We all want a deeper relationship with God and seek it in different ways though we don't always feel as if we're getting very far. Part of the problem is that often we're focused on a feeling which is no real judge of our walk with God. Other things like sin keep us from getting closer to God. Barring sin though, if we're not drawing closer to God, what can we do? Here's some practical wisdom.
1) Pick a rich Bible theme and give some time to think about it over the next few weeks. The Bible is filled with verses telling us that meditating on God's Word is a primary means of drawing closer to Him. The one who delights in God's Word and meditates on it day and night is blessed and spiritually prosperous (Ps. 1:2). We are to mediate on all God's work, precepts, and ways (Ps. 77:12; 119:15). We're commanded to think about the things of God and are promised great wisdom for doing so (Jos. 1:8; Ps. 119:99).
You can pick a familiar theme like the salvation by grace, the work of the Spirit in a believer's life, or the significance of the armor of God. You can pick subjects that you might not be completely familiar with such as the relationship between the Old and New Covenants, the doctrine of the atonement, or how the Old Testament prophets pointed to Jesus.
In all of this meditation, make sure you're not just thinking what you want to think. Let's say you want to meditate on the Sabbath. Try to lay aside what you believe about it as much as possible and let the Word of God speak. Take time to see what the Bible has to say about it.
Take your theme and search out different passages that speak to it. Think about each passage in context. Over time, as you put different texts together, not only will your understanding increase but your view of and love for God will grow and you'll be on your way to developing a deeper relationship with Him.
2) Let the full implications of what you're thinking about land on you. What God says about something is important; a matter of life and death. There may be something that seems minor or insignificant but it's not. If God has spoken to the issue, He's done so for a purpose.
Often we don't take God seriously enough. We try to fit His words into our established attitudes and lifestyles when what we need to do is just the opposite; we need to change our attitudes and lifestyles to conform to what He says. When God says you cannot serve Him and money for example, that's not just an ideal. He means that you actually serve Him or money and if you serve money you're not saved (Matt. 6:24).
When the weight of God's Word lands on you, make the change it demands. The only true joy and peace anyone can ever have is in glorifying God; we were created for that very purpose. Our goal is wrapped up in Christ. When we live with lesser goals and satisfactions, we miss out on the greater satisfaction God has for us in Him. When God's Word prompts us to think and live differently, we're going deeper with Him in joy.
3) Take what's landing on you as you meditate and preach to yourself. David described his depression like this one time: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. . . . My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God'" (Ps. 42:1-3). You know what he did next? He preached to himself! "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance" (v. 5). He asked himself why he was so depressed, told himself to hope in God, and reminded himself why he could! He couldn't have done so had he not thought long and hard about the fact that God never leaves us or forsakes us and that He'll be our help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).
Take what you're learning about God and tell yourself what to do because Satan, the world, and the flesh are strong. But now you have a spiritual weapon with which to fight off those attacks (Eph. 6:10f). As you resist the devil, he will flee (Jas. 4:7). When we're depressed or tempted, we sometimes don't know what to do or even care. But, when you preach God's Word to yourself, you know you're growing closer to Him.
4) Take your meditations and lift them up in spontaneous prayers to God. Getting closer to God is not about a feeling as we've said nor is it about a mere mechanical process. It's not an "if I do this check list" then I'll be closer to God. It's about God doing a work and drawing you closer to Him by the Spirit as you take advantage of the means He's given you like meditating on His Word. But, in the end, God must do the work. That's where prayer comes in.
As you think about God, His will, and His ways, as you learn more about what He says about His world and the nature of all things, as you see things that need to be changed in your own heart and life, lift up spontaneous prayers throughout the day. God has given us prayer to make sure our dependence is upon Him and not some method, even a biblical method! He's the one who must change us. That's why Jesus said to the disciples when they couldn't cast out a demon they needed to pray and fast (Mk. 9:29). They'd been given the authority to cast out demons but they'd become self-reliant. The Lord was reminding them that they couldn't cast out demons; only He could; they had to be completely dependent on Him. We're also dependent on Him and must therefore pray for Him to change our lives with His Word. That's how He gives us a deeper relationship with Him.
5) Now, take what you've learned and share it with others. As you think on God's Word, He'll put people in your path you can help. Just last week someone asked me a question I'd been thinking about for the last two months! You may help someone to understand God a little bit better or it may be that what you share radically changes the course of someone's life. God is the one who determines those things. He simply wants us to be faithful witnesses for Him.
Become a sage by thinking about God's Word. Roll things over in your mind and draw out the implications for living. You'll be able to help others far more than you ever dreamed. Share what you've learned that He might be lifted up in the hearts of others and that they might be lifted up by God in their own hearts. You'll find that when you're about the Father's business, you'll be closer to Him than ever.
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at www.trueworldview.com