Sometimes I’m amazed at how dense I can be! I’ve been reading the Bible regularly for the past 40 years, but it was only yesterday that something so elementary struck me that I wondered where my head had been the past four decades.
I’ve been bothered recently by what a raw deal God usually gets. In many of the books I’ve read and the television shows and movies I’ve watched, it seems that whenever God comes up, He is portrayed as hard and unyielding, even mean. I was getting tired of this portrayal because it simply doesn’t match up with the God I know. At the same time, I admit that I have myself also occasionally wondered about God’s goodness—not so much whether He was good, but rather if I was the only one somehow missing out on it. But even when battling with my own questions about God’s justness, I knew that these other portrayals were grossly unfair.
Jesus told His followers that He would “send the Promise of the Father” upon them, so they would be “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). If you have received Jesus as your Savior, if you have been “born again of the Spirit,” then you have already received a little of that Holy Spirit power. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve received the full measure of the Holy Spirit. This is usually a separate experience that happens later.
A glass of water makes a good illustration. If the glass has at least some water in it, you could say that it’s a glass of water, even though it’s not a full glass. Many Christians are like glasses with just a little water, a bit of God’s Spirit. But those who have prayed for an infilling of the Holy Spirit are like glasses that have been filled till they overflow.
I don't love you for what you are or what you aren't. I don't love you for who you are. I don't love you for how much you do or how well you do it. I don't love you for how little you sin and mess up, or for how much you do the right thing. I simply love you—no strings attached. That truth may be hard to grasp, but once you do, everything in your life will take on new meaning and new depth, a new reality. You are complete because you are loved. You are free because you are loved. You are able to love others truly because you are loved completely and unconditionally.
I didn’t decide to love you based on your love for Me or on what you do for Me. I loved you before there was any of that, before you took your first breath.
Chapter 1: Christ, the Son of God
Chapter 2: Christ, the Son of Man
Chapter 3: Christ, the divine teacher
Chapter 4: Christ, the soul winner
Chapter 5: Christ, the Great Physician
Chapter 6: Christ, the Bread of Life
Chapter 7: Christ, the Water of Life
That age-old question is being asked less and less these days. Some people don’t ask because they’re so wrapped up in satisfying their material needs and desires that they never stop to consider their spiritual needs. Others don’t ask because they’re afraid they won’t like the answer. And some don’t ask because they don’t believe that there is an answer; their inborn hunger for truth has been dulled by the skepticism and notion of “relative morality” that pervade modern thought.
Something that I find particularly wonderful about Jesus is that His life-transforming gift of salvation is freely given to anyone who simply asks for it with a sincere and believing heart. One’s level of understanding of Christian doctrine may be minimal, but if the heart is hungry, if it is seeking a relationship with God, then the heart will find God—clearly, definitely, and freely—through receiving Jesus as Savior. Salvation is simple; it’s a gift. You reach out, receive it, and it’s yours.
I was 20 when I first read the gospels. That was also when I began to form my own thoughts about God and Jesus. Until then my beliefs had been sketchy at best and based on things I'd heard others say. The truth was that I’d never given the subject any real thought.
As I read, most of it was so new that it made little sense. I didn’t understand it, but it drew me in a strange new direction. I couldn’t say I believed it, but I wanted to. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a world where miracles actually happen, where wrongs are challenged, the weak and downtrodden are defended, and love has the last word? Things Jesus said, like, “If you abide in My word … you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,”1 kept me going back for more. I read all four gospels and started over at Matthew.
I have come to realize that God takes His time. Perhaps that comes from being eternal. He has all the time in the world, so why should He hurry?
God is an investor, not a speculator. He doesn’t “buy” something today with the intention of “selling” it tomorrow. Sure, He wants to get high returns on His investments, but He can wait a very long time if need be. He invests in people, and He doesn’t seem to mind the time it takes for that investment to pay off. Knowing the future also comes in handy, no doubt.
The Bible is a rich storehouse of spiritual and practical advice, and examples of strong relationships are one of the recurrent themes. In fact, Martin Luther commented that the entire Christian life consists of relating to people around us.1
So what can we learn from the Bible about how to succeed with people?