I subscribed to Christianity Today for many years, but let my subscription lapse when I began seminary. I was afraid I’d no longer have time to read the issues. But I am re-subscribing at once, as I am missing too many worthwhile articles! I stopped in a Christian bookstore today and picked up the latest issue, and was pleased to find an article on the topic I discussed in my last post – our relationship or intimacy with God. Even better, the article is available online! The article is here:
“Disappointed with Intimacy, We set ourselves up for confusion about God if we forget that the best is yet to come.”
Here is a brief excerpt from the article (bold added by me)
When the church uses the language of unsustainable intimacy to describe our experience of Christ, it fails to do justice to divine transcendence. The Bible affirms that we were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). But it also says that God is different from us (Num. 23:19; Isa. 55:8-9). “God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other being,” observed C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. “He makes, we are made: He is original, we derivative. But at the same time, and for the same reason, the intimacy between God and even the meanest creature is closer than any that creatures can attain with one another.” …..
The Bible does promise that we can have true intimacy with Christ. But this intimacy, which is mediated through the Holy Spirit, is unlike any other relationship with which we are familiar. It is one in which we are known more than we know (1 Cor. 13:12). The comfort we find in the conversation of prayer is the comfort of being heard more than of hearing (1 John 5:14-15). It is a relationship that is personal but reveals little about Jesus’ personality. It is also a relationship where our greatest intimacy will be experienced in the future rather than the present. For the present, we should not expect to find ultimate fulfillment in our experience of Christ. That is yet to come.
Notice the mention of the future. Something I frequently mention in my blogging is the “already, but not yet” aspect of our salvation. Yes, we have received salvation and can experience some blessings of that salvation in the here and now. However, we have not received salvation in its fullness yet. We are still fallen creatures living in a fallen world. We are awaiting the return of Christ and the final redemption. The best is yet to come! Failure to keep this in mind leads to incorrect teaching and unrealistic expectations on a wide variety of spiritual and theological issues. Take a moment to read I Peter 1: 3-9 to remind yourself of the future focus of your faith.
I also found another blogger who shared similar thoughts as I did about the “relationship with God” concept. And I appreciated how she summed it up in the final paragraph of her post :
I confess I don’t “hear” God in a literal way and most of the time I can only guess at His specific involvement in my life. I don’t know if I will ever feel that I “know” Him in the same way I know my husband or my sister or my co-worker, but I hope to know God in a deeper way than that, anyway. I think it is possible that we limit our capacity for intimacy by applying human expectations to our dealings with the Divine.
I thought that last sentence really nailed it!
So…with all this talk about “unrealistic expectations” or how we have “domesticated” God and forgotten his transcendence, what can we expect in a relationship with God? In the next post, I’ll share my thoughts on what is meant by a “relationship with God.”
(And yes, you can have a relationship with God!)
Next post here.