Intimacy with God is a strange concept. How could I be “intimate” with a God who is Spirit, who is holy, and who is so much greater than I?
I have walked through seasons of deep intimacy with the Lord and walked through many others in which God’s presence has been absent. Everything on the outside of my life looked the same throughout these seasons. I was still reading the Bible, serving, and living a “good Christian life,” but I know when I am walking with the Lord and when I distant from him.
There is a story in Luke 7:36–50 that I believe is all about intimacy with God and what keeps us from it. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but here is a summary.
A religious leader named Simon invited Jesus to a dinner party. During the dinner a woman who was known as a “sinner” came in, fell at Jesus’ feet weeping, and poured expensive perfume on him.
While Jesus ministered to the woman at his feet, He was also aware of Simon’s private thoughts. Simon was watching the scene judging both Jesus and the woman, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Jesus turned to Simon and corrected him with a story about love and forgiveness.
I love this episode in Jesus’ life because it reveals what can keep us from intimacy with God and what can draw us back into it.
What Keeps Us from Intimacy with God?
The women in the story showed great courage in her faith that Jesus would receive her. After all, she wasn’t invited to the party and had no right to be there. How many women who see themselves as “sinners” would never come to Jesus because of their shame? They believe they must stay on the “outside” of the party, perhaps admiring him from a distance. Yet this woman had the faith to seek intimacy with him!
Simon also had a great barrier to intimacy. Even though he was in the same room with Jesus, he was very far from his presence. You may be a “religious leader” in your own right. You teach Bible studies or host dinners in Jesus’ honor, yet you don’t know the intimacy of loving God. He may be right beside you, but that doesn’t mean that you feel his presence within you.
Jesus’ invitation to intimacy was just as much for Simon as it was for the woman at his feet. But only one of them responded.
Worship Is the Natural Expression of Intimacy
A few years ago, I was meditating on one of the most well-known verses of Scripture. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus said this was the greatest commandment.
I asked myself, “Do I really love God with all my heart? What does that even mean?” The heart reflects my emotion and my affection for God. Do I love God affectionately? I had to answers honestly: “I don’t think I do.”
As I asked the Lord to show me how to love him with all my heart, he began to show me how to worship. I learned to get on my knees in the morning for the soul purpose of expressing love to God.
This is what the woman in Luke 7 did. She fell at his feet, pouring out her heart and her treasure. She loved him and nothing could contain her expression of worship!
By contrast, Simon was so “refined” in his service that he wouldn’t even show the smallest sign of affection. Jesus pointed this out:
Simon, look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
Am I so busy serving God that I neglect the primacy of loving him?
Ministry Is the Natural Outflow of Intimacy with God
Through worship, I share my heart with God. Yet the greatest intimacy is when God shares his heart with me!
Jesus walked on earth in perfect fellowship with the Father. He kept saying things like, “I do only what the Father tells me to do.” “I only speak the words the Father gives me to speak.” “I don’t do anything on my own . . .”
Jesus said these things that we might follow his example. “Those who speak should speak the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
Simon, the religious leader in Luke 7, was in professional ministry. Yet, his heart and actions couldn’t have been further from Jesus’. He was totally unmoved by the broken woman at Jesus’ feet. In his self-righteousness, he missed the opportunity to minister to her with Jesus.
Unfortunately, this is the case for many Christians. We view our service to God as doing what we want and asking him to bless it. The work Jesus has set us apart to do is all about his heart, his will, and his love.
The greatest intimacy comes when we abandon our own agenda for the sake of seeking the heart and will of God. When was the last time you were “moved” by the heart of God? When you felt the compassion of Jesus for another human being? We are not qualified to speak truth to someone until we have first shed tears for them.
Jesus invited both Simon and the unnamed woman into intimacy—the intimacy of forgiveness, expressed through worship, resulting in ministry. He extends the same invitation to us today. Whether you are the woman held by shame on the outskirts of the party or the woman bound by self-confidence—so near to him but so far away from his heart—he invites us to come.