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Enter The Mystery: Abandon Yourself to God
Psalm 40:3

Psalm 40: 1-3 (The Message)

A David psalm

“I waited and waited and waited for GOD. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God--song, a praise-- song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to GOD.”

 

This invitation from the Psalmist is a challenge to enter into relationship with God our Father that deepens more each year. But, all too often, the world around us serves as an ever-increasing opiate on the minds and hearts of those who would desire deepening relationship with God. It may be that the culture we live in is more sinful, or it may simply be that through the proliferation of media, it has become more ever-present and accessible. 

 

Whichever, it seems to me that more people than I can recall are experiencing relationship crisis with God.

 

Some of these people are nominal at best. They seem to be the ones to whom Jesus refers in that He never knew them. They are the ones who practice the forms of Christianity, but demonstrate none of the transformation or power promised by Jesus. It seems to me that the greatest danger of these people to the life of the Church today, is that they remain in it. Where once we may have seen them only in “liberal” churches, today they fill many “evangelical” churches.

 

Some of the people who desire a deeper relationship with God are genuine but too preoccupied. These are the ones who most suffer under the opiate of the culture. And, their reward is a growing sense of dryness with the truth of Scripture that they still hold. A stark reappraisal of their lives and expectations is in order if they ever want to experience anything more than the forms of Christianity offered up by the programs of too many churches.

 

To the rest of us the call by the Psalmist to enter into the mystery and abandon ourselves to God remains a promising invitation. When we remember moments with our heavenly father, we recall them with warmth, encouragement, and challenge, and yes, even correction. It was at those moments we knew that He was fully trustable, and that to abandon ones self to Him was no risk.

 

But, even for us, there remains the constant need to preserve the time and discipline necessary to deepen the abandonment. Deepening our relationship with God does not just happen. It must be worked on. I say worked on and not at to make clear the distinction between the legalism of the Christian program as it is preached by too many churches, and the relational disciplines necessary to build upon the reconciliation given to me by the Father when I believed upon Jesus.

Pursue the first call of Scripture

In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul reminds us. “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

 

This is where intimacy with God must begin, with the acknowledgment that reconciliation to God through His Son is the first call of Scripture. There could be nothing any more clear from the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, and especially verse 20. Speaking as one who was an ambassador for God, Paul implores us to enter into reconciliation with God.

 

This message transcends all of Scripture. It is inherent in the Genesis 1 story of creation. Man was born into a relationship with God unlike any other thing in God’s creation. Sin alienated us from God, but now in Jesus, the last Adam, that original purpose for which God created us can be restored.

 

This too is the message of Jesus himself. In Matthew 20 and in John 17 he makes this clear. The most important commandment in the Old Testament is this, to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul. And, this is why He came to earth, that we might know the Father and the Son who He has sent. Christianity begins and ends with this foundation or it is not Christianity. 

 

The Church empowers this as the first order of its “business”, or it is wasting people’s time.

 

Embrace the healing ministry of God's word

But, beyond reconciliation, what is it about relationship to God, His Son, His Spirit, and His word that is so important to our daily lives? It is this; we bring sin into our relationship with God. 

 

Yes, all of the judicial results of our sin have been forever dealt with in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But, until I die and go to be with Him in heaven, the residue of my sinful self, lingering in the members of my body says Paul in Romans 6, wage battle against the deepness of relationship that God planned for us when He made us. 

 

That sin mars the human experience of my daily life as I continue to do battle with jealousy, gossip, slander, etc. These do damage to my relationships with other people, even those in my family. And, the longer some of them hold any sway in my life, the more scarring they produce. 

 

But, God has a remedy for both the overcoming I need for today, and the damage from the past.

 

We could wish that at the moment of salvation all damage were swept away. We could wish that at the moment of salvation, overcoming power became the immediate norm. But such is not the case, nor even the promise from God. As in any relationship our relationship to God demands the disciplines necessary to maintain and strengthen it. I see at least four imperative relational disciplines advocated in Scripture and ready to give strength to my desire of deepening relationship with God.

 

The first discipline sets the stage for all of the rest, and is the foundation for the healing that God wants to bring to my life. It is the discipline of time spent in God’s word. The writer of Hebrews says in 4:12-16 that there is something about God’s word that is not true of any other word.

 

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (NIV)

 

His word is alive. It is alive because it is God-breathed. And, because it is alive, it can be continuously active in the life of those who access it. This is as true for salvation as it is for growth. The simple reading of the word of God plants an active seed in the heart and mind of the reader. That seed is meant to grow. In the unbeliever it can lead to conviction, repentance and salvation. This can and does often happen with minimal input for anything or anyone else.

This same regenerative working continues for those of us who have come to reconciliation and now need to build the relationship with God. 

 

The word regularly planted by the reading and study of the word of God plants seeds that release activity into our lives. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the culminative effect of that activity is the expose’ of our true selves. It releases us to see ourselves, as God knows us. Joint and marrow, soul and spirit are exposed. There is no possibility of deception or misunderstanding. We are left naked before Him, and to ourselves.

 

For too many, this scenario is tinged with fear. To be so exposed to the piercing eye of God, to come to a clear picture of ourselves is too much. And, so we hide! 

 

And, all too often we hide in superficially good things. We hide in church service. We hide in worship attendance. We are much more comfortable with someone else’s singing about relationship, or preaching about relationship, than we are with having it ourselves.

 

Often it is sheer laziness. Sometimes it is the ignorance of falling into the Old Testament priesthood of the pastor ministered to me, rather than living my own New Testament priesthood. 

 

But, often it is simply fear. Fear that no one is that trustable with such a knowledge of me. Or even fear that I might not like what I see. So, we hide!

 

And, hiding reinforces the pain, calcifies the scars, and worst of all, keeps us from healing. Nothing else available to us in this world is capable of the healing of God with His word. Nothing! 

 

This is the promise of Hebrews. The expose’ that comes from submitting ourselves to the regular reading of God’s word with a predisposed attitude of obedience, always comes accompanied with the full dressing of Jesus our High Priest. Dressed in his clothes, we are exposed, but not condemned. He has already taken all of the condemnation for us. But, we must experience the healing. He will not do that for us.

 

And, so, regular in our reading of God’s love letter, predisposed to submit to it in true revelation and obedience, found out for who we truly are, but dressed in the full sufficiency of Jesus, we are invited, as we are, into the presence of God Himself. In that presence we receive what we need: mercy as the reminder of the forgiveness we

already have in Jesus. And, grace, the healing power of God applied to our lives.

 

This process is not once for all. How could it be? If God exposed us at any one moment to all of the scarring in our lives, could we really handle it? 

 

So, we must build time in God’s word as a consistent relational discipline with God. Most often He ministers encouragement and joy. But, when He knows best, He also exposes us for who we are, and where we still need healing.

 

The mystery of relationship with God is that it too is a living thing. We do not achieve a knowledge basis that allows the relationship to be ignored from time to time. To ignore our relationship with God by failing to nurture its most basic discipline, is to retrograde. 

 

Truth and knowledge are vitally important in our relationship with God. But, they we will not replace the importance of the relationship itself. Moreover, truth alone will not protect us from losing the vitality that God offers to us, to say nothing of the ongoing healing we need, if it is not nurtured in intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father.

 

Silence

A second necessary relational discipline is silence. In Exodus 14:4, Moses reminds the children of Israel, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." In Psalms 37:7, the psalmist reminds all of us, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways.” And, in Psalms 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God.”

 

In the noisy world in which we live it often seems as if quiet places do not exist. Where can one go to find silence? But, in fact, there is silence available to us on all sides. One only has to choose it. I have found that even in busy airports one can find silence, if you want it. I may have to walk a ways. I may have to sit in out of the way places. But, if silence is what I want, I can find it.

 

Silence is a choice. It is choosing to turn off the noise of the world around me, always clamoring for attention on the TV, or the radio, or a chat with a person near me. There are times and places for TV, or radio, or the next book, and people. But, the depth of thinking and reflection that our souls desperately need begins to find a space in our lives when we learn to chose and practice silence.

 

In the silence we discover new joys. For example, the words we have planted into our hearts in the discipline of reading God’s word, have opportunity to flood into our heart and mind with new vigor and meaning. The beauty of the world that God made all around us, speaks His power and sovereignty to us in silence. New confessions that God wants me to venture, have freed up space in my heart to catch my attention. Above all, I become once again enthralled with His presence.

 

Personally, I have not found a way to enter into the mystery of relationship with God without many times of silence. We can find all kinds of reasons/excuses not to practice silence. But, silence is a choice. And, our lives will continue to be incomplete in the designs of God provision for our relationship with Him until we learn to practice regular periods of silence.

 

Solitude

A third relational discipline that I have found necessary is solitude. Matthew 14:23 is one of a number of places where we find Jesus Himself choosing to be alone. “With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.” (MSG)

 

Maybe nothing more need be said than this, if Jesus sought out solitude, is it any less necessary for us? If being quiet is difficult in our culture, being alone seems a million times worse. If we have been seduced into failing to forge long times of listening to God in His word, it may be that we really don’t want to be alone with ourselves. Is the fear of self-discovery one of the things that keeps us from wanting to be alone?

 

If we find our greatest “joy” in the entertainment of the culture that surrounds us, we may not want to be alone. Our culture reigns king in keeping us busy enough to guarantee that we will not have time to be alone, be quiet, and in reflection discover that the our culture is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

 

But, in solitude there is space for silence as well as actively listening in His word. In solitude we are reminded of our smallness and temporalness on this planet. But, more importantly, we are reminded that we were not created for this world. The effects of sin dominate this one. The one He created for us in Genesis 1 is the one we were created for. And, it is the one to which we will be restored.

 

Solitude provides needed moments of resetting the compass of our lives. But, most importantly, in solitude we discover that we are not alone! He is there.

 

Submission

A final relational discipline that I have found both necessary and enriching in relationship to God is submission. 

 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us in 12:9 that, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” (NIV) And, in 5:7-8 that, “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (NIV)

 

Another translation of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 28:19- 20, sets the importance of submission. In my expanded words: All authority in heaven and earth now belongs to me. Wherever you go, make people followers of me. Do this by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and, by teaching them to be predisposed to obey everything they will be taught over their lifetime. And, don’t be afraid, for I am with you wherever you go.

 

Submission is a word charged with misunderstanding and fear. Paul’s own words that he was a bond slave of Jesus have been equally misunderstood. If God is the sovereign creator of this planet as Genesis asserts. If God has fearfully and wonderfully made us, even while we were in our mother’s womb, as the Psalmist asserts. And, if the creator has a right to expect that the creation will respond to His loving wisdom. Then, how could we not expect wholehearted and willful submission to Him to be a natural outflow of our relationship to Him?

 

Paul’s words follow the likeness of Jesus’ own words, that he too chose submission to the Father. For both of them understood the true nature of submission. The submission of Jesus and of Paul is couched in the reality of relationship. And, trust of the one whom they know intimately is not risk.

 

God invites us to trust Him. Practicing the disciplines of Scripture, silence and solitude all increase trust. To trust the One we discover in His love letter, the Bible is natural. Getting to the point that submission is our default reaction in our relationship to God as we negotiate the context and calling, into which He places us in this life, ought to be our goal. And, that demands not only my willful predisposition to obediently respond to His words as they come to my over time, but also learning to make obedience my emotional response as well.

 

My conviction about the truth and thus reliability of what He has revealed in His word demands and provokes a predisposition to obedience in my mind. But, learning to hear Him in His word. Learning to hear Him in aloneness and silence, all work to increase the obedient response He wants in my heart and life decisions.

 

The World around me, and the flesh within me, both agitated by Satan and his minions, all want to conspire to keep me from release into the mystery of relationship with

the Heavenly Father. But, across thousands of years, and seen in the life of those who were willing to take the apparent risk, the invitation remains: abandon yourself to God!

 

Copyright by Dwight Smith 

The Western Church is in Need of Revision

Dwight Smith

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