Friday, November 25, 2016

Practical Suggestions for Cultivating Communion with God

Helpful advice . . . This post is an excerpt written by Kelly M. Kapic for the ESV Men's Devotional Bible.

Communion with God

Does the idea of communion with God draw you in or push you away? There is much in our lives that distracts and prevents us from experiencing genuine communion with God. Living in a fast-paced society with endless demands and countless opportunities can mean that slowing down to commune with God can seem indulgent if not outright impossible. Amid our busyness, we can even find ourselves feeling guilty when we are not constantly accomplishing things.
But interpersonal relationships are not “things” to be accomplished. They are more about “being” than “doing,” and they need attentiveness, mutual exchange, and care to flourish. Relationships cannot be life-giving sources of strength if we are not present in and to them. Communion with God is a deep need for every human, whether we acknowledge the need or not. Communion with God is how we were made to function, and it is ultimately about a loving and very present relationship with the triune Creator.
As Christians, we are called to cultivate loving concern for other people, but this must always be understood in light of how we are drawn into a life-giving relationship with God himself (e.g., Deut. 6:4–5; 7:7–9; Lev. 19:34; 1 John 4:19). We are commanded to love and obey God, not because God is a tyrannical dictator but because he created human beings to be lovers and he knows what makes for human flourishing. His is the way of “life and good” as opposed to the way of “death and evil” (Deut. 30:15–20).
We were made to enjoy our Creator, to bask in his faithful presence. He knows how life-giving communion with him works, and he grieves over how sin threatens to distort our fellowship with him. Love, even with the Creator, is meant to be mutual, not simply unidirectional: we are to listen and speak, to receive and give. Being in communion with God and with others is the key to human flourishing (Eph. 4:32–5:1).

The Challenge

So why is communion with God so challenging? Our sin and the sin in the world destroy communion and drive us to flee from God. But we were designed to delight in our Creator, to find his presence and power as our great comfort and strength. As believers we not only have been rescued from the damning consequences of sin but also have been invited into restored fellowship with God.
The world is still broken, and so are we. This brokenness affects every part of us, including and especially our relationship with God. Once we discover forgiveness and the promise of communion with the God of the universe, we are ushered into a holy sanctuary. In his divine presence we inevitably see our sin, but we also discover the depth of his grace and the incredible truth that he desires to be with us. He desires communion with us so much that he died in order to make it possible (Rom. 5:6–8).
Once we have been embraced by Christ, our vision should focus much less on our sin and much more on the riches of God’s mercy and love. But how do we get to this place of restored vision and hope? It is in and through our renewed communion with the triune Creator that we experience genuine security, the intimacy of being a child of God, and the transforming power that comes through fellowship with him. This side of glory, we have only tastes of such unhindered communion, but these tastes point forward to what is to come and give us strength for ourselves and strength for those around us.

How to Cultivate Communion with God

We don’t need to go on a three-day retreat or read extensive theological treatises in order to enjoy communion with God. What we do need is to learn to savor the love, grace, and fellowship of our triune God (2 Cor. 13:14). As we meditate on the mercy of God in Christ, we are slowly soaked in the life-giving love of the Father and the transforming grace of the Son. All of this occurs in and through the presence and power of the Spirit, who secures us in our fellowship with God.
Here are a few practical suggestions. First, cultivate a hunger for the Scriptures. Meditate on them, for here we can be confident that we discover the truth about our God and what it means to be in relationship with him (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2). Second, partake of the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis, for this is a normal means of God’s grace to us (1 Cor. 11:23–26). Third, seek opportunities to care for the needy and vulnerable. Biblically, there is a strong connection between loving widows, orphans, prisoners, and the poor, and loving Jesus (Matt. 25:35–40; James 1:27). As God’s love moves through us to others, we ourselves often grow in our love for him (1 John 4:16–21). Fourth, seek refuge in God through times of prayer. Adopted by God, we confidently approach the Father because he has “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6; see also Eph. 1:3–6).
Think of a healthy relationship that you have been in or one that you have observed between others. The things that mark that strong relationship likely include care and attentiveness, time together, communication, mutual understanding, and shared joy. Human beings were created for such life-giving relationships, and they are the fuel of our souls. As a Christian, you are secure in your union with Christ, and this union makes communion with God a joyful possibility. Be assured of your union with Christ and go flourish and gain strength in communion with him.

Kelly M. Kapic (PhD, King's College, University of London) is professor of theological studies at Covenant College, where he has taught for over fifteen years. Kapic has written and edited over ten books, focusing on the areas of systematic, historical, and practical theology. Kapic has also published articles in various journals and books. Kapic and his wife, Tabitha, live on Lookout Mountain with their two children

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