In the introduction to this week’s devotional we discussed the fact that friendship with God was the goal of spiritual formation. While this is definitely true, our reading today demonstrates for us a necessary precaution involved in this teaching. For some of us, we may have read the introduction regarding the law and thought, “cool! God is my buddy, rules are optional, and I can cruise through life.” WRONG ANSWER! Remember the funnel. We must first pass through the narrow end of the funnel before we can truly experience friendship with God.
One of the reasons that we may slip into this distortion of truth is due to the fact that our culture has a distorted view of friendship. Let’s be honest with ourselves; why do we have friends? Or, a better question, how do we choose friends? We choose friends based upon whether or not a person will make US feel good, or will meet a particular need in OUR lives. So, in essence, we are selfish, consumerist friendship seekers. If a friend starts getting a little weird or a little “needy” what do we typically do? We back off. We don’t want to be dragged down.
This is not the kind of friendship that God desires to have with us. A fair-weather friend, a lukewarm friend, a what-can-I-get-out-of-you friend; these are the things that makes God sick (Rev. 3:16) God doesn’t love us that way. God never gives up on us, no matter how much we disappoint Him or are “needy.”
Let’s reconnect to the analogy of childrearing for a moment. When a parent treats a little child like an equal, giving them unlimited freedom with no consequences, the child becomes distorted and their natural self-centeredness becomes engrained in their psyche. A child who has been super-indulged has not had the opportunity to learn the concept of right and wrong. Their conscience has not been trained in morality and they can grow up to become a self-indulgent, and ultimately a self-destructive adult.
The same danger lies in the process of Spiritual Formation. If we try to jump too quickly into a “buddy” relationship with God, we may be tempted to devalue His holiness and absolute power. True friendship with God is a self-less love that is completely God-focused and asks, “what can I do for God,” not, “what can God do for me.”
As the infantile children of Israel stood before the mountain of God, Moses reminded them of this important truth. “God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
In the beginning of a child’s life it is the fear of reproof that keeps their hand out of the cookie jar. They know that Dad is just and fair and will swat the hand every time. This is a healthy thing. Eventually, as the heart matures, the child can say, “No, I won’t take the cookie because it will spoil my appetite and it will not be healthy.” At that point there is no longer a need for the law or for fear. Now fear is replaced by a love for the truth, and the moral behavior is authentic and natural.
Remember the formula “fear precedes love”. We cannot truly love God until we truly fear Him. He is the Almighty, El-Shaddai, the creator and destroyer of all things. He is holy and has every right to snuff out life. Until you fear this awesomeness to the core of your bones, you will not be able to grasp the depth of His love and the immeasurable depth of grace. When we realize the lengths to which God has made it possible for us to know Him and become His friend, then we will be willing to go through the fire of the spiritual disciplines, be stripped of self, and step into the full friendship of God.
Let us fear God today!