I have always loved to study and research. Of the books, which fill shelves, tables, and every available corner of my home, there are many more non-fiction than fiction. It fills me with Joy to study and teach God’s Word. I understand, with all my heart, that studying God’s Word is the difference in being a friend to Jesus and being a mere acquaintance.
My father was a very smart man, but he was also very bi-polar. He was always looking for greener pastures. We moved around a lot. By the time I was in the 4th grade, I had lived in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. It was not unusual for me to attend as many as 3 different schools in a year.
As time passed, I became painfully shy. I never developed critical skills for making friends. I was always the new girl. Never part of established cliques. Never anywhere long enough to establish deep, personal relationships. Oh, I got along with everyone. But instead of friends, I had acquaintances. Ladies, there is a difference.
When I was 13, I attended youth meetings at the Pentecostal church in Elberton. I accepted Christ as my Savior. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of belonging. We worshipped together on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. We witnessed together and gave out tracts on the town square on Saturday mornings. I was a babe in Christ. As I look back, (you know we always understand better when we look back,) I realize that God was preparing me to stand against what lay ahead.
When I was fourteen, my father tried to molest me. My mother left my father. She took us to live with her family in South Carolina. I was angry, broken and ashamed. I often asked God, “Why?” But it never occurred to me to blame God.
Due to circumstances out of my control, I did not attend church regularly. And then, not for an exceedingly long time.
If anyone has ever told you that you can be a Christian without going to church or being with other Christians, don’t believe it. There is a reason that Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we should meet together, not only for worship and instruction, but to encourage one another.
For years, I did not grow as a Christian. I was married and my daughter was 5 when I was finally Baptized and received the Holy Spirit. Listen, nobody will have to tell you when you receive the Holy Spirit. You will know!
For my entire life, I have known that God was my friend. I always felt comfortable talking to God the way that one talks to a friend. Through the years, I poured out my heart to Him. When my daughter nearly died from a burst tubal pregnancy, through the nine, soul wrenching hours of my Husband’s double-lung transplant, and when my son became hooked on drugs, I gave them to God with full assurance that he would protect them. And he did!
Yes. I believed. Yes, I prayed, but my conversations with God were one-sided. My to-do lists. I hope I said “thank-you, God” each time he answered my prayers. Any soft-spoken requests of the Holy-Spirit to wait quietly for God’s turn to speak were squelched by necessities of a sick husband and demanding children.
No one had ever explained to me that to develop a personal relationship with God, you must study His Word. It is how he speaks to, comforts you, strengthens you, and reveals His plans for your life. I took my Bible to church. I opened it to the correct passages for the Pastor’s message. Then, when I got home, I placed it on the shelf until the next week. Ok, a few times, I did try that thing where you read the Bible in a year. I never made it past Numbers and into the Promised Land.
Jesus is a good friend. He died for me. You cannot be a better friend that that. It was not until God called me to the ministry, to speak and to teach, that I realized, I had not been a friend to Him. I had merely been His acquaintance. A true friend does not just let you get to know them, they get to know you as well. I knew little more about Jesus than I learned in Bible School.
He loved me. He suffered and died for me. He conquered death and the grave for me. Because of Him, I could spend eternity in heaven with God instead of burning in Hell.
There is so much more to know about Jesus!
One of the most important benefits of the Holy Spirit is that He interprets God’s Word for you. I thought the Bible was a series of stories to guide us. But there are levels of meaning. You might read the same verse many times and get nothing from it, then one day, when you really need it, the meaning just opens like a flower. God’s Word is awesome that way. It is timeless.
Jesus is the Word made Flesh. The Bible is Jesus, from cover to cover. He is in every single page. When I began studying, really studying His Word, I began to change. I learned to listen for God’s responses when I prayed. I learned to listen for that inner voice of the Holy Spirit, to allow Him to lead me and guide me. I began to experience the pure joy that having a two-sided friendship with Jesus brings.
Jesus said that because He has revealed God to us, and if we do as He commands us, He calls us friends. Praise God, that I am finally a friend to Jesus and not just an acquaintance. How about you?
Kim Marie Johnson
Marie is an ordained minister. She is an author, artist, and designer. Marie enjoys teaching and speaking. Most important to her are her relationship with God, her three children and five grandchildren who inspire her every second of every day.