Given for the Saints of the World on 2/14/10.
"Yet the proof of God's amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8, Phil).
"Enough for what?" Someone is sure to ask. We'll get to that shortly. Several things have been bubbling around in my spirit for a couple of weeks now, as the Holy Spirit directed my attention to this topic. It is obvious that the world does not believe God is enough, because people who do not know Him run after everything in sight to make them feel better, look better, smell better, and earn more, in order to gain an edge on the competition. My question is not to the world, but to the church, to Christians, believers in the Most High and in His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. There's an old adage in the world which says that whatever you give yourself to, you become one with, be it work, sports, music, or religious activities on the "good side" of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or sex, drugs, and rock and roll on the "bad side" of that old tree.
I've written before about religious addiction, so there's no need to re-plow that field, but this is a slightly different take on it.
My thanks to Tom Durst, a new friend who has joined our on-line discussion group, for his excellent and timely comments in a writing entitled "Worshipping at the High Places." In it, he began with II Chron. 20:31-33, which chronicles the account of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah: "He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers." It's a sad reality that the Israelites could not tear themselves away from the pagan gods round about them, and continued to go whoring after idols made with hands. It was for this and other transgressions of the Law that God sent them into Babylonian captivity.
Tom observes: "The problem with God's chosen people was that their hearts were not set on God as first and foremost. They still frequented "the high places" which were places of very gross heathen worship.
"I think the most essential warning for us today is that anything which occupies more place in our daily lives and thoughts than God does is an idol, a "high place," higher than God to us. As we do that we separate ourselves from our very Source of Life and suffer accordingly. When we get tired of the consequences of our idolatry we may turn to God but oftentimes it is of short duration and we go back to our fixation upon the popular modern idols which are numberless. I'm convinced that the enemy has been very successful in robbing multitudes of Christians of their spiritual power by the many distractions of our times, number one of which is electronic addictions but there are many others. Many Christians would cringe at partaking of excessive alcohol or harmful drugs but yet freely indulge in excessive eating which blunts their minds and greatly hinders them from hearing from God. The list of idols is endless and only the Holy Spirit can reveal to us individually what are our favorite ones. Grace is provided in abundance to overcome all things through Christ Who lives in us." End Quote. (There's a link at the end to Tom's Website. You can also e-mail him at email@example.com, to be added to his list to whom he sends his posts).
What high places occupy your attention? What do you put in place of God? Before you insist hotly that nothing replaces God in your life, let me suggest that it's a very subtle deception, because even seemingly spiritual things can replace God. In his book, The Naked Now, Richard Rohr suggests that Catholics worship the church and Protestants worship the Bible. Both statements are true when your eyes are open to see it.
What do you need to make God real for you? To whom do you go when you need a word from Him? Catholics rely on their parish priest, who speaks with authority from the Pope (filtered down through the Cardinals and Bishops). Mormons rely on the sacred word of the Apostles and Prophet, who speak for God to them. Other Protestants rely on their minister, pastor or preacher, some of whom get their ideas from the Bible, or from their seminary professors, who got it from the church officials, filtered down through the institutional hierarchy and their denominational traditions.
Paul explained how the church purchased by the blood of the Lamb is led and fed: "There it is said, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.'...And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way unto him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Eph. 4:8, 11-16). Notice that Christ gave the gifts of ministry for the purpose of building up His entire body, rather than glorifying the recipient of the gift, so that the members thereof can become mature men and women of God.
What happens then? Paul gives the answer in I Cor. 13:8-12: "Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away, as for tongues, they will cease, as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect, but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." There are those in the body of Christ who loudly proclaim their allotment of the gifts mentioned in Eph. 4, but Paul says these will pass away. When? When the "perfect" is come.
What IS the perfect? I grew up in a church which insisted that the "perfect" was the Bible, and now that we had it, we didn't need any of the gifts. Clearly, that didn't work very well for my life, nor for anyone else's, long term. The Bible is the greatest book ever written, because it was not birthed from the minds of men, but written by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, yet as Richard Rohr pointed out, we dare not make it our "high place," our god, because only the Most High can fill that role.
To me, the perfect has always been and continues to be Christ Himself in us, our hope of glory. When we are children, we truly do see Him through a glass darkly, which continues until we experience Him personally and directly through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Even then, we are but babes in Christ.
It is the Spirit who was sent to lead us into all truth. The Psalmist wrote, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day long" (Ps. 25:5). And: "Oh send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to thy holy hill and to thy dwelling" (Ps. 43:3). Picture with me, David, the shepherd boy, tending his sheep, alone on the hills of Judea, depending only on God for deliverance from harm. He had no prophet or priest with him and no scripture other than what he had memorized to sustain him, but he had the living God as his constant companion. He said of the Lord, "For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler" (Ps. 91:3-4).
On the occasion when Goliath, the godless Philistine was terrorizing the Israelites and blaspheming Almighty God, David volunteered to take him on, man to boy. King Saul looked at this brave, but immature lad and argued, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth" (I Sam. 17:33).
Undeterred, David countered, "Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (I Sam. 17:36-37). David KNEW from whence came his help because he fellowshipped with God constantly. God was his best friend.
And He is our best friend as well. I deeply appreciate Jonathan Mitchell's translation of I John 5:20, which fits perfectly with the point I'm making in this piece: "yet we have seen and thus know that God's Son has arrived and is continuously here, and He has given thorough understanding (comprehension; thought; intelligence; input throughout the mind) to the end that we would constantly know [other MSS: so that we constantly know] by experience the True One (or: the true, the real and the genuine), and we constantly exist within and in union with the True One (or: in the real [situation]; in the midst of Reality): within His Son, Jesus Christ. This One is the True (Real; Genuine) God, and Life pertaining to and having the qualities of the Age (or: life having its source in the Age; eonian life; Life of, and on through, the ages)." Notice the ongoing quality of the phrases: "God's Son has arrived and is continuously here....and we constantly exist within and in union with the True One."
I was thinking of calling this essay, "The ever present presence." Lenny and I were fellowshipping on this subject a few days ago. When he remarked, "God is enough," I KNEW that would be the title of these remarks. When our children are small, we send them to kindergarten and elementary school. When they mature further, we send them to high school. If they have the ability, we send them to college to finish off their education. How bizarre would it be if we kept our children in kindergarten until they were 18 years old?
That's exactly what some churches have done. Instead of rejoicing when their members put aside childish things, they chastise them for departing the faith. I had a "vision" once (and I use the term loosely), of a church service in which the pastor had a huge baby bottle. The members, though grown, wore diapers and little shirts. They sat with their mouths open, like baby birds, and the pastor passed among them giving them their turn at the bottle.
God is enough for all people, all seasons, and all reasons. He fills us with Himself continuously that we may be like Him. He is the ONLY High place we need: "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen" (Rom. 11:36). Jan Antonsson
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Tom Durst's Webpage
Are You Enough?
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 02/10/10
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister