Podcast #8 - God With Us

  
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Podcast #7 - That Old-Time Religion Ain't Good Enough For Me - Part 3

  
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Podcast #6 - That Old-Time Religion Ain't Good Enough For Me - Part 2

  
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#8 - God With Us

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” - Matthew 1:18-23, NKJV

In previous articles I have shown that God’s first and best plan for humanity has always been to have a personal, intimate relationship with us. In Eden we see a wonderful picture of what this looks like—God and man walking together in the cool of the evening, face to face and heart to heart. Tragically, this communion was broken by Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience, and they lost the sweet fellowship they had enjoyed in the Garden. But we have seen that, even then, God never stopped pursuing an intimate relationship with His greatest creation. Between the time of the Fall and the giving of the Law, we have numerous examples of individuals who knew God in a very real way, with no need for rituals or moral codes. And we also saw that in God’s perfect plan, He and His chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, would have that same kind of relationship—“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” - Leviticus 26:12, NKJV.

But the people couldn’t understand and didn’t want that kind of intimacy with God. They preferred to keep God at arm’s length, with an intermediary between them. So God gave them the Law, established the Levitical priesthood, and instituted the elaborate rituals and sacrifices which became the religion of Judaism. But even then He let them know that He had something better in mind: “Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people.” Acts 7:37, NLT. Indeed, down through the ages God again and again spoke of a time when He would reveal Himself in a new and marvelous way—He would be both with us and in us!

That promise was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, “God with us.” At long last humanity was presented with the opportunity to have what Adam and Eve had, and what the Israelites could have had:

  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:1-3, 14. NKJV

  • “I am the Light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the Light that leads to life.” - John 8:12, NLT

  • “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” - Matthew 11:28, NLT

  • “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” - John 10:9-10, NKJV

  • “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, Who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, Who leads into all truth…you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.” - John 14:16-17, NLT

Here is God’s ultimate gift to mankind, wrapped in the flesh of a human just like us. We could not reach up to God, so He reached down to us in the person of Jesus Christ. We could see Him, touch Him, hear Him, truly know Him! Because of Jesus, we no longer needed someone to be our “go-between,” an intermediary between us and God. Through Christ we now had direct access to the Father—no priests, no sacrifices, no curtained-off “holy of holies” where only a chosen few could enter. Jesus fulfilled all of these things so that we might finally have the intimate communion with God that He has wanted to have with us from before time began! Is it any wonder that the message of redemption through Christ Jesus is called the “Gospel—Good News”?

But, just like the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai, when given the opportunity to dispense with ritual, tradition, and dogma, and be spiritually one with our God, mankind once again rejected the offer. He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. - John 1:10-11.

In my next article, I will show how mankind has twisted the Gospel from a message of freedom to just another hollow, humanistic religion which spurns liberty in favor of slavery.

Please feel free to post a comment or question here, or I can be reached by email at admin@thegoodword.today

#7 - That Old-Time Religion Ain't Good Enough For Me - Part 3

In my previous article, we looked at God’s first and best plan for humanity’s interaction with Him, as modeled by His relationship with Adam and Eve in Eden before the Fall. From the very beginning, God’s desire has been to have personal, intimate communion with His greatest creation, the human race. There was no “religion” in Paradise; it was just God and mankind in perfect harmony—until sin entered the picture.

But as we continue to examine the Biblical record, we find that Adam’s sin did not deter God from pursuing intimacy with individuals over the proceeding centuries and millennia. Consider these examples:

  • Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him. - Genesis 5:23-24, NLT

  • But Noah found favor with the Lord…Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. - Genesis 6:8-9, NLT

  • Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed My servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” - Job 1:8, NLT

  • The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” - Genesis 12:1-3, NLT

  • “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” - Genesis 28:13-15, NLT

  • The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did…But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love…The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed. - Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23, NLT

  • “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God answered, “I will be with you.” - Exodus 3:10-12, NLT

When God had indeed delivered the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, and led them to Mt. Sinai, and appeared to them in lightning, thunder, and cloud, this is what He told Moses to tell the people:

“Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now if you will obey Me and keep My covenant, you will be My own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to Me. And you will be My kingdom of priests, My holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.” - Exodus 19-3-6, NLT

Here we see unmistakable evidence that it was God’s desire to have a unique, intimate relationship with His people, unlike all the other, pagan religions of that day. Notice that God called the entire nation of Israel His “special treasure” and His “kingdom of priests.” This tells us that the Lord wanted to have an intimate relationship with every one of the people of Israel. Can you imagine what that would have been like, how blessed and peaceful life would have been for God’s chosen people?

But it was not to be. Instead of embracing this incredible invitation from the Almighty God of the universe, this is how the people responded:

When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” - Exodus 20:18-19, NLT

We must remember that all of this was taking place after the Israelites had seen the miraculous hand of God moving on their behalf over and over and over again, from the time He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. How could they doubt His care for them, and why would they not want to have sweet communion with such a loving Father? But by rejecting His gracious offer, God’s people missed out on a opportunity that no other nation in the world could hope for. Instead of each person having a personal relationship with God, they instead ended up with a religion, a system of priests and rituals and moral codes, just like all the other nations of the world—one which inevitably became a burden rather than the blessing the Lord wanted to give them!

But before we judge the Israelites harshly, we would do well to ask ourselves how often have we done the very same thing? Have we not, perhaps unknowingly, turned up our noses at God’s offer of intimate communion and instead settled for formal, impersonal, distant religious ritual? Is there not, somewhere deep inside of us, a hunger and thirst for something more, something real, something life-changing?

I hope you’ll join me for the next stop on our journey of discovery, as we see how Jesus Christ came to break the chains of spiritual bondage, not to exchange one religion for another.

Please feel free to post a comment or question here, or I can be reached by email at admin@thegoodword.today

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