Thursday, June 28, 2018
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
The search for intimacy is destroying our society. It is destroying our lives. The cause is simple but the cure is hard. The cause is this – we have redefined intimacy according to self-serving terminology. The search for intimacy has become nothing more than the search for personal fulfillment through pleasure. The deep, clear and refreshing waters of true intimacy have become a shallow, stagnant slough of self-serving relationships, and it stinks! One look at the philosophy of intimacy presented to us in the media brings us to one conclusion – love only lasts as long as it feels good, and anything that feels good must be love.
How far we have fallen from God’s view of intimacy! In God’s system, feelings are the product of love, not the means to attain it. But we are bombarded every day with messages that convince us that feeling good must come first. For example, notice the extremely high percentage of commercials on television that promote personal fulfillment and feeling good. There are diet pills and diet plans so we can look better, because if we look better we will get other people to notice us, touch us, and love us so we can feel good about who we are. There are commercials about hair color, skin treatments, the latest exercise plans and equipment, and even drugs to enhance your personal pleasure and performance. Everything about intimacy is wrapped up in one word – GET! Get more attention. Get more pleasure. Get more satisfaction. Get more fulfillment.
Compare all of that to the number of commercials you have seen recently that present intimacy as a product of what you have given to another person. Can you think of even one? Can you think of a movie or television program that presents God’s view of intimacy? Can you find any really good examples in the world of how Paul expresses intimacy in Philippians 4:1? Here’s how he understands it:
- He has a personal relationship with them that goes beyond mere acquaintance. The connection Paul has at the heart level allows him to call these people his brothers. There is a depth to the relationship that involves acceptance, trust, and security. But being a part of a band of brothers (and sisters) can only be experienced if the other aspects of intimacy are also present.
- True love must be present. Not love as culture understands it – lustful and self-serving; but love according to God’s standard, which is sacrificial and serves others. It is not the product of an emotional attachment, but it is a decision that produces emotional responses. God demonstrated His own unique brand of love to us when He sent His Son Jesus to die for while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) We had done nothing to produce an emotional response in God, but He decided to love us and then act on that love regardless of the response He would get. This is the true foundation of all intimacy.
- True intimacy also involves a desire to spend time together, or as Paul puts it, he longs for them. But this type of longing is different from what the world feels. When a person of the world longs for someone they love it is primarily to receive from that person something they need – acceptance, value, or pleasure. But when a person of God who operates under His rules of intimacy longs for another person, it is to impart to them something that they have that will bring greater fulfillment to them both. In Romans 1:11 and 12 Paul says, I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. True intimacy involves mutual giving and response, and a deep desire to be involved in it with the person you love.
- True intimacy produces total fulfillment. Paul says that the people in whom he has invested his heart have become the source of his joy and the crowning achievement of his life. The same pride I feel as a parent when my children mature and become successful in society is multiplied many times over when I see the spiritual children God has given me grow to maturity and become successful followers of Jesus Christ. I can honestly say that you are the joy and crown of my life when I see the Holy Spirit finishing the work in you that was begun at the moment of your salvation. I am humbly thankful for the part God has called me to play in that process.
These are the things that should set us apart from the world. These are the true qualities of intimacy, and the world needs to see them modeled in us. The body of Jesus Christ called the church is to be the place where people find a band of brothers and sisters to accept them. The church is to be the place where sacrificial love and serving spirits bring emotional strength. Jesus has called us together into His body so that we can grow together to maturity through mutual encouragement and admonition. And when all of this happens, and true intimacy is expressed and experienced, there will be total joy and the church will be the crowning experience of our lives.
Is your church like that?
I’m glad mine is!