3 Basic Elements of a Relationship with God

I've heard people share their life stories about coming to know God many times. They usually make the distinction between knowing about God and personally knowing Him.

I recently heard a young woman from Switzerland share this during a class I taught in a DTS course with YWAM-Jax. I was so encouraged as she told her story with such freshness and sincerity.

So, what is the difference between knowing about God and knowing Him in a personal way?

Gateway to God's Heart


Faith is simple, but it's often a mystery to many people, even believers. Why? Because it defies analysis and any effort to quantify it.

Faith is the gateway to God's heart. It's the means by which we enter into a relationship with God.

It requires no special training or expertise and children seem to get its essence better than anyone. Faith is crucial to become a true Christian.

Sola Fide

This second Sola is closely linked with Sola Gratia, which I'll look at next week. It is a second foundation and theological emphasis of the Protestant Reformation next to Sola Scriptura.

Sola Fide simply means by faith alone—a simple statement and a vital one. The theology of this Sola is what distinguishes Protestant Christianity from virtually all other religions and all pseudo-Christian sects and cults.

Here are important elements to this foundational statement—

  • A person is justified before God (reconciled and made innocent) by faith alone
  • Salvation can not be gained by any effort on our part
  • Christ's righteousness—being without sin in right relationship with God—is imputed (credited) to believers because of His grace, God's unmerited kindness and favor

The Gospel

The Christian gospel, the message of God's redemptive work through His Son Jesus Christ on the cross, can only be received and understood by faith. Not by holding to a set of doctrines or theological beliefs, nor by moral goodness, but a personal trust in God.

The confidence of believers for salvation is in Jesus taking the place of each of us on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice.  This is called atonement, an act of reconciliation between God and people.

Christ's sacrifice on the cross (atonement) enabled Him to provide the means for freedom from the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom 5:18-19; 6:23).

Jesus' reconciling act on the cross set up an exchange for those of us who trust in Him. Our sin was transferred upon Him, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and His righteousness was given or imparted to us. This is called imputed righteousness.

Faith that justifies

It's easy to lose sight of the essence of faith when viewing it through a theological lens or trying to define it. True biblical faith is always personal and tied to relationship with God.

The faith that justifies a person doesn't come through theological belief or knowledge of how faith works, it's a matter of personal trust.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NIV)

True faith can't be developed through a right set of beliefs or actions. Neither is it a feeling or a dynamic force we conjure up or make happen. It is a confident surrender of our life to God. This is seen throughout the Old Testament.

Examples of justifying faith

In chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, many examples are given of people who lived by this kind of faith. Four notable people, Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, are mentioned in the beginning (Heb 11:4-8).

This justifying faith is seen most clearly in Abraham's life as God promises that He will become the father of many nations (Gen 12:1-5, 7; 13:14-18; 15:1-6). Abraham's trust in God was credited to him as righteousness—

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Rom 4:3 NKJV)

King David was considered a man after God's heart (Acts 13:22) and he had a similar faith in God and God's promise to him (2 Sam 7:18-22).

Justification by faith and the Holy Spirit

Again, it's important to understand that justification by faith, the theological term connected to Sola Fide, is not based on doctrinal or theological beliefs, nor by anything a person does or does not do in an attempt to be right with God.

The faith that justifies a person is based on a trust relationship with God. A faith that He nurtures in us in various ways—revelation of the truth, supernatural events, making Himself known through life events, or confirmations in our heart by His Spirit.

The personal work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life is too often misunderstood as some spiritual dynamic or conjured up belief, but this is inconsistent with the whole of Scripture.

Jesus makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the One who teaches and guides a believer (John 14:15-17, 26; 15:26) and it is He who leads and points us to Jesus. God's Spirit also brings conviction about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11; 13-15).

Justifying faith is the gateway to God's heart, and He's the one who nurtures this faith in us. As Paul makes clear to the Ephesian believers—

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; itis the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph 2:8-9 NKJV)

A person doesn't need to be a theologian to have this faith, for as Jesus reminded His disciples we need to become like a child to enter God's kingdom.

"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Mark 10:14-15)

This is the 4th in a series of posts to consider the 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation. Here are the previous posts—


Why Do You Believe That?

God Won't Fit In a Box, Nor Will I

Sola Scriptura—A Simple View


Understanding terms—

Many of the theological terms used by Christians become like a foreign language to nonbelievers. Believers need to understand these terms well enough to put them in their own words, or as I call it IYOW (In Your Own Words).

I've tried to give some simple clarification of terms in these posts, but I encourage you to make your own effort at understanding these terms so you can explain them IYOW to others.

God Won't Fit In a Box, Nor Will I

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SWei
Photo credit: unsplash.com_SWei

God in a box. That's how I view most attempts to explain God via theological constructs, whether academic or experiential points of view.

Ever since the fruit of the forbidden tree was eaten (Gen 2:15-17), we're inclined to fit every thought and experience into an either-or box. It's either good or evil.

We all have a hard time with the tension of the in-between. Yet, this is the domain of faith.

The tension of faith

I've looked at various systematic theologies—Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, and even Roman Catholic. I see relevance in them all, or at least understand their point of view.

The nature of faith is our dilemma. It's not logical or rational, yet it's also not mystical, as seen in Hebrews 11:6.

Genuine faith exists in the tension of apparent paradoxical truths. We can't completely box it in, yet we can see it in action through the lives of those who live by faith (Hebrews 11).

Debates and doctrines

We all tend to gravitate towards one position or another when it comes to theology—what we believe about God. All of us, whether atheist, agnostic, or believer.

We do this with various points of theology. We choose sides and then debate and strive to prove to others why our view is right.

Here are some common battleground areas among Christians—

  • Calvinism vs Arminianism
  • Cessation vs Continuation
  • Pre-millennial vs Post-millennial
  • Trinitarian vs Unitarian or Onenness
  • Universalism vs Eternal Judgment

Many more issues exist and are debated within Christianity. We all have reasons why we hold whatever position we take on certain beliefs.

The questions is—Are we willing to examine what we believe and why we believe it?

Unless we're secure in our relationship with Jesus and the essence of faith (Heb 11:6), we'll have a hard time honestly examining our beliefs.

No more debates

For the most part, I've stopped debating theology. I still discuss various topics of theology, as long as it's a discussion not a debate.

It's not because I know everything there is to know about God and faith. I don't claim that at all.

I ask a lot of questions, always have. When I meet someone who is a believer, I want to know their background. Then, I draw certain conclusions, but I don't draw lines.

I want to understand their theological point of view when I discuss things with them. I want to respect their views, not attack them, even when I don't agree with them.

What I'm not and what I am

Over the next few weeks, as I begin to examine the 5 Solas one by one, don't be too quick to fit me in a box.

I'm not a Calvinist nor an Arminian. I don't hold to Reform theology, nor open-theism. I am a Protestant in its original sense.

I'm not a cessationist but hold to continuationism position, but I also don't embrace many of the current, spurious Charismatic teachings and practices.

I'm a follower of Jesus.

My wife and I came to faith during the Jesus Movement of the early 70's. We did so on our own, separate of each other and at different times and places.

We both developed a love for the truth and studied God's Word, the Bible. We've walked by faith for 45 years and counting. Many times people questioned our sanity, or at least our thinking, along the way.

Jesus has never failed us, even when we struggled along the way. Our lives are still grounded in our relationship with Him, and Jesus is the foundation of our life and ministry together.

What about you?

This is a follow-up to my post last week titled— Why Do You Believe That?