What can I do to build a closer relationship with God?
Building a relationship with God is very similar to building a relationship with any person. We need to spend time talking with them and listening to them, adjust our behavior and attitudes as necessary, spend time with them and others who are doing the same thing, and do what we need to do to mend the relationship when it is broken. Of course, there are some differences between our relationship with God and our relationship with another human being because God is not just another human being.
So how do we spend time talking with God and listening to God? We talk to God through prayer. When we pray, we are voicing our thoughts to God. He already knows our thoughts, but by voicing those thoughts, we are doing more than just acknowledging His knowledge; we are actually building that relationship we desire. When we pray, we should also include some time for Him to communicate with us. This is often through Him bringing to mind that which we have learned from the Bible, His revelation to us. This makes it doubly important that we spend time reading the Bible. The Bible is where God revealed Himself to us, so reading His Word is listening to Him. The Holy Spirit will reveal to us what God is saying through His Word. Through prayer and Bible reading, we speak to God and listen to Him.
Just as in relationships with other human beings, our behavior can get in the way of our relationship with God. He has told us in His Word what behavior is acceptable to Him and what behavior is not. When we study His Word, we learn what is acceptable and what is not. Unlike we find in our relationships with other human beings, though, with God there is no compromise between what He accepts and what He doesn't. This is one of the differences referred to above. On some issues, God's commands are very clear. For example, we are told to love one another (John 13:34). On other issues, God doesn't command, but we have guidelines. For example, we are told we should not cause others to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13), but this is largely left to interpretation as to how it precisely applies in a given personal situation. For that interpretation, we need to spend more effort reading and studying God's Word. By conforming our lives and behavior to His commands, we can build our relationship with God.
A third way we can build our relationship with God is to spend time with Him and others who are doing the same thing. This is commonly referred to as having "fellowship" with other believers. This includes corporate worship, finding a local body of believers to join with in worship and adoration of God. The believers in Acts "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). Hebrews 10:24–25 encourages, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Spending time with other believers is mutually encouraging. We do it in obedience to God as well as to spur us on to obedience, to provide opportunity to love one another, to learn God's Word and His ways, to reflect Him to the world (John 13:34-35), and to help build our personal relationship with God.
If we truly want to build a close relationship with someone, we must do what we need to do to mend the relationship when it is broken. It is no different in our relationship with God, except the reason for the broken relationship is always on our side. The main reason our relationship with God gets broken is that we sin. But the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:9 that God will be faithful to forgive our sin and make us righteous again if we confess our sin (that is, agree with God that it is sin). When our sin is no longer in the way of our relationship with Him, God will have the close relationship with us that He wants and we are seeking.
When we spend time in prayer and studying the Word, when we modify our attitudes and behaviors to match His Word, when we spend time with God and others of His people, when we confess our sin as soon as we are made aware of it, we will find that our relationship with God gets closer and stronger.
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