The Christian life is not just about doctrines or spiritual disciplines, but about fellowship with God—koinonia. But how can you experience moments of fellowship with God?
1. Put yourself in the presence of his Word.
If you want God to manifest himself to you, don’t get alone with yourself and “listen to your heart.” That’s a pit of poison. Don’t go out in the woods and wait for a bolt of inspiration. My advice to believers and non-believers here is the same: you need to consistently put yourself in the presence of the Word. After all, God cannot make the Word of Life come alive in your heart unless that Word is already there!
Here are several practical suggestions to this end:
Do a ‘quiet time.’ This is probably the worst naming job in contemporary Christianity: it sounds like God is putting you in the corner and telling you to shut up. But the idea behind a ‘quiet time’ is an important one. Every day, for at least 30 minutes, set aside time to spend with God. I split my time up into thirds: 1. Read the Bible, 2. Pray, and 3. Read through a devotional book.
Memorize Scripture. When I was a kid, I memorized Scripture for all of the wrong reasons. I wanted the gold star and for everyone to say I was #1. But despite my terrible motivations, when I became a Christian those verses came alive to me in awesome ways. Having chunks of Bible tucked away into our memory doesn’t earn us any merit with God, but it does provide fuel for an experience of God’s fellowship.
Pray the Scriptures back to God. Part of why I read the Bible before I pray is so that I can do this. I pray back over what I’ve just read. Sometimes I associate certain passages with people I’m praying for. Scripture shows me the mind of God and teaches me how to pray.
Get in a ‘small group.’ When God wants to speak, more often than not he will do it through his body. If you are not connected with a group small enough to actually know and be known by others, then you are cutting yourself off from the chief way that God wants to speak to you.
2. Pray for it.
The thing you most need is not new information, but a greater sense of the things you already know. So pray that God would open your eyes to see and feel the weight of his glory.
The Hebrew word for glory is kabod, which literally means “weight.” When you give glory to something above Christ, you are essentially saying that something else outweighs him. If you say, “I know Jesus loves me and died for me,” but someone’s offense against you is so large in your eyes that you can’t forgive them, then that person’s offense has weight—kabod—but Jesus is “light.” If you are devastated by the thought of being single, it is because marriage is heavy to you, but Jesus is light. If you are devastated by some tragedy and can’t have joy, it is because that affliction is heavier to you than the comfort of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul—who experienced enormous pain and loss in his life—called all his troubles “light and momentary” because of the surpassing “weight” of glory. Pray that God would make Jesus have that “weight” in your eyes.
3. Keep obeying, even when you don’t ‘feel’ it!
There will be times when you do not feel God’s presence. Just obey: the feelings will come later. In any relationship, feelings of intimacy are often facilitated by long stretches of obedience. In my relationship with my wife, there are times when it does not feel passionate and exciting, but the intimacy of 60 years of faithfulness is better than a quick adulterous fling. Give God the same opportunity, and let him draw you close to him.