We know God offers us deeply intimate, personal relationships filled with a freedom from sin, supernatural experiences that change our lives, revelations that make Bible reading exciting, and a joy that cannot be shaken by anything worldly. If asked, everyone would say they want these things, yet so few of us actually experience these types of relationships for one simple reason: we simply do not want them
Recent parts of my journey have involved humble, personal reflection to judge my sincerity in pursuing God. Not to mention seeing through lies the enemy led me to believe by twisting my emotions or deceiving my intellect. In this process, I learned that unless we are in the 0.01% of Christians, there is way more to our relationships with God than what we are currently experiencing for one simple reason: there is no limit to God’s love or the intimacy he wants to have with us
And with that…
Just Because A Lie Is Popular Or Sounds Good Does Not Mean It Is True
One of the most common misconceptions in modern Christianity is that nothing we do can affect our relationship with God
This sounds nice, but I want to call this teaching out for what it really is: a lie straight from the enemy
Yes, while it is true we cannot do anything to earn his love, the Bible is clear it is up to us to determine how intimate our relationships are
Oh, trust me, since they want to keep us separated from God, the enemy wants us to believe the opposite is true, which is why they do everything they can to tell us our behavior has no impact on our relationship with him. They do this by telling us things that sound nice to our emotions and/or intellect, even though openly contradict the Bible
Now that you have spilled your Cracker Jacks, kale chips or whatever you were eating, let us look at a few verses which show how our relationship with God is affected by one thing: whether we obey his commands or not
Obedience Leads To Intimacy, News And Sports At Eleven
To begin, look at this set of passages where Jesus tells us if we love him by obeying his commands, we will enjoy an intimate friendship we would not have access to otherwise
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them
(Note how Jesus not only says “has my commands”, but also “keeps them”, as there is a difference between knowing God’s commands and actually living by them. Also, the Greek word for “show” in this passage means “to make known, bring in to view, to show one’s self”, which shows how Jesus is saying if we keep his commands, he will personally reveal himself to us–awesome!)
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me
(The Greek word for “home” means “a staying, dwelling place”, which shows how if we obey his commands, God will come and dwell with us in abundance, not just interact with us once in a while–amazing!)
Jesus makes it clear in these passages if we obey his commands, not only are we among those he says really “love” him, but we will also be welcomed into a deep, intimate relationship which is only available to those who obey
The Apostles also echoed this concept in their writings, here are a couple of examples:
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded
(Notice how James says two important things in this passage: if we draw near to God he will draw near to us, and that drawing near involves purifying our hearts and not coming to him with a double-mind, one that approaches God while still trying to hold onto the world as our real priority)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you
(Just like Jesus before him, Paul is clear to say we need to put God’s commands into practice and *then* “the God of peace will be with [us]”)
Now that we understand obedience is directly connected to intimacy, let us find out why!
“God I Like You, But I Am Not Sure If I Like You Like You”
Sure, obeying God’s commands is a well known part of Christianity, but the importance of it is not always explained well
For example, when we hear the word “obey”, we usually think of following rules and doing things we are “supposed” to do, but obedience is much more than that
God’s commandments are not just rules he decided to give us because he was bored one day, they are reflections of his character. Meaning, each command is designed to help us understand his personality, not just give us a moral standard to live by
Knowing this, if we reject God’s commandments, it means we are rejecting those areas of his personality, and are in fact saying we prefer to model ourselves after the world’s, even the enemy’s character more than his
This concept may sound challenging at first, but consider how as a simple rule of human behavior, we generally only pursue and honor things we like, and avoid the things we do not
By extension, we cannot claim to love God’s personality, or want an intimate relationship, if we reject him in favor of pursuing the world instead. Really, the only reason we resist molding ourselves after God is because we have found a more comfortable, pleasing alternative in the world instead
In the verses above and below, Jesus said obeying his commands was a reflection of how much we love him. John also wrote about this in 1 John as well, but went even further to say God’s commandments, which are reflections of his personality, should not seem like a burden to us
Here is a recap:
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching
1 John 5:3
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome
Okay, to really lock this concept in, let us look at that last line, “his commands are not burdensome”
If we apply the concept of God’s commands reflecting his personality, this verse reads like this:
1 John 5:3
In fact, this is love for God: to [live according to his character]. And his [character is] not burdensome
See what I did there?
Now, really think about this for a moment, as we cannot have a deeply intimate relationship with someone whose character and personality we find a burden to be around, right?
Instead, when we find someone difficult or draining to be around, we will do our best to avoid them, and when we cannot, we will spend as little time with them as possible
However, where this becomes personally challenging, is when an aspect of God’s character contradicts how our worldly natures want to live
When faced with these situations, we have a simple choice in front of us, ie: honor God because we love him even though we are drawn to something worldly and/or sinful, or knowingly turn our backs on him for the sake of pursuing our sinful desires instead
This changes the way temptation looks when we illustrate it like this, hmm?
In reality, no matter how much we say we love God, if we willingly reject his character by choosing sin, we are literally telling God something like this:
“God, you are awesome, but there are parts of you I just do not like. In fact, I do not like them so much I am willing to damage our relationship in order to avoid them, but I still love you!”
Not exactly a Valentine’s greeting card in the making, is it?
Sure, this statement may sound extreme, but God is not a God of compromise or partial reverence. He said the greatest command is to love him with all that we are. This means we are supposed to love all of him, not just the parts we have not yet matured enough to like yet
We cannot claim to love God with all that we are if we selective accept or reject parts of his character that interfere with our desire to sin
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind
(Also, keep in mind if we do not love parts of God’s personality it just means we are not spiritually mature in those areas yet, but we can be if we keep pursuing him–do not get discouraged!)
Knowing all these things, if we reject God in favor of the world, it simply means we just do not want the intimate, powerful, life-changing relationships he shed his blood to give us, otherwise we would pursue them above everything else
Saying this is not meant to have us think we are awful people, but we have no one to blame for our lack of intimacy with God but ourselves
Remember, even though God took the first step in the relationship by laying his life down for us, he leaves the intimacy of the relationship up to us to determine
Come near to God and he will come near to you
Now that we understand more about how our behavior impacts our relationship with God, how do we start walking in greater intimacy?
We Draw Near To God By, You Know, Drawing Near To God
Consider how much time do we spend on social media, watching TV, listening to non-Christian music, pointless social activities, watching movies, playing sports, etc…, a lot right?
Now, compare this to the fifteen minutes of hurried, distracted Bible and/or prayer time we just cannot seem to give God in a day
I mean really though, do we draw near to God by watching movies and TV until all hours of the morning, no
Do we draw near by spending time with friends and not talking about God for hours on end, no
Do we draw near to God by listening to non-Christian music that glorifies the world, no
Do we draw near by dating non-Christians and chasing after relationships as our largest priorities in life, no
Do we draw near by going out to clubs and partying as if we were a part of the world, no
Could we say it is possible to draw near *anyone* by ignoring and de-prioritizing them in favor of other things we like more, no
I mean, what if someone we were in a relationship with said they loved us all the time, but never spent any time with us because they were always busy doing other things. Would we feel loved or think they even wanted a relationship with us–no way!
To stop this cycle, we need to de-prioritize and cut things out of our lives which prevent us from spending quality time with God as making room for him requires sacrifice. Anyone who is truly walking with God will tell us that
For me, I started getting up earlier in the morning, usually with an hour or so of free time before I need to even think about getting ready. This allows me enough time to read the Bible, pray and sing praises before I do anything else with my day, and all without needing to check the clock
This was not easy at first, and I did not see supernatural results right away, but after pressing in it has helped revolutionize my faith in ways nothing else did
Anyone who has ever started reading the Bible a few minutes a day amid all of their other, higher priorities knows a rushed, unfruitful reading time does not change anyone’s life, otherwise it would have already
What does change our lives, is giving God the honor and love he deserves by spending time with him that is not rushed, where we do not have one eye on the clock or have our minds on other things we would rather be doing
We are supposedly in pursuit of the living God who offers us salvation, what other priorities in life are more important than this?
Seeking God first every day also taught me if we really want passionate, life-changing relationships with God, we have to pursue them as they are not going to fall into our laps without us turning aside from our worldly priorities–supernatural relationships are offered to each one of us, but we they will only happen if we want them
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
(We cannot seek God half-heartedly and expect the same result as if we pursued him with full sincerity)
Also, God’s mercies are renewed every morning, seek them when they are fresh, and when our minds are not filled with the junk of a day–this really helps!
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him
My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you
Also, stop sinning
Nothing separates us from God like telling him we love the world as our highest priority, even when we know our decisions to turn away from him are wrong in the first place–not a great way to build a relationship!
I mean honestly
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear
1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil