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GOD LOVES ALL CREATURES
Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this God Loves All Creatures book with God Loves All Creatures message. This God Loves All Creatures book and God Loves All Creatures study with God Loves All Creatures message looks into the God Loves All Creatures topic and asks is it true God Loves All Creatures, why God Loves All Creatures and how the truth that God Loves All Creatures affects your life. This God Loves All Creatures book looks into the God Loves All Creatures message and how it can affect your Christian walk. Understanding the God Loves All Creatures message is very important and knowing what the God Loves All Creatures message means can help you to understand many things more clearly. Let us delve into this God Loves All Creatures book with God Loves All Creatures message and find what this author has to share on the subject of God Loves All Creatures in this God Loves All Creatures book, shall we?


 

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DOES GOD LOVE
COCKROACHES?

 

By David A. J. Seargent
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DOES GOD LOVE COCKROACHES?

IS THERE JUST ONE ROAD TO THE NEW JERUSALEM?

DOES ANYONE HERE KNOW CYRUS TEED?

DID THE DOCTOR PRESCRIBE AN ASPIRIN WHEN THE PATIENT NEEDED BRAIN SURGERY?

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE TSUNAMI OF DECEMBER 26, 2004
“LEVELS” OF OBEDIENCE

TWO IMAGINARY STORIES

DON’T BE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

THE GENEROUS MILLIONAIRE

A. W. TOZER ON CHURCH AND WORSHIP

A QUIET ACTION CALL TO ALL CHRISTIANS!

 

CHAPTER I
DOES GOD LOVE COCKROACHES?
 

 

I have a confession to make. I HATE cockroaches!

Normally, I try to live and let live. If an insect or a spider is not in some way threatening to me, I usually don’t interfere. If I find a bug in the house, wherever possible I try to catch it and take it outside instead of killing it.

But if I spy a cockroach …

Were I to rewrite the classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I would not have the kindly doctor drink some vile potion in order to change into the evil Mr. Hyde. No, from my own experience, I would deem it quite sufficient for the good doctor to find a cockroach in his study. I rather fancy that even St. Francis might have been driven to squash Brother Cockroach, though maybe not under a discalced foot!

Which brings me to the question. Why did God create such loathsome creatures in the first place?

William Blake asked of the tiger “Did he who made the lamb make thee?”

Well, I can admire a tiger … though from a distance and preferably with a four-meter fence between us. But would Blake have asked this question of the cockroach?

Actually, I find it hard to imagine Blake or anyone else writing a poem about a cockroach. (I know that there is a song about one – la Cucaracha – but somehow it sounds better in Spanish!). But the question remains and even extends beyond cockroaches to entities like the Ebola virus. Did God make that too?

I once heard scientist and Christian apologist Hugh Ross say that he is sure that God loves cockroaches. After all, he made them and placed them in a particular ecological niche for the benefit of the overall circumstances of life on this planet. To us (all right! To me!), they appear revolting, though I’m sure that entomologists have an entirely different opinion of them. But their place in the web of life is an essential one. God does nothing without purpose; and this purpose is ultimately the greatest good. Not every part of the grand cosmic plan may appear to our limited vision to be lovely, but each is essential.

Actually, cockroaches are really quite fascinating creatures when we look at them more dispassionately.

How many other creatures can live for several weeks after being decapitated?

How many other creatures could survive the radiation of a nuclear bomb?

If a star within ten light years or thereabouts of Earth turned supernova – in layman’s language, blew up – cockroaches would probably be one of the few land-dwelling species preserved from extinction (by the way, don’t be too concerned about this one, as there are currently no pre-supernova candidates that close to our planet!).

OK, so there are good reasons why God created cockroaches.

But what about those entities which are even less attractive, such as the Ebola or Bird Flu virus or flesh-eating bacteria?

I think that it is important to remember that even in God’s creation, there remains room for corruption to occur. After all, the very basis of the Christian gospel is the moral and spiritual corruption of the human race that we know as sin. Personally, I suspect that the effect of this corruption on the rest of the web of nature is far greater than is often supposed. While I do not go along with those who say that the very laws of nature have been distorted by human sin, I do think that the powers inherent in  our nature have been greatly diminished by the sundering of the God-man link that resulted from our turning to self rather than to God. We read of Jesus stilling the storm and multiplying the loaves and fishes. These are not fables. They are genuine records of what Jesus actually did. But I don’t think that we are meant to believe that they were for Jesus alone. As a matter of fact, you and I as sin-corrupted human beings cannot perform such feats, but it is my opinion that we do have the potential and that we could indeed exercise such influence over the natural world if we were in conscious union with God; as Jesus was and as we – without sin – would also be.

Maybe, diseases like Ebola and Bird Flu have arisen because we have been rendered powerless to stop harmless viruses from mutating into these terrible killers.

Writing to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul spoke about the creation groaning in travail as it awaits the appearing of the sons of God. Maybe the real ‘nasties’ of the world are parts of this groaning, which will be put right at the restoration of all things.

But back to cockroaches. I must acknowledge that they are indeed God’s creatures. I even admit to letting them pass by when I see them on neutral ground, so to speak; on a footpath or in an alleyway not near my home.

But next time I find one in my kitchen …!!!!

 

 

  
 

 

II

IS THERE JUST ONE ROAD TO THE NEW JERUSALEM?

 

At the recent Melbourne Synod of the Anglican Church, much discussion was generated by a motion calling on the church to affirm the traditional doctrine that salvation is through Christ alone. Not everyone, it seems, agreed, although the motion was eventually carried in a slightly amended form.

The debate raises some interesting and important issues. But first of all, let’s clarify a point of possible confusion.

The question “Can only Christians be saved?” is really a confusing amalgam of two other questions

namely,

 

i.     is there another way of salvation that does not involve the Cross of Christ? And

ii.  is it possible for somebody who has not heard the Gospel (or who has heard only a distorted version of it), and who is not ‘officially’ a Christian to be saved?

 

Looking at ( i ) first, the answer must surely be a decisive “No”.

First, we have Jesus’ own words that “No one comes to the Father except by me” (Jn. 14:6) and Peter’s words that “there is salvation in no other … there is no other name … whereby we may be saved” (Acts 4:12).

However, even if these, and similar, verses had not been included in the Bible, there would still be no doubt that Christ alone is the way of salvation. In my mind, the ultimate proof is in the Cross itself and the terrible suffering, both physical and spiritual, that Jesus experienced. God the Father is certainly no sadist, neither is Jesus a masochist. The agony of the Cross would not have happened if there had been any other way!

Remember how Jesus, on the night prior to His crucifixion, prayed that “this cup” might be taken away if possible (Mk. 14:36)? At that point, we can have no doubt that God the Father would have answered Jesus’ prayer and revealed some other way of salvation if there had been any such alternative way. But the Father remained silent. Jesus, in His heart of hearts, knew that there was no other way, and immediately prayed that the Father’s will, not His own, be done.

Had there been some other way, surely the Father would have told Jesus to go and teach the people to make regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem, bathe in the Jordan, contemplate the sound of one hand clapping or whatever. But His silence surely spoke volumes … and if God Himself is unable to supply a means for Man’s salvation that does not involve Jesus’ dying on the Cross, how can anyone be so arrogant as to say that a religious practice or moral code set up by Man himself can accomplish this feat? Only God can save Man, and even He is restricted to a single method!

Even the God-ordained sacrifices of the Old Testament were only efficacious in so far as they looked forward to the one great Sacrifice of Jesus. So even the salvation of the saints of the Old Covenant was through Jesus, though they did not specifically know Him during their life time.

Incidentally, perhaps we have here the reason for something which has puzzled Christians from time to time. Why did God provide no salvation for the angels who rebelled?

May I suggest that it is because there IS no means of salvation for a purely non-physical being. The death of Christ is sufficient for my salvation because His death is a substitute for my death and for the deaths of each human being. But how could a death – even the death of Christ – be a substitute punishment for the sins of beings who know no death? How could the Blood of Christ atone for the sins of a bloodless creature?

Therefore, if there truly is no other means of salvation, angels by their very nature must be excluded from this hope. (I think that we can safely suppose, even if it is only speculation, that the God who hates nothing that He has made would not deny restoration to fallen angels if a way was available to accomplish this, so the non-salvation of the rebel angels further highlights the uniqueness of the salvic efficacy of the Cross of Christ).

If I may be forgiven a further distraction, we may also see here a possible argument against the existence of human-like physical/spiritual beings on other planets.

It runs like this: If such beings exist, they (like us) would also have the free will to accept or reject God.

But what if they rejected Him?

Would He then destroy them?

Would not the God who went to such unbelievable extremes to save us, not go to similar extremes to save any similar creatures made in His image?

But, if we are correct in seeing the sacrifice of Christ as being the only way, would this not imply that Christ would be incarnated over and over again throughout the universe, each time only to die a cruel death while literally suffering the Hell of separation from the Father as he bore the sins of many?

This possibility, as well as being repugnant to our minds, appears to have been ruled out by Hebrews 9:26-28. (The possibility that his death on this planet somehow atoned for the sins of every human-like being in the Universe, though perhaps possible, seems extremely farfetched to say the least … unless “every human-like being in the universe” is co-extensive with the human race here on earth, which is, of course, the very position suggested here!).

But back to earth!

We may safely conclude that salvation is not to be found outside of Christ. But does this necessarily confine the possibility of salvation to what we might call “conscious Christians” i.e., people who have made a conscious decision to follow the Christ who has been presented to them in the Bible?

Can, in other words, a person enter into a saving relationship with Jesus without ever having heard the name? Can one be saved by walking in the light that he has been given, only to eventually find that the Light was Christ Himself? We are reminded of the words of William Blake,

 

God appears and God is Light

To those poor souls who dwell in night

But doth a human form display

To those who dwell in realms of day.

 

The answer to this second question is not as straightforward as the answer to the first.

To be sure, the question “How may I be saved?” is clearly answered in the Bible “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:30-31), yet the same Paul who gave that answer to the Philippian jailor could also quote a Greek poet to the Athenian assembly as being one of their own prophets, seeming to imply that a certain light had been given to these pagan Greeks (Acts17:28) and, just a little later (vs.30) he told them that God had overlooked their sins in the time of their ignorance. Although clearly calling them to repent and believe once the Gospel had been preached to them, he seems to be presenting the Gospel, not so much as an alternative light to what they had already received through their poets, but as the full illumination of what had until then been but a feeble ray. Might that further imply that those Athenians who had died prior to Paul’s visit, yet who had lived according to the light that they had received (how ever dim that light may have been) would have been judged by God as having accepted the Light that is Christ and brought in the spiritual realm into the greater Illumination?

It is only a personal suggestion, but I am inclined to give a positive answer to that question.

Again, we may consider the Old Testament case of Job. Here was a ‘pagan’ man, living quite apart from (and, quite possibly, having no knowledge of) Israel and the Covenant, yet clearly coming to experience God’s saving grace. Can we believe that there were not – and still are not – other ‘Job’s’ on Earth?

Yet, in saying this, we must nevertheless continue to keep in mind that Christ is the “One Way” and that if anyone who is not nominally Christian can indeed be saved, it remains through Christ and Christ alone that this is possible. How God may do this is not our concern, but we can be sure that (as C. S. Lewis emphasized) if a Moslem or a Hindu can be saved, it is not by being a good Moslem or a good Hindu, any more than a Christian can be saved by being a good Christian. The saviour is never a religion or moral system. The Saviour is the Lord Jesus Christ; the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen! 

 

 

  

 

 

III

DOES ANYONE HERE KNOW CYRUS TEED?

 

As far as I am aware, two prophets announced to their followers that they would rise from the dead. One was Jesus Christ.

The other was Cyrus Teed.

Most of the world has at least heard of Jesus Christ. But how many have heard of Cyrus Teed?

Well, for those who are not familiar with this person – and, I suspect, that will be most – Teed (1839 – 1908) was a doctor who dabbled in alchemy and came to believe that the Earth was hollow, that we live on the inside and that what we see as the astronomical universe is really the enormous cavity at the Earth’s centre. The ground beneath our feet is the boundary of this cavity- universe and the centre of the cavity is occupied by the Sun.  Planets, he taught, are “spheres of substance aggregated through the impact of afferent and efferent fluxions of essence”. (Please don’t ask what that is supposed to mean. I don’t have a clue. But it sounds deep, don’t you agree?).

By the 1870s, Teed (who by then was calling himself “Koresh”) had gained a following of “cellularists” (cavity-Earth believers)  and in 1888 the “Koreshan Unity” was formed in Chicago. Some years later, the Koreshan community set up in Florida where they built a college to promote their ideas and founded a magazine called The Flaming Sword which, it is said, was later to greatly impress some of the followers of Adolf Hitler.

Teed taught his followers that death was not going to hold him. He would die, but shortly thereafter he would rise again to an immortal life.

Just before Christmas in 1908, Cyrus Teed died, apparently due to injuries sustained during an altercation with the local sheriff. His followers – faithful to his prophesy of resurrection – suspected that he would come to life again on Christmas Day and faithfully awaited the great event.

Alas, nothing happened. In fact, the body began to decay and the Koreshans were ordered by the local authorities to bury it before it became unhygienic. A large tomb was built on Estero Island where, against all the hopes of the Koreshans, Teed remained securely enclosed. 

With no resurrection, many became disillusioned and the community dwindled. At least, until a hurricane swept across the island several years later and swept away tomb, Teed, and every other sign that he had been buried there.

Had he at last risen from the dead?

Some apparently thought so, and the community experienced a brief revival. But, with no appearances of Teed to any of his followers, disillusionment quickly reappeared and one would be hard-pressed to find many Koreshans today.

 

The contrast between this rather pathetic tale and that of Jesus can hardly be more striking. But it must fairly be said that there are both positive and negative contrasts between the two stories.

In their favor, the Koreshans certainly displayed a greater faith in their leader’s prophecy than the disciples of Jesus did in his. It would seem from their initial refusal to bury Teed’s corpse that the Koreshans both understood and believed his prediction of resurrection. Not so the disciples of Jesus, who didn’t appear to know what he was talking about!

Perhaps the prior example of Jesus made it easier for the Koreshans to accept this prophecy, but it remains true that they possessed a degree of faith that Jesus’ followers did not initially have.

This shows itself again in the ways these two groups of disciples initially reacted to the death of their respective leaders.

The disciples of Jesus were afraid, heartbroken and thoroughly disillusioned. All their hopes had gone to the Cross with their Leader. The one in whom they had placed all their hopes and trust had let them down.

By contrast, the followers of Teed apparently had no doubts that he would deliver a miraculous resurrection. Not to bury a corpse in the climate of Florida is certainly an act of faith!

Yet, the greatest contrast concerns what happened during the months and years that followed the death of these respective religious leaders. Over two thousand years after the death of Jesus, the movement that began amongst his small group of frightened, confused and disillusioned followers has grown to become the largest and most influential spiritual movement that the world has ever seen. By way of contrast the Koreshan movement, always tiny, effectively vanished within a century of its founder’s death.

We know why the Koreshan movement failed. True, its beliefs were (to put it mildly) eccentric, but surely even this would not have prevented its widespread appeal had its founder really rose from the dead. The failed prediction – the failed resurrection – was  the real nail in the coffin for the Koreshans. It was this non-event that turned their faith into despair and their belief into doubt.

But what about the Jesus movement?

If Cyrus Teed’s failure to rise from the dead was the thing that turned faith into disbelief for his followers, then what was it that had the opposite effect on the doubting followers of Jesus?

Surely, only one event could have so turned them around. Unlike Teed, Jesus really did rise from the dead and allowed himself to be seen and even touched by his disciples. After the despair of Good Friday,  it would have taken nothing less than the new dawn of Easter morning to bring about such a change of mind and heart. No phantom “visions” of the ghost of Jesus or mystical illumination that their master was somehow still alive in the spiritual world would have sufficed to turn such a dejected bunch of people so quickly into men and women who took on the world of their day by the fearless proclamation that Jesus was literally alive; physically alive, though now passed into a more glorious state. No vague sense of “spiritual presence” would have enabled them to face torture and even death as they spread the news that Jesus had indeed been raised. In fact, why would they have brought down upon themselves such hostility unless they believed the resurrection to have been a literal fact?

The conclusion is inescapable. The one big factor that differentiates the history of the Koreshan and Christian movements is a very simple and marvelous fact. Cyrus Teed did not rise from the dead, but Jesus did.

 Just a single fact, but what a difference that one fact makes!

 

 

  

 

 

IV

DID THE DOCTOR PRESCRIBE AN ASPIRIN WHEN THE PATIENT NEEDED BRAIN SURGERY?

 

Within all of us, whether we like it or not, there is a sort of half-conscious desire to stand in awe of something that we think of as being greater than ourselves. This something may be as transitory as a football hero or as exalted as God, but the urge seems to be a basic one.

At the root of this seems to be a sense of being alone; of being separated from whatever it is that would give our life the sort of purpose that could bring us happiness. We long to reach out to something ultimate, but if we cannot find this, then any substitute will do.

The great religious teachers of the world, Zarathustra, Moses, Buddha, the Hindu sages, Mohammed  and the more recent figures, have all given the world systems of thought and behavior that are designed to overcome this sense of being alone by directing our ‘reaching out’ to what the teachers consider to be ultimate truth.

All of these teachers agreed that we have this sense of being alone and, in a sense, lost. All of them knew that the only cure lay in a Reality beyond ourselves. But few of them could agree about just what this Reality was and how we could ‘reach’ It.
 

For some, it was a personal God.

For some, it was many gods.

For others, it was a Cosmic Unity expressed as many gods.

For yet others, it was a Cosmic Principle.

 

Then, there were the different ideas about how to ‘reach’ it.

Some taught that this was possible through a system of meditation.

Some taught that it was by following a moral code.

Others taught specific types of worship.

Yet others stressed the importance of sacrifice.

 

All of these schemes ‘worked’ to some degree in so far as they (at least temporarily) eased the sense of cosmic loneliness, but the more sensitive and serious followers of these religions often felt that something remained missing.

 

Think of it this way.

A person has been suffering from acute thirst. She visits a doctor who correctly diagnosis diabetes and prescribes a medication. It seems to work for a while, but then the thirst returns.

So she sees another doctor, and is prescribed a special diet. This too works to some degree, but not altogether satisfactorily.

Finally, she sees another doctor who looks for the cause, not just of the thirst, but of the diabetes. He finds that she has a tumor of the pancreas!

After he surgically removes the tumor, the diabetes and the thirst vanish.

No more medication and no more diet!

But had she not undergone surgery, the tumor would have killed her. Not all the diet and medication in the world could have saved her life, even though it might have offered a measure of temporary relief.

 

The religious systems of the great teachers are rather like the advice of the first doctors in this story. They can offer some relief, some measure of spiritual enlightenment, but they are not adequate to cure the underlying problem. In the end, they fail to bring spiritual salvation.

 

You may have noticed that I missed one name from the list of religious teachers. Actually, I missed several, as the list was not intended to be a complete one, but some may have been surprised that I did not make mention of the Jewish rabbi Yeshua bar-Joseph, also known as Isa or Jesus Christ. Millions of people regard this rabbi as the greatest of religious teachers. So why did I omit him from the list?

I omitted him because he is essentially different from the others. Sure, he was a religious teacher. He taught about God, about how to conduct life and about prayer. But what he said was far less radical than what he did. Indeed, most of what he taught on these subjects could be gleaned from many of the other teachers. Yet, he also taught things about himself which none of the other teachers would dare to have said. He taught that he lived before his birth and that, indeed, he was (in some sense) God. He also taught that he would actually become a sacrifice and that by doing so, he would free from sin all who believed in him.

What he was, in effect, saying was that he was to be the answer to religion. He was not just another ‘doctor’ prescribing some ‘medicine’ (i.e. not just another sage teaching yet another religion or religious exercise) as a ‘cure’ for the spiritual illness of mankind. He was the ‘surgeon’, the one (and only one) qualified to ‘cut out’ the spiritual tumor within our souls that is slowly killing all of us. Our feeling of being alone, our self-centered natures and the sin which binds and spiritually cripples us are all symptoms of this ‘tumor’. The name of this tumor is Sin. Not individual acts of wrong doing, but a spiritual rot which has infected our natures in all their aspects.  As that great Chinese saint, Watchman Nee, said “we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners”.

Jesus  (Yeshua or Isa) surgically removed the tumor of sin by taking it into himself in some mystical way which our minds cannot understand (any more than we can understand how, for instance, an electron can be both a particle and a wave. We accept such things, but we cannot really get our minds around them). But by taking the sin of all of us into himself, Jesus died on a cross that the full punishment for this sin be met. Met in him, not in us!

On the cross, Jesus felt our loneliness and our estrangement from God in the fullest sense possible. But by going to his death, he overcame this sin and by rising from death, he enables anyone who believes in him and promises to follow him to be cured of their sinful nature and to have access to God as if they had never sinned. He does this by letting us share his mind and spirit, by causing his own life to grow like a spiritual seed within us and transform us more and more into his way of thinking and living.

Jesus could do this because he alone is both God and human. He is, as it were, the one and only human window through whom God’s full light (His very being) shines. At the same time, he is the door through whom man can come into the full presence of God.

No religious practice can redeem us. Only the death of Jesus and his rising again could do this. We can be quite certain of this because, on the night before his crucifixion he prayed to God the Father that if it was at all possible, may the ‘cup’ (having to go through crucifixion) pass from him. He was in effect praying that if there was some other way of bringing about the redemption of humanity (some religious exercise perhaps?), let him escape the terrors, not just of physical crucifixion, but of the spiritual darkness of bearing the sin of the world that accompanied it. But no answer came. Jesus knew in his heart that there was no ‘Plan B’. Not even almighty God can break his own universal laws. And it is a universal law that nothing short of the death of the Incarnation of God himself can redeem humanity.  Fallen angels cannot be redeemed, because they are not mortal. The Son of God cannot become an angel and take on their sin, because there is no ‘angelic death’ through which he can pass; and redemption comes only by passing through death.

But if neither angel nor even God himself, can provide another way of redemption, how can any merely human religious teacher provide it through a system of religious belief or spiritual exercises?

 It is absurd to even suggest such a possibility!

 

So Jesus, or Yeshua, or Isa, is the answer to religion. All religion. Don’t fall into the trap of making his teachings into yet another religion, for this will take away their power. Come to Jesus himself. Admit that you need him and ask him to enter into you and grant you salvation  and a real, living and experienced, relationship with God.

 

 

 

    

 

 

V

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE TSUNAMI OF DECEMBER 26, 2004

 

What are we to say in the face of the worst natural disaster in our lifetimes?

What answer do we give people who ask where was God on December 26, or why God allows such things to happen?

How do we answer those who tell us that a loving God would never have permitted such a terrible thing to occur?

 

We struggle with such questions, not the least because a part of ourselves is also asking them. The people who challenge us are only voicing aloud what our own doubts whisper in our inner ears.

So how do we come to grips with this sort of thing?

How can we answer, not only those who challenge us, but our inner doubts as well?

 

Some explain disasters of this nature by arguing that the Fall has corrupted the very fabric of nature. Events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes and the like are (they say) the direct result of a world put out of joint with God either through Man’s disobedience to the Divine Will or through the prior rebellion of a more powerful angelic being.

 This may appear satisfying on the surface, but it suffers from one major flaw. It just doesn’t work! Too many issues are left unresolved.

For instance, we know from geological research that there were earthquakes long before humankind appeared on Earth and, ipso facto, eons before we rebelled against our Maker (we don’t know when Satan rebelled, so we will speculate no further about that).

Indeed, earthquakes are an inevitable result of plate tectonics and we now know that this process constitutes one of the factors that maintain our plant’s habitability. Scientists have found that the reduction of the planet’s crustal plates is an integral part of the maintenance of the Carbon Cycle and that this, in its turn, is essential in maintaining the Earth’s thermostat. If the crustal plates were to freeze – if the process of plate tectonics were to cease – carbon dioxide would build in our atmosphere until a runaway greenhouse effect was triggered and our world would end up in the hellish position of our neighboring planet Venus. All life would be extinguished as the oceans boil away and temperatures soar to such levels that surface rocks glow red hot.

Even worse would follow actually. Plate tectonics acts as a sort of “engine” that performs “work”. But as we know from both secondary-school physics and a day’s digging in the garden, work uses up energy and in the case of plate tectonics, this energy is supplied by the planet’s internal heat. If plate tectonics were to stop, a major avenue of internal heat dissipation would therefore be closed off and the Earth’s interior would just keep getting hotter and hotter until something blew.

 Once again, Venus serves as a dire example of what would Earth would face without plate tectonics. Scientists have found evidence that this planet did indeed “blow” many millions of years ago. It apparently experienced such an intense period of volcanism that its entire surface crust was renewed; the whole planet experiencing a global flood, not of water, but of molten lava several kilometers deep. Then, when the volcanic phase died down, the planet was left shrouded by a dense lethal envelope having a surface pressure some ninety times greater than that of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level.

That would be the fate of Planet Earth, but for the continuation of plate tectonics!

Yet, for earthquakes to cease, this is exactly what would be required … the seizing up of the plate tectonic mechanism.

In a round-about sort of way, earthquakes are therefore essential to Earth’s habitability!

The same also applies to the ocean of course. The very same body of water that rose up with such destruction on Boxing Day 2005 is essential to our planet’s continuing habitability in many ways. It acts as a major regulator of climate, is vitally important in maintaining the food chain, acts as a “sink” for carbon dioxide and is vital in providing sufficient water as a lubricant for the reduction of crustal plates. Ironically, this lubrication actually diminishes the severity of earthquakes as well as, in the slightly longer term, preventing the disastrous seizing up of the entire plate tectonic process.

Yet, plate tectonics + ocean = tsunamis.

There is simply no escaping this equation!

God created a world in which earthquakes and tsunamis have a right and proper place. They are not signs of imperfection, neither are they evidence of the disruptive effects of our sin nor of satanic interference with the processes of nature.

If they did not occur, there would indeed be no death, but only because there would be no life!

 

Well then, how are we to approach the 2005 tragedy?

To begin, we may recall something that a geologist said soon after the event occurred. Speaking on a TV news bulletin, he said something to the effect that had a warning system been in place, not one life need have been lost. This was said, admittedly, before the full extent of the disaster became known, when the estimated death toll stood at “only” 10,000 or thereabouts. His assessment was probably wildly optimistic, yet the point he made remains valid, namely, that even with our present-day technology, fallen and sinful humankind could have avoided most of the deaths.

But what if humankind had not fallen? What if every human being on the face of this planet walked perpetually in the light and guidance of God?

Would it then have been necessary for countless fishermen to wring a livelihood from the sea and consequently populate the low coast of the effected lands?

We may imagine God leading his people to the places prepared for them. We can imagine him telling them only to live in the hills, that the low coastlines were not places for humanity to dwell. We might imagine all the people living high above the tsunami, watching it sweep inland over uninhabited countryside and marveling, as it swept along, at the mighty and awesome power of the God who so constructed the Earth that humanity may have a habitation and a home.  

Not then a symbol of death, the tsunami would have been welcomed as yet another sign of God’s great love in preparing a place for us in this magnificent universe.

 

 

 

   
 

VI

“LEVELS” OF OBEDIENCE

 

It is probably helpful to see three levels of obedience to God, a little like three rungs on the ladder of holiness.

Level One is when we obey God out of fear; either fear that He will punish us in this life or out of fear of eternal punishment in Hell. This is often a response to “hell fire and brimstone” preaching, but as C. S. Lewis said, even if we come to God as an alternative to Hell, He still accepts us. What a great and compassionate God!

Level Two is where we obey God because we do not want to see Christ’s name dishonored by our behavior or, conversely, because we want to be “a good advertisement for Christ”.

Even more than this, we may (and should!) come to think of sin as in a sense hurting God. There is a real sense in which each sin that we commit drives a nail into Jesus on the Cross. Seen in that light, there are no ‘little sins’ any more than there are ‘white’ lies.

In both of these levels, we still have a degree of attraction toward sin, but we choose not to sin for the reasons mentioned. The Holy Spirit, of course, upholds us in our struggle with sin and enables us to walk more closely with God. But sin (and the desire for sin) is still present.

But it seems to me that there is a higher level of obedience, although mentioning it is likely to raise issues of theological doctrine that can bring sharp disagreement.

This third level is one that could be called freedom from sin, as long as that expression is not equated with absolute sinlessness or perfectionism.

There are two ways of looking at this state.

The Wesleyan Holiness tradition sees it as the rooting out of sin. The desire for sin goes, because the “sin principle” has been destroyed. The thought is one of plucking out a weed that is strangling the other plants in the garden.

Although this describes the experience to some degree, the better model is probably that of Chinese Christian mystic Watchman Nee. Nee sees the “holiness blessing” as the death of the sinful nature, not of sin itself. It happens when we really understand – not just in our minds, but in a deeper way within our very spirits – the truth of being dead to sin and alive to Christ. When Nee himself first experienced this, it is said that he ran down the stairs shouting “I’m dead, praise God I’m dead”!

When the sinful nature is dead, there is no longer anything in us for sin to grip on to. It is as if the antenna that picks up the broadcasts of sin has been disabled. Sin is still there, it surrounds us, but we have been desensitized to its presence.

Although both Nee and Wesley clearly refer to the same spiritual state – that of being, in Paul’s words, “dead to sin but alive to Christ” – Nee’s interpretation seems to me to be closer to Paul’s understanding.

We must not, however, think that this state – how ever it is interpreted – is one in which we are completely freed from the possibility of sinning for evermore. Moreover, it must not be misinterpreted as a spiritual condition in which we pass beyond the reach of temptation. In this state, it is not true that we cannot sin, and it is certainly not true that we avoid any temptation to sin.   Rather, to quote Welsh evangelist Selwyn Hughes, it is a state in which “we need not” sin; in which temptation to sin can be successfully resisted. The addiction to sin, if we may so express it, has been cured. 

As we mature in this stage, sin becomes increasingly repulsive; we see the prospect of sinning as we would see wallowing in filth.

These stages are not necessarily successive. We may pass back and forth between them or they may even (to some extent) co-exist.

But it is Stage Three that we should aim for. This is the life of true holiness.

Of course, if this state is reached, this does not mean that the time has arrived to sit back and relax and expect to simply glide through the rest of our spiritual life. That would be great, but it is not a very realistic prospect. As C. H. Spurgeon expressed it, we need to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit because we leak. Only by spending time in Bible reading, prayer, meditation, fellowship and worship can we sustain a spiritual walk that is so at odds with what the world considers to be normal. But the good thing is that if we persist, sin will increasingly become so ugly and a life of holiness so attractive, that we will increasingly want to persevere in our walk.

Add to this the fact that it is also God’s desire for us … and what more encouragement do we need?

 

 

 

 

 

VII

TWO IMAGINARY STORIES

 

There was once a man who cared nothing for God or other people. He lived for himself alone almost relished the role of ‘self-centred sinner’ that he knew himself to be.

At length, he passed unrepentant from this world. As he breathed his last, a long tunnel seemed to open before him and he soon found himself travelling free of his body toward a golden Light that eventually expanded into a landscape of exquisite beauty.

“They are all liars!” he exclaimed to himself. “Those who say that when we die, there is just nothingness; but also those who say that only the good and holy go to Heaven. Look, I never pretended to be good and yet, here I am in what must surely be Heaven! Seems like we can do just what we please in life and still make it in the end with no help from God or Christ or anyone else!”

Something (he knew not what) drew him onward, deeper and ever deeper into the Heavenly Land. The Light was glorious, but as it grew ever brighter it began to hurt his spiritual eyes. Soon they were smarting and filling up with tears. Even his new body started feeling sore, like one who had been exposed too long to tropical sunlight. He felt that he was blistering and longed to hide from the Light, but there appeared to be no shadows in that Land. All was Light. Even the ground seemed to be shining. He would have stopped walking, but found that he could not. Like a ball on a sloping table, he could not stop moving onward, ever deeper into that Dreadful Light.

Suddenly, he stopped. The ground seemed to level out before something that his mind could scarcely conceive. It was nothing less than the Throne of God the Father  Himself, and Jesus Christ was standing at His right hand. It was now obvious that all the Light of this Land originated in that awesome Throne. The halo of magnificence was beyond comprehension and burnt into his spiritual body like hot metal.

All his sins, every bad deed that he had ever committed and every good deed or kindness that he had failed to do, paraded before his mind, exposed like filthy shadows by the glorious Light that emanated from the Throne. Jesus looked upon him with a look of such love as cannot be imagined, yet this look only added to his agony. In the love of Jesus, his own lovelessness was exposed as nothing else could expose it, and his whole being shrank with the onslaught of an emotion that could vaguely be called ‘embarrassment’, though this word is far from an adequate description.

“My son”, Jesus said, “come to Me.”

“My Lord” the man replied “I cannot approach You. The Light radiating from You is agony to me and should I come any closer, I will be burned away.”

“My son” Jesus continued “it was for you and others like you that I died on the Cross. My sacrifice was sufficient to take upon Myself the sins of every person, but I cannot force anyone to surrender his sins to Me. Yet even now, if you allow Me to take your sins from you, I will carry them back to the Cross and they will become part of the load that I bore then, for the sins I bore were those of people from every time and place, all those who were willing to let Me take upon Myself the punishment that they had earned”.

“My Lord” said the man, “I cannot yield my sins to You. My sins burn themselves into my inner being and have become part of my very essence. Though they burn me like fire in the blaze of Your Light, to yield them to You would be like tearing away part of my innermost being and cause me even greater agony than I now feel. It would be like ripping the very organs out of a physical body while it remained fully conscious.”

Sorrow as well as love now filled the Saviour’s face.

“Then, there is but one mercy that I can extend to you. Look down at your feet.”

The man looked down, and a pit of blackness opened up before him. From the depths of the pit, sounds of weeping and lamentations arose.

“This” continued the Saviour, “is the only place in the Universe where My Light does not reach. I permit you to enter there, but once you do, all Light is lost and no way out will ever be found. Is that what you choose?”

Without further thought, the man threw himself headlong into the Pit of Blackness.

 

 

There was a lady who had been agnostic all her life. Yet, she greatly admired Jesus as a Human Being and saw a great deal of good as having arisen from His teachings and from the selfless activities of many Christians down through the ages. She had a friend who was a very active Christian and there had been many times when the lady had come to her aid against skeptics and scoffers who derided her friend’s faith. The lady, though agnostic, also gave financial support to several Christian charities and helped her friend on many occasions in her work of supplying food for the needy. Many times she supported her friend by handing out food while she (her friend) used the opportunity to tell of the Gospel to someone who questioned her.

Eventually the lady died.

On the Day of Judgment, Christ appeared with the company of His Elect, sharing the Throne of God. Before Him the nations had been gathered. These were the ones outside His people, but they were separated into two groups, one on His right and the other on His left.

Christ turned to those on is right, welcoming them to join with His Church. Those on His left were cast into the Abyss.

To her surprise, the lady was numbered amongst those on His right hand.

“Lord” she said, “You must know that I was an agnostic. I never worshipped You, nor served You in any way.”

“But you did!” The voice was His, but it did not come from Him. It came from one of the company gathered with Him. Looking toward the voice, the lady saw that it was her friend who had spoken.

“What you did for one of Mine, you did for Me” the Lord said.

“These are the ones in whom My Spirit dwelt on earth. What you did for them, you did for Me, because I was in them through My Spirit.”

The lady looked at the faces of His gathered people. Many were there whom she recognized as having been among the needy folk who had been helped by her friend, with her own assistance. Then as she looked, she saw that beyond their own faces, a single and glorious Face shone. It was His.

Then she knew what He meant when He said that what we do for the least of His brethren, we do for Him.

And who are His brethren?

Those who do the will of His Father; they are His brothers and sisters and mother. And the will of His Father, is that we follow the Son.

With the redeemed, she entered into the joy of her Master.

 

 

 

  

VIII

DON’T BE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

(RATHER, BE CAREFUL OF UNQUESTIONED ANSWERS!)

 

When Galileo was questioned about the apparent incompatibility of his astronomical discoveries with the then-accepted interpretation of a few minor biblical passages, he is alleged to have answered that the Bible was given to tell us how to go to Heaven, not to inform us how the heavens go. Whether this story is true or apocryphal, there is a lot of truth in these words.

Hundreds of years after Galileo, a Christian writer made the perceptive remark that, because God has given us curiosity and the ability to express this through scientific investigation, he is not likely to reveal detailed answers to specifically scientific questions in the Bible. What is revealed in the Bible is principally information that no amount of scientific investigation will uncover, namely, our need for salvation and the way that a loving God answers this need through his Son.

Other things are not revealed, either because we can find them out for ourselves (the structure of the universe, for instance) or because we do not need to know (for instance, the date of the Lord’s return).

These are questions left unanswered in the Bible. Clearly, God does not consider such issues as being vital to our salvation or spiritual development.

So why should we?

Why is there so much heat released amongst Christians over the matters that are left more or less vague in the Bible? Why are some saints driven to anything-but-saintly behaviour over questions concerning the age of the world, the time it took God to create it (whether the days of Genesis 1 are literal or metaphorical ), whether Christ will return before or after the Millennium (or whether there even will be a literal Millennium!)?

These might be interesting questions to ponder in a relaxed environment amongst folk who sincerely acknowledge each others’ standing in the Lord, but surely differences of opinion in such matters should not cause us to cast doubt on another’s salvation!

The greatest danger comes when somebody makes a pronouncement as to what the “correct” answer should be. “I am correct in this matter, and anyone who disagrees is a heretic. My answer is not to be questioned!”

It may not be expressed quite as forcibly as this of course, but that is the covert attitude.

Canon Michael Green once recalled arriving in a town in which there were two churches sharing the same name, but clearly not in fellowship with each other. Puzzled, he inquired of a member of one of them as to why this situation existed, and was quickly informed that “’They’ do not believe in the Rapture”! Apparently, they agreed on everything else, but this one doctrine was enough to split the fellowship apart. By the way, despite his years of theological education, Green admits that until that time he had never even heard of the doctrine of the Rapture. Needless to say, we can imagine how he would have felt about so obscure a doctrine being the cause of something as serious as a schism in the Body of Christ!

Please do not read this as implying that all schism is bad. We know that there are situations where a local congregation, or even an entire denomination, can wander so far from Biblical teaching as to essentially abandon Christianity altogether. Unless those within such a group who have remained faithful can somehow guide it back to the path again, leaving the group would seem to be the only option for the sake of their own spiritual health. But here the issues are basic ones; issues where the Bible is clear to anyone who reads it with an unprejudiced mind.

But if we really value spiritual unity in the Body of Christ (and as Christians, this ought to be a high priority) peripherals should remain just that – peripherals! 

 

May God grant that we be given an attitude of flexibility about non-essentials, inflexibility about essentials, and wisdom to know the difference! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

IX

THE GENEROUS MILLIONAIRE

 

Imagine that you really want to go to live in a lovely suburb, but that there is one really BIG problem. The least expensive house costs $10,000,000!

That’s more money than you could earn in a lifetime!

Then you hear some good news. A multi millionaire has heard of your plight and has written you a check for $15,000,000 that your desire might be fulfilled.

What you must now decide is whether you will accept his gift or reject it in the (vain) hope, either that home prices in the suburb will be reduced in future or that somehow you will be permitted to live there without having to pay the purchase price. 

Of course, it would be very insulting to your benefactor if you refused, but pride is apt to overcome common sense and common decency alike in these sorts of circumstance!

 

Well, I presume that you do not have your heart set on moving into such a salubrious location.

But do you know that there really is an even more “expensive” place?

It is called the Kingdom of Heaven, and the purchase price of a “home” there is an absolutely perfect life. Even one bad thought, once in your lifetime, is enough to disqualify you!

In fact, the price is so high that only one person in the whole history of humanity has been able to afford (been good enough for) it. That person is Jesus Christ.

That’s the bad news.

Now for the good news.

This very person has paid for your admission. Not with $15,000,000, but with his perfect life, which he sacrificed in a brutal execution that you may enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

In dying like this, he actually bore our sins and suffered the punishment that is really due to each of us; in so doing allowing us to appear clear of any sin in the eyes of God!

But just like our fanciful example of your benefactor’s generous offer, it is up to us whether or not to accept what Jesus has done for us.  This is the question which faces everyone who has ever been exposed to the gospel. Will we admit that the price of entry into the Kingdom of Heaven is too high for us to pay, and thankfully accept his unspeakably generous gift?

Or will you turn him down and let his gift to you be wasted?

 

If we accept Jesus’ gift, we must be prepared to let him become the boss of our lives. This does not mean turning into a religious fanatic, but it does mean being prepared to play the game by Jesus’ rules.

Just suppose that we accepted the millionaire’s gift. Surely, out of gratitude alone, we would want to befriend this gentleman or continue some sort of relationship with him. We would not (for instance) use his name as a swear word or do and say things that we knew would hurt him. That would be very ungrateful, to say the least!

How much more gratitude, therefore, should we display toward Jesus?

How much more intense should our desire be to know this man and demonstrate our appreciation for what he did for us?

How greatly should we yearn to get to know him better?

But how do we do this? How do we get to know Jesus better?

By reading about him in the Bible, by spending time in prayer and by joining in a Bible-believing, Christ-centred church or fellowship where we can meet with other followers of Jesus, worship him together and listen to sermons explaining more about his life and works and the wonderful new dimension of life that he has opened up for us.

Not that difficult really.

And the benefits are truly infinite!

 

 

 

 

X

A. W. TOZER ON CHURCH AND WORSHIP

 

 Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897 – 1963) was a phenomenon in the church of last century. Preacher, writer, evangelical mystic and prophetic voice against Laodicean tepidity, it has correctly been said that there will never by another like him.

Basic to his teaching was the conviction that the chief purpose of mankind is to worship and adore God and in this worship and adoration to be transformed into His likeness by the progressive inner workings of the Holy Spirit. The church is the fellowship or community of men and women who are committed to worship God and who are in the process of being thus transformed. It is the “highest expression of the will of God” in this age.

This church is a spiritual entity of supernatural empowerment and supernatural origin. It is not to be confused with the organizational superstructure which man has built around it, nor with the ‘religious club’ that includes a mixture of both members of the true church and merely ‘religious’ people who lack true spiritual commitment and whose worship, though often sincere, lacks the dimension that alone makes it acceptable to God. The church cannot be identified on a one-to-one basis with the company of those who have been baptized or those who have fulfilled the ceremonial role of membership of the visible church. The church of which Tozer speaks is a mystical organization — indeed, not so much an organization as an organism — that exists wherever genuine Christians meet together in a spirit of true worship. And even this meeting together is a direct work of God rather than an outcome of human planning. The church exists wherever the Holy Spirit draws together a few persons who trust Christ for their Salvation, worship God in spirit and have no dealings with the world and the flesh.

But in another sense the church has a wider reference. On a world scale, the Holy Spirit has also drawn people out of the various factions of the human race and society into one great fellowship of the people of God, the Body of Christ in the world. This is the church universal, and it consists not only of those alive today, but of all Christians of all ages, alive in the world or at rest with Christ. The local ‘congregational’ manifestations of this church are not so much cells in the universal Body as local incarnations of the Body itself. Otherwise, Christ's Spirit would only be partially present at the congregational level whereas in point of fact He is present without qualification where ever as few as two or three meet together in His name. Where He is spiritually present, it makes no sense to say that He could be anything less than wholly present.

Tozer was convinced that the church met primarily  for the purpose of worship. The church gathers to worship God, to pray to Him, to sing praises to His name and to come to know Him better through an exposition of His Word. The church is where man as a being created to worship God expresses this worship corporately. If Christian meetings lack this quality of worship, something essential to a true meeting of the church is lacking, how ever doctrinally correct the preaching may be. This is not in any way to denigrate the importance of preaching, but it is to place preaching as just one aspect of a church meeting.

But what exactly does Tozer mean by “worship”?

During the course of his writings and sermons, he said many things about it and returned to the subject time and again. He saw worship as being of major — indeed vital — importance to the Christian and greatly lamented that it had been so undervalued in his own evangelical tradition. To truly worship is to feel something in the heart that was not there before conversion. Worship is the  expression of this in some way. It involves a humbling and yet most enjoyable sense of admiring awe coupled with astonished wonder and overpowering love in the Presence of that most ancient Mystery who is God Himself. This is his basic definition of “worship”. We can know about God to some extent through the rational faculty, but any true knowledge of God presents us with that Mystery before which we can only fall down in awe. This response is the beginning of worship and in that sense we can say that worship begins where reason stops.

But man's worship has become corrupted and, as we were created for the purpose of worshipping God, the mission of Jesus can be seen as the divine way of bringing man back to his originally intended role as a worshipping being. Jesus’ life and passion was for this; that rebels could be turned into worshippers. We were saved to worship. Even our work for the Lord, though it should follow from worship, remains a secondary response to the grace of salvation.

It worried Tozer that this priority seems lost in many evangelical churches. Too often, evangelism and, in general, ‘the Lord's work’ is stressed with little or no mention of worship. Certainly, this is important, but it is the wrong way around. Indeed, unless our work proceeds from worship, we can become dangerously proud of what we may see as our own achievements. We work, but without humility before God. But if we lack that awesome wonder and overpowering love which is the only right response before the Father and Creator of all worlds,  our work and even what passes for our worship is no more than a following of rules or a response to ‘duty’. As such, it is unworthy as a response to what God has done for us.

Tozer traces the mechanical quality that has crept into many evangelical churches to their loss of a true sense of worship. Although he strongly affirmed the doctrine of justification by faith, he worried about an attitude that made salvation appear as a commodity to be dispensed in an almost automatic fashion. Converts are invited to come forward and be saved; as if salvation can be dispensed from a spiritual vending machine! There is no sense here of the convert's being brought into a spiritual state from which worship  will issue spontaneously, or even that the convert is being brought into a worshipping community at all. The awe of being in the presence of the miracle of salvation — of receiving a pardon from an almighty and all-Holy God, even though one stands before Him as a rebel and as part of the same human race that crucified His Son — is so often missing.

At the risk of being accused of preaching a religion of feeling, Tozer defines “worship” as “To feel in the heart”  and to “express in some appropriate manner” that which we feel. What is expressed , and in whatever manner it is expressed, will be for the worshipper a sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder that is at once both delightful and humbling. To merely go through the motions without feeling anything however, is to engage in sham worship.

On the other hand, worship may still be genuine in the sense of expressing one's true inner feelings and yet not be acceptable to God. Or, it may be acceptable to God but still fall short of the best that we can offer Him. We are made for worship — indeed, we are made for worship of God in Jesus Christ — but in circumstances where the gospel has not been heard, has not been presented properly, has been distorted or has been outright rejected, worship will be defective to a greater or lesser degree.

First of all, let's look at what characterizes true and acceptable worship. In the minimalist sense, we are worshipping as soon as the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and we cry “Abba” to God the Father. Yet, it is quite another thing to be worshippers in the full New Testament sense.

True worship must rest upon a right belief about God and a right relationship with Him. To worship God correctly, Tozer stresses, we must first believe what He says about His Son and what He says about ourselves. We must believe what God says about sin and about one's own sinful nature and not try to water any of this down with psychological euphemisms. In short, we must believe what God says about five issues,

 

1) Himself. We must never ‘edit’ or water down the Biblical theology of God if we are

to know Whom we worship and if we are to offer worship that is acceptable to Him.

2.) His Son. We must believe that Jesus is both truly God and truly Man, that He died

on the cross as an Atonement for our sins, and we must be personally committed to Him

as our Lord.

3.) Ourselves. Each of us must believe all the bad things that God exposes in us and all

the good things that he will do for us. Moreover, this must be personal and not general

... not ‘the bad things about humanity’ but the bad things about me; not ‘that Christ died

to save humanity’ but that He died to save me!

4.) Sin. The concept of sin must never be watered down. There are no ‘little sins’ any

more than there are ‘white’ lies. Any sin and all sin separates the sinner (me) from God.

It is even worse than a breaking of God's law ... it is a breaking of God's heart! If

worship is tainted with sin, an all-good and all-holy God cannot accept it because that

would amount to accepting sin, and this is something that God cannot do any more than

ice can accept fire; it is something that is against God's fundamental nature.

5.) The necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. The worship of the

unregenerate man is not acceptable to God as it is a worship corrupted by unrepented sin.

To worship God acceptably, one must be reborn by the Holy Spirit and must worship in

Spirit and in truth.

 

If we do indeed accept all of these, we may still not be giving of our best in worship. Worship, Tozer says, is subject to degrees of perfection and intensity and there are a number of factors which display this intensity and degree of perfection.

First, there is trust and boundless confidence in God. We must have complete trust in God before we can truly worship Him.  But this trust must never be confused with familiarity and it is unfortunate that an attitude of familiarity has been allowed to grow up in the church, to the detriment of a true spirit of worship. We must beware never to confuse communion with God and familiarity with God. The God in Whom we place our trust is the Almighty, the Creator of everything Who upholds the Universe minute by minute with His limitless power. He is most assuredly not “the man upstairs”! It is a telling indictment upon the degree to which our sense of the awe of God has been allowed to fall by the wayside, that such belittling expressions for God are accepted by many church people of this day.

Secondly, there is in true worship a profound sense of admiration of God or an appreciation of God’s excellence. This really takes up the point made in the previous paragraph. An admiration such as this would never allow any expression that fails to express the awe and the dignity of God.

Man is better qualified than any other creature to appreciate God, because we alone are made in His image, corrupted and distorted though this image may have become through the corrosive effects of sin. But, when we have been born anew of the Spirit and when that same Holy Spirit shows us God as He is, admiration for God grows and grows until the whole heart is filled with wonder and delight.

Thirdly, there is that which Tozer calls fascination or being filled with moral excitement; being captivated and charmed and entranced — being awe-struck with astonished wonder at the splendor and might of God.

Beyond this there is adoration. This is loving God with all the power that is within us. To adore God is to yearn for God with a desire that is both delightful and painful. Adoration, at its best, passes beyond all words into a state of being silently enveloped in the wonder of God’s majesty and loveliness. This loving and adoring silence, where the worshipper is lost in wonder at the awe and majesty of God is really what the mystics call contemplation and is regarded by them as the highest form of prayer. In its most extreme manifestation, this type of prayer leads to ecstasy where the worshipper becomes so absorbed in his contemplation and adoration of God as to be virtually entranced as far as the outside world is concerned ... even (in some recorded instances at least) to the extent of being insensible to physical pain.

 

Adoration, contemplation, ecstasy. These are the most profound experiences that Man can undergo, either here or in Eternity. In my opinion, the only difference between the highest experiences of prayer in Time and the bliss of Eternity is one of degree not of kind, although the difference in degree will still be a major one and unsullied by the prospect of returning to the state of mind which earth-bound, sin-bound and time-bound humanity calls ‘normal’. Though very few experience such profound states of mind and spirit, it is my belief that the greatest human joys are those which in some way dimly reflect or mimic the state of contemplative prayer. The joy of sexual love is one instance, which if practised within the context of married life is a good and proper thing, but there are also the illegitimate ‘thrills’ of drug and alcohol induced ‘ecstasy’ which are nothing more than chemically-induced counterfeits for the real thing; altogether lacking in the good qualities of true contemplative experience. But the very fact that people attempt to induce such experiences in itself shows how deep the hunger really is, even though it is not often acknowledged and its true nature not even recognized.

Really, to say that these deeper forms of prayer are the peak of human experience is simply to admit with Tozer that man is made for worship. If man really is made for worship, it surely follows that his greatest experiences will be those of the purest and highest form of worship and that these will be the experiences most frequently imitated by those who do not know what true worship is or who know but are unprepared to make the preparations necessary (i.e. to take seriously the five points listed above).

 

A return to worship as the central focus of church life would restore many balances which have tended to become out of alignment in recent decades. True worship is humbling and spiritually cleansing and places man in the correct relationship with God. By realizing the majesty of God, we are more likely to see ourselves in the true light as totally dependent upon Him. On the other hand, if ‘work for the Lord’ is given priority over worship, it is all-too-easy for us to place our trust, not in God, but in our good deeds for God. In other words, we can come to a state of spiritual pride which not only grows in an atmosphere of insufficient or defective worship, but actively works against the true worship of God. Those who work much for God but worship little are prone to the heretical thought that God is proud of them. But God is never proud of us ... He simply loves us! And not until we are brought low by either a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit (as happens sometimes dramatically at times of revival). or by Job-like trials or by temptations , can the proud heart be broken sufficiently to be brought back into an acceptable relationship with God. Then, humbled enough to truly worship God in an acceptable way, work for God assumes its proper place. Tozer believes that God wants us to learn more of Him in worship before we become busy for Him. His desire is for us first to have a gift of the Spirit, an inner experience of the heart, as our first service. From this will grow activities of service. We could say that those who stress activity before worship are content to do work for God whereas a true worshipper allows God to do His work through him. The latter works in the power of the Holy Spirit and knows that he is engaged in a work that God will bless.

 

Thus far we have noted what characterizes worship that is acceptable to God and we have seen how worship can fall short of this standard. But there is also worship that not merely falls short but is fundamentally unacceptable to God.

 For instance, there is outright idolatry or the worship of something other than God, whether this is a created object such as an astronomical body or a mountain or a statue made by human hands. A more subtle form of idolatry is worship of a flawed concept of God.

There is also heretical worship, that is, the picking out from the gospel those things which we like and allowing them to determine the way we worship, while suppressing those features which we do not like. Tozer identifies this with the Samaritan form of worship that was rejected by God.

There is also a type of pseudo-worship consisting of ‘religious’ feelings induced by dim lights, stain-glass windows, soft music and the like. One may be helped to prepare for worship by a suitable atmosphere, but there is a real danger that church ceremonial can induce a sense that God is being worshipped when in fact only certain emotions are being aroused. This is not confined to the ‘bells and smells’ of High Church ceremonial either, although there is an especial danger of it happening in these circumstances. But the ‘happy clappy’ atmosphere of a Pentecostal meeting can just as easily stir up emotional reactions which can be mistaken for true worship.

A not entirely dissimilar experience may be encountered by certain people in the face of natural phenomena such as a beautiful landscape. This sense of the sublime is not worship, but can be mistaken for it by some people.

Tozer identifies a very serious form of false worship in what he terms “Cain worship”. The error of Cain, as he understands it, was to assume that he could worship God without the need for atoning sacrifice (Abel, it will be remembered, sacrificed an animal — a blood sacrifice — whereas Cain did not). According to Tozer, this error rests on three related errors, viz. that God does not require the worshipper to first be cleansed of sin, that man can worship God without atoning sacrifice and that sin is something less serious than it is revealed as being.

While all of this is true, I believe that an even more basic error was present in Cain's worship and that it was this, rather than the nature of the sacrifice, that made it unacceptable to God. Abel's sacrifice was of the finest animal ... only the best was good enough for God! Cain, on the other hand, took “some grain” and sacrificed this to God. I beg to differ with Tozer that the lack of blood made this sacrifice unacceptable ... after all, Cain was a tiller of the soil, not a herdsman! But the impression is given that he thought God would be satisfied with anything. His attitude toward God was wrong. God did not say that Cain had sinned by presenting an unacceptable sacrifice, only that sin was at his door. But by getting out of step with God, he made room for sin and by not repenting allowed it to enter his life. There is a lesson right here I think. Unless we put on the whole armour of God, we leave ourselves with a vulnerable Achilles heel through which sin can enter. An unrepented sin, some part of our life where we do not permit Christ to rule as Lord and as such do not allow Him to protect, becomes for us a chink in the armour through which a sharp arrow may wound us.

But back to Cain! What made his sacrifice unacceptable to God was, I believe, the almost ‘afterthought’ nature of it. The Abels of this world are the ones who place God before all else. When they receive their weekly pay packet, they first of all take out the amount for the collection on Sunday. By contrast, the Cains put in the plate only what (if anything) is left over after all else has been paid for. Abel maintains his weekly giving even though he may need to cut back on something else. In Cain's budget, the weekly offering is the first thing to be cut back if times become hard. Abel arranges his Sundays around his time of corporate worship. Cain forgoes church if the family arrive and want to go on a Sunday picnic. That which is most important in our lives is that upon which we tend to spend our money and to which we give priority in our time and talents. Abel proved by his sacrifice that, for him, this was God. Cain equally proved by his sacrifice that it was something else.

The full meaning of Cain worship, then, is that it is half-hearted worship. It is only going through the motions of worship because it is expected of one to do so. And it does, as Tozer says, rest on a wrong understanding, firstly of the nature of God, secondly of the need for repentance on behalf of the worshipper and thirdly, of the seriousness of sin. Of all the forms of false worship, it is perhaps the one to which the church of our own day is in most danger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

XI

A QUIET ACTION CALL TO ALL CHRISTIANS!

 

The Gospel is not primarily a belief. It is an invitation. An invitation to meet and become an intimate friend with a Person who is both truly God and truly human and who gave his life so that we may live in the presence of God forever.

But Jesus is not just an historical figure; not even a unique Figure who performed something that nobody else could (his atoning death and resurrection). He is all of these, but he is also a very contemporary Person who stands before us now as a living figure. Beyond the Jesus of ancient history is the Jesus of the present moment; the Jesus who waits to come and dwell within our spirits and through his Holy Spirit transform us increasingly into his own image.

The Gospel is the good news that this miracle has been made possible by the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus. It is also the good news that this same Jesus now waits for us to turn away from a self-centered life and toward him, by inviting him to come into our spirits in a real and vital way.

Christianity is not a religion.

 It is a relationship.

A relationship between a man or woman and God in Jesus.  A Christian is one who has Jesus spiritually within.

But this relationship with God is not something simply to be enjoyed by ourselves. We are saved and transformed, not simply that we may become holy people and go to Heaven when we die, but so that we may become parts of a community of people who are similarly being transformed inwardly and who, collectively, maintain the presence of Christ in the flesh within today’s world. This company of genuine Christians, the church (not to be confused with any denomination, or even with the institutionalized church per se) is the Body of Christ today. In a very real sense, it is the continuation of the incarnation of Jesus down through history. Jesus Christ is the Head and the church is his Body; his corporate Body in the world. Through the church, God is involved in human society, just as Jesus was involved in human society. Society is influenced by God to the degree that all aspects of it are influenced by members of the church and to the degree that each of these church members is surrendered to the will of God. The healing of society and its transformation toward a holy and just community is, I believe, a consequence of the sanctification of the individual and the sanctifying influence of many sanctified individuals upon the broader world.

Nevertheless, the church can only be a unifying and transforming factor if it does not succumb to the divisions of human society itself.  Alas, this is just what has happened. The church as a whole and the people who are its members have lost sight of the unifying vision of being the Body of Christ and have allowed the false gods of human society to usurp the place that belongs to Christ alone. Christian has become divided from Christian along the lines of race, politics, class (and sundry other “secular” divisions) as well as the peculiarly “religious” divisions of denomination, worship style, theological doctrine and so forth.

These become “gods” when they assume a greater importance than the simple but profound fact of belonging to Christ, being in him as part of his corporate Body and being indwelt by his Spirit.

All of these false gods must go. The church must spiritually unite, not necessarily by merging into a single denomination, but by awakening to a single vision … the vision of itself as it ought to be; a vision of the church in all its sundry and diverse manifestations united in a higher unity as the Body of Christ, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, with Christ alone as its Lord and Head. Differences (denominational and otherwise) cease to be causes of division and become manifestations of diversity within this larger unity. The church must awaken to the vision of itself as the New Jerusalem into which stream all the diverse strands of human society, merging there as the single citizenry of the Holy City. It must have the vision of this citizenry going forth into the world again, still being members of whatever race or faction they previously were, but now with this one great difference; that from henceforth they carry first and foremost the badge of a citizen of the Heavenly City. Ambassadors now of Heaven, being transformed inwardly by the continuing workings of the Holy Spirit, in the process of being molded into the likeness of the Man from Heaven, they enter the world again, bringing with them the vision of humanity redeemed, of society transformed and of a world truly reflecting the qualities of heaven.

This is, unfortunately, not what we have today. But how do we get from today’s church to the ideal? How can this great renewal occur? Is it just a dream?

I do not believe that it is just an unrealizable ideal. After all, Jesus taught his disciples to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth as in Heaven. God’s will is followed in Heaven totally, otherwise it would not be Heaven.  And in praying what we have come to call the “Lord’s Prayer”, we are praying for the same to apply on earth as well. Surely Jesus would not have taught us to pray for something that would never come to pass!

Once the holiness of God is truly revealed to us, the full force of sin begins to be correctly appreciated.

A genuinely converted person feels inwardly drawn toward personal holiness. If one claims to have been converted and yet delights in some deliberate sin, something is seriously wrong. It is true that even a converted person will, at times, commit sin and it is true that Christians continue to struggle with sin, but it is not true that a genuine Christian can continue to wallow in deliberate sin. Unless holiness becomes increasingly attractive and sin increasingly distasteful following conversion, the validity of that conversion must be seriously questioned, irrespective of the intensity of sobs and fervour of promises at the penitent form.

The church and all those within it must also be clear that Jesus is their personal Lord and that allegiance to Him must come before allegiance to anything or anyone else. Christians must see themselves as individual members of the corporate Body of Christ and must be submitted to the Head and work together in the unity of the Spirit so that the will of the Head (Jesus) is carried out through the corporate Body. We must realise that in trying to put in motion our own plans for the way in which we think the church should operate, we are treating the Body as our own bodies would be treated if our limbs and organs  acquired wills of their own and started operating independently of the brain. Our own bodies would tear themselves apart; so why should we expect any less disastrous result for the Body of Christ?

This does not mean, however, that we should see the existence of different denominations as an evil. Rather, we should rejoice in the variety of ways that God provides for us to express worship. If we were to regard membership of our own denomination as necessary to salvation; that would be wrong. In effect, we would be saying that our denomination, not Jesus, is the saviour. But it is equally wrong to say that all true Christians must withdraw from denominations altogether, as that too would be setting up something besides acceptance of Jesus as necessary for salvation. In seeking the unity and the growth of the Body, we also seek the unity and growth of all the local manifestations of the Body, including all existing groups and denominations of Christians who have truly been set free from sin by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus.

 

There are some “key” passages in the Bible that are so filled with tremendous spiritual value that all who would call themselves Christian should take time out, not just to read them, but to meditate on them and ask God to illuminate our hearts as well as our minds to their great truths.

I would ask each person reading these words to prayerfully set aside a little time each day, for five days, for the following meditations. This may be alone, or with a small group of people (maybe members of your family, or your Bible study or prayer group). The five days can be consecutive or not, whatever is most appropriate for you, but in any case, it is only a very small investment of your time that has the potential of delivering a huge spiritual dividend.

As well as this set time, I strongly urge that you frequently bring these passages and thoughts to mind during your daily routine. This is something that you should do, not just for five days, but indefinitely. Form a habit of meditating on these verses; on other Bible verses too, but constantly return to these until they become part and parcel of your mind-set. Their message will then be ‘natural’ to you! 

 


 

 

 

Day 1

"Our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29).

Meditation

Here we meditate on the holiness and the power of God; we dare to expose ourselves to holy fear.

Holy fear has somewhat fallen out of fashion these days, and Christians are all the poorer for that. Certainly, we have the immense privilege of being able to approach God through Christ, but we must remember that this privilege is one that has been won for us by the blood of Jesus and that the God whom we approach is a God of holiness and might. We tremble at the power of atomic energy or of an exploding star. How much more should we tremble before the Creator of these things.

But we must also remember that God is all-holy and all-pure as well as all-powerful. We are impure, we are sinful. We cannot approach God in our sinful state any more than a snowflake can sink into a blast furnace. Before him, our greatest strength is pitiable weakness and our greatest good is as a filthy rag! Only by his grace are we not consumed utterly by his holy fire.

 

Pray that God will reveal something of his awe and purity to our hearts this day, that we better understand who he is and who we are.

 

 

 

Day 2

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

 

Meditation

The first part of this meditation shows us the way to the God who is a consuming fire, and the Way is Jesus. In Jesus, the Fire wears a human body. Through Jesus and only through Jesus can we approach the Unapproachable and through Jesus alone, Almighty God comes down to us, not in fire and wrath, but in the Person of a divine Human Being inviting us to come into a personal loving relationship with Him!

Jesus is the Way ... the way through whom each individual human being can reach up to God and through whom God reaches down to each of us.

He is the truth ... the truth about what God is and what man ought to be and can be through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

And He is the life ... the Life of Deity manifested in human form so that human life may be transformed and partake of the Divine Nature in and through Him.

 

Pray that our hearts are enlightened to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

"Jesus is Lord"

 

Meditation

This is, or ought to be, our response to this revelation of Jesus. It focuses upon the central core of Christian spirituality. It is the absolutely essential step that we all must take to become a true Christian.

But what does it mean - really mean - to accept Jesus as Lord?

It means that we accept him as the central authority of our lives. We make a definite commitment to live the kind of life which he desires of us and we both accept this and welcome the indwelling power of his Spirit who enables us to live in this way.

Acceptance of Jesus as Lord also implies belief in his divine and human natures; that he is truly God and truly Man. If he is Lord, he is also Saviour, but only as both Man and God can he be Saviour. As Man he lifts humanity up to God and as God he brings divinity down to Man.

We likewise note that Paul also says that no one can call Jesus "Lord" except he or she be moved by the Holy Spirit (1Cor, 12:3). Of course, this does not mean that no one can simply say "Jesus is Lord" without inspiration (a parrot could be taught to do this!) but, rather, no one can assert this with conviction. Asserting and truly believing that Jesus is Lord (which really means being a Christian) is not something that one can do "naturally". It is quite literally a divine miracle - dependent entirely upon the grace of God!

Once we accept him as Saviour and worship him as our God, his image becomes - as it were - stamped on a sensitized heart. Something inexpressible begins to happen in our lives; our existence has a new "feel" about it which (though very real) is not easy to pin down with words. A new hunger begins to appear; a new desire to really surrender more and more to Jesus and, paradoxically, the more we rise to this desire, the stronger it becomes. If this inner change truly appears and grows, we can say that we have truly accepted Jesus as Lord and our Christian life has begun.

As we meditate on the Lordship of Christ, keeping these thoughts in mind, we allow ourselves to experience an attitude of total and complete helplessness in the hands of Almighty God. We allow ourselves to feel the weight of our sin and how we are as filthy rags before the absolute purity of God. And yet, as we surrender to Him through our acceptance of the Lordship of Christ, He washes our sins away and looks upon us as pure with Christ's own purity!

We see Jesus as our life, our everything. We depend totally upon God to bring us to the point of acceptance of him. We abandon ourselves completely to God and to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

 

If we have not accepted Jesus as Lord of our life, we now face the greatest decision that we can ever make, either here or in Eternity, for our very condition in Eternity depends upon what we will decide. Shall we accept Jesus and enter into the family of God the Father, or shall we ignore or reject him and continue on a course that will one day bring us face to face (in full awareness of our sinfulness and impurity) with the God who is a consuming fire?

The choice is ours to make … now.

If we have accepted Jesus as Lord, acknowledge that many times we have acted as though you had not accepted him and ask God to forgive and strengthen us in our continuing commitment.


 

 

 

Day 4

"you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27).

 

Meditation

As the previous meditation concentrated upon the individual's relationship with God through Christ, so this concentrates upon the life of the believer as a part of the corporate Body of Christ. All who are members of the church are "organs" in the Body by and through which Christ has chosen to be active in the world today.

In our meditation, we remember that the one divine life - the Holy Spirit - inspires and guides each member of the Body and that, through each being united with the Holy Spirit, we are also united with one another.

We remember that as we yield our personal and self-centered lives and wills to Jesus - as we increasingly allow him to be the one true Lord of our lives - we yield our personal life to the life of the Body. We yield to Jesus as Lord and Head of the church as well as to Jesus the Lord of our individual lives.

We seek this deepest life within us - a life manifested through all desires to surrender to Christ and to follow him. We dwell upon these spiritual desires and let all other desires fall away from us. We allow ourselves to be drawn increasingly into the life of the group and, through the group, into the life of the Body of Christ. As each of us allows himself/herself to be drawn into a deepening experience of the Body and increasingly live for the Body through his/her role within it, so the Body itself increasingly functions as the Body of Christ. It comes under increasing control of the Head as each of its members more fully yields to the Divine Mind within the Body ... the Holy Spirit.

This deeper inner commitment will show itself in practical terms as increasing involvement, increasing interest and increasing desire for involvement in church life and witness. It will also manifest as a growing love for other Christians ... including those of different persuasions, temperament or background.

 

Pray for a growing awareness of being a member of the corporate Body of Christ in the world.

 


 

 

 

Day 5

"[you] ... have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3: 10-11).

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28).

 

Meditation

In this meditation, we are shown three classes of division between people and we are assured that they are overcome amongst Christians through mutual unity within the Body.

One division is social. Paul exemplifies this by "slave and free", but today we could also add "employer and employee", "politically conservative and politically liberal", "professional person and manual laborer" and so forth. Think about this. The differences that cause so much division both within society at large and, all too frequently, at a personal level, melt away as we become increasingly aware of the "Body unity". In other words, as we experience fellowship at this deep level, we increasingly see one another as Christians first and primarily. The tags which society may place upon us become decreasingly important.

Another might be called divinely instituted if we bear in mind that it was actually the sin of humanity that made it necessary in the first place. It is the division of Jew (the chosen of God) and gentile or heathen (Paul exemplifies this as "Greek"). What Paul is saying is that both Jew and gentile must leave behind their former position ... the gentile "comes in from the cold", from beyond the people of God, and is brought into union within the Body, but the Jew also must renounce any thought that he is right with God simply by virtue of birth within the Jewish nation. Both groups are now united in being equally in need of Christ and individuals from each group can find fellowship together if they turn away from their past condition and become united in the Body.

Thirdly, membership of the Body transcends natural divisions, e.g. sexual (male and female) and racial (Greek, barbarian, Scythian). Such natural differences include Asian and Caucasian, black and white and all of the many innate differences between people and groups of people that can so often be exaggerated into matters of real significance. But these differences too melt away into the unity that exists between true Christians.

We meditate on this fact and allow the true enormity of it to become realized in our minds.

With this meditation we touch the very heart of the unity that alone is adequate to bring Christians of different theological and denominational differences into true unity of spirit. We meditate on this fact.

But the impact of these passages goes beyond church unity in the usual sense. We imagine the world as it would be if all people fulfilled the potential for which they were created and truly became parts of the Body. Imagine the ideal; all divisions transcended by the unity of Spirit knitting all parts of the Body together as all people reflected in their lives the Glory of God!

 

Pray that the Holy Spirit stirs up within us an overwhelming desire to see the Body of Christ in this world truly Spirit-filled and united, having one Mind and one Spirit – the Mind and Spirit of Christ himself – totally surrendered to God the Father and revealing his glory to the world.

 

 

 

 

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, COMMENTS OR WOULD JUST LIKE
TO SHARE THOUGHTS WITH ME, YOU CAN CONTACT ME AT:

 

seargent@ozemail.com.au

 

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