Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
~ 1 John 3:1-3 ~
We should earnestly seek not just to know about the Master, but to strive, as He invited, to be one with Him (see John 17:21), to “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). We may not feel a closeness with Him because we think of Him as being far away, or our relationship may not be sanctifying because we do not think of Him as a real person.
~ James E. Faust – A Personal Relationship with the Savior, October 1976 General Conference ~
Sometime in the 1990’s the Evangelical Christian Movement appeared to develop this worldview that Christianity is not based on any religious piety but on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And it is still something that is spoken of today. The idea behind this cliche is that God wants to develop a real and meaningful relationship with someone that is based on Christ’s sacrifice. That by being born again is not about joining any religious movement or denomination – it is about a real and intimate relationship with Christ. It is based on the question: Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?
As awkward as that question may have been the first time I heard it – there is some spiritual truth behind it. How we view Christ determines the type of relationship we may have with him. And that relationship also determines our relationship we have with our Heavenly Father.
The call for us to go forward in faith and purpose is a call for us to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with Christ. To come to know him and our Heavenly Father (John 17:3). And how we come to know Christ, and our Heavenly Father, so that we develop our relationship with them is based on understanding and realizing we are children of God, how we approach our heavenly father in prayer, our willingness to repent and forgive, and our devotion to hearing, listening, and doing those things our Heavenly Father has commanded us as essential principles of an obedient life.
James E. Faust outlines five essential measures whereby we are able to experience a daily flow of living water through our personal relationship with Christ.
First: A daily communion involving prayer: A fervent, sincere prayer is a two-way communication which will do much to bring His Spirit flowing like healing water to help with the trials, hardships, aches, and pains we all face. What is the quality of our secret prayers when only He listens? As we pray, we should think of Him as being close by, full of knowledge, understanding, love, and compassion, the essence of power, and as having great expectations of each of us.
I am reminded of the saying that when we go through hard times – we truly see who really stands with us and who abandons us. A personal relationship with the Savior, and our Heavenly Father, means we trust in knowing that He will be there for us in times of need. In order for us to build our trust in God, we must commit ourselves over to prayer. I also recall a story I have heard on multiple occasions:
A minister passing through his church in the middle of the day, decided to pause by the alter and see who had come to pray.
Just then the back door opened, a man came down the aisle, the minister frowned as he saw the man hadn’t shaved in while. His shirt was kinda shabby and his coat was worn and frayed. The man knelt, bowed his head, then rose and walked away.
In the days that followed, each noon time came this chap, each time he knelt just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap. Well, the minister’s suspicions grew, with robbery a main fear, he decided to stop the man and ask him, “what are you doing here?”
The old man said, he worked down the road and lunch were only half-an hour. Lunchtime was his prayer time. For finding strength and power.
“I stay only moments, see, because the factory is so far away; as I kneel here talking to the Lord, this is kinda what I say: I just came again to tell you, Lord, how happy I’ve been, since we found each other’s friendship and you took away my sin. Don’t know much of how to pray but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is Jim, checking in today.
The minister felt foolish, told Jim, that was fine. He told the man he was welcome to come and pray just anytime. Time to go and Jim smiled, offered thanks. He hurried to the door. The minister knelt at the altar he’d never done it before. His cold heart melted, warmed with love and met with Jesus there. As the tears flowed, in his heart, he repeated old Jims prayer:
“I just came again to tell you, Lord, how happy I’ve been, since we found each other’s friendship and you took away my sin. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is me checking in today.”
Past noon one day, the minister noticed that old Jim hadn’t come. As more days passed without Jim, he began to worry some. At the factory, he asked about him, learning he was ill. The hospital staff was worried, but he’d given them a thrill.
The week that Jim was with them, brought changes in the ward. His smiles, a joy contagious changed people, were his reward. The head nurse couldn’t understand why Jim was so glad, when no flowers, calls or cards came, not a visitor he had.
The minister stayed by his bed. He voiced the nurse’s concern: no friends came to show they cared. He had nowhere to turn. Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up and with a winsome smile; “The nurse is wrong, she couldn’t know that in here all the while every day at noon He’s here, a dear friend of mine, you see, He sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me:
“I just came again to tell you, Jim, how happy I have been. Since we found this friendship and I took away your sin. Always love to hear you pray, I think about you each day, and so Jim, this is Jesus checking in today.”
Going forward into the new year with faith and purpose means that we are committing ourselves over to meaningful prayer. To check in with our Heavenly Father. To share our burdens, worries, cares, and even express our very gratitude for the blessings received. It is through prayer where we come to know who Christ is. It is through prayer we come to know who our Heavenly Father is. It is through prayer where we receive inspiration and personal revelation by the Holy Spirit. And it is not the most profound, linguistic, and eloquent language we are able to muster. It is in the simple prayer where we speak to our Heavenly Father as one who speaks to a friend.
Second: A daily selfless service to another. The followers of the divine Christ have to be weighed on the scales of what their actions are rather than on solemn professions of belief. The true measure is found in Matthew: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these …, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40).
We are to commit our lives and hearts over to charity. To show kindness, empathy, compassion, and the love of God through ministering. Whether it is giving of our time, talents, money – we are to engage in ministering to all the needs as moved upon by the Holy Spirit. For, if we turn away our hand of ministering to others, we are merely turning away Christ. Yet, how many of us have said – go and pray that God will provide? How many of us have received such shallow platitude from fellow Christians? From fellow members of our ward?
Third: A daily striving for an increased obedience and perfection in our lives “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am,” Said the Savior (3 Nephi 27:27). Because of the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ, just men may be made perfect (D&C 76:69).
The call for us to come unto Christ and to follow after him means we are striving to discipline our lives to be more Christ-like. We are to become a light as he is the light. We are to become love as he is love. We are to become perfect as he is perfect. And it is a progress of spiritual refinement. It is also how we develop a close, intimate and personal relationship with Christ because as we grow in Christ – we are being perfected in Him as well.
Fourth: A daily acknowledgement of His divinity. To have a daily personal relationship with the Master, we must be his disciples. “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13).
We worship and acknowledge who Christ is, and who our Heavenly Father is, if we so choose to serve Him? Through our faithful obedience, we come to love, trust, and place our faith in our Heavenly Father where we are no longer strangers. The thoughts and intents of our heart are those thoughts and intents of the heart of the father. We strive to daily acknowledge who Christ is by living in the manner of how Christ lived.
Fifth: a daily study of the scriptures. President Kimball has said: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.” (“What I hope You will Teach My Grandchildren …” address to seminary and institute personnel, July 11, 1966).
Immersing ourselves in studying and meditating up the scriptures helps gives us the instructions we need for living an authentic, vibrant, and faithful Christian life. It also helps us draw closer to our Heavenly Father for we discover who Christ is. We discover who the father is. We also discover who we are. Through scripture reading and studying we come to know God’s will and purpose for ourselves. We are able to apply the scriptures into our lives as we liken them unto us.
In this life we are going to face many challenges. The Children of Israel – being brought forth from bondage – were going to experience hardship and afflictions within the desert wilderness. Despite all that we may face – here are the encouraging words of Faust:
In the many trials of life, when we feel abandoned and when sorrow, sin, disappointment, failure, and weakness make us less than we should ever be, there can come the healing salve of the unreserved love in the grace of God. It is a love that forgives and forgets, a love that lifts and blesses. It is a love that sustains a new beginning on a higher level and thereby continues “from grace to grace.” (D&C 93:13.)
All we need to do to develop a relationship with Christ is to continually seek him. To follow him, to exemplify him in our daily lives. Regardless of what we have experienced in the past, our faith and hope rests upon the one who has already overcome the world.
No matter what has occurred in the past year. No matter what has occurred within the past few months, or over the course of a few years. The call to go forward with faith and purpose is an invitation for each one of us to develop an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Without this relationship, our faith dwindles. Our efforts become obstacles and barriers, and we become weak minded. Let us draw strength from the wellspring of truth, the living waters, that is Jesus Christ. Let us say with conviction in our hearts, mind, body, and soul that we know who Christ is – Son of the Living God and then move out and live the example he has established for us.
Meditate and Ponder
What does it mean for you to have a genuine and personal relationship with Christ? With our Heavenly Father? What does that look like for you? What is preventing you from seeking a relationship? How committed are you to go forward with faith and purpose in praying more effectively? Going forward with faith and purpose in reading, meditating, and studying the scriptures? Are you willing to go forward with faith and purpose to forgive those who have trespassed against you? How committed are you to show kindness, compassion, and charity through serving and ministering to others?