Restoring Your Relationship with God
When people wander or gradually drift away from God, they often begin to feel that God is distant. God seems far away - and hard to reach. But the opposite is actually true: God is very near. In fact, He is standing at the door.
Jesus spoke some powerful words to a group of people who had gradually drifted away from their relationship with God. They had allowed other things to sidetrack them and pull them away, and God had become very distant. Jesus said, "Look to me! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20).
Jesus is speaking about the door of your heart - because it is in your heart that you can encounter God and be restored. Jesus speaks this message to people who once knew a nearness to God, but have drifted away. In fact, this message from Revelation 3:20 was originally spoken not to unbelievers, but to believers who had drifted away from God!
Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and knocking! He is not far away. He is very near, nearer than you can imagine. But you have a choice - either to open the door, or keep it closed tight. Letting Jesus into your heart again is the key to restoring your relationship with God. Jesus is God made personal, God knocking at your door, God expressing his love and forgiveness to you. He is standing at the door and knocking; he is not holding back his love from you.
Jesus is the image, the personal image of God Himself. Jesus is God in concrete form, and he comes to you personally and knocks at the door of your heart. He has power to change and transform your life from the inside out. His presence brings peace, and restores love in your life. Your heart is that innermost part of you, your innermost being. That is where Christ comes to dwell. And that is how Christ will restore you, through an inner work of incredible grace.
People have filled their hearts with so many vain and empty things... But Jesus brings love and restores you to wholeness when you invite him into your innermost being. Jesus comes with love, and forgiveness. Jesus comes to you with peace, and restoration. He comes to rule and reign in your heart, and where the King of Kings is ruling, there is a peace that surpasses all human understanding. There is an inner strength, a new hope, when Christ Jesus is invited back into your heart to reign.
His presence satisfies, and brings a warmth of love to the human heart. His presence provides a new strength, a willingness to love, a restored hunger for the very presence of God.
I encourage you to set your heart - to make a commitment to restore your relationship with God. But see this as the key - inviting Christ into your heart again to rule there, and inviting Christ into each situation you face. Then you will not be alone, but Christ will be with you and will restore you with love from the very heart of God.
A key question is this: Is Christ only an occasional visitor to your heart, or is He a reigning King? He passionately desires to reign as King in your heart. This is the key not only for restoring your relationship with God, but it is the key to an overflowing life, a life of abundant love - a life filled with God's strength and peace. Even in the midst of challenges and difficulties that you may face, Christ will be ruling in your heart, giving you inner strength and peace. But you must invite him in, and allow him to rule in your heart as the King of Kings - not just one time, but as an ongoing and supernatural rule of peace. We are told, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." (Colossians 3:15).
To paint a picture of this rule of Christ, your heart can be pictured as a throne. Something is always going to be ruling on the throne of your heart. It may be Christ, it may be self, it may be an idol. But something will always be ruling on the throne of your heart.
If Christ is not actively welcomed and allowed to reign as King in your heart, other things will begin to crowd in. Before long, something else will be ruling on the throne of your heart. It may be another person; it may be material things or some other substitute for God; or it may be self. But Christ will no longer be on the throne.
A major reason believers drift from God is that they get caught up in outward things, or get distracted by cares or pleasures. They lose track of what is happening in their heart, and Christ is gradually replaced by other things at the center of their heart and life. Then the peace and love of Christ is no longer ruling your heart, because Christ is no longer given first place. We are told, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). Coming back to God means opening your heart, and asking Christ to come in, to rule in your heart once again. And it includes a commitment to continue to invite Christ in, to rule and reign in your heart every day.
To apply this truth: Stop now, and ask Christ to rule and reign in your heart. Ask him to reign as king, directing your life and ruling your heart with love. Commit yourself to an ongoing way of life, of allowing Christ to rule and reign in your heart at all times. Give him first place in your life!
Christ the Restorer
A restored relationship with God must come through Christ, who is the Savior. He alone has been given the keys to the heart, that lead to peace. In Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells, in bodily form (Col. 2:9). There is a void in the human heart, designed by God Almighty, which only Christ can fill. When you open the door of your heart to him, he will come in!
If you are coming back to God, you can experience God's compassion and forgiveness as you confess your sins. Jesus died on the cross so that these sins could be forgiven and washed away. You may have wandered far, and committed many heartbreaking sins..........or you may realize that you have gradually grown distant in your relationship with the Lord, even though you have maintained an outward appearance of being "OK." Regardless of where you are, God has given a promise: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).
To apply this truth: Take the time now to confess any sins to God, asking for forgiveness for your sins. Not only that.... ask Christ to rule in place of those sins, ruling on the throne of your heart with love and power.
As you invite Christ in, he brings love and begins to restore you in your relationship with God. But asking Christ to rule in your heart is not a one-time event: it is a daily necessity and a daily privilege. Jesus has resources that are far beyond what you and I have. He has love, patience, peace and wisdom for every situation. But what is the key? It is inviting him in - inviting him to rule in your heart and inviting him to intervene in your situation of need - as often as you need to.
The rule of Christ brings love; the rule of Christ brings wisdom. The rule of Christ brings peace, and the rule of Christ brings the strength to be patient. Too often believers only ask for "things," when they need to welcome Christ in, as the all-sufficient King. Welcome him often! Open the door to his presence!
Brother Lawrence was a man who worked in a kitchen in a monastery. He worked in a secluded place, at a common task. Yet by daily inviting the presence of the Lord to rule in his heart as he went about his work, his kitchen became a holy place where he encountered God every day. His life was transformed.
There are people who go unrecognized by this world, who have discovered what it means to have the treasure of Christ within them. Their satisfaction is not based on money, or position, or what other people think. It is based on the treasure of Christ's love, as he rules in the heart. As Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20,21). The kingdom of God is expressed where the King of Kings is ruling, and he brings righteousness, and peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ comes to reign.
To Apply This Truth: Ask Christ to rule in your heart often, each day. Invite Christ into each specific situation you face, where you need his help. Invite the presence of God to permeate your life, each day.
Christ on the Throne, or Self on the Throne
Jesus Christ must displace the rule of other things on the throne of your heart, including the rule of "self." Jesus is a pure, giving love, which cannot co-exist with the rule of "self" in the human heart. One must go: self will, or Christ.
Paul testifies boldly that "I", the self-centered life, has been crucified with Christ and that the risen Christ now rules in his heart: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer "I" who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20). He goes on to say, "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." In other words, self is no longer on the throne of his life, but Christ is ruling and reigning now and giving him the power to live a loving and powerful life.
Since "self" is what gives us most of our troubles, we should be glad to have self crucified, and taken out of the way. It is only Christ who can do this, by ruling and reigning in your heart. This is what Christ died for: not only to forgive our sins, but to take us away from the rule of self and into the realm of powerful love.
Tear Down the Idols
God told the prophet Ezekiel, "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts." (Ezekiel 14:3). An idol is anything that becomes more important than God in your life. It may be a person who would lead you away from God; it may be a pleasure or an addiction that is controlling you; it may be material things, or the approval of the crowd. These idols must be cast down from the throne of your heart, by turning away from them and turning to Christ.
You may feel powerless, or unsure of how to do this. But you can admit your powerlessness, and turn your life and will over to Christ. Ask him to come in, and to take over. When you surrender, Christ will come in. He will restore you and strengthen you so that you can turn from idols, and he will begin to rule and reign in your heart.
As Christ begins to reign in your heart, he will bring about changes in how you live. You will no longer pursue the idols; instead, you will begin to pursue Christ and his love. You will experience deliverance from addictions and areas of selfishness. Christ, as he dwells within you, will empower you to choose the right path. He will not make those choices for you, but he will empower you and strengthen you to do the right things. In this journey Christ will also use other believers to help you, and he will use the truth of God's Word to set you free (John 8:31,32).
Paul admonished the Corinthian believers, and said "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5 esv). Christ, ruling and reigning in the heart, was a total necessity for the early believers. A transformed life is an undisputable evidence that Christ is ruling within you. Continue to open the door to Christ daily, until you see the evidence of his reign! Then keep inviting him into each situation of your life, and allow the steady peace of Christ to rule in your heart. (see also Ephesians 3:16-19, John 15:4-5, Galatians 2:20, John 17:25-26, Colossians 1:27,28, John 14:23, Romans 8:9-11).
Christ Moves You to Love
What is the result when Christ is ruling and reigning in your heart? There is peace - the peace of Christ that rules in your heart. There is also love - the love of Christ that grows and rules within you. With the love of Christ flowing within you, you love others. This love propels you outward, to love the hurting and needy. It is the same love that moved Jesus, when he looked out on the multitudes of needy people: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt.9:39 ESV). As a result of this love Jesus taught them many things (Mark 6:34), healed the sick (Matt.14:14), and fed the hungry (Mark 8:2-8). He was moved with compassion. He put his love into action. This is a test of the genuineness of the rule of Christ in your heart: are you loving other people, forgiving those who wrong you, and helping the needy?
Faith instead of Feelings
It is important to remember that Christ dwells within you as a fact, not only as a feeling. There may be many times when you feel the love of Christ, and you feel his nearness and his indwelling presence in your heart. But he is there even when you don't feel or sense his presence. Paul prayed for people who were already believers, "that Christ would dwell in your hearts through faith." (Ephesians 3:17). There are two points to emphasize here: to "dwell" means to rule and reign as King. "Through faith" means that we believe in him, we acknowledge him, we trust in his indwelling presence. We believe in his indwelling presence when we feel him near, and we believe in his indwelling presence at all other times - even when we do not sense his nearness.
Jesus does not eliminate all storms from your life - but he can give you a supernatural peace, even in the midst of the storms.
Jesus does not eliminate all suffering from your life - but he can give you a strength and a love that was never there before, so that you can love even your enemies, and pray for their well-being.
Faith goes much deeper than feelings - we are to walk with Christ by faith, even when our feelings may be negative, or neutral. Our commitment of faith and love for Christ needs to go far beyond our feelings. If we only walked with Christ when we felt good we would be serving Christ out of our own selfishness. Love is tested, and love grows by staying faithful through the challenging times.
It would be better to invite the presence of Jesus Christ to rule and reign in your heart a dozen times in a day, saying "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me and reign in my heart" (even though at times you did not feel his nearness) rather than romp through the empty trash-heaps of this world, which do not satisfy.
When things in this life are not going well and we encounter disappointments or disillusionment, we need to rediscover the treasure that cannot be taken away: Christ reigning in the heart. Early believers had very little in terms of wealth or outward possessions. Yet they carried the presence of Christ within them, and experienced a measure of peace and love that was almost unknown in the world around them.
Is the fact that you are easily shaken or disappointed because you have been building your security on the things of this life? Rediscovering the peace and rule of Christ in your heart can have a huge impact. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27 NIV).
The Broken Heart
Many hearts today have become wounded, damaged, broken. There is so much going on in the world today that is not from God - people hurting each other, abusing each other, wounding people around them. In this world, hearts can become hard. Hearts can become dead, unfeeling, uncaring.
Though your heart may have many wounds, or may have become hard and unfeeling, Jesus comes to you as the healer. He truly is the healer of damaged hearts. As you invite him in, he will begin to restore you with his love and forgiveness. Jesus has promised to come in, to those who open their hearts to him. He made this promise: "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in." (Rev.3:20). Open the door by faith, and welcome him in.
As you invite the Lord in, he will begin the healing work. His love will begin to move in! He will also move you to confess your sins, as well as your hurts and struggles. Be honest with the Lord - opening up and confessing your sins and your hurts allows the Lord to come in with cleansing and forgiveness and healing. Love will flow in. Healing will begin to flow. And he will bring life back to your heart again!
He will also strengthen your resolve to turn away from things that you know are wrong in your life - the very things that are hindering you. This is also a part of the healing that Christ brings, through forgiveness.
Strength for Daily Life
In many ways you can encounter Christ and receive strength. Paul said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."(Phil.1:21). In a sense, all of life was a sacrament to Paul, in which he encountered Christ through faith. He had learned to walk with Christ by faith, and to make Christ known to others. It is awesome that we can encounter Christ through the Word of God, fellowship with other believers, and prayer. Even in serving others and making Christ known to others, we discover more of the presence of Christ.
Reading and meditating on the Word of God is not optional for the believer. As Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." We are reminded that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). The Word of God is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). The Word of God builds our faith (Romans 10:17) , and equips us for ministry (2 Tim.3:16,17). And as we make the word of Christ known to others, we encounter Christ again in our own hearts as well.
Jesus told the crowds, "You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me, but you refuse to come to me for eternal life." (John 5:39,40 cev). This reminds us that a central purpose of the Word of God is to bring us to Christ, that we might have life - eternal life. We encounter Christ through the Word, and we encounter God in Christ!
With Other Believers
We are not meant to walk with Christ alone. We need each other. Christ dwells not only in the believer's heart; he dwells in a unique way among believers who have gathered in his name. Jesus acknowledged this when he said, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20).
So we encounter Christ in fellowship with other believers. This is so important that God's Word says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25).
Gathering together, we find that Christ is encountered through the worship, the preaching of the Word, prayer together, and the fellowship of other believers.
Conversing with God can be transforming when you see it as an opportunity to invite Christ in - into specific situations and specific needs. This includes needs in your own life, as well as the needs of others you know and love. There are many dimensions of prayer which we need to experience each day - but it all comes alive when the living Christ steps in!
Christ's love is manifested through you as you minister to the hurting, the needy, the hungry. In a real way you can encounter Christ as you serve others. Believers one day will ask, " ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (Matt. 25:37-40 esv). As you minister to someone in need, Christ's love is revealed.
To Apply These Truths:
Commit yourself to a body of believers who are teaching and living according to the truth of the Word of God. Commit yourself to regular times of reading and meditating on the Word of God. Commit yourself to a life of prayer, and find ways to serve others. In all of these ways, seek to deepen your relationship with Christ - allowing him to rule and reign in your heart and in your thoughts.
Restoring your relationship with God is the work of Christ: as you invite him in, he begins the work of restoration. He restores you in love as you continue to ask him to rule and reign in your heart. He helps you to tear down any idols in your heart. He brings cleansing, and forgiveness. He takes the throne of your heart, and begins to reign! And this is the reign of God himself, who dwells in Christ and reigns through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is an amazing truth, clearly taught in the New Testament: individual believers are temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of God, and the dwelling place of Christ himself. Believers who neglect this reality begin to experience emptiness and a lack of fulfillment. Believers who allow the things of this world to crowd out the rule of Christ in their hearts are going to experience emptiness, deadness, and hardness of heart. We simply have no spiritual life without the presence of Christ in our hearts! That is why he knocks. He said, "if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...."
It is awesome to experience restoration through the presence of Christ! Christ comes in, and restores his love in your heart. He begins to restore your love for people... He restores your hunger for prayer and the things of God. The compassion of Christ moves you to help other people, and to make Christ's love known. You experience a new peace, a new sense of wholeness, a new hope. Even though circumstances may be difficult, you experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. As Paul did, you have found the secret of being content whatever the circumstances. The peace of Christ rules in your heart once again.
Behold, He stands at the door, and knocks......
© Copyright M.A. Erickson, 2009 / May be distributed freely, with correct attribution.
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