Today is the first Sunday of the year, and I was meditating & praying, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to ponder upon God’s heart, vision, goals and dreams for our lives.
1. To grow in Intimacy with His son Jesus Christ &
2. To grow in the awareness of the indwelling life of his son Jesus in us
No matter how big our personal dreams are, no matter how strong our individual desires are.. if our dreams, desires and pursuits in life are not helping us to move towards God’s goal for our lives then life will be a total waste where are chasing after worthless things that will only bring grief and sorrow at the end.
It may give momentary satisfaction to us externally but it will never bring internal transformation.
Similarly, as a church we can have a large vision and aspirations. But if the plans and vision we have for the church does not move us in the direction of God’s goals for our lives, then we will end up making church an idol.
And therefore, my desire as I preach this morning is to encourage and help us cultivate intimacy with Jesus and to walk in the awareness of His indwelling life in us that enables us to live victorious lives.
How do we grow in intimacy with Christ?
Very often when a sermon like this is preached, our immediate response is that from tomorrow onwards I will pray more, read the bible more, worship more… and that will put things in order.
But what happens? How many in this room made a decision like that and has been followed it through for the last one year. I’ve tried that many times in my Christian journey and have failed at it again and again.
And even if we are successful in doing that regularly, down the line we loose the excitement and it becomes dry and lifeless, a routine, a joyless activity.
So, if its not about doing all these spiritual activities then you may ask what does it really mean to walk and grow in intimacy with Christ?
For that I want you to read with me, Psalms 63:1-8 and read the heartbeat of a man who knew what it meant to have an intimate relationship with God.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
I’m not going to expound on this passage but what we understand about Intimacy in this heart touching Psalm that is that Intimacy means living a life of complete surrender to God.
Where we grow up realizing that there is nothing better than Jesus, where our soul thirsts for him, our flesh faints for him, where we see His steadfast love better than life, where our soul finds satisfaction in Him alone, where our mouth is constantly filled with His praises, where we think about Him upon our bed in the night, where we wake up in the morning with songs on our lips.
Let me give you a visual picture of what that means. Here’s our heart
Filled in are all the bubbles of various aspects of our lives; a bubble for marriage, a bubble for career, a bubble for relationships, a bubble for friends, etc .. and along with all the bubbles, is a bubble for Jesus. We call this compartmentalization.
When we lived in sin our hearts, our minds, our will, our emotions were subject to the devil, we were slaves to sin; sin ruled over us.
But the day God mercifully opened our blinded eyes and convicted us, He brought us to a realization that there is more to life than what it seems to be. He revealed to us the depravity of our heart, the emptiness of life, the sorrow of this broken world.
And we then learn that all this is happening because of our broken relationship with our creator God, our Father. And the only way we can get back into that relationship with God is to accept His provision which he offered to us by the life, death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.
When we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus he becomes alive in our heart, and God accepts us back into his loving relationship – This we call Justification.
Once we are in this beautiful relationship, we are now called to grow and enjoy that relationship, which is what we mean by growing in intimacy with Christ – This we call as Sanctification.
And the process by which we grow in intimacy with Christ is by surrendering every aspect of our lives to him and to make Him the ultimate goal and the ultimate purpose of life.
Where Jesus is not just an isolated bubble in the corner of our heart, but he becomes the larger bubble within which all other bubble fit.
At the end of it all what God is accomplishing in our heart as we surrender our lives to him is to take complete reign.
As human beings, still living in our flesh we will always resist this path of giving full control to Jesus, because we are prone to sin and it gives us momentary pleasure. Therefore, we have to constantly remind ourselves that seeking momentary pleasures will always hinder us from living a full life in Christ.
Practically, it means to give up that which we think is important for me or bothering me into the hands of a loving Saviour one by one, who knows what’s best for our life. It includes our career, our relationship, our marriage, our studies, our ministry, our dreams, our business, our job etc.
For example, when we get up in the morning, do our daily devotions and as we are on our way to work we think of all the task on our desk, the meetings we have to attend, the boss we have to face and all of a sudden we become anxious, anxious about our future, anxious about our growth in the company, anxious about our career.
And if growing in intimacy with Jesus means surrendering all to him, then what we need to do is take a step back, find a quite place, it could be in the washroom, spell out your frustration to Jesus and ask him to take control, saying Jesus, I am not going to worry about my career because you are better, and you know what’s best for me, I will let you have your way in me.
Even if I don’t get a raise in my salary, even if I lose my job, even if things don’t seem to be going in the direction I wanted. I will trust in you, and I will continue to love you.
To come to a place where we are able to say like Paul in Philippians 3:8 “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
And once we’ve don’t surrendering that area of our life, wait on the Holy Spirit to speak to our heart, give us direction to what we need to do, how we need to behave… and if its a big step he is asking you to take, ask him to confirm through other sources. Once confirmed, trust in Him and go for it.
The same could be applied to a relationship, a marriage situation, dealing with a new born baby, teaching our children at home etc.
But remember we don’t try to accomplish this with our efforts, because our efforts will turn out to be futile and will ultimately fail us.
And therefore what we need is to grow in the awareness of the indwelling life of Jesus in us.
Let me show you some scriptures that talk about our dependence on Jesus.
“But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness.”—Romans 8:10
“Because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is the One who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us.”—2 Corinthians 4:6-7
“I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”—Galatians 2:20
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”—Colossians 1:27
Brothers & sisters, I hope you are able to see what I can see in these verses.
What I understand from these passages is that, for me to grow in intimacy with Christ where he takes center stage of my life, it doesn’t happen because of our efforts but because of Christ himself who is in me, the hope of Glory who is accomplishing for himself the task of drawing us closer to himself. See how much God loves us and wants us, the length and breath of his steadfast love.
Therefor, my responsibility then is only to surrender myself to his Lordship over my life.
Praying everyday, reading His Word daily is the outcome of a surrendered life. It is not the means to grow closer to God. We can ‘do’ all those things and yet fail to live in intimacy with Christ since Christ is is still another bubble in our hearts who gets attention in the mornings and on Sundays.
True intimacy is when He gets our attention 24 x 7, 7 days a week & 365 days of the year.
This is God’s desire for us, which He is accomplishing in our hearts as we give ourselves in total surrender to Him.