Does your view of God match who the Bible says he is?
The priests didn’t ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ The people who know the teachings didn’t know me. Jeremiah 2:8 NCV
It’s dangerous to know God’s teachings without knowing God. This is what had happened to the people in the prophet Jeremiah’s time; they knew God’s laws, but didn’t really know God. They didn’t believe he would come through for them, and didn’t trust, love, or rely on God. As a result, their faith became nothing more than an empty ritual (Jeremiah 7:8-10), and their hearts eventually turned away from God completely.
I’ve found myself in this spot many times: going through the motions of being a Christian, without even a thought of God. At times, my relationship with God has been so completely replaced by rules, rituals, and what people think of me that I’ve wondered if I could ever get my heart for God back. If you find yourself in this spot, know this: God is deeply moved by those who humble themselves and come close to him, no matter how far away you may feel:
“While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He was filled with tender love for his son. He ran to him. He threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NIrV
In this study, we’ll take a few steps in the journey of discovering God to get to know how kind and loving he really is.
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Step 1: Find Your Knots
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ Hosea 10:12 NLT
You can’t get close to God (or anyone, for that matter) with a hard heart. If you want to get to know God, you will have to get to know some things about yourself too. I call this process “Finding your knots.”
Most of us are familiar with muscle knots – hard, painful lumps in our muscles that can be difficult to remove. Muscle knots form over time and are often caused by inactivity; if you let your muscles stay in the same position too long, the fibers start to stick together and form clumps..
Sometimes our hearts get knots just like our muscles do. If we let painful emotions like fear and guilt sit in our hearts, they will eventually form hard lumps that prevent us from connecting with and trusting God.
One of the emotions that causes knots in my heart is a deep fear of rejection. Not dealing with this fear of rejection has led me to lie about what I think and feel and become consumed with the approval of other people. To be close to God, I have to deal with this knot by talking about it, praying about it, and finding Scriptures that push it out of my heart.
What takes up room in your heart?
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.Psalm 10:4 NIV
If you don’t let God take the knots out of your heart, you’ll look for other ways to find relief. Your thoughts will become so busy searching for security and acceptance you won’t have any room for God.
I think this is why the Bible says that we have to plow up any hard ground in our hearts before we can truly seek God and experience his love. If we don’t “find our knots,” we’ll make only superficial behavior changes without letting God’s Word deeply penetrate our hearts and change us from the inside out.
- What are some of the deep “knots” in your heart that stop you from trusting and seeking God?
- Where have you turned to make the pain of your “knots” go away?
Step 2: Admit Your Need
There were some people who thought they were very good and looked down on everyone else. Jesus used this story to teach them:  “One time there was a Pharisee and a tax collector. One day they both went to the Temple to pray.  The Pharisee stood alone, away from the tax collector. When the Pharisee prayed, he said, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not as bad as other people. I am not like men who steal, cheat, or commit adultery. I thank you that I am better than this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of everything I get!’
“The tax collector stood alone too. But when he prayed, he would not even look up to heaven. He felt very humble before God. He said, ‘O God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner!’  I tell you, when this man finished his prayer and went home, he was right with God. But the Pharisee, who felt that he was better than others, was not right with God. People who make themselves important will be made humble. But those who make themselves humble will be made important.” Luke 18:9-14 ERV
You can’t get to know God unless you are willing to admit you need him.
The tax collector in this story had some knots in his heart. He felt guilty. Perhaps he had been dishonest and greedy. He felt unworthy. But he humbled himself before God, and was willing to admit who he really was and that he needed mercy. As a result, he learned firsthand how merciful God is.
The Pharisee, on the other hand, probably also had some knots in his heart, but chose to avoid them. He only filled his mind with himself and the ways he thought he was better than other people. He didn’t admit any sins of his own, and so he couldn’t really feel God’s mercy.
- Do you humble yourself before God, or do you hide and make excuses for your sin to make yourself feel better?
- What guilt do you need to humbly talk to God about?
Step 3: Put in Some Work
Have you ever had a one-sided friendship? Where you were always the one calling or texting or initiating hang out time? It probably didn’t feel too good. Yet, that’s how we make God feel when we don’t put in effort to get to know him or be his friend.
Then they asked him, “What does God want from us? What works does he want us to do?”  Jesus answered, “God’s work is to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29 NIrV
The work God wants us to do is not rule-following – it’s believing. God wants us to put spiritual work into believing in him and believing he sent Jesus to take away our sins so we can be close to him.
If you have a negative view of God, ask yourself this question: How much spiritual work have you done to change your mind?
Let God change your mind
You can’t be friends with God unless you are willing to put some effort into getting to know him.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 NKJV
The way we get faith is by hearing God’s Word. You have to read the Bible if you want to get to know God.
I do not wake up in the morning full of faith and vision and love. Instead, I wake up every day in my natural state of unbelief, fleshliness, anxiety, and sin. I have to work on my friendship with God. I have to get a lot of Bible in my mind to drive out all that other stuff and start having faith in God.
- How much work have you been putting in to your friendship with God? Have you been reading enough of the Bible daily to get to know him and praying vulnerably about your heart?
- Do you talk to God when you are feeling anxious and afraid, to give him opportunities to show you he cares about you?
- How much do you read or listen to your Bible each day? Have you been giving God your best effort?
God gives me strength for the battle. He keeps my way secure.  LORD, you are like a shield that keeps me safe. Your strong right hand keeps me going. Your help has made me great. Psalm 18:32,35 NIrV
God gives us strength and keeps us secure. He is the best friend we could ever have. His strength will keep you going and his help will make you great. Decide to start working hard on your relationship with God and your faith in him. You won’t be disappointed!