Over the last few years, I have had a growing realisation that my understanding of my "doing things for God" was not right. My perception had been that through my time with God, He would give me what I needed to go out and "do" the things that I had to do. In some ways, I was so right, and in some ways, I had missed the mark completely.
The revelation started with my Year 12 Science class. We had been studying evolution, and as a result, I asked the students why God made the world? Why didn't God just take us to heaven and judge our hearts and then bypass the mess we see of the world? It dawned on me through this time that the thing that we take to eternity is the intimacy with God that we have grown in over our life. Therefore, our life is about developing a deep relationship with us. Our life circumstances, troubles, relationships and joys all help us grow trust, faith, hope and a deepening relationship with God. The things we go through and the things we do are all important in being the context for getting to know and relate to God.
As we grow in our relationship with God, we start to change. How we see life, how we view others and what we say and do all is changed as we grow closer to God. Henry Nouwen wrote:-
I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear. I know now that I have to speak from:-
eternity into time
from the lasting joy into the passing realities of our short existence in this world
from the house of love into the houses of fear,
from God's abode into the dwelling of human beings.
God is calling us to have an intimacy with Him that is the foundations for all we are and all we do. I love the passage from Ephesians 1:17-19 TPT:
17 I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him.
18 I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination,[b] flooding you with light until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling —that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones!
19 I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power
God desires intimacy with us! That amazes me. The creator of the universe wants a close relationship with me!!!! Incredible! King David wrote a psalm that spoke about His desire for closeness with God. The Passion Translation version of this psalm is very encouraging:
O God of my life, I’m lovesick for you in this weary wilderness.
I thirst with the deepest longings to love you more,
with cravings in my heart that can’t be described.
Such yearning grips my soul for you, my God!
2 I’m energized every time I enter
your heavenly sanctuary to seek more of your power
and drink in more of your glory.
3 For your tender mercies mean more to me than life itself.
How I love and praise you, God!
4 Daily I will worship you passionately and with all my heart.
My arms will wave to you like banners of praise.
5 I overflow with praise when I come before you,
for the anointing of your presence satisfies me like nothing else.
You are such a rich banquet of pleasure to my soul.
6–7 I lie awake each night thinking of you
and reflecting on how you help me like a father.
I sing through the night under your splendour-shadow,
offering up to you my songs of delight and joy!
8 With passion, I pursue and cling to you.
Because I feel your grip on my life,
I keep my soul close to your heart.
9 Those who plot to destroy me shall descend into the darkness of hell.
10 They will be consumed by their own evil
and become nothing more than dust under our feet.
11 These liars will be silenced forever!
We are born eternal, spiritual beings in human bodies. God is Spirit and He has created us for eternity with Him. This is His heart's desire. The choice we make when we are on earth is whether we are going to be with God for eternity or the place where he is not. (Hell is definitely not where I want to be and NOT where God wants us to be!) When I have thought about why God created the world, I have a sense from His Word that it is His desire that we grow a relationship of deep intimacy with Him that will last for eternity. Our challenges can cause us to go to God for help, and through the journey, we develop trust and intimacy with Him.
I have put together some ideas about intimacy with God. I pray they are encouraging as you go on the journey of growing closer to God.
1. God has done everything to have an eternal relationship with us.
But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly! Romans 5:8
God so desired an eternal relationship with us that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and to be raised on the third day so we could be with a holy God who is our heavenly father, for eternity. That is a real commitment to his relationship with us!
2. He has made a covenant with us... just like a marriage
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 -
God desires to relate to us in a level of intimacy in His presence where there is fullness of joy like a husband and wife. He is faithful. (This covenant is also found in Hebrews 8:8b-13.)
3. God is jealous when we are not totally committed to Him.
5 Does the Scripture mean nothing to you that says, “The Spirit that God breathed into our hearts is a jealous Lover who intensely desires to have more and more of us”?
James 4:5. (TPT) -
When we love someone and they turn their back on us we hurt. So God is jealous when we give our heart and attention to something or someone else that hurt our relationship with Him. He wants our relationship with Him to be our primary relationship so He can bless us and protect us from the evil one. That is the heart of God! He cares for us and understands how vulnerable we are!
4. God's story is of one of wooing a lover - Song of Songs
8 The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, he stands behind our wall;
He is looking through the windows,
Gazing through the lattice. Song of Solomon 2:8-9
The book is about a lover pursuing the one he loves and is very intimate. This is the story of God pursuing us as His people. Even when we have not been faithful to God, He woos us back to Himself so we delight to sing again. (See Hosea CH2)
5. We exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit when we become close to God.
22–23 But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
joy that overflows,
peace that subdues,
patience that endures,
kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart, and
strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.
When we spend time with God and allow His Spirit to us we start to act with the fruits of the Spirit becoming more and more evident in our lives.
6. When we spend time with God we become like Him.
2 Beloved, we are God’s children right now; however, it is not yet apparent what we will become. But we do know that when it is finally made visible, we will be just like him, for we will see him as he truly is. 1 John 3:2 TPT
When we give our lives to God we become children of God. As we grow up to be sons and daughters of God, we resemble our Heavenly Father. When we spend a lot of time with God we get to know Him, understand how He thinks and talks and become more like Him. Our heart is that we, like Jesus, can say if you have seen us you have seen the Father. This is something we grow into.
28 So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. 29 For he knew all about us before we were born and he destined us[aa] from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son. This means the Son is the oldest among a vast family of brothers and sisters who will become just like him.
7. Choose to be hot in your relationship with God
3 Write the following to the messenger of the congregation in Sardis, for these are the words of the one who holds the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars:
I know all that you do and I know that you have a reputation for being really “alive,” but you’re actually dead! 2 Wake up and strengthen all that remains before it dies, for I haven’t found your works to be perfect in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2
15 I know all that you do, and I know that you are neither frozen in apathy nor fervent with passion. How I wish you were either one or the other! 16 But because you are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, I am about to spit you from my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16
Both churches had trouble. One was alive on the outside but dead on the inside. What people saw was wonderful, but they had no real substance. The other church was neither hot for God or cold. Being lukewarm means you are comfortable both with those hot for God and those not interested in God at all. People who are lukewarm are hard to see and so cannot be helped as they "appear" hot. This clip from War Room shows this very clearly!
Choose today to change if you need so you can grow to be "hot" in your relationship with God!
What is our response?
It is quite easy to read this and feel that this deep relationship with God is too hard. We could even think this relationship is one-sided. Jesus came in the form of a man to reveal to us the goodness and nature of His Father. He lived on earth and understood all our trials and temptations and was willing to obey His Father and die for our sins that we might receive His capacity and nature. So, are we to just sit back and wait for heaven? Is there more for our lives than just living and fighting for ourselves? Romans 12:1-2 tells us what our response should be to this amazing grace from God.
12 Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvellous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.
2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
As we discover God's heart for intimacy with Him, we start with saying, "God, how do I learn to be close to You and to hear Your voice and obey it so we can be found faithful to God?" As we become close to God we become increasingly thankful to Him for who He is and what He does for us. We learn who He is, who we are in Him, what He has purposed us to do and how we walk this out with Him. Through this deep intimate trust and relationship, we will learn to still our hearts and minds, know Him deeply, relate to him in a constant friendship that involves two-way conversations. As He is very individual about how He relates to each one of us and as a result, desire to learn about Him in a way that allows us to trust Him and stop living for ourselves in the desires of our flesh and be totally consumed in our relationship so what matters to us above all is to please Him and obey him in all we do. Our passionate desire is to live in holiness, love and a deep sense of awe and wonder for who God really is. Who we are and what we do then all flow out of this intimacy!
As we do this, we understand that God, through this relationship, "rescues us completely from the tyrannical rule of darkness and translates us into the kingdom realm of his beloved Son." (Adapted from Colossians 1:13) This kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that can only be lived in when our flesh has died and we are able to function fully in the spirit. In Romans 8:13 we read, "For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life." Growing up in and through this intimate relationship with God we mature to become mature sons and daughters that know how to listen to the Holy Spirit and live in obedience to what God is saying. "The mature children of God are those who are moved by the impulses of the Holy Spirit." Romans 8:14.
Father, help me to learn to be still and to enjoy spending time with You. Help me to listen to you, feel your embrace and arrest in Your love. As I do that, teach me how to speak to others from this place. In Jesus' name, amen.
Next week I will go over some tips on how to grow in your ability to spend time with God and enjoy one on one time with God.