There are people with whom I am ‘close.’ I know them, love them, and share life’s up’s and down’s with them. Life would be so much poorer without those relationships. There are hundreds of people with whom I am acquainted; knowing some things about them, but only a handful are what would be called ‘intimate friends.’ Intimacy, which enriches us, does not just happen. Developing it and sustaining it requires both the investment of time and a foundation of trust. We cannot truly know another without significant time spent in conversation and connection.
“Close” families make the effort to re-connect, to stay in touch. “Close” friends regularly ‘do life’ together, making choices to be together their priority. In addition to those regular connections, there must be honesty, a willingness to lose the masks we all tend to wear when we interact. That creates trust, a sense of safety so that we can let down our guard, take off our armor, and reveal our heart.
Our relationship with God is quite similar to our human relationships in this sense. We can just know things about God, content to just be acquainted with Him through Sunday worship gatherings and perfunctory prayers, or we can invest time and build trust that allows us to become intimate with Him. Yes, we can know the Holy One and knowing Him fulfills us in a way that no other relationship can.
The Scripture is replete with examples of people who knew God. In my reading in Genesis, I found this gem. “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17, NIV) Jacob was in a crisis, one of his own making. He was forced to leave his family behind and in his journey to live with distant relatives he met God in a way that began to change him. Another Genesis line without much detail tells us “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24, NIV)
David, in spite of his rogue’s heart, knew God and gave us the worship songs of the Scripture, the Psalms. His intimacy with the Lord shines in these words of longing, in a moment when he felt distant from his God. “ How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1-2, NIV) One does not ask such a question of a mere acquaintance!
Jesus withdrew from the company of His friends often to spend time with His Father. His disciples saw that rich relationship and asked Him – “Teach us to pray.” Their real request was ‘show us how to know that kind of intimacy with God!’
How can we know the Presence of God, walking with Him as our Friend?
First, we cannot confuse knowing things about God with actually knowing Him.
Doctrine and theology are important, but they do not replace the pursuit of His Presence. The religious leaders that Jesus dealt with thought they knew God because they had great knowledge of the Law. Jesus shocked them when He said: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39–40) One writer rightly observes “never in the history of the Christian church has so much theological knowledge been available to so many people as it is today. The American church enjoys perhaps the greatest amount of this abundance.” And yet, intimacy with God is not common among Christians.
Second, we must not believe that we can create some ‘right place’ where He will be found.
Depending on training, past experience, and even personality Christians will seek God in different ways. Some will love their liturgical setting, the ‘sanctuary,’ the candles, the robes, the incense. Others will love their worship band and high energy gatherings. Some will look for some circles of people who quietly wait on God in someone’s living room. Some will pursue Him in their libraries of books and heady conversations about theological concepts. While each of those settings may be a place in which, like Jacob, we might muse ‘surely the Presence of the Lord is in this place,’ none guarantees intimacy with Him.
Thinking that it does is rather like a married couple thinking that a romantic candlelight dinner will make them true lovers. There’s nothing wrong with such a dinner, but true intimacy demand more than being in some ‘special place.’ Intimacy is found in doing dishes together, in long talks about life’s frustrations, in trying to figure out the household budget, in dealing with intransigent teenagers, and wrapped in each other’s arms.
Ultimately intimacy with God is found in the Person of Christ Jesus!
He says to us “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him!” (John 14:6-7, NLT) The only foundation of a relationship with God is Jesus and the only way to find Jesus is faith. We can never ‘do enough’ good things to become His intimate. We come to Him, with open hearts, to receive the gift of grace offered because of His love and assured us by His death on the Cross. That does not mean that there is nothing for us to do. Intimacy with God requires time and trust, investing in Him as the priority choice and wrestling through the trials of life where we learn to trust Him equally in sunshine and rain!
Are you a friend of God? Do you find yourself in His Presence, filled with His peace, guided by His purpose? This is true life, the ‘abundant life’ of which Jesus spoke.
Our word from the Word is not a comforting, soothing one today. Jesus challenges us with an ‘in your face’ statement. Prayerfully read His words even as you invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to a deeper friendship with God.
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39, NIV)
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliott
Surely the presence
Of the Lord is in this place
I can feel His mighty power
And His grace
I can hear the brush of angel’s wings
I see glory on each face
Surely the presence
Of the Lord is in this place
In the midst of His children
The Lord said He would be
It doesn’t take very many
It can be just two or three
And I feel that same sweet Spirit
That I’ve felt oft times before
Oh surely I can say
I have been with the Lord
There’s a holy hush around us
As God’s glory fills this place
I’ve touched the hem of His garment
And I can almost see His face
And my heart is overflowing
With the fullness of His joy
I know without a doubt
That I have been with the Lord
© 1977 Lanny Wolfe Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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