Enjoying Intimate Friendship with God
Do you like God? Until recently, I had never been asked that question. But author Tim Chester posed it in his opening talk at TFT’s 2016 National Conference. Does it matter if I like God? The most important commandment, says Jesus, is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). Nothing about liking God. Like him or not, surely I just have to get on with the business of loving him. Don’t I? He is, after all, God. As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he is unquestionably worthy of my wholehearted praise, worship and adoration.
Tim’s theme was enjoying God. We usually decide quite quickly, he explained, whether or not we like other people. But we often think of God generically. As a distant, aloof ruler or as a powerful force somewhere ‘out there.’ In which case, although we might respect God, we may not particularly like him. Those of us who battle with same-sex temptations may not like the fact that God says no to same-sex relationships. That he denies us the very thing our heart desires. And we’re unlikely to desire intimate friendship with God if we think he’s a divine killjoy.
God desires to make himself at home with you
Fortunately, God is not remote and detached. Far from it. He’s a personal God who from all eternity has had the capacity for relationship. Father, Son and Spirit have always enjoyed intimate relationship together. So the Father loves the Son (John 5:20) and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). Indeed, the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father (John 17:21). The Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). He listens to the Father (John 16:13) and glorifies the Son (John 16:14).
Incredibly, God longs to draw us into this close-knit community of divine love between Father, Son and Spirit. To the person who loves Jesus and obeys his teaching, Jesus promises that both Father and Son (by the Spirit) “will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). Isn’t that astounding? If you love Jesus, the sovereign Creator of the universe puts down roots and takes up residence within you. Single or married, you have divine company. Permanently.
And whether we realise it or not, God is immeasurably likeable. He’s the model house guest. To have him dwell within is an immense privilege. Answer the ‘what’s not to like?’ question about any friend honestly and you’ll find at least one annoying habit, personality trait or character weakness. But with God there is genuinely nothing not to like. If any aspect of God seems disagreeable, then our view of the divine nature is distorted. Because, “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
God delights to satisfy your heart’s desires
Let’s be under no illusion that God dwelling within us will always be a comfortable, pain-free experience. No, although he is a blameless guest, we are far from perfect hosts. As God makes himself at home with me, his perfection and infinite goodness will frequently clash with my many imperfections and ungodly desires. The longing for illicit sex, for example. The desire to idolize a certain friend; to crave intimacy with them more than I crave intimacy with God. And so the Holy Spirit works to challenge and subdue my sinful cravings and to lead me in paths of righteousness.
But even in the heat of these battles, be assured God’s intentions towards you are only good. Consistently good. Our resident God “satisfies your desires with good things” (Psalm 103:5). So in those tough times when temptation rages and the cost of following Christ seems too great, remember that God longs to satisfy you. But with good things. With his unfailing love, faithfulness, mercy and grace. And with the satisfying and overflowing presence of the Spirit: “Whoever believes in me,” promises Jesus, “as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).
God demands your undivided devotion
God has put everything in place for us to experience friendship with him. He has made his home with us and has no plans to vacate. But to enjoy growing intimacy with him, we have a responsibility. “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him” (Psalm 25:17). Not fear as in be terrified. But rather, I’m to revere God, to take my friendship with him really seriously. To make love for God my number one priority, before anyone or anything else.
So yes, we should certainly like God. There’s no reason not to. Our three-in-one God has revealed himself as infinitely wonderful, beautiful, flawless and likeable. Intimate friendship with the Living God? In my better moments, I can think of nothing more desirable. And when something or someone else seems more attractive, I pray “give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).
This article was first published in the Winter 2016/17 edition of "Ascend", the TFT newsletter