Stripping Down to Essentials
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity that is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations, and a world of nervous activities that occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world, which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.
If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent.
We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials(and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.
When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the “and” lies our great woe. If we omit the “and” we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.
We need not fear that in seeking God only we may narrow our lives or restrict the motions of our expanding hearts. The opposite is true. We can well afford to make God our All, to concentrate, to sacrifice the many for the One.
I ran across this today and wanted to share it. I’ve been thinking about all that’s happening in our nation right now. Tozer wrote this years ago but I think it’s certainly appropriate for this time. My heart breaks when I hear of the hatred, the evil, the sense of division and racism and prejudice. As I listen to people express their fears and concerns, as I see many struggling to cope and trying to comprehend how we continue to visit the same issues over and over again with no resolution, I think about the history of humanity. If you heard the sermon yesterday, you will remember that I told us that Satan’s strategy has always been to divide and conquer. We know that he attempted to separate Adam and Eve. The unfortunate thing is that even to this day there is an undercurrent of division between man and woman. There is a striving against instead of respect, honor, and appreciation for the members of the opposite sex. We see that Satan attempted to seperate man from God but God bridged the gap through His Son. Now you would think that Satan would give up. But no, he continues. It’s not too long before he succeeds. We read the sad story of one brother who is jealous of the other and murders him. The murderer is banished. Can you imagine the heartache of two parents who lose one son by murder and the other by banishment. Further can you imagine the heartbreak of the Creator as His creation divides and destroys itself. As we continue through Genesis, we find that humanity moves farther and farther away from God. The Bible says that people began to do everything imaginable and the wickedness increased to such a level that God was left with no choice other than destruction. After Noah preached for 120 years, he had no converts. On and on through the Bible we read of men oppressing other men. We read the stories of hatred(Issac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau,Joseph and his brothers, Saul and David)
Again and again there was an attempt to address these things with religion and ritual unfortunately unsuccessfully, so God sent His Son.
By the time Jesus came, the Jews had developed an elaborate religious system. It had lots of bells and whistles. There was a lot of formality and strict rituals which must be performed only by qualified, well trained individuals. There was place for simple common people other than observing and complying. So intense were these rituals that the Pharisees were divided from the Sadducees and they both were divided from the Samaritans who had nothing to do with sinners and publicans much less Gentiles.
We may feel that prejudice is a modern thing and often we view it as an America thing but the truth is that it is nothing new. It’s just Satan continuing his effort to divide and conquer. Unfortunately he’s doing very well.
We could spend hours talking about the issues but I want to focus on the solution. I confess my approach to life is simple. I believe that all these issues we’re facing can only be resolved through and by God alone. I do not believe that there are any humans anywhere on this planet that can offer a solution. First of all I believe we must identify the source of the turmoil, division and crisis. That source is none other than Satan. I recognize that people are the ones acting out the ugly and I know everyone has choice but we must see the evil behind the acts of evil and that evil is personified in Satan. Second of all we must see that we the church working under the power of God offers the only solution to these things. Until hearts are changed and transformed by the power of Christ, humans will continually commit evil. Religion is not sufficient. History tell of atrocious acts committed by religious people, the Inquisition and the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts for example. Third, we must accept that the best of human effort through programs, ritual and the like fall far short of the ability to change the course of humanity. Again we have seen throughout history attempts to reform humanity and none have been successful in the long term. There have been attempts to create utopian communities only to find that there are always bad apples in the barrel.
The change in the world begins with the church. First the local congregation and then the larger denomination and then to the universal church. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we might become one as He and the Father were One. This is not an ecumenical prayer insisting that we all practice the same human generated rituals the “correct” way. Instead it’s a prayer based on the simplicity of personal relationships with Christ Jesus. Belonging to the family of God is not a matter of ritual but a matter of adoption. Family members are always unique but it is the bond of family and love for each other that brings unity.
I believe it’s past time for the people of God to unite in purpose. It’s a simple one. That purpose is to introduce everyone to our Savior so that they might experience a personal connection with Him. It’s to provide opportunities to worship Him individually without restriction. It’s to create an atmosphere where the believer lives out their faith with Christ alone as the model.
If we as the people of God could come together and cry out to God for our nation and world perhaps Satan’s ability to influence would diminish and hatred and violence would cease for they would find no available hearts from which to act.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
Dr. John Thompson