Many of us view God as an all-powerful judge who is anxious to send disaster, disease and disgrace when we displease him.

How we view God is important in building a personal relationship with him. When we first accept Jesus and become Christians, the foundation of a relationship with God is laid.

If we turn to God because we are afraid he will burn us in a lake of fire if we don’t, it would be kind of like marrying someone just because they said they would kill us if we don’t. This is not the kind of foundation that a loving relationship is built upon.

Yes, there are multiple references to hell in the scriptures, but God does not want a forced relationship that is built upon fear.

On the other hand, if, as the gospel teaches, we embrace God because he loves us and sent his only Son to live among us (John 1:14), serve us (Mark 10:42-45), freely die for us (John 3:16, John 10:18), and rise from the grave to give us victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), then our foundation becomes one of true love, not fear. As we come to know God more intimately, we realize he has only our best interest in mind.

God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternal, loving communion. God has made us one with the Son by sending him to become human with us and for us, and he invites us to participate through the Holy Spirit in the Son’s intimate relationship with the Father. We grow daily in trust and confidence as we walk and talk with him. He is the helper of our joy, not a police officer in the sky handing out spiritual tickets (2 Corinthians 1:24).

How we view God determines our relationship with him, therefore it is very important to view God as he really is.

God is love (1 John 4:8). God offers us a relationship so close that he calls us friends, family — and even a bride. He uses these figures of speech to describe how much he loves us. “I no longer call you servants,” Jesus said. “Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). We can be like Abraham, “God’s friend” (James 2:23).

We are also called God’s children, and “Jesus is not ashamed to call [us] brothers” (Hebrews 2:11). “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). “When he appears, we shall be like him” (verse 2).

God calls us his children. He invites us into the throne room as often as we want, and he loves us with a love that will never fail. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:15-17).

What more could we say of his love for us? Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In Jesus, God has shown us how much he loves us. He did this while we were sinners, so there is nothing we can do that will ever take his love away. He loves us even when we are sinners. We are assured of his constant love. And if he did this when we were sinners, we can be confident that he will complete our salvation (verse 10). His love will never fail. This is the rock-solid basis for our fellowship with God.

If we want to enjoy eternal life in the presence of God, we need to begin to enjoy his presence even now. Our transformation into Christlike people begins with our relationship with God.

Kathy Houston of White Hall is pastor of Christian Fellowship Center of Grace Communion International.

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