’” (Jeremiah 23:24).
God is near. He is next to the bed of the infirm. He is in the cell of the lonely prisoner. He is as accessible to us when we are riding high in life as he is when we hit bottom. Whatever our status or condition, we need only to reach out for him in repentance. When we accept and believe in Jesus Christ and repent of our sins, we find that our sins have been pardoned. The only “barrier” between us and God turns out to be our own attitude.
Our first birth did not make us spiritually complete persons. That is why Jesus said we must be “born again” (John 3:3). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God designed us to experience the satisfaction of an ever-increasing knowledge of him. But, without responding to the Holy Spirit, a person feels incomplete. He or she feels an inner emptiness, a longing for fulfillment. We all need a lasting relationship with God. And we should have it. But people have tried to fill this spiritual void with inferior substitutes, among them sensual pleasures, material possessions, fame, and worldly pursuits. At best, they yield temporary exhilaration. But it is just that: temporary.
C.S. Lewis said: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holidy at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, page 2). Instead of the mud pies with which we seek to satisfy our inner longings, God offers us infinite joy, lasting joy. Why settle for less when we don’t have to?
A joyful relationship
On becoming a Christian, a person enters an intimate relationship as a child of God. Christians who have entered this relationship have “found” God. (Actually, what they have found is that God already knows them and accepts them.) They have what is most important in life. Nothing else is essential for joy. Not riches, not fame, not pleasures, not even health. Though they add to one’s happiness in Christ, they cannot of themselves yield lasting contentment. What matters most is the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Christ, and from communion with him.
In one of his kingdom parables, Jesus spoke of the joy in finding God. He said: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Jesus was not teaching that to become a Christian one must sell all earthly possessions. One point illustrated by the parable is that the discovery of the kingdom of God gives more joy than anything else in the world.
And the initial joy a newly converted Christian receives is only the beginning! Finding God is not merely like finding a gold coin. Rather, it is like finding an inexhaustible gold mine. It takes a whole lifetime extracting the riches of this mine. The more you mine it, the more pure and abundant its yield.
Once we find God, we begin to find fulfillment in life. And we set out on the most important of all quests—to know God. J.I. Packer expresses it well in Knowing God: “What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?” (page 34).
How do we come to know God? One way is to become familiar with the Bible, which describes God’s actions, desires and emotions. The other is to learn to trust him by following his instructions. The resulting vital, growing relationship with God is the basis for a meaningful life here and now. But it goes beyond that. It is the basis of our hope for immortality.
Jesus prayed to his Father concerning his followers, saying, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3). You may know about God, but confidence in having eternal life comes from knowing him.
Author: Clayton Steep