“The great crying need of our time, my friends, is intimacy with God, our Father and Creator and Maker.”
32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God [because they sought Him in life].
The beginning quote is from a sermon preached not by a preacher, but by a layman–who is a character in a book! That book is, Heathersleigh Homecoming, by Michael Phillips. It is the second of a set of four from the era of the turn of the 19th Century and went through WWI. The author took the prevailing thoughts of the day and wrote them into his characters’ stories. The surprising thing is that this sermon is every bit as relevant today as it would have been then. Let’s read some more:
“What prevents this intimacy we so desperately need? Many evangelists of our day will say it is sin, and then proceed to rail against this or that evil of society. They are right, of course—sin is the great curse that prevents us from what God would give, and especially all that He would have us to be.
But what about otherwise good people, even Christian believers, whom the world would look upon with favor? Perhaps some of you men and women listening to my voice are such. And before I gave my own heart to the Lord, such was I—respected and admired by all…but far from God in my heart. I do not say that evangelists ought not to preach to sinners who need to repent. Their hellfire messages and salvationary fervor are perhaps much needed for some. But they did not rouse me out of the complacent and contented stupor I supposed was my goodness and respectability. Something else was needed.
So, I find myself compelled to ask—what of good people who are in church many a Sunday? Good people, as was I myself? What about young boys and girls, teenagers, young adults with believing parents, who have been in church Sunday after Sunday throughout their lives and who are well familiar with the gospel, perhaps even who believe in its message? Does the heavenly Father not desire intimacy with such individuals just as greatly as with the worst sinner in the land? Does He not desire intimacy with you—believer that you are—no less than with a thief or a murderer? Yet it may be, though we are unaccustomed to think so, that this intimacy is actually as lacking in the hearts of good respectable Christians as it is lacking in the hearts of the worst sinners listening to a rousing message about the dangers of hell.
I know that such intimacy can be missing in the midst of outward respectability. How can I say such a thing? Because I was just such a one myself. I was a contented, respectable prodigal. I had no idea what I was at all. I would have recoiled from the merest suggestion.
‘What—me a prodigal! Outrageous,’ would have been my reply.
You see, my friends, I had no idea that my prodigality was not evidenced by wicked crimes against society…but rather lay in my own prideful independence. Thinking myself a fine man, I was in fact living in my very own private far country just like the young man who went to eat with pigs. But I knew it not.
Intimacy, therefore, may be lacking in your heart as you sit listening to my words this morning. I cannot know such things, nor do I judge any man or woman. I only say that perhaps the Spirit of God has drawn you here because He has been calling your heart to deeper intimacy with Him. What is to gained by condemning this or that evil, if we neglect that region where lies our first business of life? Indeed, one of the greatest of the last century’s preachers said that we could rid the world of every single one of its wrongs and still neglect that most important of all life’s callings. What will it accomplish if we set all the world’s evils right, if we rid it of poverty and alcohol and inequity, if we bring justice to every creature, if we give every man and woman the vote, if we eliminate the scourge of war—what good will it do, I say, to remove all these from the world…if we as a people yet in our hearts remain distant from the God who made us?”
We, indeed, must ask ourselves these questions, “Am I content with my Christianity the way it is or do I desire more? Does my soul seek more of Him: His presence, participation, peace and power in my life? Do I really want to know Him more, as Paul did, in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10)? Is knowing Him intimately more important to me than life itself?”
Let us spend a moment with the Savior right now. I promise you that if you do, you will want to know Him more deeply and more intimately than ever before!
Abba, I find myself wishing that I could just go on to heaven to be with You, but I know that even though I would rather be “absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8),” my time is not yet. In the meantime, I want You to use me up for Your kingdom, and while You do it, reveal Yourself to me more and more. I want to go “higher up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis put it. I look forward to today and all You have for me, Lord. Amen.