Five Conditions for Growing in Intimacy with God
Intimacy with a Personal God
Do you ever feel that you are praying to some mystical, distant, non-personal being, almost like the way God is represented in a sci-fi movie? Have you ever wondered what you had to do to cultivate intimacy with God? Have you ever thought, "I wish God would just lay it out straight? I wish He would give me a few steps to take - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5."
I stumbled upon Proverbs 2 as a young adult and found out that God has given us a divine prescription for deepening our relationship with Him. He really does give us the steps. He gives us five conditions to understand the fear of the Lord and to draw close to Him.
On the morning I started to receive revelation about this chapter, I began spending a lot of time figuring out what those five conditions were. I already knew that spiritual intimacy develops progressively, but as I continued to focus on seeking the knowledge of God, I would discover more and more. I soon learned that the five conditions listed in Proverbs 2:1-4 are fairly simple. Though they are costly, they are not confusing. Here's what I discovered.
Condition #1: A Commitment to Obedience If you will receive my sayings... (v.1, NAS)
Put simply, that means you don't ignore and cast away the commands of God. With the intention to obey Him fully, you set your heart to say yes. Deliberate disobedience quenches the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is the only One who can reveal Jesus to you. If He is quenched and grieved, you'll not receive His revelation of His dear friend Jesus. You can't offend the Holy Spirit and drive Him away, and still expect Him to make Jesus known to your heart in a greater way.
Most of us are immature spiritually, but that is not at all the same as being rebellious. Nor is it the same as raising your fist toward heaven, saying "No! I'm not obeying in this area. I want to do my will, and I don't care if it's wrong. I'm doing it anyway!" You can ask for Spirit-revelation of God all you want to, but if you're deliberately disobedient, prayer will get you nowhere. Prayer is no substitute for the intention to obey. If you want to know Jesus intimately, you must receive the sayings of the Lord in your heart without purposefully resisting the Holy Spirit.
Are there areas of deliberate disobedience in your life? Maybe you are in a wrong relationship God cannot honor. Maybe it's a shady business deal. Maybe it's bitterness you won't let go of because a person has offended you and you want to get even. You keep slandering them, putting them down every time their name is mentioned. Make a consistent resolution to confess and resist sinful areas. Realize that God looks more at the sincerity of your motives to obey than at your actual attainment of spiritual maturity. Remember: One deliberate sin persisted in is fatal to the spiritual growth of the soul. Deliberate sin blocks spiritual progress and hinders your walk with the Lord. There's no substitute for a life of obedience.
Condition #2: A Life of Meditation on the Word of God If you will...treasure my commandments within you... (Prov. 2:1, NAS)
Notice that it's the treasuring of God's commandments, not the accumulation of knowledge. Knowledge, even Bible knowledge, is not neutral. If you and I are not longing to be pleasing to the Lord, if we're driven by pride and our goal is simply to gain more knowledge of the Scriptures through a little intellectual exercise, we run the risk of coming out calloused and hardened like the pharisees. Treasuring God's commandments means conversing and interacting with the Person of Jesus who is the Author of those words. We do that through meditating on the Scriptures.
It's difficult to grow in intimacy with Jesus without a commitment to regular meditation on the Scripture. I can't tell you how discouraged I am sometimes as I talk with people and discover how few ever meditate even one hour on the Scriptures in the course of a week's time. They say, "I'm just so busy, Brother."
Being too busy to meditate at length on the Scriptures is okay during an unusual week with a crisis, but we must not let it become the habit of our lives. We will not be adequately equipped to grow in the deep things of God if we do not have the Word of God treasured in our hearts. The Word and the Spirit go together.
We need to see the value of meditating on the Word so we regularly schedule time for it. Without this aspect of God's grace, we will never grow substantially--not in 10 weeks or 10 years. My use of time is as serious to me as anything in my life. When others ask me to do something else during the time I've blocked out for prayer and meditation, I usually say, "No, I have an appointment. I'm busy." I consider time with God as being a real appointment, and I don't want to neglect Him or keep Him waiting. I realize God is more patient with me than others with whom I have appointments, and I know He will forgive me for skipping our appointed time together. But I value our times of intimate communion, and I don't want to miss them. He is more important to me than any other person I meet with.
A gentle word of warning is in order here. Weak meditation on the Scriptures eventually leads to both weak courage and weak obedience. Can you and I really afford a life of weak meditation that bears the bitter fruit of weak courage and weak obedience? No. No. No. This is an hour when God's people must be strong in courage and equally strong in careful obedience. A life with a strong priority on meditation in the Scriptures is absolutely vital.
Condition #3: A Teachable Spirit Incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding... (Prov. 2:2, NKJV)
An inclined, attentive ear and an applied heart speak of a teachable spirit. Obedience and meditation are important if we want to experience intimacy with the Lord, but a teachable spirit is also essential.
I've met a number of very earnest people who had stubborn spirits and were not teachable before God or man. That's deadly because the absence of a teachable spirit will hinder us in terms of growing in the intimate knowledge of God. An unteachable, "know-it-all" spirit will quench the Holy Spirit, and eventually our spiritual hunger will wane and die out.
We are to be teachable, to have the patient hearts of learners. Being teachable is actually a greater challenge for some Christians than being obedient or scheduling time to meditate. Isaiah 66:2 says, "...To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word" (NAS). The Lord is looking for the heart of a learner. If we have teachable spirits, the Lord can bring us into any truth we are lacking.
Condition #4: A Revelation of the Knowledge of God Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding... (Prov. 2:3, NKJV)
Crying out in this way means actually praying to receive more wisdom and insight into the splendor of God's personhood. We are exhorted many times in the Scriptures to cry out for a deeper revelation of the knowledge of God's personality.
Paul's first prayer in the great Ephesian epistle was for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God to fill the believers in Ephesus (Eph. 1:17). If it is something we really desire, we will not rest or stop crying out until we receive it. If you go without asking for it, you will end up living without it.
Condition #5: An Abandoned Heart Searching for Divine Treasures If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures... (Prov. 2:4, NKJV)
What if someone guaranteed you that a million dollar check was rolled up tightly and hidden somewhere inside an old, abandoned house, and it would be all yours if you found it? Am I right in supposing you wouldn't leave a board or a brick unturned until you found it, no matter how long it took? You would be there searching before and after your regular day's work. You would rearrange your social calendar. You would reset priorities and make all sorts of sacrifices until you found that hidden treasure because you'd made up your mind you were not going to live without it.
That same principle applies in your walk with God: Whatever you can live without in God, you may often go without. Whatever truth you decide you cannot live without, you will eventually obtain (see Matt. 7:7,8). If there is truth in God you absolutely refuse to live without, something you are willing to apply all your heart and mind to obtain, you will have it in due time, whether it's in one year or 20.
Many people have attended college and graduate school for eight or ten years or more, laboring for degrees that are the prize possessions in their professions. Their dedication and perseverance were considered normal. If an individual with that degree of determination in God ever becomes insatiably hungry for Jesus, he or she will sacrifice everything to gain deeper knowledge of the Pearl of great price.
It's very valid to pray for spiritual passion, for consuming zeal, for a release of insatiable hunger in your heart, for holy thoughts and godly desires. It's valid to pray that you might see and feel what the Father sees and feels when He beholds His dear Son. It's valid to cry out for intimacy with the Person who feeds you from His own hand, the Person who guards your soul, the Person who gives you wisdom and revelation, the Person from whose mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
The Apostle Paul called Jesus Christ "the wisdom of God...in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (1 Cor. 1:24; Col. 2:3)." Once again we're brought full circle: We receive more discernment and understanding of Jesus by pursuing and cultivating intimacy with Jesus.
When you pray, do you feel as if you're trying to communicate with some non-personal Influence somewhere out in space? Begin talking to a real Person seated upon a real throne. Begin spending time in His presence and cultivating an intimate relationship with Him. He Himself is what you and I need. Not religion. Not power. Not a greater ministry. Our answer is Jesus, the Source of all spiritual riches.
No, God is not going to hook us all up to "a Holy Ghost I.V." If we really want to know Him, there are conditions to be met: (1) a commitment to obedience, (2) a life of meditation on the Word, (3) a teachable spirit, (4) prayer for revelation of God and (5) an abandoned heart committed to searching for divine treasures. If we are willing to meet those conditions through the years and make each of them a life commitment, we will discover the Treasure of all treasures: the glorious Man Jesus Christ and an ever-deepening intimacy with Him.