In his booklet You Have What It Takes, John Eldredge suggests that many Christians live their lives like someone trying to run a marathon with a broken leg. He points out that knowing our sins are forgiven is not the same thing as having our hurts healed so that we can “run the race set before us.” [Hebrews 12:1] Eldredge goes on to describe how a friend of his avoided spending time with God because he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear what God might say to him if he really listened; this man assumed that God’s attitude toward him would be negative because of his struggles, so he evaded the very encounter that could bring him into a place of healing and victory.
I think a lot of us are like this: we’ve heard so many negative messages about God, even those well-intended to motivate us toward “godly behavior,” that – when we’re hurting, confused, lonely, bored, or in trouble – we pursue all kinds of counterfeit affections, worldly or even sinful pleasures, because we’ve denied ourselves the supreme pleasure and true affection God wants us to experience in our relationship with Him.
Consider the following thoughts from After God's Own Heart by Mike Bickle (Chapter 1):
"...intimacy with God starts with the realization that God likes us and wants to enjoy with us the pleasure of encounters with Him... the infinite God of glory is truly in love with us, even in our weakness and brokenness. He has invited us to drink from the awesome spiritual pleasures of having a divine romance with Him.
"I'm not just talking about knowing in your head that God loves you. Everybody knows that, or says they do. But we've been numbed over the ages to the impact of God's Love. We have reduced it to something namby-pamby and full of condescension and pity. Yet God's love is so full of tumbling energy and strong emotion, I don't know if we would recognize it for what it is... fierce emotions so strong and determined that they even drove Him to the extreme of being incarnated and hung on a cross. In His love for us, He would simply not be denied relationship with us, and so He pursued us to the very end. That is the God we serve.
"Most believers are so disconnected from the reality of God's astonishing, frightfully lavish love for us that they totally miss out on 99 percent of what they could experience in their everyday walk with Christ... [They] spend their days on earth believing that Jesus is harsh instead of tender, mad instead of glad, and distant instead of affectionate. When they finally see Him as He truly is, they will be filled with regret at not spending their time on earth radically pursuing His heart and reaping the amazing pleasures.
"You have to understand: God is not a boring fuddy-duddy who wears slippers and putters around heaven feeling constantly perturbed. He is not geriatric, but ageless. He is the very fountain of timeless youth and passion. He is the source of all pleasure in the universe! Happiness comes from no other source. It is never a sacrifice to hang out in His presence, though many are bored during times of prayer and worship. Most believers put prayer in the "sacrifices-I-make-for-God" category, but that only happens when you live with a total misconception of who God is. When we look into His heart, He reveals to us what He looks like emotionally and what we look like to Him. The result turns our brains and hearts inside out. You can't get over it! It's like falling in love for the first time. He absolutely burns with love for you!
"The present crisis in the Body of Christ, in which many people never experience the love of God, stems from a false view of God. Instead of a God who is full of tenderness, gladness, and desire, believers imagine a God who is filled with animosity toward them. This affects every single aspect of how they approach Him.
"Think of it in practical terms. When you are forced to meet with someone who openly dislikes you, considers you a hypocrite, or is full of blame toward you, your spirit is guarded and closed. You can't relax. You count the minutes and look forward to leaving that person's presence. This is how many of God's people live and worship. They lift hands and voices with guarded spirits and closed hearts. This is an amazing and sad statement, but most believers I know are trying to live a devoted life of holiness while seeing God as harsh and menacing. They are unable to worship Him with open spirits because inside they feel rejected by Him as a hopeless hypocrite. They may use different words to describe this reality, but the pain is the same. Perhaps you have felt it...You come before God as you would come before someone who despises you.”
Bickle ascribes both cause and effect to conditions of compromise and backsliding in the Church. The less we know and experience God’s Love, the more we withdraw or pursue Him half-heartedly; the more we withdraw, the more entangled we become in worldly compromise and other loves which result in feelings of guilt, secret shame, and further withdrawal from the One who holds all the keys to our joy and freedom.
"What is God going to do to correct the backsliding? Beat everyone up? ...No, Jeremiah prophesied that in the End Times, God would cause His people to return wholeheartedly by revealing our relationship to Him as a cherished bride...
"Return, O backsliding children," says the Lord, "for I am married unto you... I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." [Jeremiah 3:14-15]
"This is the Lord's highest way of empowering people to walk in wholehearted holiness with Jesus. He doesn't whale on us with a switch from the willow tree, but introduces us to our marriage relationship with the Godhead. He invites us to fill our spirits with the understanding of Him as our Husband, the One who is merciful, glad-hearted, affectionate and beautiful. He beckons us to go on a journey that we might experience the power of this reality in our own being. And then, flowing out of our personal encounter with Him, we will stop our backsliding, proclaim what He is like to others, and lead them into their own experience of this fascinating, intimacy-loving Bridegroom God." I’ll be writing more about this approach to “wholehearted holiness” in the future; for now, i'd like to conclude with one more quote that underscores how important it is that we learn how to answer the title question of this post more accurately:
"In light of the mounting pressures at the end of the age, we can't afford not to drink of the pleasures of His heart...We desperately need hearts anchored and sustained by an outrageous love that comes from another world." -- Mike Bickle, After God's Own Heart
Something you may want to ask God this week: “How do You feel about me?”