In part 1 of this series, I wrote briefly about the subject of intimacy with God – what it is, what it isn’t, and how we grab a hold of the means to growing in it. We all want to grow in intimacy with God, but in order to grow in something, we must have clarity on exactly what it is and how we grow in it because we can never expect to lay hold of something unless we know exactly what we’re looking for. Scripture tells us that we grow in intimacy with God by beholding Jesus Christ, the highest revelation of God’s nature, character, and name.
But what does that practically look like? In part 1, I made the case that intimacy can be defined as relational knowledge, and that the way to the knowledge of God is by revelation. If the pinnacle of the revelation of God is in a human being named Jesus Christ, then intimacy is simply the prayerful, adoring study of the person and work of Christ in the context of a life of obedience.
Author A.W. Pink says the following in his “Exposition of the Gospel of John”:
“If the believer would enter into a better, deeper, fuller knowledge of God he must prayerfully study the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures! Let this be made our chief business, our great delight, to reverently scrutinize and meditate upon the excellencies of our Divine Savior as they are displayed upon the pages of Holy writ. Then, and only then, shall we ‘increase in the knowledge of God’. The ‘light of the knowledge of the glory of God’ is seen only ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’”
Studying the life and works of Jesus becomes more than a dry, dull exercise. It can be likened to the way one would spend long hours peering at a breathtaking landscape in order to drink it in as much as possible. David longed to “behold the beauty of the Lord” (Psalms 27:4) and Mary longed to “hear His word” (Luke 10:38-42). Biblically, this is the posture that the Lord is looking for from us – so much so, in fact, that He called it the one thing that is necessary or needful. It is to actually take real time and give it to Jesus by “beholding the beauty of the Lord” and “hearing His word”. This practice, however, is not a nebulous thing where you close your eyes and somehow see a swirling cloud of light and energy, or you sit in silence wishfully hoping to hear a loud booming voice from heaven. What David, Mary, and Jesus are talking about is so simple in practice that anyone can do it. The Scriptures have so much to say about Jesus if we would simply turn our attention to it. He is “the Word” not just in the things that He speaks, but He is a person, an identity. So in that, we are hearers of the Word every time we see Jesus. When we think about God, do we first think about Revelation 4 or John 4? Do we see God in the flesh talking to a sinful woman on a hot day about her past and future? This is indeed “hearing” and “beholding”, for in it we discover what God is really like. We must see the Scripture as more than words on the page, but as a launching pad into this realm of “beholding”, or studying and savoring the life, works, deeds, and words of Christ. This is true “beholding” and “hearing”.
Many believers, as they pursue intimacy with God, relate to Him as though the Incarnation (God becoming a human in the person of Jesus) had never happened. We enter into the place of devotion and think we’re trying to build a bridge between our little heart and a far away distant God who is stingy and doesn’t want to reveal Himself in the way that we want Him to. But the truth is that the 89 chapters of the four gospels scream loudly about who God is and what He is like. He is so gracious about His self-revelation if we indeed look for Him where He is to be found. Confidence in His love towards us and the whole plethora of the knowledge of God opens up when we look at the person of Jesus. We aren’t stuck as a weakling trying to somehow bridge the gap anymore.
So the practice of growing in intimacy with God is essentially knit to the acquiring of experiential knowledge about the person of Jesus. Unless Jesus is the focal point of our pursuit, all movements towards God will at the least end in frustration if not confusion. Reading books, attending conferences, or listening to teaching about intimacy may be potentially useful and edifying but can result in very little heart growth if our vision is not set upon Christ with waning distraction. We can’t expect to walk out the lifestyle Jesus prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) apart from a preoccupation with the One writing the prescription.
John of the Cross, a 16th century Catholic saint, said:
“God could reason as follows: If I have already told you all things in My Word, My Son, and if I have no other word, what answer or revelation can I now make that would surpass this? Fasten your eyes on Him alone because in Him I have spoken and revealed all and in Him you will discover even more than you ask for and desire. You are making an appeal for locutions and revelations that are incomplete, but if you turn your eyes to Him you find them complete. For He is My entire locution and response, vision and revelation, which I have already spoken, answered, manifested, and revealed to you by giving Him to you as a brother, companion, master, ransom, and reward.”
Opening the scriptures and reading, studying, and meditating on Jesus is so simple that anyone can do it, but it’s so simple that few actually do it with consistency. Set a schedule to read, pray through, and journal on the scriptures daily. It’s more than mildly important to give ourselves to the Lord daily, it’s critical - our little weak hearts wander so easily and quickly. It’s only in this place that we can expect to grow in true intimacy and grow in the knowledge of God.
For more, be sure to check out Episode 1 and 2 of Josh's video series called Opening Up the Gospels on this page.