The Fruit of Intimacy with God

In my last article, I began discussing the necessity of having intimacy with intimacy with GodGod, especially based on Matthew 7:21-23. If you didn’t read it, you can do so here. This passage is near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which begins in Matthew 5. Throughout this sermon, Jesus is laying out the core values for Kingdom living. This is important to understand in order to grasp the significance of this passage in Chapter 7.

Reviewing some of last week’s article, Jesus spoke of recognizing false prophets by their fruit (see verses 15-19). He then described a group of people that claimed to know and belong to Him, saying, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he that does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” He then adds, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’” The day He is speaking of is Judgment day, when we will all stand before Him and give an account of our lives. This group operated in spiritual gifts, miracles, signs, and wonders for some part of their lives on earth. Yet, He not only reveals that He never knew them, but goes so far as to call them “evildoers,” and casts them out of His presence. This is as serious as it gets!

The word “knew” speaks of intimacy, as mentioned last week. The word “evildoers” means, “The condition of one without law; contempt and violation of law, wickedness, iniquity.” (It is also used in Matthew 23:28, where Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and wickedness.) He then finishes the sermon by telling the parable of the two men who built a house. This parable, I believe, holds the key to what Jesus was saying.

He said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Jesus speaks of two groups of people – those who obey His words, and those who do not. In verse 21 He stated that only those who do His Father’s will, can enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, He is speaking of obedience. Regarding intimacy, He said that if we love Him, we will obey His commands (John 14:15). This wasn’t said in a threatening way at all, which is how we often imagine. He was saying that when we truly love Him, obeying Him will come naturally, because you always want to please the one you love.

The fruit that He looks for is not operating in spiritual gifts or miracles, signs, and wonders. The fruit He wants to cultivate in us is obedience to the Father. This is how He lived His life and how we, too, will live, as we are more and more conformed into His image. As we abide in the life-giving flow of the Vine, we will naturally produce fruit without straining or striving. We will operate in spiritual gifts, miracles, signs, and wonders as well, but this must come from the overflow of our intimacy with Him. This is critical if we want to stand before Him on that day and hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”  

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The Key to Jesus’ Success in Ministry

One of the most amazing and misunderstood realities of the Christian life to me, is prayer. Jesus prayingHaving been a part of various prayer ministries over the past twenty plus years, I’ve seen a lot— some good, some not so good.

It is interesting that prayer is the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about. Not how to do miracles, or how to raise the dead, heal the sick, or cast out demons; they wanted to know how to pray. They observed Jesus often withdrawing from the crowds to be alone with His Father, or getting up before dawn to seek His face. (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35) They witnessed the miracles that flowed from Him effortlessly throughout His short ministry. The times He seemed to know what His opponents were thinking captured their attention. (Luke 5:22; 6:8) They became frustrated when He cast out a demon they were unable to. (Mark 9:17-29) His teachings, full of wisdom and authority, unlike the religious leaders, made them realize He had something they didn’t. (Matt. 7:29) Eventually, they put two and two together and rightly concluded; His secret must be His prayer life.

Jesus demonstrated perfectly what a life of prayer and submission to the Father should look like. Several times He declared, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) He received specific instructions during the times He spent alone with His Father, and then obeyed what He saw or was told. Those intimate times produced a union of heart, mind, and spirit between Father and Son which resulted in Jesus’ perfect obedience and a life of fruitfulness. He later illustrated this spiritual union using an analogy from the natural realm— the grapevine and its branches. (John 15:1-8) Just as He could do nothing apart from His Father, so He said we could do nothing apart from Him. (v. 5) He clearly demonstrated that intimacy through prayer was the key to His success in ministry.

God never changes and neither does His Word. What was true for Jesus 2,000 years ago is true for us today. We too, must spend intimate time with our Father so that we may receive specific instructions, and grace to obey Him. He has chosen us and desires that we bear much fruit for His glory. (John 15:16) But He wants us to do so from the place of intimacy, where fruitfulness flows effortlessly, with no straining or striving. He even warns us about the perils of relying solely on our giftings, rather than intimacy with Him. (Matt. 7:21-23) Our first calling is to know Him intimately, for when we do, everything else will fall into place.

Insights from Song of Solomon – God Enjoys Us in Our Weakness

Song of SolomonDark am I, yet lovely… Song of Solomon 1:5

Like the Shulamite maiden we are well aware of our darkness – our failures, sins, and shortcomings. So many believers live under a cloud of guilt, shame, and condemnation, believing God must be thoroughly disgusted and disappointed with them because of their inability to measure up. This mindset not only brings continual feelings of despair and defeat, but also causes us to look at others with a critical, judgmental eye. Whatever you look for you will find, and whatever you focus on grows bigger in your mind. Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we harbor self-bitterness or self-hatred, we will tend to treat others in the same way, causing a multitude of problems in our relationships.

We so easily make God in our image, projecting our frustration and anger toward ourselves onto Him; this is just one of many lies we often believe about Him. Yet the truth is, He loves and even enjoys us in our brokenness, immaturity, and weakness. The maiden acknowledges her brokenness but also testifies of her loveliness before God. This is not arrogance or presumption, but rather a correct understanding of the heart of God for His beloved bride.  Jesus clearly demonstrated the depth of His mercy, love, and compassion in His willingness to physically become like us, suffer beyond our ability to comprehend, and die in our stead. His heart is always full of tender compassion and love for us because He is love.

Through His death and resurrection we have received the gift of His righteousness so that when God looks at us, He sees us as perfect through His blood. He loves us in the same way He loves His Son, the One He spoke of in saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) He placed His Spirit within us, imparting a sincere heart that desires to fully obey Him. Our spirits are willing and longing to please Him in spite of the weakness of our flesh. He sees the end from the beginning so He is able to view us from an eternal perspective as His beloved bride who will walk in obedience to Him forever and ever.

When God calls us lovely, it is because of these things; He doesn’t look at the things we look at; He sees beyond the surface. Just as a parent loves and enjoys their child completely at every stage of their growth and development, He loves and enjoys us in ours. He knew what He was getting into when He chose us. He is not disillusioned with us, for He never had any illusions about us to begin with. He knows us completely and enjoys us as we grow and mature in and through Him. Ask Him to show you how He sees and feels about you!

Do you believe God enjoys you in your weakness? If not, why not? Comment below.