Intimacy with God

“No other gods” is a call for an exclusive relationship with Yahweh. There is “none like Him.” The search for other gods turns faith on its head. God-shopping seeks the god whose magic best meets ‘my’ needs, the god who will most often and most completely satisfy me. This is the essence of lust posing as worship. It is corrupt. It is self-idolatry hiding in shadows of the shrine. Its goal is immediate gratification.

Satan’s crusade, his trump card was played in the garden, it is his best shot, “God cannot be trusted! He is flawed. He lies. He is not a loving God.” The Scripture teaches bounded intimacy. Unfaithfulness shatters intimacy. It displaces trust.

Intimacy demands exclusiveness. It demands a declaration of priority to the other. Exclusiveness bestows the honor of “specialness, of irreplaceability, affirmation, value, even worship.” The old marriage vows declared, “With my body, I worship you.” “Vows are love-promises we make to God. They are ‘descriptive of the thanks of the pious.’”[1] The Hebrew word for vow is nadar which means to dedicate. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2). “Be careful to devote yourself to doing what is good” (Titus 3:14). The Latin devotus means ‘to vow’. The commitment to pray is cast in the language of a vow! It should be an unbreakable commitment, a settled practice, and an irrevocable discipline. Christianity was never meant to be a casual faith.

If we reject bounded intimacy (disciplines) in favor of freedom (antinomianism), we fragment relationships. We are waterless clouds … wandering stars out of orbit, autumn trees without roots (Jude 12-13). The whole world is the disoriented, splintered, unpredictable – chaos reigns. The aberrant desire of one infringes on the freedom of others. Force is employed – the opposite of freedom. In such a world, tyrants reign. Ironically, force is necessary to restore order. Cultures that exploit freedom lose it. Force moves to bondage, and bondage to slavery, and slavery to the loss of self-identity. Free, in Christ, we wear no shackles, but we are nevertheless constrained by love – not force. The boundaries are disciplined living. They are not the essence of our life. But they do provide the fences in which we freely play. They provide protections that keep us whole (holiness). Here we are secure – safe and loved. This is “the garden.”

A century ago in the South, instead of the term “born again,” believers spoke of conversion as being “seized by the power of a great affection.”[2] An old Russian proverb says, “Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.”[3] Worship is our love for God demonstrated. Romans declares, they “glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” Withheld worship is rooted in worthless “imaginations” rising out of darkened hearts (Romans 1). The pure in heart see Him.

One of the problems with idolatry is that it casts God into a fixed form, rather than seeing Him as free, dynamic and unpredictable. An even more subtle form of idolatry fixes God in behavior perimeters, demanding that He act or react, to this or that situation, in a particular way. God will not be narrowed by our perceptions. He is not a mere super being with a sharper mind and slightly deeper capacity to love. He is our father in whose image we were created, and yet utterly other! He can be known, and yet remains beyond comprehension, past finding out, never fully known.

The real problem is relational. When Jesus explains the problem of pride and conflict with his disciples in Mt. 18, he profiles a man whose primary problem is not the presenting issue proper, but the unwillingness, the refusal of the man “to hear!”

This is an excerpt from the Praying Church Handbook, Volume II, ‘Intimacy with God.’ The entire four volume set can be ordered at alivepublications.org.

 

[1] Ed Gungor, The Vow, 2.

[2] Manning, 42.

[3] Ibid.