“Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.” -Ps. 51.4
The degree to which we have come into a true knowledge of God is directly related to the measure of our own awareness of sin. There is no true repentance, and thus no true salvational experience in the delivering sense, until the hideousness of our own sin has flashed before our souls, and the radical requirement of Jesus’ crucifixion comes into view.
A great number of Church-going people in our nation have never come to this place, for the most popular message of modern preaching has been totally devoid of this reality. It’s no wonder, since a man cannot rightly call others to this place unless he himself has passed through the press and crisis of conviction and come into the personal event of receiving mercy.
We have heard more about the Gospel than any other generation, and yet scarce few have come into the inward-transaction of the Gospel in the way that David the Psalmist did. It had everything to do with his own knowledge of God as He is, and the corresponding awareness that his sin was not merely a mishap or an accident to be swept under the rug, but a heinous crime committed straightforwardly against the Lord of glory. This acute knowledge of the sinfulness of sin revealed that even though he was the great psalmist of the Holy City, his heart still had the propensity to despise the One to whom he sang.
“Against You, and You only,” was David’s true lament. Our problem is that we do not know the “You.” We have an inward image of a lesser God who is not as requiring. David’s sin was all the more grievous because his knowledge of God was so much deeper.
(Art Katz, The Cross; Forthcoming, Chapter 1; Art Katz Ministries/Burning Bush Press)
If we are inwardly winking at sin, and have grown numb to its hideous nature, it is only because we have had an inadequate revelation of God. If we are self-righteous, and thinking too highly of ourselves without being continually aware of our own propensity for sin, we have fallen just as short of the glory of God.
David could have swept things under the rug, or fallen back on his heritage and anointing as the King of Judah. There were more than enough “yes men” surrounding him to appease his conscience and lull him into a sleepy indifference towards the gravity of his sin. But when the word of the Lord came through Nathan, “you are the man,” the hideousness of his sin flashed before him, and he cried out from the marrow of his being, “Against You, You only, have I sinned….”
Even the anointed King and Psalmist could not play the game of reputation once his sin was disclosed. He did not shift blame or water down the hideousness of his crime. He saw himself as facing the high courts of heaven, and his transgression was not merely against men, angels, saints of old, or the heavenly creatures surrounding the Throne of God. His offense was acutely and directly against the Lord Himself, and he knew that this kind of ultimate confession and repentance was the only gateway to cleansing and redemption.
We need, like David, to come into an awareness of the depth of our own sin. We need to be convinced that regardless of our spiritual history, our religious heritage, and our pious consistency, we still have the propensity to sin, and our blackness of heart is no less black than David’s was. When we are made aware of our depravity, by the grace of God’s speaking, we are then standing upon the proper foundation of truth, by which we are enabled to cry out for purification and restoration. If we have yet to be brought to that place, we have not repented, nor have we been saved from the stranglehold of our sin.
We do not hear sufficient prophetic preaching these days, not the kind that addresses the issue of sin, and we need desperately for that kind of proclamation to be restored. Our ministries have discouraged an adequate consideration of sin, and we have striven to extend comfort to those who have yet to come into a revelation of their own offense against God. We cannot live lives of mercy until we are actively receiving mercy, and if we have failed to cry out to the Lord over our own fallenness, we have not come to that place.
But when we have been convinced of the hideousness of our sin, we will cry with the psalmist:
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities. (vv. 7-9)
We will not only cry out about a particular and embarrassing sin, but about our very tendency to stray from His ways, and when we have cried out from that sacred ground of revelation, God Himself will cleanse, restore, and deliver us to the uttermost, and we will be like Jacob- unable to walk again as we had theretofore walked- awed and jolted by the fact that we have “seen God and lived.” His mercy will be altogether merciful to our souls, and His goodness altogether good. The intimate knowledge of His mercy in light of the hideousness of our own sin is the essence of the Gospel of God. What about you, dear saint? Have you cried out from that place?
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” -Phil. 4.5
This is a unique verse, and it opens up a panoramic view of the apostolic heart of Paul. What is this “gentle spirit” that he is encouraging, and why does he tell us that the Lord is near in this context?
Philippians is Paul’s great call to a life of rejoicing in the midst of trial, and he was writing to a church that was facing great opposition from persecutors. He repeatedly exhorts the saints to rejoice in the midst of the suffering, and this verse provides for us a concentrated stream of thought from the apostle along these lines.
What is a “gentle spirit” then? To be sure, it is not cowardice, shyness, or any attempt at looking humble or sounding modest. A “gentle spirit” is not something that can be conjured by a self-conscious attempt at meekness. This “gentle spirit” imperative, following Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord always,” must be the God-breathed result of delighting in Him in the midst of great pressure and trial.
Anyone can look gentle and meek in a contrived way when men are watching and some religious reward is at stake. But when the rubber hits the road, when the turbulence of life picks up, when the ground begins to shake beneath our feet, the depth of our foundations in God is revealed for what it actually is. It takes a certain kind of soul to demonstrate the gentleness and kindness of God Himself in an atmosphere that is inhospitable and difficult, but this is the privilege and calling of every saint. This “gentle spirit” is not something calculated and performed, but rather received and demonstrated, through the very life of Jesus Himself.
The “gentle spirit” Paul speaks of denotes a disposition that can hardly be rendered in translation by a single word. It is your quite specifically grounded benevolence, gentleness, considerateness, openness, vitality, and at the same time moderation that must be manifest to all men. Luther’s “lenity” well expresses the source of this disposition: Christians are men who have been made lenis, lenient, mellow, “beaten to pulp,” as opposed to the nonrecipients of grace, who can still be stiff and bristly.
(Epistle to the Philippians, Karl Barth; WJK Publications, 2002; p. 121)
It is not in the flighty and jolly moments of positive religious experience that this is proven out, but rather in the hum-drum, grinding, pressing moments of day-to-day life. Our “gentle spirit” is not mainly displayed from a pulpit, at a conference, or at some overt spiritual function. It is in the way we approach others from our innermost being. Have we a tinge of self-righteousness toward them? Have we a hint of superiority toward them? Have we a smidgeon of stiffness or coldness toward them?
What about our spouses or children? Have we a bit of disdain or bitterness toward them? Have we a shade of impatience or anxiety regarding them? Have we any hardness, brashness, or brazenness toward them?
Paul called the church to rejoice in the Lord always, and to allow the gentle and kind Spirit of Jesus Himself to flow through our lives and unto others in an effectual way. It will not happen in some magical and automatic way without our cooperation, for He is looking for co-laborers. We’ve got to allow the Potter to “beat to a pulp” all our anxiety, arrogance, and self-glorification, until we are wrung out souls, ready to be revivified and powered by His own resurrection life. Then shall His own gentleness and kindness flow from us, in the high places and in the low places.
He follows this call with that most striking note, “The Lord is near.”
Paul’s thought is two-fold here:
1. The Lord is near, literally at hand, and as the great coming Judge, He will not be pleased if we have walked in our own stiff-hearted dispositions. He calls us to a higher reality, namely His own gentleness, and if we have treated others unjustly or been hard-hearted toward them, it will not be well for us on the day of His return. “…. to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these…. “
2. Secondly, and most encouraging for the believer, is that the Lord, who is our great help, is not only near in the sense of His soon coming. For the soul that has been redeemed and transformed through the Gospel, He is as near as the inner-man. He is near to us in every plight and every challenge, and He is fervent and eager in His desire to walk us through the tumultuous seasons of life. We do not need to remain in a place of stiffness, arrogance, or brashness towards others. We need only to cry out to Him, and He will break up the hardened ground of our hearts, oil the dry places, and make us tender and loving and gentle towards all men. His own vibrant love and kindness will flow through us like a mighty rushing river.
So turn from your self and unto the Chief Shepherd. He is near to you, dear saint, and His gentle Spirit is ever and always our great good.
Abraham fell on his face and laughed…
Sarah laughed to herself …
(Genesis 17:17a; 18:12a)
Many are happy to overlook the way God has revealed Himself in the sacred histories. They prefer to view Him through inspired statements made about Him. Then they define His actions in view of those holy declarations. This is a good principle, but we should not neglect to watch carefully to see how He interacts with people that He loves. Perhaps statements about God might be seen through the revelatory record of His relationships. For example, look at Abraham and Sarah’s unbelief. First, look at Abraham:
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. “I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:15-19)
At least Abraham kept his derision to himself. He only spoke “in his heart.” God didn’t reprove him. God continued to declare His purposes for Abraham. Yet, look at Sarah. Really, this couple just goes from bad to worse…
He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:9-15)
Here’s a woman who actually laughs in disbelief at God’s promise. When she’s called on it, in fear and disbelief in God’s goodness, she lies to God’s face. Why wasn’t Sarah turned to ashes where she stood? In the very next chapter (the inexorably severe judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah) we read of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the word of an angel. Here, we have the inspired record: Lot’s wife’s Aunt Sarah secretly mocking God’s word. She laughed!
Not only did God not destroy Sarah, but He didn’t rescind His promise to her. Not only did God not respond in wrath, but Sarah didn’t disqualify herself from His purposes for her. In fact, the gentle reproof He offered did not even receive a penitent response. What did she say? “I did not laugh.” So, Sarah not only laughs at God’s word, but when convicted by the audible voice of God she doesn’t even have the reverence to humbly confess her fault. She denies, she maintains her righteousness. And this woman lived? What did God say? “No, but you did laugh.” I have been familiar with this story for years, but still can’t quite get over this.
This is as poignant and merciful an interaction as anything we read about in the New Testament. In fact, where else in the Sacred Text do we see this type of behavior? (I’m not just writing about Sarah, but Sarah and God!)
Have you ever received a promise that you believe was from God, but now, if it is mentioned, the very sound of it brings pain? If the LORD, Himself, was to draw near to you and restate His purpose, would you bitterly laugh? Would you mock? Have you done that? If so, take heart. He is the God of Abraham, yes, but He is also the God of Sarah.
Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Genesis 21:5-7)
What an incredible display of the God of Sarah’s faithfulness. Before we leave this story, let’s read the way the writer of Hebrews tells this story:
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
Are you kidding? That’s the apostolic verdict? I am tempted to laugh…
“For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants.” -Is. 44.3
Of this verse, the “good pastor” Robert Murray McCheyne once remarked:
There are no other words in the whole Bible that have been oftener in my heart and oftener on my tongue than these.
The passage applies directly to Israel, but the principle of the promise can be applied to all contexts where the Creator is active amongst men. Where the land thirsts for righteousness and mercy, and where men thirst for God in recognition of the dryness of their own hearts, the word stands true that He will “pour out water” from heaven, and His own interpretation of the image is that He will pour out His Spirit on our offspring, and His blessing on our descendants.
I would rather be found in the tension of spiritual thirst, without having yet seen the water to come, than to be drunk and satisfied with the wine of this age. I would rather be as a cracked desert ground, and aware of my dryness, than to be full of the delusion of self-satisfied living. To be able to thirst after God is a great gift from heaven. To yearn for Him in the barren wastelands is better than to be satisfied without Him in the man-made reservoirs of the city.
To be at ease and full without the outpouring of His Spirit is to live in a delusion. I may whittle away a lifetime without really thirsting, taking sips from fashion, swigs from sport, gulps from Hollywood, and guzzles from religion, and my life will end in deception. My children will have been robbed of a glory and knowledge of God that could have been theirs, had I been a man of thirst.
But I may live a life of thirst, and in my weakness, yearn for Him in the quiet places of the desert, and the promise will one day be answered. I know not when. I know not the hour of visitation. But the certitude cannot be shaken, for He Himself has declared it. He will “pour out water upon the thirsty land,” and my children will see something of His glory that they would have missed if I had settled for something less than God Himself.
If only the world knew of the glory of thirsting for Him! If only the Church weren’t so distracted and filled from the “buffet” that the world offers us and the busy mentality that modern “ministry” puts before us.
Though I have heard of His great love, and experienced it on many glorious occasions, it still staggers me that He longs to pour out His own Spirit upon us, and our children. It matters not that I’m a dry and cracked soul. In fact, that is the ground upon which He copiously pours out His holy rain. Oh, to live a life of anticipatory thirst. To ache for God Himself, until He comes and makes all things new. This is blessedness indeed.
Oh then wish more for God, burn more with desire,
Covet more the dear sight of his marvellous Face;
Pray louder, pray longer, for the sweet gift of fire
To come down on thy heart with its whirlwinds of grace.
Yes pine for thy God, fainting soul! ever pine;
Oh languish mid all that life brings thee of mirth;
Famished, thirsty, and restless, -let such life be thine,-
For what sight is to heaven, desire is to earth.
(Frederick Faber, as quoted in The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, compiled by A.W. Tozer; Christian Publications, 1963; pp. 56-57)
He will pour out water, dear soul. Thirst then! Thirst after Him…
Fifty thousand participants were expected for the Islam on Capitol Hill event in Washington D.C. on September 25th. Roughly three thousand showed up. As we reported prior to the event, a small group of Jesus followers from North Carolina were also there to give away DVDs documenting the conversion to Christianity of different Muslims thanks in part to dreams and visions of Jesus they had experienced. The leader of this outreach, evangelist Fabian Grech, recounted their experience at the event:
We split up in small teams and were strategically located in different places. The main place where they were all praying (in front of the Capitol) only had 2 exits at the back. So we had a couple teams at both exits. We followed the strategies that God gave us: to go to them with love, look them in the eyes, show them value and put the the DVD “More Than Dreams (www.morethandreams.org – testimonies of Muslims get saved by Jesus visiting them in dreams) in their hands to take it home with them. When they asked me what it was about, I told them it was a DVD of dreams Muslims are having in different countries. Quite a few were excited to take it and some even asked me for more to give to their friends. I am still counting how many DVDs we have left, but I think we gave out about 1200 DVDs – which means about 1 out of every 3 took that powerful DVD home.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….” -Rom. 12.10-11
From the nation of India decades ago, Amy Carmichael gives us this staggering story:
It was convention week in a hill station in India. The afternoon meeting was just over. A few Christian station-people, some English-speaking Indian friends and the sixty or seventy missionaries who had been listening to the Bible reading were hurrying out to get a cup of tea before the evening meeting. An Indian lady lingered in the empty hall, and the writer, seeing her alone and thinking perhaps she had no friend at hand and might be feeling lonely, sat down beside her. Conversation turned to Bible reading. The Indian lady’s face darkened and she said bitterly, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!’ It was easy to see she had been wounded and soured, but not knowing her history, I could only urge that meetings were held just because we recognized our need….
But this did not satisfy her, and in quick, eager sentences she began to explain herself. She said that her people had noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually, she said, it was noticed that he cooled.
“And who can say,” she concluded, with an intensity that went through the hearer, “…. who can say you missionaries live specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning-hot people? We look to you to show us patterns and you are showing us crooked patterns.”
The words scorched. Discount what we may because of some inward hurt or warp; and granted, thank God, that the picture painted thus is not wholly true, there was enough truth left to lay at least the one who listened low down in the dust.
I believe this story is intimately applicable to most American believers. We need to hear the questions of the little Indian woman:
“Do you lead specially holy lives?”
“Is there anything remarkable about you?”
“Are you burning-hot people?”
We sell the our lives short by reducing the faith to a cute and dainty religion that we practice a few times a week. We are supposed to be a burning-hot people, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord! Our lives are supposed to be separate from the world in a manner sufficient to raise questions in the hearts of our neighbors and relatives, “What is it about those people? There’s a humility…. there’s a moral clarity…. there’s a joy…. there’s a no-nonsense mode of living…. there’s a wisdom…. there’s a reality in their eyes that I have found nowhere else, and their lives testify to it.”
Let us consider the tear-stained exhortation that Amy gives to follow up her story:
Comrades in this solemn fight- this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: We are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to the Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us. We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of the souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory- dearer surely to us than all else- let us ask Him not to show us whether in anywise we have been showing “crooked patterns.”
Dear reader, what is the temperature of your life? Have you settled into a cool spirituality that is unconsecrated and casual? Have you more passion for entertainment than you have for the Scriptures? Has the Spirit of prayer become foreign to you? Have you left your “first love” and latched onto idols that now sap all of your affections for Christ, and leave you barren and numb at heart? We must return to Him with whole hearts, forsaking the “crooked patterns” that have too long marked the Church in our nation. Let us cry out from a place of brokenness, that He may have for Himself a people no longer “lagging behind in diligence.” A people who are “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….”
He is faithful to respond to the heart that hungers and thirsts after Him! He will fill your heart with new life, and cause His heart to be expressed through you. He will kindle a flame in our hearts that all the schemes of hell cannot begin to quench. He will have for Himself a people.
A people leading specially holy lives, empowered by His Spirit. A remarkable people. A burning-hot people. Amen!
A group of Christians praying for random people to experience the supernatural presence of the living God on network television? That seems to be the goal of a group affiliated with Randy Clark’s Global Awakening Ministry. They explain their idea for the potential show entitled “The God Squad Show” below:
…through relationship with God being able to see future events in peoples lives… being able to paint and show future events or unlock mysteries and draw the viewer into a greater understanding of life…with the laying on of hands restoring life to the recently deceased…
Sounds like a great conference! It’s not. It’s descriptions from some of the 6 Primetime dramas on the 3 Major Networks! We can’t get enough of the supernatural… because innately we know, there has to be more…
It’s time for us to give the viewing public more. It’s time for a reality show that doesn’t highlight our greed, fickle hearts or ability to withstand pain and hardship, but a reality show that shows His ability to provide, restore and heal our pains and hardships.
God Squad is a half hour reality show that takes us to city streets all over America and allows us a front row seat to individuals experiencing encounters with the supernatural in a way that has never been seen on secular television. We follow our cast members as they encounter random individuals in daily life and bring them into a supernatural experience.
In our travels we will see sight restored, aches and pain relieved, people healed by art drawn for them, about them before we even met them… broken lives restored to peace and love… watch people feel the supernatural Presence on their bodies in a physical and undeniable way.
In each episode we will visit several cities and go from story to story of supernatural encounters taking place in peoples daily lives right in front of us… in real time.
Reality is often just a lie agreed upon, its time to bring the truth to reality and to confirm what we know in our hearts… that just like we imagine in our weekly fictional dramas on TV, the truth is… there is more.
Below is a clip of someone from the group praying for a woman with no cartilage in her knee. While we cannot verify the long term results of the prayer on the woman’s knee, she does say to the crew that though she is not a “religious person,” she found that as she was being prayed for, her knee felt progressively better, and she felt a strange feeling rush through her body (I found one of the comments on the youtube page for the video amusing: “r there more video’s like this?? and how the **** is it so possible…. i dont ****** get it “): [Link to Video]
People were made to experience the supernatural. Let’s hope that this and similar projects succeed in displaying the power of God to the world.
I want to just bring a brief word of exhortation at this time to all the readership of VOR. Whether you know the Lord or whether perhaps you are weighing up the cost of following Him. I am sensing at this time that even the best of us can be distracted from the key thing in the Kingdom of God. Life throws up so many issues, and there is an enemy out there seeking to violate the purposes of God. I hope the following helps deal a ‘death-blow’ to any of those things at this time.
As I sit writing this morning, my heart is stirred by the call of God, coming again to me with fresh clarity and intensity. My mind has gone back over the time when from a child God spoke to me and called me, and how in His faithfulness He kept coming back to me and back to me, again and again. He would come at times and remind me of HIs holy calling, and that His willingness to perform that concerning me was greater than my willingness to follow!
Today, I am reminded by the following things in this regard:
1. The Call of God costs.
I remember the voice of a prophet laying hands on me when 15 years old, and another when I was 18 years, declaring by the Spirit – “What I am going to call you into is going to cost you something. You have said in your heart ‘why can’t I be like other young men; why can’t I do what others are doing?’ You can not because I do not permit it, says the Lord… You are mine!’
To some of you this would seem hard or harsh. But I can tell you today that those words did something in my spirit that did me good! I did not feel condemned or hurt but I felt encouraged. I thought: ‘How amazing, that in this ruthless word from the Spirit of Christ, I was yet assured that I was His, and He was mine!’ This is the Spirit of Jesus in prophecy.
This is what the rich young ruler failed to grasp in the account of Mark 10 and Luke 18. All he heard from the Lord was the cost, ‘Give up all you have and give to the poor…’ yet he failed to hear the words, ‘then come follow me…’ If only he had grasped this! Grasping this alone would have been enough to have outweighed the carnal delights and its pull.
Some of you have felt the cost of the call of God upon your life, and may even sense it again now as you read this. Yet your heart is in a kind of spiritual negotiating with God. I have something to tell you from my own experience, and in line with the Scriptures: There is no negotiation! But there is a Treasure that far outweighs the cost! Jesus is all we need. Brothers and sisters there is only one response to the Call of God. Yield, give up your rights, do whatever He says… you will be satisfied.
2. The Call of God consecrates.
When I think of this, I think of surrender, but not just in terms of giving up something, rather in terms of giving oneself to something.
Samuel was called of God from a boy, and from a young age had to learn complete obedience to the voice of the Master. He also had to learn separation from the world and devotion to God’s presence. In this, God anointed His servant for holy and powerful purposes. The rest is history… Samuel was one of Israel’s greatest prophets and judges. He was a voice to a people and to a kingdom.
Again, I tell you from experience that the Call of God demands consecration to Him alone. There have been times when the enemy or the flesh has come to war against that in me, trying to revive the carnal man and his lusts for the world, pride and desires. But during those moments it is as if an inner whisper comes and reminds me: ‘You belong to Me… flee from it.’
He has bought us at a price! We are his for His own purpose. The need of the hour is for a total consecration to God and His purposes. This is a crucial moment for the Church. We need consecrated vessels to carry out God’s will. I pray daily much for a consecrated generation that will totally yield to the Lord, and do it on His terms, for His glory. It’s the only thing that will make a difference!
3. The Call of God keeps.
Think a moment about Peter, loved by God; called and chosen to be an apostle, and a leader among men. Yet somehow in the mysterious dealings of God, Peter goes through a season of testing, where satan incites him to deny the Lord. God knows more about the heart of man than we do about ourselves. God was not out to destroy Peter but He was allowing this attack of the enemy to make something of Peter. Some of the most wonderful words in Scripture are these: ‘But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.‘
May I say this: God’s call is more powerful to keep us than any of will ever realize! No, I am not an extreme Calvinist, neither am I an extreme Arminian. (I still cannot work God out!) But I know the God of the Bible. I have met Him in Jesus Christ, and know the Holy Spirit at work. (Not as much as I should, I add!)
I can say with confidence: His faithfulness is great and reaches to the skies! (Psalm 35: 5 & 6) and that His ability to keep me is far greater than may ability to remain faithful.
Also, we are assured by Scripture that God will not only keep us, but He is faithful to complete the work He has called us to. Our duty is by His grace to remain in Him! (John 15: 4 & 5)
My prayer this day is that as you read this you will be reminded of the Call of God on your life. It will cost until it is completed. It demands consecration to His ways and purposes. Yet He is faithful in His part to do that which we cannot do – bring it to pass.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” -1 Cor. 13.1-3
Of all the passages of Scripture that have been heavily quoted and inadequately considered, 1 Corinthians 13 must rank in the top ten. Of all the subjects that have been watered down, cheapened, and reduced to humanistic wisdom, the subject of love must be at the top of the list.
What do we know of the kind of love that Paul was calling the saints to pursue, and to what degree are we actually walking in it?
Some time ago, I read through a short biography on a man named Robert C. Chapman (1803-1902). Charles Spurgeon called him “the saintliest man I ever knew,” and his life had a profound effect on many souls, not the least of which was the great pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor.
Though I have been engaged in various forms of ministry for more than a dozen years, I was “knocked off of my chair” when I saw the measure of holy love and compassion that was expressed through his life. The man was immersed in a purity and devotion that was heavenly, and the love that burned in his spirit was evident to all who came into contact with him.
Early in his life, he announced that the Lord had called him to proclaim the Gospel, and many of his friends said, “Robert will never make a preacher.” In response, he exclaimed, “There are many who preach, but not so many who live Christ. My aim shall be to live Christ.”
Chapman grew into a remarkable demonstration of the nature of God, expressing the most supernatural kind of hospitality and kindness, even to religious antagonists in his own congregation. Though many were gripped with prejudices, foul attitudes, and a lack of respect when he took up the pastorate at Ebenezer Chapel, they would be won over to humility and love by the selfless example set forth in the man, R.C. Chapman.
He would regularly house guests in his home, though he was a lifelong bachelor. Visiting missionaries, new converts, or extremely poor souls, would be graced by his Spirit-empowered hospitality. They testified that his house was simple, without excessive furniture and trinkets, but immaculately clean. He esteemed that which God had given him, and took care of it in honor of the Lord and esteem for his guests. He would rise daily at 4:00 a.m. to engage in prayer, adoration, and Scripture meditation. He would say, “It is one thing to read the Bible, choosing something that suits me, and another thing to search it that I may become acquainted with God in Christ.” The fruit of his life showed that he had become intensely “acquainted with God in Christ.”
In later years he would have breakfast ready for his house guests at 7:00 a.m., following his daily devotional time. The joy that marked his life was contagious, and more than once people testified that after spending only a day with the man, they felt as if they had encountered the Son of God Himself.
What do people encounter in me? What have I really learned of His love? Dear saints, I yearn to come into the same reality that was Chapman’s experience.
Paul said that we may speak skillfully with the tongues of men. We may be supernaturally gifted to speak with the tongues of angels. We may have the gift of prophecy, or know all mysteries and knowledge. We may have enough faith to remove mountains. We may give all of our possessions to the poor. We may even give ourselves to martyrdom for an ethical cause. But according to the apostle, we may have or engage in any of these things and still be totally devoid of the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. This is both astounding and frightening.
I don’t want to be a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” friends. I want to commune with the One whose zeal burns like an unquenchable fire. I want to be touched and singed and transformed by the heat of His selfless love.
In Hosea 11.8, the Lord says to Israel, “My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.”
O, that our hearts would be turned over, that our lovelessness would be toppled, our hard-heartedness shattered, and our coldness melted by the compassions of God Himself!
O, to love You as you are, to love righteousness, justice, and compassion, and to love human souls as You do! Give us Your own love, Lord. Catch us up in Your heart, and enable us to be an expression of Your Son in this generation, that our sons and daughters might see your majesty.