God’s Intimate Friendship

God's Intimate Friendship
‘Transcendence’ and ‘immanence’ describe the almost paradoxical nature of our relationship with God. The transcendence of God means that God exists apart from, and is not subject to the limitations of, the material universe. He is above and beyond, surpassing and excelling, greatly superior to us.
On the other hand, the immanence of God means that it is possible to experience his immediate friendship. 
It is only when we understand the transcendence of God that we see how amazing his immanence is, and what a huge privilege it is to be able to enjoy God’s intimate friendship. In each of the passages for today we get a glimpse of both his transcendence and his immanence.

ThewayweworkshipPsalm 18:7-15

1. Worship the transcendent God and love his awesome presence
David speaks of the awesome presence of God. ‘The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook… Out of the brightness of his presence… The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded’ (vv.7,12–13).
In this psalm we see both the power and the anger of the transcendent God. ‘They trembled because he was angry’ (v.7). God’s anger (though never malicious) is his personal reaction against sin.
If we look at human trafficking, the abuse of children, institutional torture or some other terrible injustice, without feeling any anger, we are failing to love. Indignation against evil is an essential element of goodness. In this psalm we see that God’s anger is the reverse side of his love.
Yet, this is a psalm in which David expresses his intimate friendship with God. It begins, ‘I love you, O Lord, my strength’ (v.1). David did not take it for granted. He understood the immense privilege of having an intimate friendship with the transcendent God.


Matthew 21:33-22:14

2. Accept God’s invitation and enjoy his intimate friendship
The last big royal wedding in the UK was between Prince William and Catherine Middleton – now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Imagine what it would have been like to open the post and find an invitation to their wedding. Jesus says that all of us receive an invitation to the greatest royal wedding of all time.
Jesus describes the kingdom of God as being like a vineyard and like a wedding banquet. Both of these pictures speak again of God’s generosity and his amazing love for you.
But God’s love is not sentimental. Again, we see the reverse side of God’s love and mercy, which is his judgment on those who reject his love and do evil (21:35 onwards). When the tenants ‘seized his servants… beat one, killed another, and stoned a third’ (v.35), and in a final act of rebellion, when they took his son ‘and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him’ (v.39), there was a judgment (v.41).
Jesus is prophesying about his own death. He is the ‘son’ and ‘heir’ (vv.37–38) whom God sent. Yet, they ‘killed him’ (v.39). He is the stone ‘the builders rejected [who] has become the capstone’ (v.42). He is the one who executes judgment (v.44). The judgment was to come about because of their rejection of Jesus (they were looking for a way to arrest Jesus, v.46).
Likewise, in the case of the wedding banquet, God issues an open invitation for an intimate friendship with him. It would have been a huge privilege to have received an invitation to the wedding of Prince William. It is an even greater privilege to be invited to this royal wedding (v.2). It is a costly invitation (v.4) and an open invitation (vv.9–10). Everyone is invited. The invitation is repeated over and over again (vv.1–4).
I find it fascinating that Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a party. This is the opposite of how many people think about God, church and faith. They think it is something sombre, dull and boring. But Jesus says the kingdom of God is a party. It is a celebration – like a wedding reception; a fun, joyous occasion with lots of laughter and feasting.
However, there were some who, when reminded of their invitation, ‘only shrugged their shoulders and went off, one to weed his garden, another to work in his shop’ (22:5, MSG). Their possessions and their jobs were higher priorities than a relationship with Jesus. Some were extraordinarily rude and hostile – they ‘seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them’ (v.6). Jesus says, ‘The king was enraged’ (v.7).
God’s invitation is not something you should take lightly or flippantly. It is an amazing and wonderful invitation. It is a huge privilege that a transcendent God invites you to have an intimate friendship with him. However, it is not enough simply to go along. You need the right wedding clothes (vv.11–13). You cannot enter the kingdom of heaven on your own terms – only on Jesus’ terms. Thankfully, through his death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has provided the clothes you need.

slide_11Job 25:1-29:25

3. Understand the transcendence of God and know his immanence
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the problems and difficulties you are facing? Do you doubt whether God has the power or the desire to help you?
Job understood the transcendence of God. He says, ‘I will teach you about the power of God’ (27:11a). He points out that everything we see of God’s power in the natural world around is only ‘the outer fringe of his works’ (v.12).
God is powerful enough to help you.
God is not only powerful enough to help you, he also loves you enough to do so. Job knew all about the immanence of God. He had experienced ‘God’s intimate friendship’ (29:4) where true wisdom is to be found.
‘Fear-of-the-Lord – that’s Wisdom, and Insight means shunning evil’ (v.28, MSG). The ‘fear-of-the-Lord’ means respect for God. It is in this respectful relationship with God that we find wisdom. Now we know that Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. It is in an intimate friendship with him that you find true wisdom.
Job describes the immense value of this wisdom. ‘Where can wisdom be found?… It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver… God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells… “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding”’ (28:12,15–28).
What kind of life does this lead to? It will lead to shunning evil (v.28) and serving the poor (29:12). Job describes a truly righteous life as helping ‘the poor… the fatherless… [the] dying… the widow… the blind… the lame… the needy… the stranger’ (29:12–16). Job was concerned not only with poverty but also with justice. ‘I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban… I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth’ (vv.14,17).
As you draw close to God in intimate friendship, his concerns become your concerns. Like Job, you will desire to help the poor, the fatherless, the homeless and the widows. You want to rescue victims of injustice. You will seek to look after the blind, the lame, the needy and the strangers in your land.
Job had not actually lost his intimate friendship with God. But, at the point that he was writing, he had lost any tangible feeling of it. He was going through the most appalling suffering. It seemed to him that God was miles away. You may be experiencing something like this at the moment. If you are, be encouraged by the story of Job.
When we come to the end of the book of Job, we understand that God had never left him. God was going to bless him more than he could ever ask or even imagine. God would restore to him the sense of his intimate friendship.
Now, through Jesus, all of us can experience an intimate friendship with the transcendent God and know his ultimate blessing on our lives.

God Bless!


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