Encounters or Relationship?
I was at a Bible study last week with a couple of friends and we were discussing the importance of seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord more so than desiring to experience and witness the manifestations of the Spirit. Though the Spirit is God Himself and the manifestations are miraculous and important, the daily relationship is greater.
Rachel Cruze interviewed Matthew McConaughey about his book, Green Lights. She highlighted a statement he mentioned in the book a few times about being, “less impressed, more involved.” He was referring to having a certain amount of reverence or awe of someone that when “we’re faced with them, we’re not actually able to be involved with them.” It’s unfair to them and us because we’ve put them up on such a high pedestal that we can’t interact together. We can have great respect for them, but too much focus on them is crippling.
He gave an example of a pitcher being called out of the bullpen in the 9th inning of the world series. He dreamed of this moment his whole life. “But if he’s so impressed with this moment, and not involved with how [he’s] gonna get the next three guys out of the plate, he’s not going to have a good outing, because he’s not going to actually be present. He won’t be involved in it. He’ll have too much reverence for it. The moment will be bigger than him.
Keep the respect for it, but if you’re faced with it, be able to look it in the eye and go, I’ve earned the right to be here, I am here, it’s live, I’m in this. I’m gonna give of myself, of my truest self, and be able to receive hopefully this moment or this person’s truest self back. Be less impressed, more involved.”
Obviously, we are to give complete reverence to the Lord. We are by no means on His level. He alone deserves the pedestal. However, this scenario can occur when our greatest striving is in the miraculous experiences of God rather than investing in the relationship with Him. Let me give you some examples to explain this thought further.
“28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.
“He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak with you.” 2 As he spoke to me, the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and I listened to the one who was speaking to me.” – Ezekiel 1:28-2:2
Ezekiel hit the ground when he saw the Lord’s glory. It is a good and natural response because it shows that he realized his mortal, sinful, insignificance compared to a completely holy God. However, The Spirit had to pick Ezekiel up in order to listen and be of use to the Lord.
The danger in seeking the experiential miracles of the Spirit as your greatest growth in the Lord is that you’d be rendered useless. You’d be in complete awe of His work when it happened that you’d want to stay and marvel in it. This would cause you to lose sight of the mission of God. As the old saying goes, “you’d be so Kingdom focused that you’d be no earthly good.” What happens when you move further from that amazing encounter? Disappointment and unsatisfied thirst for more creeps in. Doubt can take place and you might struggle with depression because of the emotional depletion from the high. Unsure of when you’ll experience the next miracle, life loses its purpose.
John 6 is a great example of this. “After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A huge crowd was following him because they saw the signs that he was performing by healing the sick.” John 6:1-2
They had eaten the bread and fish that He divided among 5,000 people. They experienced that miracle and witnessed Jesus healing people. They were in awe and wanted more. So, Jesus began explaining that physical bread isn’t important. He is the Bread of Life and all they need is found in Him by the will of the Father.
“Therefore, when many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it?
From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:60,66-69
The crowd wanted the show, but Peter understood there was so much more that they were missing. If you’re more focused on consistently building a relationship with the Lord, you’ll highly respect those Spirit encounters, but not live for them alone, because you’ll understand more of their purpose.
“The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, “the Lord.” 6 The Lord passed in front of him …
8 Moses immediately knelt low on the ground and worshiped. 9 Then he said, “My Lord, if I have indeed found favor with you, my Lord, please go with us (even though this is a stiff-necked people), forgive our iniquity and our sin, and accept us as your own possession.”
9 As Moses descended from Mount Sinai—with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain—he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the Lord.” – Exodus 34:5-9
Moses had met with the Lord many times before this encounter, but this is the one where the Lord revealed His glory to him. Moses fell facedown in reverence of God’s glory, but he wasn’t paralyzed by it. He was active in it. He worshipped the Lord and requested His continued presence and sovereignty over Israel. He finished writing what God had commanded him and Moses headed back down Mount Sinai to the Israelites.
“30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face shone! They were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called out to them, so Aaron and all the leaders of the community returned to him, and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he commanded them to do everything the Lord had told him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil until he came out. After he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 and the Israelites would see that Moses’s face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil over his face again until he went to speak with the Lord.” – Exodus 34:30-35
Moses didn’t rush down the mountain and run through the crowd of Israelites like a madman shouting all that happened in his experience. He respected that precious moment with the Lord, but it’s as if he was speaking to his father-in-law. He was so intimate with Yahweh that his time with God was more important to Moses than actually experiencing His glory. He didn’t even know that being in the Lord’s presence physically changed his appearance as well, nor was he really fazed by it. Moses was able to stick with his mission regardless of others’ reactions because of his relationship with Yahweh.
Instead, he wore a veil when he was with the Israelites and took it off when he stood in the Lord’s presence in the tent. Doesn’t that seem almost backwards that he hid his face with people and uncovered it with the Lord?
To those who believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we have the Spirit of the Living God residing within us. Something changes in our physique when we accept His gift of salvation. The more we continue to draw near to Christ in this life, the more our physical presence changes as well. I’m not saying that we remain youthful with no wrinkles or scars. It’s more that there’s a greater softness that shows. You’ll hear people mention that they notice Christians’ eyes are different. Or, when a Christian passes away, they have peace on their face, unlike unbelievers.
Like Moses, the more we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the greater our appearance will carry a little more of His glory because we’re allowing Holy Spirit to take up greater residence within us.
Through this process, we’ll grow greater spiritual eyes as well. It is a profound make up of this divine relationship mixed with more experiences of the Spirit’s manifestations all around. We’ll learn next week how the deeper relationship actually draws out more of these encounters and the proper way to revere and respect it while remaining able to interact in it.