Chapter 8 - Some Further Precisions
It is a truism to say that order in nature depends upon right relationships; to achieve harmony each thing must be in its proper position relative to each other thing. In human life it is not otherwise.
Towser has hinted in his previous chapters that the cause of all our human miseries is a radical moral dislocation, an upset in our relation to God and to each other. It was most certainly a sharp change in man's relation to his Creator. He adopted toward God an altered attitude, and by so doing destroyed the proper Creator-creature relation. A relationship which, unknown to him, is where his true happiness lay. Essentially salvation is the restoration of a right relation between man and his Creator.
A satisfactory spiritual life will begin with a complete change in relation between God and the sinner; not a judicial change merely, but a conscious and experienced change affecting the sinner's whole nature. The atonement in Jesus' blood makes such a change judicially possible and the working of the Holy Spirit makes it emotionally satisfying.
The story of the prodigal son perfectly illustrates this latter phase. He had brought a world of trouble upon himself by forsaking the position which he had properly held as son of his father. At bottom his restoration was nothing more than a re-establishing of the father-son relation which had existed from his birth and had been altered temporarily by his act of sinful rebellion.
In determining relationships, we must begin somewhere. There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured. Such a center is God. Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point. "I am that I am," says God, "I change not."
Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. We can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is. As we go on to know Him better we shall find it a source of unspeakable joy that God is just what He is. Some of the most rapturous moments we know will be those we spend in reverent admiration of the Godhead.
Let us begin with God. Back of all, above all, before all is God; first in sequential order, above in rank and station, exalted in dignity and honor. As the self-existent One He gave being to all things, and all things exist out of Him and for Him. Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. The only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that it is in our power to give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.
The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His. Not the act of justification by faith in Christ, but the voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us. a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper.
The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all we step out of the world's parade. We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world, and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way. For the world of fallen men does not honor God. Let the average man be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. The proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life.
Let the man seeking a victorious spiritual experience, reach a place where life and lips join to say continually "Be thou exalted." His Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it had been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity. By the exercise of the will he has set his course. We must of necessity be servant to someone, either to God or to sin. The sinner prides himself on his independence, completely overlooking the fact that he is the weak slave of the sins that rule his members. The man who surrenders to Christ exchanges a cruel slave driver for a kind and gentle Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Made as we were in the image of God, we scarcely find it strange to take again our God, our original habitat, as our All.
"Them that honour me I will honour," said God once to a priest of Israel, and that ancient law of the Kingdom stands today. The whole Bible and every page of history proclaim the perpetuation of that law. "If any man serve me, him will my Father honour," said our Lord Jesus, tying in the old with the new and revealing the essential unity of His ways with men.
See how God accepted weaknesses and overlooked failures, as He poured upon His servants’ grace and blessing untold. Let it be Abraham, Jacob, David, Daniel, Elijah or whom you will. The man of God set his heart to exalt God above all. God accepted not perfection, but his holy intention made the difference. Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the law in simple perfection in His lowly manhood. He humbled Himself and gladly gave all glory to His Father in heaven.
The whole course of the life is upset by failure to put God where He belongs. We exalt ourselves instead of God and the curse follows. In our desire after God let us keep always in mind that God also hath desire. His desire is toward the sons of men, particularly toward those sons of men who will make the once-for-all decision to exalt Him over all. Towser notes his one fear; that of convincing the mind before God can win the heart. The mind may approve it, while not having the consent of the will to put it into effect. The whole man must make the decision before the heart can know any real satisfaction. God wants us all, and He will not rest till He gets us all.
Let us pray in sincerity to this end, throwing ourselves at God's feet and meaning everything we say. God will unveil His glory before His servant's eyes, and He will place all His treasures at the disposal of such a one, for He knows that His honor is safe in such consecrated hands.
O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth's treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase, let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou didst ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, "Hosanna in the highest."