We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit…..The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him.
The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be ‘received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is ‘saved’, but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little……
How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to centre upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term , incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls……
The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a person and …..full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved by one encounter.
He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions…..
This intercourse between God and the soul is known to us in conscious personal awareness…
Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain…
We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials ( and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candour of childhood. If we do this , without doubt God will quickly respond.
The evil habit of seeking God-and effectivley prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the and lies our great woe. If we omit the and we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully aware of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Removing the veil
God formed us for His pleasure…..He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile. But we have been guilty of that ‘foul revolt’. We have broken with God. We have ceased to obey Him or love Him……So the life of man upon the earth is a life away from the Presence. The whole work of God in redemption is to undo the tragic effects of that foul revolt, and to bring us back again into right and eternal relationship with Himself…..by His prevenient working within us He moves us to return. This first comes to our notice when our restless hearts feel a yearning for the presence of God….
Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine – to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.
The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the church is famishing for want of His presence. The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us.
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…
Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are overrun today with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, 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.
With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’ flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? The answer usually given , simply that we are ‘cold’, will not explain all the facts…. 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.
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 self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self admiration, self-love and a 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 until the light of God is focused upon them…
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. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgement…
Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life, hoping 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…. Insist 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 joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the presence of the living God.
The Universal Presence
In all Christian teaching certain basic truths are found …Such a truth is the divine immanence. ….God dwells in His creation and is everywhere present in all His works…. for some reason it has not sunk into the average Christian’s heart so as to become part of his believing self…….
No point is nearer to God than any other point. It is exactly as near to God from any place as it is from any other place. No one is in mere distance any further from or any nearer to God than any other person.
Adam sinned and, in his panic, frantically tried to do the impossible: he tried to hide from the presence of God…..
The presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence. On our part, there must be surrender to the Spirit of God…If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face….
Why do some persons ‘find’ God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience? Of course, the will of God is the same for all. He has no favourites within His household. All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all His children. The difference lies not with God but with us.
They (past saints) differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired the life-long habit of spiritual response…….
The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push-buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar….
We have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we have reached a low place of sand and burnt wire-grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low place as the very pasture of the blessed…
Let us say it again: the universal Presence is a fact. God is here. The whole universe is alive with His life. And He is no stranger or foreign God, but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men. And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us. We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!) We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.
O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear to me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shall be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and carrying of heavy crosses, I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honour, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou might increase; let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou didst ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, ‘Hosanna in the highest.’
Lord, I would trust Thee completely; I would be altogether Thine; I would exalt Thee above all. I desire that I may feel no sense of possessing anything outside of Thee. I want constantly to be aware of Thine overshadowing presence and to hear Thy speaking voice. I long to live in restful sincerity of heart. I want to live so fully in the Spirit that all my thoughts may be as sweet incense ascending to Thee and every act of my life may be an act of worship. Therefore I pray in the words of Thy great servant of old, ‘I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee.’ And all this I confidently believe Thou wilt grant me through the merits of Jesus Christ Thy Son. Amen
Meekness and Rest
…the exact opposite of the virtues in the Beatitudes are the very qualities which distinguish human life and conduct.
The burden of pride – the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleeplessly if another is preferred before them.
Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method.
The meek man is not a human mouse – …but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. In himself nothing; in God, everything.
He will have attained a place of soul rest…Then also he will get deliverence from the burden of pretence. …For sin has played many evil tricks upon us, and one has been the infusing into us of a false sense of shame. There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression….The fear of being found out gnaws like rodents within their hearts.
Another sense of burden is artificiality. I am sure that most people live in secret fear that some day they will be careless and by chance an enemy or friend will be allowed to peep into their poor empty souls.
Artificiality is one curse that will drop away the moment we kneel at Jesus’ feet and surrender to His meekness. Then we will not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased.