To not just desire, but REQUIRE Him

Desire Require

Sunday 03/19/23

Message: To not just desire, but REQUIRE Him

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To not just desire, but REQUIRE Him

Since the beginning of the year we’ve been focused on words found in a passage in 2Peter. Those words are, yourpursuit of knowing Jesus. The word KNOW is the Greek word epignosis and means more than can be simply captured in words, but a reasonable stab at it is to come to know more intimately by way of experience.

According to Peter the pursuit of this knowledge was the common practice of the early church. He said in 2 Peter 1:8 that if we would continue to produce fruit from our union with Christ then we would NOT BE “ineffective nor unproductive in our PURSUIT of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.” 

This knowledge is gained by experiencing Him.

Now over the course of the past several weeks we have seen this pursuit of knowing Christ all over the New Testament and we’ve learned a fair amount about it. 

We’ve learned that this intimate knowledge of Christ Jesus is the most valuable thing in existence

That the devil knows its value and will oppose you gaining it. Like Jesus said in His parable of the heart soils, every heart that hears the word will experience challenges which seek to limit or completely choke out its effectiveness in your heart.

As such, if you are going to obtain this knowledge, which the Father freely gives, you will have to be hungry for it. Not just to gain that knowledge, but to retain it and for it bear fruit.

If you remember, the first three hearts all heard the word. 

The first one received the word the way it often is by your average Christian – by the way side. I get the picture in my mind of a person playing with their phone as Jesus is teaching. They hear Him, but their attention is elsewhere. They do not treat knowledge of Him as if it is of great value.

The second heart hears it too… with gladness, but their joy in Christ is superficial. As soon as opposition comes against the word, they get offended and walk away.

The third heart hears it too… and it means something to that heart. So much so that simple persecution and opposition cannot uproot it. However, the continual dripping of everyday life wears away at it. The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things creep in – largely unaware and they choke out the word in that one’s heart.

Then there is the good heart. The one who hears it, deeply values it, treasures it above other things and abides with their attention on it – this one FINDS themselves keeping the word and bearing fruit

But notice that even in this last group there are degrees – some produce 30, some 60 and some 100 fold.

Of course these are not hard and fast numbers, but are illustrative. 

I am reminded of Paul among the apostles. For though he was not one of the 12 who walked with Christ from the beginning – and that WAS the stated requirement for being an Apostle of the Lamb – he labored in the gospel more than them all.

He said in 1 Cor. 15:10,

But what I am I am by the grace of God, and His grace bestowed upon me did not prove ineffectual. But I labored more strenuously than all the rest–yet it was not I, but God’s grace working with me.”

Did Paul love Jesus more than the twelve. Well, I don’t know that it is beneficial to speculate on that so much, but I will say that those who are forgiven much… love much. And Paul, seemingly poured all he was into the pursuit of Christ.

How did he put it?

Php 3:3-11, “(3) For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials  (4)  – though mine too are significant. If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more:  (5)  I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee.  (6)  In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.  (7)  But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ.  (8)  More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things– indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ,  (9)  and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.  (10)  My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death,  (11)  and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

I told you this week we would look at Romans 8 because the one thing we have seen consistently is that this knowledge comes at a price

One of the prices is hunger for God. The other is suffering and that is where the question arises are you hungry enough?

But I found something in that passage we just read, which confirmed something I have long suspected. That hunger alone is not enough.

I suggested it last week, when I told you that we would be studying Romans 8 this week regarding suffering being a precursor to knowing Jesus in intimacy and in bearing His likeness or said another way – in being glorified together with Him. Because Christ in us IS our glory!

What I suggested last week was that hunger was not enough, we have to not just Desire Christ, but REQUIRE Him!

I was asking God about why my own desire often fails to produce the deep, intimate knowing of Christ that I desire. In His graciousness, He reminded me of my Encounter retreat. This was a retreat where myself and a large group of men went to the center of the state, to a remote campground and had teachings and time to seek God. It was the single most profound experience I’ve ever had in terms of actually having God manifest Himself to me.

Now I know what that probably sound like to many, but let’s remember that such was the promise of Jesus Himself. In Jn. 14 He told us…

“He who has My commandments and obeys them–he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will clearly reveal Myself to him.” ~ John 14:21 

I had been walking through a veritible desert spiritually for over a decade. Now I was not only born again, but a pastor at that time even as I am now. I loved the Lord, but I didn’t know how to experience intimacy with Him. I had learned and been taught ALL MY LIFE that my entire relationship with God was found in His word. Now this is true… at least in part, but even as this statement from Jesus reveals, knowing and obeying His words is actually the initial handshake into a deeper knowing of Him. THAT is what I experienced that weekend – whatever you care to call it.

The moment I stepped off of the bus onto the ground of that camp, I began to say to the Lord, “I am going to let you love me.” I said that over and over and over and over the entire time I was at that retreat.

Now again, that probably sounds like a very self-serving statement, but in my depraved state it was anything but! Due to a number of mitigating factors I had a LOT of roadblocks in my heart to intimacy. Truth is, it terrified me! However, I had exhausted all my efforts and this retreat was an invitation I had recieved and which was paid for by someone else and I was DETRMINED to go and either meet with God, or be rejected by Him.

It was in all honesty the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life… but God honored it, and broke through my resistences with a power all His Own, which was nothing shy of a miracle!

Not only myself, but my wife, friends and my church all will testify that I have never, NEVER been the same! All the glory belongs to God alone!

So what happend at that Encounter that I was missing now?

I didn’t just casually desire God, I absolutely Required Him!!!

God speaks of intimacy with us inside the relational terms of marraige. Like physical union as described in scripture between a husband and a wife – this is a face to face intimacy where we hold eachother’s gaze.

For us as humans, this can be uncomfortable!

Ever since our original parents fell in the garden, intimacy with God evokes emotions consistent with being vulnerable. The first thing Adam and Eve did once they fell, was hide and grap a fig leaf to cover themselves.

When you look into God’s eyes (I am speaking metaphorically of time of vulnerable intimacy with Him) you will find that you will want to look away.

His all-seeing gaze is invasive. It is deeply… disturbingly intimate. In our current state of imperfection it make a person squirm.

During my encounter I pressed through the difficulty of intimacy out of need. I REQUIRED it – I HAD TO HAVE IT!

I was Moses who pleaded with God to see His glory. “God show me your glory or I will die” was the gist of Moses’ plea. 

Moses had moved from the initially zealous in Egypt when he killed the Egyptian to the defeated Moses running to Arabia, from the defeated herder of another man’s sheep to the inspired man who encountered God at the burning bush, from the inspired man to the devoted follower of God and leader of Israel and from the devoted man to the passionate man. At THIS point, Moses became the friend of God!

Wasn’t that the lesson of the burnt offering?

Every morning and every evening a continual burning and rising of a fragrant smell to God. It represented an All or nothing, passionate pursuit of God.  [for more on Whole Burnt Offerings go HERE ]

A perpetual statement of… “I cannot live, if I cannot know you more!” 

Anyone who tells you that true intimacy is simple and easy and nothing but delightful, reveals they’ve never experienced it – not truly… not really!

Truth is, intimacy… Real intimacy is unnerving. It is unsettling, penetrating, vulnerable and scary. 

It wasn’t until I HAD to have an encounter with God that I made myself push through the discomfort.

I remember how I used to describe how it felt to draw near to God. It was like walking out into the ocean when it is cold. When you get far enough out that the waves crash up on your chest it takes your breath away and you find yourself retreating. THAT represented ALL of my former encounters with God. The moment things began to get intimate, I was like, “Well… look at the time!” and I bolted!

What provides this discomfort in intimacy, especially with God, is the veil of the flesh and that brings us full circle back to suffering again.

In my seeking God about this for the past few weeks I came to the word “require” but upon pondering these things, a word from A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, came to mind and that was “INSIST.” 

The two words are very similar at their core.

If you will indulge me in a lengthy quote from him before we close out today I think you will find it well worth your time. 

Frederick Farber was one whose soul panted after God as the roe pants for the water brook, and the measure in which God revealed Himself to his seeking heart set the good man’s whole life afire with the burning adoration rivaling that of the seraphim before the throne. His love for God extended to the three persons of the godhead equally, yet he seemed to feel for each one a special kind of love reserved for Him alone. 

Of God the Father he sings: 

Only to sit and think of God, 

Oh what bliss it is! 

To think the thought, to breathe the Name; 

Earth has no higher bliss. 

Father of Jesus, loves reward! 

What rapture will it be, 

prostrate before Thy throne to lie, 

and gaze and gaze on Thee! 

And addressing our Lord directly he says to Him: 

I love thee so, I know not how 

my transports to control; 

Thy love is like a burning fire 

Within my very soul.

In one of his great hymns to the Holy Spirit he sums up his burning devotion thus: 

Oh spirit, beautiful and Dread! 

My heart is fit to break

With Love of all Thy tenderness

For us poor sinners’ sake 

I have risked the tedium of quotation that I might show by pointed example what I have set out to say, viz., that God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is. Such worship as Fabor knew (and he is but one of a great company which no man can number) can never come from a mere doctrinal knowledge of God. Hearts that are “fit to break” with love for the Godhead are those who have been in the Presence and have looked with opened eye upon the Majesty of Deity. Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about them not known to or understood by common men. They habitually spoke with spiritual authority. They have been in the Presence of God and they reported what they saw there. They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tells us what he has read but the prophet tells us what he has seen. The distinction is not an imaginary one. Between the Scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the profits, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.

With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’s flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we carry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the holy of holies and never enter at all to look upon God? We hear the Bridegroom say, “Let Me see the countenance, let Me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely.” We sense that the call is for us, but still we fail to draw near, and the years pass and we grow old and tired in the outer courts of the tabernacle. What doth hinder us? 

The answer usually given, simply that we are “cold,” will not explain all the facts. There is something more serious than coldness of heart, something that maybe back of that coldness and be the cause of its existence. What is it? What but the presence of a veil in our hearts? A veil not taken away as the first fail was, but which remains there still shutting out the light and hiding the face of God from us. It is the veil of our fleshly fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross. It is not too mysterious this opaque veil, nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look in our own hearts and we shall see it there, sown and patched and repaired it may be but they are nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress. 

This veil is not a beautiful thing and it is not a thing about which we commonly care to talk, but I’m addressing the thirsting souls who are DETERMINED to follow God, and I know they will not turn back because the way leads temporarily through the blackened hills. The urge of God within them will assure their continuing the pursuit. They will face the facts however unpleasant and endure the cross for the joy set before them. So I am bold to name the threads out of which this inner veil is woven.

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power. 

To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a whole host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to be identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the Church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice. 

One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man’s depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self sins; but it does not work out that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the reformers and preach eloquently the Creed of Salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts. To tell the truth, it seems actually to feed upon Orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible Conference than a tavern. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow.

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. As well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are set free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that which our Savior passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Let us remember: when we talk of rending the veil  we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made up of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and to make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free. 

Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish lazy acceptance from the real work of God. We must INSIST upon the work being done. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to imitate Saul and spare the best of the sheep and oxen.

Insist that the work be done in very truth and it will be done. The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for the joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered an actual spiritual experience the Presence of the Living God. 

[This HUGE quote is lifted from A.W. Tozer‘s book ‘The Pursuit of God‘ chapter 3, entitled, “Removing the Veil“.]

So we can wrap up by simply saying that have to be DETERMINED in order to facilitate our pursuit of knowing Him. 

We will begin in Romans 8 next week as we continue our study in the Pursuit of Relational knowledge of Christ! 


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!