By Beth Doohan & Jenni Walker
“Then He (Jesus) asked them, ‘But who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” ~Matthew 16:15-16
“Jesus told him [Thomas], ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.’” ~John 14:6
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Did you know that much of the New Testament was written by a man who did not even know God for much of his early life? He thought he did, but it was not until he had a radical encounter with Jesus that he was saved and truly came to know and have a real relationship with God. It is through many of this man’s epistles in the Bible that the Lord reveals Himself to us even today!
We know him today as the apostle Paul. His conversion story is described in Acts 9, saying: “Meanwhile, Saul [name changed afterward to Paul] was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains…
“As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’…Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God!'” (Acts 9:1-6, 19-20)
In the Bible, God is described with many different names, attributes and descriptions. No doubt when you became a Christian, it was because your understanding of who God is and your need for Him became clear. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”
God is the One who reveals Himself to us and draws us unto Him. It is His Holy Spirit who works in every heart that comes to Him when He calls them with a revelation deeper than any other experience that says, The Lord is real; the Lord is God. Like the apostle Paul, that revelation beckons a wholehearted response that essentially says, Lord, I make You my King and Savior, I repent of my sins and ask for Your forgiveness to cleanse me and make me like You. From this day forward, I am surrendered to You. At this joyous moment, the angels in Heaven literally rejoice (Luke 15:10)! Halleluiah!
Then comes a brand new life in Christ, being sanctified and renewed into His character and likeness. But unlike our salvation, which is automatic upon repentance, our sanctification is a process that lasts our entire lives (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Sound daunting? It is a bit, but remember that as we are renewed, we grow in deeper knowledge and understanding of our amazing God who created us to worship Him, who forgives us when we sin, and who gave His own Son that we might live in relationship with Him eternally.
So let me ask you, who is God to you? He may be your Savior, but is He also your Father? He may be your Lord, but is He also Your Confidant? How have you experienced His comfort, His faithfulness, His justice, His grace? Are you seeking Him every day, or only when you need Him? When He speaks to your heart, do you actually listen and obey?
In Matthew 16, Jesus was teaching His disciples and asked them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” His followers shared that some thought He was Elijah, John the Baptist, or another prophet. At this, Jesus asked, “But who do you say I am?” Peter responded in verse 16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” How Jesus’ heart must have thrilled to hear those words! Peter understood! The Holy Spirit had revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah! Then, Jesus lovingly replies: “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in Heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being,” meaning the Holy Spirit had given understanding of who Jesus is (verses 13-17).
From that day forward, Peter and the disciples entered a new chapter in their lives. They had believed in God, they had come to know Jesus as a friend, and now understood Him to be Lord and Savior, the Son of the living God. This changed the way Jesus spoke with them, revealing deeper understanding and spiritual insight for how they should live. It drew them to a place of deeper trust and relationship with Him. This also led the disciples later to become emboldened by the Holy Spirit to teach as apostles in the early Christian church. Would these things have been possible had they not understood Jesus’ whole character and their hearts responded in full surrender to Him? The answer: never.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that someone who gives their heart to Jesus in one area while withholding part of their heart or struggling with sin in another area can never be used by God. But the more fully we surrender to His lordship, the more we understand His character and allow His Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds. This leads to greater influence and wholeness as He draws us closer to Himself and helps us walk out His calling for us.
Donna Otto of the Modern Homemakers podcast says, “How much you love God and how you love God are your choice” (Episode “Sermon on the Mount ~ Sand and Rock”). The Lord is the One who reveals Himself to us and draws us to repentance through His gift of grace. But the depth and beauty we experience in our relationship with God very much depend on how much of our hearts we are willing to give Him. Will you give Him your whole heart today? When He beckons, “Come and talk with Me,” will our hearts respond, “Lord, I am coming!” (Psalm 27:8) When He asks, “Whom can I send?” to do His work, will our hearts respond, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8) When He convicts us of wrongdoing, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed?” will our hearts in humility respond “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13)?
In the next few posts, we will explore four roles of God: Savior, Father, Lord and Confidant. There are many roles which encompass God’s character, but these ones give us a beautiful picture of the biblical heart response He desires for us to have when we encounter Him. The depth of love we experience in our ongoing relationship with God begins with a choice to allow His sanctifying work to continue in and through us each day. It involves with knowing His character through His Word, surrendering our hearts fully to Him, and allowing the Holy Spirit to help us understand and draw us close to Him. As the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:19, we pray, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Amen!