Cultivating Our Spiritual Receptivity
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
Spiritual receptivity is not a single thing, it is a compound rather, a blending of several elements within the soul. It is an affinity for, a bent toward, a sympathetic response to, a desire to have. It can be present in degrees, depending upon the individual. It may be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect. It is not a sovereign and irresistible force which comes upon us as a seizure from above. It is a gift of God, indeed, it one which must be recognized and cultivated as any other gift if it is to realize the purpose for which it was given.
Failure to see this is the cause of a very serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.
The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships ,salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.
A. W. Tozer
King Saul went out to prepare for battle against the Phillistines one day. He had been given instructions by Samuel to wait until he came to offer the sacrifice. The offering of the sacrifice was only to be done by the priest. It was not for the king to do. As the day moved onward and Samuel had not come, Saul became anxious and impatient. The enemy was arrayed for battle and he felt he must engage them sooner than later but the sacrifice was not offered and he couldn’t go into battle until it was. So in his impatience Saul violated the office of the priesthood and offered the sacrifice himself.
“Now Saul waited seven days, according to the appointed time which Samuel had set, but Samuel had not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering away from Saul. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering [which he was forbidden to do]. As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel finally came; Saul went out to meet and to welcome him. But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “Since I saw that the people were scattering away from me, and that you did not come within the appointed time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked for the Lord’s favor [by making supplication to Him].’ So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.” Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for [if you had obeyed] the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man (David) after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as leader and ruler over His people, because you have not kept (obeyed) what the Lord commanded you.”
1 Samuel 13:8-14
Notice Saul’s reply to Samuel as he attempts to justify his actions. “The people were scattering and you weren’t there at the appointed time and the Phillistines were gathering.
Waiting on God and being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit is challenging in this modern instant microwave world. If it was difficult for Saul in his day how much more so it is in our day. We are driven to make something happen. When we gather for church, the attendees pressure us for action, movement and accomplishment. After all they have only allotted an hour with their busy schedule to meet with God and He needs to move quickly so they can get their spiritual fix for the week and get on with the rest of all that needs to be done. Saul seemed to feel justified in trying to force God to move. His reasons seem valid. He literally says that the people were leaving because nothing was happening. In our modern church experiences there are many who change churches because theirs isn’t moving or isn’t moving quickly enough. Saul’s next reason is that Samuel wasn’t there on time and somebody had to do something. So we gather and God delays His meeting with us and nothing seems to be happening so we choose to take things in our own hands and work our way through our order of service without the unction of the Holy Spirit and far too many times go away unchanged and empty because we just went through the motions without the Presence.
When you read about Saul, the picture you see is someone who saw the things of God through eyes of ritual and talisman rather than a relationship with the Person of God. In this story, the offering of the sacrifice was to be the “good luck charm” that rallied the people to battle and insured victory. Saul didn’t seem to be interested in relationship but in the use of God for his purposes. Later in his life we see once again Saul ignored the command of God and spared the sheep and cows. You will hear him say again that the people pressured him to do so and his purpose was to offer them as a sacrifice. Truly this was a picture of “the end justifies the means”. Again I wonder if we as well often use the results as a justification of our actions. Some years ago a well-known preacher whose sinful lifestyle was revealed made the comment that he couldn’t be so terribly wrong for the people coming to his meetings were still being saved. O beloved, our success cannot be measured with numbers or popularity or any other human measurements. Our success must be measured by how well we are following God’s plans and instructions and how well we are worshipping and exalting Him for one day we will all stand before Him. On that day there will be those who proclaim the great things they have done in His name and He will say to them, “Yes, you did great things in My name, but I don’t know you.” Like Saul we may attempt o substitute the ritual as a talisman to bring us success but all that is in vain for without the presence and power of God, all we do will ultimately fail.
The final days of Saul’s life shows us that he unfortunately never learned his lesson. Again the Hebrews are in battle with the Phillistines. By this time Saul is totally away from God even to the point that instead of consulting God, he consults the witch of Endor. As the battle rages and the Hebrews are losing, Saul sends for the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is always indicative of the Presence of God. But for Saul it more the Ark than the Presence. As they bring it to battle, the Hebrews rally and for a while seem to turn the tide. But the Phillistines fearing defeat rally and in the end win the battle. In the process the Ark is taken and Saul and his son Jonathan die defeated.
In our day it is easy to keep going through the same routine and ritual over and over with little to no spiritual results. We can complete our ritual with the satisfaction of a job well done. We can preach great sermons, sing beautiful songs, and have great times of fellowship, but if our hearts and the hearts of all who gather aren’t being transformed and aren’t experiencing the presence of God then the Ark is nothing more than a talisman and we will surely be overcome by the powers of darkness.
Let us then insist that we wait on God and the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us engage in intercessory prayer and seeking the presence of God before we gather so that in the gathering we find the fullness of His presence. Let our singing become worship and our prayers become the invitation for Christ to be among us. Let our sermons make known God and His desires toward us and though us. Let us become spiritually receptive soaking up and drinking in all that God has for us until we become
His glorious church!
Dr. John Thompson