Going Deeper Still
There is a veil that separated the believer from a more intimate relationship with God. That veil must be ripped in two and thrown into the fire.
Going Deeper Still
I have been a Christian now for many years. I woke up this week with a troubling dream that reminded me of sins willfully committed. During my time to meet with God, I rehashed a litany of sins in which I knew what was required but did not do it, instead I indulged my egoism. Then the Holy Spirit prompted me to remember that each and every one of those transgressions had been forgiven because of the atonement made by Jesus upon the Cross. I am forgiven and empowered to change, not to repeat acts of rebellion. Like the prodigal, God the Father welcomed me back home. I recalled an old song from when contemporary Christian music was young, the lyric that stuck in my mind that morning was: “There's no sin you could imagine that is stronger than my love, And it's all yours if you'll come home again to Me” (D. Francisco I Don’t Care Where You’ve Been Sleeping). Amazing grace. I am no saint, only a sinner saved by grace. It is God who is faithful not I. This is a troubling realization that there is a divide between belief and practice, between theology and behavior, between right doctrine and right living. Could it be that it is a lack of going deeper, a lack of effort in creating a more intimate relationship, a lack of personal experience with God that is a stumbling block to living life to the full?
The teaching today presupposes that you have already made that initial step into the Kingdom of God. This teaching assumes you have acknowledged your sins, repenting of them, believed the gospel for forgiveness and new life, committed yourself to discipleship and asked God to accept your faith. We are dealing with the challenges in the Christian life.
Today we need to talk about removing the veil that separates believers from growing deeper in their relationship with God. To live as a disciple we must get past only knowing God in theory and enter into knowing God by experience. There is a veil that must be removed out of our lives if we are to grow deeper still.
1 John 1:1-3 (MSG)
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.
We saw, we heard, we touched, we communed—that’s a personal experience, that’s knowing, that’s what motivated 11 Apostles to die for what they believed.
Jesus removed the veil that separated you and me from entering into the presence of God, from experiencing God for ourselves, making Him our reality. Here’s the background.
In the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the movable temple in which Israel worshiped, and then in the First Temple built by Solomon, and the Second Temple built by Herod, there were three divisions: the outer court, the inner court and the holy of holies.
The worshiper first entered the outer court where a blood sacrifice was made on what was called the brazen altar. After the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, the worshiper would wash their hands in the laver, a large basin of water that stood near the sacrificial altar.
Then the worshiper would pass through a door, into the inner court where only candles upon golden candlesticks lit the interior. Later Christians would come to understand that this light represented Jesus as the light of the World. Also in the room was 12 loaves of bread, called shew-bread (pronounced shoo-bread), that the priests would eat on the Sabbath. Christians would also reinterpret this as a symbol that Jesus was the bread of life. Completing the inner court was the altar of incense which burned 24 hours a day, a symbol of unceasing prayer.
Beyond the inner court was the Holy of Holies. During the time of the wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was to be found. It is upon the mercy seat of the Ark that we are told was a manifestation of the God Himself. But the worshiper could not enter into the presence of God. Another veil separated the worshiper from the presence of God. Only the high priest could enter there, and that but once a year, on Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, with sacrificial blood which was offered for his sins and the sins of the people.
A veil separated the worshiper from the presence of God. A veil alienated the worshiper from seeing, feeling, and being in the presence of God, a veil that prevented intimacy that prevented experiential knowledge of God. Jesus tore it open.
Matthew 27:50-51 (MSG)
Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. At that moment, the Temple curtain, the veil, was ripped in two, top to bottom.
Now the way is open for every worshiper to move past the elementary teaching of the faith and enter into the very presence of God. Jesus atonement opened the way for you, and now you must rip a veil in your own life, for there is a veil that keeps you and me from experiencing God.
It is the veil of self-sins that must be torn in two, ripped from our hearts and cast into the fire. Self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, inordinate self-love are all the manifestations of egoism. These self-sins are ingrained in us, pollution from the old way of life, brought with us into our new lives in Christ. Cultural success is not Kingdom success, the greatest in the Kingdom is the least and servant of all. Cultural values are not Kingdom values. Love is the highest value in the Kingdom, not power, riches or fame, or a comfortable lifestyle. The self-sins tempt you to buy into the Cultural, to live by egoism, and when you do you can’t see your way into the presence of God.
This veil cannot be removed by instruction. No matter how helpful an understanding of the problem may be, it cannot be taught out. It must be destroyed by a spiritual experience (2 Corinthians 3:14). There must be a work of God in order to set you free. [In the Church of the Nazarene we have named this experience as a second work of grace called Entire Sanctification]
The ripping of this veil of egoism begins with your hunger and thirst of God. What do you want? (Joshua 24:14-15). Answer that question. If it is not in align with first and foremost knowing God, the veil persists.
Matthew 6:32-33 (MSG)
People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
The “these things” are the things the culture tells us we need, the propaganda that a life well lived results in the lifestyle of the rich and famous. The “these things” are the temptations of egoism that try to convince us contentment is found in the next thing you acquire, the next thrill, the next vacation, and the next buck made. The scripture tells us these things are not what you need to hunger and thirst after. What you need will be yours as a steep your life in God.
Psalms 42:1-2 (NIV)
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Working outside in the summer, with that sun beating down, can certainly dry you out. So you start thinking about getting something to drink, soon hydration is all you are thinking about, suddenly you must have something to drink, nothing else matters as quenching your thirst. That’s the kind of desire for God that you need to rip the veil. (Psalms 42:3)
When you first fall in love, you want to be with your beloved. You spend more than the time you can with them, getting to know them better, separation can be agonizing as you count the minutes until you can be reunited. That’s the kind of desire for God that you need to rip the veil.
Cravings, ever have one? We joke about that pregnant wife who craves pickles and sends husband out in the middle of the night to get them. She has an acute desire that will not be satisfied until she is munching on that kosher dill. That’s the kind of desire for God that you need to rip the veil.
That type of desire, that type of obsession, that type of craving for God doesn’t come naturally. It is a grace gift from God that you must ask for. As the Psalmist urges you must ask God for a taste—
Psalms 34:8 (KJV) & (MSG) “ O taste and see that the Lord is good…” “Open your mouth and taste open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.
Do you truly want to love God with “all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind?” (Luke 10:27) Then ask. Ask God to give you such a desire. Hasn’t He done so already? Do you know that good is God? That God is for you, ever faithful, always wanting the best for you? Then ask God to go deeper, to help you into a more intimate relationship with Him.
When you can truthfully sing the words to the old hymn of the Church, “Take this whole world but give me Jesus” then ask God to rip your veil and allow God to do it. As the Holy Spirit reveals your self-sins you have to bring them to God for judgment. You must hate them because they keep you from what you desire most, what you are obsessed with, what you crave —God-reality. This must be the passion in your heart because the veil is not made of 1800 count Egyptian cotton, it’s made of self, made of flesh, a living membrane, and to rip through it is painful. So it’s scary. That’s why God must give you the desire and you must give God permission.
What do you want? Do you want to go deeper still in your relationship with God? Do you want to close the gap between belief and practice, between knowledge and doing? I want to, I don’t want to be chief of sinners any longer. I want clean hands and a pure heart that I can touch and see and feel all that a person can on this side of the resurrection.
I trust God will not withhold his good and perfect gifts from you. God will see the sincerity of your heart and He Himself will become your one thing. I trust that when God is your one thing, with nothing else more important, all the other people, all the other things, will take their appropriate places in life and you will lack for nothing. I trust you will enter into the actual spiritual experience of knowing God through experience and your trust and confidence in God will go deeper still.
Here’s what I suggest you do: Before God renounce the skepticism that keeps you from going all-in with God. Take the doubts and fears and confess them. Ask God to rip the veil of things known and unknown that keep you from experiencing Him. Then keep in step with the Holy Spirit, practicing all the things you have learned about growing deeper with God. In doing so, the veil comes down; you come to know God in new and fresh ways. Your trust and confidence in God’s love you increase dramatically. With this comes a host of blessings that I don’t want you to miss out on.
Matthew 5:6 (NIV)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.