A Relationship With God
Recently, I heard from God in a profound and unexpected way. It gave me an insight into the fundamentals of who God is and what a relationship with God looks like.
Warrior, Strong, Born Again, Death to Life, Washed Clean
So, during a session where we each sought to hear what God was saying for others, I had a very powerful and profound series of interactions that went like this. A young man who I have never met offered me a quote to read in Romans 8.
24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?Rom 8 (NET)
I had spent the night praying on and off for some certainty about having a relationship with God and the path I am pursuing. I have been wrestling with uncertainty in my walk, and this word was offered out of the blue at a moment when I really needed to hear it.
The young guy had been sitting with me all night and we had hardly done more than offer a hello. In striving to hear God, this quote came to him together with some affirming words. The words were, “warrior, strength, born again, death to life, washed clean.”
Resonance Means Something
I am sure that you find those words interesting if fairly generic, but to me, each struck like a gong. They resonated through my mind and were responses to much of what I had prayed about that night.
I think that all of us struggle with knowing who we are in a relationship with God, particularly in relation to this last word. I heard someone say, I wish my skin turned purple when I have been forgiven so I know I am. We have been washed clean. It is a fact. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a fact.
Later in the evening, I was in a group of four people I didn’t really know (two not at all and one I had spoken with for maybe 20 minutes a few weeks earlier), each striving to hear what God might be saying for the other. The words they shared with me were similar.
Two of them affirmed strength for me but the third had something interesting. She said, I am just getting this sense of “favoured children”. I responded, “well, my boys have all left home now and I just have a daughter at home.” She was a little embarrassed and said, “I was a bit scared to say it specifically, I actually changed the word from daughter to children”. The word she was given to share with me was “favoured daughter”.
For a moment, I was quite puzzled, but just stored it up in my mind for later. Then one of the others said to me, “I just have something else I need to share with you. You see that door and you see how it says ‘Exit’, well if you stand on the other side, it would be an entry way. You need to shift your perspective.”
I wandered back to my seat even more puzzled.
Was there something going on?
On the way home, it hit me that there might be something going on with my daughter that I might need to be strong for – I do have a teenaged daughter after all!
When I got home, I had a chat with my wife and then went in and sat down to tell my daughter what I had heard. When I got to the “favoured daughter” bit, she was “well of course”. And then it hit me. And this is something that I often find when I am listening for a message from God – when it arrives, there is no doubt about it. He makes certain you get it!
It hit me. Change your perspective. I have a favoured daughter. Sitting there looking at her with love I was amused that she was gloating over being my favoured daughter (only daughter, by the way) and I realised that God meant the message to be favoured child. I am God’s favoured child. As Jack Frost says in “Experiencing Father’s Embrace”, I am His happy thought. When God thinks of me, He is happy in the same way as when I think of my daughter.
I love that my daughter doesn’t doubt my love for her and I know she loves me. We hide it behind banter and teasing, but neither of us doubt the purity of our love for one another. Pure unadulterated love.
A Relationship with God that Affirms!
In our group, we had been giving words of affirmation all night to one another. God gave me words that I was desperately seeking that night in the midst of all my uncertainty. It was reaffirmed that I have a relationship with God and what a relationship it is!
You hope for things you haven’t seen and that is right. A warrior of faith, you are strong and reborn as my son. You have been taken from death to live and washed clean. Most of all, you are my favoured child. As much as you love your daughter, I love you and more. That pure, unassuming love you have for your daughter, I have for you. Believe it!
This is not the only affirmative message I have received recently. There have been many.
Many people of my age group (and other ages too) grow up thinking of God as the great policeman in the sky, waiting to catch you out. John Pople in “To speak well of God” talks about the principal failing of many of us when confronted with the things that Job confronted. We don’t speak well of God. Like the Israelites in the Wilderness, we cry, “You brought us out to kill us!”
He Brought us Out to Perfect us!
We were brought out of spiritual Egypt for our perfecting and rendering into the kingdom of God. God loves us and wants us to join with Him. How often we lie about Him, expecting judgement and punishment. How often we claim that God has brought us out of spiritual Egypt so that He judge us lacking and leave us in the wilderness to die.
John speaks truly when he says in 1 Jn 4:18:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.1 Jn 4:18
God is love Himself, love personified. A relationship with God is a relationship of love.
Who is God? He is the creator and sustainer of life.
God is Life
In a very real sense, God creates life from His own essence. At the fundamental physical level, we are made up of atoms. Atoms at their heart are energy. God in creating us, formed us of the basic building blocks of the universe. We were formed of the dust of the earth. That dust is made up of quarks (protons and neutrons) and leptons (including electrons). In essence all matter is at its source, energy (in its simplest elements).
Energy comes from God and infuses everything. Everything you see around you is God’s energy. We are fundamentally God’s substance imparted through the Holy Spirit and given life.
In a sense, then, we are God’s substance given free will.
A Representation of God
It follows therefore, that when we are perfectly aligned with God, as Jesus was, we in essence are a perfect representation of God.
Jesus could rightly say, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father”. He was made of God’s substance, he spoke God’s truth, he was God’s word (expressed will) made flesh and in everything he accurately portrayed God.
When his flesh was perfected through resurrection, and he ascended, he stepped out of time and became co-eternal with God. He now acts in the stead of God with authority to forgive sins and to perfect creation. This makes him to all intents and purposes, co-equal with God, for when he speaks, he speaks for God.
When we follow Jesus, we take on the attributes of God (however imperfectly) as we speak the truth about Jesus to the world around us. This means that we become (as Jesus was) Life Giving Spirits, possessed by the Holy Spirit.
Life Giving Spirits
To perfectly represent God, there are things that need to happen. It starts with knowing something about God, but much more importantly, it requires us to surrender to our relationship with God.
John in his first epistle, chapter one writes,
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”1 Jn 1:1-5
When you saw Jesus, you saw God. In that seeing, you understood that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
What do we understand by the “lightness” of God?
The Light of God
We need to go into the properties of Light to start to understand this. Light is the main source of energy for all living organisms. Without light, we die. Light is crucial for photosynthesis and without it, we would not have food to eat. Sunlight warms us, causes weather patterns, allows plants to manufacture oxygen and our food and water, and of course, enables us to see where to go.
When you saw Jesus, you were able to discern the source of the world’s energy. You understand that God is the source of everything.
Therefore, when people see us and we are aligned with God, they must be able to discern the source of life and pure energy.
Light, Life and Love
John, in his epistles answers the question “Who is God” in three distinct ways. God is light. (1 Jn 1:5), God is Love (1 Jn 4:16) and God is Life (1 Jn 5:20).
So many of us know “about God”. We can recite the things I have just written and for a while, that suffices. We know endless amounts of information about God. But in what I have quoted from 1 John, those so-called attributes of God are also indicators of how we experience God. These principles need to transcend the arrogance of knowledge to the surrender of relationship.
I knew a lot about God. I could give quite a dissertation on Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh and in a few of the essays on this site, I have gone into some detail on these topics. Until a few years, ago, that was enough for me. But that all became not enough about five years ago.
Legalism Destroys Faith
It started as a sense of hopelessness. My own legalism was catching up with me. I conceived a hatred for church, and it was manifesting in many different and uncomfortable ways. For a few months, my wife and I switched congregations, but that didn’t help. Within our home congregation there were various cliques and other things that made me very uncomfortable. I also had a lot of unresolved and painful experience with the church.
I was ready to walk away from God. All that knowledge about God was pretty much meaningless to sustain me. I felt powerless, out of control and every time I went to church, my mental illness was destroying me. I shook, twitched, cried, stuttered and generally wanted to run away.
Then I was invited to a retreat that changed everything, but at the same time didn’t really change anything. I separated God from Church in my mind, but I was still angry, hateful and unable to engage with God in a meaningful way.
I prayed to God for resilience and strength to deal with my anxious thoughts and I now realised that He responded in a massive way.
Peter Scazzero, in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says “Regardless of how we get there, every follower of Jesus at some point will confront the Wall”. He says, “For many, going back in order to go forward thrusts us up against the Wall. Others are brought to it by circumstance and crises beyond our control.”
In essence, the Wall is where we learn to relinquish control in our interactions with God. The Wall is why we don’t grow in Christ. As Peter says, “Some of us hide behind our faith to flee the pain of our lives rather than trust God to transform us.”
Walls are not trials though they can present that way. They are a period we could refer to as “the dark night of the soul” when God appears to be silent. Few people understand the dark night of the soul. Fewer still are equipped to help us through it.
That was my experience. For a period of four years, I could not really “hear” God anymore except in snippets here and there. The trials piled up and I seemed to drown more and more.
I read Frank Viola and came to believe that the cunning fables I had heard about what God wants from us, were just that – cunning fables.
That’s the idea I think, behind God leading us through the wall. Watchman Nee describes it eloquently in The Normal Christian Life. He tells the story of a group of men swimming and one of then getting into trouble in the water because he can’t swim. One of the men is a powerful swimmer and stands on the bank of the river watching the man intently as he flails about. When the man appears to be at the end of his strength, the strong swimmer finally dives into the water and expertly brings the drowning man to the shore.
Quizzed on why he waited so long, Watchman Nee reports that the man says:
A drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee
That was my experience with the wall. I had to stop trying to save myself. All these years, I was seeking to get by in my own knowledge and strength. God needed to take strong action to break this in me. Is it broken? I suspect not fully, and my Father will no doubt need to correct me some more.
The Wall Nearly Broke Me
For me, the Wall nearly broke me. I would wail in prayer and get no response. He felt far from me. God was quite deliberately breaking my heart and strength so that I came to rely on Him and not on my own strength. He was leading me to a proper relationship with Him.
What I had before was shallow Christianity based on pride in my knowledge and strength. It was performance based, taking pride in being the smartest guy on the block and having a certain arrogance in position.
One of the key characteristics of those who have passed through the dark night of the soul is that we start to journey inward. As Peter says:
We all face many deaths within our lives. The choice is whether these deaths will be terminal (crushing our spirit or life) or open us up to new possibilities and depths of transformation in Christ.Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero
Six Stages of Faith
Peter lists six stages of faith:
- Life Changing Awareness of God
- The Active Life (Serving God)
- Journey Inward
- Journey Outward
- Transformed into Love
During the Journey Inward, we stop being performance focussed and instead seek to understand our own identity as God’s possession.
The Journey Outward is when we start to serve God, much as we did in the Active Life, but now it is in a new grounded and centred understanding of who we are in God.
Stage 6 is about living out 1 John 4:18. Living a life surrendered and obedient and transformed by the love of God.
Peter points out that in the journey with God, we may need to traverse many walls. Some will be big walls and others may not be so big.
Relationship with God requires that we surrender and learning surrender is an ongoing effort.
Relationship with God for me has become learning the amazing love God has for me and surrendering my identity as a capable, competent man in favour of becoming a life giving spirit who represents God’s will, His Love, Life and Light.
A relationship with God requires a fundamental understanding of who He is, but it is important not to get bound up in knowing about God.
A deep and meaningful relationship with God means that we have to surrender our own image of ourselves and of God. We need to move from self-identity to identity in Christ. We need to surrender who we thought we were and understand our identity in God.
Surrender is no “one and done”. We need to rely on God through many barriers and walls until we learn to be completely transformed in the renewing of our mind in Jesus.
We also need to recognise that we are “God’s happy thought” and once we do, we will give everything to Him for His joy.