This week finds Norma Jean and I in Lubbock, Texas, where I’m preaching in a meeting for the Milwaukee Avenue church. Our theme is “Experiencing Intimacy with God.”
The word “intimacy” often conjures up feelings of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. In fact, we use the word to refer to a sexual relationship enjoyed by a husband and wife. However, that is only the sixth definition by dictionary.com.
Intimacy is defined first of all as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.”
Intimacy, however, does not have to be physical, it can be emotional or spiritual. Intimacy involves openness, honesty, and transparency in relationships. There is a depth to intimacy. There is an association that goes beyond the surface and comes to know another in a very personal way.
It is possible to be married and even engage in a sexual union, yet fail to achieve an emotional closeness that truly knows, understands and experiences the unique bond that Bible describes. (Eph 5:22-32; I Pet 3:7). Two people can live in the same house and lack real intimacy.
One may be a member of the church, attend most of the services and participate in taking communion, yet fail to have any meaningful communion and fellowship with other Christians. We all know people that we really don’t know. There’s no real intimacy there.
In the same fashion, it is possible to read the Bible, pray and learn some facts about God without ever really knowing God. It is said about the sons of the Old Testament Priest, Eli, that “they knew not the Lord.” Oh, they knew His name and who he was. No doubt, they had heard Eli speak of Jehovah. And they even participated in religious rites, but they did not enjoy a close relationship with God.
If you want to know what it means to experience intimacy with God, read the Psalms. You are quickly struck by the personal and intimate nature of the language.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Ps. 42:1).
“Because your gracious love is better than life itself, my lips will praise you” (PS 63:3).
“When I think of you in bed, I will meditate on you in the night watches” (Ps 63:6.)
In Psalm 131 David compared his relationship with the Lord like a “weaned child with its mother.”
The prophet Hosea depicted God as a mother bear that cared for her cubs (Hos 13:8). Deuteronomy 32:11 speaks of God as eagle guarding her nest. And Jesus pictured God as a mother hen brooding over her chicks (Matt 23:37). All these describe a special, unique and intimate relationship with the Lord.
The fact is that God made us with a deep, divine longing. And only He can fill that void. As the famous French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal expressed it, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
The challenge, however, is that “communion with God is replaced with activity for God,” as John Eldredge put it. We can get caught up in ministry projects, attending classes, and the busyness of “church work” without slowing down and taking the time to develop a close personal relationship with the Lord.
In his book, Intimacy with the Almighty, Chuck Swindoll challenges us to “go deeper rather than to be content with surface matters.” To explore “the deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:10). To ponder His ways. To meditate upon His precepts. To seek to be like Him. And to know Him in a personal way.
“Tragically,” Swindoll writes, “precious little in this hurried and hassled age promotes such intimacy. We have become a body of people who look more like a herd of cattle in a stampede than a flock of God beside the green pastures and still waters.”
To enjoy intimacy with anyone, especially God, we must slow down and move beyond the obvious and the superficial. We must dig deeper. Think nobler. Feel ardently. And love unconditionally.
The Bible makes this promise. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas 4:8).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman