Friendship with God
JULY 1, 2023
by Mike McKinley
Have you ever seen a small child open a gift, only to wind up playing excitedly with the bow that was on the package? The problem is that he doesn’t understand the value of the gift he has received; he is unacquainted with just what it is that he has been given. We are just like that child when we find our souls thrilled by the prospect of a new superhero movie but relatively unmoved by communion with God the Father.
So what do you do with the toddler who ignores the gift in order to play with the glittery ribbons? You draw his attention to the gift. You show him how great it is and give him a sense of all the things he can do with it. You help him to experience the joy of the gift he has received. That’s what John Owen does for us in his book, Communion with God. He takes us by the hand and helps us to delight in all that we have in our friendship with the Father. To that end, he gives us five steps to properly appreciate all we have received.
First, eye the Father as love. To eye something is to fix your mind on it in order to understand it more deeply. Believers are to fill their thoughts with the greatness of God’s love and kindness. Don’t think of him as a stern and disapproving father who focuses only on your shortcomings. If you focus your mind primarily “on his terrible majesty, severity, and greatness,” your spirit will not be delighted by him, and you will not feel drawn into friendship with him. Instead, you should let your mind think often of his everlasting tenderness and compassion toward you in Christ. If you really understood how much the Father loves you, you would be delighted to be in his presence often.
Second, think about who it is that loves us. The Father who loves us has always been perfectly satisfied and happy. He is excellent and perfect in every way, enjoying the fellowship of the Son and the Spirit from eternity past. We don’t fill up anything lacking in him; he doesn’t need us at all. That means that his love isn’t selfish. It isn’t aimed at getting something from us, but it is a love that seeks our good.
Third, meditate on what kind of love the Father has for us. Some kinds of love are better than others, and the love of the Father is perfect in every way. It is:
Eternal. The Father has loved us before the world was created. Before we were born or had done anything good or bad, he delighted in us. From all eternity the Father has had a plan to bring us into his everlasting happiness. Just the idea that he loves us like this should make us “rejoice before him with trembling.”
Free. God loves us because he wants to; it makes him happy to love us. If he only loved us to the extent that we deserve it, he would love us much less. And if he loved us because he was obligated to love us, it would make his love less wonderful. But the truth is better than we might dare to imagine— nothing outside of the Father causes him to love us. His love is absolutely free.
Unchangeable. Because his love is free, it is also unchangeable. Nothing is going to come along and dislodge us from his tender kindness. God never changes, so his love will never grow or shrink. This is the only kind of love the Father could have for us, because if his love could be turned away by our sin or folly, it would have happened a long time ago!
Distinguishing. The Father’s love is specific. He doesn’t set his love on mankind in general but rather on those whom he has chosen in Christ from before the world was created (Eph. 1:4). This should give you a sense of awe and humility, that God has passed over many of the great and wise people of the world and made you an object of his love.
Fourth, eye God’s love so as to receive it. It does you no good to understand the depth and beauty of the Father’s love unless you receive it by faith, unless you really believe that he loves you like this. As you read God’s word or hear it preached, work hard to understand what it says about the Father’s love for you and then embrace that truth by faith. When your sin or the weakness of your faith tempts you to doubt that he cares for you, smother the flames of unbelief by putting your trust in what God has told you about his great love.
Fifth and finally, let the Father’s love change your heart. If the Father has loved you like this, how unkind and ungrateful not to love him in return! If you have any comprehension of just how much he loves you, you will certainly love him in return.
Think for a moment about how wonderful this is. The religions of the world put a heavy burden on their followers. They teach that we must please God with our service, our self-control, and our acts of outward devotion. But the Father does not need you to be anything in order to love you. He doesn’t need your service (Acts 17:25) or your religious devotion (Ps. 50:9–15). Rather, the command he gives is a great source of joy, that we believe how deeply he loves us in Christ and then love him in return. It is our happy duty to have communion with the Father in his love.
Content taken from Friendship with God by Mike McKinley, ©2023. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, crossway.org.
 Owen, Communion, 124.
 Owen, Communion, 125.