A CALL FOR INTIMACY WITH GOD (The Call of A Disciple- Part II)
This past Monday I was at a pastor’s retreat. It was a group of over 50 pastors from all over New England, and some from the Midwest. The instructor stressed the need of us pastors becoming healthy Disciples of Christ. He quoted from a book titled, “The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual life.” By Henri Nouwen “Discipleship cannot be realized without discipline. Discipline in the spiritual life, however has nothing to do with the discipline of athletics, academic study, or job training, in which physical fitness is achieved, new knowledge is acquired, or a new skill is mastered.
The discipline of the Christian disciple is not to master anything, but rather to be mastered by the Spirit. The Christian discipline is the human effort to create the space in which the Spirit of Christ transform us into his image. For most of us it is very hard to spend a useless hour with God. It is hard precisely because facing God alone we also face our own inner chaos. We come in direct confrontation with our restlessness, anxieties, resentments, unresolved tensions, hidden animosities, and longstanding frustrations. Our spontaneous reaction to all this is to run away and get busy again, so that we at least can make ourselves believe that things are not as bad as they seem in our solitude.”
The key in this quote is, “creating space” for the Holy Spirit to transform us into his image. We are too busy to slow down these days. An hour alone with God!! It is too much asking from us right? We think what a waste of time. Really! We love the adrenalin rush, so we fill our lives with activity, and we are driven. We perpetually live by the tyranny of the urgent.
But do we realize how important is to have the downward mobility and actually slow down so that we can be alone with God undisturbed cherishing his presence? The thought of it alone can be confronting to the modern day Christians. We are on an exciting journey of Understanding Christian Discipleship. Last week we looked at the call of disciples. The disciples were called to leave everything behind, and follow Jesus. They were also called to leave their sinful life style. Today we look at that the call of disciples is “A call of Intimacy with God”
I. WHAT IS INTIMACY? The dictionary meaning for the word intimacy means, “close familiarity or friendship; closeness, the kind of intimacy between a husband and wife." Intimacy is the experience of really knowing and being known by the person we trust. An Intimate friend is someone who knows us intimately and we love to spend time with that friend. We feel secured and comfortable in the presence of an intimate friend. When something happens in that friendship, trust is broken and we feel horrible and distant from each other.
Let me illustrate, I have one and only one intimate friend in my life that is my wife. There is no one in this world who knows me as much as my wife knows me. I know her intimately and she knows me intimately. In her presence I feel loved, cherished, accepted and comforted. I do not want to do anything to hurt her or disappoint her. But when I do or say something either intentionally or unintentionally it hurts our relationship, I sense the coldness and distance between us. I do whatever it takes to get back into that intimacy with her again.
How did we arrive at that level of intimacy? It is hard work, it did not happen overnight, it took 22 years of marriage relationship where we gave and received love from each other. It has been a fulfilling journey of knowing and loving each other. That is the kind of intimacy, God is longing to have with all of his followers and disciples. He often is the initiator in this journey.
II. GOD’S HEART OR INTIMACY.
God from the beginning, desired an intimate relationship with man. After creating man and woman in his own image, He placed them in the garden. God and mankind enjoyed a delightful unbroken relationship with each other. He used to come and spend time with them in the cool of the day. Until one day, when man started to run away and hide from him because of his sin. Though man began to run from God, it always has been God taking the first step towards man. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you”? He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-11
Since that time mankind has been hiding away from God. When we sin we are afraid, feel guilty and want to run away from God. Sin separates us from God. It breaks our relationship with Him. In order to bring back his wayward sons and daughters into a loving relationship God raised up and sent leaders, judges, priests and prophets with a message of love.
In the OT we see this longing of God for an intimate relationship with man. Consider the following: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 “Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3
At times God expressed his love to man as a father would do to his children. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him” Hosea 11:1-3. This scripture explains the unconditional, intentional love of God towards mankind, an also the deliberate and continual rebellion of man’s heart towards God. Though man’s heart is always wicked and full of evil, God has always been reaching out with his steadfast love, with arms stretched, longing to touch and heal the broken and hurting.
III INTIMACY BETWEEN GOD, JESUS, AND DISCIPLES
Jesus since the creation has always been with God in his presence. When the appropriate time came he came into the world in human form and dwelt among us. While he was on earth He maintained an intimate relationship with His father in heaven. Remember the great words of affirmation of God the father at the time of Jesus, baptism? And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Jesus claimed that he and the father were one, and whoever had seen him has indeed seen God the father. (John 10:30). “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) Spending time with God the father in a solitary place was not a onetime thing but a regular practice for Jesus. At times he spend all night in prayer. Just before he was crucified he agonized in the garden of gethsemane before his heavenly father.
Not only was there intimacy between Jesus and God the father, but also between Jesus and his disciples. They were always with him, they ate with him, performed miracles, prayed with him, sat under his teachings, took part in the communion, etc. Jesus loved all his disciples, but there was one disciple who took more time to be with Jesus, hence he was known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. We all are invited to become that beloved disciple of Christ.
Jesus preached to the crowds in parables but explained the meaning and the mystery to his close disciples. He taught them the secrets of the Kingdom. The relationship between Jesus and his disciples was just not a relationship between a sinner and a savior, a master and a servant, a teacher and a student but it was much more intimate, it was a relationship of friendship. “Jesus said to his disciples, “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit that will last and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:12-16)
IV. CULTIVATING INTIMACY WITH GOD.
The Bible does not say, God is full of love, but God is love. God’s Kingdom is a Kingdom of love. Everything God has done, is doing and will do has always been motivated by love. Out of his great love for us He sent His only begotten son Jesus Christ. So that through Jesus we can enter into a relationship with God. That relationship is of a son and a father. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (I John 3:1) When we accept Jesus as our savior, God pours his abundant love into our lives and we become the children of God, the sons and daughters.
God not only pours his love into our hearts but he also wants us to become the agents of love. Jesus has given us a command to love one another as he has loved us. How can we cultivate intimacy with God in a world full of distractions and business? As Henri Nouwen suggested we have to “create space.” We might argue that during the time of Jesus, the disciple did not have all the modern gadgets to distract them from following Jesus, so naturally it becomes easier to follow Jesus.
Yes you are right! The modern gadgets, such as computers, tablets, TV, and cell phones however useful they might be they are the greatest hindrance for us from cultivating an intimate relationship with God. We cannot create space for God when we are 24/7 hooked up to our gadgets thinking that we cannot part from them not even a minute. It takes a desire, a determination and intentionality to spend time with God. When we have that determination then it would be easier for us to part from these gadgets.
Once you put away your cellphones, shut the TV off, then find a solitary place anywhere, where you are not distracted. In that quiet space you can meditate on God’s love. You can sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. You can pour out your anxieties in his presence. Trust that in the quietness of your heart, God will reveal the width and the depth of His love for you. He will fill you with His Holy Spirit. The more time we take creating space for God, the more intimate we grow with Him. God is calling you today to enter into an Intimate relationship with Him, are you ready to embark on this most exciting journey of intimacy with God? Amen