Is God real to you? This might seem like an easy question to anyone who pursues Biblical knowledge or who come together to worship Him every week. The question, however, is not one of belief in existence. Rather, is God real to you? There is a difference between acknowledgement of theoretical existence and application of reality. We are a culture of the virtual – things that look real but are not. Has God been reduced to a theoretical exercise among those who would claim to be His followers?
Why and How God Becomes Theoretical
Why does God become less real to us? Why has He become virtually real instead of actually real? In everyday life, we learn to rely on ourselves, and, ultimately, we feel accountable to ourselves and ourselves alone. Our money goes to our priorities, and our actions have no consequences beyond the immediate ones we can see. We wrestle with these realities of our life that make God seem less and less real to us – reducing Him to the theoretical.
- Selfishness. In Romans 1, Paul makes the argument that all need God and the gospel. He claims, in verse 21, that all knew God at one time, but their own selfishness drives them away from God. Verse 28 sums up that they refused God, so God gave them up. He will not force us to follow His will, and our self-centeredness can lead us away from His reality. We can look to what we have accomplished, relying on our own selves rather than on God.
- Worldly Interests. I John 2:15-17 reminds us of the dangers involved in loving the things of this world. God ceases to be real to us when we begin believing that our happiness and our fulfillment come from this life. Things in this world can indeed make us happy for a while, but those joys are fleeting. They are replaced when new things come along. We wear ourselves out pursuing the temporary while neglecting the eternal.
- Priorities & Time. We grow too busy for God, pushing Him further and further down our list of priorities, and we spend less and less time looking for Him and praying to Him. When is the last time you or I honestly and sincerely prayed? When was the time before that.
Making God Real Again
Philippians 4:19 records Paul calling God his own. He refers to “my God.” In redeeming us from our sins, God has made us His, and He is ours. Paul, in Romans 5, appeals to God’s love for that close relationship, understanding in verses 6-10 that God’s love for him is gracious and unmerited by him. God was neither virtual or theoretical to Paul. God knew Paul, and Paul knew God. God knows us as well, and we should strive to be as close to Him as Paul. God loves each one of us without reservation. In Galatians 2:20, Paul knows the love of God through the sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice through which he gives himself up in love.
In Philippians, Paul says “my God will supply.” He demonstrates a belief that God is active and interested in his life. Philippians 4:5 records Paul writing that the Lord is at hand, and we often apply this to the Second Coming, but the context points instead to a nearness of God, a readiness to help. Romans 8:28, Colossians 1:16-17 – these show a confidence by Paul in God’s interest in his life. God has a direction for my life, and He is an active God. When we say, “If the Lord wills,” we sometimes treat it as a concession. When Paul speaks of God’s will, He expresses confidence in God’s providential control.
II Corinthians 9:10, Acts 14:17, Matthew 7:26 – these verses and more express God’s interest in His creation. Philippians 4:6 reminds us to take everything to God, and I Peter 5:6-7 tells us to humble ourselves before God, casting all of our anxiety upon our caring God. Look at the life of Christ – what did He do that was not for the benefit of others? He prays for others’ needs; He heals others; He relieves others’ burdens. Each time Jesus intercedes for others, His intervention is specific and necessary. We can hope for as much from a God that is real to us and active in our lives.
lesson by Tim Smelser