Today we are going to introduce the beginning of how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We are not talking about church attendance or religious activity.  We are talking about the kind of relationship that can transform you. Over the next several weeks, we will get more detailed about being in a relationship with Jesus. For example: What do you do when you have been deeply wounded in your past? What do you do when life is extremely painful? How do you deal with grief and loss in life?

Let’s get started. Three steps we take to be in a relationship with Jesus.

10 God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

In another translation, vs 12 says:

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. NIV

13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. MSG Ephesians 6:10-18

Paul is telling us something we already know. We are in a battle. We would call it a spiritual battle. We have an enemy and this enemy is coming to destroy us. The devil, the powers of this dark world and all the spiritual forces, are coming against us.

The apostle John called it ‘the beast’ in Revelations.

Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” NIV Revelation 13:4

For more on ‘the beast’ you must read through the book.

What Paul and John wrote, isn’t a surprise. Our own life experience tells us we are in a battle. Life is hard, very hard and it leaves us worn out. You and I are in a battle against this dark world, the spiritual forces, the beast. It’s a battle that we can’t win on our own.

Jesus told us:

Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. “Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.” TLB John 15:4-6

Do you see it? Jesus tells us that we must be in a personal relationship with Him. The dark world, the spiritual forces, the beast is trying to separate us from Jesus. How? The dark world, our culture, the beast is sending us messages in hopes we will believe them.

Here are nine messages that our world is sending us.

Happiness is found in having things.

You should get all you can for yourself, as quickly as you can.

Security is found in money, power, status, and good health.

Above all, you should seek all the pleasure, convenience, and comfort you can.

God is irrelevant to everyday life.

Christianity is just one of many alternative spiritualities.

There are no moral absolutes, whatever is true for you is what is true.

You’re not responsible for anyone but yourself.

This life on earth is all there is.

Those messages sound so true. And because we feel beaten up and worn out in life, we can believe those messages. They sound good to us. But Jesus tells us, to find life we must surrender our will and trust Him. We struggle to believe Jesus. The things this dark world, the beast, offer us seem right. We wonder, if I give my life to Jesus, will He come through for me the way I want? If I give my life to Jesus, what will He do for me?

We are conflicted. What do we do? We might attend church now and then but we turn to the things this world offers us to find relief. Do you see what happened? This dark world, the beast separated us from Jesus. We might be doing religious activities but we are not connected with Jesus and being transformed.

How do we step into a relationship with Jesus? Sam said it best, we must be intentional about this. This doesn’t happen by accident. We don’t consistently ignore God and then one day, BOOM, you are close to God. How are we intentional?

First, slow down.

Slow down and pay attention to God. Make it normal in your life to be with God, to focus on God. God speaks to us every-day through our experiences. The Bible, nature, dreams, silence, conflict, interruptions, job losses, relationships issues, successes, failure and betrayal. God speaks but we have to make it normal to slow down and pay attention to hear what He is saying. We tend to run so fast that life happens and we keep moving through it.

An example would be dating. If you want to get to know someone you date them. You give them time. You do things with them. You pay attention to them. The more time you hang out with them, the better you know then. And not every moment you have with them is filled with rainbows and fireworks. Obviously, the opposite is true. If you don’t spend time with them, you won’t get to know them. So many people today, people in the church, don’t date God.

An example in scripture would be the Mary Martha story.

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. 39 She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. 40 But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

41 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. 42 One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” MSG Luke 10:38-42

What do we see? Martha is actually a good person. She knows Jesus. She is responsible. And works hard. The problem is that she didn’t slow down. She wasn’t connecting with Jesus. Instead she was working hard for Jesus. She was uncentered. She was reactionary. She was touchy, irritable, tired and anxious. She was so worked up she was comfortable telling Jesus what to do. Just a quick note, is that how you pray? Do you run so fast through life, you end up telling God what He must do to get on your page?

We first must slow down. We must be paying attention to God. Again, this isn’t about church attendance or religious activity. It’s about transformation. Not slowing down creates problems.

Secondly, we must understand God loves us.

Sound like a bumper sticker? It’s deeper than that. If you aren’t slowing down, this will be hard for you. God loves you. God loves all of you. The good parts, the bad and the ugly parts. He wants you to bring all of you, right now, to him. All of it. He wants your mess, your sin, your shame, all of it, NOW.

Remember this dark world, the beast is trying to separate you from Jesus. It will send you messages in hopes you will never believe God loves you. Here are a few messages: You are a mistake. You are a burden.  You are stupid. You are worthless. You are not allowed to make mistakes. You must be approved by certain people to feel okay. You don’t have the right to assert yourself or say what you think and feel. You don’t have the right to feel. You are valued based on what you do, not for who you are.

Jesus gives us a beautiful picture of how much God loves us.

18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.” ‘

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. NLT Luke 15:18-24

That is a picture of you and I running back to God. We are a mess and God knows that. We believe that we aren’t worthy for God to love us. All along, God is waiting for us to run back to Him so He can love us.

I must ask you, do you believe the to core of who you are that God loves you, including your mess? When you are in sin, when you feel deep shame or depression, do you run to your heavenly Father and jump into His lap knowing He will love you?

We have to slow down.

We have to understand that God loves us.

Lastly, we need to begin to break from the beast.

When we are connected to Jesus in a relationship, the things of this world don’t see to control us anymore. The accumulation of things doesn’t control us anymore. The need for status, attention, fame doesn’t control us anymore. The need for validation from people doesn’t control us anymore. We understand there are healthy limits in this world. We can break free.

Here are some examples.

I stop pretending to myself, to others and to God about who I am.

I can acknowledge that I am broken and insecurities rather than cover them over.

I am free from the need to attach my self-worth from accomplishments, things, or people’s approval to feel okay about myself.

I can break free from the unhealthy patterns of my family.

I can break free from the selfish desires that constantly rebel against God.

Please hear me today. You thought to yourself, ‘Life is hard!’ And you are right. You are in a battle. Jesus wants you to be connected to Him. This dark world, the beast is trying to separate you from Jesus. To begin your personal relationship with Jesus, take three steps towards Him.

Slow down.

Understand God loves you.

Break free from the beast.