"The Lord doesn't seem real to me right now. He feels distant, and my heart feels cold. How can I regain My relationship with Jesus?"
"Please help me! I've messed up my life so badly that I'm not sure the Lord really wants me back. How can I find my way back to Jesus?"
The answer to these questions for any baptized believer is an absolute, "YES!"
No matter how far you've strayed, no matter how cold your heart may have grown, no matter how deep your grief, no matter how much you've messed up, no matter how tired you are, and no matter how lifeless your spiritual yearnings feel, Jesus is waiting for you! Remember what he said?
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).
We forget that this promise was made to disciples whose faith and spiritual lives had grown "lukewarm" (Revelation 3:16). Jesus' promise is for us and is especially important to remember when the Lord feels distant. He always stands at the door waiting for us to invite Him inside.
But, how do we open that door? How do we invite Jesus to brighten our table and have fellowship with us each day? How do we get started on rebuilding this relationship with Jesus — a relationship He yearns to have with us?
DON'T GIVE UP
Don't give up on having a vibrant relationship with Jesus. Don't just settle for knowledge about Him. Come to truly know Him — to experience Him as a real person in your life. Jesus said this "knowing" Him, this experience of His presence, is the key to eternal life — a life-long relationship that begins now and lasts forever (John 17:3).
When we are in crisis and can't seem to find Jesus in our lives, we want an immediate fix. Let's remember it took awhile to get into this situation. It took time for our hearts gradually to grow cold to Jesus' presence. Likewise, it may also take a little time to regain our sense of the Lord's intimate presence.
Remember, the distance we feel from Jesus is more about how we feel than where the Lord actually is. Jesus promised that He will never forsake us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:32-39). Sometimes we can lose sight of His presence in our lives because we have not focused on Him. However, we must not give in to despair. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5). He longs to be a part of our lives (Revelation 3:20). So let's seek after Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). He promised that if we seek Him, we will find Him and He will be real to us (Matthew 7:7-11). [I strongly encourage you to click on the scripture references in this paragraph, or let your mouse hover over them for the popup window, and read these verses several times and seize upon their promises!]
SPEND TIME WITH JESUS EACH DAY
To deepen any relationship, we must spend time together. But, how do we do this with Jesus? After all, Jesus lived a long time ago, and we can only learn about Him from an old book! How can He be real to us in our time, in our "here and now"?
I rely on some daily practices that also have blessed many others with a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Read them in this order: Mark, John, Luke, Matthew. These four gospels tell the good news story of Jesus' life. That means that each quarter, you can read through all four gospels. In a year, you will have read them four times.
Before you read your daily chapter, pray something like the following:
Remember your goal in reading:
You are not reading to check off a certain number of chapters in a year. You are reading to get to know Jesus more intimately. If you get behind, don't try to catch up and read a bunch of chapters. You are committing to spend time with Jesus each day. Knowing Jesus is like growing any other relationship. It takes intentional time to deepen that relationship. Doing this daily is important. Don't rush it.
As you read the appropriate chapter, listen to the Lord's voice:
What does Jesus want you to know from this chapter? You may find several new or important ideas, but try to hear the one primary message the Lord wants you to hear for your day. If that is hard for you, say out loud, "Lord Jesus, what do you want me to know from what I read today?" (Many have discovered that keeping a journal or using a digital calendar or a notes app is helpful in keeping track of our deepening relationship and writing down what Jesus wants us to "know"!)
Go through the chapter a second time focusing on what Jesus wants you to feel:
You don't have re-read the whole chapter again word-for-word, but think through what you have read. Let your eyes and heart wander over the paragraphs and notice what the Spirit has helped you feel more passionately. Write down what you believe Jesus wants you to feel about what you have read.
Think through the message a third time noticing what Jesus wants you to do:
What do you need to put into practice in your life today? Write down what Jesus wants you to put into practice. Share it with a Christian friend. Then, do it.
By the end of the year, you will know Jesus much more intimately if you read and seek to know Him daily! But please remember, your goal is NOT to get more information or input more data about Jesus in your brain. More knowledge about Jesus is good. Knowing Jesus is essential. Our faith isn't just about what we put into our heads. You want to get to know Him! You want Jesus to be real to you. You want to feel His presence and be able to know what He is saying to you, feel what He feels, and do what He wants you to do. Our faith involves what we know in our heads, what we feel in our hearts, and what we do with our hands!
This daily practice of opening the door to Jesus and inviting Him in may be hard at first. New spiritual routines are not easy to establish in our busy lifestyles. However, you will feel more comfortable doing it as it becomes a part of your daily schedule. As you speak with Jesus, as you listen and wait for those things He is showing to you, you will recognize that you are not alone in your daily time with Jesus. The Lord is there with you. He has entered the door you opened up for Him to enter. He is present with you. He is alive in you through the Holy Spirit.
I believe if you invest some special time each day over this New Year, by this time next year, you will be amazed at how much more real Jesus is to you. Knowing Jesus and being transformed to be like Him doesn't happen overnight. But, this transformation will happen (2 Corinthians 3:18) if we will listen for the Lord's knock at the door of our hearts and we open that door and invite Him to share life with us!
Next week we will look at the Gospel of Matthew and the ways Jesus promises to meet us in our daily lives as we live for Him.
Heartlight.org offers all sorts of daily resources to help you in your walk with Jesus — available both online and through free daily email. These also come with scripture graphics for you to share on social media, pass on to friends through email, or to save as your personal faith-reminders. Here are a just a few you might find helpful:
- What Jesus Did! — A daily devotional that will take us through the Gospel of John in 2018. Each day focuses on a verse or so from John's story of Jesus, contains a short reflection, accompanied by a scripture graphic, and closes with a prayer.
- A Year with Jesus — A year-long journey with Jesus through the New Testament. The series is a longer and more involved daily devotional for those who want to go deeper with Jesus to see how the whole New Testament is connected with His call for us to be His disciples.
- Verse of the Day — a daily devotional that is like a spiritual vitamin. This short devotional containing a verse, a short reflection, scripture graphic, and a prayer is read by half a million people each day and has a lively community of fellow believers who comment and support each other in their walk of faith.
- Spiritual Warfare — A daily verse, scripture graphic, and prayer that focuses on God's power for our daily battles.