“Holy Father in Heaven,
We confess before you how little we live for Your pleasure. Many of us do not fast, because we are primarily concerned about our own comfort and pleasure. We don’t mourn over our own sin, or grieve over the profound grip that the world has over us. We don’t feel the brokenness of this present world deeply enough to pray with intense passion for You to intervene in it for Your glory. We have forgotten the feast that will be laid out before us in Heaven and have tried to fill our inner hunger with the things of this world…”
(Prone to Wonder, page 108)
“It is impossible to worship God acceptably apart from the Holy Spirit. The operation of the Spirit of God within us enables us to worship God acceptably through that person we call Jesus Christ, who is Himself God. Therefore, worship originates with God, comes back to us, and is reflected from us. That is the worship God accepts, and He accepts no other kind.”
(Tozer, The Purpose of Man, page 71)
Have you heard of Zilla van den Born? She is a Dutch student who told her family that she was going on a vacation for five weeks in Southeast Asia. She sent them pictures, she Skyped them, and shared all of the great times on the social media, but there was just one problem…Zilla never left her city limits of Amsterdam. It turns out she was just really good at Photoshop.
An article in the New York Times quoted her as saying, “I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media…” “…We create an online world which reality can no longer meet.” The ultimate goal was to “prove how easy it is to distort reality,” she said. “Everybody knows that pictures of models are manipulated. But we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.”
As I read about her fake vacation I started thinking about the number of people who live vicariously through others and I started wondering if we are every guilty of acting as if we are on one level in our spiritual life when in reality we are on a totally different level altogether.
Years ago I was talking to a friend about Lake Forest Ranch,a Christian camp where we had both gone as campers, worked on work staff, and as counselors. We were lamenting the number of campers who came to camp, got fired up about Jesus, left ready to conquer the world, and returned the next year defeated and ready to start the whole process over again. As I reflected on their experience I knew that it was also my experience up to the moment that I was genuinely born again. He called it a “Lake Forest” faith…in other words, the camper, and sometimes the staff member, had more faith in their Lake Forest experience than they did in Jesus.
Are we ever guilty of having a church faith, or momma’s faith, or daddy’s faith, or….? Do we ever struggle to make it because our faith is more in Peter or Paul or David or Martha or Mary than in Jesus? In other words, we center our experience in the experiences of the great men and women of the faith, but we never have personal experience with the God of the Bible. Their faith experience should nurture us, it should drive us to our knees and to our Bibles, but ultimately I have to move beyond Moses’ experience on the mountain to actually getting alone with God and asking Him to show me His glory. I have to move beyond Peter walking on the water, to actually getting out of my own boat and trusting God in my day-to-day living. Does that make sense?
I am not in any way saying that their faith isn’t important, but I cannot be saved by Peter’s faith…I must personally trust in Jesus and then my faith must grow and mature as I trust in Jesus. I hope you and I are not living our Christian lives like the young lady from Amsterdam…looking good in public while, in all reality, we are never moving!
“The master passion of every Christian is to be useful. There should be a burning zeal within us for the glory of God. When the man who desires to be useful has laid his plans and set about his work, he begins to look out for the results; but perhaps it will be weeks, or years, before results will come. The worker is not to be blamed that there are no fruits as yet, but he is to be blamed if he is content to be without fruits. A preacher may preach without conversions, and who shall blame him? But if he be happy, who shall excuse him? It is ours to break our own hearts if we cannot by God’s grace breaks other men’s hearts; if others will not weep for their sins it should be our constant habit to weep for them. When the heart becomes earnest, warm, zealous, God usually gives a measure of success, some fifty-fold, some a hundred-fold. When the success comes it is the joy of the harvest indeed.” Charles Spurgeon
Last Sunday I preached on the Berean Christians in Acts 17. I’ve been praying all week that FBC would take that message to heart and dig into the Word of God. The Puritan preacher John Rogers, warned his congregation against neglecting Scripture by telling them what God might say: “I have trusted you so long with my Bible … it lies in [some] houses all covered with dust and cobwebs, you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”
Rogers then picked up his Bible and started walking away from the pulpit. Then he stopped, fell on his knees, and took on the voice of the people, who pleaded, “Lord, whatever Thou dost to us, take not Thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us Thy Bible, take not away Thy Bible.”
“Say you so?” the minister replied, impersonating God. “Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you use it, whether you will search it more, love it more, observe it more, and live more according to it.”
Thomas Goodwin was there to hear the sermon and was so moved by Rogers’s dramatic presentation that when he left church he wept upon his horse’s neck for fifteen minutes before he felt strong enough to mount it.
I wonder what would happen if we took that attitude toward God’s Word. Tomorrow we will see Paul in Athens. I hope and pray you will prepare yourself tonight and tomorrow morning to hear God’s Word. If you are in Pell City and if you do not have a church home I’d love to invite you to worship with us at either 9 or 10:15 in the morning or at 6:00 tomorrow night.
In 1855, Charles Spurgeon, who was almost 21 at the time, said,
“Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling blows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.”
Our Journey through Acts takes us to Paul’s experience in Athens this week and as I have studied Paul’s address in the Areopagus I came across an account by Daniel Denk of what Paul might say to the modern universities of today in Derek Thomas’ commentary on Acts.
“Men and women of the university, I see that in every way you are very religious. As I walked around the university, I observed carefully your objects of worship, I saw your altar called the stadium where many of you worship the sports deity. I saw the science building where many place their faith for the salvation of mankind. I found an altar to the fine arts where artistic expression and performance seem to reign supreme without subservience to any greater power. I walked through your residence halls and observed your sex goddess posters and beer can pyramids. Yet as I walked with some of you and saw the emptiness in your eyes and senses the aching in your hearts, I perceived that in your heart is yet another altar, and altar to the unknown God who you suspect may be there. You have a sense that there is something more than these humanistic and self-indulgent gods. What you long for as something unknown, I want to declare to you now.” (page 503)
Last night I share the following quote from Charles Spurgeon.
“I entertain no doubt about his Deity, and, moreover, on that I risk my soul; I do take him into my heart as being God over all, blessed for ever, Amen; I kiss his feet while I see his humanity; but I believe that, since those feet could tread the waters, he is divine. I look up to his hands, and as I see them pierced I know, that he is human; but as I know that those hands multiplied the loaves and fishes till they fed five thousand, I know that he is divine. I look upon his corpse in the tomb, and I see that he is man; I see him in the resurrection, and I know that he is God. I see him on the cross, suffering, and I know that he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; but I hear a voice which saith, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him,’ ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;’ and I bow before him and say, ‘Oh Lord, thou Son of God and son of Mary, I receive thee as Christ Jesus the Lord.'”
On January 1st I opened my Bible and began to read through Genesis and once again I marveled at the greatness and grandeur of God as He created all that exists. Genesis one is simply God centered. Over and over again we find words like, “And God said,” “And God saw,” and “And God called.” I marvel at God’s creation, I marvel at His love and desire to fellowship, and then I turn to chapter 3 and read the account of the Fall.
It is heartbreaking. What Adam and Eve did at that moment ruined every son of Adam and daughter of Eve. The first man and the first woman had all that we could dream of, but they turned from God, ignored God’s Word, shunned God’s fellowship, and ended up naked and afraid and hiding in the bushes.
In the book Prone to Wander: Prayers of Confession and Celebration, we find these words,
“O God, our Father,
Forgive us for our many sins. Like Eve, we are easily captivated by the objects that our eyes desire. We fall so often, and when we do, we run and hide in shame instead of running to you to confess our sin and find joy and forgiveness in the cross. You have given us your most cherished treasure, yet we prize many other things more highly than Christ. Forgive us for trusting in our own strength more than in His power to save us completely. We live each day with hearts full of our own desires, minds full of our own agendas and plans for our own self-promotion. Forgive us, Lord.” (page 18)
In the midst of the heartbreak we find a glimmer of hope…the first Gospel proclamation in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” As God confronts their sin He tells them of the Redeemer who would right the wrong and restore the sinner and ultimately glorify us in His presence forever.
So in the course of three chapters I move from marveling the power of God, to heartbreak over my sin, and then sheer joy and humility in the face of God’s grace.
This morning, in preparation for a reading group, I read the following words by AW Tozer in his book, The Purpose of Man,
“Christian ministry is based on the assumption that there are some serious-minded people who want to know who they are, what they are, why they are here, and where they are going. Maybe not many compared to the great masses of the world’s population, but enough to form a nice congregation almost everywhere you go. If I am wrong about this, I might as well leave my Bible closed.” (page 37)
I agree with Tozer, but I think most everyone wants to know “who they are, what they are, why they are here, and where they are going.” Everyone wants to know the answers, but only the “serious minded” are willing to stop and take the time to figure it out.
Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are? Do you know why you are here? Do you know where you are going? Are you willing to take time to figure it all out? Are you willing to go to God’s Word and spend time with God in prayer? Are you willing to be proactive and not only find the answers to the questions, but to actually act upon the answers?
Tonight I will sit with my Bible and pick reading where I left off. As I read through the Bible I discover the answers to all of those questions. I discover who I am, I discover what I am, I discover why I am here, and I discover where I am going—I discover the answers to those questions in two parts. First, I discover the answers to the old me—the one who was not in Christ, but secondly, I discover the answers to the new me—the one who is in Christ.
It is not too late to pick up a Bible and read it through this year. Will you join me?