So many people try to quench their spiritual thirst by physical means: family . . . friends . . . job . . . possessions. Yet none of these earthly things can meet their heavenly need, as Augustine famously prayed centuries ago: “Our heart is restless until it rests in You” (Confessions 1.1).
To many people who seek something more from life, God seems remote, unreachable, silent. Yet others have overcome the obstacles of man-made religion to find true meaning through a personal relationship with the eternal God. What does that mean? How can we begin a relationship with God? How can we lead others to truly know Him?
The answer is Jesus Christ, who freely gives living water to all who thirst.
How to Begin a Relationship with God
The world is filled with competing theories about God, religion, and salvation. Alternate views of Jesus vie for our attention at every turn. Different paths to different gods market themselves in the ever-changing desert of ideas. Yet in the midst of this world of contradictory claims, Jesus Christ made a bold assertion: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
In a confusing world filled with signs pointing us down different roads of philosophies and religions, can we be sure we’ve placed our feet on the right path? The answer to this question comes from the all-time bestselling book, translated into more languages and read by more people than any other book in human history. The Bible marks the path to God with four essential truths.
Our Spiritual Condition
The first truth is rather personal. One look in the mirror of Scripture, and our human condition becomes painfully clear:
"There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)
We are all sinners through and through—totally depraved. Now, that doesn’t mean we’ve committed every atrocity known to humankind. We’re not as bad as we can be, just as bad off as we can be. Sin colors all our thoughts, motives, words, and actions.
If you’ve been around a while, you likely already believe it. Look around. Everything around us bears the smudge marks of our sinful nature. Despite our best efforts to create a perfect world, crime statistics continue to soar, divorce rates keep climbing, and families keep crumbling.
Something has gone terribly wrong in our society and in ourselves—something deadly. Contrary to how the world would repackage it, “me-first” living doesn’t equal rugged individuality and freedom; it equals death. As Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)—our spiritual and physical death that comes from God’s righteous judgment of our sin, along with all of the emotional and practical effects of this separation that we experience on a daily basis. This brings us to the second marker: God’s character.
How can God judge us for a sinful state we were born into? Our total depravity is only half the answer. The other half is God’s infinite holiness.
The fact that we know things are not as they should be points us to a standard of goodness beyond ourselves. Our sense of injustice in life on this side of eternity implies a perfect standard of justice beyond our reality. That standard and source is God Himself. And God’s standard of holiness contrasts starkly with our sinful condition.
Scripture says that “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God is absolutely holy—which creates a problem for us. If He is so pure, how can we who are so impure relate to Him?
Perhaps we could try being better people, try to tilt the balance in favor of our good deeds, or seek out wisdom and knowledge for self-improvement. Throughout history, people have attempted to live up to God’s standard by keeping the Ten Commandments or by living out their own code of ethics. Unfortunately, no one can come close to satisfying the demands of God’s law. Romans 3:20 says, “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
So here we are, sinners by nature and sinners by choice, trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps to attain a relationship with our holy Creator. But every time we try, we fall flat on our faces. We can’t live a good enough life to make up for our sin, because God’s standard isn’t “good enough”—it’s perfection. And we can’t make amends for the offense our sin has created without dying for it.
Who can get us out of this mess?
If someone could live perfectly, honoring God’s law, and would bear sin’s death penalty for us—in our place—then we would be saved from our predicament. But is there such a person? Thankfully, yes!
Meet your substitute—Jesus Christ. He is the One who took death’s place for you!
[God] made [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
God rescued us by sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins (1 John 4:9-10). Jesus was fully human and fully divine (John 1:1, 18), a truth that ensures His understanding of our weaknesses, His power to forgive, and His ability to bridge the gap between God and us (Romans 5:6-11). In short, we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Two words in this verse bear further explanation: justified and redemption.
Justification is God’s act of mercy, in which He declares righteous the believing sinners while we are still in our sinning state. Justification doesn’t mean that God makes us righteous, so that we never sin again, rather that He declares us righteous—much like a judge pardons a guilty criminal. Because Jesus took our sin upon Himself and suffered our judgment on the cross, God forgives our debt and proclaims us PARDONED.
Redemption is Christ’s act of paying the complete price to release us from sin’s bondage. God sent His Son to bear His wrath for all of our sins—past, present, and future (Romans 3:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). In humble obedience, Christ willingly endured the shame of the cross for our sake (Mark 10:45; Romans 5:6-8; Philippians 2:8). Christ’s death satisfied God’s righteous demands. He no longer holds our sins against us, because His own Son paid the penalty for them. We are freed from the slave market of sin, never to be enslaved again!
Placing Your Faith in Christ
These four truths describe how God has provided a way to Himself through Jesus Christ. Because the price has been paid in full by God, we must respond to His free gift of eternal life in total faith and confidence in Him to save us. We must step forward into the relationship with God that He has prepared for us—not by doing good works or being a good person, but by coming to Him just as we are and accepting His justification and redemption by faith.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We accept God’s gift of salvation simply by placing our faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins. Would you like to enter a relationship with your Creator by trusting in Christ as your Savior? If so, here’s a simple prayer you can use to express your faith:
I know that my sin has put a barrier between You and me. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die in my place. I trust in Jesus alone to forgive my sins, and I accept His gift of eternal life. I ask Jesus to be my personal Savior and the Lord of my life. Thank You. In Jesus’s name, amen.
If you’ve prayed this prayer or one like it and you wish to find out more about knowing God and His plan for you in the Bible, let us know and check out a great database for resources at insight.org.