The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Intimacy Part III,’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/23/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/11xHsfi
This is the third and final installment in our 3-week series on intimacy. In Week One, we discussed the importance of intimacy with God: why we need it, and how to pursue it. In Week Two we explored Biblical Sabbath rest and all its benefits. This week, we conclude by unpacking intimacy with other people: how do we take the intimacy we enjoy with God and entice others to cultivate a desire for intimacy with Him?
What’s the Point?
In Week One, we defined intimacy as finding comfort in spending time with someone else. This is one step beyond simply avoiding discomfort; it means you must proactively seek out that person when you need comfort. God wants to be our only true Source of comfort. He is willing to listen whenever we talk to Him. What’s more, He has deposited and permanently installed the Comforter – His Holy Spirit – inside each and every single believer. Whenever we need comfort, all we have to do is turn to Him.
But what’s the point of finding intimacy, and being comforted, if we don’t share it with other people? Today our goal is to take the comfort we find in God and make it available to other people. God has put people in your life whom He wants you to comfort. He wants you to take the intimacy you enjoy with Him and share it with other people. By becoming intimate with God, we become available for others. We become prepared to engage people with genuine compassion, so that when they go through tough things in life, they will come to us for comfort. And when they come to us, we will point them straight to Jesus Christ.
God has allowed you to pass through seasons of your life in which you needed to fully rely on Him. He caused you to stand your ground in that season and enter intimacy with Him. Whether you know it or not, other people around you took notice. They saw that you were not shaken, and they want to know what that confidence was all about. Whether they can verbalize it or not, they want to experience that same intimacy with God that you enjoy.
Hebrews 4:16 tells us that it is our legal right to “…boldly approach [God’s] throne.” But are you reciprocating that access by allowing people in your life to boldly approach you? Are you giving them access to intimacy with you when they need it most?
Types of Intimacy
There are several different types of intimacy we can enjoy with other people. The first is physical, which should be relatively obvious. This is exactly what we are not talking about this morning. So, please don’t go home and say your pastor told you to go out and become intimate with everyone around you.
The Bible supports physical intimacy with someone of the opposite sex when there is a covenant in place. Without the covenant, we have nothing. If we didn’t have a covenant relationship with God, authentic intimacy would be impossible because we could never trust Him fully. We need His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us before we can truly let our guard down and open our hearts to intimate relationship. It is for the exact same reason that we ask couples to wait until they are married before experiencing physical intimacy with each other: if a covenant is not in place, somebody is going to get hurt. It won’t be a question of if, but when.
Second, we can experience psychological intimacy with another person. This refers to our soul: our mind, will and emotions. This is part of what we’re after this morning. Do you have your finger on the pulse of the emotional well-being of the people God has put into your life? Are you strengthening their mind and their will with Scripture when they need it most?
Finally, we can experience spiritual intimacy with another person. This is the bulk of what we want to focus on this morning. God is spirit, and we are spirits. Do you have the ability to talk with someone and discern their spiritual wellbeing? Are you paying attention to all the subtle cues the people around you drop when they’re crying out for help? God wants to develop our spiritual compassion for other people. He wants us to hear from His Holy Spirit exactly what someone is going through so we can speak hope and promise into their lives.
Jesus Stopped for the One
In John 4, we see Jesus encounter a woman at a well. He was in a city called Sychar in the region of Samaria. The Jewish people had been at odds with the Samaritans for hundreds of years, and Jesus had no business taking the time to stop for a Samaritan woman. Yet that is exactly what we see Him do:
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” – Jn 4:7-10
Jesus is allowing this woman access to Him in her desperate time of need. The best part is, she doesn’t even know she needs help! Yet Jesus uses spiritual discernment to see to the heart of the issue with which she’s really struggling:
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” – John 4:15-18
What was Jesus doing here? He was conducting a counseling session! He was allowing the woman to enter into intimate conversation with Him, and trusting that her life would be wholly changed as a result. He relied on God’s Holy Spirit to tell Him exactly what was going on in her life. He relied on His intimacy with God to help Him develop intimacy with someone who needed a life-changing encounter. And we are designed to function in exactly the same way!
Frequently, in counseling sessions, God will give me a word of knowledge about the person with whom I’m speaking. Because I have learned what His voice sounds like through intimate encounter, I can hear Him in a crowded room: even in the middle of a conversation. When we enjoy intimacy with Him, God will allow us to see the spiritual condition of another person so we can give them the spiritual resources they desperately need in that moment. We enjoy intimacy with God, and then we mirror it in our interactions with other people.
The end result of Jesus’ intimate conversation with the woman at the well was the salvation of an entire city:
The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. – Jn 4:28-30
He stopped for a woman he had no business stopping for, and an entire people group was converted to Christ. This is exactly what we are called to do as His disciples!
Who in your life needs intimacy with you? Who needs compassion that only you are able to display?
There is a poisonous attitude that circulates whenever we have the chance to invite someone into intimate relationship with us. We stop and ask ourselves the polluted question, “What’s in it for me?” We remind ourselves that time is a finite resources and we don’t have enough of it to stop and engage with the people around us. As a result, we deprive them of intimacy they desperately need, and prevent them from finding their way to the Cross.
Luke 10 details the story of a Samaritan who stops for a man in desperate need:
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. – Lk 10:30-33
The Samaritan man was despised by the Jewish people. He was already thought of as dirty and wicked, so walking on by this wounded man was expected. But he stopped for the one.
Jesus worked many miracles because he was “moved with compassion.” We see the same motivation come over the Samaritan man. He had compassion, and he stopped to help. Compassion is required if we are to cultivate intimacy with other people. It is a stepping-stone to intimacy.
There is a notable difference between passion and compassion. Passion is short-lived and involuntary. Compassion, on the other hand, is a choice. It is long-lived because it is an intentional decision. Jesus asks us to decide to have compassion for those people He puts into our lives who desperately need our help. We must see people as Jesus sees them if we are to love them as He loves them.
The Samaritan man bandaged this man’s wounds and “…took care of him” (Lk 10:34). Then he provided enough of his own money so an innkeeper could take care of him until he recovered. The Samaritan did not know this man, yet he cared for him intimately, washing his wounds and then asking others to do the same. He showed mercy on a man who would have judged him if they passed each other on the street.
Jesus calls us to extend intimate care to everyone in our path. In Luke 10, the Samaritan man offers physical care to a wounded man. Yet Jesus’ exhortation to intimately care for others also extends to care of soul and spirit. Sometimes spiritual needs must be met first; but every person needs intimate spiritual care on the heels of physical recovery. Once we meet a physical need, there is still much work to be done.
Our church recently hosted a guest minister for a long weekend. He came into town on a Thursday and preached three phenomenal services during his stay. I had the privilege of being his “foot-washer” while he was in town: I took him out to eat for every meal, drove him anywhere he needed to go, and did everything I could to make his stay as comfortable as possible.
I wanted my wife to come and spend time with us before he left town, so she and I invited him out to lunch on that Monday. We, along with our four-month-old son, ate lunch with him and then drove him to the airport. Immediately after dropping him off, our car broke down. I was amazed by God’s provision and favor in allowing me to travel without incident all weekend leading up to that moment. But now we had a problem. I was – along with my wife and infant son – stuck on the side of the road.
Nobody stopped to help. I’ve lived in New York City for over six years now, and I’m usually pleasantly surprised by people’s compassion. This, however, was not one of those times. Everyone with whom I spoke – from AAA, to the tow truck driver, to random people walking by – simply did not seem to care about our situation. Didn’t anyone care that we had a four-month-old with us?
At the end of the day, it all worked out. I put my wife and son in a cab and sent them home. Then I started the long haul to get the car towed out of the airport terminal, and then wait for another tow truck to tow it to the car dealership, where I finally picked it up several days later. But that experience softened me. It made me realize that when I pass by someone who needs help, they might really be in trouble. They’re not just a random person who’s fallen on a bit of bad luck; they’re a brother or sister in need whom God has put directly in my path so that I can stop and intimately care for them.
We need to be the ones who care. After all, we’re the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. If we can’t care enough to stop and intimately care for others, who will?
Don’t drink the poison. When God offers you a chance to be open for intimacy with someone who really needs you to care for them, the right attitude is not, “What’s in it for me?” The only attitude we should have is, “What’s in it for them?”
You may be the only Jesus some people see. Are you making the most of your opportunities for intimate encounters with other people? Are you using the intimacy you enjoy with God to prepare yourself for intimacy with others?
God calls us to be intimate people. Jesus stopped for the one and intimately cared for her. We are called to go and do likewise.
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.