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Five Levels of Intimacy with God

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Throughout the Bible there are many stories of people who were gifted by God with special authority, power, or responsibilities. Those who were truly close to God were given the greatest responsibility. Look at a few of these examples:

 

  • Abraham was taken in his old age and given a family, and land, and promises that would lead to a nation and the Savior of the world. The Bible refers to Abraham as “the friend of God.”
  • Moses freed his people. The Bible says God spoke with Him “face-to-face” as a man does his friend.
  • David was chosen to lead his nation, and God promised his family the throne of Israel forever. The Bible says David was a “man after God’s own heart.”

 

Regrettably, only a precious few people in the Bible are spoken of as having such an intimate, personal closeness with God. However, God makes it clear that He has called many to such closeness. He even told King Saul, whom He later rejected, that He would have given him a Kingdom forever if he had only obeyed Him with his whole heart. Alas, Saul rejected God, and thus God rejected Saul in favor of David.

 

How close is your relationship to the One Living God? Did you know that it is possible to draw as close to Jesus as any of His closest disciples? They only thing stopping us is, us.

 

The Multitudes & The Seventy

 

The Bible provides an interesting illustration for those who say they respect, or even follow Jesus’ teachings, but don’t really know Him personally.

 

Multitudes followed Christ—but they did not know Him.

 

"He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan" (Matthew 4:23-25).

 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves" (John 6:26).

 

Like the instance recorded above, many people followed Jesus to hear Him speak, or to have Him perform some miracle for them. But they did not know Him personally, or follow Him because of who He really was.

 

Are you primarily interested in Jesus’ teaching as a philosophy or guide for life? Do you think there might be more to Jesus than just His words?

 

Out of the multitudes, God picks some to know Him.

 

"He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him" (Mark 2:13-14).

 

There are some in the great throng of people who respect Jesus, who like His words, who want something more than a guide or philosophy for life. Levi was such a man. Notice that Levi did not ask to follow Jesus, rather, Jesus saw in Levi a man who wanted to follow Him, and Jesus called Him to Himself.

 

How has God called you to Himself? What persuades you that you need to know Jesus and follow Him?

 

The Seventy followed Jesus, some knew Him and were true disciples, some did not know Him and were not true disciples.

 

"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go" (Luke 10:1).

 

"This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him"

(John 6:58-66).

 

When the words of Jesus are nice and agreeable to us, or not too difficult to understand or justify, it is easy to say we believe in Him and follow Him. The real test of what we believe comes when the harder, even offensive sayings of Jesus ring in our ears—as it was with those who followed Jesus, but then withdrew from Him.

 

What difficulties do you have with some of Jesus’ teachings? Are their passages in the Bible you don’t believe, or don’t want to obey? What will you do if God calls you to follow Him by living out such passages?

 

The Twelve & The Three

 

Of the many thousands that followed Jesus and listened to His words, there were only a precious few who really knew Him, and not only followed Him—but walked withHim. What set them apart from the others?

 

The Twelve are those whom Jesus chose that He wanted to be with Him. 

 

"He went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach" (Mark 3:13-14).

 

"Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 13:10-12).

 

The first thing that marks someone who is close to Jesus is that Jesus wants him or her close to Himself. He has chosen us. Second, to those who come close to Jesus, He reveals truth that others cannot know.

 

Would you classify yourself as one that God has called to be close to Himself? If not, it may be that you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Savior. Would you like to know Jesus personally?

 

The Twelve had a level of personal relationship with Jesus that the Seventy did not have.

 

The 12 spent private time with Jesus at the Last Supper. He revealed secrets of His life to them. He entrusted them with His own mission and teachings.

 

How has God trusted you with His word? How can your relationship with God grow deeper?

 

The Three were Jesus’ closest disciples and friends. They had a level of intimacy with Jesus that the others did not have. They knew Him best and were used by Him the most.

 

"And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately…" (Mark 13:3).

 

"He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch." And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard" (Mark 14:33-44).

 

"He allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James" (Mark 5:37).

 

Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ “inner circle.” We might even call them His “best friends.” James eventually lead the Apostles. Peter’s passion won thousands to Christ. John served Jesus the longest, finally dying in his 90s.

 

How much do you want to be used by God? What steps can you take that will open you up to greater service and use by God?

 

The Three were more like Jesus than the others.

 

James exercised the leadership of Jesus. Peter exercised the passion for the lost. John exercised Jesus’ heart of mercy. What qualities of Jesus belong to you? What qualities do you desire?

 

The One

 

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).

 

The One (John) was closer to Christ than anyone else, and expressed Jesus heart more than anyone else.

 

"One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus" (John 13:23).

 

John is the only disciple of whom the Bible says he is the one “whom Jesus loved.” He had a special, close, tenderness in his relationship to Jesus. Does this mean Jesus did not love the others as much, or that John simply responded to Jesus in a greater degree? Why or why not?

 

The One (John) was trusted with the things closest to Jesus’ heart. 

 

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" (John 19:26).

 

John was entrusted with the care of Jesus’ mother. He, and no other disciple, was given this task. What do you think this says about Jesus’ trust for John, and for John’s devotion to Jesus?

 

Application:

 

The closer we come to Christ, the more like Him we become, and the more our heart will care about the things He cares about.

 

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

 

This does not mean that God will give us whatever we ask for in this life. Rather, it means that when we delight ourselves in Jesus we will want more of him in our relationship to God. God will answer such a prayer with a yes.

 

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

 

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29).

 

The closer to Christ, the greater the authority.

 

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" (John 19:26).

 

In ancient Mid-East culture, the eldest son was regarded as the head of the family after the father died. Jesus had many brothers and sisters—but he entrusted John with the care of His mother.

 

Those closest to Christ are used the most.

 

John was used by Jesus the longest having lived longer than any other Apostle. Paul was used in more places and has influenced more cultures than any single Apostle.

 

Our level of use to God depends upon our closeness to Him, and how well we allow the Word of God and passion of Jesus to transform and guide our daily lives.