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    Mini-Study Guides, 1994-5
    "More Than Conquerors"

    19. Keep Yourselves in God's Love

    Scripture Meditation: Jude 3-35

    Brethren and sisters, I would like to begin today by reminding you of the "Ten Horses of Evil" that Paul describes in Romans 8:38-39 -- the ten things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ. I am sure some of you have forgotten them so I'll remind you of them: they are death, life, angels, powers, height, depth, or anything else in Creation. At first sight these may be mystifying but upon closer examination we see the profound wisdom in the apostle's words.

    God's love spans the whole Creation -- there is nowhere it is not. I rediscovered this for myself a few weeks ago when I was feeling a little low because of mounting problems with no solution in sight. I felt that God was far away. One night I had a dream, and in the dream I was taken before a judge and accused of believing that I could draw near to God. I thought this a most odd thing to be accused of at the time but later understood that the "judge" was my flesh, or my lower, unspiritual nature trying to assert its authority. The interesting thing about the dream was that despite being accused of believing that God was always near us, I never once got upset. I was in such complete peace that it didn't matter what any "judge" said to me. I knew that God was near.

    And when I woke up I felt that indescribable peace. Friends, it is my testimony that God is always near. There is simply no place in this universe where He is not to be found. The problem comes when we disbelieve that, or deliberately rebel against Him and take ourselves away from Him. It sounds strange, doesn't it? Almost paradoxical. If I am talking to the Pastor, and I stand several meters back from him, then I am no longer near him. But what of the Pastor? Would you say that He continues to be near me, even after I have moved away? [No]. No, because I move away from him and am now far away from him, and by definition, he is now far away from me too.

    But it's not like that with God. Moving away from God is not a physical process but a spiritual one. If I move away from God then I am far away from Him, but on the spiritual plane that does not mean that He is far away from me! Do you find that hard to understand? Let me try to explain.

    When we experience the presence of God we experience it within. We do not experience Him "outside" of ourselves. Remember, the Kingdom of God is within (Luke 17:21).

    Put yourself in two situations. You are talking to a really nice man and he makes you feel good inside. You can feel his love. Then you speak to a really horrible man and he makes you feel bad inside. The experiencing is within you, not outside you. However, if you have Christ in your heart, you can experience both men -- the good and the bad -- in the same way...with love in your heart.

    If I had had that dream about the judge ten years ago I would have woken up all upset. I would have really taken it personally because I would have believed him. But this time I did not believe him. I knew within my soul that God was near. I believed in His Word, and that Word was alive in me. I believed David's testimony when He said: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depth, you are there" (Ps.139:7-8, NIV).

    When we react negatively to false accusations or to anything that is unrighteous in such a way that we suddenly feel lonely, depressed, hostile, or whatever, what are we in fact doing? We are refusing to believe in God's Word. And what is God's Word? It is that He is near always. His love is always present, to embrace us in times of need. When we no longer have inner peace we are in reality denying the faith. We are, in fact, trusting in the "judge" which is our lower nature. And what a liar that lower nature is!

    Now I will explain how it is possible for us to be far away from God and for God to be near. God's Word testifies that once we have received Christ as Saviour that He always dwells in our heart. The heart is the centre of our life -- of our feelings. When we rebel against the Lord through a lack of faith or by deliberately disobeying a commandment, we withdraw from pure feeling. Because sin cannot dwell in the presence of God it must be cast out. When we sin, our spiritual centre is cast out of the heart and into another part of the body. Maybe it's into the mind where we might say something like: "Oh, what I didn't wasn't that bad. What about all the other good things I have done?" or something like that. Once we try to rationalise away the truth, the centre of our being slips out of the heart where Christ dwells and into our mind. And once it does that, the lower nature starts to take over.

    Or maybe we withdraw into our stomach by drinking or eating, or maybe we try to drown out our bad conscience by over-indulging ourselves in sex. There are a thousand ways of drowning out our conscience. In all of these God remains near in our hearts but we have changed the centre of our being. The result is inner warfare. After a while, when we have forgotten what it was that we did wrong, because we have started to believe the lies of our unredeemed mind, we begin to feel that God is far away and has abandoned us. And that's what Jesus felt on the Cross, you know. He entered human flesh, experienced temptation, and then, in those last agonising hours on Calvary, He spiritually entered the whole human race's escape route -- away from the centre -- and experienced what it is to be cut off from God.

    Now here is a great mystery, the mystery of the atonement. Jesus swopped places with us and repented for us. He left His centre -- where His Father dwelt -- and entered the lower realms of the flesh. There, entering the whole race, He did what we should have done for ourselves -- repented and paid the price for our transgressions.

    This is a deep subject but I have touched upon it to make one fundamentally important point: God is always near if you choose to experience that nearness. But if you run away from your conscience, and experience loneliness of soul, it's really your own fault, and you have no business complaining that God is far away. He isn't. It's your lack of faith that has taken you away from Him.

    Now without doubt every one of you has experienced, or will experience, problems in life. And if you have received Christ, then I promise you that you will experience not only ecstasies joy but also suffering. When you come to God you receive a double-side gold coin. On one side is joy, and on the other is suffering.

    The same is true in the world. If you do not receive Christ you receive the same coin -- a bronze one, as it were, one side with joy, and the other with suffering. But the difference is that when you live the Christian live the joy side is always uppermost. In the world, the joy side is usually facing down.

    It is a limited analogy. When you receive the presence of Christ in your lives you are not promised a life free of problems. Unfortunately, many Christian groups are now teaching a heretical doctrine which says that if you are not always joyful, healthy, and wealthy then you have been overcome by Satan in some way. That's not true. So long as we are in this mortal sphere of existence life will always present us with good and bad. But what Christ does for us is to make us victors over the bad situations, not by denying them, or running away from them, but by enabling us to constantly dwell in the Christ-centre of our hearts in them midst. And when we do that, we become inwardly transformed.

    A submarine commander once said that he had found Christ at the bottom of the sea. "I was lying on my bunk in a submarine on a three-day exercise at the bottom of the ocean," he said. "...I lifted up my heart upwards to God in a prayer of repentance and I was instantly saved." He smiled as he repeated the words of Paul: "neither height nor depth."

    This word "depth" can be applied both inwardly and outwardly. Sometimes, when we lose touch with what's going on inside us, we need an external stimulus. For that submarine captain, the reality of being at the bottom of the ocean somehow made a connection with his inward reality of being at the spiritual bottom too. The most peculiar outward circumstances can make us want to repent. I have been astonished by some of the things that have made people repent! I guess the Lord knows us well enough to place us in physical situations which will stimulate our souls into action.

    Paul finishes his list of the "Ten Horses of Evil" by making sure we don't find an excuse for ever believing that God is not near, by saying: "not anything else in all creation". In other words, there is nothing in the outer, physical world that can separate you from the love of Christ so long as you keep faith! Paul throws a blanket on all the "left out things" so that there are no longer any other excuses for claiming that God is not always near.

    Do you hear that? There's no excuse! It doesn't matter what your outer circumstances are, whether you find yourself in an Auschwitz, whether you are feeling desperate because you have hit an economic low, whether you have been unemployed for several years without apparent hope of a job, whether your marriage has broken up, or whatever. God is always near so long as you trust Him.

    But that's the problem, isn't it? Like Peter we are constantly praying: "O Lord, help Thou my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24, AV) Faith is the problem. We were talking alot about that in our Sunday School lesson last month -- the supreme Gospel principle of faith, that sometimes mysterious and elusive substance that we try to grasp which yet so often seems to slip through our fingers.

    This last few months we have been trying to reprogram our thinking by making our thoughts conform to the Word of God. For myself I have been experiencing enormous changes. I've been seeing God's providence in a totally new way. And I have discovered what it is I really want deep down in my soul.

    I would not say that I have stopped paying attention to outer circumstances which of late have been extremely trying, as many of you will know. I pay attention to them well enough but I have approached them in a different way. I have been thinking alot about Paul's "Ten Horses of Evil" and how I have let them spoil my spiritual life. I have let God's Word, as far as my faith will presently allow me, to sweep all my decks of possible failure and allowed myself to become more than a conqueror through Christ. Yes, there are going to be lots of outer, physical failures, but I am NOT going to allow them to destroy my spiritual life.

    I have learned that all my salvation is through Christ, and Christ alone. In my previous Church we were taught to earn our salvation, or at least a part of it, and I have discovered how utterly impossible that is. Paul discovered that too. My task is simply to work with Christ and not to recruit Him to work with me! My task is to ask Him: "Lord, what's the project going to be" and then to get on with it when I've got the answer, instead of saying: "Lord, I want to work with this project, will you assist me?"

    I can, I believe, do that because finally I have managed to start letting go of certain areas of my life over which I wished to retain sovereignty. I have found an unexpected collection of inner idols which I never dreamed were idols because I had always rationalized them away as being necessary for Kingdom service. I see that they are not necessary anymore.

    This page was created on 16 May 1998
    Updated on 16 May 1998

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