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What the Bible says about Intimate Relationship with God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 25:14

Secret is also translated "counsel," but it is closer in meaning to "confide," indicating two people pressing or leaning together in quiet conversation, a posture that friends take when they share a confidence between them. It initially suggests intimate friendship, then that God opens His mind to those who fear Him so that He can more carefully instruct them in His way and will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part One): Fear

Song of Solomon 7:10-13

This young woman is full of the love for her husband, and her marriage is so satisfying that she feels complete freedom to initiate love. Her sexual desire has a free and lawful outlet to it. She is burning with desire to be with him, and that is the point. Solomon is writing here of the love of the church for Jesus Christ, and there is passion in those who are doing . . . what? She seeks to have experiences with Him! Nobody else matters. She desires Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God

Jeremiah 31:31-34

As early as the seventh century BC, during the lifetime of the prophet Jeremiah, God assured humanity that He had prepared a new covenant, which was ready to be presented and ratified between God and men. The specific time of its institution was not revealed then, only that He would make it with a reunited Israel and Judah. However, the Bible shows that God did not wait for physical Israel and Judah's reunification into one nation, but instead, He introduced the New Covenant into the Christian church as a precursor agreement through and under Jesus Christ as the church began. This was part of God's Plan, and He is continuing to use its standards to prepare a people within the present-day church to fulfill its operations under Jesus Christ when Israel and Judah reunite after His return (Revelation 14:1-5).

The New Testament teaches that the Temple sacrifices and ceremonies commanded under the Old Covenant are indeed set aside. But God's setting aside of the ceremonial focus, as explored and expounded in the epistle to the Hebrews, does not automatically do away with any other laws dealing with public and private behavior relating to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.

God's institution of the New Covenant within the church has been a more intimate and effective guide for producing higher-quality relationships with Him and His Family than the Old Covenant. When combined with His appointment of Jesus Christ as our spiritual High Priest, this system features a personal, anytime, all-the-time relationship with Him that enhances the creation of the spiritual characteristics that God desires in His children. These elements allow us access to God that those under the Old Covenant did not have. We can approach Him anytime through Christ!

Much of the book of Hebrews is, according to chapter 8, focused on Jesus Christ's qualifications for fulfilling His responsibilities within the spiritual process that God has instituted under the New Covenant. Jesus Himself teaches us about our vital need of Him in John 15:4-6.

The close intimacy of the relationship with Jesus Christ that the New Covenant provides for us makes it extremely valuable to us. In turn, our spiritual relationship with the Father and Son influences our life's activities. His role is to assist us in making good spiritual use of the gifts God has made available to us when we accepted the New Covenant (Romans 5:1-5). Our goal now is to bring glory to God by yielding to His creative genius and power as we live our lives, being formed into Christ's character image. Jesus Christ never sinned. It is this quality of righteous living that honors the Father. Thus, we are called to walk in the steps of our Savior. Peter writes in I Peter 2:21-22, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.'”

The New Covenant does not abolish the Ten Commandments at all. Jesus' life proves that. We are to follow what He did. God's appointment of Jesus Christ as High Priest to aid us and His institution of a more effective system for preparing us for His Kingdom removed the typical Temple system of animal sacrifices and ceremonies. He replaced them with the far superior personal, individual, and spiritual attentions of Jesus Christ. At the same time, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus raises our behavioral responsibilities, teaching us to keep the commandments in their spirit. This elevated standard makes them more refining and restraining than they are in the mere letter.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Two)

Daniel 11:32

Now this word "to know"—yada in Hebrew, ginöskö in Greek—indicates a combination of close, warm, and even passionate intimacy, combined with head knowledge that produces an edge in a person's life that enables him to trust God and at the same time perceive what He is doing. It is this factor that makes God's Word have authority with us. We know Him. It is not just a casual acquaintance, and it forms the very foundation of a true working relationship.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we really believe that God is holy, and because of that, His anger burns against sin; that because He is righteous, His judgments fall on those who rebel; that because He is faithful, His promises of either blessings or curses are absolute; that because He is omnipotent, nobody can resist Him; and because He is omniscient, there is no problem of which He is unaware or cannot master? Because God is what He is, we are seeing the prophecies He inspired regarding the end of the age being fulfilled in the world and in the church, and that translates into tumultuous, difficult, and sometimes scary and even confusing times for us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part One)

Romans 5:8-10

Two points are noteworthy about Paul's comments. In verse 10, Paul states, "We shall be saved by His life." As wonderful a gift as God's merciful forgiveness is, merely being forgiven through Christ's blood is not sufficient for salvation. Justification must be seen for what it truly is: It is essential, but it is only the beginning of the salvation process. Throughout the process, we are saved by the continuous flow of grace upon grace from our High Priest.

The other important point is that perhaps nothing regarding God's spiritual creation demonstrates God's gracious and generous freeness—His total lack of obligation toward us—as does His justifying of sinners rather than morally meritorious saints.

The Christian doctrine of God justifying by faith rather than by works truly set the religious Jews of the apostle's day on an angry edge. To them, it made no logical sense. They perceived it as simply another invitation to sin because it seems so easy, or perhaps they also saw it as God ignoring their sincere efforts to please Him.

This charge is true—if one perceives justification carnally, isolating it so that it appears to occur completely apart from God's entire purpose for salvation rather than seeing it for what it truly is. Justification by grace through faith is a necessary part of the whole of being created in Christ's image.

Why is it necessary that our justification be by grace through faith? It must be this way because, if we earn justification through our works, it opens the door for human pride, not just to enter our relationship with God, but perhaps even to drive the relationship. If one is justified by works, a person could then honestly claim that God chose him, and his works, because he was good.

This is not good because pride is such a strong influence against God. Remember, Satan's pride rising in him initiated this entire earthly mess. Consider carefully what his pride did to his relationship with God. Justification given because of works alters the positions within the relationship, making God obligated to us as if we had earned a relationship with Him. Pride attempts to put a person on an equal footing with God or even in charge of the relationship, and this ultimately results in us creating ourselves.

It is dangerous to unleash pride in thinking more of ourselves than what is truly good for our character development. We are not the creator but the creation, subject to the designs and purposes of the Master Creator. For our good, then, justification must be received as a freely given, unearned gift.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)

1 Corinthians 6:17

Reading I Corinthians 6:17, a person can easily become misled or confused by an inference in contrast to a direct, concrete statement regarding spirit. From this verse, one could conclude that, if he is joined to the Lord, then he is a spirit just as the Lord is. "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." The hat-pin test disproves this very quickly. We are not a spirit, not the way the Lord is a spirit.

When we read it in its wider context, Paul reveals that he is not writing on the theme of spirit composition at all. His theme is "closeness of connection," which he illustrates by a man being "joined to a harlot." Unity emerges as the theme as he brings Christ into the picture, and in this case, a Christian's unity with Him is the highest, purest form of unity that a human being can be involved in.

Paul is suggesting, then, that a sheep may wander from the shepherd, a branch may be cut from a tree, a limb severed from the body, a child alienated from his parents, and even a wife from her husband; but when two spirits blend into one, nothing can separate them. So close is their unity that what affects one affects the other. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

So, Paul concludes, do not involve Christ in sin. We should do everything in our power to affect that intimate spiritual relationship, that unity, for good. Our unity with Jesus Christ is spiritual and so close that, as God looks at it, it is closer than being joined in intercourse with a harlot! The reason for this is that, even in such a situation as that, the man and woman are, in reality, still two beings.

However, if we are in Christ, we are actually in His body, which is why Paul employs the word "spirit." We cannot see His body. It is invisible, but it is real! We are in Him! Are we truly aware of that? We need to be growing in the understanding of it. We are cells in His body, as it were, and as Paul explains in I Corinthians 12:26, when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. When one part of the body is strengthened, the whole body is strengthened.

We must begin to understand that, when God uses the word "spirit" in this way, it suggests a unity that is extremely close. It is a matter of the joining of minds!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part One)

Philippians 4:12-13

Be aware, be warned, and be exhorted that, if we have any desire to overcome faults, if we sincerely desire to be in God's Kingdom, if we desire to be like God and glorify Him, we need to protect our relationship with Him. He is the Source of the power to do all things, even to grow while also enduring these intense times. Paul is saying that he knows how to discipline himself and thus keep on track in every circumstance of life. By this time in Paul's life, he had the skills required for making the best of every situation.

He is not suggesting that he did this alone through mere human discipline and skill that anybody can achieve, but that he was enabled because of his faithful relationship with Christ. The real dynamic is that Christ has the power, and it was He who faithfully enabled Paul. The apostle's skills, which enabled him to accomplish things that pleased God, were spiritual.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)

James 1:27

The apostle presents Christian living as a two-pronged endeavor that we can perhaps simplify or summarize even more. The first is doing good works: visiting orphans and widows in their trouble. The second prong is to become holy or build righteous character in ourselves in cooperation with God.

We could also divide it into the practical and the spiritual sides of life. Obviously, when a person does good works, it is a practical application of what he has learned and put on as spiritual character.

Another way to look at it is to say that James divides it into the outward and the inward. Part of Christian living goes on inside an individual, and something—a work, an action—comes out of him as a result.

However we want to name this two-pronged approach, we must realize that neither of these prongs is sufficient alone, which is why James presents them together. It is "pure and undefiled religion" to have an inward and an outward aspect or a practical and a spiritual aspect.

The apostle John agrees with James in I John 3:16-19. Pure religion requires both of these elements:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

He says that, if we do not manifest God's love by giving, helping, and caring for others, then we have not fulfilled anything. We cannot be sure that the love of God is actually in us if it is not coming out in some sort of physical work that we do, some act of love.

In this church's teaching, we tend to stress only one of these prongs. It is not that we do not talk about the other, but we tend to stress the inward, the spiritual, the holy, the righteous character part—the second prong that James shows in James 1:27. There is good, sound, solid, biblical reason for this. Basically, it is that the spiritual aspect is the more important of the two.

The inward, the spiritual, the holy, the righteous-character part of Christian living is the foundation—the wellspring, the fertile soil—out of which good works grow. One could go so far as to say that effective and truly good works cannot be done without godly character or a right relationship with God.

This means that we must have godly character before we can even begin to do good works properly! Without godliness, good works are simply common and rather empty, humanistic philanthropy.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

1 John 1:7

As we grow, God reveals more of His perfection to us, and as He reveals His perfection, His light, His truth, we continue to repent. Knowing better what He is, we go to Him for forgiveness of what we are and what we have done, and He continues to cleanse us by the blood of Jesus Christ, washing our imperfections away.

Everything in the Christian life ultimately comes down to our relationship with God. Without the relationship, without the fellowship that is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—which bridges the gap between us and God and enables us to have the relationship—no growth will take place. The practice of walking in the light makes perfect. It is not a matter of changing and cleansing ourselves, but rather that fellowship with God has a transforming and perfecting quality.

We know that "evil communication [company, NKJV] corrupts good manners" (I Corinthians 15:33, KJV). The obverse of this is that wonderful, pure, good communication produces good manners. When we are around evil people, we will pick up their habits and their ways. When we choose as our companions people who have the standards of God and fellowship with them, they will likely rub off on us. We cannot fellowship with anyone better than God. That is the whole purpose of the relationship. When we are around Him, we become like Him, unless we consciously decide to cut ourselves off from Him by rejecting His truth.

It is a wonderful system. Everything hinges on the relationship, on the fellowship, and then ultimately on the response to truth. We cannot afford to allow the carnal nature in us (it is still there even after conversion, as Paul said that sin was still in him; Romans 7:14-25) to gain the upper hand and prevent us from working and building on this relationship.

Leviticus 19:2 tells us that we are to be holy because He is holy, and that is what this fellowship is doing, equipping us for holiness on a day-to-day basis. Maintaining that fellowship is not always easy because of the prejudices that we bring with us due to the traditions of our human cultures. We were once helpless before them, having absorbed what our parents taught us until God opened our minds to the truth. Even now, it takes conscious effort for us to respond to the truth, but if we want to be holy, we must maintain the relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)


 




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