THE CHRISTIAN'S GREATEST
E. W. Bullinger
There is one thing that the Christian needs more than he needs any other thing.
One thing on which all others rest; and on which all others turn.
This, then, must be our greatest need: A true knowledge of God. If the
Holy Spirit thus puts it before all other things, it must be because it is more
important than any other thing; yea, than all others put together. This, it
is, that lies at the foundation of the Christian Faith; at the threshold of
Christian life. It is the essence of all trust.
If we knew, for example a billionth part of God's infinite wisdom, we should see our own to be such utter folly, that we should not merely be "willing" for His will, but we should desire it. It would be our greatest happiness for Him to do and arrange all for us. We should say, 'Lord, I am so foolish and ignorant; and I know nothing, and can do nothing; I can see only this present moment; I know nothing of tomorrow. But Thou canst see the end from the beginning. Thy wisdom is infinite, and thy love is infinite; for, our Saviour and Lord could say of us to Thee, as Thy beloved Son--"Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:23). Do, then, Thine own will. This is my desire, the desire of my heart. This is what I long for above all things.'
This is far beyond being "willing".
We may be willing for a thing, because we cannot help it. It may be even
a low for m of Christian fatalism. A Mohammedan may be thus resigned to
the will of his god.
Not knowing this secret, Christians
everywhere, are striving and laboring to be "willing" by looking at themselves;
and by some definite "act of faith" to do something of themselves. Instead
of thinking of His wisdom and His love, they are thinking of themselves and
of their "surrender".
The trouble with us is, if we prove
our hearts to their depth, that, at the bottom, we think we know better.
We would not say it for the world, we would hardly admit it to ourselves.
But there it is; and the difficulty of being "made willing" is the proof of
This difference will be clearly seen, if we examine one or two passages:
John 13:7, "What I do thou knowest not now." this is the former of these two words, and tells us that Peter had no intuitive knowledge of what the Lord was doing; and had no means of knowing. It was impossible. The Lord, however, goes on to say, "but thou shalt know (i.e. get to know) hereafter." Peter would learn, and find out, by experience and revelation, what the Lord was then doing.
John 8:55. "Ye have not know him (i.e., gotten to know him. No. 2 of these two words); but I know him (No. 1) him not, I shall be a liar like unto you; but I know him (No. 1)." Here the Lord declares His imminent knowledge of the Father; and declares that hose whom He was addressing, not only had no such innate knowledge of God, but had not even attained to that knowledge.
1 John 5:20. "We know (No. 1, i.e., we know as a historical fact, without learning it) that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know (i.e., get to know, No. 2) him that is true."
Here the truth is taught that, before any one can get to know God, he must have a spiritual understanding imparted to him. With this agrees 1 Cor. 2:14. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he get to know them." Why not? Because "they are spiritually discerned." The naturall man has no means of getting to know spiritual things. A spiritual understanding must first be "given" to him. Then he is able not only to discern, but to love and delight in the revelation of spiritual things, and to get to know Him, "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent." "This is life eternal" (John 17:3).
The importance of getting to know God is thus again wondrously emphasized as our one great need. This knowledge is not only the basis of trust in God; not only the foundation of Christian faith; but of Christian life. Practical life and walk will be in direct proportion to our knowledge of God. Look at Col. 1:9,10, where we have the practical outcome of hte prayer in Eph. 1:17. In Eph. 1:17 we have the prayer itself. In Col. 1:9,10, we have it applied for our correction and instruction. Carefully weigh the words. "For this cause, we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire" --- Desire what? "that ye might be filled with the knowledge (the noun from No. 2, i.e., acquired knowledge) of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Why? For what purpose? To what end? "THAT YE MAY WALK WORTHY OF THE LORD UNTO ALL PLEASING, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD."
Then, to walk worthy of the Lord, I must know Him? Exactly so. If I would please Him in all things I must know how to please Him. Is this all that is required? All that I have to do? Yes, this is all. Then I have not to rush hither and thither; from Convention to Convention? No, I have to sit down before God's Word, and get to know Him through that. There is no other way of getting to know Him. And He has given us His Word, and revealed Himself therein, on purpose that we may study it and find out what it is that pleases Him; what it is He loves; what it is He hates; what it is He does. To get to know His wisdom, His will, His infinite love, His almighty power, His faithfulness, His holiness, His righteousness, His truth, His goodness and mercy, His long-suffering, His gentleness, His care, and all the innumerable attributes of our great and glorious God.
See how this knowledge is absolutely necessary, if we would please God.
We cannot please any of our friends
unless we know what they are pleased with. If we would make a present
to one of them, we naturally think, or try to find out, what it is he or she
needs or would be pleased to have. If we are receiving a guest, we naturally
try to remember or find out what pleases him in food or drink, in occupation
or recreation. If we cannot find this out, then we have to guess at it,
and we may or maynot succeed in our effort to please. We may take the
greatest trouble and pains, and yet, after all, we may arrange for or provide
the very thing which is most disliked.
There, and there alone can we get
to know Him. There alone shall we learn the fullness of the Spirit's
prayer for us in Eph. 1:7; and the blessed practical outcome of it in Col. 1:9,10.
This is the one great reason why
the written Word is given to us. It is not given merely as a book of general
information, or of refernece; but it is given to make known the invisible God.
Those who are not thus engaged make
their own god out of their own thoughts and imaginations. They have to
fall back on what they think their god likes!
Worship "must" be only with the spirit.
We cannot worhsip God--who is a Spirit--with our eyes, by looking on
at what is being done. We cannot worship God with our noses, by
smelling incense, whether ceremonially or otherwise used. We cannot worship
God with our ears, by listening to music, however well it may be "rendered".
No! worship cannot be with any of our senses; or by all of them put together.
It must be spiritual, and not sensual. The worshippers must be spiritual
worshippers, for "the Father seeketh such to worship Him." (John 4:23).
Is it possible that, if the true God were known--the great, the High and Holy God, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands; the God who inhabiteth eternity; the God in whose sight the very heavens are not clean, and who chargeth His angels with folly--is it possible, we ask, that nay who know Him could imagine, for one moment, that, He "seeks" or could be pleased with, or accept, or regard a congregation turning the Bible into "a book of the words," and listening, for example, to a girl singing a solo, getting as high a note as she can, and holding it out as long as she can! Is THAT what The Great and Infinite God is seeking? Is that the occupation of the hearth with Himself which He says He "MUST" have? No indeed! and the greater the ignorance of God, the deeper and more degraded will become the accompaniments of what is called "Public Worship".
Consider further, the effect of this great truth on our daily life. What rest and peace it brings. Look at its influence on our prayers. What is prayer for? Why are we told so often to pray? Why? Because prayer is intended to humble us by putting us into the place of helplessness and dependence. Prayer is meant to put us with our faces in the dust before the Mighty God.
Instead of that, what do we find? We turn that place which is meant to humble us and keep us in the low place, into a Throne, from which we dictate to God what He shall do in our affairs, how He shall help to carry out our plans, what He shall do among the governments and political affairs of the world. That is the outcome of the pride of the "old man" within us. So that we, who cannot manage our own affairs, do not hesitate to take on ourselves the management of the universe, and "move the hand that moves the world."
A true knowledge of God would lead to a very different condition of things. Our prayers would be frequent indeed, but we should be so filled with a sense of God's wisdom, and power, and goodness, that we should cease to pray as though we has more compassion than He had; as though we were more concerned about sins and sinners than He is; as though we were more interested in His work than He is.
We should be "definite" indeed, as well we may be in many things where from His Word, we know "what to ask." But we should be equally "definite" in leaving all our cares with Him. We should cease to take the responsibilities of life upon ourselves. We should say, 'Lord, what Thou wilt! Do not heed my requests it Thou seest they are not good. Do not do or give this or that because I ask it or think it good. Withhold it, if Thou, who seest the end from the beginning, seest it will not be for my good. I am so foolish and ignorant before Thee: and Thou art so wonderful, so wise, and so good: Goodness and mercy itself; and Thy love is so infinite that Thou canst do only what is right, and wisest, and best. Thy will is love itself. Oh that I may be filled with such a knowledge of Thy will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that I may enjoy the perfect rest which that knowledge will give.'
In proportion as we have this knowledge
of God and of His will, shall we thus pray without ceasing; and in this manner
make known our requests unto Him.
When we employ a person to do any
labour for us, and we ask him how much we are to pay him? he replies, "I
will leave it to you, Sir." Why? Because he knows perfectly
well that we shall be very likely to give more than he would dare to ask.
Take another illustration. Here is a friend in great difficulties; and we have a plan that will life him right out of them, and set him on his feet again. He, meantime, comes to us and to borrow some small sum that will only give temporary relief, and leave him to struggle on still with his difficulties. He limits our power. His poor thoughts cannot rise to the extent of what we are able to do exceeding abundantly. If we answer his prayer, and grant him his request, and lend him what he asks, how small will be his blessing. Why does he not "ask or think" more "worthy" of our ability and love? Because he does not know us well enough! This is the secret, and that is why he is not delivered. He thinks he knows better than we do; and measures our willingness to give by his poor power to ask.
Oh to know the love, and power, and
wisdom of our God. What a revolution it would make in our prayers, as
well as in our lives.
We thus see how a true knowledge
of God lies at the threshold of all missionary work. How can a man explain
God unless he knows God? and how can God be known apart from His Word?
Hence the supreme necessity of so studying that Work that we may not only enjoy
but be able to speak of Him of Whom that Word is sent to testify.
This is the Christian's one object,
as well as his greatest need.
"FOUND IN HIM."
This is explained as not having
our own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ; "the righteousness
which is of God by faith."
in resurrection and ascension glory at His coming. Hence "we look for
the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it
may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby
he is able to subdue all things unto himself."
"THAT I MAY KNOW HIM."
This is henceforth the Christian's
great object. Nothing but this aim to get to know Christ (for this
is the word used here, in Phil. 3:10).
For this is how this knowledge is
explained: "that I may get to know him and the power of his resurrection."
Not to know merely the historical fact of his resurrection, but the "power"
of it: i.e., what its wondrous power has done for us. But how can we get
to know this "power"? Ah! only by experiencing "the fellowship of His
sufferings": by learning that when He, the Head of the Body, suffered, all the
members of that Body suffered in mysterious and blessed "fellowship with Him."
Thus shall we get to know how we were "made conformable to Him in His death."
Only when we have thus learned that we suffered when He suffered, and died when
He died, can we begin to learn how we have risen also with Christ; and "get
to know the power of His resurrection."
This then is our object, to get to
know all that Christ is made unto us in resurrection power.
But yet, how foolish are
those words. For how can one know anything of himself by considering himself?
If he looks at others, then he can see how different he is from them; and how
much better or worse he may be than they.
"THAT I MAY GET TO KNOW HIM."
Yes; this is our one object.
This it is that will have the mighty transforming power over our lives. Every
moment spent in seeking to know ourselves is a moment lost: and not only lost,
but used to keep us from the one thing that alone can accomplish our object
and teach us ourselves. Trying to know ourselves, we not only fail in
the attempt, but we cease to learn Christ, which alone teaches us to know ourselves.
Oh! to be occupied with Christ; to
have Him for our object; and His resurrection power for our lives.
Like people today who, ignorant of
God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, make their god, some with their
own hands, or out of their own heads, vainly imagining He is what they think
He is, and worshipping, like the heathen, "the unknown God," such an one as
"The ox knoweth his owner;
See how the Lord Jesus confirms this in Luke 19:42-44, as He weeps over Jerusalem. All is summed up in the opening and closing words:
even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace."
"The earth shall be full of the KNOWLEDGE OF GOD,
And what is the secret of our being able to glory only in the Lord, and to enjoy His blessing in this the day of our visitation? It is given in Jer. 9:23,24:
Neither let the mighty man glory in his might,
Let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth, glory in this,
THAT HE UNDERSTANDETH AND
We are thus brought round, and brought back to the one great duty, which should henceforth absorb our hearts and minds, and fill our days and years; viz., to be instant in our study of the Word of God, which is given to us with the one great, express, commanding purpose--the revelation of Himself, in order that we may
2 Timothy 2:15
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