Before I Was Myself

Knowing who I am is a reflection of God knowing me, and in knowing me choosing me.

“Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.” ― John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You 

No way of knowing who we were. Wow, that quote grabbed me. You see, I was raised by very wounded parents who were unable to reflect my emotions. And for most of my life I have been a blank. Not knowing who I was, even what I like, what I wanted, except to make sure everyone else had what they wanted. I never had a “look” or a “style” except to remain as invisible as possible. My ambitions were manufactured to please someone else. I didn’t even know what color my eyes really were until I was 40 years old and I attended a “find your fashion color palette” class. They looked at me and said, “you have green eyes.” What!? I had been told they were brown, and as I tried not to look at myself too much in the mirror, I thought they were brown.  

Around that time, I was at a weekend, overnight conference and in the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom. Halfway across the dark hotel room I was rooted to the spot when I heard very clearly, deep in my spirit, God say to me, “You are mine.” It was the beginning of identity. Of course, in my messed-up state, I thought God meant that I was his servant and I needed to DO something. I frantically started searching around for that something. It is true that we have good works which God has “prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10),” but now looking back over 30 years later, I am beginning to see that that is not what God meant as he confronted his green-eyed daughter that night.  

Then the other day I read this wonderful poem by a fellow blogger: 

In HIM Redeemed 

Volumes of silence, powerful prayer 

From love filled praise, or deep despair 

Tangible faith, Father hears our heart 

Lifted belief, His love from the start 

No anonymity, from the bended knee 

He’s waited for our prayer to be 

Surrendered and lost, no longer bound 

Prayer by faith, in Him we’re found 

— Sisylala1 

There is no anonymity when I seek to know my Father. There is no being unrecognized or unseen. There is no being invisible – he looks me in the eye and knows who I am. Though surrendered and seemingly lost, in him my real identity is found. Not by wonderful things I have done. Not by what a “good girl” I have been. But rather by my-heart-to-his-heart knowing. My yearning for him reflected in his yearning for me. Knowing who I am is a reflection of God knowing me, and in knowing me choosing me. Astounding!  

Charles Spurgeon said it well: 

“If he had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as unutterable as the grave, if he had not given his whole heart to me, I am sure he would have turned from me long ago. He knew what I would be, and he has had long time enough to consider of it; but I am his choice, and there is an end of it; and unworthy as I am, it is not mine to grumble, if he is but contented with me. But he is contented with me—he must be contented with me—for he has known me long enough to know my faults. He knew me before I knew myself; yea, he knew me before I was myself.” — Charles Spurgeon, The Incarnation and Birth of Christ, December 23, 1855 

Oh, my sweet Father God, you knew me before I was myself. You made me who I am. You made me to belong to you. Thank you for your amazing knowing and loving! Eye-to-eye, face-to-face, heart-to-heart, I am yours and you are mine (!) 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (strengthless, feeble, weak), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 

But you, O LORD, know me; you see me … Jeremiah 12:3 (ESV) 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” … Jeremiah 1:5 

My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Song of Solomon 2:16 

1https://sisylala.wordpress.com/2022/12/21/in-him-redeemed/  (emphasis mine)

Photo free to use from Pexels, Man Carrying Baby Drawing Their Foreheads, by Josh Willink 

Mislaying God

Like a mother clinging to the baby who is fastened for life unto her breast. This is the perfect picture of God pursuing us pursuing him.  

Do the mountain waters run dry, the cold flowing streams? But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway. Jeremiah 18:14-15 (ESV) 

The word translated “forgotten” in the above verse is the Hebrew word that means “to mislay, i.e. to be oblivious of, from want of memory or attention … to forget.”1 

It sounds so casual, doesn’t it? To mislay God. Like forgetting where you put your car keys. How does that happen? From lack of attention, by being oblivious to his Presence, by not remembering what he has done for us in the past. Just going about our daily struggle alone. But what does God say about mislaying us? The same word is used in this verse: 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:15-16 

Like a mother clinging to the baby who is fastened for life unto her breast. There is no lack of attention there, but the compassionate giving and the riveted seeking and receiving of life itself. This is the perfect picture of God pursuing us pursuing him.  

My soul clings (abides fast, cleaves fast together, follows close hard after, is joined together) to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8 (ESV) 

You know what the exact opposite of “mislaying” God is? 

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3 (ESV) 

That word translated “press on” is radaph (רָדַף) and means to pursue, to run after, to hunt, to chase down. It even means to persecute. This is what God desires, this kind of passion in seeking Him. The idea of persecuting God reminds me of the parable that Jesus told about seeking God in prayer. 

In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected men. And there was a widow in that town who kept appealing to him, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect men, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice. Then she will stop wearing me out with her perpetual requests.’ Luke 18:2-5 (Berean Bible) 

Let us not mislay our compassionate, loving, faithful Lord. Rather, let us cling to him as to life itself. Let us chase after him, even pester him with our attention, for that is his desire.  

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge. Psalm 141:8a 

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2 

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 

Read about how God pursues us here Chase Me Down

1Definition from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

Photo, Mano! By Aurimas Mikalauskas https://flic.kr/p/6hqwdF (I love how the baby has her eyes fixed on the mom!) 

Drenched in Tears

Would we really know God as Father, as Friend, as good, as faithful, if we had never known abandonment, rejection, fear, the end of the road, the edge of the cliff, the sealed-up grave? 

I’m kind of reluctant to admit this, but most times God speaks to me at church more with the lyrics of the worship songs than with the sermon. Two songs in the last month have been light to me, O Praise the Name1, and Goodness of God2

Singing O Praise the Name Sunday, I was arrested by these lyrics: 

His body bound and drenched in tears 
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb 
The entrance sealed by heavy stone 
Messiah still and all alone 

I suddenly realized, or I guess it really sank in, that Jesus’ followers didn’t know he was going to rise from the dead. They didn’t know. Jesus’ dead body was drenched in tears.  

We are settled into the comfy assurance of the resurrection. Even people who aren’t Christians know Jesus rose from the dead. He is famous for it. And that is good, but also bad. See, knowing Jesus rose from the dead is like the biggest spoiler ever in the history of the world. But they didn’t know. 

Maybe it is necessary for us to experience death and grief and utter despair in order to fully experience resurrection, new life, joy, amazing grace. Not arrogant assumption; not ho-hum presumption. That’s where the second song comes in. 

You have led me through the fire 
In the darkest night 
You are close like no other 
I’ve known You as a Father 
I’ve known You as a Friend 
And I have lived in the goodness of God  

… And all my life You have been faithful  
And all my life You have been so, so good 
With every breath that I am able 
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God 

“All my life you have been faithful.” That lyric has been vibrating through me like a bell. Because I never fully realized until lately just how faithful He has been in my life. I really don’t remember much of my childhood. I am sure that I deliberately forgot it, tried to not even experience it as it happened. But God has been healing me and He is getting down to the core pain. I am realizing that I endured decades of abuse, mostly emotional. But God was always there. All my life he has been faithful. 

Amazing grace. Resurrection joy – His but also our own and those we love and pray for. Think of the joy and wonder and the testimony we would miss – the witness we would not have – if there was no suffering, no grief and despair, no death. Death of hopes and dreams, death of relationships, physical pain and struggle. Would we really know God as Father, as Friend, as good, as faithful, if we had never known abandonment, rejection, fear, the end of the road, the edge of the cliff, the sealed-up grave? 

Jesus had to experience death in order to set us free. Maybe we have to experience a kind of death in order to have the solid-rock faith, the knowing God’s faithfulness, the hope and confidence that we can bring to others. Maybe we need to be drenched in tears so that we can say, with every breath that we are able, all my life He has been faithful. All my life He has been so, so good. 

God comforts us so that we can comfort others. God grants us mercy so that we can be merciful to others. God stands whole-heartedly with us in our suffering so that we will stand whole-heartedly with others who are suffering. God never leaves us alone in our suffering so that we won’t leave others alone in theirs.” — Dave Zuleger3 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:3–5 

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17 

1O Praise the Name. Songwriters: Martin W. Sampson / Benjamin William Hastings / Dean Ussher 

2Goodness of God. Songwriters: Jason Ingram / Ed Cash / Brian Mark Johnson / Jenn Louise Johnson / Ben David Fielding 

3God Brings Us Suffering for Others’ Sake https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-brings-us-suffering-for-others-sake    

Image in the Public Domain

To Be Conversant

I think that this continual conversation pleases God – even if I am struggling and wrestling with what is happening in my life.

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5:24 

Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9 

What does it mean to “walk with God”? The Hebrew word is halak (הָלַךְ). It means to go, to come, to walk. It means to walk along, to walk apace, to walk forward, to walk on continually. But the part of the definition that I love the most is: to be conversant.  

Enoch and Noah were conversant with God.  

Gotquestions.org answers the question of what it means to walk with God this way: 

“Walking with God is not an activity reserved for a select few. [Not just an Enoch or a Noah, but me and you!] God desires all of His children to walk with Him. What happens when we walk with someone? Imagine that you and a close friend are enjoying a walk down a country lane. You are in close proximity. You talk, laugh, listen, and share your hearts. Your attention is focused on this person to the exclusion of almost everything else. You notice the beauty around you or an occasional distraction, but only to point it out to your companion. You share it together. You are in harmony, and you both enjoy the peaceful camaraderie. Walking with God is like that. When we enter into an intimate heart relationship with God through faith in His Son (Hebrews 10:22), He becomes our heart’s greatest desire. Knowing Him, hearing His voice, sharing our hearts with Him, and seeking to please Him become our all-consuming focus.” https://www.gotquestions.org/walk-with-God.html (my note added)

When I first gave my life to the Lord, I was part of a small congregation that was renovating a building to use as a church meeting place. One afternoon as I was working there not far from one of the pastors, I heard, what sounded to me, like him mumbling and talking to himself. It was pretty loud and it startled me, and I was a little embarrassed for him until I moved a little closer and realized he was not talking to himself, but to God. Not really praying, like we think of formal prayer, but just conversing with God about the work and each little problem that came up.  

That really impressed me and I have tried (when I remember!) to emulate this continual conversation. I think that it pleases God – even if I am struggling and wrestling with what is happening in my life. I believe it is a way of remembering Him, of acknowledging our need of Him, of recognizing His abiding, boundless, never-ending, unchanging, relentless, compassionate Presence with us. It is also, I think, what Paul was talking about when he said to pray continually. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

“… do you know what it is to pray continually? Old Brother Lawrence, who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God, said ‘If I’m washing dishes I do it to the glory of God and if I pick up a straw from the ground I do it to the glory of God. I’m in communion with God all the time.’ He said, ‘The rules tell me that I have to take time off to go alone to pray, and I do, but such times do not differ any from my regular communion.’ He had learned the art of fellowship with God, continuous and unbroken.” — A.W. Tozer i 

Washing dishes, cleaning toilets, shoveling snow – whatever and wherever. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I have entered within the veil, into the Holy of Holies, into His Presence, and I can know God, be with God, walk with God continually. And that is His passionate desire. 

“There is no manner of life in the world more sweet or more delicious than continual conversation with God.” — Brother Lawrence

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him [or know him], and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) 

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 (ESV) 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (ESV) 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 

As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9 

iWorship: The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church https://www.hsraadio.net/raamat/Tozer-Worship%20The%20Missing%20Jewel.pdf 

Image free download from Pixabay

Compassionate and Gracious

Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:7-8 (ESV) 

And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … “ Exodus 34:6 

The psalmist says that God made his ways and acts known to Moses. God always wants to be known. I am thinking that I should pay attention when God defines himself. God describes himself this way: compassionate and gracious (or merciful), slow to anger and abounding in love. I looked at the first two attributes and was overwhelmed. I would like to save the second two for a future blog. 

The first two words are the Hebrew rachum and channun. These two words are each used thirteen times in the Old Testament. Linked together, to describe God, they are used twelve times. Alone or together, they are always only used as attributes of God. Rachum means full of compassion, merciful; channun means gracious, “as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor.”i 

John J. Parsons has this to say about these concepts: 

“Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v’chanun, often translated ‘merciful and gracious.’ The noun rechem means ‘womb’ in Hebrew, indicating that God’s compassion is like a mother’s deep love for her child. The word chanun (from chen, grace or favor) indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.” — John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christiansii  

The adjective rachum comes from the verb racham, to love, to have compassion, or to compassionate. A.W. Tozer explains it this way: 

“According to the Old Testament, mercy has certain meanings: to stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon and to be actively compassionate. It used to be a verb form of the word compassion, but we don’t use it anymore — maybe it’s because we don’t have the concept anymore. God actively ‘compassionates’ suffering men — I like that wonderfully well. For God to feel compassion at a distance is one thing, but for God actively to compassionate with people is something else.”– A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God  

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 

The second word, channun or gracious – hearing the cry of the debtor and being favorably disposed to help – reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 of the man who came before the master with overwhelming, impossible debt. But when he cried out for mercy “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

The compassion and grace of God are tightly woven together. God’s rachum, the deep love of a parent for a child, moves him to be gracious. Tozer notes in his book, The Attributes of God, that grace and mercy are not things that God does, but who God is. God is forever the compassionate Father favorably disposed toward those who cry out to him, always welcoming home the prodigal. 

And Jesus was saying to us, ‘You went away in Adam, but you’re coming back in Christ. And when you come back, you’ll find the Father hasn’t changed. He’s the same Father that He was when you all went out, every man to his own way. But when you come back in Jesus Christ you’ll find Him exactly the same as you left Him–unchanged. And the Father ran and threw his arms around him and welcomed him and put a robe and a ring on him and said, ‘This my son was dead, and he’s alive again’ ([Luke] 15:24). This is the grace of God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God (emphasis mine) 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to confidently draw near to God because of these two attributes. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy (pity, compassion) and find grace (kindness, “the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is ‘always leaning toward them’”)iii to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? The word for “grace” in the Greek includes the picture of God “freely giving himself away to people” and “always leaning toward them.” Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh. Like a parent leaning forward to catch the newly walking toddler. Like the father leaning forward, straining to see the very first glimpse of his returning child. 

For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 (ESV) 

… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:12-14 

Come back. If you have wandered far away, come back. If you are near, but have hardened your heart, come back. Come. Jesus has freely given himself for you on the cross. He is leaning toward you. He is the same unchanging God that introduced himself to Moses, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Salvation

Image free download from Pxfuel

Understands

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV) 

The Hebrew word translated “understands” above is sakal (שָׂכַל). It means to give attention to, consider, ponder, to have understanding or wisdom. The word is used 63 times in the Old Testament, but the ironic and tragic thing about this word is the context of its first use in Genesis 3:6. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (sakal), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 (ESV) 

God yearns for us to understand and know him, but Adam and Eve desired to have their own understanding – to know and choose for themselves what was good and true. Adam and Eve had ample opportunity to give attention to, consider, ponder, come to understand God. But, if they had, they would have known that he not only practices love, but is love, he is just and righteous. The charge that God was keeping something from them would not have rung true.  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) 

Instead of knowing and understanding God and his wisdom, they wanted to decide for themselves what was good and evil. The ironic thing is that they did not become like God as promised, but, instead, became their own counterfeit gods. And they found themselves hiding from the real wisdom, the real light, the real life.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 

Isn’t it still the same today? But God is still calling out.

Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 

He is still seeking. He is still calling. He is still knocking. Let us come out from our hiding places and know the One who loves us.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17: 3 (ESV) 

“It was not Adam who sought God, but God who sought Adam. And this has been the order ever since.” 
~ Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Genesis 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

So let us know and become personally acquainted with Him; let us press on to know and understand fully the [greatness of the] LORD [to honor, heed, and deeply cherish Him]. His appearing is prepared and is as certain as the dawn, And He will come to us [in salvation] like the [heavy] rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth. Hosea 6:3 (Amplified)

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Holiness – Set Apart

We are called by name.

Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16 

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:5 

What exactly does it mean to be holy? According to James V. Brownsoni there are three aspects to holiness:  

  • Differentiation, or being set apart from the world 
  • Openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, or being set apart to God 
  • Purity  

Being Set Apart from the World 

Brownson writes that “[i]t is important to note that this setting apart is never a withdrawal from the world, but rather a differentiation for a particular kind of service to the world.” Being set apart from the world, or chosen, is mentioned a lot in the Bible. 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 
1 Peter 2:9  

The Greek word translated “chosen” in the above verse is eklegomai, which means to be chosen and set apart from the rest of the world. It comes from two words that literally mean to call out. To speak, to call by name, to name out of, away from. You are chosen, set apart, called by name out of, away from, the world and into God’s glorious Kingdom. God called my name fifty years ago (He Knows My Name).  

The Greek word translated “called” in 1 Peter 2:9 is kaleo. It also means to invite, as in “Go therefore to the main roads and invite (kaleo) to the wedding feast as many as you find (Matthew 22:9),” and to name, as in “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call (kaleo) his name Jesus (Luke 1:31).” 

So, the first part of holiness is answering God’s call to “come out” of the world. We are called by name. We are invited to the eternal banquet. This is the first step to holiness. 

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Psalm 23:5 

Set Apart to God 

If the first part is turning from the world, the second part of holiness is turning toward and focusing on God, knowing him more and more deeply. As Brownson writes, “We are not only set apart from the world; we are set apart to God. There is an openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, which is also central to holiness.” Brother Lawrence called this The Practice of the Presence of God. Being in his presence makes possible the “unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God” that Pastor Troy spoke of (see the first blog in this series, Holiness). 

“His [God’s] greater purpose in bringing them [Israel] out of Egypt was to take them into Canaan, his land of fullness. In short, he brought them out of slavery in order to bring them into his heart and into his love. He wanted a people who were totally dependent on his mercy, grace and love. The same is still true for his people today.” — David Wilkerson  

A.W. Tozer wrote that “we are saved [or brought out] to know God, to enter His wonder-filled Presence through the new and living way [Jesus] and remain in that Presence forever.” So, to me, this is the first reason to pursue holiness, to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Holiness is required to see God and He desires passionately to be seen and known, to be with us. The second reason for pursuing holiness has to do with becoming like him. 

William Wilberforce wrote that “the nature of the holiness, to which the desires of the true Christian are directed, is no other than the restoration of the image of God.”ii 

I love that – “the restoration of the image of God.” This happens as we behold him, as he is our focus, our one thing, as we begin to dwell in the Presence. 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 

And this leads us into Brownson’s third part of holiness – purity – which we will look at in the next blog. 

J.D. Walt has a wonderful series called The Second Half of the Gospel which I highly recommend. You can read it here: https://www.seedbed.com/?s=second+half+of+the+gospel  

Until next time, let us not stop at being separated from the world, at “being saved,” but “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD!” (Hosea 6:3a) 

“The truest way of delighting in the Lord is to obey him in our coming and going, at home and on the road, in our lying down and rising up, by impressing it on our hearts and heads and hands and expressing it through every word and deed. The only way to love the Lord our God is with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. Holiness is full surrender to the unrivaled reign of Jesus over every part of who we are. It is all of you delighting in all of him.” — Matt LeRoy (The Only Way to Love)

i Holiness and Hermeneutics. James V. Brownson. Western Theological Seminary. 1999. 

ii A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System. William Wilberforce. 1820. 

Image of sheep in pasture by Sheila Bair

Holiness

God invites an intense, earnest, and continued inspection of Himself.

“The pursuit of holiness is an unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God.” — Troy Gentz 

The above quote from our pastor really got me thinking about holiness. “… unrelenting, uncompromising, obedience.” Wow, in this day of deciding everything about ourselves for ourselves, does anyone do this anymore? Does anyone even think of obedience? Isn’t that an archaic word? An oppressive concept? Does anyone pursue holiness? Yet, God commands and, I believe, yearns for us to be holy.  

But just as he who called you is holy, so be (ginomai) holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am (eimi) holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 

This above verse emphasizes how, for us, holiness is a pursuit or goal, the moving toward, the ongoing conforming and allowing ourselves to be transformed. There are two different verbs translated “be” and “am” in this verse. One is more like “to become” and the other one is “to exist.” We are called to become – ginomai – holy; but God is – eimi – holy. The Greek word ginomai means to become, to come into existence, begin to be, receive being. It points to our journey toward holiness, our willingness to receive a new being, become a new creature.

In contrast, the Greek word eimi means simply to be, to exist, to happen, to be present. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word is in the first person singular present indicative and expresses, “I exist” or “I AM.” God always has and always will exist as Holy – unchanging, unfailing – the One we can fix our eyes and our hearts on, the objective, the goal, the ultimate destination of our pilgrimage here on earth. 

But why does God yearn for us to become holy? I believe at least part of the answer is in this verse: 

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 

The Greek word translated “see” above is optanomai. It meansto look at, behold, to gaze (i.e., with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable).” It does not denote “simply voluntary observation,” or “merely mechanical, passive or casual vision.” It is emphatic and intensive, signifying “an earnest but more continued inspection.”i That is our part – to gaze at our remarkable God with wide-open eyes. Or, as A.W. Tozer put it, “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.”ii 

But the word also means to allow one’s self to be seen, to appear, and that is God’s part. God wants to be seen. God wants to be known. God invites an intense, earnest, and continued inspection of Himself. Doesn’t that sound like a best friend? Like a lover?  

You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 

And there resides, in that verse, another fundamental truth about holiness – that we can’t do it ourselves. It is because of what Jesus did on the cross that we can pursue, or even think about pursuing, holiness. It is only because of Jesus’ death on the cross that we can come into His Presence and gaze in wide-eyed worship at the lover of our souls.  

“Here is the truth, plain and simple. Without the holiness that’s imparted by Christ alone—a precious gift we honor by leading a life devoted to obeying his every word—none of us will see the Lord. This refers not just to heaven but to our present life as well. Without holiness, we won’t see God’s presence in our daily walk, our family, our relationships, our witness or our ministry.” — David Wilkersoniii  

So, there seems to be this tension between receiving holiness as a gift that has already happened – “I have been crucified with Christ” – and something I must also pursue.  GotQuestions explains it this way: 

“Like righteousness, holiness is a gift from God. The process of becoming holy is called sanctification, and God promises to complete His sanctification in us because of Christ’s work on the cross. The writer of Hebrews explains positional sanctification: “By [God’s] will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and also alludes to progressive sanctification, speaking of “those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:10, 14). We are perfected and sanctified by one event: Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross for our sin. As we live our lives in Christ, our holiness increases as we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit within us and follow this command: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13; see also Romans 12:1–2; Hebrews 12:1–2).”iv 

Let us, then, receive the amazing gift that Jesus gave us on the cross, but let’s also pursue holiness as an unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God as he reveals his will to us. Let us run swiftly to catch, press on, press forward, seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire holiness that we might behold Him, that we might know Him. This is the first reason to pursue holiness. I would like to explore more about holiness, including the second precious reason for pursuing it, in following blogs. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries 

ii A.W. Tozer. That Incredible Christian. “We are Saved To as Well as From.” Compiled by Anita M. Bailey. 1964.

iii David Wilkerson, Our God-given Escape Plan https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/our-god-given-escape-plan?ref=devos 

Image in the Public Domain

Those Who Knew Him

There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day.

When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:48-49 

There were two groups of people that day witnessing the death of Jesus on the cross. The Greek word translated “sight” above is theoria, which means spectacle or something to be viewed. It comes from theoreo – to be a spectator. So, there were the spectators. We are very familiar with being a spectator to tragedies these days. We do what they did, mostly, “beat our breasts” at how horrible it is – then walk away and go on with life. 

But those who knew him …  

Then there were the ones who knew him. The word “knew” here does not mean just to know about Jesus, but it means to be well known. They knew him well. They were the ones who had followed him from the beginning. The word comes from a Greek word that is even used for married intimacy. These were the ones who had sat around the campfire with him and told jokes, seen the sparkle in his eyes, heard him call their name, been electrified at the probing questions, felt his touch as he washed their feet. 

But those who knew him … stood. 

At a distance, helpless, in despair, not knowing what was happening. But they stood with him to the end. The women followed his lifeless body to the very end, to the tomb. 

The word translated “stood” is histemi in the Greek. It means “to cause or make to stand … in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, before members of the Sanhedrin … to make firm, fix establish, to cause a person or a thing to keep his place … [I love this one!] to be kept intact (of family, of a kingdom) … to stand by or near, to stop, stand still, to stand immovable.” 

Soon they would receive the power from on high to go on. But just then, when things were darkest, all they could do, all there was to do, was stand. 

Their leader was being executed. They themselves, therefore, were on a very dangerous blacklist. The fear and the doubt must have been oppressive. There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day. They knew him – it all comes down to knowing him. 

I can deeply empathize with them. All those wonderful words and promises nailed to a cross and spit upon and dead. All the expectations and dreams bled out, the last breath gasped. Joy suffocated. Hope buried in a tomb. Sometimes the days are very dark. 

Yet (!) I too have heard his voice calling my name. I, too, have looked into his eyes, and felt his touch and the breathtaking power of his unfailing love. I know whom I have believed, and I know that – even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it – he has given me power, not my own, to stand and to endure to the end. 

Family of God, you who are of His Kingdom – you who know him – when you feel lost in the darkness, when fear and doubt overwhelm, when you are tempted to walk away – he will keep you intact, he will cause you to stand, make you firm, fixed, immovable. Fix your eyes and heart on him. Strive to know him and follow him deeper each day. Cling to him. And when there is nothing else you can do, stand. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12 

For those who don’t yet know Him, come!   Salvation

Image, detail from Storm by texaus1 https://flic.kr/p/R41Zbp  

Ancient Door

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too?

Psalm 24 

Of David. A psalm. 

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, 
    the world, and all who live in it; 
2 for he founded it on the seas 
    and established it on the waters. 

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? 
    Who may stand in his holy place? 
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
    who does not trust in an idol 
    or swear by a false god. 

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord 
    and vindication from God their Savior. 
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, 
    who seek your face, God of Jacob. 

7 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    be lifted up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
8 Who is this King of glory? 
    The Lord strong and mighty, 
    the Lord mighty in battle. 
9 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    lift them up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
10 Who is he, this King of glory? 
    The Lord Almighty— 
    he is the King of glory. 

This Psalm is talking about opening the ancient doors in order to bring the Ark back into the Temple. It says that those carrying it must have clean hands and a pure heart.   

According to Charles Spurgeon, the ancient doors are the doors of our hearts.  

“There is no passage that says, ‘Down with your heads, ye gates, and be ye fast closed, ye everlasting doors!’ Not a word of that sort, Heaven’s gates are open wide. What then is shut? Why, the gate of the human soul, the door of the human heart. There are many gates and doors, bars of iron, and bolts of triple steel that stand in the way of Christ.”  — Charles Spurgeoni 

These are the doors closed at Eden. Yes, God, with a broken heart, barred the gates to Eden. But, only after his people had closed theirs on him. The doors our Lord has been knocking on ever since.  

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 

The Psalm says that we must be those who do not “trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Yet when the joyful shout comes to lift up the ancient doors, the antiphonal retort comes back, “Who is he, this King of glory?” 

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too? The question implicit in the garden? 

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 

Who is this God who enters the garden gate and walks in the garden? Is he one you can trust, one who cares for you and loves you, who delights in your presence? Or, is he a self-serving manipulator? Is he keeping you from good things? Is he keeping you from your real destiny, your true freedom? Can he really help and keep you, or do you have to do it yourself? 

They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert? Psalm 78:19 

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes (is persuaded, places confidence in, entrusts himself to Christ).” Mark 9:22-23 

Jesus came to show us who this King of Glory really is. He came to reveal and restore knowledge of the Name that we might again trust Him and walk with him in the garden of our hearts. 

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24-26 

The ancient knock on the ancient door. The ancient question, “Who is he, this King?” 

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him …? Exodus 5:2 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Mark 8:29 

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 

The Lord Strong and Mighty 

The Almighty God 

Everlasting Father 

Redeemer 

Savior 

Comforter

Servant

Emmanuel

King of Kings and Lord of Lords 

Lamb of God who takes away our sin 

The Good Shepherd 

The Door 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. Revelation 4:1 

i Charles Spurgeon, A Triumphal Entrance https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-triumphal-entrance/#flipbook/ 

Image, “What’s Behind the Door?” By Chris Healy https://flic.kr/p/xLfx9e  

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