Going with God

In this sermon Mike explores the types of feelings experienced when one is in a personal and intimate relationship with God.
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I want you to do a little exercise with me. I want you to think back to your first love (if you're able to think back that far). Think of the first time you felt your heart just pounding in your chest for that special someone, that person that if you left them off at their house after you had a date or an outing, you couldn't wait to get home and call them up. You'd talk on the phone and you'd say "goodnight." "OK you hang up," "no no you hang up," "no you hang up first." "I love you," "I love you too," "but I really love you," "but I really really love you too." You know that first love, so marvelous.

Now, you could use all kinds of words to describe the experience: exhilarating, exciting, scary, intense, confusing, hurtful, joyous, blissful. A lot of words can be used to explain this experience in your life. Regardless of the words used however, one thing remains the same: it was an experience. You felt something when you began your first serious relationship with another person. Well, I believe the same thing could be said about our relationship with God.

It's not a casual thing to be involved with the living God. After all, He sacrificed his Son in order to permit a relationship between Himself and ourselves. He's put a lot into the relationship. He ordered history in such a way to provide the circumstances where we could meet and know and love and develop a close deep intimate relationship with Him. He provided a constant presence of Himself in our lives by giving us his word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to create intimate spiritual bonding between Himself and ourselves.

Having a relationship with God is a real experience. It just is not just a theoretical thing. It's not just the thing that the preacher talks about from the pulpit. It's a deeply personal, moving experience. It ought to be intense. It ought to be a felt experience. We should be able to describe it just as we can describe our experience with our first love or our present love.

David the writer of many of the Psalms, he was especially gifted in this area because he not only was a sensitive and emotional man, he was also a creative man who God was able to use to describe his feelings concerning his relationship with God. We have an example of a man who had a deep experience with God and wrote about it. We don't all have the skill that David had in writing about our experience with God.

God referred to David as his friend, demonstrating the level to which their relationship had grown. David was able to describe what it felt like to have a relationship with God. For this reason I point you to Psalm 5. In Psalm 5, he puts into words what going with God, what a relationship with God felt like. That's the Psalm that I want to examine with you in this lesson. So the experience of going with God, what is it like?

1. A Relationship with God Feels Exclusive

1Give ear to my words,
O Lord, Consider my groaning.
2Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
3In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
- Psalms 5:1-3

This relationship, as far as David is concerned, is the only one of its kind. There is no room he says for any other relationship like this one. As a matter of fact, the first commandment specifies that the only relationship that you can have with God is with Jehovah God, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The Father to whom Jesus prayed and who Jesus embodied and who Jesus revealed. Our relationship with God is not just any god, it's the God, it's that historical God. So if you're going to have a relationship with a spiritual being, this is the only one that you can have a relationship with. All others are frauds. All others are simply something that human beings have made up and developed.

So the relationship with God the Father is exclusive and it eliminates all other relationships; with dead relatives, martyred saints, angels, spirit beings, mythical gods so on and so forth. No other gods, no other spirits, can come before God the Father (Exodus 21 and 22).

How does it feel? It feels exclusive. And David demonstrates this in his opening prayer of the day directed towards the Lord. It was the first relationship that he acknowledged each day. It was one that he cherished throughout the day. It was the only spiritual relationship that he actually acknowledged and acknowledged it in his writing. Like all "exclusive relationships" this one is rather demanding. And its scary at first, but as you give in to it and submit totally to it, just like we submit to one another in marriage, then the relationship grows deeper and more precious as the years go by.

And so a relationship with God feels exclusive, in other words, it doesn't feel like any other relationship. And that is appropriate because no other relationship is quite like the relationship that we have with God. So how does it feel? It feels exclusive. There's nothing else that quite feels like the relationship we have with God.

2. A Relationship with God Feels Holy

Secondly, David goes on to say that our relationship with God feels Holy or special.

4For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil dwells with You.
5The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
6You destroy those who speak falsehood;
The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.
- Psalms 5:4-6

Remember that one of the benefits of a deep relationship with another person especially your spouse, is that it tends to make you a better person. I don't know how many times I've heard men say, that if it wasn't for their wives and their love for their wives, they would have just gone on to ruin. How many men have said that? If it wasn't for my wife. She saved me, not like Jesus saves me, but she saved me from myself and saved me from loneliness and saved me from so many things. She made me a better person. She made me want to be a better person. How many women have gone beyond their abilities in sacrificing themselves for a man that they loved? How many women have pulled up roots, moved across the country simply to be with her husband and what he was going to do? And how many of them have sacrificed themselves bearing children and caring for children so on and so forth? Why? Because they love that man. A relationship with God is like that. It provokes us to do better, to try harder, to make an effort, at eliminating evil in our lives. The evil that David talks about here in verses 4 to 6.

God is holy and pure, without sin or darkness of any kind and when we are exposed to Him in a relationship, we want to be like that too. One of the difficulties of christianity is that the more we begin to know God the more we begin to understand his character. The deeper our relationship grows with Him. The more we abhor sinfulness. The more we despise the sinfulness that we see in our own flesh.

It's a terrible dual thing that's going on all the time. I see God and I see what I can see of Him in the word. And the Spirit shows me what I can be in Christ. And when I compare that vision to what's in the mirror; there's a difference there. And the pain that I feel (that Christians feel) between what they are now and what they want to be because of Christ, many times, simply grows, because we want to do better.

People say, 'you Christians, you think you're perfect.' Well I don't think I'm perfect but I want to be. I want to be perfect. I desire it with all my heart; to be perfect. Why? Because I have relationship with the perfect One, that's why. So in any relationship, each partner affects the other. In our relationship with God, our lost and miserable condition moved Him to reach out and to save us. And his holiness and mercy move us to become like Him in purity and in mercy.

So far, David says that in a relationship with God one feels exclusivity. One begins to know and understand what holiness is all about, in seeing a holy God and wanting holiness for themselves. And then he says a relationship with God also feels safe. In verse 7 he says:

But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house,
At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.

One of the most uncomfortable feelings when we are in a relationship with someone is jealousy. We're always afraid that we're going to lose their love to someone else. Sometimes we experience fear. The fear that they will die or that they will leave us or even the fear that our relationship will somehow fall apart. There's no room for such feelings in our relationship with God however. He will never leave us.

If we don't memorize any scripture, we should at least remember Hebrews 13:5-6. The writer says:

5Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you," 6so that we confidently say,
"The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?"

One of the things people are afraid of is dying alone. They don't want to be alone when they die. That's why the family rushes to the hospital, if the nurse calls and said we think it's almost time. People rush, they want to be there for that moment. And how many times have I seen this happen? They're there for hours and hours and then oops a bathroom break or they go get a coffee and when they come back the person is gone. Oh no! All this effort, I wanted to be there to hold their hand. They don't want them to be alone. Have you ever realized were not alone? The Holy Spirit of God is in the Christian. He or she is never alone, especially at the point of death. There is no fear of that in our relationship with God. Why? He said, I will never leave you, never. I will never forsake you. It doesn't say if you're good, if you cross all the t's and dot all the i's and if you live according to what you want to do. And if you do good then maybe... No, he said I will never ever forsake you. And then in Romans he says, I'll never stop loving you.

35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,
"For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you take anything away from this lesson take these two things. God has promised us, his children, Christians, I will never leave you and I will always love you. You don't need to be a theologian, you don't have to be an expert in the Greek language, to understand those passages, they're fairly clear. David says, to be in God's house as David was saying here, is to have a relationship with him. That's what David is talking about. He's not talking about going to church. He's talking about have a relationship with God. A good Jew who went to the temple meant he had a good relationship with God. So to be in God's house, is to have a relationship with Him.

Once you have this relationship, no one will take it away from you and God will never leave you. You are completely safe. You can leave God. Yes, you can walk away from him. And you control that. You're able to say no to Him. You're able to say "I don't want to be your friend anymore. I don't love you anymore. I'm walking away from you." You can do that if you want. But He says He will never leave you. He will always love you, not just on your good days either.

3. A Relationship with God Feels Sure

Then David goes on and finishes up by saying that a relationship with God feels sure. He says:

8O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;
Make Your way straight before me.
9There is nothing reliable in what they say;
Their inward part is destruction itself.
Their throat is an open grave;
They flatter with their tongue.
10Hold them guilty, O God;
By their own devices let them fall!
In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out,
For they are rebellious against You.
- Psalms 5:8-10

David talks about his relationship with other people here. He's not talking about his relationship with God. He's talking about his relationship with other men. Men who deceive, men who are untrustworthy. And he says that there is nothing reliable in what they say. But in a relationship with God you can trust every single word that he says to be true, to be accurate, to be worthy, to be reliable.

One of marvelous things of studying God's Word is that you're studying something which is true; which is perfect. When you learn it (when you know it) you never lose it. It's always there and it's always true.

Three hundred years from now with this very same text, a preacher will get up and he may say in one language or another, "be sure of one thing God will always love you, God will never forsake you." It doesn't change, never changes.

Those who have a relationship with God can know where He stands on all matters and can be sure about the rewards and punishments that He's gonna meet out. With Him you know where you stand. You don't add up stuff and come to the wrong conclusion at the end. It is very comforting to have a relationship with someone who can make great promises. I will forgive you for your sins. I will support you. I will raise you up from the dead. I will give you eternal life. It's nice to have a relationship with a person like that, who can back it up, who has the power to keep it and has demonstrated that he always, always keeps His word. That's what it feels like to trust God. I'm absolutely sure of Him and what He promises. And then finally one more, a relationship with God, according to David, feels joyful.

11But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,That those who love Your name may exult in You.
12For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with favor as with a shield.
- Psalms 5:11-12

Human relationships always end in death or divorce. I remember a counselor saying that once. I was kind of shocked at first but when you think about it, all marriages end in death or divorce. There isn't another option. No matter how joyful or loving or tender there are always bitter tears sooner or later. Such is life.

A relationship with God is not always easy because there are growing pains in the process of spiritual maturity. However, we always have the joyful knowledge that our relationship with God will continue to build until it is overflowing with joy and happiness that will lead us to Heaven. There will be no end to our relationship with God because once it is begun it is the only relationship that is designed to last for ever. And the only relationship designed to last for ever in a joyful state.

Unlike our first love, if you've been blessed with the experience that your first love has been your love throughout your entire life. Everybody wants that, not everybody gets that. But even that marvelous experience will end in sadness one day, unlike our relationship with God. It will go on and on. Actually it will go on and on and get better for us.

My most significant earthly relationship is the one I share with my wife, Lise, and yet she has told me that I will always be second in her life. I'm number two. The Lord, she says, will always be number one in her life. Now that the grandkids have come along, I'm number 11 but such is life. Every time somebody announces they're pregnant I go down a notch. But it's ok. Of course this is the way it should be. Right? The eternal relationship must come first. The temporal relationship comes next. The one with unlimited potential, that comes first. And the one that is limited by sin and death comes second. Our relationship is great because she is second in my life as well, since I too am pursuing as a priority, my relationship with God and the benefits that come from it.

So let me end this lesson by just asking a question. And the question of course is, are you experiencing the things that I've been talking about in your relationship with God?

I mean what's the point of the lesson if we don't get around to asking that question? Things like intimacy and exclusiveness, a greater personal holiness, a feeling of safety and peace, a sense of complete trust, an anticipation of joy in the future. These are all things you feel.

  • If you are, then praise and thank God for the blessings that you're enjoying in your relationship with Him. Good. Great. Wonderful. Keep going.
  • If your not, then there may be some very definite reasons why you're not feeling the things that I've talked about. For example, perhaps you know about Him, but you don't have a relationship with Him. I know about George W. Bush former President. I've been to his Presidential Library and I've read books written by him. I know about George W. Bush but he and I are not in a relationship. See what I'm saying?

You can know about God through study and teaching but in order to enter a relationship with Him you must come to Him through Jesus Christ. It's like marriage, you can know somebody and you can love somebody, but in order to have the ultimate, intimate relationship with them, you need to commit yourself in marriage. That's why living together is not like marriage. Is living together a commitment? Yes, it's a commitment of sorts. Is there love there? Sure, there's love there. But it is not the highest form of commitment between a man and a woman. And God demands of us, the highest form of commitment which is marriage between a man and a woman.

Now, with God on the other hand you need to commit yourself through faith and repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ in order to enter fully into a relationship with Him. A lot of people in the world know about God, but they're not in a relationship with Him, because they haven't responded in obedience of the gospel. So baptism, for example, is the believers wedding ceremony that unites them to God, in an intimate and an eternal relationship. Maybe that's the reason you don't feel the things that I've talked about. Perhaps you've cheated on Him.

You can't have a serious relationship with God if your playing around with sin. Just like you can have a serious relationship with another person, in marriage, if you're cheating on them. You can cheat on your partner and you can cheat on your friends but I guarantee you cannot cheat on God because He always knows and he always withdraws from you when you are guilty of unrepentant sin.

The relationship is exclusive, not perfect. People are weak. People make mistakes. People fall into sin. So in order to maintain a relationship with God, we have to decide who we want to serve and what we want to experience. Do we want to experience a relationship with God or do we want to experience sin? Because sin is an experience too. It gives us something as well. We just have to decide which experience is more important to us.

And then finally, perhaps we're not working at the relationship. A relationship with God is similar in many ways to other human relationships. We have to invest time and effort in order to make them work. We need to communicate to keep it going. And so God communicates with us how? Through the cross of Christ, in our blessings, in our conscience, in the Bible, the Holy Spirit, in the church. And we need to keep our lines of communication open with Him as well. How do we do that? Through prayer and meditation, worship, study, service and giving. That's how we communicate with Him.

Relationships work both ways. God always works His end. Sometimes we get a little too busy (or too bad) to work our end. One thing is for sure, we all need a relationship with God. And we can all have one today.

  • We begin it with faith expressed in repentance and baptism.
  • We renew it by being restored on a daily basis through prayer or through the prayers of the elders, whatever situation is appropriate.
  • And we refresh it by worship and service and praise.
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