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As Is

Believing in the true God

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How would you respond to a friend who asked you for advice on going deeper with God? The concept of the deeper life is a meaningful part of our shared Alliance tradition. I certainly do not claim any expertise, but also I want to be obedient to 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” At least four things come to my mind as I think on this question.

Worship the True God

When I visit the C&MA National Office in Colorado Springs, I usually pause for a moment at the A. W. Tozer exhibit on the first floor. No one has impacted my spiritual journey more than Tozer, and I feel a kinship with him, even though we never met. At the exhibit is a sculpted bust of his likeness, his typewriter and a timeline of his life and ministry. But for me the most meaningful part is a simple quote: “What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.” I like to read that before heading up the stairs.

Frankly, when I first read these words, they seemed more about Tozer than about God, but I now see what he meant. The way I relate to God and the way I relate God to others is dependent on my understanding of Him. For example, if a person is not able to trust God, that person’s “god” is not trustworthy. If people feel that God does not love them, their “god” is not love. Rather than being conformed to the image of Christ, it seems that we often conform God to our own image. And in so doing, we are the poorer for it. The God we offer to others looks strangely flawed and ineffectual. Tozer is correct because what we believe about God shapes our entire life. I am not saying we worship a false god, but I am suggesting we sometimes worship an inaccurate representation of God.

Rather than attempting to craft God into something we can manage, it is vitally important to stay connected with what God says about himself. Jesus states in John 4:23-24: “‘Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.’”

To worship God in truth, we must worship God as He is, not as we want Him to be.

God is faithful in all things, even in teaching us about himself. My mother died in 2009, and the months leading up to her passing were not good. A 25-year battle with Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll. But just days before she died, as one of my sisters and I sat by her bedside, we heard her say with great clarity, “I see Jesus.” Her eyes were closed, and much of her speech was unintelligible. But this statement could not have been clearer.

In that instant, I understood John 14:6 as I never had before. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” I realized that my dear mother did not have to search for Jesus in her last days. She did not have to wonder about how to get to heaven or worry that she might not take the right path. Jesus was not saying He would come and show her the way. No! He said that He IS the way. He IS the path. She did not have to go to Him; He came for her. Many of us would say that death is the scariest thing we will face. Yet, for my mother, it was a time of perfect peace and rest.

But if one listens to some people describe God or their relationship with Him, we see a different view. Some think God is vindictive, enjoying our failure. Hebrews 11:6 says that anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. In my opinion that includes believing He exists as He actually exists, not as we imagine Him to be.

Remove Our Idols

The very last sentence in the book of 1 John is interesting. “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (5:21). We may think of an idol as a “graven image,” as is written in the Old Testament. While that is accurate, it is not complete. It might be helpful to look at a quote from A. B. Simpson: “As long as you want something very much, especially more than you want God, it is an idol.”

Idols can indeed be bad things, but sometimes we make idols of good things when we give them a place in our lives that is higher than God. It is important to distinguish between the theory and the practice of our faith. In theory, what is more important in my life than God? Nothing. In practice, it may be a different answer. Whatever takes precedence over seeking first “His Kingdom and His righteousness” may be an idol.

Scripture teaches that idols are not only offensive to God but also that they are destructive to His people. Two helpful verses are, “They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them” (Psalm 106:36), and “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).

Focusing on idols rather than on the living God robs us of a measure of grace that is ours as a gift. It fills our hearts with thoughts that are not of God and leaves no room for Him.

A final Scripture passage is instructive. “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:29-30). Repentance opens space for the deeper life. If we ask, God will reveal our idols because He desires to have His rightful place in each of our lives.

Enter by Faith

Another question one might ask is, “How do I actually get there? How do I experience the deeper life?” I believe the answer is quite simple, though not simplistic. We enter into the deeper life the very same way we enter into salvation—by faith. I am aware that to some people this answer will seem like no answer at all. But just as His grace extends to all people, the deeper life is available to all as well, not allocated only to a select few. We enter by faith because Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.

We learn from the book of Hebrews that we are able to enter the Most Holy Place in “full assurance of faith.” Some time ago, I spent several months pondering the tenth chapter of Hebrews. In frustration I prayed that I wanted to enter the Most Holy Place but did not know how. God’s answer was simple: You enter into My presence the way you do everything else I place before you; you enter by faith. I believed that was true, and it changed the way I pray. I acknowledged that although I did not really understand, by faith I entered in. I saw a clearer meaning in Tozer’s teaching about the distinction between the omnipresence of God and the manifest presence of God. In The Pursuit of God Tozer wrote: “The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence. On our part, there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son. If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.”

Is the answer “by faith” so simple that it actually appears impossible? We have complicated the process and added so much to it that it may appear to be unavailable to all but the holiest of people. I can testify of entering into a deeper experience with Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit and can assure the reader that I have neither the training nor experience to make it happen on my own.

Be Watchful

A pastor recently pointed out to me the connection between the last verses in Matthew chapter 3 and the first verses of chapter 4. In Matthew 3:17, the Father speaks as Jesus is baptized: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” The next passage describes Jesus in the wilderness. In Matthew 4:6, the tempter comes to Him, saying, “‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written . . .’” God speaks a blessing over Jesus, and then the tempter questions that blessing. He intends to plant a seed of doubt. This is an important truth for us. As we go deeper with God, we can be sure the enemy will come to plant seeds of doubt and to discourage. But we need not fear.

The attacks often sound a familiar note. “Who do you think you are?” “Did God really say that you could go deeper with Him?” “You are so insignificant!” “God is not going to speak to you!” “You’re only imagining things!” Through these doubts remember that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, and what Jesus finished will be finished indeed!

I realize that I am a very small cog in the machinery of God’s Kingdom, but I can still testify. When I make small attempts to love God with all I have, seek His Kingdom before anything else and learn to listen for His voice, He returns a bountiful blessing. He will do the same for every follower of Jesus. My humble suggestion is to worship God as He is, remove idols that inhibit the deeper life, enter by faith and remain watchful. It is quite a journey!

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