Good evening everybody! Great to be back with you tonight, and wonderful to share fellowship again this morning. I do trust that we will know the Lord's help and blessing tonight as we come to His word. Let's pray together, and I would just ask you to pray as well that God would speak to you tonight. So, would you do that? Just say: 'Lord, please speak to me. Come near'. We're talking about knowing God, and we want to experience Him tonight as we approach Him in prayer. So let's pray together.
After this morning, we thank You, Lord, that we can call You 'Our Father', 'Abba Father'. Whilst You are in heaven, and hallowed is Your name, we thank You that the transcendence of our God - though You are above and beyond our conception - does not inhibit our ability to be intimate with You as children with our heavenly Abba. So we ask that, Lord, we would not be found engaging in words only, but actually in the demonstration and power of the Gospel we will experience Your presence with us tonight, that You will draw very near, Lord, and touch our lives. We long to know You, to know Your ways, to know You as You really are, and to know who we are in You. So we welcome the Holy Spirit to come and minister to all our hearts, whatever our needs might be, and draw us to Yourself. In Jesus' mighty name we pray, Amen.
If you've been listening to this series so far - I started it in March and continued this morning - we've been looking at characteristics, if you like, key components to good relationships. We have been paralleling that with our relationship with God. Now, I hasten to add, as I emphasised this morning and previously, our relationship with God is very different than our relationship to other people on several levels, vital ones - but there are similarities that are striking; and, in fact, I believe, very instructive and helpful as we seek to cultivate deeper relationships and a deeper knowledge with the Lord.
When I was here in March, we looked at 'Trust and Truth', we also looked at 'Love and Acceptance'. This morning we considered 'Understanding', and particularly the understanding of who God is to us, and who Christ has revealed Him to be as our Heavenly Father and our Abba Father - and what that means for us, to become sons and daughters of God, inheritors with Jesus Christ. I'll not go into all that again, but do get the recordings if you can. It's very important to know who the God is that we are coming to, and that we are sons and daughters and not slaves.
But tonight I want us to consider - and I suppose it's going a little bit deeper into what we have already explored - it's one word on that screen at the moment: 'Intimacy', or as some people have broken it up 'Into-Me-See', which is essentially what intimacy is. Let's read a couple of Scriptures first of all, I want you to turn to the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon. If you don't know where that is, find the book of Psalms - it's a pretty big one - then Ecclesiastes, and then Song of Solomon is right after that. We're going to go straight to chapter 8, and then we'll be going to the book of Revelation. Song of Songs chapter 8 verse 6:
"Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised".
Then over to Revelation chapter 3 verse 20, this is quite a well-known verse. It's often used evangelistically, I'm not saying that that is wrong, but it's not its primary contextual meaning. It's a letter that is written to a church in Laodicea, and it's the closing remarks of the Lord Jesus to believing Christians. Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him", or her, "and dine with him, and he with Me".
In Exodus chapter 33 in verse 13, we read back in March something that Moses prayed to God. His heart's desire was: 'Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight'. I don't know whether you remember or not, but I pointed out at that particular occasion that the Hebrew word for 'know' there, 'that I might know You', is the word 'yada'. We would transliterate it 'y-a-d-a', 'yada'. It's right throughout that chapter 33 of Exodus, and it has several meanings, you could translate it several ways: 'to know', 'to learn', it means 'to perceive and see', 'to find out or discover', particularly 'to know by experience', personal experiential knowledge, or 'to be acquainted with'. But it's also used famously in Genesis 4 verse 1 of sexual knowledge, 'Adam knew Eve, his wife', 'Adam yada Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain'. Sometimes that can frighten you off that word a little bit, but it's not actually synonymous with sexual union, it speaks to something even deeper than a sexual act - it's talking of intimate knowledge that is involved in the one flesh union. It's not the physicality, it's the deep intimacy.
We highlighted that all of us as human beings have a desire to know and be known, and so it's not surprising that the deepest human relationship probably known is that of marriage. The Holy Spirit takes marriage and uses it as an analogy of our relationship with God. So, in the beginning, when man is created - and the world is perfect, by the way - God realises that (He, of course, intended it this way) Adam is alone, and it's not good that he is alone. In fact, we could say that Adam was incomplete without Eve; just the way we are incomplete without God.
Then we move on, and we are fast-forwarding very much into the period of Exodus, and you've got Moses climbing Mount Sinai to meet with God and to receive the Ten Commandments; but it was the Covenant that God was making with the children of Israel - and that has been likened in the Old Testament to a marriage, that there is a marriage covenant being entered by God, as the covenant-keeping Jehovah, with His bride, His wife, if you like, Israel.
Fast-forward again, and you come to the prophet Hosea. The prophet Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, who were now following pagan ways. They had set up their own altar, they were worshipping golden calves - but the Lord was still pursuing them. Why? Because He was married to them. To illustrate this, He got Hosea the prophet - and this is a high task or order for any prophet - to actually live out (and you find this often within Scripture, that particularly the Old Testament prophets had to live out, to a degree, the message that they were preaching). In Hosea 1 verse 2 it says: 'The Lord began to speak to Hosea, and the Lord said to Hosea: 'Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord''. Imagine that! God told His prophet to go and marry a prostitute! It's in the Bible! You should read the Bible, it's very interesting! Imagine if one of your Youth Group came to you and said: 'The Lord has been speaking to me'; 'Oh? What's He saying?', 'Oh, He's told me to go and marry a prostitute'. This is here - why is it here? What actually happens in the story is: he does this, he marries a prostitute and he has children to her. Then she is unfaithful to him, goes away and prostitutes herself again, ends up in slavery; and Hosea is called by God to then go to the slave market, and buy her back, and marry her all over again - why? Because God wanted to illustrate to His own people: 'This is what you're doing to Me! I am married to you, you are My wife, but you are prostituting yourself with false gods and false ways, and you're breaking My heart!'. It's serious stuff, isn't it?
Then fast-forwarding right to the very end of the story, we come to the book of the Revelation, where the church of Jesus, the New Testament Church is described as the Bride of Christ. In fact, Paul in Ephesians, when he talks about the marriage relationship and the various responsibilities that husbands have to wives and vice versa, he says in chapter 5 and verse 32: 'This is a great mystery' - we would all say 'Amen' to that - 'but I speak concerning Christ and the church'. So there is a representation, there is something very sacred in marriage that typifies the relationship that Jesus has to the Bride of Christ, the Church. That's why, by the way, the devil hates marriage.
If I could go back a little, rewind, there is a wonderful book that we read from at the very beginning of my message, the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon. The language within it depicts the divine romance, the intimacy that God's people can have with their God. I know it is a literal story of, probably, Solomon the King with the Shulamite bride, whoever she was - so it is literal, it is a love story, it's graphic at times, but it depicts the deep intimacy that we can have with our God. Some of the verses you will be familiar with: 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine', 'He brought me to his banqueting house, and his banner over me was love', 'My beloved is mine, and I am his', 'You are all fair, my love, and there is no spot in you', 'I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me', but we read: 'Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised'.
Now, I don't know whether the men are starting to break out in a sweat here - because often men have a bit of a problem with this concept of the divine romance. In their relationship with God, they find it awkward at times - and we'll not go into the reasons why that is. But I want you understand that we're not talking about physical or sexual love in any way here, but the intimacy that at times is portrayed in that way, but we're talking about the passion that we can have in a fiery, red-hot love for our God that surpasses any human affection. Actually what it is - and you've got to remember this: that everything we have in creation here, whether it's the relationship, by the way, of a father to a child that we were talking about this morning. I used to think that God called Himself 'Father' because we knew what fathers were because we have them down here, it's actually the opposite. God created fathers down here because He is one, to show us what He is like - that's the way it was meant to work. In the same way, we have loving intimacy and passion down here on earth, because there is the greatest of all loves that was known for all eternity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is the greatest love of all, the love in the triune Godhead, the deepest communion that was ever known has been known by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That's what Jesus was talking about when He came to the church at Ephesus, another church that was written to in the book of Revelation, and He said to them: 'You have lost your first love'; that's why He then came to Laodicea with similar issues, and He says to them: 'Look, I'm outside the door here, I'm rapping on the outside to get inside of My church! If anyone can hear Me, if anybody inside can hear Me and opens the door of their heart, I'll come into them' - He didn't say He would come into the whole church, He'd come into them and commune with them, have intimate relationship with them.
So Jesus is meant to be the Bridegroom of our hearts. There is to be a divine romance. It's not just to know we are loved, and to love God in some nebulous form; but actually the deepest, intimate communion that is possible is not between a husband and a wife, but between God and His children. Now, for some of you this might be hard to swallow, but the fact of the matter is: this is the way it has been. Even John Wesley got into trouble - you know that beautiful hymn 'Jesu', Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly'; he got into all sorts of bother there. You think people get into trouble for modern hymns, he was in trouble for that one - because it just seemed too delicate: 'Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly'.
So I'm asking you tonight, unashamedly: how in love are you with Jesus? How in love are you? It's all about love. Jesus was asked on one occasion what the greatest commandment was, and many of you will know the answer, Jesus' reply: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind; this is the first and the greatest commandment'. That's everything! Love Him with everything you've got, 100%!
Do you know what happens when people's love grows cold? Well, one of two things can happen: they either settle for the familiar without the passion, the status quo, they just stick together for the kids; or they part - isn't that right? They either settle for what they've got, or they part. That's basically what happens to Christians and churches: they either settle for what they've got - dead religion, without the passion - or they backslide, and part from the Lord altogether.
By the way, I should say that dead religion can look extremely passionate. That sounds a contradiction, but dead religion can be passionate about all the wrong things. Do you remember how Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 said: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal'. Listen to this: 'Though I have the gift of prophecy' - would you like the gift of prophecy? - 'understand all mysteries' - have the gift of wisdom - 'and knowledge' - the gift of knowledge - 'and though I have all faith' - faith that could remove mountains - 'but have not love, I am nothing. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor' - very charitable - 'though I give my body to be burned' - a martyr - 'but have not love, it profits me nothing'. So you can do all those things: you can be a prophet, you can be a guru, you can be the most knowledgeable person on the earth, a faith-filled person that speaks and mountains move, you can give your body to be burned at the stake, and feed all the poor of the world, and be passionate for all that stuff - and not actually have the agape love of God. Isn't that incredible? Just in love with the wrong things.
A certain preacher said: 'The Gospel gets perverted when people who are not in love interpret the Scriptures'. I think that's profound! The Gospel gets perverted when people who are not in love interpret the Scriptures. You know, 'agape love' for God comes from God. Only God can love God, it's that tri-unity of love that existed with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity - I think that's probably the first love Jesus was talking about to Ephesus when He said 'You've lost first love'. We've actually been called to share in that love. Jesus said in John 15:9: 'As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love'. Wow. That just blows my mind, just let that sink in for a moment: as the Father loved Jesus, Jesus loves us - that's the Father's love through Jesus - and He says 'Abide in My love', the word means 'remain' in My love. You remain in it because it's already there, and I want you to understand this: this is not something you need to strive for as a child of God, all we heard about this morning, it's a given, you've already got it. The question is: how do you remain in an intimacy with God?
Listen: if you really want to know God more, you're going to have to become more intimate with Him. I want to give you three things tonight that will help you into a deeper intimacy with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They're very simple: one, communication; two, time; and three, commitment. Let's look first of all at communication. It's obvious, isn't it, that communication is vital in every relationship - but how much more with God? Early on in the disciples' relationship with Jesus, they asked Him: 'Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples' - and He teaches them: 'Our Father', Father first and then all the rest.
If most of us are honest, we tend to only call upon God with any intensity when there is a crisis. Is that too harsh? After our sin life, our prayer life is probably what we are most embarrassed about - yes? So let's take a survey, alright? No, I'll not do that! But imagine if we did that, eh? 'Oh, I need to go to the toilet now'. How long did you pray today? How long did you pray this week? Imagine having a friend who only sought you when they were in trouble, but the rest of the time they didn't want to know you - how would you feel? Used. We so often use God, don't we? We come to Him when we are in desperation, but if things are going well maybe we don't as much.
The Observer newspaper in January of last year reported a survey, very interesting, that said one in five adults in the UK pray, despite not being religious. That was very encouraging, I thought. The article actually says that it is an instinctive response to crisis. It went on to say others prayed as they engaged in household chores, or walking, or other activities - but just under half who prayed said they believed God heard them. So one in five adults in the UK prayed, but under half of them actually believed God was listening. Now, the positive I took out of that is: they might get a big surprise, because God might answer them! Another positive was: there obviously is that instinctiveness within all of us, as creatures of the Creator, to cry out to Him when we are in need. But the negative I took out of it is: why would you pray if you didn't believe God was there, or heard you? It's less likely to get an answer, by the way, if you're praying like that - because, as we said in our first study, 'He who comes to God must believe that He is'; He responds particularly to faith.
But as we consider that survey of people who don't consider themselves religious, we need to ask ourselves: well, are we really much different? Do we really only press in to God when we are in desperation? We who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and are trying to get everybody else into that. Why is it that we struggle so with prayer? Let me suggest to you: the reason we struggle is a lack of motivation. That's why we are so bored - I'd love to take a show of hands right now, I really would - but who would admit to saying: 'I get really bored with prayer'? I know some of you may think this is very inappropriate, to be real in church - but we need to actually diagnose what the problems are here, because prayer should be the most exciting thing in the universe: to interact face-to-face with the Almighty God! So, if it's boring, something is wrong my side - yes?
Why do we find it boring? Well, let me ask you a counter-question: why does a young girl not need motivation to pursue her boyfriend, or vice versa? Why do they not lack motivation? They are falling in love. You see, we seldom approach prayer as a love relationship, rather it's more like a chore or a duty. Now, of course, don't misunderstand me: prayer has to be worked at, like any other relationship - but there has to be a loving relationship at the foundation of it or it won't work, it won't last, there will be no longevity! Just going back to what we looked at this morning, one of the reasons why we lack motivation in prayer is because we don't really understand who He is, we haven't got a glimpse of His glory, we don't realise what a Good Father He is. If we did, we'd just want to be in His company all the time.
Let me give you a couple of practical tips for communication that will deepen your intimacy and maybe dispel your boredom. Prayer is not a monologue. By that I mean: prayer is not you talking all the time, but prayer, in fact, is a dialogue where you interact with God. I have found over my quite a number of years now seeking the Lord, that actually the listening in my prayer life is probably more important, and certainly takes up more of my time than the talking. That's probably why God gave me two ears and one mouth. You see, the deepest level of communication is actually not speech, the deepest level of communication is communion. Communion is literally, if you look up the dictionary definition of 'communion', it's an act of sharing. Communion with God is when you're sharing His thoughts, you're sharing His heart. It's a deep communion that is beyond words, beyond at times even thoughts - you're connecting. As the Psalmist said: 'Deep is calling unto deep'.
It's like an earthy relationship to an extent, particularly marriage. You can just sit with your lover and not talk - that's very common, maybe, for some of you! But I mean in a positive light: you sit and you don't talk, just content to be with each other. You can even second-guess each other after a while, because you know how the other thinks and what they feel about certain things. You can even be actually physically apart on different continents, but still be in communion, still be in connection - and I'm not talking about WhatsApp, or Facetime; I'm talking about the heart, you're still one.
Can I encourage you to approach prayer like that? I used to be obsessed with looking at the clock, or praying down a list. I'm not saying, as you'll see in a moment, that time is unimportant, or it doesn't matter that we leave out praying specifically for important people and things - we need to do those things; but the priority in prayer must be connection and communion. Otherwise you can do all that other stuff and it will get nowhere. Brother Lawrence wrote a book called 'Practising the Presence of God', he was a monk - a wonderful book, I highly recommend it. He said: 'There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God'. The story is famous: he wasn't a great preacher, but it's famous because he would wash dishes, he would cut carrots in the kitchen, and he would till the garden; and all throughout it all, he did it all for the glory of God, and he practised God's presence with him. He was as near God when he was washing the dishes as he was when he was doing his prayers.
By the way, ministry is not the most important thing in your life - what I mean is, service - it's not, it's communion. Do you see when you're in communion with God, I mean when you're connected with God - you might not be consciously praying, but when you're one spirit with Jesus Christ and you know it, you'll end up ministering whether you like it or not. It will be the overflow of your walk with God.
Here's another tip: you need a plan for prayer, communication. Someone once said: 'If you aim at nothing you will hit it'. You need a plan, but you also need variety. You've heard the saying: 'Variety is the spice of life' - it's not in the Bible, but it's true nevertheless. Predictability breeds boredom. Sometimes our devotional times are so predictable that we grow tired with them, and we often need to shake things up a little, try something different, change things. Go out a walk, change the place where you are, go a drive to a lake, do something different, use a different translation - I don't know. Keeping a journal is another thing that's good for listening to what God is actually saying, write down the thoughts that God is giving to you. But here's one vital tip that will keep you in communion with God, and that's - as old people used to say years ago - 'Keep short accounts with God'. When you fall into sin, confess your sins, repent quickly, and get back into communion. This is where intimacy starts: communication.
But secondly, flowing out from that: time is also crucial. Spending time alone in any relationship is important. The Lord Jesus instructed us: 'When you pray, go into your closet, go into your room and shut your door, and speak to your Father in secret; and He will hear you in secret, and He will reward you openly'. Time is vital. Jesus also said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6 verse 21: 'For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be'. What's your treasure? It's your money. So where your treasure is, there your heart also is. So what He's saying is: what you spend your money on shows where your heart is. So, what are you spending your money on? Well, equally, what you spend your time on - more so, I think, even, than equal, more so - what you spend your time on shows where your heart is.
You see, time is the most precious commodity, because you can't recoup time once it's spent. You can make money again, but you can't get time back. So let me ask you: when was the last time you spent some extended time with Jesus? When was the last time you spent some extended time with Jesus? 'Ach, now, quality is more than quantity, isn't that right? It's not about the length!'. Well, that's true in a way: it's not the length of your prayers that matters, but the weight of your prayers - and the weight of your prayers is measured by God in faith. It's not how long you pray, however quality and quantity are not always opposites. Did you hear me? Sometimes quality and quantity are partners, they work together. In fact, sometimes the quality of something actually comes in its quantity. - yes?
Gloria Gaither some of you will remember - you are maybe secret fans of her music - she says: 'I hear people say 'It's not the quantity of time that's important, it's the quality'. Well, technically that may be true, but quality doesn't happen in a hurry' - that's it! Quality doesn't happen in a hurry. We live in an instant age, instant spirituality - a lot of the churches even that I'm moving in now, there is that instantaneous desire to just be zapped by God and everything gets fixed. Now God can whack you, but a lot of people are just trying to avoid and obfuscate from the graft of investing in a relationship. This is not some quick fix just to get some ticket to heaven and escape hell, this is the God who created you and wants to know you, and wants you to get to know Him!
So I think we need to simplify our lives to give more time to intimacy with God. The Bible does not teach us to tithe our time. Some believe that the New Testament doesn't even teach us to tithe our money, because the principle in the New Testament is to give everything - tithe is not a bad place to start, mind you. But imagine if the Bible did teach us to tithe our time? That's quite a bit of time every day, isn't it? Of course, it doesn't, but why not start here? I don't know whether you can read that or not, it's Hudson Taylor, the great pioneer missionary - he said: 'Whatever is your best time in the day, give that to communion with God'. What's your best time? For me it's the morning, I think for most people it's the morning - even people who don't think it's the morning, it probably is the morning. But for some people it just isn't, for some people it's another time during the day, or it's even in the evening - I don't know. But why is it, you know, like the children of Israel in the Old Testament, we give the damaged lambs to God, the runt of the litter, the worst of the day, our last thoughts, the fag-end of the 24 hours, when we need to give Him our best? By the way, he didn't say: 'your daily reading and your prayer list' - not that those are wrong, but communion is connection. It's all about connecting. George Mueller said he would stay with God in the morning until his heart was filled with the joy and happiness of the Lord - he wouldn't come out of the closet until that happened, that was his barometer of knowing that he could go on his daily work, connecting with God.
So, to be intimate needs to be communication which is communion; there needs to be time; and finally: there needs to be commitment. Intimacy between a man and a woman is meant to be in the context of commitment, isn't that right? God gave provision for this in marriage. We live in a promiscuous age, don't we? Which is simply: people want the intimacy of marriage without the commitment, yes? Likewise, we expect, at times as Christians, all the blessing of intimacy with God without the commitment. Many wonder, and I talk to people quite regularly, and they say: 'I've become a Christian, but why isn't this better than it is? You know, I'm not experiencing what other people seem to experience. I read this stuff in the Bible, I read stuff in biographies and Christian history, I'm hearing things that are going on all over the world or maybe just even down the street, or my friends are experiencing - where is everything I was promised?'. Well, it's all there, and it's all yours to have - but it's not mechanical, it's relational. It's not mechanical, it's relational. That's why we have to be very careful in giving people prayers, and saying: 'Just pray that, and a little talk with Jesus will make it right'. It can happen, but make sure it's not mechanical, it's relational.
Imagine giving that book to the couple that are getting married this week, 'Making Marriage Work for Dummies' - an A-Z of rules, or principles, or quick fixes of how to make a marriage work. It doesn't work like that. Of course, there is wisdom, there are ideas and principles - but all the rough edges, they are all broken off through relationship, as one another are honed by each other. Very often when people say: 'I've been a Christian for so many years, and it never gets better, and I don't experience what other people experience, what I'm promised'; other people say 'Oh, I tried that, and it didn't work' - it's usually because you have withheld something of yourself from God.
As we come to this Table tonight, we give thanks to the Lord because God has not withheld any of Himself from us. He has fully committed Himself to us. There is a Hebrew word, 'hesed', and it means 'steadfast love, lovingkindness, covenant loyalty'. It speaks to how not only has God's covenant been graven on two tablets of stone that came down from that Mount of marriage with Moses at Sinai, but actually our names have been engraven in covenant on the palms of Jesus' hands when He was crucified on the cross. This is His lovingkindness, this is what He did for us - He withheld nothing: 'He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?'. He has given us all things, but here's - if you like, it's not a snag, but it is a condition - the more you want out of this, the more you have to give yourself to it.
Many of us want the blessings without the commitment. There was a man years ago I knew in East Belfast - do you remember when you had to put money in the meter, some of you, for electric, did you do that round here? 50p in the meter? No? He used to say to me: 'You only get out what you put in'. Now, of course, it's all of grace, it's all of divine favour, it's energising power from God - we know all that! It all comes from God, but the point is this: if you want everything out of this life that God has put into your account, you've got to draw it, and you draw it by saying: 'Here I am again today, Lord! It's me, all of me, the whole heap, You've got it all. I haven't got everything fixed, I'm still struggling in these areas; but, Lord, I surrender myself to You'. That's why Paul said in Romans 12: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God' - in other words, because of everything he has written in that book of Romans about justification, sanctification, all the blessings that God has given us in Christ - 'Because of all this, I'm begging you to present your bodies' - and that doesn't just mean your body, by presenting your body you're giving everything that's in the body, so that's soul and spirit as well. You see, if God has your body, He has everything else, that's for sure. 'Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service' - it's your expected worship. 'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God'. People are running around saying: 'What's the will of God for my life?'. This is the will of God for your life! If you actually do this, and plough your whole self into surrendering and sacrificing your life for God, to love Him with every fibre of your being in the flame of divine love, you'll not have a problem finding out what the will of God is.
Intimacy is key to knowing God. Some people want to know God the way others know God, but they're not prepared to die, and they're not prepared to plough and sow the way they have - it's the only way. Communication, time, and commitment. Here's a promise for you as I finish: draw near to God, and He will - He will - draw near to you. Let's pray.
Could I just take a moment before I pray to challenge anybody here: you've never come to faith in Jesus, or maybe you're one of these people who has said in the past 'Oh, I tried that, and it didn't work'. Wait till I tell you: you didn't try it, you definitely didn't try it, because it does work! Whatever 'it' is! It's a 'Him', it's Jesus. You need to come to Him, and fully surrender yourself to Him tonight and say: 'Here I am, Lord. There is no no-go areas in my life. Take over, take over, have Your way, Lord, be Lord'. When you come to Him, and turn from your sins, and confess to Him that you need Him, and ask Him to come into your life tonight and cleanse you and set you free from those things that bind you - that's what He died for and rose again for.
But maybe you're a Christian for - I don't know - donkey's years; but you've been playing the status quo of a middle-aged or old married couple that are just existing for convenience, and you're not truly pursuing a divine romance with the Bridegroom of your heart? You're not falling in love with Him over and over and over and over again. You're not seeing Him in more beauty and more glory. You're no nearer to Him than you were this time last year, maybe you're further away. I'm not saying all this to condemn you - please know my heart. I'm saying to you: He's standing here tonight by His Spirit, and He just wants to embrace you, and He wants to show you everything in His heart towards you - but you must come to Him, and you must commune with Him. You must open the door of your heart as you hear it rapped tonight, you must open the door of your heart and let Him in. You must spend time with Him, and you must commit to this - not in a legalistic way, but in the way that you've committed to your loved ones to be there. You say: 'Jesus, I want to be there with You'. Whilst it might be hard from time to time - I'm telling you: if you stick it out, He will break in upon you like you've never imagined.
Lord, whatever people need from You tonight, would You provide it? Lord Jesus, You're the One we need, You are our Beloved. We are sick with love. You are the Lover of our hearts, You are the Darling of our souls, You are the Altogether Lovely One. Every superlative, even in Scripture, falls redundant to actually depict what You're really like. We can't wait for that day when we will see You as You are. But in the meantime, Lord, would You give us glimpses of Your glory? As people in this place determine in their heart to draw near to You, honour Your word: draw near to them. Even as we now break bread, draw near, Lord. Show us Your glory. Amen.
Don't miss Part 5 of 'Knowing God': "Fellowship With Christ"...
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This sermon was delivered at Portadown Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his Knowing God series, titled "Intimacy" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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