Having knocked on doors and engaged in several gospel conversations, it is clear many have a memorial to The Unknown God. They placate this God with some right actions, with some church attendance, maybe even some financial gifts and time, however, he is an unknown God to them. They have not been arrested by the desire to know God more.
You can read about Elisha’s commendable desire in 2 Kings 2 where he would not be satisfied with a portion of the God Elijah knew in his ministry. He would not even be satisfied with an equal “serving” of the God Elijah walked with on this earth. Elisha asked for a double portion of God’s power over his life. How did Elisha get to this point in his life where this desire completely arrested him? He left everything to know this God. He was consumed with accompanying a man who knew this God. He craved to devote his life to serving this God.
The truth is God remains unknown to those who refuse to know Him. Paul acknowledges the memorial in Athens, “To the Unknown God, whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). Yet a few verses later in his sermon he says, “Though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27)! The very one who is “unknown” is also as close as the mention of His name. The difficulty is not getting to know God. The difficulty is swinging wide open the doors of your heart and welcoming Him in without restriction. One scribe answered Christ discreetly probably out of fear of his peers. Jesus said, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). God is not unknown because He is elusive. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Do you hear him knocking? You may have a shrine in your heart to the Unknown God. You refuse to let Him into your heart, but you have a shrine where you lay some trinkets of your respect. Letting in God means your life will change. The invitation is the surrender of your soul.
Your hunting for the perfect gift…for yourself. It’s been something you’ve wanted for a long time. Right before you click purchase, you are taken to a page where you can completely customize your purchase. You can make it fit you! If you like zig-zags or bright colors or camouflage or flowers, you can make it your own. Your gift for yourself becomes a tool of self-expression. Pretty cool, right?
Except when it comes to following Christ. It’s irresponsible to overlay the same approach of self-expression upon the work of the Spirit. To be brutally honest, the truths of liberty in Galatians have been some of the most misinterpreted passages in Scripture. Many rush to these verses and select their style, flavor, color, and variation of what following Christ means for them. What they have actually done is abused the Spirit as a tool of self-expression! They have held the Spirit hostage as a mute sychophant who capitulates to their personal lusts.
Walking in the Spirit enables us to do the will of God. The will of God is one coin with two sides—fleeing and fulfilling. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). The application is general enough for us to understand fornication as being anything which violates the nature of God. Anything we do which is unfaithful to God. This eliminates all blatant sin but also worldliness. Would you go without that music, that style, that attitude, that whatever for a month? No? You have an idol of self-expression which strangles the Spirit’s leading to a whimper. You’ve simply dragged the Holy Spirit against His will into your life to placate your sinful desires.
The other side of the coin is fulfilling the law. Right now, you are probably thinking, “Paul said we are liberated from the law by the Spirit.” When you walk in the Spirit you do not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but you fulfill the law of Christ which is to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The truth is many Christians are more in love with themselves and their self-expression than living a life of absolute denial in order to flee fornication and fulfill the law of Christ.
Nowhere in Galatians (nor the Bible for that matter) does it say the Spirit liberates you to live as you deem honorable. Your will has been crucified and it is dead. Your preferences don’t matter. Your arguments for what you think is right and best are moot. When you walk in the Spirit you actually do what He deems honorable. When you walk in the Spirit you are not focused on self-expression, rather on God-expression which is displaying the holiness/unworldliness of God.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself…This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh…And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts…Let us not be desirous of vain glory…(Galatians 5:13–14, 16, 24, 26)
The heat in one of our classrooms at church has mysteriously stopped working. The only change in recent history was when I took the thermostat cover off, to look at the wiring. We were looking at moving the unit down the wall so we could center a whiteboard on the wall. Since then, the heat has not worked. The wiring seems to be loose. With a gentle nudge of the wires, sparks fly in all different directions. Power is available, but since the connection is not strong, the heater will not work properly.
In our lives, the key to success is our connection to Christ. Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We are often frustrated with the deficiencies in our lives (i.e. no heat from the heater) while we ignore the detachment to Christ. The energy to live a significant life is available, but because of our weak connection to Christ, the power shoots out in different directions instead of being harnessed for your life. By our intentional focus on Christ, our deficiencies disappear.
The command “Be ye holy for I am holy,” is not a command for you to manufacture holiness (see Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:15-16). According to the wisdom in Galatians 2:20, you need a transfusion. By the transfusion of Christ’s nature with our nature, our inherent worldliness fades away and the righteousness of Christ shines through. So the command of holiness is not something you do, but something Christ does as He lives in you. You must be crucified with Christ. The end of your nature creates room for Christ’s nature to overtake you. The only reason the domination of Christ’s nature has not occurred within you is that the complete annihilation of our nature has not been accomplished.
“I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).
If you’ve driven much or for long distances, you know that detours are a part of travel. Sometimes the detours are planned, and other times they are random. Some detours are absolutely necessary. While I was driving west from St. Louis, MO. There were many signs of a detour, which was discouraging. It was even more discouraging when the detour trickles down to one lane and everyone is creeping along. I just want to burst out of there, but as I was about half-way through the detour we passed what we were detouring. Usually, I see construction to repair bridges, but this time for whatever reason, they decided to destroy the entire bridge. There I could see an entire four-lane interstate bridge destroyed. That detour becomes a comfort all of a sudden. Someone who knew the roads better than I did, deemed it important to string a detour so I would not fly over a cliff and perish at the bottom of the ravine. I needed to trust the detour.
Saul experienced such a detour on his way to Damascus. He was on a mission to destroy those who were of “this way” meaning those who were following Jesus Christ. He was the master of his life. He had everything figured out. He was heading down the road that had a bridge out and if he kept going at breakneck speed, he would eventually destroy himself, but there was a divine detour. Jesus stunned his journey with his luminous presence which was “above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13).
Saul asks two questions which are vital for those who will follow the divine detour. First, he asked, “Who art thou, Lord” (Acts 9:5)? The response, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,” put a face on his crusade. Later, in Romans, this same man wrote, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). He completely understood what it meant to be that righteous man who deserved eternal torment in hell. He was that man and he encountered God on this gracious day.
The first question provided the necessary facts. Who are you? I am Jesus. Salvation hinges upon what you do with Jesus. Will you willingly submit to Him as Master? Will you ignore the divine detour and continue on your path to destruction? Saul asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do” (Acts 9:6)? The Bible tells us one day every knee will bow before King Jesus. In order to be saved, one must acknowledge his sinfulness and desperate need for the grace of the King. It is the stubborn one who rejects the grace of salvation who will be broken before the holiness of God.
This divine detour is an important reminder. Knowing who the Lord is—a cognizant awareness of His identity—is insufficient. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Many will know Who He is, but without humbly recognizing your sin and requesting the grace of forgiveness, you will ignore the divine detour to your detriment. Heed the detour. It is a matter of eternal life.
Alfred, an acclaimed chemist, happened to meet another chemist who discovered nitroglycerin. It was unstable, but Alfred was sure there would be a way to make it useful. There were many experiments and many casualties, but finally, he produced a paste that could be molded into sticks which he called dynamite. Needless to say, he became a very wealthy man.
He soon found out what others thought of his invention when, in 1888, his brother Ludvig died. Through some journalistic error, Alfred’s obituary was widely printed instead of Ludvig’s. He was scorned for profiting from the deaths of others. One French newspaper’s epitaph stated, “The merchant of death is dead…he became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
Alfred was stunned by what he read and determined to change his story. One year before he died in 1896, Alfred signed his last will and testament, which set aside the majority of his vast estate to establish the five prizes designed to recognize world-wide accomplishments including one awarded for the pursuit of peace. Alfred Nobel changed his story and the Nobel Prize is his enduring legacy.
You are a creature of destruction. Everything about you is unstable and unless something changed you will destroy many lives. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways” (Romans 3:10, 13, 15-16). In order to change your story, you must be “pricked in your heart,” repent, and “call on the name of the Lord,” then you will be saved (Acts 2:37-38, 21).
Once you “gladly receive” these words, you have a different story. You are given a gift from God, the Holy Spirit, who provides among many things, power. With this power, you are now the messenger of peace. Before you only knew destruction, but in Christ, you now proclaim peace to those who need a Savior. Since the special day in Acts 2, millions have become witnesses for Christ throughout the world. You must carry the torch of hope, love, and life until the whole world knows Christ, the Savior of the World.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)