An emotional appeal

Last week a Biblical foundation, this week an emotional appeal

Last week I laid a Biblical foundation for the importance of asking ourselves a second question. This week I make an emotional appeal.

I saw a man walking along the side of the road, an empty 7-11 cup in his hands. With cars streaming past on both sides, he kept his eyes fixed up and onto the hillside, where blackberry vines grew. He walked, eyes fixed, looking for that perfect spot, searching for the right footing, and intent on filling his cup.

I knew of three others who had such a desire for the berries that they waded into the branches, thorns and all, undeterred by the cost, determined to reach the best fruit. They returned bloodied, with deep cuts and marks on their arms and legs, yet successful in their pursuit.

I went along with five more berry seekers, an hour each direction and another two in the field, sun beating down, hunched over the rows, lifting the leaves, peeling back the layers, to discover the perfect strawberries. Everyone down on their knees, intently working to fill our flats with the sweetest fruits.

And as I saw this man, knew of the others, and went along with five more, I realized none would question the sanity of these actions. We’ve all tasted of the berries, we know of the prize, and because the reward is so tangible, the cost is worth it.

If all of this for berries and without hesitation, what about for the Lord?

As we go after the choicest fruit, do we so seek after Him, even at great personal expense? As we savour the flavor of the berries, do we tangibly desire Him? Do we taste and see that the Lord is good? We indulge in the vines, do we likewise partake of His goodness? Can we say that we engage all of our senses in the pursuit and pleasure of God?

Last week we extended the question, “Do I want God?”

This week we expand the matter, “Do I want Him enough to seek Him above all else?”

And while this question may appear extreme, Him above all else, in reality we are not asking for anything outside the ordinary. We already know of this singular seeking of one thing above all else, not just with fresh berries but also in other earthly matters.

We set our hearts to seek the promotion, the retirement account, the perfect outfit for the children, the stunning decorations for the fall season, the ideal workout for my body type, the next outdoor adventure, these are common wholehearted pursuits.

We are a people who seek after that which we want, now we are simply asking, do we likewise seek the lord with such intensity and even greater? And would we be willing to do so at the expense of these other pursuits?

When this line of reasoning is brought up, it is often quickly dismissed by those who would appeal to the practicalities of life. “How much time is required? How often must we seek? For we have other things to attend to as well.”

If you’ll engage with me for a few moments, I will answer this for you.

Written between the years 1651 and 1720 are a collection of letters by François Fénelon, now published as a single devotional book titled, “Christian Perfection.” In the first entry, “The Use of Time,” Fénelon argues that every second we’ve been given will be held to our account.

“Every hour is loaded with duties which God has allotted to it with his own hand, and for which he will hold us accountable; because from the first seconds of our existence until the last moment of our life, God has not intended to leave us any empty time, nor any which might be said to be left to our discretion, or for us to lose. The important thing is to know what He wants us to do with it.

He continues with this advice, “live in a continual dependence on the Spirit of God.”

“A general rule for the good use of time is to accustom oneself to live in a continual dependence on the Spirit of God, receiving from moment to moment whatever it pleases him to give us, referring to him at once in the doubts which we necessarily run into, turning to him in the weakness into which goodness slips from exhaustion, calling on him and lifting oneself to him, when the heart, swept away by material things, sees itself led imperceptibly off the path and finds itself forgetting and drifting away from God.”

A.W. Tozer, strongly influenced by Fénelon’s words, described this dependence on the power of the Spirit this way:

One meaning of the word power is “ability to do.” There precisely is the wonder of the Spirit’s work in the church and in the hearts of Christians - His sure ability to make spiritual things real to the soul.

In actual human experience, this power is likely to be first felt in a heightened sense of the Presence of Christ. He is felt to be a real Person and to be intimately, ravishingly near. Then all other spiritual objects begin to stand out clearly before the mind. Grace, forgiveness, cleansing take on a form of almost bodily clearness. Prayer loses its unmeaning quality and becomes a sweet conversation with Someone actually there. Love for God and for the children of God takes possession of the soul. We feel ourselves near to heaven and it is now earth and the world that begin to seem unreal. We know them now for what they are, realities indeed, but like stage scenery soon to be removed. The world to come takes on a hard outline before our minds and begins to invite our interest and devotion. Then the whole life changes to suit the new reality and the change is permanent. Slight fluctuations there may be like the rise and dip of the line on a graph, but the established direction is upward and the ground gained is held.

- “Tozer: Twentieth Century Prophet” by David Fant, pp. 61-62

Fénelon presses on - it is continual dependence on the Spirit which is important, yes, but it is also a happy heart, “which never stops saying to itself a hundred times a day, ‘Lord, what wouldst thou that I should do?’”

Continual dependence, constantly asking, always in a state of seeking, listening, waiting, and then obeying.

Here is our answer then - how much time is required? All of it. How often are we to seek? Constantly, continually and a hundred times a day.

However, none of this is possible, nor certainly sustainable, unless we, “begin every undertaking in the vision of the pure glory of God.” (another of Fénelon’s quotes)

As we’ve written about before, it is a crucial and central theme of our publication and the prophetic voice, that we all catch such a vision. For we must not be a people who seek God out of obligation, nor shame, nor peer pressure, nor ceremony, nor ritual, nor as a requirement to belong to a community of people, nor to appease a guilty conscience, not even because it is the right thing to do. Instead, we must be those who have caught a vision of the Most High, seeing Him as truly beautiful, magnificently glorious, far beyond any comparison.

Catch a vision with me - of One high and lifted up. It is He who creates, forms, and rules, both before and after, and unto everlasting. This vision is of One who holds all the rights, for mercy and also for judgment. He is the Lord God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations. And, He disciplines with justice and who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.

This prophetic revelation, of the One true God, will lead you not to perishing, but to everlasting life. Are you are able to see it? “Where is the Prophetic Voice?”

And in catching such a vision, we are led to a deeper and more satisfying longing for Christ.

So I ask again, “When you think about Jesus, what do you think about?”

Where do your thoughts lead you?

What is it like for you to dwell on Christ? Is it pleasant and prolonged or is it dry and dusty from unuse?

Does He fascinate you?

Do you long for more time to think on Him? Does your heart burn within you as you fix your thoughts on Him?

Are you eager to get alone with Him?

Do you plan and rearrange and configure your day just to carve out another small slice of time with Him? And when that time comes, are your feet swift to run to that place?

“As the deer pants for water so pants my soul for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:1-2

Do you know of what I speak of? Do you know of this panting of the soul as the Psalmist puts it?

Have you personally experienced the sweetness of thinking on Him and dwelling with Him, being in His presence?

Even now, stop and think on Him, the lovely One, Jesus.

Fix your mind. Hold fast your thoughts. Stay there. Don’t leave so quickly. Linger for awhile!

Let us all long to see such things, as we wrote about using Stephen’s example:

Stephen gives us one of the clearest and most compelling depictions of this type of vision, in Acts 7, “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” The careful reader will pick up on one word there above the others - saw. He saw.

“…angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.”

John Piper spoke of a similar idea in a sermon he delivered back in 1988. He described it this way:

We have gotten a glimpse of what God's great purpose is for the world, namely, to fill this world with his glory1, by rooting out of his kingdom all sin and unbelief2, and filling it with white-hot worshipers3 from every people, tongue, tribe and nation4.

White hot worshippers.

Let us be such a people today. Let the earth be filled with a vast multitude of these worshippers, too numerous to count, from every tongue, tribe and nation. And let the praise of His glory rise continually, constantly, and a hundred times a day.

Won’t you join me?

In love,

Derek