by Mike Jones
This article first appeared in FrontLine • Jan/Feb 2000. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
The true Christian, who delights in communion with the Holy Spirit, and meditates upon His law, daily acquires a stronger vision and gains a clearer and more distinct appreciation of heavenly realities. They begin to assume for him a distinctness almost equal to that of the objects of natural sense around him; and eventually he is impressed with the unsubstantial, fleeting character of terrestrial things, and the greater permanency and reality of the heavenly world (G. M. Giger, “Religious Retirement” in The Princeton Pulpit, 1852; quoted by Iain Murray in Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, Banner of Truth, 1987, p. 136).
Communion with God is essential in developing and maintaining lives that are pleasing to God. God has promised, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Ps. 32:8). Divine instruction and guidance become clearer to us as we draw closer in spiritual proximity to the source of it. Oh, how the children of God ought to yearn to be in close fellowship with God to get to know Him in a greater way! “I am convinced that the dearth of great saints in these times even among those who truly believe in Christ is due at least in part to our unwillingness to give sufficient time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God” (A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, p. 136).
As I consider the idea of having close fellowship with God, I am reminded of my own salvation experience. After I became a Christian, I found myself in seemingly unique circumstances. I was saved while serving in the U.S. Navy and stationed on the island of LaMaddelena, Sardinia. There were five or six other families who were saved at the same time, but there was no local church and no pastor; there weren’t even any other “older” Christians. The only denomination on the island was Catholic, and since that’s what we were saved out of, we knew not to pattern ourselves after them. Wonderfully, we had only the Word of God to instruct us and the Spirit of God to guide us. We were naïve enough to believe that that was all we needed.
Although we didn’t know it, we had established our own little church, and we knew that if we were going to “do it right,” then we were going to have to get to know the God Who saved us. We all took great pleasure in “discovering” things in the Word and even greater pleasure in applying them to our lives. We took the Word of God at face value and there was no hesitation or argument, only “blind” obedience. We did this because we had a great admiration and appreciation for what God had done for us.
For instance, after reading the book of Acts, we began to meet on the first day of the week for worship and every other day of the week for prayer, fellowship, and Biblestudy. We even baptized each other out of obedience to God’s Word. We enjoyed a closeness with God that was unsurpassed as God taught and guided us. I can honestly say that the majority of my doctrinal views and personal convictions were formed when it was just God and me.
Now there were certain characteristics of those circumstances that, I believe, promoted sweet communion with God and are essential for any Christian to enjoy close fellowship with Him. Christians need to give heed to those things in their lives, so that they, too, would experience the blessedness of unhindered, divine instruction and guidance which comes from knowing and communing with Him.
The most predominant characteristic that I remember was an insatiable desire for God. This attitude is certainly illustrated in the words of Dr. Martyn Lloyd- Jones:
Seek Him! Seek Him! What can we do without Him? Seek Him! Seek Him always. But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him. . . . Seek His power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when this power comes, yield to Him. Do not resist. . . . Let Him loose you, let Him manifest His power in you and through you (D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Preaching And Preachers, p.325).
For Christians to benefit fully from their relationship to God, we must earnestly and diligently seek Him. God exhorts us to put forth the effort to seek Him. “But if . . . thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Dt. 4:29). Seeking God is often compared to treasure-hunting. People have endured great sacrifice and affliction in seeking worldly treasures. Many have forsaken jobs, friends, and families for the chance to find buried treasure. How much more ought the people of God to give great diligence in seeking Him.
We must continue seeking, and take pains in seeking, as those that search; and this we must do with our heart (that is, in sincerity and uprightness), and with our whole heart (that is, with vigor and fervency, putting forth all that is within us in prayer), and those who thus seek God shall find Him, and shall find Him their bountiful rewarder (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 4, p.588).
Prayer and Bible-study are the means by which we seek after God. Priority must be given to them if we’re to succeed, but oftentimes, these two basic Christian activities are neglected because of the demands upon our time. And because of that neglect, we doubt the instruction and guidance of God to the point of even doubting our salvation. We need to remember,
if you are to be anything, there is one thing you must secure. You must have time to enter into your own heart and be quiet, you must learn to collect yourselves, to be alone with yourselves, alone with your own thoughts, alone with eternal realities which are behind the rush and confusion of moral things, alone with God. You must learn to shut your door on all your energy, on all your interest, on your hopes and fears and cares, and in the silence of your chamber to “posses your souls” (Dean Church, quoted in James Stalker, The Preacher and His Models, p.54).
To this, A.W. Tozer adds,
Our religious activities should be ordered in such a way as to leave plenty of time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence. It should be remembered, however, that it is possible to waste such quiet periods as we may be able to snatch ourselves out of the clamorous day. Our meditation must be directed toward God; otherwise we may spend our time of retiral in quiet converse with ourselves. This may quiet our nerves but will not further our spiritual life in any way (A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, p.137).
To seek God diligently in prayer and in His word ought to be the highest goal of every Christian. For then we can enjoy that sweet closeness with Him that our heart and soul yearn for. Another characteristic of our “island-church” was an immovable devotion and commitment to God. God’s Word was our command. The Lord Jesus Christ set our priority in Matthew 22:37–38 when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” The apostle Paul wrote in Titus 3:8, “ This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”
A great lack of devotion to God and commitment to His work is evident among Christians today. Many are like the chicken in the story of a chicken and a pig. A chicken and a pig were passing a diner whose claim to fame was their egg and ham platter. Upon seeing the diner, the chicken welled-up with pride and said, “If it wasn’t for my efforts, that diner wouldn’t be as successful as it is.” The chicken went on bragging until she realized that the pig had grown silent. So she asked the pig why he was so somber. The pig replied, “Your part in the diner’s success is merely the giving of a contribution, but for my family and me, it is the giving of our lives.” To be truly devoted and truly committed to God requires the giving of one’s life to God, not merely the occasional “giving of a contribution.”
Devotion signifies a life given or devoted to God. He therefore is the devout man, who lives no longer to his own will, or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God who considers God in everything, who makes all the parts of his common life, parts of piety, by doing everything in the name of God, and under such rules as are conformable to His Glory (William Law, A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life, p.1).
A true devotion and commitment to God draws the believer into a closer relationship to Him. Then our service for Him isn’t burdensome or wearisome but delightful and fulfilling.
A final characteristic that was prevalent and I think important for maintaining a closeness with the Lord was unity among the brethren. There were no political, denominational, or personal distractions that would rob us of our searching for God and our devotion to Him. We had no preconceived ideas of what Christianity was suppose to be, so we were greatly blessed to be taught by the Master-Teacher. The Corinthian church was distracted because of their division. Paul had to beseech them, “that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor.1:10). We were “joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” based solely upon the Word of God. We were united in Christ! In this environment, God was able to commune with us and teach us His word without any outside rumblings. And because of that, we knew what we believed before we ever got back to the U.S. to look for a church.
I don’t believe the way I do because I’m a Baptist. I’m an independent, fundamental Baptist because they believe the same things that God had taught me when I was alone with Him. But I’ve found that no one is totally immune from the effects of even the slightest “splintering” of the brethren. We must be careful, even in the ranks of Fundamentalism, not to allow some of our “distinctives” to create distractions for us.
We can’t all go off to some island to get alone with God. We need to be able to do it right where God has put us. It may require revamping our whole priority structure, but we need to do it if we want to enjoy that divine instruction and guidance. Seeking God must be a priority. Wrestle with God until you receive the blessing. Devotion and commitment to God must be a priority: “Give of your best to the Master / Give Him first place in your heart” (Howard B. Grose). Unity must be a priority as we seek to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). May God help us to set right priorities that we might delight in sweet communion with Him.
Mike Jones is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Oakdale, Connecticut.