Charles Stanley - Intimacy with God
How close to God are you? You say, "Well, I'm not too sure how close I am". Well, how close do you want to be? "Well, I want to be as close as I can". Why aren't you any closer than you are? "Oh, well, I don't know". Do you realize that you can be just as close to God as you choose to be? You say, "Well, I thought I had to know a lot of things". No, you can be just as close to God as you choose to be. The problem is that most people just don't give it much thought. And if you ask yourself the question: How close to God am I and how close to God do I really and truly want to be? Well, the most important thing in your life today, next week, next month, next year, twenty years from now, forty years from now, the day that you pass away from this life, the most important thing in your life is not what you own. It's not even who you are.
The most important thing in your life is your personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, second to nothing else. It is the most important thing in your life. Notice I haven't mentioned church or reading the Bible or praying or giving or witnessing because that's not what we're talking about. Those are things Christians do. I'm talking about a relationship. I'm talking about a personal relationship between you and God through His Son, Jesus Christ. And one of the most beautiful confessions of that is found in Philippians chapter three, and listen to what he said. He has just been talking about his background and where he came from and what his heritage was and all the things that have been accrued to his benefit.
And then listen to what he says, verse seven of this third chapter, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Him," that is, to gain a knowledge of Him, "and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith". He said, "You know, the truth is the heart of my whole life is my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and my acceptance by Him is not on what I've done, who I am, where I've been, but on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ". And then he says, "This is what I desire," verse ten, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead".
Here's a man whom God used in the most awesome way. Before he was saved, he had all of the prosperity and all the prominence and prestige any person could want in his day. He says, "You know what? When I look at my relationship to Jesus Christ and I see just a glimpse of who He is and what He's about, when I look at all that I have and all that I am and all that I've been," he says, "I can put that in a pile of garbage, rubbish when it comes to being compared to the awesome gift of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, this intimate relationship that I can have from Him". And he says, "Therefore I pursue that above everything else".
Now, think about it. If you can be just as close to God as you choose to be, how close do you want to be? I'll tell you when you want to be the closest. When you go through difficulty, hardship, trial, pain, persecution, all of the bottom in your life has dropped out, the walls are caved in, the roof has caved in on you, and your friends have walked away and it's just you alone facing your difficulty, hardship. All of a sudden, you recognize you need to know Him more intimately than you have ever known Him before. Well, what in the world do we mean by an intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ? Well, what does the word "intimate" mean? What does it imply? It implies closeness, something personal, something deeper than just knowing somebody casually. You can have acquaintances. You can know them casually. You can know them close. And then there are those intimate friends. The most intimate of all friends should be God, through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, how would you define an intimate relationship with God? Now, I put it on the screen because I want you to be able to write it down. What is an intimate relationship with God? What's involved? Intimacy with God means simply this: it is a close, personal, private relationship with Christ that results in a strong desire to know Him, to trust Him, to obey Him, and to accept His love. That's more than just going to church. It's more than just reading your Bible. It's more than trying to do good works. We're talking about a relationship, we're talking about intimacy: close, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who is this Christ who is the Son of God? Who is this Christ who walked three years in this life and performed miracles and healed people and revealed the Father? Who is this Christ who can look down from Heaven and see me in my sinfulness and forgive my sin and desire to draw this sinful human being unto Himself? Who is this Christ who said He predestined you and me to be conformed to be like Him. Who is He? Do you not care to understand who He is? Have you just taken for granted that okay, so He saved me, so I understand. Who is He? His desire is that you and I know Him, understand Him, walk with Him.
And so, when you think about how He approached His disciples, so let's go through a few things. Let's think about this. The most, listen, the most important, some of the most important things Jesus said in His whole preaching career, and some of the most important things He said doctrinally, and the most intimate, listen, the most intimate conversations Jesus had with His apostles, chapters thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and his seventeenth chapter of John when He prayed for them. When you go through these chapters, what you find is you find this intimacy between Him and them. Some of it they understood, some of it they did not.
Now, think about this. In order to build intimacy with them, He spent time with them. We're just talking about one night. But think about these three years before. He spent more time alone with those twelve men than He did the throngs of people. So watch what happens in these thirteenth, fourteen, fifteen, sixteenth chapters. Here's what happens, not only did He spend time with them, but this was one of the most humbling things Jesus could do. Now, thinking about intimacy, listen to this, Jesus washed their feet. And then, if you go through the conversations, here's what happened. He was continually affirming them of how much He loved them because they needed to know that. He was continually reminding them and assuring them of His presence. He said, "Now, I'm going away, but I", listen to this, how tender this is, "I'm not going to leave you as little orphans. I'm coming to be with you. I'm going to send the Holy Spirit. He'll be in you, with you, and upon you. He'll never leave you". Assuring them of His presence, and His transparency toward them.
Here's what He would say to them, couple of times in the scripture, but He must have said it many times. He said, "I want to disclose Myself to you". He says, "I want to open up to you and tell you who I am". He was open, transparent, because you see, that's what intimacy's all аbout: being open. And naturally, it never crossed His mind to be dishonest or untruthful and so forth. But He was tenderly caring for them, as you listen to what He says, preparing them for the future. He says, "I desire that you have My joy in you". He wanted them to feel, listen, He wanted them to feel the same depth of joy that He had with His Father. He wasn't satisfied just training them how to preach and training them how to teach, continually comforting them.
All through those chapters, there are many other things we could say. But then when you come to the seventeenth chapter, and you read that prayer. And He talks about, talking to the Father, "I want them to be like Us. I want to be in them and I want them to be in Us. I want them to be one with each other". And in the fifteenth chapter of John He talks about abiding in us and us abiding in Him. You see, the reason Jesus used those terms is this: He wants us to understand. This isn't, watch this, intimacy with Him is not a distant relationship. It isn't God up in Heaven out yonder somewhere. It is God in the person of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, living on the inside of us.
What is a Christian? Well, somebody would say, "Well, a Christian's a person who receives Jesus, goes to church, reads the Bible, and prays and gives and so forth". No, a Christian is a person in whom Jesus is living His life, through whom, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He's living His life and impacting on those around him. If somebody were to ask you: Are you a Christian? What would you say? You say, "Well, I'd tell them 'yes.'" And then suppose they said, "Well, what is it about your life that's different from my life"? Then what would you say? Here's where most Christians are. It's pretty evident of this. They got saved, they stepped into the door of salvation and they just parked right there.
Now, I'll give it to some, I have some leeway here naturally. Maybe nobody ever told you there was more to it than that. But you've had to have some sense of desire. But you look around at the average Christian and you think, "Well, you know what, that's what it's all about. You get saved, get your name on the roll, get baptized, know you're going to Heaven, and then you just do the best you can". There's not anything in this Bible about doing the best you can, not one word. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, living on the inside of you, enabling you to become the person God wants you to be.
So I ask you a question. What are you doing about gaining knowledge of Him? What are you doing about learning to know who He really is? Because you'll not walk out of this worship service a single time without hearing one or more principles that can affect your life for good starting this very day. You won't. Now, what you do with it is something else. And what's my goal? My whole goal week after week, ultimately, is exactly what I'm talking about. I want you to hear something that, deep down in your heart, will create a hunger to know Him and to walk in obedience and walk in His will and fulfill your purpose and His plan for your life. That's not where many folks are.
Why go to church if you're not going to, listen, hear something that changes your relationship to God? Am I opposed to church? Absolutely not. I'm saying: What's it all about? We come to worship and to sing and to praise the Lord, but what's all that about? All that is about Jesus. But if I don't stop to hear some principle that will enable me to walk holier, more available to Him, more sensitive to those around me, more willing to walk in obedience to Him, then what's it all about? You see, with Jesus, it was all about building a relationship with Him.
Now, what was His motive? Here was His motive. This is what it was all about. His motive was He, listen, He wanted to build a relationship with those apostles. He wants us to build a relationship with Him because, listen, He said if you've seen Me, you've seen the Father, if you know Me, you know the Father. You know what His motive was? His motive was, listen, that you and I get to know Him, and therefore we'd know the Father. He wants us to get to know the Father. He came to reveal the Father and to die on the cross to make it possible for us to go to the Father. So think about it. He came to reveal Himself. What about Himself? Watch this, God wants you and me to know, first of all, who He is.
Well, who is Jesus? He wants us to know who He is. He's the Son of God. He's the Lamb of God. He's the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He says He is our very life, Paul says in Colossians. He wants us to, listen, to know who He is, then secondly, listen, He wants us to know His ways. How did He live? That's the way He wants us to live. What are the ways of God? How did He respond? What motivated Him? How did He think? How does He think? He wants us to think the way He thinks, to know His ways, to understand His ways. He wants us to love like He loved and to forgive like He forgave and to walk like He walked before the Father in obedience to Him. He wants us to respond to difficulty, temptation, and trials and persecution, rejection. He wants us to know how to respond when everything about us is going the other direction. He wants us to have such a relationship and to know Him the way He responded.
Now, you say, "Well, all right, I accept what you say that it's very important". It's not just very important, it's the most important thing in your life. Do you hear that? You may be in a nursing home and eighty-five years of age and saying, "Well, what's this all about"? You better get ready. Or, you may be sitting in your living room, your den, or your bedroom somewhere and thinking, what's this all about? Here's what it's all about. It's all about the most important thing in your life. More important than your next meal, a good night's sleep, where you work, what you do, how much money you make, how much you have, where you're going, your future plans, more important than all that. All that could come to a halt, stop, just like that. But your intimate relationship with Him is the most important thing in your life. Therefore, how do we develop that?
So I want to give you a list of things, going to put them on a screen. If you're wise, you'll write them down. If you're unwise, you'll just ignore it. We don't have any unwise people here this morning, I'm sure. Listen to this, the first thing necessary to build an intimate relationship with the Lord is time. You have to spend time with Him. Now, what'll determine whether you do or not? It's the value you place on knowing Him. You have time to watch TV, have time to work, have time to do other things. Isn't it interesting that you and I would be so brazen as to tell Him we don't have time? Don't have time to get in this Book and say, "Well, I don't understand". You know how to understand it? Start reading it. You have the Holy Spirit to be the teacher. Don't have time to spend just being alone with Him?
And then, of course, there is listening, listening to Him. Don't do all the talking. There are times when you just need to be alone, quiet, and just say to the Lord, "Lord, I'm just here to listen. Whatever You want to say to me, I'm available to hear it". Then when He brings up something, you can't ignore it. It takes listening, then it takes talking, talking to the Father, talking to Lord Jesus, Lord, here's what I'm thinking, here's how I'm feeling. Lord, speak to my heart. And sometimes what you say to Him may simply be, "Lord, I just want to tell You that I love You. Thank You for being so good to me". You see, prayer isn't just a plea for help. Prayer's just being in His presence and talking to Him. And you have to decide what's the best way for you to do it. Find some place in your house where you and Jesus can get by yourself.
You say, "There's no place in my house like that". Yes, there is. If extremes come, then here's what you do, get in the bathroom, lock the door. It's just you and God, whatever it takes. Most people can find a place. Then of course, there's being truthful, being honest with Him. Isn't it amazing we think we can fake God out. That when, listen, when God brings up something continually in your heart, in your mind, in your prayer, you can ignore it, but you know what? Do you think God doesn't know what's going on? You see, intimacy says I have to be honest, truthful, open, which means I need to be transparent with Him saying, "Lord, I hear what You say. I don't like what You said". Just tell Him. He already knows it.
God, I don't like what You're say, I don't want to go there. I don't want to ask them to forgive me. Now Lord, after all, You know what's going on. I don't have to argue with You about it, God, but I'll do it later. If that's the way you feel, just tell Him. Does God get upset? No. Is He disappointed? No. Is He going to stomp you? No. Because He knows that you and I are human. We're building an intimate relationship. And I look at all these things these disciples heard from Him, how He cared for them. Understanding, love, forgiveness, surrender, all of these things are part of building that intimate relationship with Him.
Now, but what keeps us from doing it? Well, number one, the barriers, is willful, known sin in your life. You cannot have an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus and have willful, known sin in your life and you won't deal with it. You become estranged. It's like, for example, a husband and wife. And let's say, instead of having an intimate relationship, a real wonderful kind of relationship of unconditional love, that not only are you telling her that you love her, but you've got a little something going on the side over here. You think a woman can't figure that out? And when God sees us so distracted by something we won't deal with, some sin in our life, you can't have intimacy with omniscience as if He didn't know. So there's willful sin.
A second thing that hinders it is not just the desire but the determination to control things, got to control. Control him, control her, control my circumstances, when the opposite of that is surrender. If you're not willing to surrender your life to Him, your circumstances and all the rest, there's not going to be any real, genuine intimacy. So, when I think about what the disciples heard Jesus say over and over and over again, different ways that He said it. They had to deal with some of those things. And think about Peter, for example. Peter no doubt had to ask the Lord to forgive Him, lots of reasons, 'cause he was certainly self-centered.
And self-centeredness is a barrier. Selfishness, self-centeredness, what? I want my way and, Lord, I know what You're saying. And then we tell Him what we need, what we want, and then we put a "but" behind it, but God, here's what I think I need to do. You can't have an intimate relationship and be self-centered at the same time. Then of course, there's fear. Fear of what? Fear that God's going to take something from me. And how many times have I heard people say, "Well," literally say this, "Well, I want to be fully surrendered, but I'm afraid if I fully surrender, He's going to take her, going to take him, or something will happen to my finances. God may kill my children". It's amazing the dumb things that people say. Do you realize that the accusation is that God's mean and that He's demeaning and that He's not loving. The only action God is going to take with us is love. You don't have to fear, listen, you don't have to fear what you're going to lose for developing a relationship with Him.
And another barrier is unbelief. Well, yeah, I know what He says, but. And then one thing that we throw up over and over and over again, well, I hear what You're saying and I know that's true, but I'm just so busy. I'm just so busy. You mean you're too busy to spend time with the Lord who keeps your heart beating? Do you know how long it would take you to die, sitting right there? And you're gone. And you're telling this God who loves you and wants a relationship with you that you don't have time for Him? That is the poorest excuse, that you don't have time. We all have twenty-four hours in every day. And we all make choices about how we're going to spend that twenty-four hours.
You know what? He knows what He wants to go on in your life, and the most precious time you spend in any given day of your time is your time when you get by yourself and just you and the Lord Jesus talk about, whether it's your circumstances or somebody else's or whatever it might be. We're not too busy. You know what the problem is? We make wrong choices. And I simply ask you this: What is it in your life that's more valuable to you than a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ who loves you unconditionally; who will never leave you nor forsake you; who will meet your every need; who loves you with a love that is absolutely indescribable; who sacrificed His life because He loves you; whose intimate relationship with you can bring you a sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment, joy, happiness, and you name it, it's all there, if you're wise enough to make the wise choice.
And that's my prayer, that you would not just think about this message, but you'd be wise enough to make a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. "Lord, I parked back yonder somewhere. I've been on auto-pilot in my Christian life. I've been seeking to serve and seeking recognition and seeking this and seeking that. Now I want to start seeking You. I just want to make sure, Lord, that daily You and I have some time together. And I want You to do everything in my life You want to do. Whatever You want to cut out's fine, whatever You want to add's fine. But Lord, don't let me live a day without coming to You with thanksgiving, confession, repentance, intercession for my friends, but most of all, just listening to You to see what You have to say to me today". And you know what? Get this down. God will never disappoint you.