The subject of emotional intimacy with God can easily be overlooked in the church. We can quickly focus ourselves on theology, spiritual warfare or doctrinal topics. These are all worthy discussions and sermons, but foundationally undergirding these is Gods pursuit of relationship with us. If God were disinterested none of these other topics would matter much. Fortunately, He is very interested; in fact, His pursuit of us is what the Bible is all about. Therefore, today we will look far and wide in the Scripture. First, taking a birds eye view of the Scripture and then having a closer look at Moses and the children of Israel.
What is the Bible trying to tell us?
Genesis 3:8-9 In the beginning
Revelation 21:3 At the end of the age
So close and yet so far
Exodus 19:4-8, 20:18-20
God as: Judge/King, Father, Husband (Nu 11:29; Jn 17:20-23)
Why are many of us still relating to God at a distance?
We have all been sinned against and the fear generated from such experiences often sets us up for coping methods which actually shut off our ability to be intimate with God and others. We assume the future will be a repeat of the past and we close our hearts to be safe.
Shame I am bad
Rejection the offer of relationship was painfully answered with a no!
Abandonment The ultimate in rejection
Being safe is not enough, how do we go deeper?
1) We decide to start. One has to recognize the problem and be willing to face it to have any chance at a solution.
2) Learn in relationships with people. They are often more tangible to us. The relational skills we learn have a direct bearing on our ability to be relational with God.
Non-relational thinking and fear of relationship drive most if not all of our marriage problems and addictions. People can really hurt you have you noticed? We seek to substitute the hit of a drug or adrenalin or food, etc. for the true joy of satisfying relationships. But our flesh cant deliver what only the Spirit can. Challenge your fears and make forays into relationship.
This is where the church (thats us) can really be a blessing or a real hindrance. (hospital vs. nasty high school)
We hide to stay safe. Commit to be real with safe people.
How do we hide?
These are summary descriptions of the most common masks. Each one of these has a common element. They are fear-driven, sinful attempts to control the risk of real relationships, even our relationship with God.
a) Avoider: Avoids the potential pain of confrontations and seeks to be safe at the cost of intimacy. How to overcome Be honest with your feelings, (I had swallowed my feelings for so long I lost touch with some of them; I grew up with an Aggressor) and tell the truth to others even if it hurts you.
b) Deflector: Deflects any serious look inside. Here we do a lot, and joke a lot, but never allow our heart to be exposed. How to overcome resist the urge to get busy or silly whenever a conversation turns serious.
c) Self-Blamer/Blamer: Lives in the pity party. We can elicit much sympathy from people by holding on to victim hood and expressions of worthlessness, but this keeps us from moving beyond our hurts into intimate relationships. How to overcome Forgive the people who have hurt you in the past and refuse to settle for pity as a substitute for authentic relationship.
d) Savior: Mistakes neediness for weakness. We all have needs, but when this is confused with weakness, we refuse to ever reveal our needs. We work very hard and help everybody, but never allow others to help us. In effect we seek to control people by serving them and thus earning their appreciation. How to overcome Resist the urge to make yourself indispensable, instead share your needs and allow people to love and appreciate you for you.
e) Aggressor: Believes the best defense is an overpowering dominance. This tends to keep people at a safe, but lonely distance. How to overcome Respect other peoples boundaries, treat people with love and refuse to use them simply as tools.
f) Spiritualizer: Hides needs and hurts under a veneer of Bible verse quotations and a super-spiritual façade. We believe we have to be perfect to be lovable. How to overcome Drink deeply of Gods grace and dont let yourself settle for legalism and only an outward spirituality. (Relational Masks by Russell Willingham, IVP.)
3) Open up to God and receive as much from Him as you can. There is a reason Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, followed Jesus resurrection and ascension. Christ removed the sin barrier that kept God at a distance and cooped up in the Temple. Let us take full advantage of the grace which has been extended and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and refill us again and again as we draw ever nearer. Pursue Him and give Him permission to do surgery on your heart.
Pray Not just lists, learn to be with Him. Converse, listen, meditate
Read the Bible He can and does speak to you in the Word.
Pray in the Spirit You can pray all kinds of things you dont know how to pray for. The Spirit prays for us. (Ro 8)
Honestly tell God how you feel. Dont be religious with Him.
Worship with an open heart. Practice doing this every chance you get.
God longs for close, intimate relationship with you. Resolve right now to cooperate with His healing work in your heart to overcome your fear. The process will not likely be painless, but it will be worthwhile. As you sense God challenge you to be authentic with the people in your life, know that He is not doing this to expose you to harm. He is trying to heal you, so you and He and the people in your life can all enjoy what we were made for intimate relationships.
1) What part of relationship is scary for you?
2) What are some steps you could take to open your heart to greater intimacy?