An "On Becoming Truer" subscriber asks, "I long for an intimate relationship with God. But for over 20 years now, I have struggled with HOW. Yes, I am saved. But from that day - no one has ever been able to really explain how to build on it. What to do after the baptism. I have asked friends, fellow church-goers, and ministers. They only say "read the bible" or start in "the gospels, read a little each day" and pray. I can't tell you how many devotionals and Bible lessons I have had through the years. How many times I've "set aside" time to spend in the Bible - only to find myself just sitting there wondering "now what?" I need more explanation."
This is the million dollar question, isn't it? How? How do I develop true oneness with God? I have probably answered this question for myself and for others a dozen different ways...each one depending on my stage of life, experiences to that point, and understanding of God. I appreciate the question, not so much because I can answer it, but because it allows me to see how my answer has changed. I expect it to change more, but here is my current answer to the question, "How do I experience deeper oneness with God?"
The feeling of oneness and closeness with God requires:
Expectation - When you read, live, pray, go to work, interact with family, friends, strangers...I have found that the expectation that God is interacting with me is necessary for the interactions to be seen, felt, heard or noticed in anyway. My experience is that this expectation is something I have had to first believe in, then cultivate into something I am regularly/constantly aware of, then remembering because I am always being opposed in the noticing.
Relationships - The most important command, Jesus said, is to love God and love others. How much of your life can be explained or justified by these two priorities? Which part of your life (including religious/spiritual activities like Bible reading, prayer, or service) is not in service to the relational agenda of God? Honestly, I don't want any activity in any part of my day to not be in subjection to my hearts purpose of loving God or loving others. I think this alignment with the command that Jesus said all the Bible hangs on gives us a lens through which to read the Bible.
Transformation - What is the ultimate purpose of God for me personally? Outside of my eternal life with Him after my death, what is the life He wants for me now? It is Christ. He wants to transform me into the image of Jesus Christ. He is after my spirit, my heart, my attitudes, my behaviors, my priorities, and my mission. God is making me more like Christ every day. Tuning in to this sends me to the Bible, to the people in my life, and to the circumstances that come my way looking for Jesus with wide and eager eyes!
The ideal of becoming like Christ is the highest one available to human being. It is a constant adventure, and you are always in the middle of the perfect circumstances through which to be shaped, because of how good and focused God is on this end.
The intimacy required, with God and your fellow man, will demand all the love available to you supernaturally through God's Holy Spirit. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you," our teacher and rabbi says. Summoning forth the vulnerability before God and before those He sends your way is inner work. Contemplating (as opposed to "studying" or "reading") the implications of Jesus' teachings will take you to the thresholds of human possibility, confront your unbelief, and demand faith to go farther.
That leads to depth. The great change in my life was the focus on depth, not breadth. I'm not interested in learning more stuff about the Bible as much as I am interesting in understanding and assimilating and becoming the stuff that I have already learned. I'm not as interested in more people being "in my church" as much as I am interested in the people "in my church" taking their next step into Christlikeness. I'm not as interested doing more stuff in my Christian service as I am in doing less stuff more deeply. I believe that the focus on depth can lead to breadth, if God deems it, but that the focus on breadth steals depth.
In summary...I don't know what you call them: ideas, priorities, values, beliefs, attitudes, practices...maybe all of the above. But I do know that these ideas help me to come alive in God...idealistic expectations, intimate relationships, transformational depth.
With all of that, let me end by saying that all of it is grace. If the Lord wills, I will feel His presence. All the spiritual discipline and attitudes in the world, perfectly practiced by the most sincere and devoted soul, without God's grace, accomplishes nothing productive at all.
May God give His grace.