Back in March, I heard a sermon from Dr. John Walton about “God With Us: What God Has Always Wanted”. It strikes me still, especially in this Christmas season.
God wants to be with us. He created us, not to rule distantly over us, but to be with us. Sin separated us, and yet His plan remained. He made a covenant with Abraham, promised restoration all through the OT. And then, He become flesh and dwelt among us. As one of us. God incarnate. When Jesus went back, His parting words were that He is with us always. He sent the Holy Spirit to literally dwell within us. The ending of the story? “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev. 21:3)
Who is this God, who wants to be with us? Why with us? We’re sinful, broken, rebellious, defiant, selfish creatures, who think we know better than Him and deny His Lordship. And He comes, not to “whip us into shape” or to force our allegiance, but to be with us.
It’s scandalous intimacy, this God-with-us. Ill-deserved grace. Not just mercy or compassion, but genuine love and desire.
He does ask my obedience and allegiance, but even in that, it’s not just for His glory, but also for my good, and for the benefit of our relationship. Always He loves me, always He woos me, always He takes me back.
The Creator of the universe wants to be with me. Not requiring some special holy time to earn His favor, but rather inviting me to commune with Him because He loves me and wants to be with me.
Perhaps even more mind-boggling, though, is how often I reply, “Sorry, God, I’m too busy”. Or pray to get an answer, treating Him like a genie, instead of drawing near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace – and to know Him.
Oh, friend. You, too? Stop with me for a moment, would you? Stop and remember Who it is that we are being invited to spend time with. Would that we always let the awe of it all move us to worship and pursuit of intimacy with Him.
When I look back over this past year, one of the sweetest themes I see is how very “with me” God has been. The best memories of the year aren’t so much about the actual things that happened or the people I got to be with, but rather the ways in which I saw God’s hand and felt His presence.
Some of the best memories are actually from the hardest moments, because they created unique opportunities to need Him – and to find how very comforting is it to be held fast by Him, especially in the valleys of life.
The answers to prayer throughout the past year . . . turns out, they were never about the answers. They were about knowing God, seeing new facets of His character, and finding Him to be a God who deeply cared about the details of my life.
Over and over, God has not granted me the answer to “why?” or “what lies ahead?”, but He has given me a better answer: Himself.
In Him, I find that the questions fade and fear loses its grip. I don’t need to know, when I know Him. My world is held in the hands of a Father who is Sovereign and Good. He promises to work all things for good, and that’s a better promise than any explanation would ever be. The ultimate ending is secure in Him and so the earthly details become less important.
I, a great sinner who deserves death and separation and destruction, I am loved and known and chosen, by a faithful God whose mercies are new every morning.
This is the scandalous intimacy of God-with-me. And I am so, so grateful.