What is the ‘real stuff’ of life? Home, work, recreation, education, food, clothes, travel, government, possessions, wealth – the list could go on. Are these the real stuff of life? No, these are merely the superstructure for the true reality.
God, who is himself defined by an internal relationship among the members of the Trinity, loves and creates. That’s what he does. What does he create? What can he create, but more of what he himself is? He creates beings, personalities, who will be in relationship with him. They will also be in relationship with each other. He will love them, and they will love.
All the rest is the superstructure, the framework, into which this real stuff fits, and lives, and grows, and prospers. Intimate relationship is the true Reality!
So, the simple answer to the Why? of intimacy with God is, that as beings made in the image of God, intimacy is what we were made for. God, as a trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is always intimate. We were made for intimacy with them, as well as others made in their image.
We have prepared Resource Sheet 1 – Biblical References, speaking of God’s desire for human beings, created in God’s image, to be connected with them in a loving relationship. There are other references to the human longing for God.
God’s Working in Prevenient Grace
In the unfolding history from Adam, Abraham, Moses and the Hebrew people we trace the way in which the initiative was always God’s. The word prevenient is sometimes used of God: the One who goes before, working in grace so we can respond; the One who draws us so that we will seek him; the One that reveals himself; who as One is always Three persons. Through this self-revelation we can know him.
Your interest in this seminar indicates that God is at work in your life, wanting to draw you closer to him. We first look at the way God acts to accomplish what he desires – people who know and love him.
Prevenient means “coming before, preceding, or antecedent.” God’s grace is prevenient in our lives when it creates within us, and then prompts, our spiritual desire to return to God. God’s grace acts preveniently, drawing us to faith in Jesus Christ. Through this experience of God’s prevenient grace we, in our unregenerate state, find our thoughts being turned to God and our souls enabled to experience the Divine, personal Real Presence of Jesus Christ our Lord. This is an experience of God’s unmerited favor which goes before any act of our own, sparking any interest which we might have for things eternal, and enabling any response of faith which we might subsequently desire to make. (Explanation summarised from Davis W Huckabee, Prevenient grace.)
Conversion to Jesus Christ takes place only after the prior work of the Holy Spirit, who prepares us and turns our hearts toward God. It is not us first seeking him. A. W Tozer writes, “Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him.” (The Pursuit of God, p. 11). We love God because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), and we respond to God through the grace which we are given from the cross.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) and “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:22).
The verse of the old hymn reminds us:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of Thee.
(The Hymnal, No 374)
Prevenient grace manifests itself in many ways. God protects us, providentially guides us, convicts us of sin, and imparts to us not only the desire, but also the ability, to repent and to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. As such, every step of faith is as an active response to God’s prevenient action within the “elect.” No person can wish to come to God, or even actually respond to the offered gift of salvation, without God’s grace first enabling the response. This prior action on the part of God in Jesus Christ is grace’s prevenience.
Although our knowing God depends on him from beginning to end, Paul encourages Timothy to pray, because, “This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:3-5) Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:6). He made us like him, to know and be known, and as we respond to his Spirit at work in us he will meet us.
What is Intimacy? Some Definitions:
Intimate: associated in close personal relations; inmost, deep within.
Intimacy: the state of being intimate; intimate association or friendship.
A feeling of emotional or spiritual closeness
Warm close personal friendship. (Allwords.com)
A feeling or atmosphere of closeness and openness towards someone else, not necessarily involving sexuality. (Wikitionary)
A feeling of closeness and connection generated between people as a result of a strong mutual intention to share feeling, understanding, and communication; may or may not include sexual closeness.
Wikipedia has a helpful article about intimacy defined as the element of interpersonal knowledge of love and friendship. “For intimacy to be sustainable and nourishing it also requires trust, transparency and rituals of connection. It is possible to compete over intimacy, but that is likely to be self-defeating. Intimacy requires empathy – the ability to stand in the other’s shoes. Intimacy is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving and vulnerable.”
Another part of the Wikipedia definition, “Intimacy is linked with feelings of closeness, safety, trust and transparency among partners in a collaborative relationship”; describes the intimacy of the members of the Godhead. They invite us into a similar relationship with them and with others who are brought into oneness in the body of Christ.
The Desire for Intimacy
We are made by God to be intimate. This is why in our fractured society so many are lonely. Relationships are often superficial and intimacy may be reduced to casual ‘one night stands’ so people are left fragmented and unsatisfied. All experience a deep sense of longing for God (whether it is acknowledged or not) which only he can satisfy. The Psalmist expressed this when he wrote “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you” Psalm 42:1.
We often seek to satisfy this longing in other ways, looking to people or things when it is a ‘Divine Dissatisfaction’, a desire which no natural happiness can satisfy. This is the divine dissatisfaction which points us back to God. Just as we have physical needs which are satisfied by finite things like food and drink, we have spiritual needs which cannot be satisfied by any physical or finite object or person. This spiritual need points to the existence of God who alone can satisfy our spiritual desire. In his Confessions Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
Intimacy Begun – and Lost
God’s desire for us to know him and know that he knows us is so great that he works through all circumstances to bring to salvation the whole human race. In Genesis we see that he invited Adam to share with him in creative acts – naming the animals and tending the land. Man was placed in a collaborative relationship with the Creator in companionship with others. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) The picture of ‘one flesh’ speaks of the intimacy God intended there to be between humans in the marriage relationship.
We hear God’s cry of anguish in Genesis 3:8-9 after the fellowship he had enjoyed with Adam and Eve was broken by their disobedience. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Their sin spoilt their own relationship as well as broke intimacy with God.
The Plan to Restore Lost Intimacy
Immediately his plan of salvation is put into action and throughout the Old Testament we see the Godhead working together to make it possible. Enoch “walked with God” (Genesis 5:24); “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). After the flood the nations spread across the earth and God chooses a man, Abraham, who is known as the ‘friend of God’. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend (James 2:23). With him he establishes a covenant (Genesis 17:7) “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” This covenant is finally fulfilled by the new covenant sealed with Jesus’ blood.
We sometimes think of this “being your God” in terms of him ruling us and having the right to say what we will and won’t do, and us having to worship him. But clearly God had something far more personal in mind.