Receive More Spiritual Revelation

The Help You Need to Find Deep Spiritual Secrets

By Grantley Morris

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Deeper Spiritual Truths

God has secrets he longs to share with you. No matter how enlightened and revered as a spiritual leader you might already be, there are still more discoveries and wonders in our infinite Lord you have yet to tap in to.

The quest for deeper spiritual truths is an adventure strewn with dangers, pitfalls, unexpected hindrances and rich rewards. We are called not to stagnate but to snuggle deeper into God and both delight in him and be a delight to him, as we keep exploring more of his wonders and growing increasingly like our glorious Lord; achieving things of eternal significance through, and for him.

Even though most (but not all) Christians can benefit greatly from this webpage, I am driven by a passion for those who are exceptionally knowledgeable and whose spiritual experiences with God have been particularly extensive and special. Whilst making no claim to be their equal, I seek God for the privilege of inspiring great Christians to grow even mightier, and highly experienced ones to deepen still further their intimacy with God.

This webpage is not about me claiming to share God’s secrets but about you receiving from God yourself. As part of this, I wish to expose blockages that steal into our lives without our awareness and restrict further revelation and spiritual development. We will consider all divine communication possibilities, whether so common that most of us miss them, or so controversial that Christians differ as to whether they can even occur today.

At her workplace, my wife’s boss recently called her an expert. “No,” she told him, “I’m a learner.” Vicki refuses to see herself as an expert because that implies she has peaked. In every area of life she wants to be continually learning, as this empowers her to keep getting better and better. This attitude floods me with admiration. It was one of the first things that attracted me to her and I see continually fostering this attitude in her as among my highest, God-given duties and privileges. I pray that I, too, will always be stirred to put in the effort to keep on improving.

What particularly excites me about my continually developing wife is that she is in her forties, not her twenties. Children are great learners and as a result they develop amazingly. Sadly, the older we get, the more we are tempted to slacken off and stagnate, rather than keep improving and reaching new heights. This applies as much spiritually as it does to anything else in life. We must fight this tendency with all that we have.

For a very brief but inspiring insight into what made two well-known Christians spiritual giants, see The Growth Factor.

Physically, we hit a peak and then face a slow, sad decline. Spiritually, however, life is much more exciting; we can continue to soar higher and higher throughout our earthly lives, as indicated by such Scriptures as:

    Job 17:9  . . . He who has clean hands shall grow stronger and stronger.

    Psalm 84:5, 7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you . . . They go from strength to strength. . . .

    Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the righteous is like the dawning light, that shines more and more until the perfect day.

    Isaiah 40:30-31 Even the youths faint and get weary, and the young men utterly fall; But those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run, and not be weary. They will walk, and not faint.

    John 15:2  . . . Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

    2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory . . .

    Philippians 3:8-15 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. . . .

Each of us has a unique and intricate mix of strengths, weaknesses, sensitivities and insensitivities. Your loving Lord thoroughly knows you and tenderly and wisely treats you as the wondrously unique individual you truly are. So radically did Jesus change his tone according to who he was addressing that at times he seemed like a different person (Example). With something addressed to a mass audience, the Lord might choose to highlight a sentence here and there for you but nothing – not even the Bible – divinely intended for a group of people can address you with the infinite care and intricate understanding that God would amass when speaking personally with you.

There are parts of this webpage that I yearn to remove because they are most unsuited to many sensitive people. My dilemma is that some of us desperately need those parts. It is against my nature to include them but compassion compels me to care not only for those who are overly sensitive but for those of us who need to be jolted out of the complacency we can so easily be lulled into. So I must alert you to the following warning and if you choose to proceed with this webpage I plead that you pray as you read.

WARNING: This Webpage Might Not be for You

Some Christians often feel guilty and worry about their relationship with God. Some even have times when they question their own salvation. I have written much specifically for dear people and almost all my other webpages are suitable for them. This webpage, however, is a stark exception. One day I might craft an alternative version for people with sensitive consciences but the following is most certainly not for such people. Unless you feel very secure in your relationship with God, you should read no further. Instead, go immediately to How Much does God Love Me? Receiving your Personal Revelation or, if you fear you might be beyond God’s forgiveness, see Unforgivable? Guilt Ridden?



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Deeper Spiritual Truths


Spiritual Secrets

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We will grapple with issues that the most experienced and spiritually mature of us must keep seeking God as to how we measure up. In the words of Scripture:

    Romans 11:20-22  . . . Don’t be conceited, but fear; for if God didn’t spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. See then the goodness and severity of God. Toward those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

    1 Corinthians 8:2 But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know.

    1 Corinthians 13:9, 12 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part . . . For now we see in a mirror [crude, ancient], dimly . . .

    1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

The apostle Paul often likened the Christian life to a race (Scriptures). Given that we are not in competition with each other, it is a surprising analogy but Scripture uses it skillfully to pound home this point: regardless of how good it is to start off well, of critical importance to winning the prize is how well we finish. Many of us are in danger of ending up like the hare beaten by a tortoise because we think our natural advantages (Christian upbringing, early conversion, admired by fellow Christians, exceptional theological knowledge, intelligence, and so on) allow us to put in less effort. We can start off impressively and end up losers if we slacken off.

Of course, Jesus agreed:

    Luke 13:30 Behold, there are some who are last who will be first, and there are some who are first who will be last.

Our Lord emphasized the same point in the Parable of the Sower: many plants do well at first but end up fit only for the fire because they peter out before harvest time (Mark 4:3-20). He added several other parables about servants who grew slack and suffered horrific consequences when their Master unexpectedly returned (Matthew 24:42-25:30).

Put plainly:

    Ezekiel 33:12-13  . . . The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his disobedience . . . neither shall he who is righteous be able to live thereby in the day that he sins. When I tell the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in his iniquity that he has committed, therein shall he die.

So important is this truth that it is repeated several times in Ezekiel.

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Keeping me awake at night is the concern that what you most need might be buried so deep in this webpage that you cease reading before finding it. I long to introduce early whatever part is most critical to you but, with each of us being unique, it cannot be done, especially since a brief mention might not be enough for you to realize how important it is to you. With so many possibilities to explore, I can only beg you to keep reading, or at least to pray seriously before stopping.

It is so obvious as to hardly need mentioning that to receive revelation we should pray for it. Nevertheless, there are depths even to this that often trip me up. Let’s scan it so that just the bones are seen, pausing only to sharpen the image with Scriptures affirming how critical each point is. If you feel you cannot wait, scroll down to the next section of jump to it by clicking When Asking is Not Enough. After that section we will dive into a more fascinating investigation of less obvious secrets to receiving spiritual revelation.


Spiritual Secrets



Deep Truths

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Seek Spiritual Truth and Pray for it as if Your Life Depended on it

In fact, not just your life, but your eternity could teeter on it.

I keep drifting into the mentality that since my loving Lord knows me better that I know myself and loves me more than I know myself, he will give me what is best without me asking. No matter how great my faith, however, and how much my relationship with God must not degenerate into a writhing mass of blood-sucking give-mes, my presumption flies in the face of all the Scriptures where God pleads with us to ask him (for examples, see Scriptures).

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the many encouraging Scriptures about the importance of seeking and asking:

    Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me, and I will answer you, and will show you great things, and difficult, which you don’t know.

    Proverbs 2:3-5  . . . if you call out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures: then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

    Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

    Ephesians 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened . . . (NIV)

    James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him.
    (Emphasis mine.)

It is never enough to casually seek and ask. We must:

  [*]   Passionately want it

    Deuteronomy 4:29 But . . . seek the Lord your God, and you shall find him, when you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

    2 Chronicles 15:15  . . . they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them . . .

    Jeremiah 29:13 You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.

    Psalm 119:145 I have called with my whole heart. Answer me, Lord! I will keep your statutes.

    Hebrews 11:6  . . . he [God] is a rewarder of those who seek him.

    1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that with it you may grow
    (Emphasis mine.)

  [*]   Ask with dogged persistence for as long as it takes

    Remember Jesus’ parable of the man who kept pounding on his neighbor’s door and the widow who kept badgering the judge, until receiving what they wanted (Luke 11:5-10; 18:2-7). Remember also the Canaanite woman who kept asking for Jesus’ help, despite being ignored and likened to a dog (Matthew 15:22-28).

    Psalm 55:17 Evening, morning, and at noon, I will cry out in distress. He will hear my voice.

    Psalm 119:147 I rise before dawn and cry for help. I put my hope in your words.

  [*]   Ask with a pure heart

    James 4:3 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures.

    Psalm 66:18 If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord wouldn’t have listened.

    Proverbs 28:9 He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

    Isaiah 1:15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.

    Isaiah 59:1-3 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; nor his ear dull, that it can’t hear. But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity. Your lips have spoken lies. Your tongue mutters wickedness.

    James 5:16 Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

  [*]   Ask believing in God’s love and goodness

    Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.

    James 1:5-6 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.

    Matthew 7:9-11 Or who is there among you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, who will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
    (Emphasis mine.)

  [*]   Ask in submission to God

    This is closely related to the above points. We should persist not because we think we can twist God’s arm but because we believe God is good and loving. We should be driven to keep on praying not because we want our selfish way, nor because we want glory, but because we long to glorify God. We should ask, believing that he loves us even more than we love ourselves and that he knows far better than us what we need to know and when we need to know it. Nevertheless, we should not lazily leave it all to God; but persist in asking as an act of obedience to the good Lord who has told his children to seek and pray.

  [*]   Scriptures bringing together the points just mentioned:

    Daniel 9:3, 20-21 I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and petitions, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. While I was speaking, and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning . . .

    Daniel 10:2-13 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine into my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, until three whole weeks were fulfilled. . . . I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold, a man . . . his face as the appearance of lightning . . . and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; for the men who were with me didn’t see the vision; but a great quaking fell on them, and they fled to hide themselves. . . . Then he said to me, Don’t be afraid, Daniel; for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard: and I have come for your words’ sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days . . .”

    Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

    1 Thessalonians 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly . . .

    Hebrews 5:7 He, in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and petitions with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear

Note that last Scripture: Jesus prayed “to him who was able to save him from death, and having been heard”. God vindicated him and raised him from the dead, but not before Jesus suffered horrifically, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). His followers, too, must not give up, no matter how hard things get and how abandoned by God they might feel.

    Matthew 10:22-38 You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved. . . . A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! . . . Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. . . . But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. . . . For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.

  [*]   Ask God to reveal blockages to revelation

    If the holy Son of God said about himself, “I can of myself do nothing” (John 5:30), it is clearly impossible for us to achieve anything of value – including recognizing our own weaknesses – without humble and total dependence upon God.

      Romans 8:26  . . . we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.

    Even more essential than seeking God for spiritual revelation is that we prayerfully devote much time and diligence to removing from our hearts everything that blinds us to truth. Not only must we seek divine intervention, we must also cooperate with God in this critically important process.

    Our desperate need for divine revelation stems from the terrifying fact that no one who is deluded realizes it. Everyone who is spiritually deceived sincerely and vehemently believes he is right with God and that truth is on his side.

    Unless we seek God to rid ourselves of every blockage and repent of everything he reveals, we might think ourselves spiritually enlightened and act as know-alls, but we will remain deluded.

      Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

      Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the motives.

      Proverbs 30:12 . . . pure in their own eyes, yet are not washed from their filthiness.

      Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?

    So we must pray with the psalmist:

      Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me . . .



Deep Truths



Spiritual Secrets

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When Asking is Not Enough

No matter how exceedingly powerful a rocket might be, it will fail if critical things are not as the designer intended. Likewise, the mind-boggling power of faith and prayer can be stymied by any of a number of things. I’ll mention two.

  [*]   1. Fooling Ourselves

    An obvious aspect of asking passionately is that we truly want what we are asking for. We can easily deceive ourselves on this point, however, and unknowingly join the ranks of those who God says, “with their lips to honor me, but they have removed their heart far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).

    We might, for instance, convince ourselves that we desperately want God to reveal his will on a matter we are highly passionate about when, in reality, we have little desire to know God’s mind on the matter. All we want is for God to confirm that he approves of us having what we crave. We have little interest in God revealing his heart and his wisdom if that means revealing that we should deny ourselves what we yearn for. Our passion is not for the God who is perfect in love, wisdom and goodness to have what he wants, but for us to get what we want. If the two happen to coincide, we would rejoice, but if not, we would prefer not to know.

    We often have far less desire to see things through God’s eyes that we realize. If we are depressed, for instance, we do not want to take to heart all the Scriptures that tell us to be thankful and rejoice. When floored by depression we recoil from seeing things in God’s positive light. We prefer to remain miserable and keep complaining about what we do not have than receive revelation about being thankful for what we have and rejoicing in it.

    For another example: who of us wants to hear that the God of love has plans to bless someone we resent because he/she already seems more blessed than us? It is hard to be genuinely passionate about God revealing his heart and plans if our hearts are at odds with his.

  [*]   2. Spiritual Maturity – More Elusive than We Think

    Not only is it not enough merely to go through the motions of asking God to reveal his heart, we must have the required maturity for it to be safe for God to grant us what we ask.

    No matter how loved little children are, and how much they plead with their parents to be allowed to drive the family car in heavy traffic, they will be denied. Even as children grow older, some still lack the required maturity. Our Lord faces a similar dilemma with us. He longs to share his heart with his children but even among many who are certain they have grown, immaturity is a limiting factor.

    The following Scriptures hide profound implications. I will not expound all the ramifications. I doubt that I even know them all. See how many you can find:

      Mark 4:33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

      John 16:12 I have yet many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.

      Romans 6:19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh . . .

      1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Brothers, I couldn’t speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babies in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren’t yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. . . .

      Hebrews 5:11-14 About him we have many words to say, and hard to interpret, seeing you have become dull of hearing. For although by this time you should be teachers, you again need to have someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the revelations of God. You have come to need milk, and not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is not experienced in the word of righteousness, for he is a baby. But solid food is for those who are full grown, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    As you read the last two quotes, you can almost feel the frustration as inspired writers yearned to share deeper truths but were unable to because of the spiritual immaturity of their readers. Surely this pained frustration reflects the heart of God.

    If I understand the above Scriptures correctly, uniquely inspired writers would have filled major New Testament books with deeper truths if only more of the original readers had sufficient spiritual maturity. Am I the only one who finds that unsettling? What truths have been omitted? Are they nowhere in the Bible? Indisputably, Scripture elsewhere indicates that both Paul and John received certain revelations that had to be left out of the Bible (Scriptures).

    This webpage is not about to get weird. I have nothing to share that is not spelled out in Scripture. Nothing can equal the Bible. Its teaching must remain our spiritual foundation and the prism through which we see everything else. Nevertheless, the Scriptures just cited need to be treated with reverence.

    My major concern is that if, no matter how minor, there is spiritual revelation available to any of God’s children in our era beyond what recorded in the Bible, would I have the maturity to handle it? We will later see how even the apostle Paul barely coped with what was revealed to him and he teetered precariously on the edge of pride because of it. And even if I could manage to stay level-headed, how could I receive truths that are not part of Scripture and be sure I’m not going astray by accepting them? This raises a whole new set of reasons for maturity being essential for such revelation.

    Since even in the Bible there is much I do not understand, what hope have I of receiving anything spiritual that is too challenging for inclusion in the Bible? My ignorance might partly be because I have not done enough to seek it. To venture outside the covers of the Bible scares me. Perhaps I prefer ignorance. The Bible will always be home for believers – the place of comfort and security that we keep returning to, but have I become like an agoraphobic who turns his house into a prison because he is unduly frightened to go outside?

    Having received no revelation that is not clearly spelled out in Scripture might also be because I have no special spiritual gift in this area and I am called to teach basic truths to average Christians. I must face the real possibility, however, that the biggest reason for my ignorance is that I lack the required maturity. I find that not only embarrassing but mystifying. If I were young, it would not be such a concern, but I am in my sixties and have been consistently devoted to Christ since early childhood. Have I been too content to coast, rather than go into overdrive? Thankfully, I don’t consider myself too old to learn and, for reasons I am about to touch on, I am grateful that I have at least been blessed with a few hard times.

    Maturity, whether physical, mental or spiritual, comes neither from a book nor from an instant answer to prayer. Note the last words in the previous quote: “. . . who are full grown, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The emphasis is on intense experience in repeatedly choosing what is right, rather than sliding into what is convenient or comfortable. I should highlight that the quote says maturity comes to those who have “exercised” themselves. Like the physical training an athlete endures, God and various people can instruct and inspire but without the trainee personally exerting himself, nothing will be achieved. The critical importance of intense personal involvement makes painful trials an integral part of gaining spiritual maturity:

      James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
      (NIV, Emphasis mine.)

    This truth is of such importance that an entirely different writer says virtually the identical thing. Both James and Paul insisted that painfully oppressive trials end up achieving so much spiritual good in our lives that their presence is something to rejoice about:

      Romans 5:3-4  . . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope

    By calling it suffering, Romans emphasizes how painfully unpleasant the trials are that empower us to grow up spiritually. Hebrews calls these spiritually beneficial experiences the discipline that children must respond to positively if they are to grow into responsible adults. It does not sidestep the fact that this is unpleasant:

      Hebrews 12:7-11 It is for discipline that you endure . God deals with you as with children, for what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline? . . . we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? . . . but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    Seize the fact that this says that having hardship thrust upon us does not mean God dislikes us; it is actually proof that he believes in us and cares for us with true wisdom and boundless love. The “discipline” is often not punishment but intense training like a coach would put his star athletes through to bring them to an even higher level.

    In preparing this webpage, I kept discovering so many valuable insights into trials that this section grew enormous and I was forced to remove it from here and turn it into a separate webpage. Nevertheless, since enduring and understanding trials and suffering is critical to gaining the spiritual maturity needed to receive deeper revelation from God, I urge you to read the new webpage after completing this one. The new webpage also addresses in depth such issues as how God having not yet removed suffering from this planet is utterly consistent with (and, in fact, a manifestation of) him having a tender, highly compassionate heart. When Hebrews uses the analogy of discipline, it is to emphasize that suffering ends up producing maturity and does us good. If, however, one had harsh parents, one might misunderstand and slide into a dangerously distorted view of our passionate, caring Lord, who would rather suffer himself than see us suffer (as demonstrated by Christ bearing on the cross the consequences of our sins). Not only would we be mistaken should we begin supposing that our suffering might mean that God is callous or even cruel, this misunderstanding would sabotage our motivation to draw near enough to God to hear his whispers.

    The new webpage also explores how not only can voluntary suffering for Christ (such as persecution) be spiritually beneficial but this is also true of unavoidable suffering that merely living on this sin-stained planet exposes us to.

    Most of us are spiritually in far worse shape than we realize. How far today’s western Christians have slipped from biblical Christianity is shown by the bewilderment many of us feel when the apostles left after their flogging “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor” for their Lord (Acts 5:41).

    As Peter grieved his Lord by not understanding the necessity of the cross (Matthew 16:21-23), many of his followers today grieve him by not understanding the necessity of their own cross.

    It is wondrously true that the holy Son of God suffered in our place and by so doing has spared us an eternity of suffering. This does not negate the fact, however, that yet another purpose of his suffering was to provide the ultimate example for us to follow, so that like him we, too, might be inspired to suffer for the greater good:

      1 Peter 2:20-21  . . . if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps

      1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind . . .
      (Emphasis mine.)

      Similar Scriptures

    It is common to so focus on the last hours of Jesus’ of time on earth as to lose sight of how much his entire earthly life was characterized by alienation, deprivation and suffering. His agony on the cross was not some aberration; a few hours of torment at the end of a life of bliss or carefree ease. And we are called to follow him – all the way through suffering to endless glory.

    Our calling is to be spiritual adventurers, achievers and daring rescuers. We should be so in love with God that we are driven to endure all matter of hardship and suffering, not merely to avoid endless regret and shame, but to see our Lord smile with delight as he proudly says, “Well done!” We are called to be glory-seekers – not for a short-lived rush or fifteen minutes of fame or for small-minded self-centeredness, but for the endless thrill of glorifying the God of perfection, the Love of our lives, the most wonderful person in the universe.

    Despite the value and necessity of Christians suffering being such a strong and recurrent theme throughout the New Testament, many of today’s preachers in western countries have grown amazingly adept at ducking and weaving their way through the Bible so as to avoid the obvious. In fact, their avoidance is so persistently enforced as to end up making this foundational teaching seem like deep teaching or even a foreign concept. See the link at the end of this webpage: The Spiritual Value of Suffering Trials for a full exploration of this important, much-neglected topic.

    Another matter I mention in that webpage is the power of praise and worship. Since this, too is of critical importance to us receiving more revelation from God, I will provide a quote here:

      No matter what the situation, praising God is always the perfect response. Not only is God always worthy of praise, it lifts us and changes our outlook until we are utterly transformed. Praise touches God. That renders it not just powerful but supernatural.

      Many of us merely dip a toe into praise and worship and are left clueless as to its powers. Those who truly plunge in, however, enter into a whole new world. Nothing seems to happen for quite a while but as we persist with praise, our spirits slowly rise. Praising God lifts our eyes off the mud of the momentary until we are captivated by the beauty of the eternal; off the tension of the present onto the triumph that momentary distress is leading to. If we keep persisting, our spirits will slowly soar heavenward until, when we look down, we see earthly things from heaven’s perspective. The result is not only exhilarating but liberating.

    As important as it is to realize our need of more revelation and to seek it, what we most need is to seek the spiritual maturity to cope with all that God longs to share with us. As this webpage moves on, I will slip in a few more hints of what is required to gain this maturity but I beg you to seek God about it because there could well be more.



Spiritual Secrets



Deeper Spiritual Truths

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Understand the Dangers of Bible Knowledge and Spiritual Revelation

This webpage is crammed with Bible quotes because Bible knowledge is critically important and we must give it high priority. To leave Scripture out of my writings would be a ridiculous as stripping a necklace of jewels or a skyscraper of its steel girders. The heart-cry of the wise is:

    Psalm 119:97-99 How I love your law! It is my meditation all day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for your commandments are always with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.

Nevertheless, I’m deadly serious: Bible knowledge or any other source of genuine spiritual revelation can end up destroying a person.

We have all heard the truism, “A little knowledge is dangerous.” What we must never forget, however, is that even if your spiritual experience and knowledge were to surpass everyone else’s on this planet, it would still be alarmingly little, relative to God’s understanding. Perhaps you are so knowledgeable that wherever you go you are bored out of your brain by sermon after sermon after sermon with nothing in it that you could not have preached yourself – and improved on it. Nevertheless, as the Apostle Paul insisted, you still see a mere reflection – and Paul had in mind nothing like the clarity of modern mirrors but the disappointingly dim, imperfect mirrors of Bible times (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Moreover, the more we know, the greater the danger. When climbing a ladder, going higher keeps improving the view but calls for increased vigilance because each step increases the danger should we fall. Likewise, gaining more revelation improves our view but increases the danger of us falling into pride – the deadly illusion of thinking ourselves better (and less spiritually vulnerable) than other people, or thinking we no longer need God quite as much as we used to or that we now have enough spiritual insight. We can also become vulnerable to the snare of believing we have earned God’s favor through all our prayer, study, sacrifice and righteous living. No one ever moves beyond total dependence upon God’s mercy and grace.

    Luke 18:9-14 He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Galatians 3:1-3, 10 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you not to obey the truth . . . Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh? . . . Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. . . .

Despite being the building materials for wisdom, raw knowledge – whether Bible knowledge or any other kind – is terrifyingly deceptive. It dupes untold millions into the complacency of supposing they know more than they do. Not only is the result spiritually hazardous, it can become a serious obstacle to receiving more revelation. It can render people unteachable; closed off to further revelation that they desperately need. “Knowledge puffs up,” warns God’s Word, “but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Here’s how perilous it is to let spiritual knowledge puff us up:

    2 Corinthians 12:7-9 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively. Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me. He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you . . .”

We have already touched on this Scripture but let’s plunge deeper. Despite Paul’s spiritual affliction being so distressing that three times he prayed to be delivered from it, this humiliating torment was keeping him from something much worse – “not be exalted excessively”. So the Lord, in his loving wisdom, kept denying his pleas. The revelation that precipitated this must have of immense value or the Lord would never have risked sharing it with Paul. Nevertheless, special revelation exposes one to such spiritual danger – the possibility of falling into pride – that suffering an agonizing “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” was preferable.

* * *

What we already know about our infinite Lord is truly wondrous. Our understanding remains infinitesimal, however, relative to the vastness of the mind and heart of God. We keep slipping into the arrogance of supposing that just because we know more than many people means that our understanding of God and his ways is more than a grain of sand in the Sahara. Such arrogance is deadly. Try envisioning all the profound consequences of the following:

    2 Samuel 22:28 You will save the afflicted people, But your eyes are on the haughty, that you may bring them down.

    Psalm 25:9 He will guide the humble in justice. He will teach the humble his way.

    Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. . . .”

    Isaiah 66:1-2  . . . Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. . . . but to this man will I look, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word. . . .

    1 Peter 5:5  . . . all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

    1 Corinthians 8:2 But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know.

Let’s spend a moment or two ridding ourselves of poisonous pride and taking life-giving doses of humility by meditating on these Scriptures:

    Job 11:7 Can you fathom the mystery of God? Or can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are high as heaven. What can you do? They are deeper than Sheol. What can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.

    Job 26:14 Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways. How small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?

    Job 37:5 God thunders marvelously with his voice. He does great things, which we can’t comprehend.

    Job 37:22-23  . . . With God is awesome majesty. We can’t reach the Almighty. He is exalted in power. . . .

    Job 42:3-6  . . . I have uttered that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I didn’t know. . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

    Psalm 139:3-6 You . . . and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, Lord, you know it altogether. . . . This knowledge is beyond me. It’s lofty. I can’t attain it.

    Psalm 145:3  . . . His greatness is unsearchable.

    Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding is infinite.

    Ecclesiastes 3:11  . . . He has also set eternity in their hearts, yet so that man can’t find out the work that God has done from the beginning even to the end.

    Ecclesiastes 8:17 then I saw all the work of God, that man can’t find out the work that is done under the sun, because however much a man labors to seek it out, yet he won’t find it. Yes even though a wise man thinks he can comprehend it, he won’t be able to find it.

    Isaiah 40:28 Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God . . . His understanding is unsearchable.

    Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. . . .”

    Romans 11:33-34 Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”

An entire chapter in Proverbs – the book devoted to divinely inspired wisdom – is given to recording the sayings of the man humble enough to write:

    Proverbs 30:2-3 Surely I am the most ignorant man, and don’t have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, neither do I have the knowledge of the Holy One.

Not only can we so easily get so blind drunk on pride that we do not realize how little we know, another insidious enemy of spiritual knowledge lurks in the shadows: fear. It might be hard to admit even to ourselves that we scared to learn more about God. The fear that stalks us has two fangs. One is that we do not sufficiently trust the perfection of God’s love and goodness to dispel the worry that there might be some ugly side to God that we do not want to know about. The other fear is that knowing more might obligate us to take a stand that will put us at odds with the narrow thinking of Christians whose approval boosts our egos and makes us feel secure.

We must dedicate our lives to loving each other as passionately as God loves. Nevertheless, our love and devotion to our Lord must so exceed our commitment to anyone else that if ever circumstances forced us to choose between pleasing God or pleasing the people who are dearest to us, we will choose God as fully as we would choose what we love above what we hate (Luke 14:26) – just as we must choose God over popularity, financial security, our own safety, or everything else we hold dear.

We are right to fear deception but we can fear it so much that we fall into the deception that conformity to small-minded people will inevitably bring.

Fear is not just the elephant in the room that everyone tries frantically to pretend is not there; it is the crazed beast that turns a vibrant person with exciting potential into a quivering ball of inadequacy. We must face our fears and bring them to our loving Lord so that we can become the powerful, fulfilled people he longs for us to be.

Our Lord is truly trustworthy. We can confidently release our white-knuckled attempts to control him and let him be God.

    Deuteronomy 32:4  . . . his work is perfect, for all his ways are just. A God of faithfulness who does no wrong, just and right is he.

    Psalm 62:5 My soul, wait in silence for God alone . . .

* * *

Ponder this:

    Luke 10:21 In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight.”

Jesus rejoiced that “the wise and learned” in his society – the Bible scholars and religious leaders; those seemingly abounding in spiritual knowledge – were blinded to spiritual truth. The God of love wants no one to perish. Just as we must not trust in material riches and make them our god, however, neither must we make supposed spiritual riches our god and imagine that they can save us. So many of us are like sport fans – “experts” who know everything when in the grandstand but would make total fools of themselves on the playing field. We must remain humble, teachable, submissive to God and continually seek more revelation and deeper understanding and keep applying those truths into our lives with greater commitment.

Among professional writers I my efforts might not be exceptional but what I publish is of superior quality to average people’s attempts at writing. What gives me the edge is that I am never content with anything I write. Perhaps as much as a hundred times, I keep going over whatever I am working on, and every time I reread it I see new ways it can be improved. This continual striving for improvement needs to characterize my spiritual life. I must never plateau spiritually. No matter how old I get or how much I were to achieve, my Lord will always remain worthy of so much more than I am currently giving, and the least I can do is to keep trying to improve for his sake.



Deeper Spiritual Truths



God’s Secrets

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The Cost of Learning God’s Secrets

Would you feel inspired to bare your heart to someone whose values are so different from yours that he would not understand? For example, if you were inwardly reeling in anguish over a loved one who is in bondage to Satanism, would you open up and reveal your tender, hurting heart to someone who is so hateful toward Satanists that he insists they should all be burnt at the stake? As Jesus put it: would you throw your pearls to pigs or entrust to dogs things you hold sacred? How can you share secrets that are dear to your heart with people whose values are so opposed to your own that they will not only despise what is precious to you but despise you for valuing it?

I say it with tears: the Holy Lord faces a dilemma of this magnitude with so many of us. Consider Jonah. As most American patriots feel toward Muslim terrorists, Jonah’s “righteous” blood boiled in hate toward the violently cruel, pagan Ninevites. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Jonah’s refusal to go to Nineveh was not because he was afraid they would despise his message but because he feared they would believe him and repent so that God would spare them (Jonah 4:1-3). When it happened as Jonah feared, God’s loving heart rejoiced but Jonah was furious. In the entire saga the most astonishing event was not Jonah surviving in the stomach of a sea monster, nor the Ninevites repenting, but the Holy One bothering to communicate with a prophet whose values were so anti-God that he lusted after the death of countless thousands of people whom God loved. In fact, I suspect the Lord only used Jonah to highlight how different God is from most religious zealots.

It is challenging enough that there is a vast intellectual gulf between us and God, without us having values that clash with his. To use Paul’s terminology, for us to have a chance of discerning God’s will, it is essential that we cooperate with God in renewing our minds – radically changing our thinking (Romans 12:2).

Unless our views are so revolutionized that they become like God’s, not only will we not understand him; our twisted way of seeing things will distort our perception of what God is saying. This shoves us on to the slippery, spiritually perilous path where we become convinced we have understood and are obeying what God is seeking to convey, when we are actually way off track.

To see things as God sees them means that, like him, righteousness and love must be our passion; the driving force in our lives. Righteousness is love in action (Scriptures), and love is selflessness (brief explanation). To be selfless is to die to self. So it all boils down to this: to walk with God – to be headed in the same direction as the Holy One and stay close enough to hear his whispers – necessitates a divine transformation, an essential part of which is dying to self.

This webpage is not about crucifying our human nature; it is about the infinite Lord – the most exciting Person in the universe – opening his heart to you and sharing his most intimate secrets with you. So I will not expound on the subject of dying to self (that is done in a link at the end of this webpage) but it turns out that dying to self is essential for consistently hearing from God.

The Bible records instances of God spasmodically communicating with people who had not died to self. Consider, for example, him writing on Belshazzar’s wall, revealing that his time was up and he had failed – rather like what God told the ecstatically prosperous barn builder in Jesus’ parable (Daniel 5:4-30; Luke 12:20). For another instance of God speaking to people who, at least at the time, did not have God’s heart, consider Saul being literally blinded by the glory of God on the way to persecuting Christians. For those smart enough to crave deeper revelation from God than that, however, one of the prerequisites is abandoning one’s own comfort and aggrandizement, and every day humbly opting to die to self.

We could plot a different biblical course to the one just taken but we would end up at the same place. Here’s what it would look like:

    John 16:12-13, 26 I have yet many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth . . . whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.

For anyone familiar with Scripture, it is a no-brainer that to reliably detect and comprehend spiritual things, one needs the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:

    1 Corinthians 2:12, 14 But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. . . . Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
    (Emphasis mine.)

Ripping this truth away from the rest of the Bible, however, might end in the delusion that having had a significant spiritual experience some time in the past proves that we must still be sensitive to the Spirit of God.

The Bible records that on certain occasions the apostles were filled with the Spirit (see When it was Not Taken for Granted, but Specifically Stated, that Christian Leaders were Filled with the Spirit). Why bother mentioning that they were filled with the Spirit unless – at least in theory – there were times after their infilling when these leaders could be in ministry but not filled with the Spirit? This becomes even clearer when we analyze Scripture’s plea to Christians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). That God considers it necessary to include such an instruction, implies it is not automatically a continual experience for Christians but comes down to our daily choice. In fact, the International Standard Version renders the tense used in the original Greek, “ keep on being filled with the Spirit”, as does the Complete Jewish Bible, and the Amplified Bible puts it “ ever be filled”(Emphasis mine.). And the exhortation is tightly sandwiched between other directives that are likewise our daily lifestyle decisions, such as avoiding drunkenness and choosing to worship God by singing spiritual songs rather than the songs of drunkards:

    Ephesians 5:15-21 Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.
    (Emphasis mine.)

God’s commitment and faithfulness and longing for us to be Spirit-filled are never in question. The issue is not whether God will do his part but whether we will do ours. Will we slacken off simply because we have known past glories or will we “press on toward the goal,” “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)? Will we continue being “who sows to the Spirit will” or will we become “weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:8-9)? Will we join the ranks of those “who shrink back to destruction” or will we “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us” and “run with patience the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 10:39; 12:1 – emphasis mine)?

So what determines whether we are currently, to use a colloquial expression, on the same wavelength as God, and so able to discern godly matters, is not some one-off experience (even though such an experience might have initiated the process). Whether we receive revelation right now depends not on how “spiritually minded” (Romans 8:6 – King James Version) we used to be but on how spiritual we are at this moment. The alternative to having one’s “mind controlled by the Spirit” ((Romans 8:6 – NIV) or being Spirit-filled, Spirit-led, open to the things of the Spirit, or whatever term you prefer) is to live according to the flesh (our human, earthly nature). This is why daily dying to self is so critical to genuinely hearing from God.

Note the context of Jesus telling his disciples that he would send them the Spirit of truth:

    John 14:15-17 If you love me, obey what I command. I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, that he may be with you forever,— the Spirit of truth . . .
    (Emphasis mine.)

This is similar:

    Acts 5:32  . . . the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

Note also the context of “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit”:

    Ephesians 4:29-5:1 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for building others up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.
    (Emphasis mine.)

Even though we are talking about something highly spiritual and dependent upon the Christ’s atonement, the sticking point is lifestyle choices – refusing ungodly attitudes and behavior. As Hebrews puts it:

    Hebrews 12:14-16 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.
    (NIV, Emphasis mine.)

We have holiness only through spiritual union with Christ but we can nullify that God-given holiness by lifestyle choices and heart attitudes and if, as the above Scripture says, doing so will prevent us from seeing God it will also prevent us from hearing from him.

The Word of God is clear that having a heart that is soft toward God – and hence regularly responsive to divine revelation – is impossible without a spiritual transformation of divine proportions:

    Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know me . . .

    Jeremiah 31:33-34  . . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it . . . and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from their least to their greatest . . .

    Jeremiah 32:39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their good, and of their children after them

    Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them.

Bringing this about is far beyond human ability, Nevertheless, God wants partnership, not despotic domination and has ordained that us maintaining a heart that is soft and not stony requires our continual cooperation. If our input were not required and all it took were one initial act of God, much of the New Testament would be redundant, since so much is devoted to warning and encouraging us to keep yielding to God and resisting sin.

No matter how much pray for power and revelation, there remains no way around it: we either keep dying to self, like our Lord who sweat blood crying, “not my will, but yours, be done,” or the God we hear from will turn out not to be the God of truth but the god of this world who quoted deftly from Scripture while tempting the holy Son of God (Matthew 4:6) and who filled with self-righteousness indignation the revered spiritual leaders and devout Bible scholars who were certain God was on their side as they pronounced their Messiah guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.

    John 8:43-44 Why don’t you understand my speech? Because you can’t hear my word. You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . .

    Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Of course, the needed transformation cannot be achieved without divine help through union with our crucified and glorified Lord. Nevertheless, as indicated by all the Scriptures telling us to take up our cross daily, put to death our earthly nature, to consider ourselves dead to sin, to crucify our sinful nature, and so on, the miracle requires our cooperation.

A link at the end of this webpage, Spiritual Secrets, explains dying to self and how there is nothing dreary to it because it is coming alive to God.

* * *

We know that all of Scripture insists that overwhelming love for God must be our top priority, closely followed by love for everyone God loves – which means everyone on this planet, including his bitter enemies. Here’s an insightful test of love: do we “Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15)? Are we so rapt in their well-being that we let their emotions overshadow our own? If they are hurt, do we feel hurt or are we primarily just grateful that it was not us? If those we claim to love receive praise or honor or something else we ache for and we miss out, do we rejoice with them or struggle with envy and resentment? Do we long to share in their ups and downs or do we prefer to remain aloof? This is where the genuine and the hypocritical part company.

This highly practical test applies to all love – not just love for humans but love for God.

God has feelings. Is that just another tidbit to add to your collection of doctrines or do you genuinely care? What score would God give you on this test of love? Are you moved by what moves God or do you treat him more like a vending machine?

Do you want to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit because you selfishly fear the consequences or because you truly care about the Love of your life and it would pain you to know he is reeling in inner pain? Every moment of every day, people grieve our Lord. Do you long to share his grief or do you want him to bear it alone? Do you just want God’s comfort or do you want to comfort him?

    2 Corinthians 1:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, even so our comfort also abounds through Christ.

The two – experiencing Christ’s sufferings and his comfort – flow together.

Consider the special relationship Moses had with God:

    Exodus 33:11 The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. . . .

    Deuteronomy 34:10 Since then, there has not arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face

Do you yearn for such a special friendship with God? What fuels your longing for it? The hope that it will give you status and power? So that you can get some goose bumps? Or so that you can be a friend? Do you want it for what you can get or what you can give?

The Lord also called Abraham his friend (Isaiah 41:8) and when he asked himself, “Will I hide from Abraham what I do . . .?” he responded by telling Abraham his plans (Genesis 18:17ff). What made Abraham a special friend of God is that he could cope with the unique insight into God’s heart that came when he obeyed those crushing words, “Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac . . . Offer him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2). Not only were the events that unfolded prophetically significant, they occurred only because, through gut-wrenching obedience, Abraham made a unique connection with the Father heart of God who sacrificed his only Son for us.

Here’s a divine principle that applies not just to finances but to so much in the Christian life:

    Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.

How much we long to give God companionship and emotional support will determine how much we open ourselves to receiving from him. The extent to which we care about God’s feelings and what moves his heart will be reflected in how much he shares his heart with us.

Are you driven by godless selfishness – wanting him for his wealth or spiritual assets – or because you actually love him? Do you think the Almighty God of love can discern the difference? Is he perceptive enough to know what motives you and passionate enough to care?

Before Job’s friends blew it by acting like know-alls, they behaved like real friends when Job was devastated:

    Job 2:11-13 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come on him, they each came from his own place . . . and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and to comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes from a distance, and didn’t recognize him, they raised their voices, and wept; and they each tore his robe, and sprinkled dust on their heads toward the sky. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.

They knew what it was to “Weep with those who weep.” Do you want the privilege of doing the equivalent with God and sharing his sorrows or do you just want the fun times? We know the Apostle Paul’s choice:

    Philippians 3:8, 10-12 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death; if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
    (Emphasis mine.)

In the light of the above, is it any surprise that Paul received special revelation from God?

Of course, God is filled with joy as well as sorrow, but if we want only half of God’s heart we can only end up with a half-hearted, superficial relationship with him. Paul wrote frequently of joy and yet he also wrote, “If we have only hoped in Christ in this life [if there is no eternal compensation for one’s suffering for Christ], we are of all men most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Here’s another reason why Paul received so much revelation from God:

    Romans 9:2-4 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers’ sake, my relatives according to the flesh, who are Israelites . . .

Let’s ponder who it is that Paul loved so intensely that, if it were possible, he would not only die but go to hell for them. They were not the many Jews who had become Christians, nor were they pagans who had not studied the Scriptures. These were people who knew God’s Word intimately and yet hated the Messiah it prophesied. Regardless of whether they were originally involved in sentencing Christ to death, they approved of those who did. These beasts were so anti-Christ that more than once they tried to kill Paul (Acts 14:19; 23:14,21) and they repeatedly tortured him, simply because he preached about their own Messiah they had spurned. When the apostle listed his sufferings, he wrote, “Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24). Yes, five times “from the Jews . . .” And just as the Romans executed Jesus at the Jews’ insistence, so these people were behind many of the rest of the horrors Paul suffered. Nevertheless, Paul’s heart was so Christlike – so overflowing with love for these despicable, hate-filled, Christ-rejecters – that he would volunteer for eternal torment if that would spare them.

The Lord had found in Paul a man after his own heart. He could share with Paul the things that were dearest to God’s heart because Paul knew what it was to have divine compassion throbbing within him. Unlike so many Christians, this man would not grieve God by despising the Lord for being the gracious, forgiving Person he is.

Here’s a third reason why God shared so deeply with Paul: when Ananias was reluctant to obey God and visit the newly converted Paul, God encouraged him by saying he would show Paul how much he would have to suffer for Christ (Acts 9:16). Paul was so trustworthy and selflessly devoted to God’s cause that from the beginning he obeyed, even though he knew the cost would be horrific.

Here was a man whose motives were so pure that he refused to make money out of the Gospel – not even to cover basic needs (Scriptures). He sometimes even went hungry (Scriptures). He would never use for selfish gain anything God revealed. Determined that nothing would slow him down or distract him from his God-given mission, he even denied himself the comfort of marriage (1 Corinthians 9:5). Here was someone God could trust; someone willing to pay the price; a man of integrity who had died to self; someone God could share his heart with.

Here’s a related key to having a heart that beats in sync with God’s:

    1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind . . .

And here’s another:

    Philippians 2:5-8 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who . . . emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.
    (Emphasis mine.)

It is so critical to keep our hearts soft:

    Matthew 13:15 for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and would turn again; and I would heal them.

Let’s remember that to have a heart like God’s and hence regularly be able to understand divine revelation, requires two things:

    1. A divine miracle

    2. Our on-going cooperation

It is on the second point that we typically slip up. In parable after parable, Jesus kept teaching that once the talent is given, the wedding invitation is received, the seed is sown in the human heart, and so on, the result hinges on what each of us does with the divinely-given opportunity.

* * *

The God of love seeks companionship, but he is often denied:

    Isaiah 59:15-16  . . . The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore his own arm brought salvation to him; and his righteousness sustained him.

    Isaiah 63:3, 5 I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the peoples, no one was with me . . . I looked, and there was no one to help; and I wondered that there was no one to uphold: therefore my own arm brought salvation to me . . .

    John 16:32  . . . the time is coming . . . you will leave me alone. . . .

Yes, the Almighty needs no one. He can do it alone – when absolutely necessary. But “there was no one to help” him as it says in the middle quote above, or are we like those of whom our Lord laments, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6; Isaiah 29:13)?

Consider this example of people who seemed so close to Jesus and yet had hearts that were far from him:

    Luke 9:53-55 They didn’t receive him, because he was traveling with his face set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from the sky, and destroy them, just as Elijah did?” But he turned and rebuked them . . .

The prophesied Suffering Servant who is the Risen Lord longs to send us into the world to be its light and complete his mission, which is not to condemn or judge the world but to save it (John 3:17; 12:47; 20:21). Tragically often, however, we think we are following Christ when we are actually following the aptly nick-named “sons of thunder” (James and John – Mark 3:17), who thought they were defending their Lord and being Godlike but had strayed from the beauty of Christ’s humility and compassion to ugly self-righteousness. It is disturbingly easy to believe we are following the Shepherd because we seem to be with his flock but to have let him slip from view and are following some of his sheep that have gone astray. Despite James and John expecting their Lord’s approval, they were rebuked. What is most encouraging, however, is that rather than becoming embittered by Jesus’ unexpected response, they learned – so much so that John’s epistle keeps stressing love.

Here’s another example of someone who seemed closer to Jesus than he really was:

    Matthew 16:21-23 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. Peter took him aside, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” But he turned, and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

Ouch! That hits me like a blow to the stomach. I would probably have made a blunder of the same appalling magnitude. Jesus was not exaggerating when he told the disciple who loved him so dearly, “Get behind me, Satan!” Just verses before, Peter had been highly praised for his divinely-given spiritual insight:

    Matthew 16:17-19  . . . Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven . . .

Now, so soon afterward, this same man was being used as a tool of Satan as a potential stumbling block to the Son of God – hoping to tempt him to avoid the cross and so abort the eternal Son’s holy but humiliating and agonizing mission to save us all.

Dear Peter had seemed to be doing much better than the sons of thunder. He seemed moved not by self-righteousness but by genuine compassion for his Lord. Yet still his heart was so far from Christ’s that, without realizing it, he who had so recently received praise for his spiritual insight, did “not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men” (Matthew 16: 23, quoted above).

I am so grateful for the uncompromising honesty of the Bible. We have much to be humble about. So many of us – probably even the best of us – are like Peter: flowing in the anointing of God one moment and being unwittingly used by the devil the next.

No matter how close we get to God and how much divine revelation we receive, we still have more to learn and need to move still closer to God’s heart. No matter how much progress we make, we must still keep burnt into our brains, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

* * *

While still considering the matter of discerning God’s heart, ponder the implications of this:

    Jeremiah 13:17 But if you will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret for your pride; and my eye shall weep bitterly, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is taken captive.
    (Emphasis mine.)

Is this just Jeremiah speaking or is he revealing God’s heart? (What a wonderful thing to be so close to God that we have difficulty telling the difference between God and his spokesperson!) Does God weep? Jesus came to show us the Father (John 12:44-45; 14:9; Hebrews 1:1-3). He wept. Does God weep in secret?

There was a time when the precious Son of God “wept in secret” – not by choice but because no one cared enough even to stay awake while he reeled in unspeakable anguish. Perhaps the most critical time in the Eternal Son’s entire existence was when he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe it was not even exceeded when he was on the cross because by then the matter had already been resolved in the garden. Regardless of which tops the list, however, it is indisputable that it was excruciatingly horrific for our Lord on that lonely night, and the eternal fate of us all teetered on his decision. He was suffering for all of humanity and yet all humanity – even his dearest, most trusted friends – emotionally abandoned him; leaving him to agonize alone. His so-called friends had not yet run away but already their hearts were so far from him that they might as well have fled a thousand miles from their Lord. They slept while sweat like blood dropped from him. They were so self-absorbed– so engrossed in their own grief and exhaustion – that they could not even stay awake; snoring while his agony soared (Scriptures).

Will we do better?

We make much of Peter’s denial, but sleeping in the garden might have hit our Lord even harder than his denial. Yes, Jesus survived without his disciples staying awake, just as he survived with Judas betraying him and Peter denying him. To imagine that Jesus’ survival makes it less of an offence, however, is as callous as considering it comforting that most people would still survive if their husband or wife broke their hearts by emotionally abandoning them.

Anyone hoping to use the sovereignty of God as justification for treating God cold-heartedly or for acting irresponsibly is streaking headlong into the most devastating of shocks. No matter how we shy away from it, at enormous cost to himself, our loving Lord has graciously bestowed on us great dignity by making our actions count. Grave obligations come with that honor. Regardless of how well the all-powerful Lord could do without us, his Word keeps insisting that we remain chillingly accountable. Consider, for example, the appalling extent to which God would have held Ezekiel responsible had the prophet kept to himself the revelation God had given him:

    Ezekiel 33:8-9 When I tell the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you don’t speak to warn the wicked from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and he doesn’t turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your soul.
    (Emphasis mine.)

Will we pray, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God” (Bob Pierce) – and keep uttering that prayer no matter how high the cost mounts? Or will we let our Lord “weep in secret”; so preoccupied with our own issues that we hardly bother finding out what breaks his heart?

The Almighty tells his friends so much:

    John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn’t know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you.

But will we choose to be his friend or do we prefer the cheaper option of emotionally distant spectators who remain oblivious to the cries of his heart? There are those who gawk and there are those who care. Even in the early church, Paul had to write with tears, “For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).

The Holy One sacrificed everything to save the impossibly wicked. While being tortured to death he prayed for the forgiveness of those who were violating him. We either make him our Role Model and love everyone who hates us or we are already deceived.

Here’s another critically important aspect of having a heart like Christ’s:

    Matthew 20:26-28  . . . whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
    (Emphasis mine.)

I wonder if a factor in the fall of so many Christian leaders acting like sex-crazed animals is that they sought God for power rather than for Christlike humility. An article by Dr Ian Robertson in Psychology Today supports the claim of the once powerful U.S. politician, Henry Kissinger, that “Power is the great aphrodisiac”.

Since the Lord Jesus is truth personified (John 14:6) the only way to avoid deception is to see things as he sees them. And he sees everything through eyes of self-sacrificing, unwavering, unconditional love. The sole alternative is to open our hearts to the deceiver and see things as the devil wants us to see them. Choose this path and you might receive startling revelation but it will not be from the true God and it will be laced with deadly error.

    Philippians 1:9-10 This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ
    (Emphasis mine.)

Unless our love abounds “more and more,” our spiritual discernment evaporates.

To know the mind of God we must have the heart of God and if, for example, we would not give our lives to save a Muslim suicide bomber from hell, we do not have God’s heart.

It hurts to love as God loves. Look at what it cost his only Son. No matter how much today’s Gospel Salesmen want to keep papering over parts of the Gospels that embarrass them, their nail-scarred Lord – the one they claim to be their Leader and Role Model – kept warning would-be followers of the cost. The rewards are literally out of this world – so immense that they totally eclipse the costliest sacrifice (Scriptures). It is the best investment anyone can ever make. This does not change the chilling truth, however, that the cost is huge.



God’s Secrets



Deeper Spiritual Truths

* * *

Deception: The Ever-Present Peril

Would you expect God to regularly share his heart and his secrets with someone devoted to serving a false god? Who is truly God of our lives is clearly a critical factor in receiving divine revelation. And the real God sees through all our lipservice to our hearts:

    Matthew 15:7-9 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me . . .’

    Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon [Money].

    Romans 16:18 For those who are such don’t serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly . . .

    2 Timothy 3:1-5 But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied its power. . . .

    For more such Scriptures, see Who is Really Our God?

    We must cut through all pretense and self-deception to discover who we really serve. Whoever or whatever is top in our affections; the one that means the most to us and predominates in our thoughts, hopes and dreams; the one we seek most to please and sacrifice to keep, is really our God – the one we let rule our lives and shape our destiny. There are many contenders – ourselves, or our romance or marriage or future claims to either; or children, or comfort, or reputation, or our pet sins or pet doctrines or material things, or our church, or politics or the approval of certain people or our career/ministry.

    The nearer something is to being the real thing, the greater the danger of us being deceived into mistakenly confusing it for the real thing. For example, most of the great theologians and Bible scholars in Jesus’ day sincerely believed Jesus was not the prophesized Messiah. As Jesus told them:

      John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me. Yet you will not come to me, that you may have life.

    Their mistake was to presume that their interpretation of Scripture (whether it be Messianic prophecies or such things as its teaching on keeping the Sabbath) was God’s interpretation. Unquestionably, if ever a supposed revelation does not line up with the Bible, we must reject it, but this comes with one huge proviso: that our decision is based not on mere familiarity with Scripture but on truly understanding it God’s way. Those who arranged the crucifixion of their Messiah were absolutely right in stressing the authority of Scripture but they did not realize that what they believed to be maintaining the infallibility of Scripture was actually insisting on their own infallibility in interpreting God’s Word. And the moment we slide into thinking ourselves infallible, we are careering to a catastrophe.

    Many good things, including patriotism, church traditions, and one’s spiritual heritage have the potential to usurp God in our lives so that we unknowingly make one of them our god.

    The danger of devoted Christians falling into serious deception is so immense that God’s Word is crammed with warnings about it (see New Testament’s Warnings to Christians About Being Deceived).

    Compassion fires my yearning to help you grasp how grave and real the danger of deception is for each of us but I cannot grasp it myself. Towering so terrifyingly higher than anything else we must face, the stakes are so mind-numbingly enormous that I keep opting to live in denial. My mind so baulks at this matter that I don’t believe I have come to terms with the magnitude of it; much less have what it takes to convey it to others.

    Picture yourself happily convinced you are living in the favor of God, faithfully serving him, delighting him and flowing in his power. Suddenly, just when it is finally too late to alter your eternal fate, you are shocked to inexpressible depths by this scenario:

      Matthew 7:22-23 Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’

    “Many” of those who identify with him, warned Jesus over and over, are sure they have secured an eternal reward and are blissfully unaware that they are hurtling toward never-ending disaster.

    Am I the only one concerned by this Scripture?

      Luke 13:26-30 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ [Fellowshipped with Jesus and sat under his teaching] He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, in God’s Kingdom, and yourselves being thrown outside. They will come from the east, west, north, and south, and will sit down in God’s Kingdom. Behold, there are some who are last who will be first, and there are some who are first who will be last.”

    No earthly catastrophe, no matter how appalling, comes within sight of this and yet I find it almost impossible to be adequately alarmed.

    I am appalled at how I keep slipping into thinking I am too sincere, too devoted, too in love with God and too knowledgeable to fall into such deception and yet this complacency makes me a prime candidate. Note the shock of these people on Judgment Day:

      Matthew 25:40-46 “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers , you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’ “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    The Apostle Paul put it this way:

      1 Corinthians 4:4 For I know nothing against myself. Yet I am not justified by this, but he who judges me is the Lord.

    A perfectly clear conscience is not enough, and utter confidence is not enough.

    Later he writes:

      1 Corinthians 9:27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

    Can you conceive the devastation being able to intimately address Abraham, one of the greatest ever men of God, calling him “father” and yet find yourself in the following never-ending nightmare?

      Luke 16:24-26 He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’ “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us.’

    Consider also:

      Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know him who said, . . . “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

      Hebrews 12:28-29  . . . serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    Like so often, this is a quote from the Old Testament that we would like to relegate to the Old Covenant but Scripture specifically applies it to the New. Jesus spoke far more about hell than any part of the Old Testament and what he says is appalling:

      Matthew 5:22  . . . whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna [hell].

      Matthew 8:12 but the children of the Kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

      Matthew 10:28 Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna [hell].

      Matthew 13:42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

      Matthew 13:50 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Yes, Jesus considered this so important that he repeated it in another parable.]

      Matthew 22:13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and throw him into the outer darkness; there is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.’

      Matthew 24:51 and will cut him in pieces, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. There is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.

      Mark 9:47-48 If your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out. It is better for you to enter into God’s Kingdom with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna [hell] of fire, ‘where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire is not quenched.’

      Luke 12:5 But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear him, who after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna [hell]. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

    Living in an era when we would love to bury such Scriptures I feel almost embarrassed to quote the above but these are not the babblings of a crazed ranter; they fell from the lips of the highest revelation of God humanity has ever been blessed to encounter (Hebrews 1:1-4). Nor were they motivated by hate or exaggeration but by the one who so believed them that he endured being tortured to death to give us the chance of avoiding this fate.

    My mind cannot grasp what it would mean to suffer the indescribable horror of eternal torment, shame, hopelessness and never-ending regret, let alone for me to reel in this after being sure I had been pleasing God.

    I’m so addicted to living with a pack of Get Out of Jail Free cards that I cannot conceive the consequences of having used up every last one. Like involuntarily flinching from pain, my mind keeps recoiling from accepting that it is even possible. I’m so used to life before death; to living in this era of grace where forgiveness is still an option – this relatively tiny window of opportunity when no matter how seriously I mess up I can avoid suffering the eternal consequences of my foolishness by calling upon my Savior and being totally forgiven.

    Consider Samson who kept toying with Delilah, feeding her titbits of information and getting away with it, until suddenly:

      Judges 16:20  . . . He awoke out of his sleep, and said, “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.” But he didn’t know that the Lord had departed from him.

    In Scripture after Scripture, our loving Lord pleads with us to get right with God while it is still possible:

      Psalm 32:6 For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found. . . .

      Psalm 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, Lord, in an acceptable time. God, in the abundance of your loving kindness, answer me in the truth of your salvation.

      Isaiah 49:8 The Lord says, “In an acceptable time I have answered you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. . . .”

      Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.

      Matthew 5:25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.

      Matthew 25:10-12 While they went away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Most certainly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

      Luke 13:25 When once the master of the house has risen up, and has shut the door, and you begin to stand outside, and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ then he will answer and tell you, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ [Different context to Matthew 25 above.]

      Luke 19:42  . . . If you, even you, had known today the things which belong to your peace! But now, they are hidden from your eyes. . . .”

      John 12:35  . . . Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness doesn’t overtake you. . . .

      2 Corinthians 6:2 for he says, “At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.

      Hebrews 3:7-13 Therefore, even as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, like as in the day of the trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested me by proving me, and saw my deeds for forty years. Therefore I was displeased with that generation, and said, ‘They always err in their heart, but they didn’t know my ways;’ as I swore in my wrath, ‘They will not enter into my rest.’” if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, like as in the day of the trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested me by proving me, and saw my deeds for forty years. Therefore I was displeased with that generation, and said, ‘They always err in their heart, but they didn’t know my ways;’ as I swore in my wrath, ‘They will not enter into my rest.’” so long as it is called “today”; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

    I cannot get my head around the horror of it being too late to receive divine mercy, as described in:

      Psalm 18:41 They cried, but there was no one to save; even to the Lord, but he didn’t answer them.

      Proverbs 1:22-32 How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? How long will mockers delight themselves in mockery, and fools hate knowledge? Turn at my reproof. Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you. I will make known my words to you. Because I have called, and you have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no one has paid attention; but you have ignored all my counsel, and wanted none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your disaster. I will mock when calamity overtakes you; when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when your disaster comes on like a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come on you. Then will they call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me; because they hated knowledge, and didn’t choose the fear of the Lord. They wanted none of my counsel. They despised all my reproof. Therefore they will eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own schemes. For the backsliding of the simple will kill them. The careless ease of fools will destroy them.

      Isaiah 63:9-10 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and in his pity he redeemed them. He bore them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit. Therefore he turned and became their enemy, and he himself fought against them.

      Zechariah 7:13 It has come to pass that, as he called, and they refused to listen, so they will call, and I will not listen,” said the Lord of Armies.

    There are more Old Testament warnings like the above. My dilemma, however, is that I don’t want to accept the New Testament’s insistence that what is recorded in the Old Testament is to warn us who live under the New Covenant:

      Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning . . .

      1 Corinthians 10:1-11 Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. However with most of them, God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. . . . Let us not test Christ, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents. Don’t grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

      Romans 11:20-22  . . . Don’t be conceited, but fear; for if God didn’t spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. See then the goodness and severity of God. Toward those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
      (Emphasis mine.)

    “It couldn’t happen to me,” is one of the most dangerous lies in the universe. I am alarmed at how hard it is for me to break free from this lie.

      1 Peter 5:8 Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

    The King James Version puts it this way: “Be sober, be vigilant,” but despite Scripture’s repeated warnings, I keep getting lulled into a drunken stupor of complacency because of my above average spiritual knowledge; as if merely reading all the warnings somehow renders them no longer applicable to me.

    I want to consign all these warnings to other people. I don’t want to accept such Scripture as the following as God mercifully warning me of a very real danger:

      Hebrews 6:4-6 For concerning those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God for themselves again, and put him to open shame.

      Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries. A man who disregards Moses’ law dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment [i.e. literally a fate worse than death] do you think he will be judged worthy of who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance belongs to me,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” Again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

      Hebrews 12:15-17 looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the grace of God . . . like Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal. For you know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for a change of mind though he sought it diligently with tears.

      2 Peter 2:20-21 For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

      Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.



Deeper Spiritual Truths



Receiving Revelation

* * *

Fear God or Snuggle into Him or Both?

    Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him. He will show them his covenant.

    Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. . . .

    Isaiah 33:6 He [the Lord] will be  . . . a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. (NIV)

    Matthew 10:28 Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna [hell].
    (Emphasis mine.)

It is tempting to dismiss biblical references to fearing God as just an old-fashioned way of saying we should respect God. But there is more to it than that. Biblical revelation indicates there is, in fact, a genuine element of fear. One of my favorite proofs comes from the prophet and king God declares to be “after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14):

    1 Chronicles 13:10, 12 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzza, and he struck him, because he put his hand on the ark; and he died there before God. . . . David was afraid of God that day . . .

The Word of God preserves many other examples, however. Consider this description of what the Israelites experienced at the mountain of God:

    Hebrews 12:18-21 For you have not come to a mountain that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and to blackness, darkness, storm, the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which those who heard it begged that not one more word should be spoken to them, for they could not stand that which was commanded, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned”; and so fearful was the appearance that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.” ”

Note also the use of the word tremble in such Scriptures as the following:

    Psalm 96:9 Worship the Lord in holy array. Tremble before him, all the earth.

    Psalm 119:120 My flesh trembles for fear of you. I am afraid of your judgments. . . .

    Isaiah 66:5 Hear the Lord’s word, you who tremble at his word . . .

    Jeremiah 5:22 Don’t you fear me?’ says the Lord ‘Won’t you tremble at my presence . . .”

The Holy One must not lower his standards. He cannot act corruptly. He is Judge of all humanity, and a good judge must be utterly impartial. He cannot show favoritism; setting lower standards for his favorites than for his enemies. He cannot say sin does not matter. He cannot renege on his righteous declaration that the wages of sin is death. He had to pay that penalty himself on the cross.

    Galatians 6:7-9 Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.
    (Emphasis mine.)

If forgiveness encourages us to do what is right, then forgiveness is good. If, however, forgiveness encourages us to keep doing wrong because we think we can sin with impunity, such forgiveness is evil.

I am at a loss to know how to fully and adequately convey the balance we should have between, on the one hand, literally fearing God and, on the other hand, totally relaxing with him, thoroughly enjoying his companionship and warmth, and loving and delighting in him as our best friend.

Our wonderful Lord is so warm and so loving that it is impossible to exaggerate it. The glorious truth that God is love, however, means that he is driven by mind-boggling love for everyone. He not only loves you with all his heart; he loves with equal fervor those you have sinned against. Not only is he enraged by all the hurt and injustice people have inflicted on you, and he aches to avenge it for your sake; he is equally passionate in his yearning to avenge all the hurt and injustice you have inflicted through your gossip, greed, and so on.

I explore elsewhere ( see Sweet Revenge! in the links at the end of this webpage) how the cross is God’s righteous resolution of this. If we do not want righteousness, however, we turn our backs on the only solution that can spare us from God’s love-fuelled wrath.

Gaining an adequate understanding of the fear of God is highly challenging. A good starting point, however, is to realize that it is the opposite of taking God for granted.

I am reminded of professionals whose livelihoods depend on using dangerous equipment. Consider someone for whom his trusty chainsaw is not only extremely useful but essential for his daily work and has become virtually a part of him as he skillfully wields it. He is completely relaxed using it and yet he does so well with it because he remains alert to the reality that any carelessness could kill or maim him.

I continually remind myself that my wife is mortal. Regardless of how healthy she is, being human means that at any time she could suddenly die. I am determined to live such that if she were to die I would not have to spend the rest of my life looking back in regret that I wasted opportunities with her and had not fully appreciated all that she is and does. One might imagine that my awareness of her mortality could detract from the relationship, but the truth is that it significantly enhances it. So it is with fearing God: correctly applied, it adds to the excitement and gives the relationship a significant edge.

When told they are terminally ill, people often report enjoying life and feeling more alive than ever before. We humans have an appalling tendency not to fully appreciate and value things until we lose them. Most of us seem to plod through life in a fog, barely aware of all the wonders around us and hardly appreciating such things as eyesight, the ability to sleep peacefully, not being in pain, and so on. So it is with taking God for granted.

We have an instinctive tendency to keep a little aloof from anything that seems a bit scary but actually nothing is genuinely scarier than letting a fear of God cause us to keep aloof from him. Consider the lazy servant in Jesus’ parable:

    Matthew 25:24-27 “He also who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours.’ “But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter. You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest.

What to him seemed like playing safe was almost the worst thing he could have done. Likewise with keeping aloof from God.

    Psalm 73:27-28 For, behold, those who are far from you shall perish. . . . But it is good for me to come close to God. . . .

    Psalm 65:4 Blessed is one whom you choose, and cause to come near, that he may live in your courts. . . .

    Hebrews 10:22 let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith . . .

    James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . . .

It is not that God is scary, so much as that life is scary. Life has far more perils than we realize, and our only hope of being safe is to stay ever-so-close to our God – our only reliable Guide and Protector. Fearing God is not about fearing the consequences of drawing near to him but of fearing the consequences of not drawing near to him, or fearing the consequences of slipping into the delusion of thinking we are closer to God than we really are by, for example, becoming mere hearers rather than doers of the what God reveals to us.

Yes, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) but perfect love involves total obedience.

    John 14:15, 21 If you love me, keep my commandments. . . . One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. . . .

    1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. . . .

    1 John 2:4-6 One who says, “I know him,” and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him. But whoever keeps his word, God’s love has most certainly been perfected in him. . . . he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.

Without total obedience – which, of course includes a strong commitment to righteous living – claims to love God are sheer hypocrisy and the alarming consequence is that we could end up believing our own attempts at deception and deceive ourselves.

    Job 28:28  . . . the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. To depart from evil is understanding.

    Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. . . .
    (Emphasis mine.)

To slip into the drug-like haze of deception is to be lost in a false euphoria that keeps us so unaware of the grave spiritual danger we have fallen into that we see no need even to try to escape. To avoid this deadly trap we must yearn not merely to know God’s heart but to have his heart. God’s goal – his entire reason for saving us – is that we become like Christ (Scriptures).

Contemplate the implications of this profound statement:

    John 7:17 If anyone desires to do his will, he will know about the teaching, whether it is from God, or if I am speaking from myself.

This means that a willingness to obey God (to do his will) is critical to being divinely granted the ability to discern whether a revelation is truly from God.

To avoid deception it is not enough to seek him, we must seek to be like him. We must not only want him to love us but want to love like him – utterly selflessly and to divine extremes. We must “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” (Matthew 5:6). For example, we should never pray anything like, “Make it acceptable from me to commit adultery.” Such a prayer not only causes God to shrink back in disgust, it invites demons to gleefully shower us with all sorts of false feelings and signs and “revelations” affirming that our favorite sin is acceptable to God.



Receiving Revelation



Spiritual Revelation

* * *

When Seeking the Spectacular Blocks Spiritual Revelation

Obviously, to let God be God we must abandon all attempts to try to control what God tells us. When we genuinely love God, slipping into blatant disobedience is less likely than convincing ourselves that our Lord must not have said what we don’t expect him to say or don’t want him to say.

Sadly, whether the disobedience is full-blooded defiance or we remain unaware of what we have done, the result is still disobedience. That’s alarming, given that life on earth is a minefield strewn with horrors and dangers that only God can see. Whenever we step in a car we cannot guarantee we will arrive unmaimed. Even if we stay at home, there is no certainty that we will not join the ranks of those whose place unexpectedly burns to the ground. We could cram countless volumes of books with records of ordinary people whose peaceful lives were suddenly ruined by completely unforeseeable disasters. Every seemingly insignificant thing we do ignites intricate chains of events with ramifications far too complex for any finite mind to plot. There is no need even to consider God’s punishment: it is alarming enough to realize how desperately we need divine guidance every second of every day, and that any time we disobey, we are spurning that guidance.

Moreover, submitting to divine wisdom involves not only doing our utmost to avoid barely conscious attempts to dictate what our Lord tells us, but how he tell us. It is when it comes to the method of communication that many of us get unstuck. We tend to expect God to respect our preferences and prejudices about various means of divine communication. Our Lord can stubbornly refuse to do so, however, simply because it is important that we relinquish all attempts to limit him.

Over the years, a good friend is likely to use a vast range of different ways of keeping in touch. It might include phone calls, text messages, Facebook, email, visiting your home, inviting you to his home, having a meal together, arranging to meet somewhere or going somewhere together, sending a gift or a card, passing on a message via a friend, and so on. Additionally, each means is likely to be used in a range of different ways. For example, phone calls might sometimes be brief and sometimes not, the time of day might usually be within a predictable range but sometimes it might be considered important enough to phone when you could be asleep.

Just as it would put a strain on the friendship to try to control what your friend says, so it would be to try to control how he says it. Part of respecting a person includes letting him use whatever means he prefers. It would be offensive, for example, to refuse to accept his phone calls, or to accept phone calls but refuse to answer the door if he visits. If you refused to answer his calls after a certain time of night it would suggest he does not mean a lot to you and/or you do not trust him to know you well enough or care for you enough that he would only choose an inconvenient time if the call were important.

Likewise, if God is our best friend, we should be open to whatever means he chooses; trusting his choice to be wiser and more loving that our own presumptions.

There are those who for emotional reasons try to blackmail God by refusing to believe they are truly loved of God and special to him unless he speaks to them by angelic visitations, visions, spiritual dreams, prophecies and so on. Then there are those who for doctrinal reasons go to the other extreme and feel unable to accept God using such methods because the methods, while frequently mentioned in Scripture, clash with their presumptions as to what he should do in our era. Either way, no matter how sincere these dear people are and how far they are from deliberate rebellion against God, trying to limit how God speaks ends up being an often-unconscious attempt to control God, rather than joyfully accepting his love and trusting him to choose the best methods to communicate with us. Of course, we cannot force the Almighty to act in the way we dictate but we can insist that unless he restricts how he communicates we will either refuse to believe he is loving or we will disregard what he says because we refuse to accept that he is really speaking.

If the answer is already in God’s Word and we are too lazy to hunt for it, we cannot expect God to use angelic visitations, or whatever, as a means of rewarding our laziness. If he has already delivered his message to us through preachers or thoughts, and we keep dismissing it, do not expect him to use a burning bush or Technicolor vision to wake us out of our stupor.

Our greatest challenge lies not in enticing God to speak but in recognizing it when he does speak:

    Job 33:14 For God does speak – now one way, now another – though man may not perceive it.
    (NIV, Emphasis mine.)

Note the variety of means implied in that verse (“now one way, now another”). Our expectations of how God will speak easily slip into a rut but God knows no such limitations. Often the biggest issue we face in perceiving what God is saying is our tendency to dismiss his messages because the method he chooses seems too “ordinary.” I expound this in much greater detail in The Thrilling Mystery of Hearing the Voice of God link at the end of this webpage.

Many of us lust after dramatic means of revelation – powerful visions, flocks of angels in luminescent nighties fluttering over our house, and so on – not because of our passion to know God and to delight him by obeying his messages, but because, for some sick reason, we crave the ego boost of being the recipient of the spectacular. Powering this yearning might not be a desire to exalt ourselves above others. It could easily come from pitifully imagining that being the recipient of something spectacularly supernatural will finally prove to us that we are important to God and not inferior to those who receive revelations in this way.

So thinking of ourselves as being unloved and overlooked and unimportant to God is not only tragically needless, our insecurity can lead to a second tragedy: it can drive us crave the spectacular so much that we dismiss divine revelations that come to us by less dramatic means. To avoid the disaster of insulting God by spurning divine revelation simply because the method God uses does not impress us, we must resolve the deep issues within us that cause us to feel unimportant to God and jealous of those in the limelight or who receive revelation accompanied by lightning.

The truth is that to anyone who loves you with his entire being, you are utterly irreplaceable and infinitely important. Perhaps no human has loved you that way. Humans are fickle and disappointing but not the God of perfection; the God who loves even his enemies; the God who keeps nothing back but takes his love to infinite extremes. It is impossible for anyone in the universe to be more important to God than you, because when God loves – and he never stops – he loves with all his heart. (For more help in grasping the magnitude of God’s love for you, see the How Much does God Love Me? Receiving Your Personal Revelation of God’s Love link at the end of this webpage. This link includes many other valuable links about God’s love for you.)

It is vital to get deep into your spirit an awareness of the astounding magnitude of God’s love for you. To even begin to get there will take prayer, study and repeatedly reminding yourself of this profound truth. Until then, you will either not realize how eager God is to share his secrets with you, or you will suffer an unhealthy preoccupation with the spectacular that will close your mind to all the other ways he shares his heart with you.

Something else that could fuel a spiritually abnormal and counterproductive preference for the spectacular is spiritual laziness: we detest having to live by raw faith and naïvely suppose that experiencing the spectacular will eliminate the need for faith.

Being forced to keep clinging by our broken fingernails to a truth when everything within in us screams that it cannot be true, is both torturous and unavoidable. It is as essential for spiritual strength as the agony of hard exercise is for becoming an Olympic champion.

We all pine for the soft life; gain without pain; glory without agony; Christlikeness without taking up our cross. It doesn’t exist. No one becomes an overcomer without overcoming. No one becomes a hero without having to face something any sane person would rather avoid; something we instinctively shrink from.

To envy those who experience something so dramatic that it no longer requires faith is no smarter than an athlete envying someone whose coach lets him become a couch potato. Wait until after the race before deciding who is to be envied. toward the end of a tough training session a person feels exhausted and weaker than someone who takes it easy but it turns out that the person who has it tough is the one headed for glory.

Miraculous signs end up building faith no more than lounging around builds muscle. What seems like faith is not faith but spiritual weakness artificially propped up by signs and feelings. It is no more faith than it is strength to don an inflatable muscle suit. We might be so foolish as to be impressed when we look in the mirror but our Lord is not fooled. The only loving thing he can do is knock from under us the artificial props; exposing our desperate need for genuine faith – the type that only comes the frustratingly slow, hard way, including accepting the truth of his revelation when it is not followed by fireworks.

While on this important subject, I should quote from something I’ve written elsewhere:

    Faith Boost Fizzler

    Surprisingly many spiritual experiences that we imagine would be dramatic enough to boost our faith if they happened to us turn out to be more subtle that we expect and in the cold light of day take faith to believe they were actually supernatural.

    Consider Gideon. If he had somehow misheard God, the results would not just be terrifying for him but catastrophic for the entire nation. He needed a faith boost, so he asked for a sign. He got an astounding one. After asking Gideon to prepare an offering, the angel touched it. The offering exploded into flames and then the angel vanished into thin air. Wow!

    Soon afterward, Gideon was again beginning to worry. He felt the need for yet another sign that would pump up his flagging faith. This time, he reasoned, he would leave nothing to doubt. The sign would be of his own choosing. Having pondered the matter, he decided to formulate a sign so ingenious that he knew it would annihilate all his doubts. He would put a fleece outside and if in the morning it was wet and the ground around was dry it would be such a miracle that he could be at peace, knowing for sure that God was with him and that all would be well.

    It happened just as he had asked. Then something totally unexpected occurred: his mind went into overdrive. What if there were some natural explanation? What if it had rained lightly early in the night and then evaporated from everywhere except where it was protected by the fleece’s fibers? Could an animal have been attracted to the fleece and urinated on it? What if . . . ? (Judges 6).

    He had been so sure that this was the sign he needed but soon what he had fully expected to be sky-high faith was collapsing so alarmingly that soon an ant wouldn’t trip over it.

    If what he was certain would be the ultimate faith-boost, giving him the peace he craved, had fizzled to nothing in minutes, we can expect the same.

    We imagine we crave some experience that boosts our faith but by that we really mean we want to experience something that is so compelling that we don’t need faith. But from start to finish, everything about the Christian faith is just that: faith.

      Romans 1:17 For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.”

      Galatians 3:1-5 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched . . ? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh? . . . He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you, and does miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith?

      Galatians 5:6  . . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (NIV)

      Colossians 1:22-23 yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without defect and blameless before him, if it is so that you continue in the faith . . .

      1 Thessalonians 1:3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith . . .

We never move beyond faith:

    2 Corinthians 10:15  . . .having hope that as your faith grows . . .

    2 Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers, even as it is appropriate, because your faith grows exceedingly . . .

It is one of the big three that will remain when so much else is swallowed up:

    1 Corinthians 13:9, 13 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part . . . now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. . . .

Doubting Thomas had the unique chance to physically handle the risen Lord. What a faith builder! What a blessing! No. He had missed the greater blessing. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed” the risen Lord told him (John 20:29). God instructs us in his Word by recording that Naaman almost missed his healing miracle because of his preconceived notion of how God would act. Another strike against him is that he was of significant status and this induced pride that almost sabotaged his ability to be sufficiently humble to receive in the humiliating way that God required him to receive (Details).

Likewise we can miss spiritual encounters with God because of our preconceptions or pride. Some of Jesus’ contemporaries rejected his message because he lacked social standing and was brought up in a despised part of the country (John 1:46; 7:41,52). The more holy rejected him because he seemed to have low morals, such as associating with “sinners” and “breaking” the Sabbath. Spiritual leaders despised him for doctrinal reasons. Bible scholars dismissed him because their meticulous studies of Messianic prophecies “proved” to them that he was not the Messiah. These devout men had become so sure of their dedication and doctrinal purity that they had unknowingly lost the humility and openness required to hear from God.

The holy Lord genuinely prophesied through Balaam, the man who came to epitomize false and greedy prophets (Scriptures). Another time, the Lord who spoke to Moses from a burning bush, chose not to speak through a powerful wind, earthquake and fire but through “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12). The Almighty, who once spoke through a donkey (Numbers 22:28), might choose to speak to you through a thought or a child or a mental patient. Do you have the humility and spiritual discernment to hear God should he choose such means? Don’t imagine it won’t happen.

The Almighty used as a Messianic prophet the very person who was so out of tune with God that he plotted to murder God’s only Son (John 11:49-51). The king of Egypt claimed that God had said Josiah should not to go to battle. Josiah refused to heed him, apparently unwilling to believe that the true God could actually be speaking through the king of a nation that worshipped false gods. Scripture declares that it really was God speaking through the Egyptian and no matter how likely we might be to make the same slipup, Josiah’s mistake cost him his life (Details).

The Lord is always the epitome of wisdom and thrillingly dependable but he delights in taking us by surprise and in stunning those who in their arrogance imagine their puny intellect has empowered them to have figured God out. Consider how he has chosen to instruct every generation of Christians through the divinely inspired writings of a former enemy of the Gospel (Paul) and a one-time fisherman who denied his Savior (Peter). He taught us about the Messiah through someone we could have easily dismissed as a pagan priest – or at least one who was outside the Abrahamic Covenant (Melchizedek – Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20-7:17). The Lord spoke through rebellious, whining Jonah and through the writings of a man who ending up going off the rails spiritually (Solomon – 1 Kings 11:4-6).

We were born to serve our Creator, not the creation of our own imagination. He keeps us on our toes because he craves intimacy, not robots. He seeks people who genuinely want him and who will not settle for a mere formula. The Son of God was forever mystifying his chosen ones by his words, and bewildering them by his actions, and if we suppose God will never take us by surprise, we are not as close to God as we think.



Spiritual Revelation



Hearing from God

* * *

Check, then Double Check, Your Motives

It is alarmingly possible to imagine we are doing superbly by intensely studying God’s Word but actually be achieving nothing because we have entirely missed God’s reason for wanting us to study it. Treating Bible study merely as collecting spiritual facts is like reading a machine’s instruction manual solely to discover what the booklet says, rather than to enable one to operate the machine.

We must keep reminding ourselves that Bible study is not a means in itself but the means of learning how to delight God so that we will continually live lives that bring a smile to his face. There are those who love God and there are those who merely love academic study. There are those who pour over the Bible because they love the Author and there are those who do it merely as a ritual. (We may well suffer times when emotions abandon us, but we are expected to persist through such seasons because even without the goose bumps and gooey feelings we still want to please God.)

The psalmist did not say he had greater understanding than his superiors because he knows God’s laws but because he obeys them (Psalm 119:100). He hid God’s Word in his heart, not so that he could win a Bible quiz but for the most practical and critical of reasons: so that he could avoid sin (Psalm 119:100). Another psalmist declared that God’s law was in his heart not so that he could titillate his brain cells but because of his yearning to do God’s will (Psalm 40:8). God told Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night . . .” Why? “. . . that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it” (Joshua 1:8). God complained to the prophet:

    Ezekiel 33:31 They come to you as the people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but don’t do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their gain.
    (Emphasis mine.)

In the disturbing words of the New Testament:

    James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.
    (Emphasis mine.)

That underlines the danger: familiarity with Scripture can lull us into imagining we know God and are pleasing him when we are wrong on both accounts.

We must not just thoroughly know God’s Word; we must “be doers”. If we don’t get this right, our entire spiritual lives will grind to a halt, and new revelation will dry up. Our Lord is way too smart to keep revealing new things if we are simply going to add them to our collection rather than live them. That would merely add to our guilt. And if new things do keep coming, don’t be surprised if they are not from the good Lord: you have opened the door to spiritual deception.

We have considered the importance of becoming God’s friend if we are to receive his revelation. Here’s a critical test of this friendship:

    John 15:14 You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.

Looked at another way: Whoever is faithful in little will be given much (Matthew 25:23). “For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn’t have, even that which he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).

As in the natural, so in the spiritual:

    Proverbs 24:32-34 Then I saw, and considered well. I saw, and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; so your poverty will come as a robber, and your want as an armed man.

Like an armed stalker, poverty creeps up on the lazy. So it is in the spiritual realm: the spiritually lazy will be suddenly shocked to find themselves spiritually impoverished when they had thought they were doing nicely and could take it easy. They are like the lukewarm church:

    Revelation 3:17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked

We need to seek first the kingdom of God and “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 6:33; 5:6). We must seek revelation so that we can better love and serve God. We dare not be motivated by the hope of inflating our ego and touting ourselves as better than others. On the contrary, we must die to self.

Here is a key to receiving spiritual revelation:

    Proverbs 3:32 For the perverse is an abomination to the Lord, but his friendship is with the upright.
    (Emphasis mine.)



Hearing from God



God’s Voice

* * *

The Critically Important Ability to Tolerate Being Mystified

We should hardly be surprised when God says something that seems off the planet. He’s from another world.

We must display patience and persistence when what God reveals makes our heads spin. We have to expect that since God has an infinitely superior intellect to ours, he can reveal little that, especially when we first hear it, does not to our puny minds seem bizarre, irrational or even wrong. Moreover, God often deliberately does this to wean us off a potentially catastrophic dependence upon our own intellect.

    Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

    Psalm 36:2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes, too much to detect and hate his sin.

We spoke earlier of the many things we can be duped into making our god and by so doing push the real God out of our lives, thus losing contact with him without even realizing it. One of the things that threaten to oppress us by becoming our god – what we are seduced into believing and obeying as our supreme source of truth – is our own intellect. To fall into the delusion of thinking ourselves smart or more moral than God is to be in grave spiritual danger. Don’t for a moment imagine this is because God is a fearsome despot. The danger is the unavoidable consequence of the fact that God, having infinite love, goodness, intelligence and knowledge, is always right.

    Proverbs 3:5, 7 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. . . . Don’t be wise in your own eyes. . . .

    Proverbs 28:26 One who trusts in himself is a fool . . .

    Jeremiah 9:23  . . . Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don’t let the rich man glory in his riches

    1 Corinthians 3:18, 20 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone thinks that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. . . . The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is worthless.
    (Emphasis mine.)

Consider how Jesus declared, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life . . .” Surely there must be dozens of ways our Lord could have expressed this that would have seemed less bizarre and offensive. Look at what happened:

    John 6:60-70 Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life.  . . . At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered them, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve . . ?”

What will we do when our Lord tells us something equally offensive and bewildering? Will we walk away and/or reject what he says, or will we cling to him, knowing that he, not us, is truth and has all truth.

But how likely is it that we will be offended by something God reveals? Consider how Jesus could have avoided offending the Jews by not ceremonially washing his hands (Matthew 15:2) and by not doing things on the Sabbath that offended their Bible-based (though misguided) sense of morality (Luke 6:1-2, 6-11; 13:10-14; 14:1-4). He could have explained to those who thought he was born in Galilee (and therefore could not be the Messiah) that he was actually born in Bethlehem (John 7:41; 7:52; Matthew 2:1). He could have used less offensive language when railing against the “teachers of the law and the Pharisees” (Matthew 15:12; 23:1-39).

Since the sole purpose of lepers showing themselves to a priest is to officially ascertain whether they have leprosy (Leviticus 13:1), it would have been easier on them and far less perplexing had Jesus healed the ten lepers before asking them to go to the priest (Luke 13:14). Instead, he reversed the order; deliberately giving them instructions that seemed nonsensical, potentially embarrassing, and challenged their faith (Luke 13:14).

He could have made it easier on these people, too:

    Luke 9:57-61 As they went on the way, a certain man said to him, “I want to follow you wherever you go, Lord.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce God’s Kingdom.” Another also said, “I want to follow you, Lord, but first allow me to say good-bye to those who are at my house.”

At first sight, just about everything Jesus said or did seemed baffling and inconsistent with his kind-hearted nature and was often even contrary with the conservatively accepted interpretation of Scripture. Even to his disciples, Jesus continually spoke in riddles that left them scratching their heads. For example:

    Matthew 16:6-12 Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They reasoned among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” Jesus, perceiving it, said, “Why do you reason among yourselves, you of little faith, ‘because you have brought no bread?’ Don’t you yet perceive, neither remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up? How is it that you don’t perceive that I didn’t speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he didn’t tell them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

They might have been bamboozled for a while but the result was certainly more memorable than had Jesus used simpler language.

Even John the Baptist began to have his doubts about Jesus (Matthew 11:2-3) and in this context Jesus was forced to say, “Blessed is he who finds no occasion for stumbling in me” (Matthew 11:6).

If Jesus, the highest possible revelation of God (Hebrews 1:-4) acted like this, we can expect him at least sometimes to reveal something to us that offends us. Here’s a clue as to why he lets this happen: Jesus could have avoided initially ignoring the Canaanite woman and then referring to her as a dog (Matthew 15:23,26), but as the story unfolds we see that he was merely giving her an opportunity to shine (Matthew 15:28).

Almost everything Jesus did took both his friends and enemies by surprise. You could never, for example, predict what method Jesus would use to heal someone. One moment it would simply be by speaking (Luke 7:7), the next by anointing with oil (Mark 6:13), the next it would be the laying on of hands (Mark 6:5), the next he would be pronouncing their sins forgiven (Mark 2:5). And if that or doing it on the Sabbath was not enough to offend and confound, he had an arsenal of other shockers ready. He spat on the dirt, smeared the goo on a beggar’s eyes and then told him to wash himself (John 9:6). Another time he spat directly on a blind man’s eyes (Mark 8:23). On yet another occasion, he stuck his fingers in a man’s ears, spat, and grabbed the man’s tongue (Mark 7:33).

Instead of trying to reduce the Almighty to our predictable personal robot, we must let God be God. He is not our rusty robot; he is the eternal King of glory whose ways tower higher than our wildest imaginations than the galaxies soar beyond the inconsequential dust speck we call our planet. Let’s stop insulting the God of gods and crippling our spiritual lives by expecting the Creator of this astounding universe to be stale and boring. He is not our comfort zone. We might be as exciting as used chewing gum, but God isn’t. Release the glorious Lord from the musty straightjacket of your expectations. He does not exist to stroke our egos and affirm our prejudices. Let him thrill you, shock you and embarrass you. Let the God of the impossible shred your expectations and blow your puny mind. Little human, let God be God; let his perfection stupefy you and his greatness terrorize you until you are left squirming at his feet begging for the tiniest splinter of what you have the audacity to call normality.

Consider Daniel’s reaction to a vision:

    Daniel 8:27  . . . I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. (NIV)

Did he conclude he had not heard from God? Do you reject the book of Revelation because you consider it too weird or because you do not understand it all?

It is said that if you have pity on a butterfly struggling to emerge from a cocoon and make it easier for it, the butterfly will forever remain weak. I don’t know if this is true but it seems something similar must be true for Christians. They must need challenges and obstacles to overcome in order to become strong. Since God is wise and compassionate and longs for everyone to be saved (Scriptures) that is my best guess as to why he says and does things that mystify us and even offend.

The longer I know God, the more answers I get, and yet the less I need answers. This is because the longer I know him, the better I know his heart – that he is far more loving, dependable and smarter than me or anyone else. The more I realize this and focus on this fact, the easier it is to trust him.

Yes, it was a painfully long, challenging process, but I do not believe I would have got spiritually where I now am without all those challenges. Only because the lepers acted in faith and obeyed Jesus’ weird instructions did they prove for themselves how smart it is to ignore their own reservations and obey him. You could be sure that next time God told them something that seemed nonsensical they would have found obedience easier. They could reach this point, however, only by passing the earlier test. Had they not obeyed, their only experience of Jesus would have been of him giving ridiculous instructions. Not following through with what Jesus had told them would have cemented into their minds the notion that Jesus is an idiot; making it harder than ever to obey the next time. Obedience builds into our lives depths of understanding that mere revelation can never achieve. Just as you can see a certain distance ahead but it is only through walking that distance that you will see more, so God might reveal things but we soon reach the point where we can only see more by walking what we have already been shown.

So again we discover the importance of being doers and not just hearers (James 1:22). In fact, it affirms three other previously discovered points:


The spectacular is no substitute for the hard slog. Just as it is foolish to yearn for powerful revelation as a lazy substitute for living by raw faith, neither is it a substitute for obedience.


We must refuse to trust our intellect more than we trust God.


We must not commit the idolatry of exalting church traditions, pet doctrines, and so on, above God.

However, when God seems to be telling us something bizarre, especially when it seems we need to act on it right now, we should do three things:


Check that God really is the source of this revelation. A supernatural source, for example, does not prove that it is God:

    2 Corinthians 11:14  . . . Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

    1 John 4:1 Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

    1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t despise prophesies. Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.

    Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

    Romans 12:2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

    Philippians 1:9-11 This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    Revelation 2:2  . . . that you can’t tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false.
    (Emphasis mine.)


Check that we have accurately understood what God is really saying. For example, when Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you”, did he really expect this to be taken literally or was he wishing to emphasize a principle?


Check whether our Lord wants us to act right now or if this is something for the future.



God’s Voice



Deeper Spiritual Truths

* * *

Crystalizing the Truth

We have examined how Peter, God’s chosen apostle, was divinely inspired one moment and yet satanically inspired the next (Reminder). I wish life were simpler, but the perplexing reality is that, this side of eternity, all fallen beings are fallible, having a peculiar mix of truth and error in their beliefs.

The revered Jewish leaders and Bible scholars who sentenced their Messiah to death obviously got some things catastrophically wrong but there must have been much in these Bible believers’ doctrines that was correct. We saw that an Egyptian king was, at least once in his life, more spiritually discerning than godly King Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:20-24). Certain pagan prophets sometimes spoke with such truth that it now part of the Word of God. For example:

    Acts 16:16-17 As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!”

    Acts 17:28 ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’

    Titus 1:12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said . . .

Even demons believe some things that are true:

    James 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder.

Presumably Satan himself knows more about certain spiritual truths – such as certain things about demons – than any of us do.

This confusing complication makes us vulnerable to two types of error:


Being so alarmed by the fact that someone is often wrong that we reject a God-given truth simply because that person happens to believe it.


Becoming so mesmerized by the times when someone (outstanding Christian or not) is right that we unquestioningly accept everything that person believes. This is a very real danger. Just because, like Peter, someone truly loves God and often receives divine revelation does not mean he can never be dangerously off-track and have the potential to lead us astray.

We should not deliberately look for truth in dangerous sources but, regardless of source, we need to bring to God everything spoken into our lives. The Almighty may choose to communicate through an amazing array of instruments but it is critical that in each instance we ascertain whether he is the composer. Ultimately, he must remain our sole source of truth. We need to continually seek verification of all our presumptions and all that we hear.

* * *

Earlier we noted the obvious: that drawing near to God is huge part of positioning ourselves to receive more revelation. Whenever we can find no alternative, we should force ourselves to draw near to God. This will eventually bring its rewards and our desire to keep getting close to God will grow. Wherever possible, however, rather than resort to forcing ourselves, it ends up more effective to foster positive desires that make us long to draw close to him. A huge help is to focus on how desirable God is – how exquisitely beautiful his heart is, how deeply in love with us he is, how fascinating and exciting he is, and so on, and to keep ridding ourselves of misunderstandings about God that cause us to resent him, dislike him, want to shrink from him, and so on. In every way God is by far the best friend, partner, confidante, companion, coach and counselor that anyone could ever have.

A dear friend of mine suffers horrendously from depression and anxiety. For powerful psychological reasons this awful affliction tricks his mind into thinking that certain Scriptures are saying that he is unforgivable and therefore rejected by God and without hope spiritually. My suggestion is that he keep refusing to dwell on those Scriptures that haunt him and, instead, focus exclusively on all the biblical truths that say he is loved of God and totally forgiven and accepted by him. This avoidance of Scriptures that drag him down might seem like escapism but it isn’t. The more he dwells on Scriptures that make him feel rejected, the further from God he will be tempted to drift and, since God is the source of truth, to drift from God is to drift from truth. The more he focuses on the immensity of God’s love, patience and forgiveness, however, the more he will feel drawn to God and so be better placed to receive confirmation of God’s acceptance and the revelation needed for the correct interpretation of those Scriptures that currently undermine his faith.

Note in the following passage the critical role our grasp of the immensity of God love plays in us being “filled with all the fullness of God”:

    Ephesians 3:17-19  . . . to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is critically important that you do all you can to grasp how special you are to God and how astoundingly loved you are. And you desperately need to not let his slip from your consciousness but to keep reminding yourself of it and bask in it. This awareness is the sole source of true joy, peace, and fulfillment that never ends. It will sustain you in the bleakest circumstance. As thrilling as it can be, reveling in the magnitude of God’s love for you is no luxury; it is essential for your spiritual survival in a hostile world.

We also, however, need to do all we can to grasp the magnitude of God’s love for everyone, and how everything God does – even his judgment – is driven by love that is so extreme as to be beyond comprehension. Without a deep understanding of this second aspect of God’s love, we will not only miss so much of the beauty of God’s heart, we will stray from godliness into narcissism and never become the glorious people we were created to be. instead of manifesting the sacrificial love of Christ who gave his all for those who hated him, we will shrive up and spiritually die.

Since our awareness of God’s love and goodness is so critical, it should come as no surprise that it is under constant attack.

There is no question that we need divine help in gaining and maintaining an awareness of the vastness of God’s love, and we need to seek that help. We must, however, also honor and serve God by doing everything in our power to facilitate this through prayer, praise, Bible study, medicating on Scripture, and choosing to keep our minds focused on the reality and enormity of God’s love and resist distractions and feelings that are contrary to this glorious truth.

Fear and resentment blind us to spiritual truth. We can truly see God only through eyes of love. Any other lens distorts everything we see and hear.

This does not mean, however, that this side of eternity we can expect to receive so much confirmation and spiritual understanding that the need for faith is lessened. Some trials drag on for decades and with some trials we must keep stubbornly holding on by raw faith when everything within and without keeps screaming lies about God. We have formidable spiritual enemies who focus their supernatural powers on slandering God and trying to undermine our love for him. These insidious deceivers delight in trying to twist God’s words against him. They cannot change the reality of God’s selfless love, goodness and perfection. All they can do is mess with our feelings in the hope that we will feel so condemned, abandoned, hopeless and so on, that we will choose to believe the intensity of our fickle feelings rather than the integrity of our unchanging God.

Keep drawing closer to God and keep doing those things – praise, worship, enjoying God’s creation, dwelling on certain biblical truths and so on – that keep you feeling warmly toward God. Invest heavily into making this your life habit and it will pay rich dividends.

God shares his secrets with those who treasure them. Moreover, he shares his treasure with those who treasure him. “It’s not what you know but who you know,” might sometimes apply to the natural but it always applies to the supernatural. And how deeply we know God and fellowship with him, determines how far we go spiritually:

    Isaiah 33:6 He [the Lord] will be  . . . a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. (NIV)

    Jeremiah 9:24 “ . . . but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the Lord.

    Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me, and I will answer you, and will show you great things, and difficult, which you don’t know.

    Habakkuk 3:17-18 For though the fig tree doesn’t flourish, nor fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive fails, the fields yield no food; the flocks are cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

    Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him. . . .

    Colossians 2:2-3  . . . Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
    (Emphasis mine.)

I had wanted to include “Also delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” ( Psalm 37:4) in the above but it pains me how often this crystal pure, life-giving stream is muddied beyond recognition by those whose greed and lust pollute their lives so that they end up not wanting to delight God and delight in him but vainly hoping this Scripture shows how they can exploit and manipulate him. They have yet to slam into the reality that the Almighty is not some befuddled, love-starved geriatric whose riches they can con out of him with a few fake smiles. These gold diggers are the spiritually adulterous enemies of God of whom James wrote:

    James 4:3-4 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

They are too doped up on short-sighted selfishness to see that the exalted Lord is the hidden treasure that any sane person would eagerly sell everything else to get (Matthew 13:44).

They might appear godly but the tragic reality is that “whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who think about earthly things.” I read with tears that “whose end is destruction” (Philippians 3:19). They are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” laments Paul (2 Timothy 3:4). James concurs: “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” he says in the above quote. “I beg you as foreigners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” pleads Peter (1 Peter 2:11). John chimes in:

    1 John 2:15-16 Don’t love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s.

    1 John 4:5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak of the world, and the world hears them.
    (Emphasis mine.)

It is just as Paul said:

    2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts.

We do not have space to explore here the incalculably huge influence the world has on our thinking (the link, Worldliness & Spiritual Deception, at the end of this webpage goes deeper) but I must at least alert you to it because it is yet another enormous reason why we desperately need to seek divine revelation.

Having been born into the world and lived in it ever since, we have been unavoidably and relentlessly subjected to its ceaseless brainwashing. Yes, since birth we have been subjected to almost overwhelmingly powerful brainwashing. It comes through being immersed in insidious influences that we are continually lured into unquestionably accepting as right. In these influences’ deadly arsenal is the suffocating weight of the majority – the pressure to presume that if almost everyone around us believes it and does it, it must be right. Having known virtually nothing else for our entire lives, the world’s pervasive influence means we are continually pressured into unthinkingly accepting its views and values as normal. And, most disturbing of all, no matter how innocuous, popular, sensible, and unquestionably true it seems, and no matter how steeped and duped by it fellow Christians might be, it is anti-God.

Worldliness can take on surprisingly religious forms, and legalism is no protection against it. We mentioned this Scripture earlier, but let’s take a deeper look at it:

    Romans 12:1-2  . . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God . . . Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    (NIV, Emphasis mine.)

Our situation so desperate that we actually need divine revelation even to recognize what we should not conform to. Not only is it true that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Corinthians 4:4) believers themselves remain so vulnerable that God’s Word repeatedly warns believers of the danger of deception. I’ve provided a link above for a much fuller list, but here’s a tiny sample:

    2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted . . .

    Colossians 2:8 Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.

    1 Timothy 4:1-2 But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron

    Hebrews 3:13 but exhort one another day by day, . . . lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

    2 Peter 2:1-3; 18-19 But false prophets also arose among the people, as false teachers will also be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. Many will follow their immoral ways, and as a result, the way of the truth will be maligned. In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn’t linger, and their destruction will not slumber. . . . For, uttering great swelling words of emptiness, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by licentiousness, those who are indeed escaping from those who live in error; promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for a man is brought into bondage by whoever overcomes him.

James not only pleads with us to ask for God’s wisdom, he knows how easily we are dazzled by the fake. So he tells us how to recognize it:

    James 3:13-17 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion and every evil deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

Salvation unlocks the door to inconceivably vast possibilities. Whether we make them reality, however, rests with us. It is up to our daily choices how far we enter in, explore them and build them into our lives so that they become our destiny. At stupendous cost Christ has made available to us incalculable riches. As in the parable of the talents, we can multiple our spiritual riches, revel in receiving our Master’s high praise and be lavished with still more riches. Alternatively, we can be the “wicked and slothful servant” who does virtually nothing with what he has been given and ends up not only losing it all but suffering the unthinkable: being thrown into “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-30). A talent was a colossal sum of money to leave with someone. So this was a highly trusted servant. We have every right to tremble at his fate.

The heart of spiritual life beats with ironies:

    Proverbs 11:24 There is one who scatters, and increases yet more. There is one who withholds more than is appropriate, but gains poverty.

    Matthew 20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last. . . .

    Matthew 20:26-27  . . . whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant

    Matthew 23:12  . . . whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

    Luke 6:20-22  . . . Blessed are you who are poor . . . Blessed are you who weep . . . Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil . . .

    Luke 9:24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake, the same will save it.

    Acts 20:35  . . . It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Here’s another: the less secure we feel, the more secure we are. If we fear, we have little to fear; if we think ourselves safe, we have much to fear.

God’s precious Word keeps warning of dangers, but the more aware we are of danger, the safer we are. As the apostle Paul declared, “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). The weaker we think we are, the tighter we will cling to Christ and so the stronger and safer we will be. We become vulnerable only when we slide into complacency and begin to think it safe to drift a little. We must take very seriously such Scriptures as:

    James 3:1-2 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. For in many things we all stumble. . . .

    Ecclesiastes 7:20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth, who does good and doesn’t sin.

    Romans 2:1 Therefore you are without excuse, O man, whoever you are who judge. For in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself. For you who judge practice the same things.

    1 Corinthians 4:4-5 For I know nothing against myself. Yet I am not justified by this, but he who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each man will get his praise from God.
    (Emphasis mine.)

It was immediately after receiving a very special revelation from God that the great apostle made the discovery that a consciousness of weakness is the key to strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The revelation, like everything else from God, was immensely good. Nevertheless, it increased Paul’s vulnerability to evil – the deception that lurks behind pride. No matter how much we grow in Christ, we never lose the need to cling to him as if our very lives depended upon. This is hardly surprising since, in fact, our lives truly do depend on it.

Through so many ways – probably including friends, circumstances, sermons, the Bible, and this webpage – God has already revealed many things to you. How much more he reveals depends on how faithfully you obey and build into your life what he has already told you. Before we can expect any more revelation we must be faithful with the revelation we have already received; acting on that revelation by obedience to it and cooperating with God in removing from our lives every spiritual blockage he reveals.

This makes obedience critically important, but faithfulness must also extend to the effort and consistency put into seeking revelation and opening yourself up to it through prayer, worship, intimacy with God, Bible study, church attendance, and so on.

    Luke 8:18 Be careful therefore how you hear. For whoever has, to him will be given; and whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he thinks he has.

    Proverbs 2:1-2 My son, if you will receive my words, and store up my commandments within you; So as to turn your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding . . .

    Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to pay greater attention to the things that were heard, lest perhaps we drift away.

    James 1:21-22 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.
    (Emphasis mine.)

And not only does gathering information demand faithfulness, so does preserving it – treasuring it so that it is not lost or forgotten.

Years ago, I read a Christian book about dream interpretation. I used to be envious of those who receive and understand spiritual dreams but much of the romance evaporated when I read that most people quickly forget even quite vivid dreams unless they immediately stir themselves, switch on the light and record their dream before once again yielding to sleep’s enticing embrace. I’ve always had problems with a mysteriously excessive tiredness that makes losing sleep seem quite a sacrifice.

Nevertheless, even during the weeks I’ve been writing this webpage, I have had to do the same thing as this dreamer. As with most of what I write, I typically wake in the middle of the night with a few words coming to me. My memory is such that if I do not write it down before returning to sleep, much or all of it will be lost – possibly forever. So, before daring to let myself sleep, I force myself to switch on the light and scribble. Usually the next thought only comes when I’m drifting back to sleep, so I’m compelled yet again to put on the light and scribble. I turn off the light, nestle into my pillow and a few moments later another word or two forms and again I must repeat the cycle. The process could grind on for hours with the final result being just a few sentences that need further work. (Did I tell you I’m an excruciatingly slow writer?)

This is the sacrifice that not only I must make, but my dear wife, who has an exhausting, demanding job and must start work very early in the morning. Thankfully, she loves our Lord and knows that he is worthy of the costliest sacrifices.

Great revelation is often not only preceded by a cost (such as Daniel having to fast and pray) but is also followed by a cost. In Paul’s case it was being tormented by “a messenger of Satan”. For Daniel, the consequences of receiving a revelation were so overwhelming that he “fainted, and was sick certain days” (Daniel 8:27). An especially common cost of revelation is the receiver being obligated to either keep secret what was revealed (e.g. 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 10:4) – which could be very difficult as one could be bursting to share it – or the opposite: being required to share an unpopular message with people who will ridicule and reject you because of it (e.g. Isaiah 1:9-10; Jeremiah 1:17-19; 15:10; Ezekiel 2:3-7; Acts 9:15-16; 20:22-23).

    Isaiah 50:4-5 The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with words him who is weary. He wakens morning by morning, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious. I have not turned back.

Is this something you long for? Then here’s the next verse:

    Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who beat me, and my cheeks to those who plucked off the hair. I didn’t hide my face from shame and spitting.

I am reminded of something I wrote very many years ago:

    “Count the cost” ordered Jesus, using parable after parable to hammer the point (Luke 14:28-33; Matthew 13:45-6). Will you pay the price and take the risks, or become a laughing stock, melting away when the heat is on?

    The cost is exceeded only by the glory. So immense is the glory, in fact, that the cost fades, totally eclipsed by the reward (2 Corinthians 4:17; Revelation 7:16,17).

    Why should serving God involve humiliation, hardship, and toil? “Writing is the work of a slave!” lamented C. H. Spurgeon – the man who wrote 135 books, edited 28 others and whose 3,500 sermons were published as 75 additional books. Why must missionaries waste years wrestling with a language that God could miraculously impart to them? Why does uplifting music demand hours of irksome practice? Why do church floors get dirty? Why . . . ? Because it frees us to express the depth of our devotion. Moreover, it’s the cost that produces the exhilaration, the fulfillment, the honor. Look at any field of endeavor: we admire heroic achievements; people who overcome the odds, who endure hardship and succeed where others would have slunk away. That’s the glory of Christ-likeness. There’s no honor in being swept along by a godless throng; no satisfaction in fleeing at the sight of a challenge; no glory in being dominated by fear or frozen by doubt. Limp-willed, lily-livered pretenders turn God’s stomach (Revelation 3:16). We either walk through the curtain of fear or end up a broken shell of the person we could have been. To choose the soft life is to turn our back on our bleeding Savior and lose ourselves in Satanic deception. It’s those who sow in tears who reap in joy (Psalm 126:6); those who endure who win the crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; 3:11). Insipid, half-hearted “Christianity” is sickening to God, the world and the devil.

    That’s not for you. You belong in heaven’s hall of fame. You were born with the desire for it; born-again with the power for it. You were made for daring persistence, stunning triumphs, awe-inspiring excellence. While others wallow in the mud of mediocrity, sentenced to eternal obscurity by their half-heartedness, you’re changing the face of the planet, bringing honor to the One who redeemed you.

    If you’re crazy, they say you ought to be committed. I reckon if you’re not committed, you’re crazy.

    Fired by the love of God, live life to the full.

Don’t just take the following Scriptures individually, but after studying and meditating on them, combine them as a chef combines ingredients to create a mouth-watering treat and as an artist combines colors to form a picture of breath-taking significance.

    Job 22:21-27 Acquaint yourself with him, now, and be at peace. . . . Please receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. . . . Please receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart [no matter how much it entices you, treat everything else as trash relative to the importance of knowing God more deeply (compare Philippians 3:8-10)]. The Almighty will be your treasure, and precious silver to you. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty, and shall lift up your face to God. You shall make your prayer to him, and he will hear you. You shall pay your vows.

    Proverbs 2:1-5 My son, if you will receive my words, and store up my commandments within you; So as to turn your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you call out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures: then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

    Proverbs 8:10-11 Receive my instruction rather than silver; knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom [not that which James says is “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil”, but the genuine article that has its source in God] is better than rubies. All the things that may be desired can’t be compared to it.

    Job 23:11-12 My foot has held fast to his steps. I have kept his way, and not turned aside. I haven’t gone back from the commandment of his lips. I have treasured up the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

    Psalm 19:9-11 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The Lords’s ordinances are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the extract of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned. In keeping them there is great reward.

Our beautiful Lord gives his riches to those who dig into his Word and his heart, leaving no stone unturned as they hunt for them as for a fortune that, once discovered, lasts not just for a lifetime, but for all eternity. He gives to those of us who revel in his revelations; letting them transport us to ecstasy as we savor them as we would the sweetest, most exquisite culinary delight. We must treasure them, however, not as luxuries but as the food our life depends on; not as ornaments but as what is needed to buy the very necessities of life. He shares his secrets with those who yield to him; loving him, delighting in him and obeying him as eagerly as someone hopelessly lost in the Amazon who has finally found a guide. We need God like fish need water. To yield to him is to finally come home; to finally come alive and truly live. Too often we act toward God like a panic-stricken drowning person fighting off his rescuer. God is love. That means he is a giver, not a taker. Surrendering to him is losing nothing but one’s weakness and aloneness and becoming empowered with wisdom, security, dignity and honor. Submitting to him is like yielding one’s tense, knotted body to the skilled, soothing expertise of a masseuse.

* * *

Related Pages

The following contain many very important points

Is Your God Too Small? How to Know God Deeper

The Thrilling Mystery of Hearing the Voice of God

The Spiritual Essentials for Accurate Bible Interpretation

Spiritual Secrets: Dying to Self

Worldliness & Spiritual Deception

God Loves Everyone: The Terrifying Implications

The Spiritual Value of Suffering Trials
(The first few paragraphs of this webpage are repeated above but this link lets you jump to that part of the webpage that is new.)

Sweet Revenge!

Why God’s Wrath is Comforting

Receiving a Personal Revelation of God’s Love for You

Feeling Condemned?

Truth: An Awesome Responsibility

Spiritual Wonders, Divine Mysteries, Christian Revelation

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2014, 2015. For much more by the same author, see   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.



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