Most of us want the pill, not the journey. We want the magic formula to comfort and success, three easy steps to guarantee the life you want. If an encounter with Jesus can bring that comfort and success, fine and good. Then when it doesn’t happen we think God isn’t coming through for us. But what He invites us into is not one encounter, but daily intimacy with Jesus.
I spent years doing what many Christian do. I was seriously messed up and I knew God had the answer. So I almost frantically rushed from one event to another, one prayer to another, one book or service or teaching to another. Perhaps if this preacher prayed for me I’d be OK. Or maybe this method of deliverance would work. If I could find just the right encounter with Jesus my torment would go away.
And all that I accomplished was wearing myself out. There were moments something would seem to “work”, but not for long.
As I look back, I can see how I was missing the main thing Jesus invited His followers into. Yes, Jesus healed people and cast out demons, demonstrating a measure of what things are like when things are as God would have them. But when He talked with His followers about what their lives would be like going forward it wasn’t about “living in victory,” as enticing as that sounds. It was about daily intimacy with Him.
That’s the only way we can survive.
The Change in Paradigm
Our souls are leaky buckets, quickly “losing” the goodness we receive. Like the children of Israel, we can see God part the Red Sea and thunder from Mount Sinai, and the next day turn around and worship our own golden calves. Like Peter we can see Jesus transfigured with glory talking with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, and deny Him just days later.
That’s why we need daily bread. The children of Israel needed to gather manna daily; storing it up only resulted in a stinky mess (Exodus 16:16-21). Isaiah wrote of how God leads us, “Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4). God’s love and mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).
When Jesus showed up on earth everyone was amazed by the authority with which He spoke and the power with which He trampled on the works of the enemy. He gave His followers the same power and authority (Matthew 10:8). But He never intended drama to sustain them. He taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
In perhaps the most vivid picture of all, Jesus likens Himself to the vine and us to the branches. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). That’s the only way we can ever “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
And we could point to many other New Testament passages that verify daily intimacy with Jesus as what God intended our lives to be based on.
What Daily Intimacy Does to Your Brain
Over the last couple decades fascinating research in neurobiology has given us deeper understanding of how God designed our human system to work. Our brains, the default neural circuits that determine how we act and react, get formed and “deformed” over years, decades. Learning new facts doesn’t change those neural networks.
What changes the default settings in our brain is to become connected to new brains. In this sense none of us is a single brain. As you see me and I feel felt by you, my brain actually changes. And as I see you and you feel felt by me, your brain changes. That’s the neurological basis for all the “one anothers” in the New Testament.
And as we all know, other finite human beings can never give us all we need because we were not made for time; we were created for eternity. Only connection with the God of eternity can change our neural networks to be as they were meant to be. In tech language, we are but remote workstations that can only function if they are connected by broadband to the mainframe. Without that our brains will remain “searching for a connection.”
With that daily connection to our Source, the Vine, our very minds become rewired. We do not ever outgrow our need for connection, but our default neural circuits get reformed.
So if you still erupt with controlling anger at the slightest provocation, you’re not securely connected to the Mainframe.
If your lust is driving you to act out with illicit sexual liaisons or watch porn, you’re not securely connected to the Mainframe.
If fear and anxiety dictate how you think and live and act, you’re not securely connected to the Mainframe.
Our neural circuits change slowly. That’s why one encounter with Jesus, as glorious as it is, can never result in the lasting transformation our hearts desire most deeply.
Daily intimacy with Jesus is another way of saying “securely connected to the Mainframe.” And remember that Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
There are moments when your internal hard drive gets a wonderful download, a major software update so to speak. Those moments with Jesus can be truly lifechanging. We look forward to those moments when His presence is palpable and our hearts burn within us (Luke 24:32).
But those moments are just that, moments. For us to become transformed we must rely on that daily intimacy with Jesus.
John learned that. “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
Fellowship, daily intimacy, with Jesus.
Some practical ways to do that next time.
Your Turn: Have you tended to rely on a momentary encounter with Jesus? How much daily intimacy with Him have you developed? Is it more like an occasional plug-in for a single download? Or have you learned to stay connected? Leave a comment below.
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