The Bible reveals several different types of relationships that we can experience with God to teach us how He desires to relate to us. Because God is Spirit, it’s often hard for us to comprehend what He is like, so He gives us word pictures that we can understand. Below are seven types of relationships that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit uses to relate to us. They move from least intimate to the most intimate relationships.
The first level of relationship that we experience with God is that of Savior. Before we came to know God, we were lost. Many of us were wandering around the world with absolutely no clue why we were here. Some people aren’t even sure if there is a God. Other people get caught up in simply trying to survive from day to day, and they don't realize there is a grand adventure taking place all around them that God wants them to join Him in. Before we went looking for God, He was already relentlessly pursuing us, we simply didn't know it yet. We simply could not hear His voice.
Luke 19:10 puts it this way, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” We were lost, He was searching for us so we could be found. When we first come to know God, we discover Him as Savior. He finds us and saves us from wandering around the world in the darkness without a clue. This is the first level of a relationship with God: Jesus becomes our Savior.
As we grow in our relationship to God, we begin to learn to hear His voice and follow Him. John 10:27 says: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” This means Jesus is speaking to you and trying to get your attention. God is whispering to you everywhere, all the time. He is actively pursuing you to communicate with you every single day of your life. Are you listening and can you hear Him? In Mt. 4:4 Jesus said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
Jesus equated physical survival with hearing and following God. Mankind isn't to simply live on food, but on God's spoken words. We are not to live by rules and regulations in the Bible, we are to live on every word that God speaks, which means you can learn to hear Him. As we grow in our relationship with God, we learn to hear our voice, and we follow.
This next level is where it can get interesting. This is typically where pain may be introduced. You see, sheep are sometimes stubborn. They like to wander off and do their own thing. When this happens, the Shepherd will pick up the stubborn sheep and break its leg. Then He will carry it on His shoulder for weeks to months while it heals. During this time, the sheep develops a close bond with the Shepherd and experiences a new depth of affection from the Shepherd. Once the sheep heals fully, it has developed such a tight bond, it instantly obeys the Shepherd's voice.
If you are experiencing any pain in your life right now, this could be a sign. Here’s the good news: Jesus isn’t just the Great Shepherd; He is also the Great Physician. He might ‘break your leg,’ but He will also carry you on His shoulders. He will gently whisper to you for weeks so that you learn to follow His every word. The pain you experience will become a blessing in disguise as you learn to communicate with Him in new and intimate ways. You will come to know Jesus more intimately, because you’ve been broken and now you have spent time on His shoulders healing. If you’re currently brokenhearted, know that it’s because you are incredibly special to Jesus. Psalm 34:18 (NASB) says, “The Lord near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Jesus wants to draw you closer to Himself, and as you learn to obey His voice, you will heal.
4. Lord/Servant and Bondservant
Once you have learned to obey His voice, you become His servant. Now God can trust you to stop wandering off. At this point, Jesus becomes your Lord. Lords were rulers over large territories and they had many servants. It was a servant’s mission in life to live for his master. Essentially a servant helped the master build his kingdom.
God too has a mission in the world, and He wants you to join Him on that mission. To reach this level of relationship with God though, you must be totally surrendered. You can no longer have an agenda. Your King becomes your agenda. You live, eat, and breath to follow His instructions. He is your King, you are His servant. If you are a faithful in your service, you will be rewarded accordingly, and God will begin to grow you to the next level of relationship with Him.
In the Bible, there is a distinct difference between servants and bondservants. Servants were slaves who were typically owned. Bondservants, however, were slaves who, because they were so faithful in service–typically for years–had earned their freedom from slavery. They were free.
A bondservant was a slave, who although they had been given their freedom, chose to remain a servant because of their love for their master. Qualities like complete trust and honesty had been formed between one another. Mutual respect and an endearing friendship had been created from years of relationship. From this close bond to their Lord or master, the servant chose to remain a servant and become a bondservant. In other words, it was the choice of the servant to remain and serve, not because of duty, but because of love.
God wants all His servants to have such a deep relationship with Him that we no longer view Him as Master or even Lord, but as King and friend.
The Bible says Abraham had this type of relationship with God. In James 2:23 it says that God made Abraham an outlandish promise concerning his future, and he believed God could and would do it. Because Abraham believed, He obeyed every word God said. Because of his faithfulness, God fulfilled his crazy promises to Abraham and scripture says that God called Abraham a ‘friend.’
Being a friend of the King is an honor and privilege. It’s not every day that God calls anyone His friend. In John 15:14 Jesus also called us ‘friends’ but under one condition, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” Friends are honest. Friends are trustworthy. Friends go out of their way to help you. Friends are loyal. If we’re obedient to Jesus, we have the honor of also being called His friend.
The next level of intimacy with God is knowing Him as a loving Father. This is the term that many Christians know Him by. It is one thing to know God as your Master, King, or friend, it is entirely different to know Him as ‘Daddy.’ You see, servants don’t inherit the kingdom, but children do. Children of God are far greater than servants. They are family. Ultimately, they are heirs. Children know the King on a different level than most others. They don’t fear the King. They love their Father.
At this level of relationship with God, he is your Dad. My sons call me 'Pops' which is obviously short from 'Papa.' God is the best 'Pops' in the universe. He thinks about you all the time. He has plans for your future that are inconceivable to you right now: plans to prosper you and give you an awesome future filled with hope. He is also the King of the world, and He wants His children to be heir to His kingdom.
Here is what 1 Samuel 2:8 has to say about this subject: “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He set the world on them.”
In Mathew 5:5 it says this: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” When you reach this level of relationship with God, He will give you the earth as your inheritance, because you are His child and He is your Father. Lastly, is the most intimate relationship that mankind can experience with God and Jesus.
Ultimately, God longs for you to comprehend Him as lover. In Mark 2:19, Jesus referred to Himself as 'the bridegroom.' In fact, numerous times in the New Testament Jesus alluded to Himself as the Bridegroom. 2000 years ago when Jesus was alive and walking the earth, He taught His followers that Christianity wasn't a religion, but a Divine romance.
Jesus and His disciples used the allegory of bridegroom and bride to illustrate that God longs for an intimate relationship with us in the same fashion a groom and bride long for and share physical intimacy. This type of intimacy is first and foremost experienced at the deepest levels of the heart. God's greatest passion is to share an intimate heart to heart connection with you. At this level of relationship Jesus becomes our Bridegroom and we are His Bride.
The Whispers of the Spirit of God
When you reach this level of intimacy with God, the Holy Spirit will whisper to you continuously. You will hear His voice all around you and see His face at every turn. He will tell you things that are only meant for your ears. They are secrets meant to be kept between you and Him. These secrets will tie your heart strings together.
The Holy Spirit is a masterful lover. One method He uses to keep us chasing Him is the secrets He keeps from us but wants to reveal if we keep chasing Him. Only those who chase Him with bated breath hanging on His every word, know His deepest thoughts, both mind and heart.
King David said it like this in Psalm 42:1, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God."
God desires for us to know Him on a personal level by being in a close relationship. Upon salvation we discover that we were once lost, and now we’re found. Jesus becomes our Savior. The Holy Spirit doesn’t simply want you to know God as Savior, He wants you to know Him as Shepherd, Great Physician, Lord, King, and even Father. Ultimately, God wants you to learn to regularly hear His voice so that you can relate to Him in the most intimate relationship. We’re not merely saved, sheep, patients, slaves, friends, or children of the King. We are the Church, the Beloved Bride of Jesus.