Our experience of God’s nearness or distance is not a description of His actual proximity (Closeness/immediacy) to us but of our experience of intimacy with Him.
This is as true in our relationship with God as it is in our relationships with other human beings. We all know what it’s like to be sitting right next to a person with whom we feel distant and we can feel close to a person who is four thousand miles away.
Intimacy is not special but relational
The Bible shows us that God is intimate with those who trust Him. The more we trust God, the more intimately we come to know Him. A felt distance from God is often due to a disruption in trust, such as a sin or disappointment. It’s important that as Christians, we understand this reality.
As Christians, we want to experience intimacy with God. We want to be able to join with the psalmist and say: ‘But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.’ Psalm 73:28
We want to appropriate James’s exhortation and realise its promise for ourselves: ‘Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you’ James 4:8. But we can end up seeking that nearness in ways that don’t produce it.
Intimacy Is More Than Knowledge
A common mistake is thinking that nearness to God can be achieved through accumulation of Knowledge. We preach the truth of the gospel but the truth without an encounter with the living Jesus will not transform a life. Neither does it bring the relationship of knowing Him.
To intimately know God, we must know essential and fundamental things about Him. Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32 and He also pointed out John 4:22 that many worship what they do not know
Never in the history of the Christian church has so much theological (Know God) knowledge been available to so many people as it is today. The Western church enjoys perhaps the greatest amount of this abundance. We are awash with Bible translations, good books, insightful articles, recorded sermons, interviews, films, documentaries, music, and more. But the church is not abounding in Enochs, saints who walk with God in a profoundly intimate way
Hebrews 11:5 ‘By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.’
We are not seeing Enoch’s because knowledge is not synonymous, does not equate to trust. That’s why Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, some who possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Scripture, knew it well.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:39–40
Biblical knowledge is far better than Gold when it fuels our trust in God, because it fuels our intimacy with God Psalm 19:10
However, when Biblical knowledge replaces our trust in God, it only fuels our pride… “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 1 Corinthians 8:1
The secret to drawing near to God and having Him draw near to us is revealed clearly in the Bible: we draw near to God through faith in Christ who alone gives us access to Him.
‘Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ Hebrews 4:14-16
‘Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25
‘…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.’ Philippians 3:9
God is impressed with our faith, not our feats. Where faith is lacking, He is not pleased with the quantity of our knowledge or the quality of our aesthetic events.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
When God sees someone whose heart fully trusts His promises and lives by them, God comes to strongly support that saint 2 Chronicles 16:9 ‘For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.’
He not only bears us up but manifests Himself, reveals and shows Himself to us.
‘Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.’ John 14:21
God wants intimacy with us. Christ has done all the hard work in the cross to make it possible. All He requires is that we believe in Him John 14:1
He wants us to trust Him with all our heart Proverbs 3:5
Intimacy with God often occurs in the places where we must trust Him most.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6–7