I’m speaking at an event next week on the huge-but-vital topic of intimacy with God, sustaining vision and devotional life.
Issues that are so incredibly close to my heart.
Issues that I can’t help but get overwhelmingly excited about.
Issues that I don’t have all the answers to, but love meeting with others who get passionate about the questions.
Issues that challenge me, inspire me, motivate me, and make me jump about on the outside as much as on the inside.
And I thought that as this is paramount in my thoughts just now, I’d share some of my meanderings with you.
So, I’m thinking about the oil of intimacy.
Based on these passages of Scripture.
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. (Matthew 6:6)
Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with sure-fire, easy-going formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention. (Matthew 7:13-14)
God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps.
The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’
The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil’.
They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go and buy your own’.
They did, but whilst they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.
Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in’.
He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’
So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive. (Matthew 25: 1-13)
Because I want to be someone who is called a ‘friend of the bridegroom’ (John 3 v 29) when He returns.
And what hits me so often is that although I know that Jesus is coming back, I can so easily forget to live like this season in history is an urgent one.
It is the middle of the night.
Now is the time for us to seek to live with a new depth of obedience and responsiveness to the Spirit; to keep oil in our lamps so that they will burn from the inside out.
I really believe that John the Baptist called himself a ‘friend of the Bridegroom’ in preparation for Jesus’ first coming. And this means that our question now, is what kind of people does God want us to be in preparation for His second coming?
What is the ‘oil’ that God is looking for and searching to find?
And this leads me into thinking about the devotional life.
I describe our ‘devotional life’ in a really broad and easy to understand way as the time we set aside with God each day to pray (either to cultivate intimacy with Him, intercede, or in prayer for revival), read and meditate on the Word, worship by ourselves, and include fasting when I talk about it.
These things are the internal keys given to us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that help to cultivate a strong and vibrant relationship with God.
I have to set my heart to pray and spend time with God daily. I can fail to remain consistent in prayer if I resign myself to believing that it will always be boring and dull.
But I want to live with a vibrant, alive, exhilarating connection to Jesus and I believe that is the reason He calls me to spend time with Him.
In John 15 v 5 Jesus says, ‘He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing’.
Prayer was never meant to be duty based or results orientated. Rather, it is the place of encounter with God where our spirit is energized as we grow in love for Him.
Now confession time: sometimes it’s an effort. I love prayer. I love it so much and my heart burns for Jesus. But sometimes, it is an effort. Sometimes I have to fight through the boredom, or the distraction. Sometimes…
But I pray and ask and seek for a right view of God. Without a right view of God we cannot sustain prayer and a healthy devotional life.
We grow in intimacy with God when we come to understand that we are His beloved, His chosen ones, when we encounter God as our Father and Jesus as our beautiful Bridgegroom King. When we see Holy Spirit as our best Friend.
How we view God will determine how we approach Him in prayer and how often we pursue pressing into a place of intimacy.
The Word is so rich when it talks about our identity. Verses like Romans 8 v 15 move our hearts and open them to such beautiful revelation. ‘You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba! Father!’
But I am so challenged that I must feed on the Word of God and engage in active conversation with Holy Spirit whilst I read. Bible study is important, but study alone is not enough to bring the Presence of God to our hearts. Bible study must lead to dialogue with God (John 5 v 39-40).
But I wholeheartedly believe that this devotional life, this abiding in Him, is what protects us from burnout.
Our devotional life positions us to be energized to love God and to love people. Remaining connected to Jesus at the heart level is the lifeline that enables us to sustain our walk with God for decades, not just weeks. Without prayer and quality time with God, spiritual burnout is inevitable.
Our culture is busy and noisy and crowds out the ‘sacred space’ for prayer. We are a generation who have grown up with more and more options for wasting time, and forgetting who we are and what we were really made for. It’s such a challenge and such an effort to sometimes find the space that we are called to make.
But we were made for prayer, with an internal world on the inside with which to communicate with God. It is such a challenge that we seek to redeem this time. We were made to respond to God with hearts aflame, hearts that yearn for Him in the secret place.
Because that’s what it all comes down to.
I want to love Him rightly, with oil that burns from the inside out. I don’t want to be in a place where everyone thinks I’ve got a flaming lamp or that I’m running really hard after God, but inside be lacking the oil of intimacy that leads to a dull spirit and an empty reality.
Oh Jesus, may I pursue You with the same zeal with which You first pursued me. I love You.