Updated: Jun 27
The best way to know God is to hang out with Him. Whatever you've heard, whatever you think you know is dwarfed by the experience of being in His presence.
I have seen a growing number of young people walking away from God. The problem is often they are walking away from what they think God is. They walk away from unkind Christians, judgmental and arrogant people who condescend in the name of God, what other people told them God is, or religious institutions that have gone awry, but all these things are devoid of true first-hand knowledge of the Lord himself.
There are a few distortions that seem to be driving this exodus from a redemptive knowledge of the God. First is legalism. Unfortunately, there are several people who have used the Bible to thump others over the head. "Do this!" "Do that!" "You're terrible if...." Often these are people who like to have clear rules, and that is how they have found they can negotiate life. Sometimes they take it too far and forget about grace and relationships. God made you for relationship, and being a Christian is first and foremost being reunited and having a relationship with God. Another motivation, however, comes out of a desire to "one up" and claim greater significance and value than other people. This was directly addressed in the Bible and the Lord certainly frowns on it, Romans 3:9-20; Psalm 53:1-3 which demonstrates that we are all in the same boat. We all struggle. We all sin. (I will address the concept of sin in a later post as this too needs to be understood.) We are all separated from God by sin. So there is no room for someone to discompassionately condescend to others in the name of God. Actually, wouldn't this be a demonstration of their own need for God's grace as it demonstrates their sin of pride? Please, don't allow this experience to inform your perspective about the Lord. It misrepresents His character grossly.
A second distortion could be an experience you have had with a church, a Christian, or a Christian organization. I too have experienced tremendous hurt at the hands of those I trusted to be good Christians around me. I have to keep in mind, however, the prerequisites to Christianity. These people are sinners saved by grace. I hope and pray that they are growing in love and gentleness, and that their salvation is genuine. Only God knows their hearts and minds, and I will trust in Him to work in their hearts and minds that they may represent Him better. This is a journey we are all on in one way or another. As a Christian, we bear the name of Christ and as such, His presence in us should be evident and radiate out in all we do and say. We are poor reflections sometimes, so it is important to know God's character.
God's character was evidenced perfectly in the life of Jesus Christ. It is such a privilege to have had the Son of God walking around here on earth that we may see and know Him even more clearly. If you read through John, Matthew, Mark, and Luke (I do like reading them in that order) you get to see the walking and talking son of God do life, show compassion, perform astounding miracles, get angry with legalistic people himself, cry, become frustrated with His own disciples when they just didn't get it, become nervous as He faced death on the cross, and yet peacefully take it on because of His love for you. I would encourage you to read through those books of the Bible and notice the emotions of Christ. It all speaks to His character. I also encourage you to read John 16:20-26. It is Christ's prayer for you if you are a believer. You can substitute your name for where it says "them" in verses 21b-26.
As you read through scripture, don't be afraid to talk to God and pray honestly. It's ok. The Lord can take it. I was so encouraged when I came to find out that the name "Israel" means wrestles with God. In my humanity I don't understand everything God does or why He does it. I wrestle with it, and that brings me back to the Bible again. I don't just storm off angry. I seek truth and clarity. Normally, what I find is something so brilliant and so far surpassing my own presuppositions that I stand in awe of the Lord and fall into even greater love and admiration for Him.
Where you go on this journey is up to you. Just know if you seek Him, you will find Him.