In the last blog, we looked at how we sometimes hide from God by trading his ultimate desires, for something we can feel good about. We tend to trade the richness of intimacy with God for a substitute we can understand and manage. We do this as congregations too. We hide in our traditions, our doctrinal correctness, and our ministry accomplishments. And as our effectiveness starts to wane we double down on the substitutes. We try to dress up the corpse, so we can believe she is only sleeping. When deep down we know Life has left the building.
The Lord wants us alive, he came to give us his life. We need to be honest. We must have the courage to see how we’ve been hiding. And then we need to ask God to replace our vision of a well-managed life, or ministry for the thing Christ wants most for us – honest and deep fellowship with him.
As you read the following, I hope you’ll let God give you a vision of his desires.
Let’s consider the Apostle John’s thoughts. John was the one who probably had the most familiar and intimate relationship with Jesus. In his gospel, John referred to himself as the “disciple Jesus loved.” He was part of Jesus’ inner circle. John was the only disciple at the crucifixion. On the cross, Jesus gave John care of his mother, Mary. John was the only disciple who wasn’t martyred for his faith. He lived a long life, growing in deep oneness with Jesus through the ongoing ministry of the his Spirit. It fits that John wrote a lot about Jesus, his nature and his invitation to a relationship for all who would trust in him.
Jesus spoke of this relationship as “abiding.” “Abide in me, and I in you.” John 15:4
Jesus saw that his followers would be united with Jesus and the Father. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one…” John 17:23
Jesus knew his people would be familiar with him. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. …the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” John 10:3,4
John described a deep connection with God as the point of it all. “and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
John used the phrase “in him” as a state of being in a relationship of oneness with Jesus. “so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 5:20
John isn’t the only one who records a God who is interested in a relationship with people. In fact, the Bible reveals many instances which underscore this reality. Let me rehearse a few generalities and then we’ll get to a few specifics.
God does relationship things. First, God is a communicator. He has spoken and its recorded for us in Scripture. He reveals his thoughts, his desires and his disappointments. He gives us way more information than we would need, if all he wanted was for us to do the right thing. Second, God is a giver. God provides and sustains. He provided a creation where we could live and thrive. And his giving is not based on the performance of man. His rain falls on the just and the unjust. Third, God is an initiator. He approaches humanity rather than waiting for us to find him. Like a pursuing lover, he comes again and again to ignite a love for him within us. Fourth, God is a forgiver. We know forgiveness is part of every relationship because we fail. God has chosen to bear that burden again and again. He is a relationship God that’s why he does relationship things.
John wasn’t the only one who had intimacy with God. Throughout Scripture others had close, meaningful interactions with him. One of those is way back in Genesis 18:1-8. Read this: “And the Lord appeared to him (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, ‘O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said,’ And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, ‘Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.’ And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young mean whop prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.”
This little vignette has relationship written all over it. God showed up and had a meal with one of his creatures! This God who spoke it all into being, one day showed up, sat down, washed his feet and rested in the shade, while enjoying a feast prepared for him by one of his children. He is a relationship God.
You may say, yes, but not today! God is different. God is distant. No, he hasn’t changed. He still wants a relationship with the creature he made in his image – that’s us. This is so much a part of who he is that there was another covenant meal offered by God in Jesus. Though he did it a bit differently this time. Jesus, who is God in the flesh met with his disciples around the table. He washed their feet. They didn’t stand by and watch him eat, they ate with him. In Jesus, we see that God is even more interested in a relationship than we thought. We still sit at that table today.
Can you grasp the thought of an intimate relationship with the God of the universe? It’s a holy and mysterious thought. Just let me encourage you with this – don’t accept a substitute. Don’t hide from the hope of living into this mystery. The revitalization of our faith depends on us having the right goal for our life with God in Christ. Be satisfied with nothing but being one with him.
My prayer for you is that God gives you a hunger for closeness with him.
Thanks again for reading, commenting, and sharing! If you have questions they may be the ones the propel us into greater truth. So, go ahead and share them!
In the next blog, I plan to begin to examine a theological approach that might help us get to this relationship hope.