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Knowing God Intimately: Being as Close to Him as You Want to Be

(Paperback - 2005)
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Overview

A CBA Bestseller
A Crossings Book Club SelectionIf you are looking for God, or if you feel something is missing, this book is for you. It can show you the way to profound joy that comes from a truly intimate relationship with God. Using Scripture and powerful real-life examples, Joyce reveals that we, not God, determine our level of intimacy with Him.

Details

  • SKU: 9781410401496
  • UPC: 748338016958
  • SKU10: 1410401499
  • Title: Knowing God Intimately: Being as Close to Him as You Want to Be
  • Series: Christian Softcover Originals
  • Qty Remaining Online: 16
  • Publisher: Christian Large Print
  • Date Published: May 2005
  • Large Print: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 1.22
  • Dimensions: 8.43" L x 5.53" W x 0.97" H
  • Features: Price on Product, Large Print
  • Themes: Theometrics | Charismatic; Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Category: CHRISTIAN LIVING
  • Subject: Christian Life - General
NOTE: Related content on this page may not be applicable to all formats of this product.

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

Something Seems to Be Missing

I remember the emptiness I felt in 1976 when, as a young Christian, I realized that doing the right things brought temporary happiness but not deep, satisfying joy. In those early days of my friendship with God, I could only see Him from a distance, much like the children of Israel who remained at the foot of Mount Sinai might have seen Him when He talked face to face with Moses on the top of the mountain. They could hear His voice, but to them He looked like a consuming fire.

Without a doubt, I saw God as big and powerful, and I wanted to remain safely within the borders of His provision, so I lived by the law of the church. I showed up for every meeting and signed up for multiple opportunities to serve Him, but my life was still full of irritations and aggravations that robbed me of true contentment.

Many people frustrate their search for fulfillment, as I did, because they don't know where to look for that one thing that will satisfy their desire for something more. Like most people, the children of Israel thought of satisfaction as the sense of enjoyment, security, and well-being that comes from having their physical needs met; but it is more than that. I was a Christian for several years before I understood that true inner satisfaction is the most important thing in life and that it is the result of enjoying life through the abiding presence of God.

One day I read these words of the psalmist David, who summarized life's one requirement, the one he felt was more important than anything else: "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4).

David had enjoyed many opportunities to find self-worth and inner satisfaction. Empowered by the presence of God, he had killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands, and then an imposing giant although armed only with a slingshot and five small stones. God chose this anointed songwriter to become king of Israel even though he was the youngest brother of a family of men who were all more prominent than he was. His eventual fame and wealth offered all that most people might think would bring inner satisfaction.

David's pursuit of more of God, even after experiencing God's presence through many extraordinary events in his life, gave me confidence that there was much more to know about God than what I already knew. After all, even David felt the need to know God more intimately. I believe we need to continually desire intimate fellowship with God if we want to experience lasting inner joy.

I emphasize the word seek when meditating on Psalm 27:4 ("One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life") because that word appears many times in the Bible, but some people may not fully understand what it means. To seek is to desire and require, which is to crave, pursue, and go after something with all of your might.

Many people want guidance from God, but they don't crave and pursue Him or lay aside other things in order to go after a word from Him. But David narrowed down all the things that he wanted in his life to this one thing-more of God all the days of his life. David's words in Psalm 27:4 have become my favorite life Scripture. I often sign it after my name when autographing books because I believe that the only thing that truly satisfies the longing within us is to know God more intimately today than we did yesterday.

More than likely, you can reflect on a moment with God that was more satisfying than any other event in your life. But if that moment was years ago, or even yesterday, then you are missing out on the rich pleasure that comes from fellowshipping daily with the Father, through His Holy Spirit. The Lord says, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me" (Proverbs 8:17), and, "You will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

No matter what we own, where we go, or what we do, nothing can give us true gratification but the presence of God. Money, trips, vacations, houses and furniture, clothes, open doors of opportunity, marriage, children, and many other blessings are all things that can certainly excite us and give us a degree of happiness for a period of time. But happiness is based on what is happening at the moment, while joy is based on an internal assurance independent of outward circumstances.

The Greek word translated joy in the New Testament means "calm delight." It's not necessarily hilarity, although it can include that, but to be calm and delighted is wonderful. I don't think there's anything better than just to be satisfied. To wake up in the morning and think, Life is good, praise God, I'm satisfied, and then to go to bed at night still satisfied, that is truly living an abundant Spirit-filled life.

We will never be permanently, consistently satisfied if we seek things to do or own in order to quench that void inside of us instead of seeking the inner satisfaction that comes only from time spent with God. I am pressing this point because I believe there are too many unhappy born-again and so-called Spirit-filled believers who are without knowledge of what to do about their dry, unfulfilled lives. I say "so-called" because to be filled is to remain full of the Spirit of God by acknowledging Him and pursuing His ways on a daily basis.

God's Word says, "But ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit"(Ephesians 5:18). Ever means always, anytime, daily. Our stomachs never stay filled if we don't keep eating and drinking. One good book, one classroom study, or one good conversation with someone can never satisfy our thought life, and one-time encounters with God are never going to keep us contented spiritually.

We spend time and money, we make careful plans and elaborate provisions to feed ourselves each day. Sometimes we even know today where and what we're going to be eating tomorrow! Just as our physical body must be fed, our spirit man must also be fed. But somehow we seem to think we can have a great relationship with God without feeding ourselves with His Word and filling ourselves with His presence.

Jesus said, "Man does not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, paraphrase). Then in John 6:33 He said, "For the Bread of God is He Who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world." Yet we starve ourselves of life's most important requirement-this Daily Bread from God.

We were created to enjoy a living, vital relationship with God. There's something supernaturally wonderful about reading the Word of God and hearing Him speak His promises to us. His Word to us has inherent power in it; His words are spirit, and they are life (see John 6:63). If we don't seek God and spend time feeding our spirit with His truth, we will never be content. I don't think there's anything worse than being in a low-level state of spiritual dissatisfaction all the time.

YOU ARE AS CLOSE TO GOD AS YOU WANT TO BE

It's obvious that some people are closer to God than others. Some people have a reverent familiarity with God that seems foreign to other Christians. These "close friends" of God share stories of talking to Him as if they know Him personally. Their faces shine with enthusiasm as they testify, "And God told me ." while skeptical onlookers grumble to themselves, "Well, God never talks to me like that!"

Why is that? Does God have favorites? Is God a respecter of persons? No, Scripture teaches that we, not God, determine our own level of intimacy with Him. We have all been extended the open invitation to "fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God's unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]" (Hebrews 4:16). At this moment, each one of us is as close to God's throne of grace as we choose to be.

Looking first at God's dealings with the Israelites beginning in Exodus chapter 19, we see four levels of intimacy that we can choose to have with God. Moses went alone to the top of the mountain to speak with God, but God established borders at three more levels on the mountain to which others could also ascend in order to draw near to Him. The borders coincided with their corresponding level of maturity and commitment to pursue Him.

The first border was at the foot of the mountain:

And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ?Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'" (Exodus 19:9-12 NKJV)

Then the Lord invited Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel to come closer to His mountain habitat and worship at a distance, thus demonstrating a second level of relationship with God. Joshua was allowed to climb up to the third level before Moses left him to approach the Lord alone. Exodus 24:9-17 NIV explains:

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction." Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, "Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them." When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Why would God let some people only into a certain level of His presence, but allow others to come closer, and some, like Moses, to see Him face to face? In Exodus 32 we see that the level of commitment each group demonstrated to God parallels the level of intimacy each group experienced on God's mountain. We decide what depth of His presence we will enter by our level of obedience to His instruction in our lives.

To everyone at the first border, God was saying, "I'm coming to visit you, but you can only come this far into My presence." And they were comfortable remaining at the foot of the mountain where they could hear God's voice as He talked to Moses. They didn't move beyond that boundary because to them God looked like a consuming fire. Remember, this was the same group of people who later pooled their gold jewelry to make a golden calf to worship because they grew tired of waiting for Moses to come back from his visit with God. Think of it-they worshiped the earrings God had given them when they left Egypt (see Exodus 32:1-6)!

Aaron was among the priests and elders who ascended to the second level and were privileged to see the beauty of God's feet (see Exodus 24:9,10), yet he later helped the children of Israel prepare an altar for their unholy sacrifices. And his sons, Nadab and Abihu, who shared this encounter with God, eventually lost their lives for making an unauthorized sacrifice to Him (see Numbers 3:1).

Joshua, an aide to Moses, was allowed to ascend into the third level of intimacy with God where he watched Moses enter the cloud of God's presence. We see Joshua's humility and dedication to serve the Lord as we watch him faithfully assist Moses whenever he was needed. When Joshua wasn't running an errand for Moses, he could be found praying (see Exodus 33:10-11). He was one of the twelve spies sent into the promised land, and one of two who came back with a good report of faith in God's ability to give them the land (see Numbers 13). God chose Joshua to replace Moses when it came time to take the people into the land God had promised them.

RELATIONSHIP REQUIRES COMMITMENT

But only Moses went to the top of the mountain and into the intimate presence of God. It is clear from Scripture that Moses had taken great personal sacrifices and risks to obey God. He had turned down opportunities for personal promotion in order to see God's people blessed. When he found out that he was not an Egyptian but an Israelite, he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter (see Hebrews 11:24-29). What a momentous decision that was for him! Since he had grown up in the house of Pharaoh, he was rich with every earthly treasure that anybody could possibly have. The Israelites, on the other hand, were poor slaves who enjoyed none of the luxuries that he was used to.

Hebrews 11:25 says of Moses: "He preferred to share the oppression [suffer the hardships] and bear the shame of the people of God rather than to have the fleeting enjoyment of a sinful life." Now that's a powerful Scripture! Moses could have kept on having fun in the flesh, but he chose to seek something more. Not everyone would have paid that price.

Moses passed the test of ambition and selfishness. He wanted intimacy with God more than anything else. Moses spent time with God for forty days and forty nights and received the Ten Commandments. God spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (see Exodus 33:11). The manifest glory of God shone on Moses' face in such intensity that he had to wear a veil because the brightness of his countenance blinded the people (see Exodus 34:30-35).

These same four levels of intimacy are demonstrated in those who knew Jesus. We know that Jesus appointed at least seventy people to travel ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going (see Luke 10:1).

Continues.

Continues.


Chapter One

Something Seems to Be Missing

I remember the emptiness I felt in 1976 when, as a young Christian, I realized that doing the right things brought temporary happiness but not deep, satisfying joy. In those early days of my friendship with God, I could only see Him from a distance, much like the children of Israel who remained at the foot of Mount Sinai might have seen Him when He talked face to face with Moses on the top of the mountain. They could hear His voice, but to them He looked like a consuming fire.

Without a doubt, I saw God as big and powerful, and I wanted to remain safely within the borders of His provision, so I lived by the law of the church. I showed up for every meeting and signed up for multiple opportunities to serve Him, but my life was still full of irritations and aggravations that robbed me of true contentment.

Many people frustrate their search for fulfillment, as I did, because they don't know where to look for that one thing that will satisfy their desire for something more. Like most people, the children of Israel thought of satisfaction as the sense of enjoyment, security, and well-being that comes from having their physical needs met; but it is more than that. I was a Christian for several years before I understood that true inner satisfaction is the most important thing in life and that it is the result of enjoying life through the abiding presence of God.

One day I read these words of the psalmist David, who summarized life's one requirement, the one he felt was more important than anything else: "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4).

David had enjoyed many opportunities to find self-worth and inner satisfaction. Empowered by the presence of God, he had killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands, and then an imposing giant although armed only with a slingshot and five small stones. God chose this anointed songwriter to become king of Israel even though he was the youngest brother of a family of men who were all more prominent than he was. His eventual fame and wealth offered all that most people might think would bring inner satisfaction.

David's pursuit of more of God, even after experiencing God's presence through many extraordinary events in his life, gave me confidence that there was much more to know about God than what I already knew. After all, even David felt the need to know God more intimately. I believe we need to continually desire intimate fellowship with God if we want to experience lasting inner joy.

I emphasize the word seek when meditating on Psalm 27:4 ("One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life") because that word appears many times in the Bible, but some people may not fully understand what it means. To seek is to desire and require, which is to crave, pursue, and go after something with all of your might.

Many people want guidance from God, but they don't crave and pursue Him or lay aside other things in order to go after a word from Him. But David narrowed down all the things that he wanted in his life to this one thing-more of God all the days of his life. David's words in Psalm 27:4 have become my favorite life Scripture. I often sign it after my name when autographing books because I believe that the only thing that truly satisfies the longing within us is to know God more intimately today than we did yesterday.

More than likely, you can reflect on a moment with God that was more satisfying than any other event in your life. But if that moment was years ago, or even yesterday, then you are missing out on the rich pleasure that comes from fellowshipping daily with the Father, through His Holy Spirit. The Lord says, "I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me" (Proverbs 8:17), and, "You will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

No matter what we own, where we go, or what we do, nothing can give us true gratification but the presence of God. Money, trips, vacations, houses and furniture, clothes, open doors of opportunity, marriage, children, and many other blessings are all things that can certainly excite us and give us a degree of happiness for a period of time. But happiness is based on what is happening at the moment, while joy is based on an internal assurance independent of outward circumstances.

The Greek word translated joy in the New Testament means "calm delight." It's not necessarily hilarity, although it can include that, but to be calm and delighted is wonderful. I don't think there's anything better than just to be satisfied. To wake up in the morning and think, Life is good, praise God, I'm satisfied, and then to go to bed at night still satisfied, that is truly living an abundant Spirit-filled life.

We will never be permanently, consistently satisfied if we seek things to do or own in order to quench that void inside of us instead of seeking the inner satisfaction that comes only from time spent with God. I am pressing this point because I believe there are too many unhappy born-again and so-called Spirit-filled believers who are without knowledge of what to do about their dry, unfulfilled lives. I say "so-called" because to be filled is to remain full of the Spirit of God by acknowledging Him and pursuing His ways on a daily basis.

God's Word says, "But ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit"(Ephesians 5:18). Ever means always, anytime, daily. Our stomachs never stay filled if we don't keep eating and drinking. One good book, one classroom study, or one good conversation with someone can never satisfy our thought life, and one-time encounters with God are never going to keep us contented spiritually.

We spend time and money, we make careful plans and elaborate provisions to feed ourselves each day. Sometimes we even know today where and what we're going to be eating tomorrow! Just as our physical body must be fed, our spirit man must also be fed. But somehow we seem to think we can have a great relationship with God without feeding ourselves with His Word and filling ourselves with His presence.

Jesus said, "Man does not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, paraphrase). Then in John 6:33 He said, "For the Bread of God is He Who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world." Yet we starve ourselves of life's most important requirement-this Daily Bread from God.

We were created to enjoy a living, vital relationship with God. There's something supernaturally wonderful about reading the Word of God and hearing Him speak His promises to us. His Word to us has inherent power in it; His words are spirit, and they are life (see John 6:63). If we don't seek God and spend time feeding our spirit with His truth, we will never be content. I don't think there's anything worse than being in a low-level state of spiritual dissatisfaction all the time.

YOU ARE AS CLOSE TO GOD AS YOU WANT TO BE

It's obvious that some people are closer to God than others. Some people have a reverent familiarity with God that seems foreign to other Christians. These "close friends" of God share stories of talking to Him as if they know Him personally. Their faces shine with enthusiasm as they testify, "And God told me ." while skeptical onlookers grumble to themselves, "Well, God never talks to me like that!"

Why is that? Does God have favorites? Is God a respecter of persons? No, Scripture teaches that we, not God, determine our own level of intimacy with Him. We have all been extended the open invitation to "fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God's unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]" (Hebrews 4:16). At this moment, each one of us is as close to God's throne of grace as we choose to be.

Looking first at God's dealings with the Israelites beginning in Exodus chapter 19, we see four levels of intimacy that we can choose to have with God. Moses went alone to the top of the mountain to speak with God, but God established borders at three more levels on the mountain to which others could also ascend in order to draw near to Him. The borders coincided with their corresponding level of maturity and commitment to pursue Him.

The first border was at the foot of the mountain:

And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ?Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.'" (Exodus 19:9-12 NKJV)

Then the Lord invited Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel to come closer to His mountain habitat and worship at a distance, thus demonstrating a second level of relationship with God. Joshua was allowed to climb up to the third level before Moses left him to approach the Lord alone. Exodus 24:9-17 NIV explains:

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction." Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, "Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them." When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Why would God let some people only into a certain level of His presence, but allow others to come closer, and some, like Moses, to see Him face to face? In Exodus 32 we see that the level of commitment each group demonstrated to God parallels the level of intimacy each group experienced on God's mountain. We decide what depth of His presence we will enter by our level of obedience to His instruction in our lives.

To everyone at the first border, God was saying, "I'm coming to visit you, but you can only come this far into My presence." And they were comfortable remaining at the foot of the mountain where they could hear God's voice as He talked to Moses. They didn't move beyond that boundary because to them God looked like a consuming fire. Remember, this was the same group of people who later pooled their gold jewelry to make a golden calf to worship because they grew tired of waiting for Moses to come back from his visit with God. Think of it-they worshiped the earrings God had given them when they left Egypt (see Exodus 32:1-6)!

Aaron was among the priests and elders who ascended to the second level and were privileged to see the beauty of God's feet (see Exodus 24:9,10), yet he later helped the children of Israel prepare an altar for their unholy sacrifices. And his sons, Nadab and Abihu, who shared this encounter with God, eventually lost their lives for making an unauthorized sacrifice to Him (see Numbers 3:1).

Joshua, an aide to Moses, was allowed to ascend into the third level of intimacy with God where he watched Moses enter the cloud of God's presence. We see Joshua's humility and dedication to serve the Lord as we watch him faithfully assist Moses whenever he was needed. When Joshua wasn't running an errand for Moses, he could be found praying (see Exodus 33:10-11). He was one of the twelve spies sent into the promised land, and one of two who came back with a good report of faith in God's ability to give them the land (see Numbers 13). God chose Joshua to replace Moses when it came time to take the people into the land God had promised them.

RELATIONSHIP REQUIRES COMMITMENT

But only Moses went to the top of the mountain and into the intimate presence of God. It is clear from Scripture that Moses had taken great personal sacrifices and risks to obey God. He had turned down opportunities for personal promotion in order to see God's people blessed. When he found out that he was not an Egyptian but an Israelite, he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter (see Hebrews 11:24-29). What a momentous decision that was for him! Since he had grown up in the house of Pharaoh, he was rich with every earthly treasure that anybody could possibly have. The Israelites, on the other hand, were poor slaves who enjoyed none of the luxuries that he was used to.

Hebrews 11:25 says of Moses: "He preferred to share the oppression [suffer the hardships] and bear the shame of the people of God rather than to have the fleeting enjoyment of a sinful life." Now that's a powerful Scripture! Moses could have kept on having fun in the flesh, but he chose to seek something more. Not everyone would have paid that price.

Moses passed the test of ambition and selfishness. He wanted intimacy with God more than anything else. Moses spent time with God for forty days and forty nights and received the Ten Commandments. God spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (see Exodus 33:11). The manifest glory of God shone on Moses' face in such intensity that he had to wear a veil because the brightness of his countenance blinded the people (see Exodus 34:30-35).

These same four levels of intimacy are demonstrated in those who knew Jesus. We know that Jesus appointed at least seventy people to travel ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going (see Luke 10:1).

Continues.

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