Growing a relationship
Consider your relationship with your best friend. Remember when you were first getting to know them? The friendship still has to grow and there is so much still to know about them. But then you break through the honeymoon period and you have to fight to keep the friendship alive. Now look at where you are in your friendship. After years of ups and downs, think about how well you know that person and how rewarding that intimacy is.
Our relationship with God follows a similar trajectory. When we are born as Christians, we still have so much to learn about God. But sometimes as we get to know him, we can experience things that make us question if the hard work of building a relationship is really worth it.
So how do we grow in maturity and intimacy with God?
The disciple John shows us how maturing in Christ is like growing up in 1 John 2.
He starts by addressing those who are young in their faith as little children. He says ‘I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven’ in verse 12 and ‘because you know the Father’ in verse 13.
The foundation for being identified as a child of God is that your sins are forgiven and that you know the Father. What John is saying to the new believer is that you have all that you need. You don’t need to search the world to find yourself or look for meaning in the approval of other or a one night stand. The Father has already forgiven your sins and your meaning comes from being his child.
But how do we know if a lifetime of having your identity in the Gospel isn’t a waste of time?
John points to men and women who are mature in their faith as a testimony to the depth of intimacy that God is offering. In both verse 13 and 14 he says, “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.”
John is writing to spiritual mothers and fathers who have progressed into a deep communion with God. They don’t just know God as Father, they know God as He Who is from the Beginning.
You know, there is something quite profound when I look around at the mature men and women at CityReach and I see the testimony of veterans who have drunk deeply of God’s Spirit. This is someone who has gone through the fire with God for years and is able to stand and say, “He is faithful!”
But how do we get from being a spiritual baby to a mature mother or father of faith?
John writes to spiritual young adults saying ‘you have overcome the evil one’ (v 13) and ‘you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one’ (v14).
This whole section is an encouragement to believers of what is already true. John wants our heart to fill up with the joy of deeply knowing God. There is not one command in this whole section. It is all commentary on what has already happened. Young men: you have overcome the evil one.
Growing up is difficult and there are hard phases of life that we must go through to become an adult. Similarly, in our faith we must go spiritual adolescence. Verses 15-17 warn us that the world will offer us ‘the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life’ (v16) and will try and distract us from our relationship with God.
But verse 17 also gives us the key to growing in our intimacy with God: ‘whoever does the will of God abides forever.’
We will experience deep intimacy with God when we overcome temptations by doing the will of God.
Pastor Carl Robinson and Frances Early