A Response of Wonder
As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (Romans 5:18)
The doctrine of justification by faith- a biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unveiling self effort- has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction a religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be “received”. without creating any special love for him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved” but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.
The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of his world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities of both can be explored.
All social intercourse between human beings is a response of personality to personality, grading upward from the most casual brush between man and man to the fullest, most intimate communion which the human soul is capable. Religion, as far as it is genuine, is the essence of the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God.
“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast.”(John 17:3)
So writes A.W.Tozer.
Over the last several weeks, for most of us our normal routines have been dramatically interrupted. A small example for Sherry and I has been our norm of lunch after church on Sunday. As we are all aware, even the way we do church has changed. We’ve stayed home and watched by electronic means, or sat in our cars in the parking lot at church. Gone is our personal contacts of handshakes, hugs and face to face conversations. We miss the organ, worship leaders and choir that have been the norms for years. Our most important question is not whether and when we will be able to return to our patterns but what’s happening with our relationship with God. I can say for me through 40+ years of ministry that it has been easy to get into a routine and go through the ritual of church without a personal connection with God. It’s easy to get caught up in so much doing the work of God that we don’t get to know God. As I was reading Tozer’s words, I thought about all our relationships. When I came that first Sunday morning to Peters Creek, all you all knew about me was my name and that I was a preacher, and all I knew about you was that you were a congregation located on Cove Road. What a joy it has been getting to know each of you. Now I must confess, I know some better than others. The reason for that is for a variety of reasons, I’ve been with some more than others. For example, I probably know board members better because we spend more time together. This is the essence of relationships. What Tozer is saying to us is foundational. We cannot fully know through a single experience of salvation or baptism or even periodic rituals. Like any relationship, to fully know God requires being together, sharing our most intimate thoughts and feelings and desires from both parties. Let me encourage you during this time of church disconnect to connect, reconnect with God. I fully believe this is a defining moment for those of us who confess to be Christian. You see being Christian is not just going to church, participating or observing ritual. It is not singing songs or listening to sermons or being involved in church related activities. Being Christian is coming to know God in salvation and developing a growing relationship with Him. And we don’t necessarily need a ritual to do that. Like a marriage, the ceremony and the honeymoon don’t make all the relationship. As a matter of fact these two rituals are merely the public view of marriage, but the real relationship happens in the home, in privacy mostly and two strangers get to know each other. As those of us who have been married a while know, sometimes we discover things in the relationship about the person we married that was not obvious during courtship and ceremony. Some good, some not so good. In our relationship with God, as we walk with Him, He is constantly revealing more of His love to us, more of His desires for us and more of who He is. He already knows all about us so this relationship is about us getting to know God, and the more we get to know Him the more we love Him and walking with Him becomes a delight and not a duty. The evidence of relationship is the passion of telling others about the one we’re in relationship with. All you got to do to get this is be around a teenager when they find their first love. All they want to talk about is that. So I ask, is that your relationship with God? We all know that relationships can grow stale. In America right now the divorce rate is around 50%, telling us that relationships grow stale and people grow apart. When I was a hospice chaplain, I asked every couple I met, especially those married 50 and 60 years their secret. To a person they told me that you have to intentionally keep the flame burning. You have to keep courting. You have to keep fanning the fire and passion of love even though it’s expression may change from intimacy to caregiving. In the same way we as Christians must continue to fan the flame of our relationship with God. As we gather to worship, as we read God’s Word, as we pray let us not forget the object of all this is knowing God deeper. Let’s not be those who take the relationship for granted or believe one encounter in a lifetime is enough, but let us not be content until we experience the presence, the touch, the love of God to us each and every day no matter where we are and what’s going on. When we gather let us do so with desire and expectation that God will in some way encounter us and that encounter will leave us wanting more as a thirsty man craves more water and a hungry man craves more food.
Dr. John Thompson