Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedienc to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. Romans 4:13
My wife frequently reminds me that the most important issue in life is established in relationships. She values relationships more than anything else in life – and we all should do the same. Her insight gives much weight to this reflection on righteousness and its correlation to living an intimate, fully devoted, life changing relationship with God.
Many are alien, unfamiliar with God, and know nothing about Him. If only they could understand His desire is to have a profound relationship with them, it would change their life – for eternity and in their daily life. An abiding relationship with God endows one with an entirely different perspective of the purpose for living and changes the daily interaction we have with God and with others, including not only those we know, but also strangers we encounter on the pathway of life.
I often feel I do not have the depth of insight of the importance of relationships with others as that of my wife because of a strained relationship with my own father much of my life. I am not blaming my father; rather, I am confessing failure on my part to make an effort to build a bridge to a closer relationship with dad while he was still with us.
My dear wife is the one who has brought me to a place of beginning to understand the nature, quality and value of relationships. I often fall into the trap of the enemy using the old “take it or leave me alone attitude” when it comes to cultivating relationships with even closely loved ones. Thus, as I pondered on how families meet on special occasions to celebrate and spend time together, I am drawn to realize my need for a closer, intimate, enduring and blessed relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. Christ, through His grace, is drawing me by the Holy Spirit to give more of my heart, soul, mind, strength and energy to learn to know Him better as I read and endeavor to faithfully follow the instructions of the Bible, God’s infallible word, and spend quality time in prayer with Him.
As I was reading Genesis 18 during my daily devotion, I reflected on Abraham’s actions when he received special, uninvited guests as he camped on the plains at Mamre. There God personally promised Abraham and Sarah a son and then, almost immediately following the meal, began to speak about the special relationship He had with Abraham. As I read I begin the see the heart of Abraham regarding his relationship with God and his attitude toward others.
Following is the narrative of the interaction between God and Abraham immediately following God’s promise that a son would be born to him and Sarah in their old age. Two comments were made by the Lord. Abraham’s reaction and his request to the Lord intrigued me as I read the Scriptures. Notice the timing, the place and the communication in the relationship of Abraham and the Lord. (Please keep this thought in mind as you travel through life seeking spiritual guidance: if there is no communication, there is no relationship – especially between us and God. If you do not read the Bible and pray to God, how do you explain your relationship with God to others? My prayer is that it is not insincere, superficial or non-existent; rather, I pray it is a loving, profound, enjoyable daily walk with Christ.)
Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:16-25 NKJV (emphasis mine to enhance our understanding of their communication).
The Lord made the statement about His relationship with Abraham and then a statement about investigating the sins of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (concerning the lack of a relationship with them because sin separates man from God). You will note that there is no further inquiry from Abraham questioning God about a son; rather, he heard what the Lord said about sin, immediately drew near the Lord and he begin to appeal to the Lord to spare the cities for the sake of the righteous. He kept appealing to the Lord until he reached an agreement with the Lord if there were found to be only ten righteous people living in Sodom and Gomorrah that God would spare the people.
Then he (Abraham) said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He (the Lord), “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place (tent). (Genesis 18:32-33)
Abraham’s heart was in a right relationship with God. Because of this position of grace and favor, Abraham was not afraid to entreat the Lord to spare the people. He was not asking for the physical structure of the cities to be spared; he was asking, pleading, even begging for the lives of the people of the two cities to be spared for the sake of the righteous.
Genesis 19 gives us the effect of Abraham’s appeal for mercy. In the end, only four people left the city and only three survived the consequences of the sins of those two wicked cities. The Bible tells us modern society will become like Sodom and Gomorrah just prior to the return of Christ. Are we at the threshold of God’s judgment upon mankind for the sin of rejecting Christ and living the life of a hedonist
Abraham was concerned all night long. How do I know? Note his actions early the next morning and the place where he went to stand and look across the horizon. He may have prayed all night. He probably slept very little. We simply do not know. But we do see his heart was burdened and the attitude of his heart was for the welfare and life of others, not self-centered.
And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt. Genesis 19:27-29 NKJV
Abraham’s heart probably pounded with sorrow. He knew God is a righteous judge and would not lie or deceive him. His nephew, Lot was living in Sodom – the result of bad choices and had even earlier been taken captive in war. Abraham, Lot’s uncle, had mobilized 318 trained men who had been born into Abraham’s household and pursued the rebels, overtook them and returned Lot and all of the people back to Sodom (Genesis 14).
Yet in spite of his deliverance, Lot was like many who simply drift through life. Their choices, when they can muster the will to choose, tend to follow the course of least resistance. Throughout his life Lot was so caught up in the present moment that he seemed incapable of understanding consequences follow both righteous and unrighteous choices and actions made in life. Bad choices often result in terrible tragedies – often the direct result of failed relationships.
Had Lot maintained a close relationship with his uncle Abraham, his actions might have been different and his life might not have taken such an ugly turn for living in Sodom, the hotbed of sin. He had become so blended into the sinful culture of his day that he did not want to leave it. His drifting finally took him into disaster – destruction of his home, loss of his wife and left with two incestuous daughters. In spite of all this, God spared his life and even though Moab was born as a result of Lot’s incestuous relationship with one of his daughters, Ruth, a descendant of Moab was born, who was an ancestor of both King David and Jesus. God is capable of redeeming poor decisions and healing harmful relationships to bring glory to His name.
Eternal relationships are presented to us on the pathway of life. It is up to us to decide whether our relationship with Christ is important enough to invest time and energy into daily cultivating it in order that we might love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbor as we love our own soul.
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40 NKJV
I advocate that if we do not love our own soul enough to cultivate a meaningful relationship with Christ, we are incapable of loving others as Christ demands of His children. Our relationships without a Christ-centered life are shallow and generally self-centered without significance and we will leave no legacy of a walk with Christ for others to follow. Without Christ, it is impossible to walk through life with love in our heart. Left to our own devises, we are all prone to be like Lot, drifting through life without purpose.
Jesus gave a new commandment to Christ followers in John 13 to love one another so the world will know we are His disciples. The plan of God is to have more than a casual relationship between Himself and His people. He desires a deep, enduring, abiding relationship with all people, not just those of us who presently know Him. Why does He command us to love one another? So the world may see God’s love demonstrated in life and make the conscious choice required to enter into a relationship with Him!
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:11-13
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. John 15:16-17
God loves us and He commands those who have a relationship with Him to love others – including those who are outside the ark of safety, living life without Christ, bound in sin. They may be lonely, perhaps even know they are unloved and cast aside by humanity. They may be unlovable in the eyes of society but God loves them and commands us to love them and reach out to them. There are those who are empty and lonely even though it may appear they have many friends. While they may not appreciate the relationship we have with Christ, both groups of people are benefiting from it as Lot benefited from the relationship of Abraham with the Lord.
Many of the versions of the Bible do not specifically use the word “relationship” in their transition of the Hebrew and Greek language into English for our benefit as we read God’s Word. Please allow me to share some Scripture translations that use the word “relationship” to help us better understand God’s intentions and desire for a constant relationship with us. I am going to quote some from the New Living Translation.
You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. Exodus 34:14
These are the decrees, regulations, and instructions that the Lord gave through Moses on Mount Sinai as evidence of the relationship between himself and the Israelites. Leviticus 26:46
“If they say this, our descendants can reply, ‘Look at this copy of the Lord’s altar that our ancestors made. It is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices; it is a reminder of the relationship both of us have with the Lord.’ Joshua 22:28
I believe the NLT clarifies Joshau 22:28 more than other translations and enables the average reader to better understand what is being conveyed to us. In the time of Joshua, the replica of the altar if the Lord was a witness between Himself and the Israelites – the generation who build the replica and the future generation who would view it – a reminder of the relationship between the Israelites and God. Here is the New King James Version:
Therefore we said that it will be, when they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say, ‘Here is the replica of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, though not for burnt offerings nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between you and us.’ Joshua 22:28 NKJV
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21
Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. Romans 4:13
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:11
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18
So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. Colossians 1:28
Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son. 2 John 1:9
[The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon] When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. I Kings 10:1 NIV
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18 NIV
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:5 NIV
As you can read from my writings, I am not hung up on Bible translations. I use various translations of the Bible, prayerfully asking God to give me a greater and better understanding of my loving relationship with Him. There was no New Testament in the early church, so relax and help people come to faith by allowing the Holy Spirit to help them understand their need for Christ. Most important is my heart’s desire to clarify for those who do not understand the importance of a loving relationship with God that it is absolutely necessary for each of us to open up our heart and allow the presence of Almighty God, the Holy Spirit, to indwell us, abide with us and fill us with love for God and others. This is my heart’s desire and mission in writing and reflecting on God – to help others see and understand God loves them and that His purpose, plan and desire has always been, is today and will always be to have a personal relationship with every man and woman – from the time of the Garden of Eden to this present day.
Let us all be aware there are spiritually hungry people who are offended and fail to come to the knowledge of knowing Christ and many weak Christians fail to build a deep relationship with Him because Christians often fight with one another over trivial issues that do not bring life to relationships. To be more precise, trivial issues destroy and hinder the work of Christ. We are not to lay aside truth but unless the Bible is specific on a certain issue we are to tolerate difference on some subjects for the cause of Christ. Tolerance and acceptance were demonstrated by Christ during His time upon earth. He was accused of dining and spending time with the outcasts and sinners. He didn’t overlook sin – He confronted it. His life is the pattern for us to strive to live like He lived.
We are commanded over and over to love one another. Here are several passages concerning love written by men who had only the Old Testament as a reference. These men, writing as directed by the Holy Spirit, did not even know the English language existed. They wrote about the love of God. One can share the love of God and never own a Bible, so please do not get hung up on a translation argument. How do we explain the accuracy of translations of the Bible into the many languages of the world? Not everyone knows the English language. Let’s agree to break the bondage we may place upon others by demanding they follow our traditional practices not freedom in Christ. There are many arguments that do not honor and serve our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ makes all things new and fills us with His Spirit giving to us His love, grace, mercy, loving kindness and the fruit of the Spirit to live righteous lives in a personal, daily relationship with Him. Love must prevail in all things at all times. I fear I greatly fail in this matter.
[Love Your Neighbor] Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; I Thessalonians 4:9
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, I Peter 1:22
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, I John 3:11
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. I John 3:23
[Knowing God Through Love] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. I John 4:7
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11
[Seeing God Through Love] No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. I John 4:12
We have covered the commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love one another including our neighbor who may be as evil as anyone might encounter. We do not have a choice – we are commanded to love. This does not mean we are to accept, condone or support evil words and actions. We should not allow anyone to abuse or defraud us, but we must love them and pray for their soul to become open to receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. We are to respond in love with gentleness and meekness to all men. We are all fallible creatures. We need Christ. The only reason He went to the Cross in love was to bring us into an eternal relationship with Him.
For those who follow Christ, we are called to go and tell others about Jesus, who desires to enter into relationship with all men and women, boys and girls. We are to be ambassadors of Jesus with the greatest news in all the earth. Our message: Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, our Savior and Redeemer, Who Was, Who Is, Who is to come, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. The Alpha and Omega: the beginning and the end. Thus, our mission in life is a call to share the love of Christ to bring others into a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. Here is that commandment:
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16
Our going into the world and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is dependent upon our relationship with Christ. Abraham had a heart for those living in sin. He interceded for them. We should also. We are all sinners until we meet Christ and confess our sin. Then we must admit we are sinners saved by grace. And even following our initial confession of sin, we still fail and must ask for His forgiveness when we fail. All of us fail to be obedient to God all the time. We are humans – we will fail to please God at all times. There are no perfect Christians. It is by His grace and mercy that the Holy Spirit reveals our need for Christ to us. The requirement on our side of the relationship is to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, ask Him to forgive our sin and turn from a life of sin to follow Him and seek to be obedient to Him, in all things, at all times. As we attempt and do our best to please Him, He is faithful to forgive and credit righteousness to us – not our own righteousness – but the righteousness of Christ Jesus Himself. Therefore we are righteous because of a right standing with God – a relationship with Jesus. It is like the general ledger of accounting – Christ debits His righteousness to the set of books recording our life and credits (cancels) our sin. Therefore we stand in His presence with a spiritual bank account of righteousness. We have no ability to remove the debt of sin burdening our lives. Only Christ can cancel the penalty of sin. The more I love Him, the more I want to share Him with others.
He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psalm 24:5 NKJV
My prayer is that you have a relationship with Christ and have the desire and vision to love others and to tell them about Jesus because of the relationship you have with Him. We cannot go in our own strength or with our own wisdom. We go because we love Him and desire everyone to know Him and have a relationship with Him.