Talking about the objective truth of Scripture is comfortable for me. I love a good discussion about how Jesus became the sacrifice for my sin or how my life should reflect the gospel.
But I have difficulty when the topic turns from objective truth to subjective experience. I tend to shy away from discussions about how close I am to God or how well I communicate in prayer.
I think my shyness regarding the subjective aspects of faith stem from a fear of being led by my feelings instead of being led by truth. This is a legitimate concern. After all, Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” (Jer. 17:9)
But to say that because our feelings are unreliable, we must squelch any idea of a subjective relationship with God is a fallacy. In fact, to deny a subjective relationship with God is to deny the objective truth of Scripture.
That’s right; Scripture teaches that we are to have a relationship with God that goes beyond knowledge of truth. In John 14:23, Jesus states, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Wow! God promises to make his home with the believer who keeps His Word. He even says that He will pursue the relationship –and that it will be marked by love. This kind of language is reminiscent of the gracious love the prodigal son found when returning to His Father or the love described, “as a bridegroom rejoices over His bride, so will I rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
God’s love relationship with us is so wonderful that if Scripture didn’t teach it, it would be hard to believe!
Often the Bible refers to this as the “presence of God,” or “God’s presence.” For instance:
- In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
- Come into His presence with thanksgiving in your heart… (Psalm 95:2)
- Cast me not away from your presence. (Psalm 51:11)
All of these verses point out a presence of God that goes beyond His omnipresence. It wouldn’t make sense to think otherwise. If there was fullness of joy in God’s omnipresence, everyone would be enjoying it. And by definition, you can’t “come into” or be “cast… away” from omnipresence!
Instead, Scripture states, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
The presence of God is a personal relationship between God and the believer. So you can see how avoiding the subjective nature of our faith can be a big problem. It can leave us with a skewed picture of God and a life lacking intimacy with our Creator.
For instance, through the help of a counselor, I recently discovered this “subjective shyness” affecting my prayer life. I had been approaching my time with God more like a business meeting than a deep conversation. My prayers lacked intimacy, substance, and openness. I had to get beyond a business relationship! In other words, I came to God like a parent at the dinner table who still had work on his mind. I was “there,” but I wasn’t really “there.”
Others affects of “subjective shyness” may include the urge to 1) prove yourself to God rather than rely upon His grace, 2) approach the Christian life as a painful duty rather than a wonderful delight, 3) assume that God has left you on your own without any encouragement or help.
So why have I been so afraid of the subjective? Because I didn’t want to go overboard with the subjective and fall into error. But the irony is that, by avoiding the subjective, I went overboard in the other direction –which is also error!
So here are a few helpful guidelines for finding a biblical balance:
- If you believe that the presence of God is a substitute for time in God’s Word, you are in error. God’s presence does not lead us away from His Word. Instead, His Word leads us into His presence.
- Further, if you believe that God has told you something that is contradictory to His Word, you are in error.
- On the other hand, if you resist the idea of enjoying God, you are in error. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.—John 15:11
- And if you feel that God loves you, but doesn’t really like you, you are in error. He literally delights in you! (Isaiah 62:5)
So go ahead, enjoy the presence of God in your life. I promise, it won’t be “business as usual.”