I believe the different stages of friendship can be symbolized by where a person stands with you when he or she visits your house.
For example, someone who wants to sell me something usually won't get past the front door. The furthest in my house a basic stranger will get is my front room.
But if a friend comes to my house, we will probably make our way to the kitchen, where we will stand around. We have chairs in my house, but we don't use the chairs. We just stand in the kitchen.
If you were standing in the kitchen of someone whom you were getting to know, you probably wouldn't pick up a piece of nearby fruit and begin to eat it. You might ask your friend for permission, but most likely, you wouldn't ask at all.
If you have known your friend for awhile, you might say, "I am a little hungry. Could I eat this fruit?" But if you were really close friends, you probably would just pick up the fruit and eat it.
The more you get to know a person, the more honest your relationship becomes. The formalities are dropped. You begin to bare your heart. You let your guard down.
In the Old Testament Book of Exodus, we find the story of a man who had a relationship with God that was intimate and close. This man's name was Moses, and his friendship with his Creator was such that he could freely speak his mind.
Exodus 33:11 tells us, "So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (NKJV). The truth is, God revealed things to Moses that had never been revealed to any person before.
One day, as Moses was deep in prayer, he asked for the unthinkable. Up to this point in human history, this request was almost without parallel. Moses asked to actually see God (see Exodus 33:18).
However, the Lord was not offended by his request, and in fact had been drawing Moses to this very moment.
Moses was discovering what prayer was all about: it is not just getting things from God. It is getting God. Moses was essentially saying to the Lord, "I don't want to just have things from You. I want You. I want more of You in my life."
Of course, there is a place for petition and supplication in prayer. There is a place for asking God to provide for your needs. But it is also a wonderful thing when we just come to the Lord and say, "Lord, I don't need anything from You today. What I would like is Your glory. I would like to see You. I would like You to reveal yourself to me in a real way."
This is the place to which Moses had come. Although God could not answer this prayer exactly as Moses had prayed it, He worked out a special arrangement to let Moses come as close as any man ever had come before (see Exodus 33:19-23). The Lord allowed Moses to see His "afterglow" as He passed by him.
We read something like this and say, "Moses had such a great relationship with God. What a friendship they must have had that the Lord would do this for him. If only I had been Moses or Abraham."
Wait a second. As great as Moses and Abraham were, don't you know that your relationship with God is, in many ways, closer than theirs was because of Jesus?
Under the Old Covenant, when you wanted to approach God, you were required to bring an animal sacrifice that would be offered in your stead. God was distant, and you did not have the assurance that you would go to heaven. You just died in faith, believing that the Messiah would come.
But when Jesus went to the cross, He became that final sacrifice to God. He was the One who died in our place. He now is our High Priest who represents us before the Lord, and we can go into His presence at any time we want (see Hebrews 10:19-21).
Even more than that, God Himself comes and lives inside us. This is the relationship that God has opened up to us through Jesus Christ.
Have you come to a point in your life where you could say to Jesus, "Lord, I just want You. I want Your will. That is all that matters to me"?
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!