Today’s Reading: Revelation 4
Pastor Gordon Lester says this about two important words:
“Familiarity and intimacy are not the same. Each has a value in life, certainly in married life, but one is no substitute for the other. If one is confused for the other, we have the basis for major human and marital unrest. In marriage, familiarity is inescapable. It happens almost imperceptibly. Intimacy is usually hard to come by. It must be deliberately sought and opened up and responded to. Familiarity brings a degree of ease and comfort. Intimacy anxiously searches for deep understanding and personal appreciation.”
These are not words for just the marriage relationship. These are two words for the most important relationship—our friendship with God.
Familiarity and intimacy can be defined like this: familiarity refers to knowledge, having information about someone. But for intimacy to happen, it doesn’t stop at information; it needs to go further. When it comes to important things and people in our lives, if familiarity doesn’t turn to intimacy, then we face the danger of familiarity. Have you heard of this phrase, familiarity breeds contempt? All the information you have doesn’t move you closer to the person.
Intimacy is not for every relationship, but it must be the threshold we cross in the important ones—especially in our relationship with God. Intimacy means closeness. It’s a proximity word and a conscious effort to close the gaps between us. What I mean by closing the gaps is that all mysteries and hidden things are exposed. Intimacy knows the secrets and the motives. It’s like the old saying, the best way to define intimacy is into-me-see.
That was God’s invitation to John the revelator: I want you to see deeper. I want to clear up some mystery for you. I am inviting you to intimacy.
Here is the invitation:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.” (Revelation 4:1-2)
John knew the Jesus on earth, but intimacy calls for closing the gaps: John, you are now going to see the Jesus you have never seen before. The Jesus in heaven. You knew the Jesus on the cross, and the Jesus resurrected, but you have never experienced or seen the Jesus on the throne.
Here’s what happened to John. When he was in the Spirit, He saw the throne. The word throne is used eleven times in this short eleven-verse chapter. Eleven times! I think God was trying to show John something. John was shown an open door, but it was his prerogative whether he would go through or not. That was the choice of moving from being familiar with Jesus to being intimate with Jesus. And when the gap was closed between John on earth and Jesus in heaven, he saw a throne. Intimacy revealed Jesus on the throne.
That’s what happens when we walk in the Spirit. I think the best New Testament phrase to describe intimacy with God is walking in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to be in step with God, to walk in cadence with Him. Familiarity has moved to intimacy. To walk in the Spirit brings closeness and closes the gaps. When this happens, we see Jesus on the throne, the Jesus in charge, the Jesus who calls the shots. We see the sovereignty of Jesus.
The phrase in the Spirit is used often in the New Testament. Ephesians says pray in the Spirit, Philippians says worship in the Spirit, Colossians says love in the Spirit, and Galatians says walk in the Spirit. And when John was in the Spirit in Revelation 4, he saw a throne.
I think whether you are praying, worshiping, or walking in the Spirit, you see a throne. What does that mean? You see Jesus in charge and ruling. He has no rivals. He is the sovereign King.
When the United Nations headquarters was being built in New York City, there was some controversy as to whether a place of worship should be included in the building. One of the city’s newspapers carried a cartoon depicting a huge hand (God’s hand) and in the center of the hand was a small globe (the world). On top of the globe stood a group of little men from the UN in a heated argument. The caption read: “Do we have to invite Him as well?”
Psalm 2 says God laughs in heaven at the arrogance of puny little sinful man.
If I were the UN, I would invite He who sits on the throne. Come to think of it, if I were in Washington DC and in our universities and public schools, I would invite Him and remember who holds the world because He sits on the throne.
Washington DC is just a place. Heaven has a throne.