St. Botolph’s Church, Boston, England
I’ve been a Christian a long time—longer than most who read this have been alive. My progress as a believer and follower of Christ has ebbed and flowed. Some years I make great headway in my love for God and others. Other years, I drift. Work distracts me; life is hard, and I blame God or others; I’m depressed and have trouble holding onto truth and hope. Or, worst of all, I get stuck in sin or shame and don’t believe God forgives or is sufficient to deliver me from sin’s power.
But one thing I’ve found to be true: the more time I spend with God in his Word, in prayer, worship (and other spiritual practices) or even in the simple awareness of his loving, glorious presence, the more I grow. Many have opted out of serious spiritual practices. Somehow the belief that Sunday morning worship alone will sustain and propel us has been an easy lie to believe. It is true that worship in community is a place for us to receive comfort and truth, at least enough to keep us out of the ditches. Sundays offer fuel for our fires, and preaching is an important means of grace. (Isaiah 55:9-10) But a dusting of the Divine is not what we are created for. God has designed us to dive in—to abide—to taste and see that the Lord is good every single day—to seek and to find more. We are, after all, his children.
Casual friendship we understand. We have many associations like that, but deep relationships must be nurtured, otherwise they fade away. Marriage is that way. Bosom friends (as Anne with an “E” would say) demand close attention. We drift away from human relationships for lots of rational and irrational reasons; the same can be said of our relationship with God.
If one thinks about it, casual friendship with God is a ridiculous idea. Why would anyone want to shy away from someone so loving and kind, gentle and whole—someone who is an intimate ally—and the happiest and most gloriously good being in the universe? Also, he’s THE one whose arms are wide open to us, always. Besides that, his ways are so much better than our own.
So, why do we withdraw, skip prayer, rarely (if ever) meditate, seldom dig in to study and almost never memorize Scripture. I would say, and I believe I’m correct, we don’t believe it matters—at least not very much, and we believe that the pursuit isn’t worth the effort.
Knowing God, according to C. H. Spurgeon is the preeminent goal of a Christian. “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”* I agree. Even if someone doesn’t believe in God, a wise man would at least try to find out what all the fuss is about.
With each passing year of walking with Christ, he has become more and more real—an almost tangible presence with me. Part of that growth is in my faith to believe the things he says about abiding in me and being one with me as he is one with his Father. Union with Christ: that is my focus over the past year.
It almost sounds blasphemous—as do most of God’s mysterious plans for grace. The whole scheme is unbelievably good. He is more than just a Savior guaranteeing heaven. He is an indwelling Spirit by whom we cry out Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15) He is willing to be a constant, loving companion and a firm abiding friend.
He is a loving, intimate ally—someone who is for us—not against us.
But there are other forces at work: the world keeps us busy and tells us that we should value x, y, or z instead of Christ and his Kingdom. Our flesh craves rest, pleasure, or power, and it’s often lazy or addicted to all kinds of things: some are evil, but some are just natural needs gone awry (like food or sex). Then there is the evil one himself. I don’t know how he manages to tempt us—at least not exactly how it works for him—but according to Scripture, he is one of our enemies prowling about seeking whom he might devour. Those who don’t know Christ are the most susceptible to his temptations because they have neither truth nor the Holy Spirit to help or give a desire to resist. But we can be just as susceptible if we’re not strengthened by steady spiritual bread.
So, where does that put us? What’s up with us? Are we going to choose over and over again throughout the day the best, highest, most glorious One, or are we going to drift—letting our thoughts run the way of the world and our flesh—allowing ourselves, because of lack of fortification, to be easily tempted to do evil. Are we going to let our minds run where they will, or are we going to bring thoughts captive to the glory and honor of the one true God and his Son—and his Kingdom.
Learning to enjoy God doesn’t come automatically—and part of the reason is that we have believed lies about him. That’s where the word, encouraging relationships, and worship and prayer come in. Not every church is going to preach truth, either. We have to search for good ones, and we have to check preaching against Scripture. We are personally responsible for knowing the difference. My pastor and church are amazing. But no oneis going to stand with us before Christ. We will all stand alone with Christ’s righteousness or without it, and we’ll carry a handful of good deeds done in his power or without it.
I want the quality of my works to withstand the fire. (I Cor. 3:7-15) I want to walk today being mindful of my union with Christ and his Holy Spirit indwelling me. I want to impact the world because of his indwelling Spirit while being conscious of what he wants to do in the world around me. And that, my friend, takes time, energy, focus, and a daily fight as I make room in my life to experience God.
But it’s worth it!