Intimacy with God
Intimacy with God
The American pastor, John Wimber’s, life and ministry had a great influence on our own church and many other churches around the world. He said, ‘The ability to hear what God is saying, to see what God is doing, and to move in the realm of the miraculous comes as an individual develops the same intimacy with and dependence upon the Father [as Jesus had]. How did Jesus do what he did? The answer is found in his relationship with the Father. How will we do the “greater things than these” which Jesus promised (John 14:12)? By discovering the same relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.’
God loves us with an intimacy that surpasses all our dreams. He wants us to have a close, personal relationship with him of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. This is an extraordinary honour and privilege. Moses, David and, of course, Jesus had an intimate relationship with God. In the passages for today we see what this kind of intimacy means.
1. Develop intimacy with God through openness, vulnerability and honestyPsalm 35:11-18
There were times when David was down; his soul was empty (v.12, MSG). He was honest and open enough to talk about the challenges:
David faced great opposition from those who repaid evil for good and attacked him. We, like David, may face great opposition from those who repay evil for good and attack us (vv.12,15b). They slander us (v.15c). They maliciously mock (v.16a). Opposition does not only come through the world – it can even come from God’s people (v.16).
- ‘Unanswered’ prayer
There are times when our prayers do not seem to be heard. ‘My prayers returned to me unanswered’ (v.13). He says to God, ‘How long are you going to stand there doing nothing?’ (v.17, MSG).
We all stumble (v.15a). We can feel we are walking with the Lord quite happily, and then suddenly we stumble. Being a Christian does not mean that we never stumble. There may be times when we fail to meet our own standards, let alone God’s.
David spoke to God about all these challenges. He did not pretend that all was well. He spoke from the depth of his heart. It is this openness, vulnerability and honesty that draws us into an intimate relationship with God.
Lord, thank you that we can come to you and speak from our hearts with openness, vulnerability and honesty. Thank you that you listen to the cries of our hearts. Thank you that you rescue us and enable us to say, ‘I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you’ (v.18).
2. Grow in wisdom through intimacy with the FatherLuke 2:41-52
After Jesus’ parents find him in the temple courts he says to them, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49b). ‘Dealing with the things of my Father’ (v.49b, MSG). On the one hand, Jesus’ relationship with his ‘Father’ was unique. He prayed to him as ‘Abba’ – the Aramaic word used by children on intimate terms with their Father. On the other hand, he also enables us to address God as ‘Abba’. St Paul, writing about the Holy Spirit, says, ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” ’ (Romans 8:15).
Through his intimate relationship with God, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people’ (Luke 2:52), a very similar description to that used of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26). Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above. It is far more important to grow in wisdom than to grow in wealth. Wisdom outweighs wealth.
Intimacy with the Father leads to growth in wisdom. We can learn five things about the wisdom it produces from examining Jesus’ example in these verses.
- Wisdom comes from listening
First, wisdom is willingness to listen to and learn from others. Jesus was ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46). It was said of President J.F. Kennedy that he made you think he had nothing else to do except ask you questions and listen, with extraordinary concentration, to your answer. You knew that, for the time being, he had blotted out both the past and the future for you.
Often, those who know most speak least. When we are talking, we are merely repeating what we already know. When we are listening, we may learn something new.
- Wisdom brings amazement
Second, wisdom brings amazement from others. ‘Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers’ (v.47).
- Wisdom leads to clarity
Third, wisdom brings clarity. Jesus knew where he should be and what he should do. He declared, ‘Didn't you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49). Knowledge leads us from the simple to the complex; wisdom leads us from the complex to the simple.
- Wisdom is holistic
Fourth, wisdom is shown not only in what we say but also in how we live. ‘Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them’ (v.51). Wisdom is about the whole of life, rather than just our intellect or our words.
- Wisdom should grow
Fifth, wisdom should grow as we get older. ‘Jesus grew in wisdom …’ (v.52). Not that Jesus’ wisdom was flawed or imperfect, but it grew with his growth in maturity, as it should with us.
Above all, Jesus’ wisdom came from his intimate relationship with God. God was his Father. He knew he had to be in his Father’s house, and his intimacy with his Father was the foundation of his wisdom.
Father, thank you that you have given us the Spirit of adoption by which we can cry, ‘Abba, Father’. Thank you that you call us into the same relationship of intimacy that Jesus had with you. Help us to grow in this relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. And to grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people.
3. Stand still and listen to the intimate voice of the LordNumbers 7:66-9:14
We cannot develop an intimate relationship with God without setting aside time to communicate with him. ‘When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him … and he spoke with him. The Lord said to Moses …’ (7:89–8:1).
God spoke to Moses (8:1; 9:1). Moses spoke with God (7:89). It was a two-way conversation. God spoke to Moses face to face, as a person speaks with his friend (12:8) – talking and listening at the same time, watching for each other’s reaction. In the age of the Holy Spirit we are in an even better position than Moses. As we saw from St Paul above, by the Spirit of adoption we are brought into an intimate and eternal conversation with God the Father (Romans 8:15–17,26–27).
This was the pattern. ‘The Lord spoke to Moses ... So Moses told the Israelites ... The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses’ (Numbers 9:1–5).
When the people asked Moses a difficult question to which he did not know the answer, he replied, ‘Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you’ (v.8). If we don’t know the right answer it is wise to ask people to ‘wait’. This gives us time to pray and to find out from God the right way forward. Eugene Peterson translates, ‘Give me some time; I’ll find out what God says in your circumstances’ (v.8, MSG). The Amplified Version says, ‘Stand still and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.’ In the busyness of life we need to stand still and listen to what God wants us to do.
Lord, thank you that you allowed Moses to speak to you as a person speaks with a friend. Thank you that in the age of the Holy Spirit we are in an even better position than Moses. Through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). Thank you that we can meet with you each day, speak with you and listen to you. Help us to hear what you are saying to us and to live today in this same relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.
I have always wondered how Mary and Joseph managed to travel for a whole day before they noticed their son wasn’t with them. Although I do have to confess that once we went out to supper with friends only to arrive at our destination to discover that we didn’t have one of our children. I felt rather embarrassed explaining this to our hosts and also very anxious as to whether our child was safe and not too traumatised. I wonder if Mary and Joseph had the same discussion on the way back as we did as to whose fault it was. In both cases, thankfully, the children were safe. Jesus was in the temple talking with the religious leaders and our child was watching TV!