A Time to Pursue Deeper Fellowship with God
Social distancing doesn't go so well with building deeper relationships, the last weeks have made this quite apparent. Although at first it may have been good to have some extra time and space from our normal routines and those we interact with, the sense of isolation and missing the in-person presence of those who are important to us is setting in. This is something we should rightfully miss and even lament, as God has created us to be relational beings. But rather than simply stopping here, let me encourage us to use this time when we are apart from others to reinforce our pursuit of deeper fellowship with God.
I get that this is something unsurprising for one Christian to encourage other Christians to pursue, but I want to take you a bit further than you might think at first when considering deeper fellowship with God. What I really want to encourage you to pursue is deeper fellowship with the triune God. This is simply a bit fancier way of saying God revealed in three persons, or Trinity. Hopefully this doesn't end your time reading this, please don't close the screen and go away thinking: "that whole Trinity thing is beyond me, I just don't get it". Yes you do, more than you realize. Rather than thinking of the Trinity as some strange mathematical formula, God somehow being 3 and yet 1 at the same time (which isn't quite what the Trinity is about anyhow!), it is much better to realize that anytime we relate to God the Father, or to Jesus, or to the Spirit of God, we are already relating to God as a trinitarian God. I want to point to and recommend Fred Sanders' excellent book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything that I have been reading and has already influenced my thinking about God in this way. As we think about taking this time to build deeper fellowship with God, let me show you how focusing on God as Father, Son, and Spirit in very simple ways, can help us in this.
First, think about God the Father and his omnipresence. This attribute of God shows us that God is everywhere, all the time. There is no where that God is not. Psalm 139:7-10 is one of places we see this explained clearly: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." During this time of social distancing, there is no distance that we go where God is not. Do we realize, no matter where we are or what is happening God is right there, and he always will be? We can call out to him at any moment, at any place. If completely alone on a remote hike, woken suddenly out of a bad dream, or in an ICU hospital bed on a ventilator unable to speak, even there God is with us? Do you realize that at the moment of death, that our present situation is causing us to consider, God will be right there with us? And right now at this very moment, God is here, right where you are and where I am as I am writing this? What a kindness of God! Because what this means is that we can simply call out to him and he is there listening, and in his greatness, power, and knowledge, it is not even hard for God to do this for every person in any part of the world, all at the same time.
This would be more than enough, but there is more. There is an overlapping, all-encompassing reality to our fellowship with God that we begin to see more of when we understand our relationship with all three persons of the Trinity. As we consider God the Son, Jesus Christ, one of the many privileges we have is to relate to Jesus as our brother (which also reminds us that God is our Father because we have received adoption through God the Spirit - more Trinity, see it isn't that mysterious!). Hebrews 2:11 is one of the most stunning verses in the Bible, showing us that the gospel is so real, so true, that the Bible can tell us: "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." What is so stunning is that Jesus should be ashamed to call us brothers, in our sin and rebellion against God, we are the scar, the true embarrassment on the family. But the work of Christ for us is so real and our union with Christ so transformative, that Jesus himself is not ashamed to call those who have trusted in him, his brother (or sister of course). Do you see how this affects your fellowship with God? Christ is your brother, right next to you, right beside you, with you through the thick and thin of it all. And he is not looking at you like a harsh brother saying: "Are you ever going to get it right?" No! If we take the words of Hebrews 2 to be true, it seems much more likely that Jesus is there cheering us on. He looks at us and sees us increasingly becoming more and more like him (through the Spirit's sanctifying work by the way) and seems much more interested in building us up in him, rather than tearing us down. Right now, in this time when human fellowship is a bit difficult to cultivate, why not pursue deeper fellowship with the One who shows us what it means to be truly human, the second and better Adam, Jesus Christ, God the Son.
Yet there is more still. There is a third person within the Trinity, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. As we think about deeper fellowship with the Spirit of God, let me draw your attention to the truth that the Spirit indwells those who belong to God though faith in Jesus Christ. This is put most clearly and succinctly in 1 Corinthians 3:16 "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" If you have been a Christian for any length of time, this might be very familiar to you, perhaps too familiar. Do we understand what this means? The Spirit of God has come to take up residence within us! I want to say, "But God, don't you know what is in there? That's where my dreadful, sinful heart is! That's where all the stuff is that I can keep hidden from others but I know still exists: my thoughts, my motives, the things I don't want to talk about." Yet, God knows all this and the Spirit of God himself has come in to live within us. Do we realize what this says about God? The depth of true fellowship that he desires to have with us, that he has initiated with us. This communicates another kind of: God always being with us. Like God's omnipresence, he is still with us wherever we are, but the indwelling Spirit shows us that God is not just there externally, but there internally, within us, knowing us in the very best sense. We are his and he is ours, forever. This is a deep, abiding fellowship that God has brought to us, that we can delight in, that we can rest in.
It is a profound reality that God desires to have fellowship with us. There is much more to explore, but even a very basic understanding of the fellowship we can have with the triune God reveals that it is truly all encompassing: God the Father all around us, God the Son, right next to us, and God the Spirit, dwelling within us. None of it deserved, nothing earned, all of grace. God the Father sending God the Son to secure all that was needed to reconcile us to him, the Spirit opening our eyes and giving us new life in Christ. What a God who has saved us and made us his! A triune God, that we have the joy of knowing in true fellowship for all eternity.