THE CROSS MADE INTIMACY ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
“What is the purpose of life?” That important question has been asked by countless people throughout the centuries. The drive to find purpose and significance in our existence on earth is woven into the DNA of the human race. The idea that we simply exist without any purpose is at best depressing. In an attempt to address that nagging feeling that there has to be more to life than the ‘here and now,’ people have come up with a multitude of possibilities. The world religions attempt to provide purpose through their religious systems. Philosophers have taken their stabs at it. Scientists have developed theories based on their findings. And every day people have adopted their own opinions on the matter. Because of this, the answers to that question are as varied as the human race itself. The problem is that, outside of a biblical context, it is impossible to fully explain the reason why you and I breathe oxygen on this planet.Outside of a biblical context, it is impossible to fully explain the reason why you and I breathe oxygen on this planet. Click To Tweet
From a Christian worldview, that question is not difficult to answer. We do not have to grasp at straws, hoping to find some purpose for our existence in a world that offers no real answers. The Bible makes our purpose very clear and simple to comprehend. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer given sums it up in concise language: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” While that might seem like an overly simplistic view of life in light of the many complicated conclusions that men and women have invented, it really is that simple.
God created mankind to know Him. Jesus said it this way in one of His prayers to the Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 NASB) When boiling it down to a single concept, Jesus explains that knowing God is the whole deal. It is why we exist. That applies to every human who has ever walked the face of the earth. Every one of us has been and will continue to be beckoned into the knowledge of the One who created us.
It is crucial that we define what kind of knowledge we are discussing. There are two different types of knowledge that we can have about others. One is head-knowledge. This is simply obtaining information about a person. It is the kind of knowledge that people gather about the lives of celebrities or politicians. There is no personal relationship required in head-knowledge. Due to this, there is a limit to how well you can really know someone, regardless of how many facts about them you might be able to list. Head-knowledge can be deceptive. The more that a person learns about another, the more they feel like they are intimately connected, even though they may have never met before.
Intimate knowledge is another matter completely. When the Bible speaks about knowing someone, one of the Hebrew words used is yada. The word yada, often translated “know” in English, refers to a very intimate type of love in several places in Scripture. This is the type of intimacy that Adam enjoyed when he and Eve consummated their marriage: “Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” (Genesis 4:1 NKJV) Yada is much more than simply sexual intercourse. It describes true intimacy with a person. And this is the kind of love that the Lord wants us to experience with Him. In Jeremiah 24:7, He says, “Then I will give them a heart to know (yada) Me, that I am the Lord…”
This is the purpose of life. It is the reason for our existence. We were created by a Being who wanted to have intimacy with us. God did not just want people who had some head-knowledge about Him, but a people who loved Him passionately and personally. This is one of the most unfathomable mysteries about the Lord. We understand He is a Holy God–without any blemish–and that we are inherently sinful and rebellious toward Him. And yet, He still wants intimate communion with us.
God always wanted to have an intimate relationship with all of His creations. He never intended for it to only be accessible to a select few. The way that He walked in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8) was meant to be enjoyed with all of the following generations. But sin entered the human race and created a break between God and His precious creation. Intimacy was broken, so He set into motion a plan in the shape of a cross.Intimacy was broken, so He set into motion a plan in the shape of a cross. Click To Tweet
Despite the separation that sin caused the human race from the time of Adam, the Lord in His goodness did not simply abandon His people until His Son came to the earth. He continually revealed Himself to them as He set His great escape plan into motion. We see glimpses of this God who wants to have intimate friendship with His people even throughout the Old Testament. Those who tend to think that the Lord was only wrathful and punishing in the Old Testament have a narrow perspective, and are missing much of what was written.
We discover the God who walked with His people and wanted to commune with them. We see the One who took Enoch to be with Him, even overriding the normal death process, because he was a man who walked with Him (Genesis 5:24). We see the God who condescends to meet with His friend, Abraham, and even enjoys a meal with Him. (Genesis 18:1-8). We see the Lord who spoke with Moses face-to-face on the mountain and allowed him to catch a glimpse of His glory (Exodus 33:11; Exodus 34:5-7). We learn about the God who wanted His people to love and trust Him, and was heartbroken when they refused to. (Jeremiah 2; Hosea 2) Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord was calling people into an intimate relationship with Himself, but only a limited amount of people actually stepped into it.
But the day came when everything radically changed. The sin that had so ravaged the lives of God’s creation and caused them to rebel against Him was dealt a death blow at the cross. When Jesus breathed His final breath, something extremely significant occurred:
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…” (Matthew 27:50-51a)
The importance of this event requires the backdrop of the Old Testament temple to fully appreciate. This veil that was torn was no ordinary decorative object. Rather, it was the curtain that is described in Hebrews 9:3, “and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All.” This place, also referred to as the Holy of Holies, was sectioned off by this curtain, which Jewish tradition tells us was around sixty feet tall and four inches wide. According to the Law of Moses, only one person was allowed to go past that curtain, and that was the high priest. And to add to the exclusivity of this event, it only happened once a year, in order to make atonement for the sins of the nation. (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16)
That curtain symbolized one thing to the people of Israel: God and man were separated from one another. That thick veil was a continual reminder to the Israelites that they did not have unlimited access to this intimate God. At the moment of Christ’s last breath, when that curtain was torn in two, a message was being pronounced by the Lord to all of creation. That message was, “The separation between Me and you has been taken care of. Because of the death of my Son, you can now come freely to Me!”
As Hebrews 10:19-20 explains,
“And so, dear brothers, now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus. This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain—his human body—to let us into the holy presence of God.” (TLB)
For the Jewish people, who understood the symbolism of the curtain and had a history with Jehovah all the way back to Abraham, this should have been the most glorious message they could ever have heard. “You mean that all of us can come to Jehovah now? Sin has been taken care of? The Law has been fulfilled?” These are the concepts that would have seemed almost impossible to believe by people whose traditions had been passed down for so long. The thought that God could come in the form of a man and fulfill His own requirements and then die the death that we deserved has been a stumbling block for many. But for us who believe, this is the sweetest message that has ever reached the ears of mankind.It was the cross that made intimacy with God accessible to “everyone who believes in Him.” Click To Tweet
It was the cross that made intimacy with God accessible to “everyone who believes in Him.” (John 3:15) There is no longer any reason for any person on this earth to live in a place of separation from God. And as we repent, come to Him and are born again of His Spirit, that intimacy can be freely enjoyed by God’s children. And it is not a one-time event. Rather, it is an invitation into a lifetime of walking with the Lord. Intimacy is available. It is up to us to cultivate a relationship with the Lord that fosters that intimacy.
The bridge of a song called “Fully in Love” by Jon Thurlow puts it beautifully:
“It’s what you wanted in the garden,
It’s what you wanted on the mountain,
It’s what you wanted on the crossbeam,
Just a heart that is fully in love.”
Let us not take for granted the intimacy with God that was made available at the cross, to be enjoyed now on the earth, as well as for all of eternity.
DUSTIN RENZ is the President of Make Way Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to see the world changed one Christian at a time. He has a passion to see the Body of Christ find rich intimacy in their relationship with Jesus and step out in faith to share the Gospel with the world around them. He is the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy and Something Better. He resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.