Intimacy with God

Intimacy with God is the essential characteristic of a healthy Christian life and community. The disciplines measure our will to experience such intimacy. Without discipline, we squander the opportunity for intimacy or waste its impact. Without intimacy, there is no authentic and transforming context. Intimacy demands an investment of time that expresses the worth-ship, the value, I place on the relationship. If God is foremost, all other matters must be subordinate to the supreme end of private, uninterrupted time with Him. Intimacy demands privacy, both the physical and emotional space that invites God to reveal Himself with our being fully engaged. God’s desire to spend time with us is an expression of His relational nature and of grace, first received as a gift, then demonstrably treasured as the context for personal transformation. Treasuring the invitation to intimacy, possible only by grace, is the value issue that is at the heart of transforming worship. The disciplines are evidence of my values, the sacrifice of self I bring to the altar (Rom. 12:1-2), the soul’s echo to God’s invitation, “Come!” They are evidences of the new inner life. My failure to heed the call to intimacy and to presumptuously assume on grace, without responding to God with the gift of personal sacrifice, is evidence of spiritual deadness. (Matthew 7).

We seem to be suffering from a cultural psychosis – a complete loss of reality. “We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.”[1] We buy new clothes and shiny toys to prove our identity with and embrace of the culture. To differentiate ourselves is professional and social suicide. The cultural pressures go beyond style to substance and ideology. They warp our faith and silence our witness. We conform, attempting to live in step with the world and hold to our faith simultaneously. It is the essence of worldliness. Mother Teresa remarked, “Oh, the poverty in the United States is much greater than the poverty of Calcutta.”[2]

“The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.”[3] They first engage our will, often with resistance, then call for full surrender to His will. With such surrender, we experience God. “Religion is a matter not of learning how to think about God but of actually encountering Him”.[4] It demands obedient action. C. S. Lewis urged,

Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn you will find yourself disliking him less.[5]

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount can be read in eight minutes (Mt. 5-7). His best known story can be told in ninety-seconds (Luke 15:11-32). He gave us a model prayer consisting of five sentences (Mt. 6:9-13). He silenced accusers sending a rowdy crowd home with one challenge (John 8:7). He rescued a soul with one sentence (Luke 23:43). He summarized the Law in three verses (Mk. 12:29-31). He reduced all his teaching to a plain but profound command (John 15:12). He made it simple![6] Intimacy with God is simple – and profound. Intimacy with God – is an experience, not merely a theory. Yet,

professing Christians end up living: as practical agnostics. Perhaps God will come through, perhaps he won’t, so I’ll be hanged if I’ll live as though he had to come through. I’ll hedge my bets and if he does show up, so much better. The simple word for this is godlessness.[7]

 

This is an excerpt from the Praying Church Handbook, Volume II, ‘Intimacy with God.’ The entire four volume set can be ordered at alivepublications.org> 

 

[1] Michael Schut, Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective, p. 182.

[2] Bruce Main, Spotting the Sacred, p. 218.

[3] Foster, p. 2.

[4] Manning, Revell, 17.

[5] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan, 1960), p. 116.

[6] Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name (Nashville, TN: Word, 1999), 42.

[7] Eldridge, p. 69.