Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Phony Veil Between You And Christ (Transcript)


At the time of this message, I have been a Christian almost 32 years.

I say that only to lend some credibility to what I'm going to say as an opening to this message.


There Is A Veil

Here it an observation of mine:

Most Christians have a veil between them and Christ that keeps them from having a warm and intimate fellowship with Him.

They may love Him, they may pray to Him, they may love the Word of God, they may serve Him in Church and in sharing the Gospel with the lost.

Or...

They may truly be born again, yet wonder how much they really love Christ. Their private prayer lives may be lacking, because they have no real heart for personal prayer. They may file in and out of church, but afterwards pretty much go back to the world, not thinking much about the Lord until next Sunday. Inactive in spiritual things.

Either way, whether active or inactive, most Christians still have a veil between them and Christ that keeps them from having a warm and intimate fellowship with Him.

That's my observation, and I'm sticking to it.

But I haven't just arrived at that view by observation. Many many Christians I've spoken to have flat-out told me that this is their experience. Or at least have implied it.

And it takes many forms, when believers try to express their concern over their Christian walk.

What's The Problem?

But please listen to this important point:

When Christians try to articulate their disappointment with what I'm calling a veil between them and Christ, when they try to articulate what's wrong, they invariably give a clue as to what the problem really is.

In other words, there are many typical statements that I've heard believers say to indicate that they know something is wrong, but can't quite put their finger on it, or can't figure out quite what to do about it.

Seldom does what they say cast any bad light on the Lord Himself. And this is good.

The statements given by believers usually center on one basic theme that I would express like this:

“I've gone through cycles. I prayed and read my Bible and witnessed, but then I slacked off. I lost some of my desire for spiritual things. The Word wasn't as new and fresh and wonderful to me, and my prayers didn't seem to be answered. And so I drifted away from them, and grew colder and less interested. Then I came back to the Word, and prayed more, and things improved somewhat, but still not much, and now I've just kind of drifted into cruise control. I still love the Lord, but He just doesn't seem to love me, even though I know He does. But I've found other interests, and they've taken my time away from Him. I want the relationship that I had with Him, but I don't know what to do about it. I try to do my best, I try to read my Bible, but it's not like it used to be, and I feel like it can't be.”

I believe all of this leads to a basic theme, and the basic theme is, “What I DO, is what determines the intimacy of fellowship with the Lord, and I don't know what to DO, because I've tried everything, and nothing seems to bring that intimacy of fellowship.”

Now, it's important that I interject here a simple disclaimer. A sort of “if the shoe fits, wear it” disclaimer. If the above does not describe you at all, don't worry about it. If you do have a warm intimate relationship to Christ, and you can't identify with the common problem I'm desribing, then just soak this in to pass on to someone else. Don't worry about it. Or use it just as a tune-up to make sure you stay on the right track. Fair enough?

Three Points On "Doing" and The Veil

Okay, let me make three points about that theme of “What I DO is what determines the intimacy of fellowship with Christ”:

1. The veil between you and the Lord is a phony one. It's not a real veil at all. There is nothing real separating you from a close loving daily, moment-by-moment relationship to Jesus, our Beloved.

Whereas before you were born again, sin separated you from Him, now that sin is taken away. Not just covered, but taken away, as if thrown into the sea, as if put away as far as the East is from the West.

When Jesus said on the Cross, “It is finished”, He meant it. Your sin can no longer separate you, can no longer be a veil between you and Jesus. In fact, to think so is, I believe, to dishonor Him.

“But,” you say, “I've sinned again, now, today! How can I face Him? Of course my sin has to separate me from Him, even today. He has to be angry at me for this 1000th time I've committed this sin, doesn't He? Doesn't the Scripture say that He can't even look on sin? You bet there's a veil, Terry! How can a jerk like me have an intimate fellowship with a Holy God?”

Okay, good question. But there's a good answer. And the answer is simply this, “You are a forgiven Son or Daughter”. Forgiven. God know you are only dust, but He forgave you anyway.

“Yeah,” you say, “but doesn't it say that God will chastise us? That doesn't sound like warm intimate fellowship to me!”

Yes, but He only chastises those who a) are His children, b) Whom He loves, c) for purposes of restoring the intimate fellowship, and d) who are unrepentant at the time.

Look for a minute at “d”, unrepentant. God doesn't chastise those who confess their sin, and repent. He only chastises those who refuse. Simple solution: repent. Confess your sin. Then draw near to Him and He has promised to draw near to you.

You don't need to do penance, like Roman Catholicism teaches. You don't need a waiting period, or a trial period before you draw near to Jesus. Just admit your sin, thank Him for His forgiveness, and draw near, already! Believe me, no, believe the Word of God, He will welcome you with open arms.

Okay, so number one, the veil is a phony one.

2. It's not what you DO that determines the intimacy of fellowship, it's what you believe and know.

That's why it's so important to know that He loves you unconditionally and has already forgiven all of your sins, past, present and future.

It's not what you DO that determines the intimacy of fellowship, it's what you believe and know.

That's why it's so important to know that nothing stands between your and Jesus.

It's not what you DO that determines the intimacy of fellowship, it's what you believe and know.

That's why you need to know that He wants to fellowship with you, His beloved, at least as much as you want to fellowhip with Him, your Beloved. He desires your intimate fellowship, as amazing as that may sound. Not because you are flawless in your walk, but because He loves you!

It's not what you DO that determines the intimacy of fellowship, it's what you believe and know.

That's why it's so important to know that the veil is a phony one.

Which leads me to number three.

3. The phony veil has a name. It's "Legalism".

It's the kind of Legalism which says that if you perform well, then Jesus will love you, and like you and welcome you into His fellowship. But if you perform badly, He will keep His distance, He will not touch you with a ten-foot pole. He is angry at you, and He will stay that way until you get your act together. Until you are at least a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Or a 6, or a 9, or whatever nonsensical number you may have ingrained in you from your lessons in Legalistic thinking.

Listen, there is no scale of 1 to 10. On God's scale, you are a 10 already.

“What kind of sense does that make?” you ask.

Simply this. When you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, God gave you the gift of His righteousness. He declared you Righteous. You didn't earn it, you can't ever pay Him back enough to merit it, it's yours as a gift, wrapped in the paper of the Grace of God, and tied up with the ribbon of the Love of God, and bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.

He has declared you to be a 10, and He will never take that back.

You can boldly draw near to Him, the writer of Hebrews tells us, not because of what your have done or not done, but because of what He has done.

We need to shout it to the whole Church, the veil is gone, and any veil that keeps us from a warm fellowship with the Lord now is simply phony Legalism, that favorite doctrine of demons who don't want you to have that fellowship that you so desperately crave in your heart of hearts. That fellowship that you so desperately crave with the Lord Jesus whom you passionately love in your heart of hearts, and Who so passionately loves you.

Where To Go From Here

Sweep away the phony veil.

Start with some quiet time with Jesus, with your Bible open. Then practice His presence throughout your day.

Speak to Him while you work, or study, or have fun, or wash dishes, or wash the car, or drive, or loaf. And listen to Him, as you read His Word, or as He brings His truth to your remembrance during the day.

He will be filling you with His Spirit, and you will have love, and joy, and peace, and patience, kindness, and goodness, and faithfulness, and gentleness, and self-control.

These are the fruits of His Spirit.

And when the world, the flesh and the devil deceive you, and you veer away from the fellowship with Jesus, just repent, change your mind, and don't walk, but run to Him and His open arms again.

Now. Not later. The veil is phony.

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8 comments:

Garrett said...

Terry,

This is another issue that I've thought a lot about over the past few years. Your thoughts are excellent, but I have two nagging issues which I would love to hear your insights on:

1) How do you understand those texts that do seem to imply that there is a special sense of God's presence that abides with the one who "keeps the commandments"? I'm thinking of the texts in the upper room discourse, as well as the testimony of church history that does seem to corroborate such a thing in the lives of God's children (e.g., the "prayer warriors" experience a sense of God's presence that others, with a less "outstanding" prayer life, experience).

2) How do you understand a text like Micah 7:7ff, that seems to imply that God will sometimes withhold his presence and favor from one of His children (for a time); even one that is repentant?

Thanks again for your time. I'm kind of in a hurry right now, but if you need me to flesh any of these questions out later, just let me know.

gh

Terry Rayburn said...

Garrett,

Great questions, which I've wrestled with much myself.

As to your first question, I would lay out a few foundational principles that we may state with certainty.

This is in line with my ongoing view that it's always best to interpret the less clear by the more clear.

Principle 1 - God is, of course, present with New Covenant believers at all times, since He indwells us by His Spirit. He who does not have the Spirit of Christ in him is not His.

Principle 2 - There is a sense of "nearness" between God and his child which may be greater or lesser at a given time. If this were not true, James would not have said, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (4:8) How much "nearer" can you get than indwelling?

Principle 3 - The context of James' admonition to "draw near" is Submission to God (4:7), and humility (4:6). Without humility, we won't effectively walk in submission to the Lord. And without walking in submission to Him, we won't "draw near" to Him. That is, we won't EXPERIENCE the nearness that is already there.

Principle 4 - This one is not as "clear" as the previous principles, but I think it is provable with a longer Scriptural dissertation, and IT IS A "SECRET" KEY TO MUCH OF THE SCRIPTURE AND A LOVELY CHRISTIAN LIFE (pardon the gross capitalization, but this is big):

Principle 4 is: Virtually all of the Christian life is cyclical. By that I mean that we are at any given time cycling "downward" or cycling "upward" in our walk with Christ.

There are many examples, but the pertinent one to your question is this: If we sin, we "quench" the Holy Spirit, and so we lose at least some of the "power" of His Life in us to not sin again. And so we sin again, and perhaps again, "quenching" the Spirit more, and thereby cycle downward.

The ideal is to repent quickly, stop the cycle, "draw near" to the Lord, "be being filled" with His Spirit and cycle upwards.

However, if we don't repent quickly, and we cycle downward, we may reach a point where the Lord disciplines us (out of love for His child "spanking" us back into nearness to Him -- not "punishment", which involves justice and retribution and is not for "sons").

So, let's apply these principles to such Upper Room Discourse verses such as John 14:21,

"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

If I may expand and paraphrase, I would expound it this way:

He who has My commandments and, as a lifestyle, desires to keep them, and generally does keep them (though not always and perfectly), it is he who is truly born again, and has My Spirit indwelling them, and as a New Creation loves Me and hates sin in their heart of hearts.

And if he is cycling upward in keeping My commandments, because He is filled with My Spirit, and has a good measure of that fruit of the Spirit which is love, then to the degree that he loves Me, to that degree he will EXPERIENCE the love of the Father and the love of Me (our love was, of course, there all the time in full measure), and having drawn near to Us, We will draw near to him, in MANIFESTING our presence to him, which in his cycling-upward condition, he will greatly enjoy.


Now the corrolary is that if the cycle is downward, this manifest experiential presence of the Lord will NOT be experienced, even to the point of opening up the mind to demonic lies of, "God doesn't love me", or "I've lost my salvation", or "Was I ever really saved?"

So we see that cycling upward is the way to go, through whatever biblical means -- reading, meditating, praying, walking in the Spirit, and "practicing the presence of God" (see following).

Finally, I'm well aware of "outstanding" Christian testimonies of the presence of God, and I think many of these biographies are valuable. As long as they're not too theologically wacky, I would recommend reading them, but with a Bible and discernment handy.

My favorite for many years is both testimony and wise instruction, and that is The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence. Although a Catholic monk (you and I probably would have been, too, in his 17th Century French environment), I have little doubt that he truly knew Christ, and his extremely simple lessons have been very influential in my life. This may be read and re-read for many years, and still not run dry.

Another highly recommended one is The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.

Running long here, so I'll attempt to answer your second question in another comment below.

Blessings,
Terry

Terry Rayburn said...

Some clarifying points on the above comment:

1. I didn't address the sovereignty of God in trials. He brings trials into our life which may APPEAR to show a lack of His love and care and favor, but this is not true. And many have testified that they are closer to the Lord than ever because of certain trials.

2. The above is in no way legalism, where our obedience "earns" something from God in the way of His love and manifest presence. Rather our obedience is INDICATIVE of our heart drawing near to Him, if that obedience is out of love.

3. Please don't allow my theologizing to complicate what is so simple that an uneducated lil ol' great-grandma with her worn KJV can experience it at least as well as a theologian with a ThD.

Mason said...

Terry,

Your thoughts are a tremendous help and encouragement.

Mason

Garrett said...

Terry,

Those are some of the most helpful comments I've ever heard on the issue. I eagerly await your thoughts on my second question.

gh

Terry Rayburn said...

Mason,

Thanks much, brother.

Terry Rayburn said...

Garrett,

Sorry to take so long in addressing your second question:

"How do you understand a text like Micah 7:7ff, that seems to imply that God will sometimes withhold his presence and favor from one of His children (for a time); even one that is repentant?"

I have to admit, I can't really find in the passage you mention an indication of God's "withholding his presence and favor", but there are several other such passages in the Old Testament that indicate such.

I would say three things:

1. Prior to the New Covenant, there was not an indwelling presence of God in most believers. Especially not a permanent one.

So in His sovereignty, and according to purposes we sometimes can see and sometimes can't, He did indeed withhold His presence and favor at times, even to the point of "just punishment" for disobedience (under the New Covenant, there is only loving chastisement, not retribution for justice, our sins having been permanently dealt with).

This is part of the glory of the New Covenant. We live our humdrum daily lives, often forgetting the amazing glory that is going on at all times by the indwelling Christ in us. 1 Cor. 6:17 even goes so far as to say that we are made "one with Him" in spirit. So when we walk by THE [Holy] Spirit, we are also walking by our own [new] spirit.

2. With Christ indwelling us, and the promise that if we "draw near" to Him that He WILL "draw near" to us, there is a radical change. Fellowship is no longer tied to "blessings and curses" made clear under the Old Covenant.

This is part of why I am so opposed to aspects of Covenant Theology which blur the distinctions between the Old Covenant and the New.

3. I have searched and can't find any New Covenant references like the kind you refer to in the Old Covenant.

The closest I could come were passages regarding suffering and trials, which I'm sure you would agree are not at all a withholding of God's presence or favor. Sometimes our trials are GREAT "favor" to us, though we may be blinded to it at the time.

There is the passage in James that says God resists the proud, but I think that is just a Proverbial statement telling us plainly, "don't be proud -- it will mess up your fellowship".

If you can think of any other New Covenant passages indicating a withholding of His presence, let me know, and we'll sharpen some iron together.

Blessings,
Terry

Garrett said...

Terry,

The point I was trying to make by referencing the Micah passage is explained well by Piper in this sermon. If you have time, I would like to hear your thoughts on it. Perhaps he's not appreciating the differences between the covenants enough in this message?

Also, what verses were you thinking of that would support the idea that saints under the OC were not permanently indwelt by the Spirit?

Thanks again,

gh