Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) wrote a book called To Be Near Unto God which offers 110 meditations on this single thought from Psalm 73: “Maar mij aangaande, het is mij goed nabij God te wezen” (“But it is good for me to draw near to God”). In so doing, he demonstrated that to be a profound theologian and a warm-hearted Christian are not mutually exclusive, as is sometimes erroneously thought. In fact, the two are not to be separated. Often in our day people say “Christianity is not a religion but a personal relationship”. I differ from that, because if drawn to its logical conclusion it leads to a separation of doctrine from devotion. Christianity is a religion, the true religion, and out of this religion being true we can genuinely have a personal relationship with the true living God. These two – doctrine/religion and devotion/relationship always must go together. There is no antithesis. They are two sides of the same coin. That being said, while Kuyper’s book is generally a good devotional book, at points it drifts a little into something akin to mysticism. Nevertheless, here Kuyper writes on a personal relationship with God:
“When in holy ecstasy the Psalmist sings: ‘I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplication,’ he pours out his whole soul in this song, but no one can analyze that love.
To have love for God is something altogether different and something far weaker than to be able to say: ‘I love God.’
You have love for your native land, you have love for the beauty and grandeur of nature, you have love for the creations of art, from the sense of compassion you have love for suffering humanity, you are conscious of love for what is noble, true and of good report, and thus in all honesty almost every man can say that he also has love for God, and that his love for God even exceeds all other loves, since all good that inspires love is from God, and God Himself is the highest good. And yet while this love for God can be a lofty sentiment, can be deeply serious, and can even be able to ignite a spark of enthusiasm, the soul may have no fellowship with the Eternal, and have no knowledge of the secret walk with God; the great God may not have become his God, and the soul may never have exclaimed in passionate delight: ‘I love God!’
Love for God, taken in general, is still largely love for the idea of God, love for the Fountain of Life, for the Source of all good, for the Watcher of Israel Who never slumbers, for the One Who, whatever changes, eternally abides. But when there echoes in the soul the words “I love God!” then the idea, the sense and the reality of the Eternal Being becomes personified. Then God becomes a Shepherd Who leads us, a Father Who spiritually begat us, a Covenant-God with Whom we are in league, a Friend Who offers us His friendship, a Lord in Whose service we stand, the God of our confidence, Who is no longer merely God but our God.
Thus for many years you may have had a general love for God and yet have never come to know God.
This knowledge of God only comes when the love for Him begins to take on a personal character; when on the pathway of life for the first time you have met Him; when the Lord has become a Personal Presence by the side of your own self; when God and you have entered into a conscious, vital, personal, particular relationship – He your Father, you His child.
Not merely one of His children, no, but His child in an individual way, in a personal relation different from that of the other children of God, the most intimate fellowship conceivable in heaven and on earth – He your Father, your Shepherd, your bosom Friend and your God!”
– Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), To Be Near Unto God, p. 21-22