Do you ever wonder, “What does God want from me?”
The Bible makes something clear, in story after story, commandment after commandment, instruction and rebuke and proverb: God wants our obedience.
Hold on, don’t leave! This can be a big turn-off, even when we want to follow Jesus. Human nature is ingrained with a desire to decide things for ourselves and to do what we want to do instead of what we’re told to do (thanks a lot, Adam and Eve).
So an important companion question is this: “What does God want FOR me?”
It was a life-changer for me to realize that God’s motivation for ALL those instructions is His love for me, and His desire to see me (and all His other children) blessed. God doesn’t just “have” love for us — the Bible tells us that God IS love (1 John 4:8, 16).
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
When it comes to intimacy (which we’ve been investigating for the last few weeks), God’s design is consistent with every other area of life: He intends for us to be blessed and to bless others.
So what would a life of abundant, rich relationships look like?
Closely Connected: Members of One Body
…So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. - Romans 12:5
The apostle Paul uses the metaphor of a body to describe how we are connected to others who believe in Jesus. We aren’t just family, we’re members of one another. When your finger gets slammed in a door, your whole body stops to deal with the pain. When you take a bite of warm chocolate lava cake and vanilla ice cream, your eyes close and your whole body stops to appreciate the flavor. That’s how close we can be with each other.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. ... For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” - 1 Corinthians 12:4, 12
When I go to church, I admit I don’t usually think about being “one” with everyone there. I don’t usually look around the sanctuary and think, “Oh, look, it’s the members of my body.”
But what if I did? What would change if I started looking at my church family as vital parts of my life?
I might begin to care about their lives as much as I care about my own. I might start to see their accomplishments as something to celebrate. To see their pain as something that affects me. I might want to share my resources to help them succeed. Is this a scary thought? Sometimes it is. But is living that life worth it? You bet it is.
So let’s look again at the equation for intimacy I shared last week.
Awareness + Shared Experience x Commitment (- Risk) = Environment for Intimacy
When I look around the sanctuary at church, I am now aware that God has placed seeds in me that will benefit my church community. And for each face I see, there are seeds inside of them that were intended for my benefit, too.
I share the local area where I live with the people I attend church with, and we all see the same sights around town: the apartment buildings full of people, the parks full of dog owners and families with children, the schools, the grocery stores, the hardware store. We see the people walking around the old town area visiting restaurants and shops and gathering for the farmer’s market and summer music in the square. This shared experience gives us a chance to share the passion that Jesus (and Pastor Bill) has for reaching these people with the gospel, the good news about God’s Kingdom.
The people I see at church every week are people who share a commitment to meeting together with other believers. As we get to know each other, we reduce the risk of being rejected and begin to share the things that God is doing in our lives.
That’s why meeting together outside of Sunday mornings is so important. The discussions at Life Groups, the fun activities at our Friday night monthly outings, having coffee during the week with someone, texting each other, interacting on Facebook, inviting each other over for dinners: these things are a chance to build each other up, encourage each other, and experience the full benefits of intimacy at its best.
True Intimacy = Best Life Ever
I want to have friends that I can trust. People who know who I am and love me anyway. I want my encouragement and enthusiasm to matter in someone else’s life, too. I want to be able to handle tough times, to be tender-hearted towards those in need. I want my love for my friends to overcome my selfish desire to do what is convenient and easy, because putting a little effort out there to help someone and bond with someone is WAY more enriching in the long run than running the rat race and staying too busy to build relationships.
This won’t happen if we’re too busy to make time for these relationships.
This will fail if we try to take on too many intimate relationships at once.
We’ll miss out if we pass up a relationship God intends for us because it looks like too much work.
Our relationships will bear bad fruit if we don’t have good seed to plant in them.
True intimacy comes when:
We make room for the relationships that matter, starting with a relationship with God.
We watch for the right timing for pursuing deeper relationship with someone, praying for them while we wait.
We listen for God’s direction on which relationships to pursue in which ways.
We fill our hearts with the incorruptible seed of God’s word, and then we share it with others.
We don’t give up when things get difficult.
We practice forgiveness and seek to understand as much as seek to be understood.
When we let the Spirit of God flow through us and into the lives of others, that is intimacy at its best. That’s the kind of exchange that makes this life richly rewarding and also bears eternal fruit.