40-Day Focus Week 4: Bridal Identity – Intimacy

March 22nd, 2010 - Tim

“…the Bride has made herself ready…” Revelation 19:7

A couple weeks ago I mentioned the two major things that I see God doing as He begins to move the Church towards that reality: 1. Revealing the beauty of Himself as the Bridegroom God to make us long for that day. 2. Revealing who we are as the Bride of Christ that we would understand where we’re going. Last week we covered the first – how God is revealing Himself as the author and finisher of the great drama of redemption and capturing our affections and our passions in a great worship and prayer movement. This week I want to begin looking at the second: God is pouring out a revelation of who are we in Christ, and specifically, who are we as the Bride of Christ.

Scripture is remarkably clear, not only about God’s desire for relationship, but about what specifically that relationship looks like. Using images that we would all be familiar with, we’re called His children, His body, His house, His friends, His temple, His garden, His servants, His army… One image in particular, though, is the Spirit’s image of choice at the end of the story. It’s not the Spirit and the friends that cry come, or the Spirit and the army… it’s the Spirit and the bride. Why is that? Perhaps because more than any other image, the image of bride and Bridegroom captures the fullness of what God wants to accomplish in His church. The image of the bride captures the two themes contained in all the other images – intimacy and partnership – and wraps them in the language of love, passion and desire – the central message behind the story of redemption.

Made to touch God

This week I want to fix our thoughts on the first of those two central elements of our identity – we were made for intimacy with God. At its simplest intimacy simply means nearness – we were made to be with God where He is (John 17:24). God did not create and then step back to observe, He created the world, set man in it, and then set Himself it – walking in the garden with Adam in the cool of the day. God’s end objective is a return to that nearness (and even more so) by the work of redemption as God again dwells with man (Revelation 21:3). The fundamental reason we were created was to be with God. More specifically, though, not to just be with Him in physical proximity, but to be aware of His nearness and joyously so, and for Him to be joyously aware of our nearness. We were made for fellowship with God – interaction with God in a way that touches our hearts and touches His.

God has been working from beginning to end to have for Himself a kingdom of priests – a people created to minister to Him in the presence of His glory. There are awesome parallels in the Old Covenant that begin to give us a picture of what New Covenant Christianity is all about. The very first thing God does after saving Israel from the hands of their oppressors is to offer them a covenant, and at the center of that covenant He asks them to build the tabernacle – the place of meeting.“And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” Exodus 29:43-46 In the New Covenant, we are the priests (1 Peter 2:9) – God is jealously reclaiming His house as a place of meeting and His people as a priesthood set apart to minister to Him. God Himself desires to dwell among us and the revelation is coming that it was for that very reason that He delivered us.

I sometimes try to imagine what it would have been like to “go to church” in the days of Moses. I suspect it would have been slightly easier to remember why you’re there – it would be awfully difficult to have gone to the tabernacle and had your attention mostly on the priest, or the Levites playing their instruments, or the crowd of fellow worshipers… the giant glory cloud coming out from the Holy of Holies would likely have prevented that. The truth is our modern form of corporate gatherings allows very little time for what the central purpose of the tabernacle was – meeting with God. It’s something we need to be aware of, and consciously working to shift – to get in the mode of coming together to meet with God – very much aware of the presence of the Guest of Honor. Jesus is zealous about our remembering that His house is meant to be a place of meeting for God and man, and not treated otherwise – “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Matthew 21:12-13

Made to host God

Besides being the priesthood, the glory of the New Covenant is that we are also the temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). We were made to host the presence of God. I believe there’s coming a shift to presence-based ministry – where our focus is first inviting the presence of God and creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to Him and then doing the works of ministry. In Jeremiah 2, the prophet describes a terrifying reality – the glory of the Lord has departed the temple and the people aren’t even asking “where is the Lord?” Instead, they go on about doing the stuff… without God. God is stirring up an urgent insistence in the hearts of His people that we must first acquire the presence of God, and then move. A cry is arising like that of Moses (Exodus 33:15-16) that God’s presence is all that we have that distinguishes us from the world and we refuse to be without it.

With that cry comes a great shift in the way that we operate – with an intentional focus on welcoming God’s presence and creating an atmosphere suitable for God. From the beginning, it has been our chief assignment. Adam was assigned to tend the garden (Genesis 2:15) – the place where God met with man. The Israelites received regulation after regulation on how to maintain the tabernacle – why? Because it is no common thing for the presence of God to be among us and we are to honor His presence by intentionally laboring towards hosting Him. There is a new wave of holiness coming – not out of regulation, but out of reverence over the awesome invitation to host God’s presence. God is calling His people to step into the role of priesthood – ministering to Him and maintaining the fires of sacrifice that invite His presence.

The fruit of intimacy

Biblically and practically, intimacy promises us three great benefits: fruitfulness, joy and unity. Intimacy with God is the cure for powerless Christianity, it’s the cure for boredom and anxiety, and it’s the cure for division and compromise.

Our power comes only from connecting with God. It is His power in us that releases power to heal and conviction in preaching. ““Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”” John 15:4-5 As we prioritize intimacy in our lives and ministries, we will see more and more of the activity of God.

Our joy comes from our hearts connecting with God’s in the way they were made to. Nothing can ever satisfy the human heart apart from connecting with the heart of God. God is just plain too jealous to let it. He created us for Himself and He will fully satisfy every desire of our heart, but nothing else ever will. As we enter more and more into who we are as a kingdom of priests, there is a great wave of joy coming – “in Your presence there is fullness of joy and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Our unity with God, and then with each other comes from our being joined to Him (John 17:20-23). If we look more like the world or our particular group’s ideals than like God, it is the inevitable result of being in closer contact with others than with God. There are only two ways out of that – get farther from the world (move to the desert) or get closer to God. As we awaken to the glory of who we are as the temple of the living God, not only near Him but in Him and Him in us, our closest fellowship will become with Him, and He will become our greatest influence.

Highest praises

Part of the vision God has given me for my life is awakening the song of Revelation 5. I believe we’re beginning to hear whispers of it, but I can see in my heart the day that it fully lays hold of us and becomes a glorious roar of praise. God is awakening an awareness of the glory of who we are in Christ Jesus – more than delivered, more than forgiven, more than saved – redeemed unto God as a holy priesthood. Before this thing is done, that’s the reality that is going to fill our hearts with highest praises for the Lamb of God.

“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”” Revelation 5:8-10

Scriptures for meditation: Psalm 65:1-4, Psalm 132, John 15:1-17, Revelation 5:8-10, Revelation 21:1-4

3 Responses to “40-Day Focus Week 4: Bridal Identity – Intimacy”

  1. […] « 40-Day Focus Week 4: Bridal Identity – Intimacy […]

Leave a Reply