Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Close to God

Yesterday I was listening to a tape of an old pastor of mine, named Mark, from 1997. He was talking about an ad he'd seen in a magazine, advertising Hosanna music. He explained that he and his wife are huge Hosanna music fans. They love that kind of praise and worship music. Well, the ad had a picture of a mountain, next to a picture of a Hosanna tape. The caption read something like, "Which will get you closer to God?"

So which will get you closer to God? Praise and Worship music, or climbing a mountain?

"Now wait a minute," Mark said. And I can remember his sarcastic grin like it was only yesterday. "I thought that Jesus came 2,000 years ago to bring us close to God!" He went on with something like, "And you're saying that now we can just bypass all that and listen to a Hosanna tape and be there in just a matter of seconds?!?!" You have to know Mark and his humor to get the full gist of his critical wit.

Anyway, this tiny break from the overall theme of the sermon had a huge impact on my soul yesterday. You know the feeling in life when nothing's really getting you down, and you feel like overall things are fine and you don't necessarily feel the need to release any heavy burdens - but then you hear or experience something and a heavy load that you didn't even consciously realize was there is suddenly lifted off of you? That is what I experienced while listening to Mark's humorous criticism of the ad he saw. The truth of what he was criticizing hit me in an instant.

And it's something I already knew... but yet the way I was trying to live wasn't representative of what I knew. I think subconsciously, even though I know that the person of JESUS is who already brought me close to God, and that NO experience on this earth, whether P&W music or prayer or good works - or anything at all - can bring me close or maintain that closeness with God, I was still trying to get close to God by the things I was doing, or by waiting for Him to do something "great" (tangibly or visibly) in my life.

Not that we don't want those feelings of closeness with God. Not that we don't want to experience it with our senses. Not that worshiping Him with music can't bring about great feelings and great praise for Him. But in the day-to-day, in the moment-by-moment living of life, we have been brought near to God and we remain near to God, solely by the blood of Jesus.

I poured out a great deal of emotion yesterday. :) Funny how something little like that, not even spoken with the intention of causing an emotional reaction, can cause such an emotional reaction! But I was balling - almost finding it hard to breathe! See, in the absence of "feeling" close to God we can often lose our perspective of the truth, that we are truly near to God all the time. We may consciously or subconsciously begin to try to create superficial atmospheres or experiences which we think will "bring us closer" to God, and when those things fail (to produce emotions, or feelings of closeness) it's very easy to think (again, either consciously or subconsciously) that something is wrong in our relationship with God. Our weaknesses and other failures in life just add to it. And for me, even though I know the truth, that Jesus alone is what has made me right with God and keeps me right with God - I still go off into that land where I have feelings of uncertainty about where I stand with God.

But this little bit of truth, presented as a sarcastic criticism of a magazine ad, caused MOUNTAINS of weight to be lifted off of me! Jesus alone has brought us near to God.

Here are just a few more examples of what Jesus accomplished for us by His blood – things that we could never do for ourselves. We have been purchased with His blood (Act 20:28). We have peace with God through His blood (Col 1:20). We have been sanctified with His blood (Heb 13:12). We have been justified by His blood (Rom 5:9). We have been redeemed by His blood (Col 1:14). By His blood, we have the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). We have been cleansed and purified, and our sins are taken away by His blood (Heb 9:22-28). And “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19).

All these things are God's gift to us - not our gifts to Him! We have no offering that comes anywhere close to the blood of Jesus.


  1. Good thoughts Joel... reminds me of something my pastor shares with us frequently... we really can't get any 'closer' to God because He, in fact, is IN us!! Christ in us, our hope of glory... what an awesome truth. We may not always FEEL close to Him, but that does not negate the truth.

  2. Brennan Manning quotes Swiss theologian Hans Ur von Balthasar...and says...and I think it applies here..."We need only to know who and what we really are to break into spontaneous praise and thanksgiving." Manning then says..Scared and screwed-up though we are, an appreciation of our greatness as Abba's beloved child, vibrantly alive in Christ Jesus, overcomes the sleazy sense of our seedy self and elicits the grateful exclamation, "I thank you, Lord, for the wonder of myself" (Ps. 139:14)

    Really again and again it comes down to our identity in Christ and really appropriating what that means and how that plays out in our thoughts, our actions, our worship....never totally appropriated .. but always that greater abiding in Him that brings our reality to an increasingly more meaningful understanding of just who we are in Him.
    It is good to ponder these things though and one of my favourite verses is James 4:8 and my take on that is that I am close if I am in Christ and He is in me...so God is always close...now I need to let Him live that out in me! :)

    Thanks for the food for thought.
    Always, because of Him.