When viewed from the perspective of eternity, the most critical need of this
hour may well be that the Church should be brought back from her long Babylonian
captivity and the name of God be glorified in her again as of old. Yet we must
not think of the Church as an anonymous body, a mystical religious abstraction.
We Christians are the Church and whatever we do is what the Church is doing. The
matter, therefore, is for each of us a personal one. Any forward step in the
Church must begin with the individual.
What can we plain Christians do to bring back the departed glory? Is there some
secret we may learn? Is there a formula for personal revival we can apply to the
present situation, to our own situation? The answer to these questions is yes.
Yet the answer may easily disappoint some persons, for it is anything but
profound. I bring no esoteric cryptogram, no mystic code to be painfully
deciphered. I appeal to no hidden law of the unconscious, no occult knowledge
meant only for the few. The secret is an open one which the wayfaring man may
read. It is simply the old and ever new counsel: Acquaint thyself with God. To
regain her lost power the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming
vision of God.
But the God we must see is not the utilitarian God who is having such a run of
popularity today, whose chief claim to men’s attention is His ability to bring
them success in their various undertakings and who for that reason is being
cajoled and flattered by everyone who wants a favor. The God we must learn to
know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and
earth, the only wise God, our Saviour. He it is that sitteth upon the circle of
the earth, who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain and spreadeth
them out as a tent to dwell in, who bringeth out His starry host by
number and calleth them all by name through the greatness of His power,
who seeth the works of man as vanity, who putteth no confidence in
princes and asks no counsel of kings.
Knowledge of such a Being cannot be gained by study alone. It comes by a
wisdom the natural man knows nothing of, neither can know, because it is
spiritually discerned. To know God is at once the easiest and the most
difficult thing in the world. It is easy because the knowledge is not
won by hard mental toil, but is something freely given. As sunlight
falls free on the open field, so the knowledge of the holy God is a free
gift to men who are open to receive it.
But this knowledge is difficult because there are conditions to be met
and the obstinate nature of fallen man does not take kindly to them.
Let me present a brief summary of these conditions as taught by the
Bible and repeated through the centuries by the holiest, sweetest saints
the world has ever known:
First, we must forsake our sins. The belief that a holy God cannot be
known by men of confirmed evil lives is not new to the Christian
religion. The Hebrew book, The Wisdom of Solomon, which antedates
Christianity by many years, has the following passage: “Love
righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a
good heart, and in simplicity of heart seek him. For he will be found of
them that tempt him not; and showeth himself unto such as do not
distrust him. For froward thoughts separate from God and his power, when
it is tried, reproveth the unwise. For unto a malicious soul wisdom
shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject to sin. For the
Holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts
that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness
cometh in.” This same thought is found in various sayings throughout the
inspired Scriptures, the best known probably being the words of Christ,
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
Second, there must be an utter committal of the whole life to Christ in
faith. This is what it means to “believe in Christ.” It involves a
volitional and emotional attachment to Him accompanied by a firm purpose
to obey Him in all things. This requires that we keep His commandments,
carry our cross, and love God and our fellow men.
Third, there must be a reckoning of ourselves to have died unto sin and
to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus, followed by a throwing open of the
entire personality to the inflow of the Holy Spirit. Then we must
practice whatever self-discipline is required to walk in the Spirit, and
trample under our feet the lusts of the flesh.
Fourth, we must boldly repudiate the cheap values of the fallen world
and become completely detached in spirit from everything that
unbelieving men set their hearts upon, allowing ourselves only the
simplest enjoyments of nature which God has bestowed alike upon the just
and the unjust.
Fifth, we must practice the art of long and loving meditation upon the
majesty of God. This will take some effort, for the concept of majesty
has all but disappeared from the human race. The focal point of man’s
interest is now himself. Humanism in its various forms has displaced
theology as the key to the understanding of life. When the
nineteenth-century poet Swinburne wrote, “Glory to Man in the highest!
for man is the master of things,” he gave to the modern world its new Te
Deum. All this must be reversed by a deliberate act of the will and kept
so by a patient effort of the mind.
God is a Person and can be known in increasing degrees of intimate
acquaintance as we prepare our hearts for the wonder. It may be
necessary for us to alter our former beliefs about God as the glory that
gilds the Sacred Scriptures dawns over our interior lives. We may also
need to break quietly and graciously with the lifeless textualism that
prevails among the gospel churches, and to protest the frivolous
character of much that passes for Christianity among us. By this we may
for the time lose friends and gain a passing reputation for being
holier-than-thou; but no man who permits the expectation of unpleasant
consequences to influence him in a matter like this is fit for the
kingdom of God.
Sixth, as the knowledge of God becomes more wonderful, greater service
to our fellow men will become for us imperative. This blessed knowledge
is not given to be enjoyed selfishly. The more perfectly we know God the
more we will feel the desire to translate the new-found knowledge into
deeds of mercy toward suffering humanity. The God who gave all to us
will continue to give all through us as we come to know Him better.
Thus far we have considered the individual’s personal relation to God,
but like the ointment of a man’s right hand, which by its fragrance
“betrayeth itself”, any intensified knowledge of God will soon begin to
affect those around us in the Christian community. And we must seek
purposefully to share our increasing light with the fellow members of
the household of God.
This we can best do by keeping the majesty of God in full focus in all
our public services. Not only our private prayers should be filled with
God, by our witnessing, our singing, our preaching, our writing should
center around the Person of our holy, holy Lord and extol continually
the greatness of His dignity and power. There is a glorified Man on the
right hand of the Majesty in heaven faithfully representing us there. We
are left for a season among men; let us faithfully represent Him here.