Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"I feel so much closer to God..."

"I feel so much closer to God, now that I don't hate myself."

That (or something along the same lines) has been the declaration of more than one person who has decided to surrender to a sinful lifestyle. It sounds so appealing on the surface, but I hope you will see before we're through that the one who chooses this path has chosen to walk away from the very love that he seeks.

What has been the response of those who have come face to face with the Holiness of God, according to the Bible?

"Now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job. 42:5b-6)

So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
(Isa 6:5)

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
(Luke 5:8)

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.
(Rev 1:17a)

These are only a few examples of what happens in the hearts of sinners when their eyes are opened to God's purity and holiness. It is a consistent theme throughout the Bible.

"But I don't like that kind of God," you may protest. "I prefer the gentle Jesus. He's in the Bible too, you know."

Yes, God shows His kindness throughout Scripture, but please think about this: We cannot fully appreciate the kindness and gentleness of God until we see ourselves rightly as "undone" before Him.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God
(Rom. 11:22).

G. H. Morrison (1866-1928) wrote about this so beautifully:

"We feel the wonder of the gentleness of God when we remember it is conjoined with power. When infinite power lies at the back of it, gentleness is always very moving. There is a gentleness which springs from weakness. Cowardice lies hidden at its roots. It comes from the disinclination to offend and from the desire to be in good standing with everybody. But the marvel of the gentleness of God is that it is not the signature of an interior weakness, but rests upon the bosom of Omnipotence. In a woman we all look for gentleness; it is one of the lustrous diadems of womanhood. In a professional military man we scarcely expect it; it is not the denizen of tented fields. And the Lord is 'a mighty man of war,' subduing, irresistible, almighty, and yet He comes to Israel as the dew. The elder spoke to John of the lion of the tribe of Judah. But when John looked to see the lion, lo! in the midst of the throne there was a lamb. Power was tenderness—the lion was the lamb—-Omnipotence would not break the bruised reed. It is the wonder of the gentleness of God."

Those who would seek to feel close to God by excusing their own sin have tragically denied themselves the precious beauty of God's gentleness!

Oh, don't miss this! His marvelous kindness, goodness, and gentleness come to those who recognize their sin and, like Job, "repent in dust and ashes."

Listen to these sobering words from God, including the words of hope at the end:

When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.
(Psa 50:18-23)

No, God is not some sort of Schizoid man, prone to times of gentleness and then flying into a rage for no reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is very consistent. He is "slow to anger and abounding in mercy" (Ps. 103:8), but He is just and must not leave the guilty unpunished (Jer. 46:28). The fact is, God is perfect in all His ways. His anger is perfect, and so is His forgiveness. His justice is perfect, and so is His mercy. His love is perfect, and so is His hatred. For Him to be imperfect in any of these things would make him flawed, and He would not be worthy of our devotion. But this perfect God has made promises that He will keep perfectly, and among those promises are these:

For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
(Isa. 57:15)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1Jn 1:9)

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
(Isa. 1:18)

The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. (Jesus, in John 6:37)

Do not fear to humble yourself in repentance before Him, acknowledging sin and unworthiness. Fear not doing so. Humility is the only way to truly be close to Him, for:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

(Please read about Self-Esteem Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if the thought of humility seems unpleasant to you.)

The true God, the God of the Bible, who is holy and perfect and just and loving and forgiving... THIS God is infinitely worth knowing. In His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Don't let pride, don't let anything hold you back from Him. It is worth anything and everything, not just to feel closer to Him, but to actually be closer to Him.

(Next: What about those who've prayed for help for years, even decades, before finally giving up and surrendering to sin?)

(Photo by Betsy Markman in Breckenridge, CO)


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

We are a people who too quickly pass over our sin, skipping the hard work of repentance. Life breathes better that way, but not necessarily for our good. A true understanding of Calvary's grace always leads to a bent knee and the humbled confession that "apart from Christ, there is no good that lives in me."

There's so much meat here. I'll have to dig a little deeper in thought to get at the root of your thinking, but you've challenged me today for the dig. He's so worth it, my friend.


LauraLee Shaw said...

Beautiful, Betsy. God has had me in the Word and in devotions a LOT about His deity and awesomeness lately. Been reading Tozer's Fellowship of the Burning Heart. I plan to blog about this in the next day or two or three, but this is one of the quotes I read that goes right along with your post, which is so deep and meaty by the way.

"That's what we ought to pray about--that the glory of God might be revealed again, that we'd quit joking about God, that we'd quit thinking about God in an unworthy manner, that we would elevate God in our thoughts..."

I truly want to be able to live a relevant life to the lost and at the same time, keep my reverence toward God. It is sooooooo hard to find the balance. Thank for this post to keep me chewing on it.

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