Stirred, not shaken.
Steadfast strength in the church is founded upon a revived intimacy with God.
A revival in intimacy with God will both STIR us to action, and help us to stand firm as the foundations of our modern society are SHAKEN.
One man awake,
The second awakens
His next door brother.
The three awake can rouse a town
By turning the whole place
Back in February, as Pastor Brian encouraged the church with the declaration that “Revival is in the air”, I wonder whether you took any time to reflect on what that actually meant, and crucially what it could look like in your own life, and how it could impact the church at large. It’s a bold statement, and one easily cheered at. Yet if we are going to experience the reality of it, rather than allowing it to settle tamely as nothing more than a tagline, we need to biblically and practically engage with the meaning and essence of Brian’s words. I write this article so that you might stir yourself to action, and commit to the concept that revival starts with you; in your walk with God, in your devotion and in your desire to grow and learn more about who Jesus is. That way, we might truly experience the power of Jesus’ words in John 10:10 as he declared “I came that they (you!) may have life and have it abundantly”.
Of the four areas that we prayed for revival within (intimacy with God, the miraculous, finances and relationships), it was the intimacy with God point that stuck out to me as the key which had the potential to unlock everything else. If the people of God could only awaken, rouse themselves, and rediscover intimacy with their holy, loving, kind and powerful father, then perhaps, just perhaps, we could see a God-driven movement gather momentum and millions of people saved in our nation. God works through people, you see, and so when His people are intimate with Him and not distracted by the things of the world, He is able to do more, speak more and act more in and through His church. It’s a stirring thought, and my prayer is that through an awakening in Jesus’ church, the revival comes out of the “air” and lands squarely in our “streets”: our almighty living God expressing himself openly, tangibly and miraculously through His church as His “kingdom comes” and His “will is done” by a people who live their lives united with Christ and in utterly personal relationship with Him.
What, then, does intimacy with God look like, and how can we experience a revival in that area of our lives? What does intimacy with God even mean? In our postmodern generation, these are important questions. Much contemporary thinking believes (perhaps inconsistently) that the first truth about language and reality is that they are both in flux. We are the products of our culture, of our community, our heritage and our experiences. These combine to determine our perception of the universe. Meaning is presented to us as subjective. You can make your own meaning, and if someone else’s meaning is different to your meaning, that’s ok! It sounds fancy, but presents a problem to us as Christians. We believe in objective truth – and that truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ, witnessed to by scripture. As a result, we need to be clear in the way we communicate and ensure that we understand everything from the perspective of the Bible: grounded in truth. When we speak about intimacy with God, what does the Bible teach on what that means? How is it accomplished? Let’s delve a little deeper.
The Foundations of Intimacy: Trust and Knowledge
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
I would suggest that intimacy has everything to do with truly knowing and being known by another. It is defined in the dictionary as a “close familiarity or friendship”, something which we all crave at the root of our very humanity. We all intrinsically desire intimacy, and yet it is so often increasingly neglected by a modern technological society that lures us towards electronic screens rather than the more risky and vulnerable world of face-to-face interpersonal relationships. Intimacy is not spatial but relational. We all know what it’s like to be sitting right next to a person with whom we feel distant and we can feel close to a person who is a thousand miles away. Intimacy has no obvious formula (no two relationships are ever exactly the same), but there are certain things that we would all agree can build intimacy, and certain things that can destroy it. Two of the most obvious things that build intimacy are trust and knowledge. The more you trust someone, the closer you let them get. Where trust is compromised, intimacy scatters. Similarly, you cannot be intimate with someone you do not know anything about. As knowledge and trust entwine, relationships deepen and intimacy is formed. Intimacy is a beautiful and relational concept, and so it is no surprise that we are called to find such a place with God. He is a relational God who desires intimacy with each and every one of us. In finding that intimacy, our deepest human desires to be truly known will be fully satisfied in Christ.
Wherever you’re at in your walk with God, then, resolve to grow in your trust and knowledge of Him over these next months. There, you will find a revival in intimacy with Him. Search the scriptures for His promises, and put your faith in them. Seek out the knowledge of God through the Bible and community, without letting it become a legalistic academic pursuit. Biblical knowledge is far better than gold when it fuels our trust in God, because it fuels our intimacy with God (Psalm 19:10). But when biblical knowledge replaces our trust in God, it only fuels our pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). Build in discipline to your devotional life. It’s very hard to be intimate with someone that you spend no time with. Sacrifice something time consuming in your week to give God some space to speak to you and work on your heart; perhaps plan an evening in to rest and meditate on God’s promises. The amazing truth of the gospel is that Christ is in us, and that we have become partakers of the divine nature. As we grow in our knowledge of God, and learn to trust Him more, this will play out in the transformation of our own lives as our intimacy with Him results in our becoming like Him, and the realities of His kingdom (healing, authority, identity etc.) outworking through us. A revival in intimacy is the foundation for inner transformation.
The Impact of Intimacy: A church that is stirred, but not shaken.
Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)
Furthermore, proactively pursuing a revival in intimacy with God does not just benefit the individual. Indeed, intimacy is fundamental to the effective outworking of the mission of the Church. As Christians rediscover and grow in their intimacy with God as individuals, a snowball effect is created, and God is corporately given the space within His church to work on a scale that is far beyond the sum of its parts. A hundred pianos tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically in tune with each other. As Christians individually tune in to the inner workings of God, operating out of an obedience fuelled by loving intimacy, they become in tune with each other: the church starts marching to the same beat, and the unity created has a power and godly momentum about it able to move spiritual mountains in cities and nations, causing the lost and the broken to be welcomed home in multitudes like never before. A church that is intimate with God is a church of action and strength, founded on the rock of Christ and steadfast in times of trouble. The closer you get to our God, the more His holiness, love, grace and power affects you and the more you will be stirred to action. Your passion will grow. Your faith will feel fresh. You will truly feel like you are drinking from the “living water” of God’s word and His spirit within you. As a Church deepens its relationship with Jesus, it will find the strength rise up and reach out to people that so desperately need the gospel message. In a society that is being shaken at its very core – in its morals, boundaries and hierarchies, we need a revival in intimacy with God so that together, we may be stirred, not shaken.