Touch

Closeness2015-Nov-Dec Front cover

“You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments,
listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:4 NAS).

Matt Kerry

 How do we cling to God? Moses gave us a clue when he admonished the Israelites. He told them to follow Him, to fear Him, to keep His commandments, to listen to His voice and to serve Him. With these instructions, Moses implored the Israelites to develop an unbreakable mental connection with God. He told them to cling to Him, to reach out and touch God with their minds.

The Prophet Isaiah warned, “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD” (Isaiah 52:11). Touching something spiritually, just as touching something physically, establishes a special connection.

Isaiah warned the Jewish people against an association with the heathen who worshipped false idols. Was merely touching a false idol a sin? By staying away from other peoples, rituals, and beliefs, they would not put themselves in the way to develop affections for unclean things. “I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).

Touch and Touch Not

The scriptural admonition is to both “touch not the unclean thing,” as well as “cling to” heavenly things. We are to grip onto heavenly things and bring them close. Our physical ability to reach out and touch an object gives us a very distinct, visceral understanding of the object, unlike any achieved through the use of our other four senses. Touching is the gateway to becoming “one” with whatever we touch. Touch creates bonds. Not touching enforces distance.

Studies show that in many cases a consumer is more likely to purchase a product once she holds it in her hand. Thus the term, “test drive.” Nothing ties someone more closely to purchasing a vehicle than “getting a feel for it.” Touch creates a voluntary mental bond, a connection which mere sight could never produce.  Another example of how this principle applies in retail sales is the “puppy close.” An alert pet store manager will “convince” their customer to purchase the puppy once she places the young cuddly ball of love and fur in the customer’s arms. Our physical sense of touch creates and stimulates an emotional bond with the things we touch.

God’s first commandment about the physical sense of touch was recalled by Eve to the serpent, “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:3). Why was Eve warned about touching the fruit when the eating of it was the sin? The answer is simple. By holding the fruit, an emotional connection would grow. A curiosity and strong desire would grow that was unfamiliar to her, something that she could not easily control and that would culminate in sin.

Loving God and Our Brethren

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The Lord wants us to keep our affection away from false idols, away from the world, rested and settled on Him alone. We do this by voluntarily focusing our desire on the Lord. We should guide our thoughts, actions, the places we go, the people we see, and the things we say, to be in accord with God’s will.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9 ESV). The Apostle Paul knew the power of genuine love and its potential for good. He tells us to hold fast to the good and desire it. As Saul of Tarsus, he experienced the negative consequences of holding fast to evils in his mind. Through his experience of doing evil, he learned about the positive consequences of holding fast to good! We would do well to learn from both his failure and his eventual victory.

We create a genuine love and “abhor what is evil” by simply holding fast to love and not touching evil. Our spiritual sense of touch can be activated both ways, and we must continually decide in favor of the good. If we are successful, we will create a bond with the Lord in our heart and in our mind that no man can break.  “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 NAS).

What things do we touch with our minds? What things do we cling to with our minds?  To touch an evil thing with our mind is to begin making a mental connection with it, to satisfy a mental curiosity.

The cares of this world will overtake us when we are not careful. We read the Apostle Paul’s warning of this dead-end street in Philippians 3:19: “whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” How are we in danger of arriving at this point? King David arrived at this point by drifting so far away from the Lord in his heart that he brought himself to command Uriah’s death.

King David’s descent into sin was not immediate.  He was
lured away through the desires of his flesh: what he saw, what he heard, and what he felt. Quaint as fleshly desires may be in the beginning, when we touch an evil thought with our mind, we put ourselves on the path to separation from God. Even a faint interest in the world or a curiosity of the flesh can easily turn dangerous if we let it take root in our mind. The Apostle James exhorts us to watch our inmost desires, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:1-8 NAS).

Warnings

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you” (Matthew 5:29,30, NAS). Jesus tells us not to use any part of our body, or any part of our mind, or go to any place, which causes us to sin.

God said to the Israelites, “you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars” (Judges 2:2-3 NAS). The Israelites did not heed this message; they put themselves in the path to be tempted. Hence, they struggled with false idols for several years, and it was for this sin that God split their kingdom into northern and southern regions.

This carelessness eventually led them into physical captivity, which revealed the mental captivity they had already chosen (1 Kings 11:31-33, 2 Kings 23:26-27, 21:10).

We will become victim to these temptations if we measure our success by the opinions of others or if we busy ourselves with the seductive temptations of our day, such as television, shopping malls, a desire for earthly riches, the internet, etc. A rift begins when we touch the temptations that lead us away from God. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy” (Matthew 6:19-33 NAS).

Touching Jesus

Merely seeing and listening to Jesus was not enough for the woman who had suffered from an issue of blood for twelve years. In her mind, she had to be closer to Jesus — so close that she could touch his robe! She felt that simply touching his garment would cure her greatest problem. “For she kept saying within herself, ‘If only I touch his mantle, I shall be made well!’ ” (Matthew 9:21 Rotherham).

Indeed this should be our desire too, and although it is yet to be acknowledged by the world, touching Jesus is the desire of all nations.  The Apostle Paul teaches that God is just outside of our reach, until we “grope” for Him spiritually — an earnest striving and heartfelt effort of prayer and mental reaching toward Him in our lives. “That they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us”
(Acts 17:27 NAS).

Our Affection

Our spiritual sense of touch is properly activated when we establish a deep, unbreakable desire for God, striving toward Him and centering our mind and our heart in our love for Him. It is living our life firmly with a strong faith in God’s promises and then holding those promises closely as the treasures of our heart.  “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12,14 NAS).

The things we love in our heart will be manifested by the way we live. It is relatively easy for us to use this principle in order to take an inventory of the desires of our heart. To do so, we may simply ask ourselves how we spend our time. Not how we would like to spend our time; but how did we spend our time last evening? And how did we spend our time last Thursday? And how did we spend our time last Monday? Our answers will reveal the true desires of our heart.

The Apostle Paul tells us to let our minds “dwell” on heavenly things. The Greek word “dwell” is Strong’s #3049 and means “take an inventory” (Philippians 4:8). An effective inventory in a business setting is both lengthy and meticulous. An effective inventory of our mind should also be a careful consideration of the influences in our spiritual life.

Moses provides beautiful and practical details of how we may obey God’s word and actively order the events of our daily lives in order to cling to God, when he says in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, “and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.”

So how do we touch something with our mind? We do so by giving it a place in our thoughts. We hold fast to a thing by giving it a deep-seated affection in the desires of our heart.  Touching something spiritually can result in either good or evil; it can either bring us closer to God or take us further away from Him. The decision is ours and the outcome depends on how we choose.

“Let us hold inflexibly to the hope which we tell the world we possess, for we can rely on the word of him who promised it to us” (Hebrews 10:23 Barclay).

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