Month 9:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:251 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 3 December 2017
A Journey Beyond the Self
The George Müller Memorial Sermons Part 5
Continued from Part 4
The George Müller Memorial Sermons (GMMS) are a series of sermons honouring the Prussian evangelist Georg Müller who founded orphanages by complete faith and dependency on Elohim (God). These sermons highlight the principles that George Müller so successfully and inspirationally lived by.
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and mishpachah and welcome back to this series of memorial sermons in which I try to enunciate the principles by which George Müller lived by and to share aspects of our common experience. Whilst I want to be thoroughly rooted in the revelation of Scripture, I am hoping this will be an existential experience for you as well. The goal is not to merely for us to learn theology and scriptural principles but to tangibly encounter the supernatural as we face the coarse realities of this life.
To Be Fully Alive
I thought I would begin today by asking you a question which I think is just as applicable to the older more experienced of you as well as those who are younger and maturing in the emunah (faith). We already agree, I hope, that the Christian/Messianic life does not primarily consist of words but of pure heavenly power, from which flows what in Hebrew is called chayim or 'life' of the eternal kind. The goal is to be fully 'alive' in the spiritual life which in turn will impact our psychic (mental, emotional) life and also our physical life without confusing them. (See City of Demons: A 4-Hour Visit to the Psychic Realm).
The Unevenness of Life
That said, with all the implied idealism, if you have not discovered it already, 'life' in the more general, human sense, is - I would suggest - very chequered indeed. Nobody - or at least I have met nobody - can truthfully say that their life has been one smooth ascent. There are high's and low's, up's and down's, even times and bumpy times. Understanding and applying the Besorah (Gospel) on this uneven piece of terrain we call 'life' is at times tough and this is a reason Yahweh wills us into qadosh (holy, set-apart) associations and devout companionships to help us negociate it. Every single talmid (disciple) needs help in this qadosh (holy, set-apart) living and I don't care what the self-professed 'independent' types may claim. We all need spiritual uplift from one another and foolish is the man or woman who refuses it out of some misguided sense of being able to 'manage alone'. A certain degree of independence is obviously required, and more so in certain circumstances, but we were fundamentally not designed to be alone. That is one important reason for the institution of the family without which the world becomes a much more sorry place.
The Privilege of Belonging to Family
Opening our hearts up to one another in the spirit of James' counsel to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other" (James 5:16, NIV) is how we become delivered from many snares. This is part of the privilege of belonging to a spiritual family - the local assembly - which is supposed to reflect the biological family in its mutual commitments. You will find in studying the life of any of the greats of the emunah (faith) like George Müller that they all had counsellors, most of whom became their trusted friends. Henry Craik, the Baptist minister, springs to mind. In developing intimate acquaintance with others in the fellowship we learn what it is to form an intimate acquaintance with Yahweh, and vice versa.
The Quest for Fellowship and Society
When you think about it, we have an inbuilt drive to do this anyway, and we either pursue acquaintances and friendships with a view to selfishly advancing ourselves, or out of the divine impulse to serve and to thereby advance others. Everybody wants to get into 'good society', as they understand it, even if the world and the Kingdom of Heaven see 'society' in very different terms. It is perhaps surprising, then, that so many believers fail to appreciate the privilege of access to the King of the Universe which He has provided by means of a Book, to which every one is welcomed - rich or poor, of high or low status - for their eternal betterment. We should be dipping into it as regularly as we sit at table each day to eat our meals, and spending at least as much time doing the same!
The Blessèd Man
There are concrete promises for those who let their eyes prayerfully and habitually roam the Bible's pages and translate what they read into obedience:
Assured Prosperity of the Spiritual Kind
"...he who looks into the perfect torah (law) of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25, NKJV).
Our appointment with Yahweh in Scripture, fulfilled by obedience, coupled to a heart eager to know the Creator personally, and translated into daily living (Josh.1:8), receives the promise that "whatever he does [will] prosper" (Ps.1:3, NIV) - he will see fruit, he will see a concrete result, he will see success in the life to which the Most High has called him, and in that he will find his satisfaction and delight.
The Noble Highway to Companionship with Elohim
Yahweh does not want us imprisoned in spiritual impotence. Our growth in grace is only hindered by our failure to grow in the knowledge of Elohim (God). Finding and holding onto a close walk with the Creator is the most important thing any of us can do. Bible study, coupled to prayer, is our highway to companionship with the Most High, and the means by which we grow into nobility. And this formula holds true whether you are young or old in the emunah (faith) - neglect it as either and you will not go long before you discover that you have wandered from the Derech (Way).
Build Well on the Days of Your Security
I would not have anyone follow in the footsteps of Solomon, that "wise son" of David "who because of [his father] lived in security" (Sirach 47:12, NRSV). Do not start well, depart from the derech (Way), and then look back with longing to something you once loved but have lost, perhaps, forever because of folly. Solomon never regained what he lost. Build well on the days of your security. Of Solomon, it was written:
The Privileged Minority
"How wise you were when you were young! You overflowed like the Nile with understanding" (Sirach 47:14, NRSV).
That understanding must be guarded if you started off well in a Christian or Messianic home where emet (truth) and ahavah (love) were freely available. Solomon, because of his folly, "stained [his] honour and defiled [his] family line, so that [he] brought wrath on [his] children and they were grieved at [his] folly" (v.20, NRSV). Above all, use that understanding not merely for your own benefit but with which to be a co-worker in the Kingdom of our Elohim (God). Those who are born into Christian or Messianic homes where ahavah (abounded) don't understand what a privileged minority they are in the world and should not squander it!
The Blessing of Initially Unwelcomed Restrictions
If you will follow these instructions, then you will see Yahweh's providential hand at work in your life, not once but many times. Then in the events around you, you will witness His lines of purpose mysteriously converge. At certain junctures, doors will swing open upon on seemingly small hinges through which He will beackon you to pass. As you are faithful to Him, being willing to endure difficulties as a good soldier of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), so He will free you from those worldly entangements and state obligations which might otherwise prevent you from serving Him. Müller, for instance, escaped compulsory three years of military service required of Prussians on account of his poor health, and was thus able to fulfil his mission unhindered. Yes, some, if not many, of your liberties may be curtailed in your service but in being willing so to so forfeit them, you will be freed from that deadness of soul which typically follows one who has wandered off the Derech (Way). No worldly gain is worth the deadening of your spirit, no temporary advantage worth the potential forfeiture of your eternal salvation, even if only temporarily. Time lost cannot be regained. We can only spend what little time that is left to us to giving our best service.
Do Not Despise the Apparently Trifling
I repeat - because you need to note it well - that upon a very small hinge a huge door may swing and turn for your benefit...at any time. Indeed, it is the apparently trifling events, which we would otherwise think nothing of or, worse, disdain in our fleshy ambition for 'greater' things with which to puff up our egos, that mould our providential and divinely ordained history, work and destiny.
The Danger of Pre-Emptive 'Hagar Responses'
We as a ministry ourselves face such a huge door at this moment in time, one that has been visible for a while but which we have, on occasion, sought to force open in our own strength, timing and will-power. These 'Hagar responses' might seem opportune but they are a great hindrance, bringing much sorrow at times. Look at Sarah's response to her infertility and refusal to trust Yahweh, and Abraham's own weakness in allowing himself to be pressured by his impatient wife. Isaac came in Yahweh's own timing and miraculous way by which means He got all the glory, not Abraham or Sarah. It is the same with us. We have to wait and learn patience, not hurrying the Great Designer who sees the whole whereas we see but the speck. He has it all timed and event-sequenced. What might our world have turned out to be had the 'Hagar solution' not been invoked by sarah and Abraham? History was forever altered by it and Israel forever plagued by rival carnal kinsmen.
How Yahweh Uses Sickness to Accomplish His Design
Let me, since I have some considerable experience of it, say something about sickness and how Yahweh uses it to great effect. Perhaps many of you will agree with me when I say that sickness often leads to strange self-disclosure. Though I am ashamed to confess that Yahweh has had to use this less-than-pleasant method, sickness has awakened me, many times, to a lively sense of my own sinfulness which ought to have been dealt with by more Scripture study and prayer...and particularly the latter. We often get things out of balance by focussing on one thing at the expense of the other.
The Problem With Superficial Conversion
For instance, it is not unusual for many believers to realise that their conversion is far too superficial and shallow to have any real impact on the overall course of their life. Many believe but, because of inadequate tilling of the soil of the mind and heart, soon forget and instead pursue worldly ambition ahead of their First Love. Illness - or any number of divers adversities for that matter - can have the very desirable effect of stirring up a healthy sense of guilt, which lacking deep rootedness in the conscience at conversion, then has the at first frightening effect of striking deeper into their being, growing stronger as they come to know more about Elohim (God) and start growing to be more like Him.
The Conditions of Conception
This very common experience of saved souls is easily explained. Our conception of things depend mainly upon two two conditions:
The Enormity and Deformity of Sin
- 1. The clearness of our vision of emet (truth) and duty; and
- 2. The standard of measurement and comparison.
You see, the more we live in Elohim (God) and for Elohim (God), the more our eyes become enlightened to see the enormity and deformity of sin, so that we are better able to recognise the hatefulness and horridness of evil all the more distinctly - and simultaneously do we the more clearly recognise the perfection of Yahweh's holiness and make it the tavnith or pattern and model of our own qadosh (holy, set-apart) living.
False Complacency and Training
Several of us in this assembly may be said to be amateur musicians or artists, though one or two of you are very good and certainly far better than me. But I want to focus on us amateurs for a moment. We all of us have a false complacency in our own very imperfect work but that is only because our ear or eye is not yet properly trained enough to be more discriminating. One or two of you young artists and musicians will, as you become more accomplished in your artistry, and as you become more appreciative of it, will recognise every defect or blemish of your earlier music or art. Only the other day I was reading something I had written 30 years ago when this ministry started and I cringed with embarrassment and shame. But I did not think my work was so bad at the time! Yet, given where I was and how immature I was, it was OK. If we are not careful, by indulging in such an unedifying comparitive exercise, we can start looking upon ourselves as a wretched failure and see our work as mere trash when it isn't.
Comparison and Improvement
But that would be a mistake. You see, the change is wholly in the workman and not in the work. Both the music, or art, or writing composition, are in themselves just what they were, but the man or woman is capable of something so much better, that his standard of comparison is raised to a higher level, and his capacity for a true judgment is correspondingly enlarged. I, the writer, have changed in 30 years, so I judge by a higher standard now. And so it is with us in all things that lend themselves to improvement.
The Case of Elijah
It is the same with a child of Elohim (God) who, like Elijah, stands before Yahweh as a waiting, willing, obedient servant, and has both likeness to Elohim (God) and power with Elohim (God), yet who, having fled from murderous Queen Jezebel, sits under the juniper tree despondent and depressed, feeling unworthy and useless:
"But he himself (Elijah) went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Yahweh, take away my life; for I am not better than my father" (1 Kings 19:4, KJV).
As godliness increases, the sense of ungodliness becomes more acute, and so feelings are never really a reliable guage of our assimilation to Yahweh. Remember this: we shall seem worst in our own eyes when in His we are best...and, of course, the reverse is true too.
The Most Unworthy of Sinners
There was once a preacher who was speaking about the universal depravity of the fallen human race and a Moslem overheard him, and objected, saying that the Christian lady he worked for was perfect - absolutely without fault. The preacher then asked the Moslem employee what his employer thought about herself, which led the Moslem to confess this mystery that was troubling him. For, he said, he had once overheard her in prayer confessing herself to be the most unworthy of sinners. And those who are close to Yahweh usually do (1 Tim.1:15-16).
Self Over- and Under-Estimation
How can a person, who is so obviously to us a 'saint', confess to such wretchedness? The cynic or the sceptic might argue that it was just a religious show, and no doubt there are some skilled charlatans in such theatrics. But he would be missing the point entirely - which is the whole object of what I am saying. We wildly overestimate ourselves in our immaturity, a reason we need a humble disposition all our lives, for though we may well be growing spiritually, the more we advance into the light, the more disgusted we will of necessity become with sin and so come to despise ourselves.
Recognising Reality and Truth
This is not a bad thing provided we do not deliberately set about beating ourselves mercilessly. Each deepening realisation of our sinful nature makes us more appreciative of the depths Messiah had to stoop in order to rescue us by paying for our sins, and that in turn draws us closer to Him and causes us to love Him the more, as we apprehend more of that divine ahavah (love) flowing to us from Him. Then we come to better understand what grace really is and how to better shower it on others as He does on us. There is no need to dwell on it, nor indulge in the 'humble pride' of Calvinists, because once recognised, all that is needed is the declaration that Yah'shua (Jesus) has already paid for this sin and guilt, so that we can move on. There is no need to wallow or get stuck in a rut of self-pity. Our image is now His, not that of the unredeemed sinner. That is the reality - the emet (truth) - we must confess.
There are lots of things we need to learn growing up in Messiah but none can be accomplished sitting still. We are on a daily journey, moving out in the kind of emunah (faith) that is willing to take risks and bear hardship, and sacrifice freedoms, when required. Only by maintaining the reality and intimacy of our relationship with Elohinm (God) can we avoid the illusions and pitfalls of this increasingly dysfunctional and wicked world, maintain our sanity and walk daily in His ahavah (love). Amen.
Continued in Part 6