Dr. Randy Carlson
It’s exciting to think about the fact that you and I can develop a deep, intimate relationship with God, the Creator of the universe. But this type of relationship doesn’t just appear. It requires growth and development. So where do we start?
God’s Intentional Love
I like to think of growing spiritually as two sides of a coin. On one side of the coin is God’s intentional love for you and for me, and the first step toward spiritual freedom is at the foot of the cross. If you don’t know Jesus Christ personally, start in Romans 10:9. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (ESV)
His intentional love is complete. It’s rich. It’s full. And it’s available to you and me.
Our Intentional Response
On the other side of this coin is our intentional response to God’s intentional love for us. So often we spend a lot of time talking about God’s love for us, which is very real and powerful, but we don’t spend enough time thinking about our response. And that is what Intentional Living is all about. If we know Jesus Christ personally, how will we respond to that? What difference does it make in our lives?
Here are three ways we can demonstrate our intentional response:
1. Read His Word – In John 8:31 and 32 Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In other words, if we want to experience spiritual freedom, if we want to grow spiritually, we have to get into God’s Word. We have to know what it says.
2. Follow His commands – This goes hand-in-hand with reading the Bible. It is by reading His Word that we are going to experience more of His intentional love for us and understand what His commands are. Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (NIV) His commandments are for our good. And as we apply them to our lives, we don’t go into bondage. We move into spiritual freedom.
3. Stretch your faith – Growing spiritually requires faith and it requires a stretching faith. The word intention comes from a Latin word, which at its root means to stretch. Being intentional means being willing to stretch for something, to reach out for it. I think of my father-in-law Warren Bolthouse, who stretched his faith. As a young pastor , he felt God lay on his heart a vision to go to the local radio station manager and ask if he could have a little bit of radio time. And he began a radio show to preach the gospel and encourage young people. That one show grew to twelve hours of programming a day and kept growing into the Family Life Radio ministry. The Bolthouse family went through lean times, but their faith was rewarded.
Let’s be clear. This is not about salvation based on works. You are as saved as you are ever going to be. You either are saved—you have a relationship with Jesus—or you aren’t. There’s nothing you or I can do to earn God’s favor. But as we intentionally respond to His intentional love, our faith will grow as does our relationship with God.
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