Getting Closer to God

 I want us to look in particular at two verses taken from the book of Jeremiah,
 
Jer 9:23-24
23 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,
24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.
 
And another passage that reinforces this,
 
Matt 7:21-23
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
 
It’s those four words,
 

“I never knew you”

 
that can create enormous discomfort. It’s a topic that I have touched upon before, and I make no apology for this because I think it’s vital that we grasp the enormity and the importance of these words.
 
Can you imagine what it would be like to face the Lord one day in the future, as we all will, to give an account of all that we have done in this earthly life, only to find at the conclusion of that interview the Lord says “ I never knew you”
 
“But Lord, I prayed and read my bible as often as I could, I gave tithes of my money, I spoke in tongues, I prophesied on occasions, and I prayed about a friend’s job when he was made redundant and he got another one soon after, surely I must qualify!”
 
Jesus says in response, “I never knew you”. How awful that would be! 
 
How important it is that we know the Lord (and what he wants of us), and even more important that He knows us in a Father/child relationship sense!
 

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom...

What can you and I boast about? Not much in my case! Though some might claim to have wisdom and some knowledge? You know you could be the cleverest theologian and bible scholar that ever lived, and know everything there is to know about Jewish history, culture and background, be able to read and translate Greek and Hebrew like no other, and yet never know the God who brought it all about!
 
One that springs to mind is Richard Dawkins, who wrote the book ‘The God Delusion’, and who masterminded the London bus poster campaign, ‘There’s probably no God so stop worrying’.   Professor Dawkins is a man who is completely dismissive of the Christian faith and who relies totally on his academic and scientific background to support his stand against the existence of any divine intelligence. He considers anyone with Christian convictions as sadly deluded.   I believe he is sincere in his convictions and I think much of what he states in a scientific sense is true, but I believe he is sincerely wrong about God! One day however he will discover the truth!
 
Also, can you remember David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham from 1984 -1994?
 
He was a former lecturer in Theology at Oxford, and Professor of Theology at Leeds University, who famously declared that there was no literal resurrection of Jesus.
 
The resurrection, he claimed, was no more than ‘a conjuring trick with bones’. Controversially, he later strongly supported civil partnerships, being one of the first clergy to bless a union between two men, one of whom was a vicar!
 
I wonder if he will still maintain his ‘wisdom’ before Jesus when he has to give an account of his life?   Why? Because he chooses to surpass what scripture clearly teaches!
 
1 Cor 15:13-14
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
 
What would he have made of the Bible statements concerning same sex practices in Romans 1?
 
Whether the Bishop subsequently repented of these deliberate contradictions of the word of God we do not know, but ‘let not the wise man boast of his wisdom’ seems to put him at risk of God’s judgement.
 
The question is, ‘Is any earthly wisdom greater than the Creator’s?’
 
It is considered unacceptable in our present society to speak about same sex practices in a negative way; it’s considered homophobic and prejudicial to social harmony. But the Bible is very clear about the error of such practice despite what certain liberal clergy are prepared to allow, and secular law demands.
 
The Bible is also very clear also that God loves the sinner but detests the sin. Christians are called to have this attitude too....... to love the person even if we disapprove of what he/she does.
 
It’s a complete reversal that has occurred. An act that was once illegal and punishable under English law, is about to be taught in our primary schools as perfectly normal and acceptable, despite the great majority of society of citizens disapproving of its enforcement within the school curriculum. I am really uncomfortable with the imposition of political morality on impressionable children that completely ignores biblical moral standards.
 
I personally believe that the law is correct to allow people to pursue their own preferences, providing no one else is harmed as a result and, providing they properly understand. But is such teaching helpful to our children?
 
The Bible tells us there will come a time for every person when they will have to give an account to God
 
Our duty as Christians is to reveal and follow God’s perspective, to declare His promise of salvation to all who believe, and to reach out with the same courtesy and love that Jesus would have employed.
 
In times gone by, I have been challenged over my observations concerning modern practices, and have been accused of being ‘old fashioned’ and out of step with the times. They are right.    I am.  
 
Much of what we read in the bible is open to interpretation; there is much that is not! However, I don’t believe as Christians we should be forced to accept modern thinking in place of God’s expressed word. So let’s always weigh what we observe and hear, and allow our thinking to be influenced by our consciences and what we know to be God’s perspective rather than by what a politically correct agenda demands
 
Let your opinion be subject to agreement with the Holy Spirit knowing He will never influence a Christian believer to act in violent opposition, but rather to adopt the gentle attitude and integrity of Jesus in the face of that which opposes God’s will.
 
We are being pressurised by the new moral norm, by scientific persuasion, and by religious and legal influence.  But this is nothing new. Peter and John were confronted in the days of the early church and instructed to cease declaring their convictions. We know their response.
 
Acts 4:17-19
17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.
 
 
"Let not the strong man boast of his strength...
When we consider strength today, it is usually in the context of political strength and not the physical strength of someone like Samson.
 
History has revealed many political tyrants, Nero, Caligula, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussain, and even President Mugabi of Zimbabwe to name but a few.
All of them are guilty of abusing the power they acquired.
 
I know of one man apart from Jesus who never abused the power and influence he had, and he wasn’t even a Christian! But like Jesus, he was murdered for his willingness to stand for love, gentleness and the rightness of what he believed. His name was Mahatma Ghandi. To get some idea about the character of the man just look at a sample of the many quotations he made during his lifetime
 
Ghandi once said...
And,
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Finally,
A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act. ( I’m sure he was referring to Jesus!)
 
He was a man who had real compassion for the underdog. He opposed the subjugation British rule had imposed upon India. Yet he didn’t hate the English…he hated what they were doing. He quietly and passively sought to change what was morally wrong. I genuinely admire his courage. Despite Ghandi being a Hindu I am convinced he modelled his thinking and behaviour on Jesus.
 
When we hate what is imposed upon us, we are not called to hate perpetrators, but with gentle consideration to seek change for the better.
 
"Let not the rich man boast of his riches...
Our society views riches and wealth as a measurement of success. But the Bible reveals what God says are true riches,
 
 
Prov 8:17-21
7 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honour, enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.
 
We have only to look at what great earthly wealth can never achieve.
 
Howard Hughes was recognised at one time as the richest man in the world. He was best known as a movie magnate, aviation pioneer and businessman.  
 
In his day he discovered screen actresses like Jean Harlow and Jane Russell, and was reported to have had affairs with Ava Gardner, Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn. 
 
He set the world speed record in 1935 in his own aircraft, and three years later established another world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth.
 
Despite his fame and wealth he spent the last 20 years of his life living as a recluse in hotel penthouses around the world. During that time he developed a phobia of germs that compelled him to stay out of contact with the outside world, living in darkened rooms, eating little and wearing nothing for fear of catching a disease.
 
He died aged 70 en route to hospital.  His body was found to be so emaciated as to require the FBI to use fingerprints to confirm his identity. He left a two billion dollar fortune in his will.
 
Earthly riches can never guarantee happiness.
 
but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD
Boasting (or putting confidence in) our natural gifts, our knowledge, our looks, our strength, our influence, or our wealth, is futile in God’s eyes. 
 
What God states as having real value is to put all of our human effort into ensuring that we really know Him.
 
who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.
 
If God delights in kindness, justice and righteousness don’t you think that these might offer a clue as to how we might better know God?
 
One way to get to know someone better is to take note of those things that are special to them.
 
You probably wouldn’t get to know Alec very well by restricting your interests to say Puccini’s operas. If you mentioned Madame Butterfly he is more likely to associate it with a type of valve in a carburettor.   But get involved in classic motorbike discussion and you’ll see his eyes light up!
 
Similarly, it wouldn’t turn me on if all you had to talk to me about was quilting, as absorbing an interest that I’m sure quilting is. However when you start to talk about aeroplanes you get my attention. Why is this?
 
Because we all have items that we enjoy and take delight in. God is no different, and this verse tells us that God delights in kindness, justice and righteousness. So it seems to me that it would be wise of us to take some notice of these topics, not just for discussion purposes but to practice them in our day to day living.
 
And in examining the things that God loves, it is helpful to see those things that He hates,
Prov 6:16-19
16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
 
So this is our thought for today, examples of what God loves and hates, truths that will help us draw closer to Him, and that will enable us to know Him better.
 
Remember, Matt 7:21-23
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
 
Consider then the delights of God’s heart, Kindness, Justice and Righteousness. Let’s make sure we practice them to the very best of our ability and let’s avoid those aspects of behaviour that God hates,
 
haughty eyes (believing yourself superior to another),
a lying tongue (denying the truth),
hands that shed innocent blood (violence)
a heart that devises wicked schemes (purposing to do harm)
feet that are quick to rush into evil (ready to retaliate spitefully)
a false witness who pours out lies ( or spreads gossip about another’s action even embellishing the truth), and

a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (spreading gossip……Remember, blessed are the peacemakers

Brian Foster, 30/09/2009