Behind a stack of books in the corner of a coffee shop is where you may find me. I love to read. I’m a nerd. Nerd-ism lays encoded in the DNA of my Indian culture. The emphasis placed on learning has had its benefits, but with it comes a subtle deception. Book knowledge often competes with relational knowledge. Learning solely from a book rather than through a relationship often results in a loss of practical and powerful insights.
Remembering my formative years in the faith, I recall asking admired spiritual leaders about their walk with Jesus. I’d ask, “How do I get closer to God?” The reply often was a mechanical response of “you need to read your Bible more,” or “read this book,” or “you just need to wait on God.” I was baffled by how many in the faith could not tell me how to develop my relationship with Jesus. Ambiguous religious rhetoric seemed to be all I could find.
Christian leaders regularly emphasized a need for more knowledge in response to my desire. I eagerly searched for someone who had regular encounters with Jesus. I knew how to read about Him, but I wanted to experience Him. Encountering Him as a teenager, I was radically changed, and I couldn’t shake the urge to see Him again.
I had hoped that an increase in Biblical knowledge would benefit my spiritual growth, but it was only a dead end. Growing prideful in understanding, I realized my heart remained unchanged. I realized my soul could not be satisfied with more information, so I returned to the pure pursuit of experiencing Him.
When Jesus set out to shape the world with twelve nominal followers, he didn’t put them through academic or theological training. He didn’t direct his disciples to search the scriptures studiously. In contrast, He warned them against the pride of becoming a religious teacher or one who stood to only advise others of God’s opinions. (Matthew 23:8)
I am not implying that Biblical ignorance is the key to relational bliss with Jesus. No, I’m only saying that we need to experience frequent visitations with Jesus along in addition to the discipline of studying His Word. He lived out his relationship with the Father before his disciples and invited them into His connection. (John 17:22)
Jesus beckons us to abide or live in His presence daily; to hear directly from Him. If you don’t find yourself regularly in conversation with Jesus, then you may not be completely following Him; you may default to a perception of Him that has been constructed on the experiences of others and a few Biblical passages. How many intimate relationships have you developed by reading a book about someone? None. We need face-to-face encounters with Jesus to cultivate a heart to heart relationship.
If you desire to grow in your relationship with Him, it begins with setting aside the time to talk with Him. Clear out your schedule. Find a place to meet with Him. Put aside your religious formalities and openly communicate with Him. Then listen. Allow His penetrating voice to pull you out of your brokenness. Let His words unveil for you the truth of who He is and who you are in Him. He is a relational God, and He is searching for us to enter into a face-to-face relationship with Him.
I’ve listed a few steps below that can aid you when you meet with Jesus. One more thought. If you always expect a dramatic arrival of His presence, you will be disappointed. You must choose to believe that when you sit down to talk with Him, He is present with you. Don’t rely on your emotions to validate His presence; consider what God has said. He is always with you. (Matthew 28:20)
- Set a time to meet with Jesus and keep it. Don’t approach Him out of a sense of guilt-driven duty. Meet with him because you want to meet with Him.
- If you use your phone to read your Bible, begin by setting it to airplane mode. If you don’t use your phone, then silence it to avoid distractions.
- If reminders start popping up in your thoughts, have a notepad nearby and write them down. You can tend to them later. Sometimes God reminds us of things we need to take care of as He is taking care of us. (Advice from Joyce Myers).
- Take time to worship. Whether you can sing or not, worship is a turning of your affections to Him. Turn on some worship music if it helps. Hum a song to yourself if that’s your thing. (That’s a tip from Robert Morris)
- Tell God how you feel. If anger, un-forgiveness, or tensions arise in your heart, then get them out by telling God what is weighing on you. If you’re battling with sin, it’s ok to confess it to Him. Confess it and keep moving forward. He still wants to talk with you.
- Pull out your Bible and read a passage. Don’t read numerous chapters at once. You are not in a reading race; you’re in a relationship. Start in the book of Psalms or John. Read a chapter or a grouping of verses that convey a single thought. As you read, if you feel God is highlighting a certain passage, it’s ok to stop at that verse.
- After you finish reading, ask, “Holy Spirit, what are you saying to me?”
- Write down what you feel He is saying to you through the text you’ve read.
- Then ask Him, “What should I do about this?” Write down what you feel God is telling you. His response may correspond to more than what you’ve read.
- Think about what God has said to you. Don’t rush through His response. This step is what the exercise of meditating is all about.
- Thank Him for speaking to you.
- After a few meetings with Him, tell a trusted friend about the revelations God is giving you. Even if they aren’t grandiose ideas, talking about what God is telling you is a key to clarifying His voice in your thoughts.
- Don’t go public with everything. I know we can get excited about what God is saying to us. However, this doesn’t mean what He is revealing to you is for everyone to know via social media. Sometimes God gives us secrets that He wants us to experience before we start publishing them.