Links Daily Devotional

An Abnormal Relationship

…so worship God acceptably, with reverence and with awe, for “our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29, NIV)

Perhaps you have imagined, like those everyday guys in the PGA Tour television ads, having a special friendship with a notable tour player like Jordan Spieth or Hunter Mahan. Maybe you wouldn’t want to share a milkshake or build sandcastles, but you’d love to have dinner and talk sports or maybe meet up at a park where your kids could play together while you chatted up dream cars and the latest tech gadgets.

But here’s the big question: Would you dare to play golf in front of the guy?

We might do well to say that while God is a friend, he is not a buddy.Maybe your game isn’t ready for that kind of scrutiny. Or maybe you hold your favorite player in such high esteem that you’d rather stand back and watch him do his thing than get in the way with your errant drives. The last thing you’d want is for Adam Scott to be out in the weeds looking for your ball!

In the world of Christian conversation, we have many times in the evangelical era turned the terminology. Instead of talking religion, we say it is about relationship. Our righteousness before God is only as good as our believing identity with Jesus. This is theologically sound. It was the religionists that Jesus himself chastised. They could not understand that the Messiah was among them and that he wanted for them to recognize him and come to faith in him. The people who seemed to understand this best were those farthest from the religious establishment: tax collectors and other sinners.

We can connect with this. We are among those other sinners, and we prize the idea of a relationship with the Lord of the universe.

And yet, as in all matters of our faith, we must walk with circumspection, taking in as full a view as possible of who God is and how he works.

Perhaps this is what led the writer of Hebrews to move toward his conclusion by harkening back to Moses’ words of God to the people, when the old prophet laid out his final directives. “The Lord your God,” Moses said, “is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

“Ah, yes,” we might say, “the Old Testament God.”

Yet the writer of Hebrews has reminded us of this God in the New Testament context. This is the God with whom we have relationship. We might do well, then, to say that while he is a friend, he is not a buddy. He embraces sinners and restores their broken lives. For this we may well want to embrace him in return, holding fast to the one who loves us so. And we have such access to him. But our access must always be tempered with an understanding that outruns reason and places us instead in the arena of awe. Our friend, he is God. We love him and we revere him.

Jeff Hopper
March 7, 2016
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