God Reveals Himself – Psalm 18:25-27

God Reveals Himself Experientially

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Opportune Observation

Everywhere in the Bible, we see God revealing Himself.  He does so through His word.  He reveals His amazing character through His interaction with His creation. We have the wonderful opportunity to observe through reading God’s word exactly how He interacts with us in the universe that He created.  We have been provided the perfect place to keenly observe, without filter or pretense, what has gone on before.  This gives us a better perspective of what we should expect from our God, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Experiential Encounter

But He goes much deeper than that.  As we start on the path of reconciliation with God through repentance and sanctification, we begin to desire to experience God on a more personal level.  The only way to do that is to walk with someone.

When you walk with someone, you have the opportunity to share in the life-experiences of that person.  You are there when things happen, and are immediately impacted by the results of the circumstances that you both encounter.  God does not merely want us to read about what He did yesterday (or a long time ago, in our cases); He wants to us personally be involved with Him in what He is doing today and what He is planning to do tomorrow.

Jesus called us to follow Him.  The Greek word for follow is akoloutheo.  It means to walk alongside someone, shoulder to shoulder, if you will, almost as if you were in lock-step with them.

Relational Relevance

When we being to experience God’s character by walking with Him, He reveals Himself in a greater and deeper way to us.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

In the case of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals that to those who exhibit the Godly character of Mercy, He will reveal Himself by being Merciful to them.  The benefits of experiencing God’s character is that God makes it real to us as we exhibit it.  It becomes experiential knowledge rather than just head-knowledge.

If a person always has food to eat, hunger truly isn’t real for them.  They may understand hunger at a simple level, maybe if they miss a meal, or fast for a short period of time.  But to truly understand hunger, a person must be in the position of not even having the option of eating for a very long time.  Whether that is self-imposed or imposed by circumstances, the reality of not even having the opportunity to eat reveals the nature of hunger as it affects those so afflicted.

Participatory Providence

While we are forgiven our sins at the time we confess Jesus as Savior, we are afforded a more intimate knowledge of the character of Almighty God.  To truly appreciate something, you generally have to pay for it yourself.  Then you begin to understand the sacrifice, effort, and cost of something.  Time, effort, and money are expended in the process that precludes the purchase of other things.  Everything comes at a price and, unless you have unlimited time, money, and skill, there are only so many choices that can be made.  Likewise, when we participate in the character of God, we give up the right to exercise other options that are available to us at the price of following the path of righteousness.

For instance, forgiveness comes at a three-fold cost.  First, there is the initial harm that we experience when we are wronged.  Second, there is loss as we give up all claim at justly recovering (if that is even possible) what was originally ours.  Finally, we suffer harm in knowing that justice for the offense will not occur (in the case of those whose sin has been forgiven.  In the case of those who refused to believe God in life, they will suffer the most grievous and just penalty for that in the Lake of Fire, and there justice is fully meted out).

Disciplinary Danger

We are warned by the Psalmist that we need to be careful in how we conduct ourselves with regards to character.  God reveals His character as a Just Judge when we exhibit ungodliness in our own character:

Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Even in the case of ungodly character, God reveals Himself to us as well, even if it is in a less pleasant manner and method.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I daily receiving a more experiential knowledge of God’s character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Yourself to me in Your word.  Help me to put into practice all that I have read and learned, so that I may better experience Your character and understand the depth and breadth of the love that You have for me.  As I experience this, help me to better love my neighbor as myself, and love one another as You have loved me.  Help me to love You as You desire to be loved, and I pray that my character, daily, would more closely align with Yours until they are indistinguishable from each other.  I ask, Father, that You help me to yield myself to the Holy Spirit so that He can work more effortless through me and in me, that Your character would be on display for the world to see.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Unity In The Body – Ephesians 4:1-6

Strive For Unity Within The Body Of Christ

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Live Life

Paul reminds us here how to live the good life – we must live it in a manner worthy of the calling that we have received.  Our calling – generally – is to deliver the message of salvation to every people and nation:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our calling – specifically – is to be the part of the body that God desires us to be by using the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has empowered us with to serve God:

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

As living sacrifices, we are to live our lives in complete submission and obedience to God, giving Him the honor and glory that He so rightly deserves.  When we live our lives in this way, we are living the “good” life – a life that is worthy of the calling that we have received.

Soft and Submitted

We are to be gentle and humble in our ways.  This is exactly the same way that Jesus described Himself:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

When we are gentle towards others, and have learned restraint so that we do not allow our emotions and desires to control us, we are able to do what we have been called to do.  Because of our sin nature, we find ourselves at odds with what we know is right.  We must learn to become more like Jesus.  And Jesus, realizing that we could not grasp God, submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit as an example for us.

Lavish Love

Unity can only be achieved through love in the bonds of peace.  For true agape love – unconditional, volitional, and sacrificial love – comes through submission.  We are to submit to one another in Christ.  When we do this, the world will know that we are His disciples.  Love binds us together in unity; for if we are seeking the good and welfare of others first, selfishness, pride, and discord will diminish and die.

Unparalleled Unity

Paul goes on to tell us how to be unified by reminding us that there is only unity in oneness.  He gives us seven examples:

  1. One body
    • The great spiritual divide among all the denominations should not exist.  We are all part of the same body of Christ, separated only by geography.  When we do not have unity in the body, we are separating ourselves from one of the greatest strengths that we have – unity of oneness.  When there is corruption, we are to address it.  And if those who sinning refuse to repent, we are to follow the Matthew 18 principle of church discipline.
  2. One spirit
    • There is only one spirit.  Not all paths lead to God – that is Universalism.  Jesus has told us that He and He alone is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him.  And as Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we are to be one with them and with each other.
  3. One hope
    • Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.  The words of the hymns shed light on the great truths of the word of God.  We have one hope, and our hope (complete and justified trust) is placed only in Jesus.
  4. One Lord
    • Who is lord of you life?  Who calls the shots?  There is a bumper sticker that has been seen that says, “God is my co-pilot.”  If that is the case, then you are in the wrong seat on the plane.  Lord is a word that invokes the understanding of absolute and unconditional authority of someone over another.  Jesus should have that authority – He has earned it.  If we live our lives the way we want to, then we claim lordship over it, usurping His rightful authority over us.
  5. One faith
    • We have but one faith – faith in Jesus Christ, and His work on the cross, taking our sins and giving us His righteousness in exchange.  Faith in anything or anyone else is futile, for there is only one name under heaven given to mankind to be saved, and that name is The Lord Jesus Christ.
  6. One baptism
    • There is only one baptism.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit, into eternal life in Christ.  Baptism into anything or anyone else is futile.  We are unified in that there is only one baptism.
  7. One God and Father
    • Finally, we are reminded by Paul that there is only one God and Father.  Jesus has warned us that God the Father is the only true Father.  Everyone else is under the control of Satan.  We are unified by having God as our One and Only Father.

In each of these, Paul reiterates that there is unity in being one together.  As there is only One of each of these, there cannot be division.  If there is division, then we must be in disagreement with at least one of these, for if we are in agreement on all of them, there cannot be anything BUT unity.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made it possible for us to live in unity with one another.  Show me Your heart, that I may be in tune with it.  Help me to live in harmony and unity with those You have claimed as Your own.  Help me to submit to the Holy Spirit as well as one another that You would receive honor and glory from it.  Show me where my pride is interfering with Your will, and bring is under Your control, so that I may be humble and gentle in spirit.  Help me to learn restraint and give grace to others in areas that do not conflict with the core truths of the faith.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Rest in God – Matthew 11:28-30

God Gives Us Rest For Our Souls

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Back-Breaking Burdens

God never intended for our burdens to so overwhelm us as to be impossible.  In the beginning, the only rule was to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Only one fruit was forbidden.  Adam and Eve were given free rein to do pretty much whatever else they wanted to.  Yet even that became a burden to them.

Most of us are burdened down with life and the responsibilities that we shoulder.  Every day, our list of duties and expectations increase, until we reach that feverish point where, in exhaustion, we stop, and someone who is a little better rested takes our place.  God intended for us to experience fellowship with Him and have joy in our work.  Yet the fall of man brought difficulty into that:

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

The leaders of the Jews were afraid of being sent into captivity, and decided to implement some additional “suggestions” that had the weight of law to ensure that the Sabbath was fully maintained.  There were over six hundred additional rules given to the people so that they would not work on the Sabbath, and therefore be conquered by their enemies and dispersed from their homeland.  One of these rules was that you cannot spit on the ground on the Sabbath, because you might accidentally roll it over the ground with your foot and make mud, and therefore be accused of working.

Christ came to lift these heavy burdens from us that do not need to be there, and to show us what truly is required of us in the sight of God.

Royal Rest

Jesus promised us rest from our burdens.  We no longer have to strive to earn God’s favor.  This is something that we cannot do on our own, for His standard is perfection.  Jesus came to fulfill the law so that through belief in Him, we might be freed of our attempts to please God through our well-intentioned but misguided efforts to earn God’s favor.  Christ gave us His righteousness, earned through living a perfect life, for our sinful nature, and thus gives us rest from our burdens.  You can relax and be free – Christ did all of the heavy lifting.  All we need to do now is be obedient to Him!

Bearable Burdens

Jesus is gentle and humble in heart.  He gives us burdens that are light and a yoke that is easy.  He gives us the life of submission to the Spirit of God and obedience to His word.  And because we cannot do this in our own power, we have been given a down-deposit on our inheritance, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The very power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and performs miracle upon miracle every day for us, is living within us.  We have been given the strength and ability to do everything that God desires through submission to the Spirit of God.  Once we yield our stubborn hearts to God, our burdens will be light, and our yokes will be easy, for God Himself will do all the difficult work.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing the Spirit of God to do all of the heavy lifting in my life through submission to His Spirit and obedience to His word?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us with a way to be obedient to You.  Help me today to yield my spirit to Yours so that You would have control in my life.  You know everything that will happen before it happens, and You can provide the wisdom to guide me through it.  Help me to submit to You in obedience to Your word, that You would be honored and glorified before men.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Character of God – Psalm 18:25-27

God Reveals Himself When We Partake In His Character

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Fully Faithful

God reveals His character as we participate in it.  He has shown that He is faithful in His word.  He has ensured that all of the promises that He has made in through His prophets have or will come to pass.  Prophecies made over twenty-five hundred years ago have only recently come to pass.  The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, but does so on His timetable in order to bring glory to Himself.

When we are faithful to Him and others, God shows us His faithfulness.  He manifests this aspect of His character in His dealings with us.  He will bring about circumstances in our lives that will cause us to rely upon Him for His help, and then He will show Himself faithful in extricating us from those circumstances.

Beyond Blameless

When we are blameless before God, He shows us that He is blameless as well.  This does not mean that no difficulties will be encountered, but that God does not fail to keep His promises.  God will show the blameless that He is blameless.  In every aspect of God’s character, He shows us more of Himself when we participate in it.  To the merciful He shows mercy.  In every way, God is faithful to reveal His character.

Perfectly Pure

And when we are pure in heart, He reveals even more: for we will see God.  God delights in revealing His character to us.  He greatly desires to be known as He knows us.  And although we will only see in part in this life, He will fully reveal Himself in the coming eternity.  God is greatly desiring us to know Him better in this life.  We should take every opportunity to experience His character through our actions and words to others.  For it is only in the experiential knowledge of His character do we truly begin to know and see His character more fully.

Helping the Humble

Jesus said that he was gentle and humble in heart.  God helped Jesus through every trial and tribulation that He faced.  He provided Jesus with food and other provisions as were required.  God provided Jesus with power and wisdom.  In all things, God helps the humble in heart.  He even lifts us up when we humble ourselves.  Humility is the correct and appropriate manner of behavior before Almighty God.  Jesus has shown us how to behave before God, and being God, revealed the Father to us fully.  If you are having difficulties, humble yourself before God.

Shrewdly Subdue

And for the proud and devious, God has a different aspect of character to reveal – His holy righteous judgement and, eventually, wrath.  God gives us every opportunity to humble ourselves before Him.  Whether that was a prophet declaring the coming wrath of God, His holy word speaking to us, and/or the occasional terror that comes through our enemies overcoming us, God gives us the opportunity.  And when we do not heed His merciful and gracious promptings,  He is forced by His character to do what is necessary.

And while mercy and grace triumph over justice, it is justice that must be meted out when we refuse to obey.  God will be shrewd with those who are devious, and eventually thwart their plans.  For some He will allow them to greatly prosper and literally get away with murder here on Earth.  But they will be lulled into a false security, for when they are required to give an accounting of themselves before His great throne of justice on that final and terrible day, they will only then realize the terrible end that they have reaped according to what they have sown.  Remember that God is faithful in all things, even if His timing is not our own.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I participating in God’s character through experiential knowledge of it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Yourself to us both through Your word and Your character.  You always seek to help us so that we would know You better.  Remember me this day, and help me to participate in Your character in a greater way.  Help me to experience Your character as I put it into practice in my daily life.  Help me to be faithful, blameless, pure, merciful, gentle, and humble in heart.  May each of these qualities be found in my character as I interact with others.  Forgive me for my many sins, and show me how to live this way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?