One of the challenges we face is understanding how to be intimate with God in a way that seems definable to us. We were, after all, created to have a close relationship with our Heavenly Father. In the beginning, God and humanity had nearly nothing separating them – Adam and Eve hid nothing from their creator, nor did the Lord withhold anything from them except what was destructive. Even after sin caused mankind to fall, God’s desire for intimacy with us never changed. “I was in my prime when God’s intimate friendship blessed me house” (Job 29:4). “For the crooked man is an abomination to the Lord, but He is intimate with the upright” (Proverbs 3:32). These verses make me wonder how much I have really contemplated or desired intimacy with God. While it is true that we want to serve Him, acknowledge Him, and obey Him so that we may be granted grace, how much do we really want to be close to Him?
- “…Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
- “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
- “…My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings” (Numbers 12:7-8).
- “And Abraham believed in God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
- “…Abraham Thy friend” (2 Chronicles 20:7).
As was mentioned in the first part of this series of lessons, many of us “know a lot about” God without really “knowing” God. All of the above examples show that it is possible for us to take our academic knowledge of God a step further and actually become His friend. In fact, Jesus clearly states that it is His desire for friendship that is behind every one of His commands (John 15:14), an idea that we will look at more closely later in this lesson. More than anything else, the aim of today’s lesson is to make friendship with God a practical endeavor. We do not want to merely theorize or philosophize about being intimate with Him. We want the application. We want to actually have communion with God as the above Bible characters did.
The Key To Intimacy
Consider several revealing passages about what God says facilitates a close relationship to Him:
- “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word” (John 14:23).
- “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10).
- “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
What seems to be a theme in the Bible is that friendship and intimacy with God is linked to obedience. Men like Enoch, Moses, and Abraham were close to the Lord because they were faithful, trusting, and followed His commandments no matter how far it took them away from what was familiar and comfortable. Abraham left his home country to sojourn in a faraway land. Moses, too, left behind a peaceful and secluded life to obey God’s edict to free the Israelites from bondage. I like what one mother told me about what makes her most pleased about her relationship with her children. She noted that her joy is never greater than when her kids obey her. It is not when children follow their own will and impulses, but when they heed us that we are most pleased. This is not because we, as parents, are narcissistic or dictatorial. To the contrary, we maintain that rebellion and disobedience are signs of a lack of trust and, therefore, a lack of closeness. We are never further from family harmony than when everybody does what is right in his/her own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8). In a much grander sense, God is not pleased when we do what we think is right, or what another human tells us is right, or what we think will make Him happy. He is pleased when we do what He says. That is what facilitates closeness on God’s end of the relationship.
So, Do you trust?
“I once heard that the difference between Christians can be compared to travelers gathered at the edge of a frozen pond that they must cross. They have it on good authority that the ice is solid. But even with that testimony, some will only crawl out inch by inch on hands and knees, while others will bound onto the silvery skin with boldness and delight” (“Walking with God”, Andree Seu, 2-2-2010, Worldmag.com). Perhaps one of the reasons we do not feel intimate with God is because we lack the trust necessary to really obey Him with all our hearts. We will follow His commandments, but with apprehension. We will study the Bible, with skepticism. We will adhere to a religious standard, while always keeping our options open. Until we have made a total commitment, both physically and spiritually, to doing as He says, we will always have a barrier to intimacy. Is this not true in many other relationships, like marriage? Would you feel intimate with a spouse who always second-guessed you, or had to double-check everything you said? Is there true love without trust? Remember that 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love “believes” all things, as in, it is trusting and assumes the best about what others say and do.
But what if I don’t feel close?
I feel great sympathy for people who claim that they do not feel close to God. It can be hard to overcome the world’s distractions, and our own personal barriers that keep God at arm’s length. Maybe the songs during worship are not affecting you. Maybe prayer feels stagnant. Maybe you are able to go days or weeks at a time without thinking about God, and never feeling like you are missing anything. Something to remember, though, is that a relationship with God is not based on just your feelings. Also, feelings can deceptive. Sadly, there are many who practice falsehood who feel very good about it. There are unbelievers who feel quite content. There are followers of false gods who actually appear to feel more than we do! Feelings can be tricky things if they are not tempered by truth. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). That last verse is really interesting to me because it quite plainly tells us that if we think our emotions are an accurate gauge of how we see life, then we are being foolish. Consequently, if you think that you can only have intimacy with God when you are feeling warm and fuzzy, or that any kind of worship that lacks emotional fervor is invalid, you are wrong.
Abide in the teaching
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). This might seem like a strange verse to mention when considering intimacy with God, but it is crucial. Every time Jesus mentions closeness in the Gospels, it is linked with obedience, or us abiding in the Word. “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). Really, the way we obey the Bible is an outward manifestation of our faith and dependence on God. The person who does not depend on God seeks freedom from His commandments. He is essentially saying that he values his independence more than the childlike trust that is expected. Intimacy is about trust, and if we do not trust God enough to obey Him in matters like baptism, church discipline, marital fidelity, honesty, and worship, how can we expect Him to be intimate with us?Really talk to Him
I sometimes ponder that if my prayer life has anything to do with my relationship to the Lord, it should be no surprise why I feel like I am not intimate with Him! We get so busy with worldly business that our communication time with God often gets cut short or neglected altogether. Can a relationship with a spouse remain intimate without communication? How about with a child? Or a best friend? Intimacy is lost if our conversations are only superficial. Try to remember that all of our troubles and anxieties are to be cast upon Him (1 Peter 5:7) and that communication with God is to take a priority (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Do not hold back with God. Do not worry about how pretty it sounds. Do not worry about what others think of you. Talk to God finally!
- Tell Him how much you appreciate Him.
- Tell Him what makes you afraid.
- Tell Him whose souls you earnestly desire to be saved.
- Tell Him your sinful habits and ask for help.
- Tell Him when you do not understand scriptures.
- Tell Him when you are overwhelmed and need wisdom to deal with a situation (James 1:5).
Is He enough for you?
While all the other tribes of Israel were given an inheritance of land, the Levites were excluded, rather, “to the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance” (Joshua 13:33). I wonder how we would feel if we were Levites, given nothing but God to satisfy ourselves! Could you and I go through life and feel blessed and happy knowing that God is our only inheritance. Is His friendship meaningful enough that we could lose all earthly treasures and still feel rich? “Have you gotten to the point where the choice of God is not a sacrifice? Have you gotten to the place where you have stepped into obedience enough times, and chosen the way of faith often enough, that you have learned a very cool secret – that the joy is immediate and the deepening intimacy with God is something you wouldn’t trade for all the olive oil in Asher?” (“Joshua – Just one thing: Chapter 21”, Andree Seu, Worldmag.com).