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Closer than Close

Where do you picture God in proximity to yourself? When you pray, for instance, is He “up there, somewhere”? After all, Paul says, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”1 Do you envision Jesus by your side, as He himself said, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”?2 Does God “have your back” or stand in front of you, as David observed, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me”?3 All of these comforting promises are true, of course, and together they show us what we instinctively know: God is all around us and everywhere we go. Yet God draws us closer to Him still, as Cornelius would soon experience.

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly,”4 and he was “respected by all the Jewish people,”5 no easy accomplishment for a Gentile and centurion in Rome’s military machine. Cornelius had heard about Jesus, that peace could be found in Him,6 and that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”7 Yet there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and actually knowing Him, and while Cornelius and his family greatly honored God, to them He was external—beheld but not indwelled. This is not as God would have it, not for the centurion nor for us; rather, Jesus promised, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”8 So, at an angel’s command the centurion sent for a man called Simon Peter. Said the angel, “He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”9

Peter’s sermon was a short, effective sharing of the gospel: Jesus was killed on a cross, God raised him from the dead, God has appointed Jesus as judge, and everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through His name.10 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.”11 Separation from God had become for Cornelius, his family and friends a thing of the past, for “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God,”12 and “ he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”13 In Christ, we experience God more intimately than any natural proximity could approach. And in this security, our transformation into His likeness begins, for spiritual growth in Christ begins at spiritual birth in Christ. Praise His name.

Father, you love me more deeply than I can fathom; your plan for me is higher than I can see. How can I doubt your love? Lead me in your path. I trust you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

1 Colossians 3:1 NIV
2 Matthew 28:20 NIV
3 Psalm 139:5 NIV
4 Acts 10:2 NIV
5 Acts 10:22 NIV
6 Acts 10:36 NIV
7 Acts 10:38 NIV
8 John 12:32 NIV
9 Acts 11:14 NIV
10 Acts 10:39-43
11 Acts 10:44 NIV
12 1 John 4:15 NIV
13 1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV

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