Do you follow Jesus? Or do you follow how others follow Jesus? This is for those who are doing everything right when it comes to God… but at the same time don’t feel intimately connected to Him. I was praying, reading, worshipping, sinning less… but not meeting the person of Jesus. For a long, long time. Everything looked pretty, but something was missing; I hungered for more.
Before I went to YWAM (Youth With A Mission), I could rely on community worship, community small group meetings, community evangelism outings… everything within a group to get to me to what I thought was a sweet place with God. I had an incredible community and I was doing just fine. But I couldn’t see that my dependence was on man. These spiritual practices are good, but for me they were rooted in social activity instead of personal intimacy. It took me a long time to realize I was merely coasting. I was “mature,” maybe to an outside observer, but I was not intimate with God.
When I was overseas, I did not have any of those facilitators of an encounter with Jesus. I could no longer rely on my mentors, peers, or the worship leaders to usher me into the presence of God. I had to do it on my own. I found myself sitting in an empty storage room in Australia late one night crying out for more... and God told me to do nothing.
Do nothing? Come on God, let me at least bow down. Or journal what You’re saying. Or open Your Word. Or play some music… something? Anything?
I realized I didn’t know how to do nothing. It was awkward. I felt awkward around God, yet I called Him a friend. That’s not friendship. I sat there in the stillness, not knowing what to do or say. I had to fight through the restlessness and stop caring about the temporary discomfort. I knew deep down I was designed for this. Something broke off me that night, and in its place God brought to the surface a much suppressed desire to get away with Him – just Him.
We can appear godly without God just fine. We can appear godly by modeling the behavior of someone who is actually intimate with God. Trust me, because that is what I did for the vast majority of my Christ-following journey. But if I take an honest look at my life, I was not following Christ. I was following how others followed Christ.
Somehow in this pursuit, God Himself was left out of my chase of “intimacy with God.” Just as I have seen this in my own life, I see that this is what many Christian lives have become: appearing godly without knowing God. A cheap knock off from the real thing we were created for. We know what Christian maturity is “supposed” to look like, so we chase after this model. We see someone praying passionately and next thing we know we sound just like them. Or we see people around us lifting their hands during worship so we follow suit. Praying passionately and lifting hands during worship should never be a response to what we see around us, but a response to a revelation of who God is.
By merely copying these spiritual actions, we chase after someone else’s intimacy, hoping to claim it as our own. In this way, we strive for intimacy in our own efforts. Without talking to God. Without meeting with Him. Without alone time, without vulnerability… without intimacy.
The confronting reality is that chasing someone else’s picture of intimacy is an idol that distracts us from the very heart of God. In copying what relationship with him is “supposed to look like,” we are telling God that His perfectly individual, fine-tuned journey of intimacy is not what we personally need to get there, that we can coast along on someone else’s strength and cultivation of Him within themselves. That our way of achieving intimacy is better than His way.
He knows our personalities, strengths, and weaknesses better than we do. How could we not want HIS process? The unique process He has for each of us as individuals. But instead of listening to His voice, we settle for the next best option: the things that appear spiritually healthy but actually prevent us from walking in fullness. Spiritual practices and disciplines become a distraction if they are not resulting from an overflow of love for Jesus. Too often, they are a product of an overflowing desire to appear mature, or striving in our own efforts to get closer to God when He is already right there.
Eyes focused on this goal of maturity, and even at times intimacy, are eyes distracted from the face of Jesus. Because we can appear mature and intimate without even meeting with God. Eventually these goals become idols, what we worship. Don’t get me wrong, maturity and intimacy are good good things and it is God’s desire for us to walk abundantly in those gifts. But… when we pursue these things as the goal instead of letting them naturally happen as byproducts of sitting in His Presence, we have it all wrong. Maturity and intimacy are fruit from the Fruit Giver Himself. Without Him, we have nothing.
We get so caught up in maturity – acting a certain way. Proving ourselves. Wanting to get to a certain place spiritually. But we are in desperate need of a focus shift. What if our one focus was just knowing Jesus better? And maturity became the byproduct, not the goal?
Let me ask you this. Would you make it a month without listening to any podcasts? Without meeting your mentor or friends for coffee? Without reading a book about Christian living? Without secondhand revelation? Would you be okay if it was you and God alone in a room for a day? A week? Is this your greatest dream or do you secretly wish there was someone else in the room delivering what He has said? Can you cultivate depth in you, just you and Him?
A year ago, I wouldn’t be okay with any of this. Because I didn’t truly knowGod. I knew what other people said about God, but I didn’t know Him. For years I went to other followers of Christ, mentors, family members, or even leaders of the church for these types of revelation. In that, I diminished my dependency on my Father and took matters into my own hands. (Again, do not get me wrong – I am not undermining the gift of these people in our lives. But if we go to these people first to hear God or learn about God instead of God Himself, something is wrong).
We all know the line, “it’s a relationship, not religion.” But what does that really mean? Do we believe it enough to let it change every part of our lives? Do you know what makes God tick? Do you know what makes His heart break? And do you know this because your youth pastor told you or because you met with Jesus and He held your face and spoke those things directly into your being.
I had to get alone with Jesus and meet with him to learn these things. Sitting with Jesus changes everything, it is relationship. As I have pursued my individual process of intimacy with The Lord I have been able to break free of having to look like the people around me in order to feel like I have a relationship of intimacy with him, because I’ve found it by simply being one with him. It is incredibly freeing.
(Read on The Wild Ride)