Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 29


I’m Lee Whitman and in today’s podcast we are going to answer the question: Is having an intimate relationship with Jesus possible?

“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…”

Philippians 3:10 

I was talking with my friend Mark recently. He is a pastor and a serious student of the Bible and I wanted his opinion on what I had been writing. So over breakfast at Waffle House I asked him what he thought. He looked at me with a very serious look on his face and said, “I’m really enjoying reading this, but I’ve got to ask you something. When you talk about having intimacy with Jesus, I don’t understand what you are talking about. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years and a pastor for 6, but having “intimacy” with Jesus is a new paradigm for me. This is something no one has ever taught me before, but if it is really available to me, I want it! How can I develop this kind of intimacy with Christ?”

Because of the courage and eagerness of my buddy Mark I decided to do a podcast on learning how to develop intimacy with Christ.  

Let’s begin with the question: “What is intimacy?” 

​I like the definition that intimacy is “to know and to be known.” It is probably the deepest longing of the human heart. Every human being starts out in life desperately desiring to know those around them and to be known by those closest to them. The first place we naturally look for intimacy is with our parents and family. We then hope for intimacy with our classmates. Then we look for intimacy with a person of the opposite sex

The essence of intimacy is to know someone else for who they are and to be known by them simply for who we are, without any pretense or façade. We typically describe the sexual relationship as “being intimate” with someone. This fits the definition of being known in a physical sense and being known physically. It is also a good analogy for relational intimacy. For physical intimacy to take place, the two people must be physically vulnerable. When physically vulnerable, they can’t hide anything from each other. Emotional intimacy requires this kind of emotional vulnerability as well, of not hiding anything from the other. To have true intimacy in your relationships requires emotional vulnerability.

This longing to be loved and accepted just as we are is so deep and so primal that when it is not met in our early years by those we look to for intimacy, people like parents and family, we experience a deep sense of wounding. Out of that wounding, we build walls around our heart to protect us from getting hurt again. Though these walls are designed to protect the wounded heart, they actually keep us from receiving the intimacy we desperately desire. That is one of the reasons that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted. So that we can regain the intimacy that we were created for.

This need to know and be known was designed into mankind by God Himself. It is not something created by the pop-psychology culture to make man feel better about himself. God created this need for intimacy in man so that man would have a longing to know and be known by God which would totally satisfy his longing for love and acceptance. It was also given so that man could know and be known by his fellow man on the relational level.

Let’s start this podcast by asking is the concept of intimacy with Jesus even biblical?

To find that answer let’s start by looking at Matthew 7:21-23 from the New Living Translation.

Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord’, but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in Heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’

Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

When Jesus said “I never knew you”, He used the Greek word “ginoskowhich” means: “to know, come to know, to become known”. But “ginosko” is also the word most commonly used in the Jewish culture for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. It means to know something or someone intimately and experientially. Jesus is saying that some of the people claiming to have done wonderful things in His name will be sent away on judgment day because He did not know them intimately. They were active in doing things for Him, even good religious things, but because He did not know them intimately, they will not be allowed into Heaven. 

​So, the answer is Yes, intimacy with God is biblical. In fact, intimacy with God was at the heart of why God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross. In the Old Testament days, God was on the outside of man. With a few exceptions, the people in the Old Testament couldn’t really know God on an intimate level. Their form of worship was dictated by the Levitical laws. Their relationship with God was limited to performing certain acts according to what the law required. And their worship was to a God they knew about intellectually, but really could not know intimately. Unfortunately, that sounds similar to what many people experience in their churches today. They go to church and perform religious acts to a God they are unable to know personally and intimately.

​Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven ushered in a whole new way to know God. Jesus said in John 16:7:

It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you.

John 16:7

After Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit was sent to live inside all who believe. Believer’s now have the Spirit of God living on the inside of them so they can know God, and so that God can know them. That is intimacy. 

How do you develop intimacy with God?

Let’s take this out of the arena of developing intimacy with God and ask an easier question. What does it take to develop intimacy with another human being? For example, how did you develop intimacy with someone like your spouse or even a close friend? Those relationships didn’t just magically develop over night, they were formed by spending time together. So, the first ingredient necessary for developing intimacy is time. You have to spend time with that person to get to know them in order to develop an intimate relationship with them. Many of us go to church in an attempt to spend time with God. What happens at church is often learning about God, not spending time with Him. Spending time with God is most often done one-on-one, just Him and you. 

Those intimate relationships also didn’t happen by chance. It took some intentionality on your part to make them happen. You had to make the effort to spend time with that person so that the relationship could develop. If you would have left getting together up to pure chance, there is a good chance that the relationship would never have developed. You purposefully made an effort to spend time with that person in order to get to know them. And the combination of taking the time necessary coupled with being intentional about getting together allowed intimacy to develop.

The same is true in developing intimacy with God as well. It will take a willingness on your part to spend the time necessary, coupled with being intentional about making it happen.  

Starting Point: The place to start when wanting to develop intimacy with God is by positioning yourself to hear from Him. How do you position yourself to hear from God? That is where the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life become very important. By spiritual disciplines I am talking about things like bible reading, prayer, meditation, and worship. As we intentionally spend time reading the Bible and praying, or spending time worshiping God, we place ourselves in a position to actually hear from Him. I used to look at these spiritual disciplines as a form of legalism. “You should be doing these if you want to be acceptable to God” was how my thought pattern went. And if the only reason you are spending time doing those things is out of fear that if you don’t do them, you won’t be acceptable to God, then that is legalism. God is not into making us do things out of fear. He wants us to be motivated by our love for Him and our desire to know Him better.

If you want to catch fish, you must go to where there are fish. If you sat in your living room and wanted and wanted and wanted to catch fish with your whole being, would you catch any fish? Of course not! You have to position yourself where the fish are if you want to catch fish. By spending time reading the bible and praying and worshiping, you are positioning yourself to develop intimacy with God. Just doing those things will not create intimacy with God, but they put you into a position where you can become intimate with Him. 

Secondly, you must set aside the time to get to know God. More specifically, you must be intentional about setting aside the time necessary to position yourself in order to get to know God. Reading a five-minute devotional in the morning while eating your breakfast is probably not going to be enough. You need to set aside enough time for you to be able to quiet your mind and heart in order to hear from God. God is most likely not going to respond to your hurried schedule. He is never in a hurry. We live such a fast-paced life that we have forgotten how to be still and quiet our minds. Turn off the TV, the computer, and the smartphone. Eliminate anything else that will distract you for that period of time. When our children were very little, my wife got up at 4:30 am before all of the day’s activities began to have her time with God. Make yourself a daily appointment with God and don’t let anything keep you from that appointment.

Another factor that might keep you from hearing from God are false beliefs. For many years I had believed that God only spoke to His people through the Bible, because that is what I had been taught. When I saw the truth in scripture that Jesus does speak today (My sheep hear my voice, John 10:27), I repented of the lie I had believed that God does not speak to us personally. I needed to repent of the lie and renounce its hold on my mind so that I was free to hear from God. You may have similar lies that you need to repent from. Ask God if there is anything that you are believing that is keeping you from hearing His voice today. 

Worship is a great way to develop intimacy with God. When we sing, we are able to access our emotions more easily than at any other time. I didn’t used to like singing, probably because I felt so vulnerable when I sang. Now I love to worship God. I love to sing praises because I can tap into my feelings for God and pour them out to Him like no other time. Not even in prayer am I able to feel and express some of the emotions that I can express to Him during worship. To let yourself really experience worship, you have to tune out the rest of the world and put your focus only on the Lord. Close yourself in with God and pour your heart out to Him. He doesn’t care if you have a great singing voice or you are one that can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Worship is a matter of the heart.    

I’m sure there is much more that could be said about how to develop intimacy with God. That will have to wait for another time. This, however, will give you a good starting point for developing intimacy with God. Don’t settle for living this life without it. You were created for nothing less.