Intimacy Opportunities Part 6

How does humility make intimacy accessible? Humility is generally understood to be holding a modest or low view of ourselves. Scripturally many of us would be drawn to the passage below.

1  Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Philippians 2:1-3 (NKJV)

In the passage above the phrase in verse 3, ‘lowliness of mind’ refers to humility and is described below.

The term is found seven times in the New Testament, and there only in Acts and the Epistles. True “humbleness” (tapeinophrosunē) is encouraged for the believer (Acts 20:19; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5). This “humility,” however, has nothing to do with “groveling” or “weakness.” It describes a humility that naturally evolves out of a heart of love for the exalted Lord. It is the attitude of the Christian servant, first exemplified by Jesus. In fact, it is only in an attitude of humility, a contrite heart, that the spiritual life can prosper. Humility should characterize relationships among the children of God (Philippians 2:3). Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

This is a great description of both humility and the benefits yet I think we at times miss them because we stop too soon in Philippian’s 2. Look at the next verse.

4  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

Humility is neither being arrogant nor an ascetic. It is having a proper assessment based on scripture and recognizing the need to look after our interests as well as others. We need to know what the scriptures say about us. At the same time, I have had a recurring experience the last couple of weeks. I often listen to satellite radio in my car and one of the popular feel good television and radio preachers has an ad on my regular station. I want to like him but I find the message ‘smarmy’ (I don’t know the Greek for that!) though he professes to be teaching what the scriptures teach. My recent recurring experience is wondering if Paul listened to one of his sermons whether Paul would try to convert him to Christ? I think Paul would try to convert him because he would not be able to reconcile this preacher’s message with the gospel.

I said that to highlight that I am not advocating a hyped up message or perspective. Yet if I do an honest assessment of who I am based on His word I find myself experiencing intimacy with Jesus. What is an honest assessment? Here are some examples.

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) 13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) 10  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:10-11 (NKJV)

When I sit with Jesus and meditate on verses like these the door to intimacy swings open and I experience His presence resting upon my heart and moving within me because I am feeding my spirit on His Word and presence. However a balancing factor and important aspect of humility is also meditating on the verse below.

5  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NKJV)

What this verse tells me is that to be effective in His kingdom (His not mine) I need to humbly depend on Jesus. It also frees me because I recognize my responsibility is obedience and Jesus responsibilities is results! So, if you are not already doing so I invite you to spend a couple of weeks making friends with these few verses and monitoring how it affects your friendship with Jesus.

Intimacy Opportunities Part 5

In my last post I referenced Paul’s perspective and how it kept him from a relationship with Jesus and intimacy with Him. So what actually was his perspective? As Saul, prior to his conversion he tells us that he was a Pharisee.

5  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; Philippians 3:5 (NKJV)

The basic meaning of the word Pharisee is a ‘separated one.’ The sect of the Pharisees arose after the Jews returned to Babylon under Nehemiah and Ezra. They were people who sought holiness through separating themselves from things that did not accord with Godliness.

After his conversion Paul seems to use a play on words to still describe himself as a Pharisee but a Pharisee of a different sort.

1  Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

A Pharisee in Jesus day identified himself by what he was separated from. After his conversion Paul identified himself by what he was separated to – a very critical distinction.

What does this mean for us? As Christians we are not called to define ourselves by what we are not (Jesus said we would be known by our love). Think of a marriage. Would it make sense if I provided a long list of women and said to my wife I am a good husband because I don’t love all of these other women? No! While some odd people may believe me, I know that what my wife wants to know is that I love her, not that I don’t love others.

If you want to make this spiritual shift with Jesus make the prayer below your own.

25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26 (NKJV)

This comes at the end of what is referred to as Jesus High Priestly Prayer before He goes to Gethsemane and the cross. A way to make it our own is to pray something like, “Jesus You said You would reveal the Father’s name to us, that You would unveil His character. Jesus I ask that by the touch of Your Spirit upon my heart You would enable me to love You the way Your Father, and my Father loves You.”

In my next post I will look at what humility means and how it opens the door for His love to flood and transform our hearts.

Intimacy Opportunities Part 4

The example from the Song of Songs was about convenience being able to distract or block us from intimacy. What about perspective? The greatest example of this in the NT is the apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered what it was like for Paul when he was still known as Saul and persecuting the young church as an angry and passionate Pharisee? Here he was passionately pursuing what he thought was the right thing and praying for help. Who was he praying to for help? Yahweh, the very one he was persecuting. Talk about wrong perspective!

What was available to Paul? He himself tells us what he was missing with his wrong perspective.  

10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12 (NKJV)

We see this same passage unveiling much more in the Amplified version.

10  [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] 11  That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. 12  Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. Philippians 3:10-12 (AMP)

As Saul, Paul had great passion, just wrongly directed. I think in his description of the lost in Israel he was also describing his pre conversion state.

1  Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:1-3 (NKJV)

Why did Saul and the others in Israel hold such a wrong perspective? Was the truth not available? The truth was available but they refused to humble themselves and submit to this truth and so held stubbornly to wrong views. Also, at conversion all of our wrong perspectives don’t immediately vanish. Study Paul’s post conversion life. He still had to transition from arrogance to humility. Why do you think that both directly and indirectly he wrote so much about the need for the renewing of our minds? Simple, he experienced it.

My prayer is that we will ask the Holy Spirit to pull back the veil and reveal to each of us the things we are holding onto that are keeping us from deep intimacy with Him. I regularly pray to Him to show me strongholds in my own life that I may tear them down and see more clearly. Please join me.  

Intimacy Opportunities Part 3

There is a passage I have commented on a number of times as one of the saddest in scripture.

2  THE SHULAMITE I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night.” 3  I have taken off my robe; How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; How can I defile them? 4  My beloved put his hand By the latch of the door, And my heart yearned for him. 5  I arose to open for my beloved, And my hands dripped with myrrh, My fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the lock. 6  I opened for my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and was gone. My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. Song of Songs 5:2-6 (NKJV)

What is happening here? If we look from a purely natural perspective it is clearly a missed intimacy opportunity between the Shulamite and her beloved. What if we look from a spiritual perspective, viewing the Song of Songs as an interaction between Jesus and His church, between He and us? To that end I will refer to the characters here as the Bride (us/church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus).

The passage above begins with the Bridegroom seeking the Bride. However, the precursor tells us something key.

16  THE SHULAMITE Awake, O north wind, And come, O south! Blow upon my garden, That its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden And eat its pleasant fruits. Song of Songs 4:16 (NKJV)

The Bride has invited her Beloved to a place of intimacy and in 5:2-6 we see what happened when He responded.

What is the issue for the Bride? The Bridegroom shows up at an inopportune time. She does not want to be inconvenienced? What happens? She hesitates in her response and rationalizes why she can’t respond. Then the yearning of her heart wins out over her rationalization and she finally responds. However He is gone. She is left with only reminders of His presence but doesn’t have Him. The oil and fragrance represent a left over anointing without a living presence. So that leads us to some reflective questions.

  • Have we invited Jesus to draw near then not responded when He came?
  • Do our busy lives/things keep us from intimacy with Jesus?
  • Are we willing to be inconvenienced to be with Him?
  • Do our hearts long for His presence when He draws near?
  • Are we satisfied with some level of anointing without His actual presence?