Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Character Like God’s

In one of the early camp meetings I attended (it was 1974) George Warnock was speaking one evening on God’s eternal longing for a dwelling place.  After some length he quoted from memory this passage from Isaiah:

 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me?  And where is the place of My rest?  For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith   the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word (Isa. 66:1,2).

He went on to ask why it was that God was looking for someone who was poor and of a contrite spirit.

Then he said with much emotion, “It’s because if you only knew it… when God is finished with you, you’re going to have a character… like God’s.”

The words were branded into my heart.  They are there still.  Oh, to know this God, to know what He is really like… and be like Him.

Our God is a God of great power.  His understanding is infinite.  His greatness is unsearchable.  He created the universe with the word of His mouth.  How then can great buildings impress Him?  Or those who strive for a place among the stars?  He is the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity.  If that is the case, one would think that those in the heights are closer to Him—the rich, the powerful, the famous, the lofty, the proud.  But the high are far away from Him, and the lowly near.  It is in them that He finds the house—the fellowship, the family, the friendship—He longs for.  With those who are lowly.  Contrite.  Gentle.  Meek.  Patient.  Loving.  Just like Him.

This is His purpose in all His workings in our lives.  When it seems that our own goals are being frustrated, God has His own goal in mind.  He is working to bring forth a character like His own.  A character so infused with His Presence that others become aware of Him when they are with you.

Back in the days when Isaiah wrote that prophecy, the ritual offerings of bulls and goats along with the distinctive rites of their religion had become things the people gloried in, all the while forgetting God Himself.  Their temple was the most prestigious building in the world and they gloried in it, totally forgetting its purpose as the dwelling place for God’s name.  They boasted in their religion even while alienated from their God because of the pride of their hearts.

“You think you are special offering Me these offerings?” God challenged.  “Offer swine’s blood.  Go cut off a dog’s neck.  It’s all the same to Me.”

Even in the Christian life there is so much we can become involved in, so much we can glory in… our great church, our great program, our knowledge, our gift, our ministry, our work for the Lord… all the while forgetting what it is all about.  Beloved saint of God, He is looking for a dwelling place.  With those who are like Him.  If this is not our one pursuit, our reason for being, our whole Christian life… whatever else we are doing, whatever else we are involved in and offer Him by way of works and endeavours, even though they be things He Himself initiated, if we have lost sight of what God is seeking…  we might as well go and cut off a dog’s neck and give Him that, or offer Him swine’s blood.

God revealed much the same thing to the prophet Micah, telling him that He had shown him what He really wanted from him.  It was not the offering of thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil.  Nor could he give his firstborn for his transgression, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul.

 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with Thy God (Micah 6:8).

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good?  When, Micah?  But this is prophecy; the Man in whom God would show this would not arrive on the scene for another 700 years.  When He did arrive, He would call others to walk with Him in His yoke and learn concerning Him—that He is meek and lowly of heart.  Who is meek and lowly of heart?

God.

In whose yoke the lowly Son of God rested.

And did justly.  And loved mercy…

…And humbled Himself.

That’s how the margin of my Bible reads for the last phrase in Micah’s prophecy, “humble thyself to walk with God.”

This is what the Son of God did, He who had been in the form of God… humbling Himself in His walk with God even unto the death of the Cross.

I remember a moment in my life when I became aware that I was going to have to go through something I did not want to go through, something that would mean a very deep cross for me.  I was standing on my back step frightened, sorrowing… when I had a very strong impression that the Lord Jesus was standing right there beside me.  The only way He could have been more real is if He had been actually visible.  And I knew He was saying to me, “I will go through it with you.”  Somehow I knew that this meant He was willing to come down to do this.  It was not beneath Him to do so.  He would come alongside me, and go through with me the very thing that was bringing me low.

Over the years I have at times forgotten this.  What is more important to me?  To be delivered from the grievous circumstances of life, or to walk through them in fellowship with the lowly Lord Jesus?

And so there grows in the heart a cry for a character like God’s, a  great desire to know what He is really like, and walk with Him.  And suddenly we find Him answering that cry by leading us into things that humble us, bring us low.  Let us not think it strange when this happens.  Let us not be afraid.  Let us ask for eye salve that we might see Him right there… walking with us, and finding the companionship He is hungry for with those like Himself.  He wants—yes, wants—to walk with us.  Let us humble ourselves to walk with Him, then…

…And, in turn, let us walk with those in low places who need someone to walk with them.

It must be this phrase from Micah that inspired the old hymn by Johnson Oatman Jr.  Here are the words; the music can be found on Cyberhymnal: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/u/m/humblets.htm

If thou wouldst have the dear Saviour from heaven
Walk by thy side from the morn till the even,
There is a rule that each day you must follow:
Humble thyself to walk with God.

Chorus:
Humble thyself and the Lord will draw near thee,
Humble thyself and His presence shall cheer thee,
God will not walk with the proud or the scornful,
Humble thyself to walk with God.

Just as the Lord in the world’s early ages
Walked and communed with the prophets and sages,
He will come now if you meet the conditions:
Humble thyself to walk with God.

Just as a stream finds a bed that is lowly
So Jesus walks with the pure and the holy,
Cast out thy pride, and in heartfelt contrition,
Humble thyself to walk with God.

The Romans Project

I have been a Christian for something like forty years.  Yet several years ago I realized I still did not have the book of Romans “under my belt,” although I loved certain passages of it.  So I began reading it, especially chapters five to eight, over and over again.  And again.  I have often gone away from my reading rubbing my eyes.  Surely I cannot be reading such things.  Am I dreaming?  This is astonishing truth.

That is why I want to encourage any who participate in A Mending Feast to become involved in The Romans Project.  It is a series of studies on the whole book of Romans by UK Bible teacher Ron Bailey and I highly recommend it.  I have found Ron Bailey’s teachings on Romans perceptive, clear, inspiring… and challenging.

It is in Romans that the apostle Paul lays out the most important thing in the universe: the gospel—the good news—of our Lord Jesus Christ.  With the indispensable help of the Holy Spirit, what Paul has written in this book may become revelation to us—light we can live and walk in, to the glory of God.

That is why I say, “become involved in” this project.  Passive listening will not accomplish much; God wants us involved in His gospel.  We are actively involved when we believe, that is, lay to heart, the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as laid out in Romans, and by God’s enabling grace, walk in the light we have received.

I realize that taking in something like this involves considerable time in a day when there are innumerable things that consume our time.  You sometimes hear people saying something like that.  “It’s so time consuming.”   May I suggest that involvement in this project is an opportunity to redeem some of that time.

The Romans Project has six sections, which are: Introduction.  Guilty.  Justified.  From Death to Life.  What About Israel.  The New Life.  Each section consists of a number of sessions.  The first series of sessions (nine in all) took place over the winter of 2013-2014.  The second series is now underway (winter of 2015).  They can all be found on a Youtube channel called Biblebase Romans Project:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGysPuyWzV6DI58gK7PWGYejmXXMUnJJs

 

For those who are into Facebook, notifications of each new session may be found at Friends of Biblebase:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/875185179188358/

 

For those not involved in Facebook, please check the Youtube channel for postings of new sessions, which are scheduled every two weeks till March, 2015, at which time there will be a break till the sessions are resumed in the fall and carry over into 2016.  The whole project (now in its second year) will be three years in the making.

Now’s Our Chance To Walk On The Sea

As we head into 2015 I have been much inspired by a quote I came across a few days ago.

 Never mind your infirmities.  You have nothing to do with them.  Your business is to trust, and to go forward.  If you wait till the sea becomes land, you will never walk on it.  (Edward Payson, 1783-1827)

I was gripped by the last statement, but perplexed by the second.  What do you mean, I have nothing to do with my infirmities?  I have many infirmities—weaknesses both of body and soul.  Then light dawned.  “Himself took our infirmities, and carried our sicknesses” (Mt. 8:17).  He has borne them; they are His now, not mine.  Even while they are yet with me.  In fact I myself am not my own.  As one bought with a Price, I am His.   So my troubles and griefs and burdens are His as well.  They are His business.  My business is to trust and go forward.  Walking on the sea.  If I wait till the sea is land (some day there will be no more sea, Rev. 21:1) I will have missed the golden opportunity to walk in the pathway of my Lord’s victory over it all—the pathway of faith.

After I read this quote I turned again to the passage about Peter walking on the water.  Jesus had compelled his disciples to get into a boat and go over to the other side while He sent away the multitudes He had just fed.  He then went up into a mountain to pray (Mk. 6:46).

And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land.  And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them (Mk. 6:47).

He certainly has good eyesight to see them at that distance, considering that He was “in a mountain apart,” and they out on the sea in the growing darkness.  Let us be encouraged by this to know that in the Mountain He is now in He has that same good eyesight, and sees us in the midst of our troubles, and is making intercession for us, as He did for His disciples in the storm.

 And about the fourth watch of the night He cometh to them walking upon the sea… (Mk. 6:48).

It would appear that they had set out just before 6 p.m.  For, “when even was come,” they were already out to sea, and the first watch, the evening watch, was from six till nine p.m.  The second watch was from nine p.m. till midnight, the third watch from midnight to 3 a.m.  So these guys have been toiling in rowing all night—from evening till the fourth watch of the night—3 a.m. to 6 a.m.  That is when they see… they don’t know what they see, it’s still very dark, with the waves dashing against the boat threatening to break it to pieces and send them to the bottom at any moment, and the swells rising and falling, their boat now high on a crest, now deep in a trough, and….  what was that?  Did you see what I just saw?  I thought I saw… no, it’s gone again, my eyes must be playing tricks on me, I really have to get some sleep.  No, there it is again!  Closer now!  It’s… a ghost!   They cry out, grown men paralyzed with fear.  Jesus immediately calls out, “Be of good courage!  It is I!  Be not afraid.”

Peter responds, that familiar and irresistible leap in his heart, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”

Jesus says to him, “Come” (Mt. 14:29).

At this, Peter gets out of the boat.  He is not going to wait till the sea becomes land.  He simply cannot pass up the opportunity to walk this impossible walk that Jesus Himself walks, whatever the risk.  And “he walked on the water to go to Jesus.”  I remember our old friend George Warnock saying that he had seen many paintings of Jesus walking on the water, but never one of Peter walking on the water.  They always show him sinking.  But Peter—how astonishing is this—walked on the water.

To come to Jesus.  That’s how the Greek here is better translated—come, which is how Young’s Literal Translation has it.  “To come to Jesus.”  So the whole scenario has not Peter, but Jesus at the centre.

That’s the secret of walking on the sea.  Coming to Him at His bidding.   Believing that we can do anything He bids us do.

And so, dear Lord, here we are in the fourth watch of the night, and in the turmoil of the storm and the darkness we aren’t seeing You very clearly just yet, just glimpses of You obscured by the dark of the night and the swells of the sea.  But if that’s really You walking on the sea in this dark hour to come to us, bid us come unto You on the water!

I think that in the context of this story, the sea signifies the whole world of the first Adam under the reign of sin and death, which in our day is rising up in a cataclysmic and violent and terrifying storm.  It is going to take walking on water—an impossible walk—to come to Jesus in this hour.  Nevertheless, this is by the Lord’s design.  In this very hour He bids those who hear His Voice to come unto Him walking above that whole realm, walking in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which enables those who walk in the Spirit to walk free of the law of sin and death.  Yes, even while sin and death are on the rampage.  We don’t want to wait till the sea becomes land.  We want to walk on the sea.  We want to come to Jesus “on the water.”  All the provision we need is hearing Him say, “Come,” and responding in faith.

So let us incline our ear to hear His Voice, and keep our eyes off the boisterous waves of the storm, and let us trust, and go forward!