Note: It was local Kenyan wisdom to pay special attention to the last words of a wise and Godly man. Well, Jim Feiker fits both descriptors. Jim was in communication with his Lord until the very end and this article points to that growing edge. Thanks Bev for your work of love in completing the final edit. Read and be refreshed by this reality. Ken
“Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life” (Psalm 23:6a, The Message)
In the past, I have often written on our pursuit and passion for God and our longing for intimacy with Him. Now I want to correct an imbalance I have found in my life and teaching that I believe is vitally important. For years I have gone back and forth on two sides of a truth in Scripture. One side is passion, pursuit, devotion and love for God as my initiative and responsibility in the Christian life. The other side is God’s love for me, His pursuit and value in me, His powerful role in my living the Christian life…that He not only chases after me, but never takes His eyes off me.
Both truths are very important, but I tended to default to my pursuit and love for God. I was pursuing God thinking that was biblical…and it was. What I was hearing from godly people speaking to me over the years were exhortations from Scripture to follow hard after Him (Psalm 62:5), to seek Him diligently, to devote my heart to Him…and then He would reward me (Hebrews 11:6). But my love and pursuit needed to be my response to God because of His first loving me, His empowering that pursuit by His living His life in me.
This presents a subtle identity issue. Our true identity is found not in what we do for Christ, how hard we pursue Him, or how others view us. Rather it is found in our belonging to Jesus Christ, whom God says we are (a beloved son or daughter of His), and how God sees us now in Christ. Our identity stems from an authentic relationship with God that He initiated in love.
God has been revealing this astounding balancing truth to me - that God is and has been pursuing me with His radical love all my life. Our pursuit of Him is important, but most important is our response to His first loving us (2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 4:19).
It is easy to believe that the Christian life is all up to us. Yet even godly men and women get tired of chasing after God. God’s pursuit of us has absolutely nothing to do with our level of obedience, our righteousness, or dedication to spiritual disciples. It has never been about our faithfulness to God; it’s about His faithfulness. Spiritual disciplines do not activate God’s love for us or cause Him to come closer to us. God is the heavyweight in the Christian life. It is about His strength, His ability, His love, His longing, His resolve to stay in relationship with us. God longs for an intimate relationship even more than we do. Capturing our heart with His love is one of God’s all consuming passions that is constantly in His thoughts.
In any intimate relationship there must be mutual desire, values, love, delight and pursuit for the relationship to really grow. Building intimacy with God is greatly enhanced by realizing that He seeks and delights in it, and that He knows us through and through already. Not only does He know everything about us, but He is actively and personally engaged in our lives. He is calling us to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Seeking God is a rewarding pursuit, also taught in Scripture, but toward which truth do we tend to move to in our life - God’s love seeking us, delighting in us, valuing us…or our seeking Him and finding joy and delight in Him?
If the emphasis is on our seeking Him, we can subtly march as a soldier to the steps of obedience, endurance and duty alone. But that gets tiresome! We begin to lose our joy and delight in walking with God and focus on what we are to do in the Christian life rather than the joy of being a beloved child in whom Christ lives and works. We can overlook the Spirit’s vital role, His divine resources and His supernatural empowering. With the focus on being an enduring soldier, we can miss the fact that He radically loves us and wants us to enjoy all things as His child (1 Timothy 6:17).
However there is danger if we only bask in His love and enjoyment of us. We can easily focus on grace without discipline. Yet the grace of God does teach us to lived disciplined and godly lives (Titus 2:12-14). Both are vitally important, as is the fact that God’s love and pursuit of us must not only capture our mind, but our heart and emotions. With our emotions awakened to being loved by God, we are motivated by joy, and there is fizz and color in our walk with Christ.
Being sought after and pursued by God
What are some ways God has already sought us and is currently pursuing us?
- In Creation - His personally creating us for intimacy with Himself (Psalm 139:17-18). God is constantly thinking about us. He intimately knows us.
- In the Incarnation - the Father revealed through the Son, His Living Word (John 1:1-5).
- In Inspiration - His Word written to us as His personal love letter in which He reveals Himself.
- By the Cross - He died for us while we were sinners, and continues to demonstrate His love for us now (Romans 5:8; John 3:16).
- By Adoption - He chose to adopt us as sons and daughters before creation (Ephesians 1:3-10…vs. 3 - He has blessed us; vs. 4 - He chose us before the creation of the world; vs. 5 - He predestined us to be adopted as His children; vs. 8 - He lavished His grace on us; vs. 9 - He made known the mystery of His plan that everything would be brought together in Christ).
- By His Indwelling Spirit - God sent His Spirit to live in us (Ephesians 1:13; John 14- 16)…the guarantee that we belong to Him and are His heirs (Romans 8:16, 17). His Spirit in us urges and cries out for intimacy, producing hunger for God (Galatians 4:6,7).
- By the New Covenant - It was all His initiative to say “I will live in you, and I will be your God and you will be my people,” and “I will write my law on your heart” (Jeremiah 31:33).
- By Sanctification - He is presently, actively and personally cleansing us from the power of sin and transforming us to His likeness. He is in the process of decorating our life with His beauty (His character), to be made known to the world.
- Philippians 1:6 - God initiated His work in us and will finish it into eternity. He is intimately involved in our life, training and disciplining us with His love to make us holy and like His Son (Hebrews 12:4-11; Romans 8:28-29).
- Ephesians 2:10 - God is working in our life, forming us as a potter. We are His masterpiece, His creative design. By the way, He does not make junk! He is shaping and polishing us into His image as ornaments of beauty to display His character.
- Hebrews 13:21 - God is equipping us with everything good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight through Christ.
By the Community of Believers - Through His people, whom He is conforming to His image, we come to know more of what He is like.
By His Promises - given for us now and for the future, in which we see His continuing intimacy with us. He will come again and take us to Heaven, where He is. When we arrive in Heaven, He will personally present us to God blameless with great joy (Jude 24), and then take us to the place He has been preparing for us (John 14:1-5).
By the Names God Calls Us - In those names we see His heart and love for us.
Intimacy With God Revealed by Names He Calls Us
1. We are His “treasured son or daughter,” belonging to Him, chosen, delighted in and deeply loved as His beloved child (Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 2:4, 9; Malachi 3:17).
2. We are “the apple of His eye” - refers to the “little man in His eye.” He is so close and active in our life, watching us so attentively, that we are reflected from His eye (Psalm 17:8). Apple implies how much He delights in, enjoys and cherishes us. He eyes are always towards us with delight. Zechariah 2:8 says “…for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…” Consider Deuteronomy 32:10 - “…He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.” In Luke 3:22 when the Father is expressing His delight in His Son at Jesus’ baptism, He says, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” “Pleased” here is the same word as “delight.” God is saying, “You are the apple of My eye.”
3. We are “Abbas’s child - Abba is the most personal name for God in Scripture, carrying the intimacy of “Daddy” or “Papa.” By His Spirit’s living in us, securing our sonship (Romans 8:14-16), we are now known by a name that brings with it the intimacy belonging to a family…the picture of having the right and invitation to crawl up into His lap.
4. We are “a crown of His splendor” whom God delights in and rejoices over (Isaiah 62:3-5). We are royal jewels that He delights in and values as precious treasure (1 Peter 2:4,5).
5. We are “joint heirs of God” - co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16, 17). All of Christ’s inheritance - riches, graces, Divine resources - He dispenses to us (Ephesians 1:3).
6. We are “the Temple of God,” - made valuable by the Spirit’s indwelling us, speaking to us, seeking and pursuing intimacy with us (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:1).
7. We are “a chosen people, now belonging to God,” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
8. We are “His friend,” not just His servants, and therefore He will reveal Himself and disclose everything to us (John 14:21; later in John 15:15).
Valued by God Significantly
What are some special ways God has proven and demonstrates that He is relentlessly initiating a close, loving relationship with us?
- He has chosen us and wants to be in and with us. The Creator of the Universe wants to be a companion of ours, to abide in us. A stark contrast between His holiness and our humanity created an awkward distance, but Jesus went to great lengths to create a relationship with us that would last for eternity.
- He has declared us not only forgiven, but innocent and righteous in His eyes. He can now look us directly in our eyes, not past us with detachment, disapproval, or disappointment. Instead His eyes delight in us, “His beloved” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- As our High Priest, mediating a New Covenant, He comes, sent by the Father, dispensing His graces, inviting us to come boldly to His Throne (Hebrews 4:16). He is the executor of our Father’s estate, dispensing our inheritance (Hebrews 6).
- He initiated sending the Holy Spirit to be our constant Teacher, Guide, Revealer of God, Comforter, reminding us of Truth and convicting us of sin (John 14-16).
- He is living in us, working in us, transforming us into His image or likeness, and em-powering us by His Spirit to desire to do His will. We are His personal workmanship, His masterpiece of art (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 1:6, 2:11-13; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
- He left His place in Paradise to initiate relationship with us (John 15:16; John 1). He traded His oneness with the Trinity to be with human beings in the Incarnation.
- He thought of us personally by name when He died on the Cross and is continually thinking about us now. He knows our names and everything about us (Psalm 139). As a shepherd, He knows each person’s voice and unique cry in the midst of every person on the planet, caring personally for each one.
- He is continually speaking to us now, not just through Scripture, but also through His Spirit in our lives. We need to train our ears to listen and know His voice. The Spirit makes the natural mind come alive with the Spirit’s mind (2 Corinthians 2:11-16).
- He is committed to protect our relationship and to maintain intimacy (Hosea 2:14,15). He reveals it when our relationship is going out of step. Even when we are led away by distractions and desires, He pursues us gently, tapping us on the shoulder with another invitation for intimacy.
- He will personally present us to the Father with joy (Jude 24).
- He wants us to join Him in His work of wooing the world to Himself and discipling the nations. He graciously chose us to be on His team, at His side when He works in people. He is not only the coach, calling the plays from the sidelines…He is the quarterback, calling the play on the field. Don’t you feel honored to be summoned to be at His side as a companion - next to His loving heart?
- He has chosen to be vulnerable with and for us, modeling it for us
- He was called the Lamb of God…the most vulnerable of animals
- At Gethsemane, He asked the disciples for prayer support as he faced the agony alone of the Cross…even though He knew they would disappoint Him.
- He gave us free will, risking a personal relationship with
- He asked Peter if he loved Him (even though it was for Peter’s sake). Jesus risked the possibility of rejection.
- Jesus washed all the disciples’ feet, even those of Judas who would betray Him.
- He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead.
- He learned obedience and submission in suffering. He wept over Jerusalem.
Jesus proves His love every time He initiates discipline in our life to mature us (Hebrews 12:5-11). We are in His active training program.
Personal Reflections and Observations
> As believers, we stand forgiven, sought after, loved, longed for, valued, pleasing to, and delighted in by God (Zephaniah 3:17-18). Being radically pursued by a loving God has major implications in our intimacy with God. It brings new desire and excitement. The Scriptures are clear…He rejoices over us, likes us, and we radically please Him because of what Christ has accomplished by justification. What does “doing all things that please God” mean? It does not mean seeking to gain or earn His approval, His acceptance or favor. It does not mean trying to prove our devotion, commitment, worthiness, or value to Him. Justification has changed all that. We already radically please God in that sense. Pleasing God as a believer means bringing Him joy, pleasure, glory and credit. It means bringing glory to Him in all we do.
> God has given us two great gifts that profoundly affect our relationship with Him - His Son, who made possible our righteousness and justification before God, and the Holy Spirit, sent by God to live in us, who creates desire and power for intimacy as He reveals Christ to us and forms Christ in us.
> We need to let our emotions be unlocked by the Spirit. Our passion and desire for God is an emotion as well as a will issue. He wants us to yield our emotions to Him and realize they are a gift from God.
> The Scriptures speak of “the age of love,” when we are more receptive to understand and receive His love. We need to be alert to respond to His wooing (Ezekiel 16:8).
>Intimacy with God is His deep heart desire for us. As has been said, our desire for Him is created by the Holy Spirit in us. Ask God to give you a growing passion for Him. He will do that. He is actively and personally involved in our life daily…not passive or just showing up occasionally, but active and ready to speak to us now.
Radically pursued…with you…by our Divine Lover,