God desires a close, intimate relationship with His children. The dictionary defines “intimate” as: “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature; marked by a warm friendship developing through long association; suggesting informal warmth or privacy.” Not only is it important for us to learn how to develop intimacy with God, but we also must understand what hinders it.
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) The word “adulteress” is a figure of speech that James uses to signify spiritual unfaithfulness. Adopting the world’s values will place hostility between us and God. We could thus say that being drawn to the world is to be drawn away from intimacy with God.
In the next verse we are told that “the spirit which God has made to dwell in us, jealously desires us.” (James 4:5) Is God jealous of our affections going elsewhere? “The Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14) Jealous is defined as: apprehensive of the loss of another’s exclusive devotion; vigilant in guarding a possession. So we have the world’s seductive power on one hand and a jealous God on the other.
Thankfully, James goes on to say that God gives a “greater grace.” (James. 4:6) Yes, He is jealous. Yes, He desires our love and devotion exclusively. But He gives grace that is greater than the power of our weakness. We must tap into the process of learning how to appropriate this grace.
Abba – Father
Jesus is our supreme example. He had an intimacy with His Father that we must observe and learn from. The New Testament word that best describes this relationship is the word “Abba.” According to Vine’s Dictionary, it is “the word framed by lips of infants and betokens unreasoning trust.” The word “Father” refers to “the intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.” Jewish writers tell us that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the household by the title of “Abba.” It is more of a personal, intimate name. The word “Abba” occurs three times in the New Testament.
“And He was saying, ‘Abba Father. All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt.’” (Mark 14:36) Amidst the emotional turmoil of Gethsemane, Jesus had intimacy with God. In the midst of inner chaos, what else can we do but to press in more closely to God? It is here that the treasures of intimacy are discovered.
The word “Gethsemane” means “oil press.” It was here that the stone presses were set up to extract oil from the olive berries gathered on the Mount of Olives. A large stone roller controlled by two people, crushed the olives to a pulp. Then they would either be trodden by foot or subjected to further pressing. The object was to remove the impurities and ready the oil for use. In a sense, this was a divine olive press for Jesus. It was a crushing experience in which He processed His grief, anguish, and emotional distress. Like Jesus we can transform our times of turmoil into “Abba” moments.
In the other two occurrences of “Abba” we find our source of strength to pursue intimacy. Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 tell us that God has already birthed within us the Spirit of adoption and sonship which is the very intimacy of God. It is the Spirit within us that cries out “Abba Father.”
Training Unto Joy
Think for a moment of the very opposite end of the spectrum in regards to intimacy. The furthest extreme away from the Abba bonding that we possess would be “illegitimacy.” In the book of Hebrews we are introduced to one of intimacy’s best friends – discipline. “If we are without discipline then we are illegitimate children and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:8) Training then, goes hand in hand with intimacy. To move away from discipline is to move in the direction of a disconnect from God.
Let me encourage you today, to press through your gardens of affliction when they occur. Jesus, under great self-discipline, endured Gethsemane and the cross, for the joy set before Him. No matter what your struggle may be, don’t give up. The joy of intimacy awaits you.