Why Must We Be Intimate with God?
I gave this message this afternoon to a group of students of our campus ministry. It’s been a while since I last spoke to this group (the last time was September last year, if I’m not mistaken). So it’s an honor to be of service to them once again. It’s a joy to be speaking again for my campus ministry, which I deeply consider my “home”. Anyway…
As Christians, we are often told of the need to be intimate with God. We hear it from our pastors, small group leaders, and fellow believers. And many resources on this topic abound. So I’m not going to dwell in this issue.
Rather, I will deal with this question: “Why must we be intimate with God?” It is fitting to ask ourselves this question because we are often told to be intimate with God. We just have to know, Why?
So let me give you five statements:
1. Every person desires to be happy
Blaise Pascal writes:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.1
Pascal is right. “All men seek happiness,” even those “who hang themselves.” They commit suicide in the hopes of ending their misery (or the lost of happiness) and regaining their happiness (I hope they truly regain their happiness in the afterlife).
So the desire for happiness is normal, not sinful. However…
2. People look for happiness at the wrong places
Let’s turn to C.S. Lewis this time:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.2
Let me give you an illustration that I usually use to explain my point. Think of two burgers, one with Angus patty, fresh vegetables, melted cheese, crisp bacon, and steak sauce, and the other with ordinary patty and dressing. Both are offered to a person for free, and he must choose only one. Now, we expect him to get the obviously superior one. But that’s not what he does. Instead, he gets the ordinary one and “enjoys” it. We may say, “He insane!”
He simply reflects the condition of every human being. As Lewis writes, we deceive ourselves with drink and sex and ambition and other things, thinking it would give us true and lasting happiness, when infinite joy is offered to us, just like the man who fooled himself with the ordinary burger when an Angus burger is offered him.
But why do we do what we do, namely, finding happiness in the wrong places? C.S. Lewis answers us: We are half-hearted creatures! We thought that our desires are strong. But our desires aren’t strong; they’re weak! We are far too easily pleased with drink, sex, ambition, and so on and so forth.3
But here’s the truth…
3. Only God can make us truly and infinitely happy
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.4
Only a “mark and empty trace” of true happiness! Then man “in vain tries to fill [it] from all his surroundings.” But this “mark and empty trace,” this “infinite abyss,” can only be filled by God Himself.
So why does God can make us truly and infinitely happy? Let’s turn to the Bible for the answers (and I this is not exhaustive):
God alone can give fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore:
11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
God is infinitely more valuable than material possessions:
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
God, in the person of Jesus, is the living water and the bread of life, and He alone can satisfy our souls:
13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. (John 4:13-14)
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
4. Therefore, we have every reason to pursue intimacy with God
So why must we be intimate with God? Here is the answer: Because we have every reason to pursue intimacy with God! In Him there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. He is worth forsaking everything, including our material possessions. He alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our soul, in which one is the need for salvation. Indeed, a redeemed soul is a truly happy one.
While we already know the answer to the question we had since the beginning, I will continue with one more statement.
5. We must pursue intimacy with God with all our might and at all costs
We must like be like the psalmists who said:
4One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
4Delight yourself in the LORD. (Psalm 37:4a)
1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2a)
1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
25Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25)
2My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)
10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:10)
And we must be like the man who found the treasure hidden in the field and sold everything he had to buy the field and possess the treasure (Matthew 13:44). And we must be like the merchant who found a pearl of great value, and sold everything he had to buy that pearl (vv.45-46).
And we must be like the apostle Paul who said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Whether he lives, or dies, he gets God!
Are you like the psalmists in your pursuit of God? Or the man who found the treasure? Or the merchant who found the pearl of great value? Or the apostle Paul? It’s my prayer that we will pursue intimacy with God the way these people did.
1Quoted in John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 19.
3The last 3 paragraphs are taken from my blog, Man’s Quest for Happiness (Part 1).