You are one thing only. You are a Divine Being. An all-powerful Creator. You are a Deity in jeans and a t-shirt, and within you dwells the infinite wisdom of the ages and the sacred creative force of All that is, will be and ever was.
― Anthon St. Maarten, Divine Living: The Essential Guide To Your True Destiny
Do you think Maarten is correct? Are we all deities in jeans and t-shirts? Are we all divine beings that have within us “the infinite wisdom of the ages and the sacred creative force of All that is, will be and ever was”?
Who would have the audacity to say such a thing? How could we ever embrace such a ridiculous lie? We all know that there is only one true God, and it sure isn’t us.
A. W. Tozer writes on this matter:
Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, I AM. That is sin in its concentrated essence;
— A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
Sin is refusing to bow before our Creator and God in worship, and instead erecting our own thrones, sitting upon them, and declaring that we are God. Every sin that we commit is, at its core, a declaration of “I AM” from our self-appointed thrones. All rebellion begins with breaking of the first commandment:
You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
― Exodus 20:3–4 NASB
You and I will never fully understand the degree to which we break this command. You may have never bowed down before an idol made of wood, metal or stone, but there is not a day of your life that you have fully abdicated your throne and bowed down with all you are before God and loved him “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
You might not believe that you are a deity, but know that you have lived part, if not all, of your life as if you are.
Everyone reading this devotional probably believes themselves to be a Christian. But believing you are a Christian and actually being one — a born-again new creation, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and being conformed into the image of Christ — are two different things. It would be presumptuous of me to assume that everyone reading this devotional was a true Christian.
If you are a born-again child of God, be assured that no matter what you did or didn’t believe before your conversion, you lived your life as a “deity in jeans and a t-shirt.” The unregenerate person has a corrupt heart (Jeremiah 17:9) that is a “slave to sin” (Romans 6) to such a degree that they will never abdicate their throne and bow to worship before the throne of God. But when you were regenerated, God did for you what he promised he would do through the prophet Ezekiel:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
― Ezekiel 36:25–27 NASB
When God regenerated you, he essentially dragged you off your throne, crucified the idol-worshipping sinner that you were, created you anew in Christ Jesus, gave you a new heart capable of loving and worshiping him, and placed his Spirit within you to empower you to obey his commands.
But what about those who merely believe themselves to be Christians? I’m sure that none of you reading this would believe yourself to be in that group, but that is the nature of sin. It blinds us to the truth of our spiritual condition.
Yet so subtle is self that scarcely anyone is conscious of its presence. Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one. His constant assertion of self, as far as he thinks of it at all, appears to him a perfectly normal thing.
― A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
But God’s word encourages us to take an honest look at ourselves and see how we measure up:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?
― 2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB
So, even if you believe you are a Christian, put yourself to the test. If you test yourself and pass, then you have all the more reason to be secure in your salvation. But if you test yourself and fail, then you are free of a deception that would’ve taken you by the hand and led you blindly into the eternal wrath of God. If this is the case, know that there is still hope, because you are not dead yet. There is still time to cry out to God to save your soul.
So, are you ready to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith”? Jesus is the test maker. He defines the terms of having a relationship with him. He tells us who is and who is not a Christian.
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
― Luke 14:25–27 NASB
If you want to want to follow Jesus, your affection for him must be above your affections for everyone else: your parents, your siblings, your spouse and your children. Your affection for Jesus must also be put above your own life. To carry your own cross is to consider yourself dead to the things of this world. All your affections for this world and the things of it are gone. Jesus is your one true love, and you will abandon all to follow him. He may not ask you to abandon all, but if he did, you would abandon everyone and everything, even your own life. You will do whatever your one true love asks of you. That is what Jesus is saying. That is the test. That is what it means to be a Christian.
If that sounds foreign to you, ask yourself why. If you can’t imagine abandoning all for Jesus, then you ask yourself, “Is Jesus my one true love?” Where do your affections lie? Who calls the shots in your life? At whose throne do you worship? Are you sitting on the throne of your own selfhood from an elevated position, declaring, “I AM,” or are you bowed down before the throne of Christ, following him wherever he may lead?
If Christ is speaking to your heart right now, revealing to you some hard truths about yourself, calling you to abdicate your throne and bow before his, you best do what he says and take up your cross and follow him.
The natural man is a sinner because and only because he challenges Gods selfhood in relation to his own. In all else he may willingly accept the sovereignty of God; in his own life he rejects it. For him, Gods dominion ends where his begins.
― A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
His best religious works God rejects as He rejected the offering of Cain. Only when he has restored his stolen throne to God are his works acceptable.
― A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
My youngest son, Rory, is 5. He is 100% of all the youngest child stereotypes: artistic, popular, social, manipulative, charming, persistent. He is also the baby of the family. Every night, he is scared of something in his room, he can’t reach anything without his stool, and he is dependent on everyone in the house to meet his basic needs. Buy he does it in the most adorable voice!
I am not known for being sympathetic. When he is scared, though, I may still roll my eyes a little, but I sit with him, and we talk it out and hug a bunch. When he is injured, I am the first one to step up and offer my condolences and affection. If Rory steps on a Lego, I will gladly put a Band-Aid on that tiny red mark. (Even though this is futile, because we all know it’s immediately coming off.) He’s our youngest, and I’m happy to squeeze out the baby years as long as I can. I’m happy to come running at the slightest whimper, because it’s my job, and I am happy to do it.
I have been thinking about this a lot this week in connection to the man that Jesus healed in our scripture from Sunday. As a mom, I am mortified to think that someone’s child was left alone to try and get himself into a spring for healing while others beat him to it over and over again. No one beats me to Rory when he is hurt!
I’ve also been thinking about Jesus in that story, who stood by and watched the crowd of people waiting for the water to be stirred so they could be the first one in there. What did the only true healer think about as he saw people desperate, but not for him? What does he think of me as I sit outside my own Pool of Bethesda? What is my Pool of Bethesda? Likely, it is napping. Turning off the world is my own brand of healing, and often my first stop in the journey. What does he do while we sleep, over indulge, self-medicate, retreat into ourselves, diet or self-improve?
I think he does to us what he did to the paralyzed man who had been waiting 38 years for something to change. He said, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6)
It is such a simple question with an obvious answer. Of course he wanted to be healed! He did not come to the pool of healing for a hamburger. He was waiting for this for 38 years. But Jesus showed him he was at the wrong place. The pool offered nothing compared to Jesus. Why, then, do we keep going back to our own pools, hoping for a healing moment when, all the while, Jesus is standing by, asking us if we want to be healed?
What we find when we look in other places for healing is nothing. It often adds to our pain and our loneliness, causing us to add other “pools”. If my nap didn’t work, then maybe I could just watch these 10 seasons of something on Netflix, because at least then the day would be over and I could maybe move on. All the while Jesus is asking, “Do you want to be healed?”
If Rory tried to doctor himself, I’d say, “Don’t do that, silly boy. I clearly know best, so come here!” Jesus offers us this kind of love, and it’s the only healing that works.
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
— John 5:8–9
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to serve for three weeks at a Christian summer camp for orphans in the Ukraine. This camp was right by a river and mountain, and in the side of the mountain was the Sviatohirsk Cave Monastery. While we were there, we were able to tour the monastery, which was one of the most amazing experiences of the trip.
The entrance was an unassuming cave in the side of the mountain. Once you stepped into the cave, you were thrust into utter darkness. The guide led us through a series of completely black tunnels that were just big enough to walk through one by one, while trailing your hands on either side of the tunnel. The path gradually took you higher and higher inside the mountain. This was a way to keep out intruders because, without a guide, it would be very difficult to find your way to the top.
Once a safe distance from the entrance, each person was given a candle made by the monks, and then asked to light the candle of the person behind us. When we all finally reached the top of the mountain, the guide talked about how many people had sought refuge there since the 15th century. Many walked miles and miles into the Holy Mountains to escape persecution. The Lord, our God, has placed a need for him so strong, that people would travel any distance to live in a place where they could worship without oppression.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
— Ecclesiates 3:11
I love this verse. Just as David Griffin pointed out in his sermon on Sunday, it shows us that God has put a desire for him in our hearts. He wants us to find him, to chase him, to love him. God wants us to choose to be in relationship with him.
God wants to be in our lives because he love us. We are his creation, and he will not leave us.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
— Deuteronomy 7:9
Romans tells us how wise he is, and James tells us that he never changes.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
— Romans 11:33
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
— James 1:17
I think we often forget how blessed we are to live in a time and place where we have the opportunity to seek God without fear of consequence from the world. Unfortunately, we let the world influence our lives to such a degree that we allow it into the place reserved for God.
I know that this has been true in my life. There have been so many things that I put in the place reserved only for my Jesus. I have let my job, my family, my marriage, what others thought of me, what others did to me, and what I did to others get in the way of seeking what God had for me. The closer my relationship gets to him, the more I understand that he is using those experiences to help me help others.
What about you? It may be time for you to go on a journey towards the entrance to a tunnel that you have been hiding for a long time. The way may be dark, but the Lord will guide you along the path. He is waiting on you to take the first step.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
— Ephesians 2:8–9
Have you ever had an “only Jesus” moment? You know, that time when only Jesus could have rescued? That time when only Jesus could have satisfied? That time when only Jesus could have redeemed? That time when only Jesus could have made it — whatever it was — possible? “Only Jesus” moments are those times when nothing can explain it away, only Jesus.
As I have been thinking about this devotional, I have been reminded of several “only Jesus” moments that have occurred over the course of my life. One of the more vivid moments was when I was teaching in a remote part of northern Ghana called Paga. Very few people had gathered to listen to me preach, for fear that the Muslim leaders and husbands would punish congregants and family members if they attended our crusade. As a result, many people stayed at a considerable distance, watching but unwilling to come near.
As I started to preach, all of the electricity in Paga went out. When I say all, I am being literal. ALL of the power went out for as far as the eye could see. I turned and asked our host what I should do, and he simply responded, “Preach the Word! They can turn off the lights, but they will not silence our voices.” Admittedly shaken, I continued to teach, but I was teaching to complete darkness. It was one of the most awkward things I had ever experienced. I got to a place in my message where I was transitioning from talking about a secondary character from the text to talking about the primary focus of the text, Jesus. As soon as I said the words “Now let me tell you about Jesus,” every light for as far as the eye could see came back on. This was surprising, because in northern Ghana, if the power goes out it could be off indefinitely. To my surprise, as the lights warmed back up it became clear that, under the cover of darkness, well over 300 people had drawn near to the Word of God. These people were literally 10–15 feet in front of me. That night, at least 20 people were saved by the grace of God. Only Jesus. I still get chills when I think of that story, but it isn’t the most powerful story.
I have seen people healed of diseases that left medical teams scratching their heads. Only Jesus.
I have seen prodigals so far gone that there seemed to be no hope of them ever returning home, but they did. Only Jesus.
I have seen marriages that had already ended in divorce rekindled and made new. Only Jesus.
I have seen people face and overcome fears that for decades had paralyzed them. Only Jesus.
I have seen people so shackled by addiction that there didn’t seem to be a path toward sobriety set free. Only Jesus.
I am a person who has recognized the depth of my depravity and fully understood that the only thing I deserved as a result of my sinfulness and rebellion was eternal separation from God, and yet found the way to be forgiven. I found the way to be made new. I found the way to walk in victory.
None of these things were found in my benevolence and kindness toward others. None of these things were found in my intellect or work ethic. None of these things were found in my personal disciplines. None of these things were found in anything that had to do with me.
All of these things — forgiveness, newness, victory — were found in Jesus alone. Only Jesus.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
— 2 Corinthians 9:8
I don’t practice tithing as such. I practice faithfulness — faithfulness to God and his word, where I find a recurring mandate to support the propagation of the gospel faithfully, consistently and cheerfully with all the resources entrusted to me, especially in my finances (10% is but a starting point). In fact, my greatest thrill comes when my wife places the church check (as we call it) on the dining room table Sunday morning for me to stick in my pocket and drop in the offering basket as we enter the auditorium. It’s the first thing we do on Sundays and the moment worship for us begins. W.O. Womack owned a small mom-and-pop pest control business, and I was his only employee. We were called exterminators back then, and some of my friends nicknamed me 007 because, in their words, I was licensed to kill. (roaches, rats, spiders, scorpions and other such creepy crawly creatures, of course. Snakes, too. I hate snakes.) At the end of the day each Friday, we would sit together at the Womack’s dining room table where Mrs. Womack would go over the books, adding up the total dollars generated for the week. Once the numbers were in the ledger, she wrote checks paying the bills and paying me. Always written first though, was a check totaling a minimum of 10% of that week’s business income, an amount cut right off the top (the gross, not the net). To this day, I still see that bright smile sweep over her face as she would slip that check into her Bible, ready to be placed in the offering plate come Sunday morning. I bet she smiled then too. One Friday, Mr. Womack asked me to step out in the backyard with him while Mrs. Womack took care of the books. “Do you want to know why my wife always writes out our offering check first?” he asked. Without waiting to be acknowledged, he began looking back more than 50 years to their beginning. Immersed in his story, almost two, maybe three hours had slipped by before there was an awareness of passing time. Only a darkening sky would indicate day’s end. But before the sun had slipped over the horizon, I came to know a man whose God was worthy, not only of his very best, but deserving of being first in every area of his life, and I understood why the church check got cut first. Dear reader, that is how I came to make faithfulness a practice. Faithfulness to God and his word where I find a recurring mandate to support the propagation of the gospel faithfully, consistently and cheerfully with all the resources entrusted to me, especially in my finances.