A few years ago, Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page came out with a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s great! Truthfully, I didn’t even hear about it until a few weeks ago around the 1st of the year. For about a solid week, everywhere I turned on Facebook I was seeing #oneword posts about people’s word for the year. Now, a couple weeks into January, the #oneword camp on Facebook is a ghost town. Funny how after a few weeks all those posts disappeared; much like the cars in the parking lot at 24 Hour Fitness.
The basic idea is that you pick one word to focus on for the entire year to develop personal growth in a specific area. That one word keeps the vision and goal in front of you. It simplifies New Year’s resolutions to a point where someone may actually have a fighting chance to stick it out for a full twelve months.
I liked this repackaging of the New Year’s resolution and let myself get swept up in the movement. After thinking and praying about what my word should be for 2017, I’ve narrowed in on the word “connected.” Specifically, I want to remain connected to God, to my wife, to my kids, etc. (in that order).
I need to be more intentional about spending time with my kids rather than on the computer or phone when I’m at home. Instead of responding to their requests to do something together with, “I can play with you in a few minutes,” (translation: I’m buying time until they forget they asked me so I can keep doing what I’m already doing), I can respond with, “Sure, let’s play,” and take a little time to enjoy my kids while they are still kids.
I also need to be more intentional about talking to my wife. Not just listening, but actually talking. You know, that thing you do when you open your mouth and words come out. It’s second nature to women; they are built that way. Put two women in the same room and a conversation is inevitable. Put two men in a room with each other and you’ll be lucky if you get a “hey” and a head nod.
The thing is, God created us to be relational and has blessed me with my wife. Just because talking and communication isn’t always easy doesn’t mean it’s not vital to the health of any relationship. And let’s be honest guys, we feel good after having a two-way conversation where we know we are heard and understood. (FYI…women feel the same way.)
So what does it look like to be connected to God? Many books have been written on the subject of what you can do to connect with God (I may even write one someday), but for now I’d rather talk about the things that God has done to connect with us.
(Yes, the main thing God has done to connect with us and restore relationship with us was through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. But as central to the Christian faith as the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus is, that’s not what I’m talking about in this post…at least not directly. There is a difference between relationship and intimacy, and I’m addressing the latter.)
When we study Scripture, we can see a movement of God’s intimacy as He draws closer to humanity. Yahweh is a personal God. The first of three movements of God’s intimacy toward us was at the very beginning. He created us specifically for an intimate relationship with Him.
A contract and a covenant have a number of things in common. They both connect multiple people or entities. They both establish ground rules for the newly formed bond. They are both binding agreements. Yet there is one major difference. A contract is business while a covenant is personal. Vito, Michael and the rest of the Corleone family understand this distinction. I entered a contract with my cable company. I entered a covenant with my wife.
When we look at the Old Testament, we see a God that is revered and held in awe; a God that is looked upon with holy fear and wonder—and rightly so. Israel has a very specific relationship with God. Israel has entered a covenant relationship with Yahweh.
In Genesis 15, after God has selected one man from which to create a nation for the sake of His Name and glory among the nations, He enters a covenant with that man. I’d love to biblegeek with you over the specifics of the covenant God establishes with Abram, but I must refrain for the time being otherwise we’ll get way off topic. Suffice it to say that God did not merely enter a contract with Abram; He made it personal. Yahweh would be the God of Abraham.
Hundreds of years later, after Moses has led the nation God created from Abraham out of Egypt, Moses writes the book of Deuteronomy. In a nutshell, Deuteronomy is the fine print of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel. As my NIV Study Bible puts it, “Deuteronomy is a covenant renewal document.” When you look at its structure, it follows very closely to the literary style of a suzerain-vassal treaty of the day. This type of treaty, again according to my NIV Study Bible is, “a covenant regulating the relationship between a great king and one of his subject kings. The great king claimed absolute right of sovereignty, demanded total loyalty and service, and pledged protection of the subject’s realm and dynasty.”
(The book of Deuteronomy, like the covenant between God and Abraham, is begging for a post of its own so I’ll have to save that for another time as well.)
While God has made a very personal covenant with Israel, He is still separated from His people in many ways.
- Only Moses was allowed free access to God’s presence on Mount Sinai; the people were to keep their distance. (Ex 19:10-13)
- Even the priests who were to approach the LORD were to make sure they consecrated themselves prior to approaching if they wanted to live. (Ex 19:22)
- Moses’ two nephews (Aaron’s sons) approached the LORD incorrectly and were consumed by fire. (Lev 10:1-3)
- Just once each year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the priest enters the Most Holy Place – the inner room which housed the Ark of the Covenant and the very presence of God – in the Temple. (Lev 16:1-34)
In the Old Testament, God is connected to His people through a personal covenant, but there is still a clear distance between the two. God the Father is in heaven; people are on earth; and a healthy, holy, reverent fear is established.
Enter God the Son.
Here is the second of three great shifts in God’s movement of intimacy toward us. God is no longer in heaven interacting with just a select few from time to time. Now, through the person of Jesus, God is literally walking among His people. Where they were terrified to approach the mountain of God in Exodus 20:18-19, they now – often times unbeknownst to them – are physically bumping shoulders with their covenant God.
- Walking through a crowd, Jesus felt “that power had gone out from Him” and asked his disciples, “Who touched my clothes?” The disciples replied, “You see the people crowding against you and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mk 5:30-31)
- Jesus reached out and placed his hand on a leper to heal him. (Mt 8:1-4)
- Upon seeing the abomination in the Temple courts, Jesus took the time to make a whip and used it to drive out the money changers, grabbing their tables of merchandise and flipping them upside down with the physical strength coursing through his muscles. (Jn 2:16)
- After appearing to the disciples a second time after His resurrection, Jesus offers his hands and side for Thomas to touch. (Jn 20:26-27)
We see in the person of Jesus, God moving from the God above us to the God among us. But He didn’t stop there.
Enter God the Spirit.
At some point during the 40 day period after His resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-8).
God’s third movement of intimacy toward us comes in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In John 14:15-26, Jesus tells His disciples that the Father will send “another Counselor to be with (them) forever – the Spirit of truth.” In fact, Jesus has a whole discourse here in John 14-17 during the Last Supper in which He mentions the Holy Spirit a number of times.
The disciples heed Jesus’ instructions and wait in Jerusalem after His ascension. They were together on the day of Pentecost when, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as they Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2-4).
This is the same Spirit that we saw come on people from time to time in the Old Testament:
- God placed His Spirit upon Moses to lead the Israelites, as well as seventy of Israel’s elders to help them carry the burden of leading the people. (Nu 11:17)
- The Spirit of the LORD came upon many of the Judges to empower them to lead Israel. (Jdg 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6, 15:14)
- Saul, David and other kings in Israel led by the Spirit of God dwelling in them. (1 Sa 10:10, 16:13)
I would even go out on a limb and say everyone who did anything noteworthy in God’s name in the Old Testament did so by the Spirit of God, whether the text tells us so or not.
Moses stood up to Pharaoh, Elijah performed miracles, Joshua conquered the Promised Land, Solomon ruled with surpassing wisdom, Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah, Samson brought down the walls of the Philistine temple. David was led by the Spirit to cut off Goliath’s head one day and then to write poetry another. Whether something as monumental as Moses commanding the waters to become dry ground (Ex 14:15-18) or something as seemingly mundane as Bezalel building furniture for the house of God (Ex 31:3), people throughout the Old Testament would, from time to time, receive God the Spirit to accomplish His purposes.
Now, as evidenced on the day of Pentecost, God the Spirit is freely available to all believers. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:13-14, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”
The movement of God’s intimacy toward us flows like this:
Step 1: Create humanity and establish a personal, covenant relationship with them.
Step 2: Complete the physical work among humanity to accomplish the spiritual outcome of restored relationship.
Step 3: Send the Spirit to empower humanity to fulfill the Kingdom purposes.
In other words:
- God the Father was above us.
- God the Son was among us.
- God the Spirit is within us.
I’m not sure how you get any more intimate than that.
Consider the movement of intimacy we make toward a spouse:
Step 1: We notice each other and are aware of each other from a distance.
Step 2: We walk together in close proximity, getting to know one another.
Step 3: As husband and wife, we make the final movement of intimacy by physically joining bodies.
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:31-32, “’For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
The intimacy between a husband and wife (which came second) echoes the intimacy of God and the believer (which came first).
I guess the takeaway here is that God, from the very beginning, has been pursuing us. He desires close, personal, intimate, covenant relationship with every single person who has ever drawn a breath.
Maybe “pursuit” was God’s #oneword in the beginning. Maybe it was “intimacy” or possibly “covenant.” We may never know for sure what God had on His mind in the very beginning, but one thing is certain now: God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit have gone through great lengths to connect with us so I feel good about my #oneword to remain “connected” to Him.