Intimacy with God

from Men's Retreat 2003

by Clyde White

Intimacy: Fact and Fiction

Intimacy today is usually associated with physical or sexual activity. Intimacy is not sexual. Sexual activity may result from intimacy but it can also result from lust.

A solid marriage will be almost constantly intimate, but it will most certainly not be constantly sexual. Marriage should produce a special type of inner character or essential nature with the other partner. A proper marriage will produce a nature that is marked with a complete intermixture and fusion of each individual nature with the other, without losing the individuality of either. Hopefully, in the process of intermixing and fusing, the negative aspect of each nature will be discovered and discarded.

Sad to say, very few marriages ever reach close to that goal. When many couples celebrate their 10th anniversary, they are often 10 years further apart than they were during their courtship. The greatest degree of intimacy for many couples takes place in the dating process or the first few years of marriage, even when both individuals in the marriage long for the reality of intimacy.

Just as true, both individuals usually show and seek that longing in different ways. In a desperate attempt to achieve or at least imitate that intimacy, they may get distracted by to cars, work, sports, shopping, wealth, TV, family, friendships with of the same gender, or friendship with others of the opposite gender. However distracting these things may be from the hunger for intimacy, in the long run they only make the void for intimacy deeper and less bearable.

Intimacy with God

There is another level of intimacy that even the best of human friendships cannot fulfill: Intimacy with God. As a matter of fact, real human intimacy cannot be achieved without first knowing this greater and deeper intimacy with God.

For many of us, intimacy with God does not come easily. We go to church meetings, we listen to CDs, we turn on the radio, we read all kinds of books, or whatever. We sing about closeness with God, and how wonderful the name of Jesus is to us. Yet, we leave that meeting, turn off the CD, silence the radio and go about our daily lives still no closer to God, not knowing what real Spiritual intimacy is, or even if there is such a thing as Spiritual intimacy. Yet, many Believers want and long to know God so completely that we would not stop at anything, just to be near Him. Or maybe it would be better to say we would do almost anything except what we must to be intimate with God.

Whether or not we realize it, spiritual intimacy is our deepest desire. It is what we were created for. In spite of this, there are two questions that baffle most of us:

  • What is Spiritual intimacy?
  • How do I achieve such intimacy?

We say that we greatly desire to really know God personally. We’ve tried the quite time, the sing time, the prayer time, the study time, and many other times. Yet after all that effort, God seems to be no closer than when we started. Those many different times of quite, singing, prayer, etc. can bring a certain excitement to life for a while, but it doesn’t last. Then you are left feeling guilt because you have failed or didn’t do the time right. Some have given up on the quest to gain intimacy with God, because all it seems to be is giving up this and giving up that without any compensatory results.

This desire and restless search is demonstrated vividly in the rise and fall of different types of Bible classes. If it is new and different, people run to it for a while, praise it, and then soon they find the return of that gnawing desire for real intimacy, because the new class didn’t really deliver in the long run. They begin looking for the next new thing.

Intimacy of any kind demands consistency over a long period of time. As good as some of these Bible classes may be, or may not be, this type of sporadic running from one to another, actually harms and defeats the search for intimacy with God.

Intimacy is not found or built on new exotic experiences or unusual Bible teaching styles. If we are seeking intimacy through the exotic or the unusual, those very things will lessen or destroy what little intimacy we have. They will bring variety into a relationship, but they will not produce intimacy. Proper variety never hurt a relationship, but variety does not build intimacy with your spouse, or God, or anyone else.

What is Intimacy?

(Webster) Relating to an inner character or essential nature; Showing complete intermixture, compounding, fusion; Marked by knowledge of personal details which only an eyewitness or very close confidant might have

Let’s first of all tear the definition apart, then apply it to the Biblical concept of intimacy with God. Just the examination of the definition should involve at least a lesson on each point, and one to wrap it up, but we won’t take that kind of time here.

  • It has to do with inner character or essential nature
  • It is a complete intermixture, a compounding, a fusion
  • It has to do with knowing well the personal detail of the other

Evaluate Your Character

Intimacy demands and is dependent on your inner character or essential nature. Maybe we need to define character.

(Webster) [general] The complex of accustomed mental and moral qualities, and habitual ethical traits marking a person, group, or nation serving to individualize it. [good] A composite of good moral qualities typically of moral excellence and firmness blended with resolution, self-discipline, high ethics, force and judgment.

We can only know and see the reputation of a person, what some other person judges an individual to be, based on past known actions or opinions. Only you and God really know what composes your inner character and essential nature. And sometimes we are even clueless about ourselves.

You want intimacy? Then first, properly evaluate your character. Don’t do a spin job! No one is asking you to impress anyone. Please, don’t try to impress yourself, either. Be honest with yourself. Are you honorable, selfless, and honest in word, action, and motive? I have called our attention to only three of the moral qualities that should make up your composite called Good Character,

These qualities…. actually, all of our qualities are blended into a compound or fused with the other person to produce intimacy.

You might say, “I’m honest”, and that you might be. But in reality, you are brutal, and the truth you speak would have been better unsaid. You spoke the truth, because you were selfish, not selfless. Therefore, the balance of your character is just as bad as though you had been dis-honest. Your character cannot be considered good, if you are good in honesty, but bad in selflessness. Both are part of your character, and one brings disqualification to a good character just as quickly as the other. Attempt to separate one from the total make-up of your character, and you have made null and void the reality of character, itself.

Remember, intimacy has to do with inner character or essential nature and it is a complete intermixture, a compounding, a fusion. Intimacy, on a human level, is an intermixture, a compounding or a fusion of the qualities of both or all parties involved. Hopefully, that will be a blending of the better qualities of each, not the base qualities.

Seek Your God

However, in the matter of intimacy with God, we have no good qualities to contribute to this blending process with His. Therefore, the first point becomes even more vital to our relationship with God: it has to do with inner character or essential nature. We must be willing to allow God’s character to blend and fuse within our lives.

Thereby, in the process, replacing His qualities for ours thus building our character.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

In order to have our minds transformed, we must be in the process of replacing His qualities for ours. Intimacy is really quite a simple process. Let me clarify, I did not say it was an easy process. I said it was a simple process. You need to thank God that it is simple, for none of us could ever achieve it otherwise.

Psalms 63:1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs [to wither or waste away from longing] for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
Early will I seek you
(Hebrew) Be (up) early (first thing or place) at any task (with the implication of earnestness); by extension to search for (with painstaking)
1 Chronicles 22:19 Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God. Therefore arise and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy articles of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the LORD.

When King David came to the end of his life, and he was giving instruction of his son Solomon, soon to be king. The very best instruction for success that David could give was, “Set you heart and soul to seek the Lord your God.”

The NIV uses “devote your heart” in the place of “set”.

(Webster) To set apart by a solemn act or appropriation; To attach the attention or center of activities, of oneself, wholly or chiefly on a specified object, field, or objective
Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

The point is not how hard the task might be, but the personal dedication and the attention of the seeker. Seek the Lord! Don’t seek an experience or an emotion or an action. This seeking should not be a fact finding mission or theology 101, although if you seek Him, you will gain a lot of facts along the way. Remember, you can never find God in a pile of statistics.

You must seek a person not a percentage, and you must have a personal experience with that Person. This is not learning to pray or sing. This is not a time of confession or intersession. You are seeking to spend time with a Person. This is how you become intimate with God.

It may, however, and probably will include all of the above mentioned but don’t get the cart before the horse, seek God. The person – God. He’s real. He is a real Person.

Psalms 63:1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs (to wither or waste away from longing) for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.

Thirst comes from have a lack of something to drink; Longing comes from a self-developed desire. Each of us have the Spiritual thirst for God, but we may not recognize it as a thirst for God because we may have never gone to God to satisfied that thirst. Therefore, we may need some instruction and help to learn to drink, much as a child need help to use the cup.

We must develop a longing for God, much in the same way we would develop a longing for anything else. You know that car, that computer, those new shoes, those golf clubs. You weren’t born with a longing for these things, you developed that longing. You looked at them over and over again. You learned the stats about them, you touched them, you tried them on and you said, “If I don’t get this, I think I’ll die!”

Psalms 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

You must be willing to work on your relationship with God, as you do with anything or anyone else with whom you build a relationship. Remember when you were trying to build a relationship with your spouse? You would think, “What can I do, where can I go, what can I say that will make this a better time, a better relationship?”

Is your relationship with Christ better today than it was at the beginning? Or is your theme song, The Longer I Serve Him, the sadder I Get! Well, God hasn’t changed, so if your relationship is not what it used to be, guess who changed!

Psalms 42:1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Get the picture: the deer pants for water. There is a need. There has been a lack. In the case of the deer, it doesn’t tell us why there had been a lack of water. Possibly, the deer had wandered far from the water in search of food and by the time it got back, it was in desperate need for water. Possibly, the deer had been perused by a wild animal, and it had run, jumped and darted until at last it was free from it enemy. But now, with mouth open, side heaving in and out to gain it breath, it pants for the water brooks.

In similar manner you have roamed, run, jumped and darted from place to place far from the life giving fountain of God’s own person. The enemy has been chasing you also but, alas, too often we only think that we are busy about doing our duty. Never realizing that the enemy of our soul has cut us off from the supply of life giving Spiritual water.

In our pursuit for success and taking care of the urgent, we too have a longing, but alas we often don’t know what that longing is. We try to satisfy that longing with busyness, pleasure, TV, things (even family). All of those things can be good things, but when we allow them to take us away from the fresh cool running brook of God’s Person, they can become an activity of defeat. Therefore, we fail to recognize our longing for the life giving water for our souls, God, Himself. As a result, we walk right by the refreshment of life giving water of God even though it is near at all times.

Is intimacy with God possible?

I’m sure that if I could hear your hearts, most would be saying, “I want a relationship with God that is personal and intimate but I’m not sure such a relationship is possible.” The resounding answer to that unspoken question is, “Yes! Such a relationship is absolutely possible.” Intimacy is possible for at least two reasons.

God wants it!

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Jesus says with great intensity, “I have come to die on the cross so that you might have Eternal Life.” In like manner and with the same great intensity, He says, “I want you to have that life more abundantly.”

God wants this relationship, He has provided for this relationship and He is waiting for you to join Him in this relationship. One of the key factors in that statement is that we must join Him where He is. God is not interested in fellowshipping in the ways of the world or the squalor of human immorality. No, you don’t have to become perfect, before you can have intimacy with God, but you have to seek God, to move into His realm.

We must not expect God to bless our endeavors when they are not according to His ways. Just as being Born Again is not a difficult transaction on the part of the human. Likewise, moving into God’s realm is not some super human task. God is near.

Jeremiah 23:23 Am I a God near at hand, says the LORD, And not a God afar off?

God is seeking you out

Not only does God want this relationship with you, but He is actively seeking you out. He is initiating this friendship, this intimacy. Look at the examples we have from His word.

To Adam

Genesis 3:9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

To Noah

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

To Abraham

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

To the Disciples

Matthew 4:19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

To the two on the road to Emmaus

Luke 24:15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.

In each of these instances and many, many more God is reaching out to man. There are also many examples of God seeking us all.

Luke 19:10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

God put the desire within each heart and mind but He is a just God and will not force Himself on you or anyone else. We must respond to the God-given desire, in God’s prescribed way. Some might ask, “Isn’t that kind-of bullish of God to make us do it His way or hit the highway?”

We’re talking about things of an eternal nature. I don’t think it is bullish of God to tell us to do it the only way that we can go from these temporal things into eternal things is by His means.

So, that brings us to that all important question, how?

Demands of Intimacy

Intimacy demands trust

We must trust God and what He says. God has established Himself as trustworthy. By the way, to trust God, we must first know God. We learn about Who He is through His word.

Hebrews 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, 3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior
Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
Proverbs 6:16 These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.

Take time to read His word to learn Who His is. As you read, ask yourself, “What does this passage teach me about Who God is?”

Intimacy demands a right relationship

James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

My job in this process is:

  1. Draw near
  2. Clean up my outward act
  3. Disinfect my inner motives (no more switching between standards)
1 Peter 1:15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

God has called us into a holy relationship. Remember the definition of intimacy?

Intimate = (Webster) Relating to an inner character or essential nature; Showing complete intermixture, compounding, fusion; Marked by knowledge of personal details which only an eyewitness or very close confidant might have

We cannot have that “complete intermixture” if we are not allowing His nature to transform us.

Intimacy demands time

You can’t be holy in a hurry, it takes time. Intimacy is not instant – even intimacy with God takes time. Just as intimacy with your spouse took time, so does intimacy with God. There is an old hymn that speaks to this.

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

Acknowledge that time is part of the process and continue to seek him constantly.

Intimacy demands stillness, quiet, silence

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Psalm 47:1 Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! 2 For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.

In today’s Christianity, we have learned much about praising Him, or at least making noise, but we know so little about being awed by Him. Most generally, when a person stands in awe of something or someone—they are silent. They may later break forth in loud praise, but for the moment, they are in silent awe. We should praise Him, but until we really know Him, our praise is usually our own verbal eloquence and not the expression of our heart.

The world says, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”

God says, “Please, just stand there - and be still so I can speak.”

Habakkuk 2:20 But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Zechariah 2:13 Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!
1 Kings 19:9 And there he (Elijah) went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? 10 So he said, I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life. 11 Then He said, Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.

Meditate on These

Look back over the verses presented in this lesson. Make a list of the verses that stood out to you, verses you wish to learn more about. Open your Bible and read these verses in context (read the verses before and after), asking yourself what you can learn about God and His character from the passage. What can you learn about yourself from reviewing these verses? Take time to consider who God is and who He wants you to become. Take these thoughts to God in prayer, asking for His help in this marvelous transformation.

Questions to Consider

Still struggling to know how to find intimacy with God? Below are a few questions for you to consider. Don’t try to answer them all at one time or in any particular order. Read through them and allow yourself time to consider your answers. If you think of more questions, add them to this list.

  1. What do I know about God?
  2. Who is He?
  3. What has He done?
  4. What has He done for me?
  5. How can I adore Him?
  6. What do I want to share with God about myself?
  7. What do I want to share with God about my spouse?
  8. What do I want to share with God about my children?
  9. What do I want to share with God about my job?
  10. What do I want to share with God about my recreation?
  11. What do I want to share with God about my thoughts?
  12. What things hinder me from knowing God better? How can I change these things?
  13. List 20 things that show God’s greatness.
  14. List 10 things that show God’s greatness within my present view and hearing.
  15. What 5 things can I do to make it possible to “Acknowledge God in all my ways”?