This week we begin our new Bible study series which we have entitled “Freedom in Christ” and this weeks study is called “Knowing God”. It seemed fitting that as we think about some key topics about living in the freedom that Christ offers, that we start with looking at our relationship with God.
I am sure that there are none of us who always find relating to God easy, after all we live by faith, not by sight!! On the one hand the Bible is clear that God is always present and active in our lives – His desire for us never changes. Yet often we do not feel aware of His presence with us, our desire for Him ebbs and flows and the pressures and challenges of daily life can move us either a little closer or a little father away from God. We all struggle with this tension, we want to know God, we long to experience Him and yet somehow we miss Him. God says that “if we seek Him with all of our heart we will find Him” (Jeremiah 29:13) and that if we “come near to God, He will come near to us” (James 4:7). Below are a few thoughts from Dave about his journey with God:
Dave Callaghan writes “recently I find that knowing God becomes shallow and empty when we have a lopsided emphasis on God as Father – He is also our master, judge and friend etc. When we concentrate on being sons at the expense of being servants, we become presumptuous and start demanding our ‘inheritance’, like the prodigal son. If we overemphasize service, we become burnt-out drones with an inferiority complex. Piper talks of living in ‘the eye of the hurricane of God’s holiness’ – we see destruction at noonday, 1000 fall at the left hand, 10,000 at the right, but we are untouched. We tremble to know that the hand of God wreaks devastation about us, and yet he tenderly spares us, through no obligation whatsoever – through sheer choice to love us. To me, it’s like standing at the rail during a storm – the ship crashes up and down, raw power overwhelms and exhilarates one. You cling hard to your small safe ship and you don’t take it for granted!! You don’t try and dangle over the side with one hand and see how close you can get to the water before you fall off! Too often, also, we quote Romans 8 while we sit comfortable at home. We don’t realise that because no dangers can separate us from God’s love, we should for that reason brave those very dangers, knowing that love will keep us as we share it with others – I preach to myself too here!”
John Ortberg (in God is closer than we think) writes, “Our individual uniqueness means we will all experience God’s presence and learn to relate to Him in different ways.” We all want to know God and He wants to be fully present with each of us. Yet how we know, relate to and experience God is not a straightforward question for any of us. John describes seven pathways that we most naturally sense God’s presence and experience spiritual growth:
(1) Intellectual pathway (e.g. Apostle Paul) – people who draw closer to God as they learn more about Him, (2) Relational pathway (e.g. Apostle Peter) – people who have a deep sense of God’s presence when they’re involved insignificant relationships, (3) Serving pathway (e.g. Dorcas) – people who find that God’s presence is most tangible when they are serving others, (4) Worship pathway (e.g. King David) – people for whom something deep inside them feels released when praise and adoration are given voice, (5) Activist pathway (e.g. Nehemiah) – People for whom challenges don’t discourage you but energise you, people for whom prayer and action naturally go together, (6) Contemplative pathway (e.g. Apostle John) – people who love large blocks of uninterrupted time alone and for whom reflection comes naturally, (7) Creation pathway (e.g. Jesus) – people for whom there is something deeply life-giving and God breathed about nature.
I hope that this will help us explore our personal pathways for naturally sensing God’s presence and experiencing Him. All of us are different and we will probably resonate with a number of these – it is important however that we pay attention to them all, even those that do not come naturally to us.
As we think about Freedom in Christ it is important that first of all we focus on our relationship with God, learning to recognise and experience God’s presence and voice in our daily lives. We need to be fully present and meet God in this moment, remembering that Jesus is the only human who has ever known and experienced the full extent of God’s presence. Surely none of us find this easy, I certainly don’t!! The question is am I, are we, willing to invest in our relationship with God? Are we willing to seek God with all our hearts and walk with Him throughout all the happenings of our daily lives?
What if God really could be closer than we think? What if we could see Him and experience Him in all the ordinary moments of our lives?