Friday, February 23, 2024

Intimacy with God: No More Limitations

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A. W. Tozer shared his thoughts about intimacy with God and what it meant: “What's closest to your heart is what you talk about, and if God is close to your heart, you'll talk about Him.” However, intimacy is a word that many frown upon. People think that being intimate with God is for special people only. People assumed intimacy with God was a special call that an average person could not experience. They felt disqualified due to compromised sinful Christian life. Others claim it is too hard to figure out the 'how' to's of being intimate with God.”  Unfortunately, those claiming intimacy with God but never describing the process of attaining it are useless to many trying to achieve it.

Moses, as the prophet of God, provided a glimpse of what intimacy meant: “11Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:7-11 ESV). Moses showed a glimpse of seeking intimacy with God and how God responds to genuine seekers and His willingness to accommodate those who wholeheartedly seek it. Enduring Word Commentary[1] shared this insight:

 “Moses was unique because of his personal intimacy with God. The term face to face does not literally mean “physical face to physical face,” but it has the idea of free and unhindered communication. Moses had a remarkably intimate relationship with God.”

Here’s how the Scripture described Moses and his desire for intimacy with God when he made a daring request to God, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” (Exodus 33:13 ESV). Then God replied to Moses, “And the LORD said to Moses,This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17 ESV).

One important lesson about this episode: God always welcomes, with open arms, any requests for insights into His heart and purposes through intimacy with Him. Being intimate with God cannot happen without anyone seeking it with the intensity of desire and complete humility. God hears and accommodates His people, especially in matters involving intimacy with Him.

Moving forward, Jesus provided the best picture of intimacy with His Father:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:26-30, ESV)

The most important revelation is this: God sent His Son Jesus to re-establish an intimate relationship with God’s people through His Son Jesus. In the Old Testament, intimacy with God is shown only with specific individuals God chose. Thus, God, in His great love for humanity, made intimacy possible again through His Son Jesus.

From Adam and Eve’s intimacy with God, Enoch’s walk with God, and Moses’ intimacy with God, a common thread exists, i.e., each had limitations on the revelations of God and the level of intimacy experienced. However, when Jesus walked the earth, He revealed a specific distinction between His intimacy with God and the new level of intimacy with anyone who believes Him:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6-7, 9 ESV)

Simply stated, intimacy is God’s idea. God sent His Son Jesus and made it happen. Now, it’s your turn. When you surrender your life to Jesus, the path to intimacy with God begins.

Let me end with this insight from Malcolm Webber:[2]

When they saw the Lord Jesus, they saw the Father. When they heard the Lord Jesus, they were listening to the Father. When they touched the Lord Jesus, they were touching God. This was how Jesus lived. This was the source of all of His life and ministry, inward union with His Father.

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 16, 2024

The Manna From Heaven

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God sent Manna to Israel for a specific purpose and timetable as recorded in Exodus 16:35, “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (ESV).

Manna, basically a word that means “what is it?” is a bread-like substance that fell from heaven (Psalm 78:24), and that tasted like honey. The Israelites would go and collect a daily portion of manna each day, ensuring to get a double portion before the Sabbath (so they didn’t work for their food on the Sabbath). If they grabbed too much or too little, they suffered the consequences (Exodus 16:20).”[1]

Maybe you have this question: Why Did God Send Manna to the Israelites? One of the primary reasons is God meeting their physical need for hunger. Next, God wanted their trust and obedience in collecting them as commanded. Unfortunately, some of them collected more than enough manna on some days, and it rotted in their tents, full of maggots. Others didn’t obey the command of God in collecting double portions before the Sabbath, and they ended up hungry on the Sabbath because manna didn’t fall that day. Finally, it is God foreshadowing the coming of Jesus as the Manna from Heaven. God wanted a foretaste of what heavenly bread tastes like as a temporary relief. How about receiving a more permanent solution with an eternal impact?

Mark Woods in his article “Three Lessons For Today From The Manna In The Wilderness” shared the following reasons why God wanted them to collect what’s only needed for the day:

The Israelites at this time were a travelling people, reliant on finding grazing and supplies where they could. They were unable to store up large reserves of food. So when God gives them food that can't be stored up for a rainy day, he is encouraging them to depend on him daily. It was a way of warning them not to hold on to good things too long. Many of us face this temptation: we like things as they are, and we are resistant to change. But hold on to things instead of letting them go, and they can turn very sour.” [2]

Let’s always remember that the provision of God comes daily and supernaturally with a specific purpose for the exact benefit of His people. God’s miracles may not manifest as they did in the past, but instead sent the greatest miracle of them all, i.e., Jesus Christ. Jesus embodied and contained the miracles of God in the past, present and future in Him.

More than 1,000 years later, Jesus Christ repeated the miracle of manna in the Feeding of the 5,000. The crowd following him was in the "wilderness" and he multiplied a few loaves of bread until everyone had eaten their fill. Some scholars believe that Jesus' phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord's Prayer, is a reference to manna, meaning that we are to trust God to supply our physical needs one day at a time, as the Jews did in the desert. Christ frequently referred to himself as bread: "the true Bread from heaven" (John 6:32), "the Bread of God" (John 6:33), "the Bread of life" (John 6:35, 48), and John 6:51: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (NIV)[3]

God sent Jesus as the Eternal Bread of life, and those who believed in Him received the full blessing of eternal satisfaction that God promised. In sending Jesus, God is a constant and abundant provider of all our needs. The feeding of the five thousand became an enduring reminder in our daily Christian life that nothing on earth is too big for God. Therefore, if Jesus can do it, He can do it again for us today.

Let me end with this insight: “Jesus points out that the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness only sustained their life for a short time, but they eventually died. The bread that He’s offering will give them eternal life. And He is that bread. He goes on to tell them “this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.[4]

If Jesus can fulfill the hunger of our hearts, why wouldn’t you receive Him as the Bread of Life now?

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 9, 2024

Jesus, the Author of the New Covenant

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In the pages of the book of Exodus, Moses introduced God’s covenant with Israel through the blood of animals: “So Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Exodus 24:8 ESV)

What does the Old Covenant represent then?

The roots of the Old Covenant actually trace back to Abraham, the forefather of Israel. God initiated a covenant with Abraham in which He promised to make a special nation of his descendants. It is these descendants who later entered into a covenant with God at Mount Sinai.  Exodus 20-23 is called “the book of the covenant” (Exodus 24:4, 7).[1]

What does the Old Covenant mean for us today?

 “As hard as we try, we cannot keep the Law perfectly. The Law shows us how sinful we are, but God's plan of salvation was to send his Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. The Ten Commandments are a guide for right living, but keeping the Law cannot save us.”[2]

The apostle James reiterated this simple fact: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10 ESV).”

Here's the clincher that God, through the Old Covenant, provided His people an opportunity to experience His presence and to understand His mindset from a distance.

Paul states the law was only meant to be our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24 KJV). The law does not create a sense of frustration and failure to leave us there. What it does is make us aware that we are incapable of meeting the demands of the law so that we are driven to Christ, the only one who fulfills in us what the law demands.”[3]

When the right time came, Jesus introduced the New Covenant with His shed blood on the Cross. During his Passover meal with His disciples, “He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant by demonstrating how to live the demands of the laws of God and maintaining a higher standard of living as Christians through His grace and mercy alone. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV).

What does the New Covenant represent?

When Christ instituted the New Covenant with His shed blood (Luke 22:20), He made it possible for us to be truly cleansed from sin (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). The result was that animal sacrifices were no longer required as symbols because Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of that symbolism.[4]

What does the New Covenant mean for us today?

Contrary to the belief of many, the New Covenant does not abolish all the terms of the Old Covenant. Both covenants include provisions for a sacrifice for sin, a priesthood serving in a tabernacle, obedience to God’s laws, and promised blessings from God. However, in each case, the changes in the New Covenant amplify the terms of the Old Covenant! Under the Old Covenant, God presented the Israelites with two options and told them to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). What makes the New Covenant “new” is that it is a far better agreement than the one entered into at Mount Sinai.”[5]

Another revelation is that God, through the New Covenant instituted by Jesus, provided His people an opportunity to experience His presence intimately through Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence daily.

In the end, God’s promise declared in Genesis 3:15 covered the Old Covenant pages towards the fulfillment of the promise through Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and coming back again for those who believed and trusted Him called the New Covenant. Thus, from Adam to Jesus Christ, God’s plan was fulfilled at the right time and by His plan and purpose (Galatians 4:4) for humanity and His glory alone.

Jack Zavada shared this insight: “Both the Old and New Testaments are the story of the same God, a God of love and mercy who gave his people the freedom to choose and who gives his people the opportunity to come back to him by choosing Jesus Christ.”[6]

Let’s talk again!