How intimate is your relationship with God? How intimate do you want it to be?
I’ve always heard that if we want to increase our intimacy with God, we must be intentional about spending time with Him: have a regular time of prayer, read the Bible, obey His Word, and fellowship with His people. So that’s what I did. But after a while those behaviors deteriorated into a routine. I practiced them because this is what good Christians were supposed to do.
But was this all I am in Christ? Is intimacy with God reduced to checking off items on a to-do list? I hope not, because too many Christians do these things and still lack intimacy with the Lord.
It may be because all these activities—prayer, Bible-reading, living a moral life—while good, can become rituals. We can go through the motions with our hands but not our hearts. So while these are all important spiritual disciplines, they’re just the beginning.
There’s one more cause of obstacles to intimacy with God. Think about how we move people from acquaintances to personal friends. We get to know them by spending time with them. But it isn’t time alone. We listen for what they say about themselves. We’re also sensitive to identify if there’s a disconnect between their words and their actions.
However, when it comes to learning who God is, we often depend on what other people say about Him. We learn from our parents, from religious traditions, and from our culture. However those descriptions may not be who God says He is.
Even if we grew up attending Sunday School every week, we still might have trouble understanding what God has said about Himself. It doesn’t help that the names and attributes of God which brought comfort to countless generations are now often misunderstood in our culture. For example, what does God mean when He calls Himself a Consuming Fire? Not exactly a name inspiring intimacy!
More familiar names and attributes may still yield misconceptions. The Bible tells us God is love (I John 4:8). But how do we define love? Hearts & flowers? Terms of endearment? If we want a more intimate relationship with God through Christ, it’s not only important to learn what God says about Himself. It’s also important to understand these names and attributes in the context of what God intended, rather than what our culture now dictates. These names form the basis for our relationship with Him.
One characteristic of intimacy is trust. It’s difficult to trust a stranger. But when we’re intentional about learning what God says about Himself, and we see how His nature is consistent with what He says, our faith is affirmed. The psalmist wrote “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10, NIV). The more we learn about who God is and how He works, the easier it is for us to trust Him.
The foundation of this trust is a complete picture of God. All the names and attributes of God combine to reveal His nature and His glory. Click To Tweet We misunderstand who God is when we focus on one name or attribute of God to the exclusion of all others. For example, those who focus only on God’s characteristic of love often end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin. Others who focus on God’s holiness to the exclusion of all other characteristics create a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful, and uncompassionate.
God is love & He is holy. He is merciful & He is just. He is all these things & more. Intimate relationship with the Lord involves being intentional about learning all He is... Click To Tweet … rather than focusing on a few characteristics appealing to who we want Him to be.
Ask God’s Holy Spirit to show you who He is. Then mine treasures from His Word as He reveals His nature and His ways through His names and attributes. The result will be growing intimacy infusing all of our spiritual disciplines as we learn who Christ is and who we are because we belong to Him.
We also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode with Dr. Allender and Cathy Loerzel.
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