Experiencing Intimacy With God

Intro

In our Christian lives we often get a distracted in our walk with the Lord

This study will not automatically get you filled with ecstatic feelings and songs praise on your lips, but you should know how it’s possible to achieve this

 

It’s no good knowing where the problem is if you don’t do anything about it

It’s no good knowing there’s a million pounds on your account if you never make any withdrawals

 

I. EXPECTATIONS OF INTIMACY WITH GOD

If we love the Lord, we want intimacy with Him

Sometimes we dream about it

Sometimes we hope for it

Sometimes we expect it

– we expect dinner on the table

– we expect our teens to come home before midnight

(as a matter of fact)

– we expect to live healthy lives

– we expect to be rewarded for our efforts (work)

– we expect friendships to be pleasant, rewarding and

uncomplicated

This is not the case,

nor is it so in our relationship with God

We need to work at it, and if we don’t get it our way, we get disappointed

 

Christian counselors: most frequent problem “bitterness

This bitterness, they say, is caused by wrong expectations and misplaced trust

 

II. INTIMACY WITH GOD IS A PROCESS

We expect our pursuit of God to have fast results

(fast food, drive-through, instant coffee, life “to-go“)

 

What can we realistically expect?

First task: to deal with all that keeps Him far away from us

God looks for a repentant, reliant heart

That’s where He wants to recede/set up His residence

 

Second task: starting on a pilgrimage toward God

Being routinely faithful to Him in all situations

When we are faithful to Him, He will respond to us

Remember; He is waiting for us to come to Him

 

We all experience God differently, but He is always faithful

Our experiences might be different from others

God meets us where we are, and not where others are

The basics are still the same;

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)

 

Intimacy requires a clear understanding of what it is, what it is not, and how to know if we are indeed tracking toward God

 

The pursuit of intimacy is an intentional commitment to take steps toward God and, in the process of that, to grow more deeply conscious of, connected to, and confident in Him alone as the source to satisfy, sustain, and secure.

 

* a repentant turnaround in attitude and action

* a total reliance on Christ in all things

* a conscious connecting in ongoing communication

* a connecting with Him in creation, His character, worship,

praise, crisis, and faithful obedience

 

III. FIVE MYTHS ABOUT INTIMACY WITH GOD

Clarifying what is not true

 

Myth #1 “Intimacy is primarily what God will do for us when we get close”

The process of intimacy should never be motivated by what God might do for us but rather by our desire to do what we can for him.

 

Ex. Pitcher in baseball: hero one year, failure the next

“What have you done for me today?”

We often ask “What has God done for me lately?”

What have we done for Him?

 

Ex. Rangers in  Yellowstone Park “Don’t feed the bear”

Maybe heaven contains a sign “Don’t feed the Christians”

Ex. Genesis 12– about Abraham obeying God before Isaac

Ex. Genesis – about Joseph waiting for his dreams

Ex. Job – about Job waiting for God’s answer

 

The willingness to serve faithfully while waiting to receive God’s promises is not limited to OT-saints

Paul understood this. He wrote:

 

8 ¶ We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

 

In the same context, he added(in verse 18):

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”

It’s not about God pleasing us, but us pleasing God

 

Myth #2 “Intimacy is about an informal buddy-buddy relationship with God”

 

An important element of our relationship with God is built on the fact that His Word welcomes us to call out “Abba Father”

 

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

(Galatians 4:6)

 

When we are close to someone, we are on first-name basis

Christ tells us we are no longer slaves, but friends:

 

“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15)

 

What would we do if Christ was to walk into this room?

* ask Him all the questions we are wandering about?

* jump up and hug Him?

* thank Him fort saving us?

* giving Him a high-five?

I’m sure we would all be lost for words and feel quite undone, exposed , unworthy

 

We would probably fall flat on our faces,

but the Savior would lift us up and tell us not to be afraid

 

It is only by God’s grace that we will be accepted into his presence, and I think we would realize that in Christ’ presence.

 

I think we will always have an awe and respect for the lord, even in the hereafter

 

Myth #3 “The experience of intimacy is the same for all of us”

 

There is no universal standard for an intimate relationship with our Father

 

Some have a highly charged emotional experience

Others have a deep, quiet personal encounter

Most are somewhere in the middle

 

The disciples had very different characteristics, and they all experienced Jesus differently

* Thomas, a very cognitive person, tried to analyze and understand Jesus

* Peter was quick, verbal and aggressive

* John was soft, warm and mellow

 

Some of us are like some of the disciples

We might try to understand God, or we might be very emotional about it

 

People from different cultures and different backgrounds and with different personalities will experience Christ in a wonderful variety of ways

 

What we have in common is the process through which we get to experience Christ more and more as we move toward even greater intimacy

 

We have deeper and more meaningful experiences with God as we keep in the process

 

We must encourage others to stay with it as they progress in their own spiritual development process

 

Myth #4 “We can experience the fullness of intimacy with God in the here and now”

 

1 Corinthians 13:12

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. “

 

We will never know the fullness of the joy of unhindered intimacy with God on this side of heaven

 

We are encased in bodies and have minds that are still affected by the Fall

 

After Eden, sweat and fatigue became a way of life

 

The physical state our bodies affect our minds and emotions

 

When we are drained of energy, we experience God’s presence in far different ways than during times of strength and vitality

 

If I had the opportunity, I would spend large blocks of time sitting on a cliff overlooking the vast expense of His creation, walking through the countryside, or letting my eyes plumb the debts of the starry universe above me. The problem is, those are few and far between.

 

We still have our daily tasks to do after devotion time

* we still have too serve Him

* we need to tell people about Him

* we need to be a good neighbor to our fellow man

 

Soon, as in 1 Corinthians 13, we will be able to be intimate with the Lord

 

Myth #5 “We can experience intimacy with a partially surrendered life”

 

Although God doesn’t expect us to be perfect to be able to be intimate with Him, it is necessary to be fully surrendered to Him

 

Full surrender means that we live with an attitude of unlimited obedience

 

Although we may fall, an immediate response of repentance will keep us on the path toward Him

 

Many marriages suffer a loss of intimacy because of one of the partners has ceased to be loyal.

Lying or cheating on a spouce, ignoring the other’s needs, using the relationship for your own benefit when it’s convenient, and neglecting responsibilities when it’s convenient are all prescriptions for a quick distancing between two hearts

 

Deuteronomy 6:5

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

 

Matthew 22:37

“  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

 

Mark 12:30

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

 

IV. FIVE TRUTHS ABOUT INTIMACY WITH GOD

Clarifying what is true;

we just can’t get enough of God. (Like Stowell and pasta, me and pizza etc.)

 

Truth #1 “Our primary purpose in life is to embrace transcendent God by faith and to worship Him in purity and service”

 

Intimacy is not abut God doing things for me.

It’s not about Him making me feel good.

It’s about embracing the transcendent God of the universe and pledge to worship and serve Him, no matter what happens.

 

The arrows of passions and worship are supposed to point from me to Him.

 

When we worship Him in purity of heart, then we can say with Job:

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

(Job 14:15)

 

Intimacy begins with giving away one self.

We give ourselves to God as the ultimate gift of our love.

 

Truth #2 “God intervenes in dramatic ways only periodically and selectively”

 

That ought to be enough for us.

It should be enough to see God work miracles in somebody else’s life, and say “Isn’t that just like my God? I love to see God busy.”

Instead we seem to feel sorry for ourselves and complain,

“That never happens to me! Why isn’t God busy with me?”

We should rejoice in what God does in other people’s lives, then, if we should need divine intervention, He will do something dramatic for us as well.

Until then, we just need to be grateful for His daily presence.

 

He normally works quietly behind the scenes.

His grace should be sufficient for us.

 

Truth #3 “God has already done more for me than I deserve”

 

If God would only do one thing for us – namely save us from hell and guarantee us for heaven – then He has already done more for us then we could ever deserve.

 

That alone should be enough to have us shout and dance in praise and worship.

 

If we think about it, God has already intervened dramatically and in a major way in our lives when He opened up the story  of the cross to us bid us come by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

When we embraced that precious cross and felt the weight of our sin leave us and were washed clean in His cleansing blood, it was enough – more then enough to keep our hearts lovingly grateful.

 

Truth #4 “God is probably doing a lot of things for us that we don’t even know about”’

 

These may not be big, dramatic things, but God’s Word teaches us that He stands like a sovereign sentinel at the gates of our lives, keeping out anything that is more than we can bear. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

 

He lets in only those things that He, by His power and with our cooperation, will turn to His glory and gain and to our good. Paul declares in Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose

 

At the end of the day, when we put our heads on our pillows at night, we should not murmur “Where were you today, God? You didn’t answer my prayers. Nothing big happened today” etc., but we should say Lord, thank you for being busy in my life today in ways I don’t even know about. Thank you for protecting me from evil and my enemies by your magnificent power. And thank you for saving my soul and standing guard (sentinel) so that all my problems and temptations will not be too great for me to handle. Thank you for always providing a way out.”

 

We have to remember that God is much busier in our lives than we think. 24 hours a day He guards, keeps, protects, excludes, insulates and blesses us.

 

Truth #5 “When God thinks of intimacy, He thinks of a heart relationship with us”

 

Sometimes, we are like kids at Chrismas, begging God “Give me that gift! Give me that gift!” We often forget that our Christmas presents were given out of love from our parents. Of course our parents like to give and bless us with gifts, but what they really want is a love relationship with us. Intimacy is about a relationship, not a gift exchange. When we spend time with Him in worship and prayer, and reading His Word, He fills our souls with Himself.

 

God doesn’t meet us at the mall. He seeks us in that inner sanctum of our hearts. If it’s intimacy that we want, we need to be more intrigued by the Giver than the gift. If we want to experience Him more than we do, we need to love Him more than we do – more than all those other things we are attracted to, more than all the provisions we expect from Him.

 

V. GREAT EXPECTATIONS

All through the Scriptures, we find God’s personal, prioritized agenda for restored fellowship and a rewarding relationship that satisfies the longing of our souls and glorifies Him.

 

A successful pilgrimage toward intimacy not only demands that we replace faulty or unbalanced expectations with untruthful ones, but that we ask ourselves What can we expect?

 

We can expect God to provide for us in at  least 3 areas:

1) He will satisfy our souls

2) He will sustain our lives

3) He will secure us even in the face of great danger

 

Read David’s psalm in Psalm 23:1-6

1 ¶ <<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

 

Note the dynamics of the relationship. It’s not between equals; it’s between a Shepherd and His sheep.

Sheep are totally reliant on the shepherd.

Little Bo Beep’s consultant was wrong: Sheep don’t find their way home if you leave them alone! They require a shepherd to provide leadership, provision, and protection.

The shepherd consistently tends to the sheep – sometimes at a great sacrifice to himself.

 

What does the shepherd provide? The shepherd is a source of satisfaction for the sheep. We need to forget about our lists of want-to’s and hope-so’s and dwell on what we really need. The true test of satisfaction is to say like the psalmist that “I shall not want”.

Contentment doesn’t mean that we don’t have a desire for additional commodities or better relationships. It means that those desires don’t drive and manage our lives.

It means that we allow God to be the provider while we are content with Him.

 

The psalmist paints this picture of satisfaction: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul”. Note the satisfying components of provision, peace, and recovery.

 

If you have ever walked the hills where sheep are, you know that though the sheep might wander, they never intentionally run away, but find themselves fully satisfied in the care and provision of their shepherd.

 

To be content is to be satisfied with God.

 

The picture of God’s securing work is reflected in the psalmist’s response to facing his enemies in the valley of the shadow of death. He testifies that God has made him so secure that he can dine in the presence of his enemies and fearlessly walk through the valley of death if it were necessary.

Why? Because God is with him. The reality of His rod (protecting work) and His staff (resuming and guiding work) secure the psalmist.

 

Finally, he will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

This is eternal security…

 

Satisfaction with God is beginning to take hold  when we cease being driven and defined by earthly things and begin to look for spiritual realities.

 

See what Paul says in Philippians 4:10-13:

10 ¶ But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

 12  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

 

We should have the same confidence as Paul, knowing that the Lord will take care of our needs.

25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

 27  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30)

 

Then, we can say with Paul in Romans 8:35-39:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

This love is everything we need…

If we are in God’s love, there is no better place…

 

VI. DRAWING CLOSE TO GOD

       Ex: Pioneer stereo system and plugging into music

We must “plug in” to God

Some times music moves us to tears

What about God?

We need to connect to God! How?

 

A. Connecting through prayer and the Word

     Prayer and Bible is on top of the list.

How else can we stay in communication with Him?

Ex: Woman dragging her husband before the judge saying “He doesn’t say he loves me anymore”

Husband replies: “I told you I love you when we got married. If that ever changes, I’ll let you know!”

Remember the love bank!

There needs to be a continued communication

There also needs to be continued communication between us and God.

When are we to pray and read the Word?

Read Psalm 1 and Psalm 13.

The first talks about reading and following God’s Word.

The latter talks about prayer.

First, the psalmist complains about how God has forgotten him and left him in a disastrous environment (v. 1-4). Then, he turns toward God (v. 5). Finally, he is not delivered by God, but God has satisfied his soul in the midst of his distress (v. 6).

Here, the answer is not the focus, but the way in which prayer opens heaven to see God realistically and lose ourselves in a deep and unshaken confidence in the character of God.

 

B. Personal approaches to prayer and Bible reading

     Approaches that can be helpful in connecting with God in times of personal Bible reading and prayer.

1. Bible reading

Do your Bible reading as a personal encounter with God. Don’t try to read x amount of chapters a day, or do the Bible in a year without it being a special time of fellowship with the Lord.

Understand what it says and how it relates to your life.

Why not memorize an important piece of Scripture so that you can carry God’s Word with you always.

Read God’s Word in terms of it’s intended purposes:

a. as a mirror,

b. as a seed

c. as a sword

d. as a lamp

e. as bread for the soul

Also, share what God has given you with a friend or others.

Finally, vary your approach to the Scriptures. Read chronologically, topically, biographically, do word studies and themes.

Of course, don’t forget: application, application, application, or else; what is it all for?

This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book

 

2. Prayer

Pray honestly.

Prayer must have elements of worship.

Pray out loud.

Journal your prayers.

Use God’s Word in your prayers.

Pray without ceasing – don’t quit!!!

Faithfulness is the key!

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