If you read my last blog post, you would see that it was all about intimacy and obedience. Well, I feel strongly that I’m supposed to revisit these two things and perhaps provide more of a framework around how they’re related. They might, after all, seem like two disparate topics to some of us. The ideas of being intimate and being obedient often conjure up very different things in our minds. For me, intimacy often brings to mind this deep feeling of being known whereas obedience sometimes makes me think of things like, “I better do this so the worst case scenario doesn’t happen.” So at what point do the ideas of intimacy with God and obedience to God actually connect?
Look at the scripture John 15:12-15 in which Jesus says,
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
In one of His final exhortations to His disciples, Jesus is making it known that intimacy is found in obedience.
Jesus commanded His disciples to love each other as He had loved them. He goes on to explain in the next verse that the greatest expression of love is laying down your life for your friends, which He does a few chapters later. And what He says next is something you cannot miss. In verse 14 Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” He links His friendship with the disciples to His commandments of them. He links intimacy to obedience. He goes on to elaborate in verse 15 by saying that we are not his servants who simply do His bidding. But rather it’s us knowing His business (His commands) that proves that we are friends of Jesus. Again, linking intimacy with obedience .
This reality that Jesus presents to us needs to be heard and internalized by every one of us. Whether we tend to strive and perform for God, or whether we tend to only receive and never serve, Jesus is calling us to find intimacy in obedience. It’s a sweet place of belonging to find yourself knowing what the living God is doing and then choosing to co-labor with Him to see it come to pass.
And sometimes we know what God wants us to do, but we just struggle to do it. I once thought of it like this. Imagine a door being flung wide open in front of you and on the other side of it is a hallway. You know you have to walk down the hallway because there is no other way out of the building. Only issue is that the hallway looks like something straight out of The Walking Dead. The lights are flickering, you can’t see what’s further down and it’s honestly just kind of frustrating that this is the only way out of the building. You sit there wishing the lights would come on and you even become desperate and start looking for another hallway or door out of this place. When you realize there are none, you slowly step towards the open door. You tentatively step across the threshold holding your breath and… boom. The lights come on. The hallway is lit up. Turns out it’s a really normal looking hallway with the exit to the building at the end of it. Your fear has left and all of a sudden you’re excited about having finally found your way out.
Many times, I feel like we want God to turn the lights on in the hallway before we ever step out. When really God’s promise to us is that He’ll light it up as we step out. God’s often opened a door wide for us, but we sit there looking for another way out. And even when we realize we have to walk through that door we still want God to show us what’s at the end of it. But it’s never about knowing what’s down the hallway. It’s about faith. And if there’s one thing I know about God, it’s that He honors faith. When we step out in faithful obedience, His Spirit fills us with all power and comfort. He’s just waiting for us to take that step across the threshold.
I believe a huge part of knowing God wants us to walk down that hallway is found in hearing His voice. In John 10:4 Jesus speaks of a good shepherd and says, “and his sheep follow him because they knew his voice.” Later in that parable Jesus says He is that Good Shepherd. This is Jesus’ way of saying that you don’t have to guess how to love those around you. If you simply believe that Jesus speaks and that you can hear Him (pro tip: He speaks through the Bible and your good thoughts probably more than you realize), then you will begin to learn how to follow Him as He leads you to love those around you.
That’s intimacy being found in obedience. He’s not a God shouting directions at you. He’s a God who decrees just commands and then demonstrates for you how to live them out. That’s a big reason why Jesus came. He told His disciples to love those around you with no regard for yourself and then He went and actually did it by dying on the Cross. And I guarantee you there was such sweet intimacy between God the Father and God the Son on the other side of that glorious Resurrection. As a proud Father looked upon His obedient Son and welcomed Him back to the throne.
God, we want to connect with you. We want to hear what you’re saying and then we want to do it. And we want to know you more intimately as we are more obedient to you. Show us how to walk in your ways and give us the grace to do so. Show us what you want us to step towards, and I ask that we would do it boldly as soon as we know it’s what you’re asking of us. We love you. Amen.
Author | Adam Salway