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6 August, 2012 13:46

August 6, 2012

Several years ago I was asked to write an article for a soon to be published book compiled by Frank A. Decenso titled, Catching God’s Heart. The book has since been released by Destiny Image. Here is my contribution.

INTIMACY

Unfortunately, the first thought to enter our minds when we hear the word intimacy is to associate it with the physical and sexual realm. This is largely due to living in a sexually-saturated, hedonistic society where our minds tend to gravitate to the temporal, physical pleasures rather than the eternal realm of the Spirit. This is especially true of the younger generation,who have a tendency to overdose on sensuality rather than spirituality. Because of this, we need to proceed with a certain caution when talking about intimacy, lest we overstep the bounds of biblical understanding and revelation.

In his 1828 edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster defines “intimacy” as, “close friendship, fellowship, nearness in friendship, near, close, familiar, one whom the thoughts of another are entrusted without reserve, to share together, to love entirely.”

What is so interesting about Webster’s definition is the fact that he never relates intimacy with the sexual realm at all. I emphasize this, because today in the Church we have so many choruses with lyrics about kissing and dancing, which tend to imply that our relationship with the Lord is largely of a physical nature only. As I pastor, I have had to counsel many young people who have been deceived by evil spirits, believing they were experiencing some type of sexual intimacy with the Lord. While the term intimacy does imply that of a deep personal relationship, we need to guard against using it in a purely physical or sexual way. God is a spirit and although Jesus was manifest in a human body the Scriptures tell us, “He had no beauty…that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2). We are not attracted to Jesus because of His “good looks,” but rather His attributes, character, nature, and glory. Another danger associated with the term intimacy is to view it as something strictly romantic or mystical, thereby making it more of an emotional relationship than a volitional relationship.

Since I am writing only one chapter, I don’t intend to use it to develop this any further, but did feel the need to raise this cautionary flag. To avoid any further misunderstanding of the term intimacy, I will replace it with the word friendship which has a more scriptural basis. Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends” (John 15:15 NKJV). According to God’s Word, a friend “sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). We are also told, “A friend loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17). Everyone craves the companionship of a true friend, even God Himself. Abraham is referred to as “the friend of God” (James 2:23 NKJV). What is implied in true friendship?

Time

Friendships normally form over time. People are drawn together as they become more and better acquainted with each other. Jesus appointed twelve disciples “…that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). Since the essence of good preaching is to make Christ known, the disciples had to spend time with Him in order to know Him. Once they knew Him they could tell others about Him. The longer we spend time with someone the more we understand them and learn their ways.

After Jesus had been taken up into Heaven, John wrote: “…what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life…we proclaim to you” (1 John 1:1,3 NASB). The disciples came to know Him by spending time with Him and were therefore able to accurately reveal Him to others. The only way to know God is to spend time with Him. He reveals Himself to us through His Word. Any “revelation” that is in discord with His Word is not biblical revelation (see Isa. 8:19-20).

Similar Likes and Values

Friendships form from having similar values and interests. We often hear expressions such as, “This is my golfing buddy or hunting partner,” implying that they share a common interest. We have a beautiful picture of this in the first chapter of Song of Solomon. After falling head over heals in love with her beloved, the bride asks the bridegroom the question, “Where do you pasture your flock?” This former vine dresser suddenly becomes interested in knowing about sheep, the interest of her beloved shepherd. She understands the importance of having a common interest with her beloved if they are going to be united together in marriage. We read in the Scriptures, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3 NKJV). Anyone who claims to have fellowship with God and yet fails to take an interest in the things that God is interested in is simply deceived. A.W. Tozer said the Christian life can be reduced down to this simple equation: “Learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.” This is the very essence of true friendship.

The first human relationship mentioned in the Scripture is that of Adam and Eve. After God had created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). God’s intention for giving Eve to Adam was for companionship and friendship and also as a helper. Together they were called to fulfill their God-given purpose.

One day we will forever be united to the King of Kings; therefore, we need to understand what it means to reign with Him now.

In the same way, the Bride of Christ is given to Christ as a “helper.” We are laborers together with Him. After we fall in love with Him, we fall in love with His passions, desires, and purpose. One day we will forever be united to the King of kings; therefore, we need to understand what it means to reign with Him now. We will be united to the Great Shepherd of the sheep; therefore, we need to ask God to place in us His love for the flock. We will marry the Great Physician, so we need to learn to bind up one another’s wounds. We will likewise marry the Captain of the Hosts, so we had better learn how to fight. We will also be united to the Judge of all the earth, so we had better learn how to pass righteous judgment. All of these things are necessary if we are to become His Bride and helper.

Abraham was referred to as God’s friend because he was willing to cast in his lot with God and walk in obedience to everything God revealed to him. A study of Abraham’s life will reveal that his relationship with God was not merely an emotional or mystical one, but a volitional one. Abraham had to overcome his deep emotions when making the difficult decision to leave family, friends, and farm and then harder yet, when God asked him to give up his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. If Abraham’s relationship with God had been purely sentimental he would have never followed through on God’s demands, but rather yielded to his feelings. As someone has wisely said, “Feelings are like a caboose; they follow the train, but it is our will that can be compared to the engine because that powers the train.” There is nothing wrong with having emotions, provided they don’t determine our obedience or lack thereof.

Involvement

Friendships are formed when working together. While we have already touched on this in the previous segment, allow me to address it again. Jesus, when confronted by the multitudes who said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You,” replied by turning to those with Him and saying, “Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in Heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:47,49-50 NASB). Jesus was saying, in essence, that the one who is involved in doing the will of God is really as close or closer to Him than family. When Jesus referred to his disciples as “friends,” He placed it in the context of doing.Notice what He told them: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).

While the Scriptures abound with admonitions about involvement, we need to guard against our involvement becoming the dominant issue in a relationship. While there is nothing wrong with becoming involved in God’s purposes, we can easily become “purpose-driven” rather than “presence-driven.” I carry in my Bible a page from a daily devotional calendar with the following quote from A Touch of His Freedom by Dr. Charles Stanley.

“I believe with all my heart that it is impossible to be both goal-oriented and God oriented at the same time. One orientation will always take precedence over the other. When our desire to achieve takes the lead, several things happen in our relationship with God. He becomes the means to an end rather than the end. We tend to use God rather than worship Him. We will find ourselves seeking information about Him rather than transformation by Him.”1

Obedience

It is impossible to have a relationship with God and walk in disobedience to His Word. Listen to what John writes in his first epistle.

The one who says, “I have come to know Him” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4 NASB).

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 NASB). Love is not some sentimental feeling of wellbeing, but rather that purposeful commitment to walk in obedience to the will of God as revealed to us through His Word. We are told that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NASB). We likewise should demonstrate our love for Him by walking in obedience to His Word.

Others

The Bible emphatically declares that it is impossible to love God and yet not love your brother. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8 NASB). Jesus put it far more graphically when He said:

I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me (Matthew 25:42-43 NASB).

Those listening were shocked, asking, “When did we see You with all these needs?” To which Jesus responds. “…to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matt. 25:45 NASB). The measure to which we love God’s people is the measure to which we love God. No more and no less.

Love is not some sentimental feeling of wellbeing, but rather that purposeful commitment to walk in obedience to the will of God as revealed to us through His Word.

I vividly recall in 1972, while serving the Lord in Papua, New Guinea, asking a group of Australian Bible school students who were visiting our work this question: “What area of the Tabernacle of Moses represents full spiritual maturity? The Outer Court, the Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies?” Almost immediately, everyone replied “The Holy of Holies.” They were shocked when I informed them that they were all wrong. I then proceeded to tell them that true spiritual maturity is to know where to be in any given area at any given time. Jesus knew when to draw aside and spend time alone in prayer. He also knew when to be in the market place, healing the sick and casting out devils.

I think sometimes we tend to fall for the belief that spending hours and hours alone in worship and prayer constitutes true “intimacy.” Doing some type of “outer court” routine is less spiritual. The secret to true friendship with God is being led by the Spirit. If the Spirit of God says “Come away, My beloved,” then respond accordingly. If He says, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me,” then roll up your sleeves and pitch in.

There is a danger in some circles of raising up a new generation of “monks and nuns,” cloistered away in prayer centers around the country, enjoying the atmosphere created by sentimental music about bridal love while forgetting that the Bridegroom’s passion is that “none should perish.” Just as Jesus stated to the Pharisees, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God” so likewise we can be mistaken by worshipping and not working or working and not worshipping (see Matt. 22:29 NASB). Friendship with God involves both the Holy of Holies as well as ministering in the Outer Court.

Commitment

There are times in any relationship where our feelings for each other may be tested. During these times it is our commitment to each other that triumphs over our feelings. I love the story of Ruth the young Moabitess, who after losing her husband was faced with a choice to either stay in the familiar surroundings of her home and country or return with Naomi to Bethlehem. Naomi urges her to stay, telling her she has nothing to offer as an incentive to go with her. Ruth, however, is committed to go, regardless of the cost. Her commitment is legendary and has been used repeatedly down through the years to inspire countless couples to true commitment as they take their marriage vows. Let’s remind ourselves of her words:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17 NASB).

Ruth’s commitment reminds me of those in Revelation who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:4 NASB). All of us would have loved to have followed the Lamb to the Mount of Transfiguration, there to gaze upon His eternal majesty and splendor and listen as He spoke to Moses and Elijah. However, it is another thing entirely to enter with Him into the Garden of Gethsemane and identify with Him in all of His pain and suffering, let alone follow Him to Calvary to be crucified. This is what it means to be truly committed. We resolve to “follow the Lamb” regardless of the circumstances or costs involved. Friendship involves commitment. We place our hands on the plough and refuse to look back. To Daniel commitment meant the lion’s den. To Joseph it meant rejection and false accusation. To Jeremiah it meant the pit. To Paul it meant stoning and imprisonment. To John the Baptist it meant getting beheaded. To John the beloved it meant banishment. None of these godly saints would have described their ordeal as some emotional high, but rather that of being worthy to suffer for His Name. Proverbs declares, “A friend loves at all times…” (Prov. 17:17 NASB). This includes adversity as well as times of ecstasy.

May God grant you the grace to be His friend. There is no higher privilege.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 8:27 pm

    Oh may I be a better friend to God! Oh may my purpose be of His Presence!

  2. David Andrew permalink
    August 11, 2012 1:49 am

    Thank you Holy Spirit for filling up this child with Your Holy Fire. Lord hear our prayers, grant us to be Your friends. Amen!

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