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By Samuel Clough
To The Honorable Senator Nelson,
I was so proud of your stand for life against the current health care bill. No matter what the President or other leaders might say, we all know that the ultimate goal is to craft a plan that will provide Federally funded abortions. That has been patently obvious with the rejection of every simple amendment to the bill that clearly prohibited federally funded abortions, and that is why your stand was so inspiring especially considering the pressure coming from the leadership of your own party.
That being said, it was so disappointing to see that your stand for life ended in a compromise and in securing some funding to assist your state. While I understand the pressure on you is immense, citizens all around the nation were looking for you to stand firm and were extremely disappointed to see that the pressures of the moment overcame your own personal convictions and gave way to a compromise that ultimately will not protect us from the government sponsored execution of the nation’s own children. Make no mistake Senator, making abortion “safe and rare” or putting a few conditions on a federal abortion are not the same thing as protecting the lives of the unborn.
You could rightly argue that many of us do not understand the pressures and intricacies of federal politics. No doubt this is very true. Few of us have known the kind of pressure that can come from the leadership of the nation. It is also true that politics is, by its nature, a game of compromise. However, it is also true that history is made when a politician stands firm for what is right and rejects the mechanics of compromise when life and death issues are at stake. There are plenty of bills where compromise is good and necessary for without it our government would come to a grinding halt. However, when the lives of children are at state, the time comes to make a stand and lead the nation into what is right. An a historical example, could you imagine William Wilberforce agreeing to a “compromise” on human slavery?
You could also rightly argue that many of us compromise our heart values on a daily basis when much lesser things are at stake. Sadly, you would be right there as well. Millions of us compromise on a daily basis to avoid confrontation, pain, and cost preferring ease or the hope of some opportunity over staying true to what we know, deep down, is right. However this is exactly why we need you. We are a nation with precious few heroes. We need men like yourself to stand up unflinchingly for what is right and inspire us to also discard the compromise in their own lives and stand for what is right no matter how little or how great the cost. We have become a week kneed compromising society and we need heros to look to that stand unflinchingly for what they know in their heart is right that we might be inspired to do the same.
The good news is that there are still several days before the final vote. There is still time for you to vote your heart, rather than vote, under pressure, for something that you know is wrong and not in the best interest of the country. If you vote for this bill, this will be a vote that will haunt you your entire life. It is not enough to be personally opposed to abortion if you do not make a public stand, without compromise, for life. There is a reason this bill has been put together in private rather than publicly as the President promised. There is a reason there is such a rush to get it passed with claims that the bill does not fund abortion while any amendments that secure that promise are quickly rejected.
You and I both know that the leadership of both the senate and house are counting on using the process of reconciling the bills to remove any abortion restrictions. I am sure, Senator, that you would argue that your stand did secure a measure of restriction on abortion, however, I would expect that these restrictions will be reduced to paperwork or eliminated by the time the actual final bill is formed. They are securing your vote only so that they can push a bill forward. Based on the response to amendments restricting abortion funding and the development of the bill behind closed doors, we all know well and good that they know how to eliminate all abortion restrictions from this bill by the time it is made law.
Your compromise then will not even secure the restrictions you asked for, your compromise will only enable those who seek to provide full federally funded abortion. This is the cost of compromise on moral issues. In the end, the compromise does not even secure the ends that are desired. This is why moral issues cannot be compromised. By their very nature, once compromise has entered the picture they are lost. Do you want your vote to be the enabling vote to a process that has proven thus far that it is committed to a final outcome that will include the federally funded extermination of our children?
Public opinion polls show clearly that the health care bill is not the top agenda in the minds of citizens. Public opinion polls also show that the nation is becoming increasingly pro life. This is a bad time to hastily compromise and rush through a very significant bill that will have negative implications for the nation for decades to come as well as help to promote the slaughter of millions of our unborn children. The very fact that they are trying to rush this bill through so quickly before an election year when it is not the top agenda of the America people along should give you pause in making last minute compromises.
Senator, many of us are praying for you. We are praying that you will make history by standing firm in your convictions, as those who make history must do, rather than succumbing to political favors to vote for something you know in your heart is wrong. Voting against this bill, at this point, may look like political suicide. However, better that than suicide of the heart. I have to believe the people of the great state of Nebraska, whether they agreed with you or not, would respect your history making stand to refuse to vote for this bill in its current form. Men of character are hard to come by and I, for one, would be proud to see my Senator set his face like flint and stand for what is right.
Stand firm Senator, and be an example to the nation. Know that there are millions looking to you for a strong stand even if that means, at times, a stand against our President.
By Samuel Clough
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4 (ESV)
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. – Genesis 6:5-6 (ESV)
The Call to Grief
Is not the call into the place of mourning, the call to share God’s own heart? We often feel like we know God in His love and, we sometimes see His anger or other parts of His personality recorded in the Scriptures, but who has known the grief of God? Who among us has asked the share the pain in God’s heart? True we have asked to share in His joys, and this is correct as He invites us into His joys, but there is another level of relationship and that is to be be found in sharing in His grief.
God made man for relationship and valid relationship contains the experiences of both joy and pain. The angels are His servants, and no doubt companions of a sort, but they are not made in His image and likeness. They do not have the same capacity we do to feel the way His heart feels. No doubt they have some level of emotion, but God made our heart after the pattern of His own, so we are be the ones that have the capacity to share His emotions more than any other creature and therefore we should be the ones to carry grief with Him.
The word Jesus used here for mourning can often be used in the sense of mourning or grieving for the dead. It can include the idea of lamentation. While Jesus’ context is not specifically the dead, we must ask who mourns for the death that pervades creation? True we have felt a measure of the pain of the effects of our sin and the glad release of our forgiveness in God, but there should be a mourning as we continue to consider the effects of sin that remain on our body and the weight of sin that remains on the earth.
God’s Grief Over Creation
We were made to be the express image of God and yet we continue to destroy creation with our own sinfulness. Our sin destroys the earth even as we see our own bodies deteriorate because of sin. Do we really consider that man is actively destroying creation with His sin? To make it personal, have you considered that your own sin destroys God’s creation? Furthermore, beyond the issue of death, who mourns for their own sin?
Romans 8 tells us that all of creation is crying out under a burden for its own release. If all of creation is mourning for release to come, how can we not be as well? You see not only does sin destroy you, which is no small thing because you were created for God and in destroying yourself you are destroying the thing that God made for Himself and robbing Him of His creation, but you must realize that nothing is done in isolation.
Every act, whether we perceive it our not, reverberates throughout creation and our sin, no matter how minor in our eyes, does not end with us, but rather effects all of creation. Every secret sin reverberates throughout creation adding to the weight of bondage the creation is already under. We do not have time to fully develop this issue here, but remember that just one sin in the garden so marred creation that it fell to its current state. Our sin destroys God’s creation which is why in Revelation God’s judgment against the wicked is celebrated with the song, “The nations raged, but your wrath came…for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Revelation 11:18)
Why We Do Not Mourn
Our lack of mourning is rooted in a lack of perspective. We do not mourn because we lack perspective. We are content with an earth and an age that is so marred by sin it barely demonstrates the glory of the original creation. If we understood the original glory of creation and if we understood the honor that Jesus is to have on the earth, and what will happen to the earth when He begins ruling from Jerusalem, our hearts would be filled with mourning in this age, longing for the glory of the age to come. It is our own lack of expectation, understanding, and desire for what is to come that causes our hearts to be content rather than to mourn at what man has done to God’s creation.
If we even barely understood the sacrifice of Jesus, we would be in mourning for His global exaltation. How can we not feel the weight of the Father’s sorrow at the earth’s rejection of His act of redemption? God gave everything He had, eternally marring His own being in the man Jesus and the earth He came to redeem rejected Him unto death. Who cannot mourn? Whose Son has been so abused? Whose Son is so worthy of honor? Who cannot feel the pain of the Father over the issue of the Son and His global exaltation?
Do we consider that Jesus, right now, is highly exalted in the place of rulership over the heavens and the earth and yet, on earth, a cloud of deception persists leaving most men totally ignorant of His rulership? Can we mourn with the Father that most of mankind, His most glorious creation, will ultimately be destroyed because they have persisted in darkness and rejecting the very One that was sacrificed so that they might have life? Can we mourn over how few will receive the advantage of His costly sacrifice?
Who reads the prophets and the book of the Revelation and mourns over the judgments to come? Who has fully considered the events that are going to hit the earth as man’s wickedness are put on full display and Jesus finally breaks in releasing the judgments of God to purge the earth. Anyone who considers these events should come away shaking inside, unable to fully consider what is coming. The shaking coming to the planet is beyond all we can conceive. Can we not mourn with God over what is coming? Can we not share God’s grief over the birth-pains that are to come? The birth-pains coming are the most violent, destructive things coming and God’s heart no doubt is mourning over what the earth must endure in the transition to Jesus’ rule from Zion.
Does anyone grieve with the Father over the trials that are coming to Israel? Does anyone weep over the holocaust to come? To give just one example, Zechariah records two thirds of the nation perishing (Zechariah 13:8-9), but do we weep over it? The Father weeps that His very chosen people are under a cloak of blindness, rejecting the One that can give them live. He is in grief over the events that will fall on His chosen people at the end of the age. We analyze and evaluate the events of the end, but do we mourn with the Father over the things that must come and the real implications of those events?
Many of us are content for the earth to be destroyed, but God is not. The way we would mourn over a son lost in sin, longing to see him restored rather than destroyed, so God longs to see His creation restored rather than destroyed. We must ask for the revelation of God’s love over all creation that we may feel His present grief over the condition of it. His grief is deeper than any parent’s grief over a prodigal son. His handiwork is constantly destroyed as the ones He gave stewardship to continue to defile it.
We need a vision of God’s brokenheartedness over a world that rests under a weight of constant sin rejecting the very One that gives life. We need an understanding of the liberation of creation to come. God is not coming to the planet to destroy it, but to liberate it from sin gloriously. We are offered this moment in time to share in God’s grief. There will be a time when our own bodies, and all creation, will be liberated from sin in the ultimate act of comfort and we will share then in God’s joy over the restoration of creation. In this age, though, it is the time of mourning. We mourn over the damage of sin in own hearts first and then the damage of sin in the entire cosmos. It is a unique invitation to mourn, because it will not always be available.
Those that mourn now will have shared God’s grief with Him. When we step into the age to come those who have shared His grief will have an unusual friendship with God. We cannot mourn unless we share His heart. To enter into the place of mourning, we must have revelation from God to our hearts about what He really feels about creation.
We must know what is in God’s heart as His Son is mocked and disparaged day after day. We have to feel what is in God’s heart as He watches man destroy man with brutality. We need to feel God’s heart as the innocent girl is seduced and the love she was created for destroyed by a man’s sexual drive. We need to consider the longing in God’s heart to restore creation and install His Son in His rightful place as king over the earth. We need revelation to enter into this place of mourning.
Sadly, we are often too content with this age to share God’s grief over it. We wait for some sort of release, which we call heaven, from our present trials but the reality is what we’re really wanting is to just be free of some difficulties. We fail to perceive the real weight of sin that rests on the entire creation, even in it’s joys.
We fail to feel the oppression that is constant so long as sin is not banished completely. We are escapist looking to fly away to heaven when God is set on redeeming the earth. We fail to love what God loves. God loves the earth and intends to gloriously renovate it and restore it. God has bound Himself to earth, both in promises, and in taking on the very dirt of the earth in His own incarnation.
The Precious Opportunity for Eternal Intimacy with God in Present Mourning
Intimate relationships are not just forged in joys, they are forged in sorrows. When you consider those who are closest friends, it is those who shared your grief with you. You may be separated from those friends by distance and life changes, but you always feel a connection to those who shared your griefs with you. Anyway can laugh with you, but it is only a select few who can cry with you.
Innately we often hide our pain from one another because we know that if we lay out the burden of our hearts on an acquaintance it is uncomfortable for them. Likewise, if another unloads their sorrows on us our first response is typically discomfort unless we are closely related to the person. While joys may be shared freely, sharing grief with others is uncomfortable and awkward without intimacy . We know that in life there are only a handful of friends that will share our sorrows. The sharing of sorrows requires intimacy.
God too shares His sorrows with His friends. In the age to come those that shared God’s grief with Him now in this age will have a special place in God’s heart. Many desire to share the joys of His heart and the blessings of His nearness, but few turn aside and ask Him to also share His grief.
While we come, time and time again, asking Him to minister to our hearts, and rightfully so, let us turn aside and ask Him how we can minister to His heart. Let us, like the friends of Job, come sit with God just to share His grief. Let us come just to minister to Him as man was made to do. Real relationship is forged as we walk with God through the sorrows of this age and not just the joys.
In His grief preparing for the cross, Jesus asked the disciples to pray and watch with them, but they could only sleep. They were weary and ignorant of the depths of pain that was in Jesus’ heart. He longed for some companions and yet He was forced to grieve alone. Obviously they could not have born the depth of His own grief over what was coming, but they could have comforted His heart in some measure. God was looking for men to share grief with Him, even if they did not understand it, and they were unable to comfort the Lord’s heart.
Are we able to comfort our God’s heart? The earth is racing towards a final judgment. The earth is under a weight of sin that causes a pain in God’s heart that we cannot understand. Moment by moment men die eternally lost and God grieves. Those He made for Himself choose destruction. We cannot bear the weight of pain in the earth, but do we mourn? Do we even make ourselves available to share His heart in grief or are we, like the disciples, too ignorant tired or distracted to share our God’s grief?
In the age to come, as the reign of Jesus on the earth restores creation, these sorrows will be destroyed. They will be a memory in God’s heart and in our own. However, those that shared those sorrows with God will have created a depth in their relationship with God that will last forever. Today, let us set our hearts to minister to the living God in sharing His sorrow. Let us examine our hearts rightly and mourn before our God for everything in our hearts, and even our bodies, that bears the marks of sin. Let us fix our eyes on God’s dream, the liberation of redeemed man and all of creation through the rule of His Son.
By Samuel Clough
It has been very encouraging to my heart to see more and more people studying the book of Revelation studying it to find the revelation of Jesus (Revelation 1:1) and to prepare their hearts to both boldly declare the gospel and endure persecution. Because of this, I plan to share some ideas on how to study the book of Revelation in a very practical way in a future post. The book is full of very practical information with regard to what the Lord ultimately sees as important in our lives and in preparing our hearts for coming storms and for the coming storm.
As a mentioned recently in praying the Bible, taking specific promises and warnings from a passage of Scripture and praying them can help us to really root the Scripture in our hearts. It also helps us to develop a more clear picture of exactly what the Lord is saying to us in a passage. At the bottom of this post is a link you can use to download a document on praying the book of Revelation. For those that are frightened of the book of Revelation, take a few minutes and read it. You will be amazed at how practical this is. I am finding a lot of material in the book for prayer.
The book of Revelation is filled with a lot of sobering material for devotional prayer. There are very specific admonitions that will keep us from disaster in the faith and there are very specific exhortations concerning weighty rewards that are available. I fear what it might cost our hearts to neglect the critical issues that Jesus addresses in this book.
By Samuel Clough
“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? – Deuteronomy 4:7 (ESV)
This phrase “a god so near” should cause us all to fall down in worship before the God who would utter such a great phrase. The word itself has the literal meaning of “near kinsman.” Truly do we grasp that God describes Himself, in relation to those who follow His statutes, as a “near kinsman?” How can we fail to encounter the God that draws near? How faithless must we be that we are content with the concept of an absent God rather than gazing upward, crying out to Him out of a heart in pain that He might remove everything in our hearts that obstructs the experience of God as a near kinsman? How much more, at this time, is God a near kinsman than when Moses penned these words?
At that time God was in close proximity to the people but it was a nearness that also created distance and separation due to the requirement of God’s holiness and the condition of the people. Truly God was near, but the people were terrified of that nearness as it caused death and separation. Truly His nearness was a fascination to Moses, Joshua, and other but a terror to the nation at large. Sadly, this condition has not changed and today there is still a minority few who find God’s declaration of His nearness as an invitation to the pursuit of the gloriously terrifying God, while most of the people demonstrate the coldness of their hearts by being content with a distant God, even having the audacity to accuse God of causing the issue.
The children of Israel struggled with this nearness and In Deuteronomy 18:17 God declares that the people are correct in their expression of the need for a human intermediary, or intercessor, to properly relate to God. God affirms their need and promises a prophet who will arise as that mediator. The people then expected another man like Moses, but God had a shocking move in store. His desire for nearness to His people was so great and so strong that He Himself had chosen to become that mediator.
He would become the One that at the same time was God among the people and also the mediator preparing and introducing people to the uncreated God. He did not just send us another Moses, He Himself became a better Moses. We should be bursting with amazement and joy at the mystery of the incarnation. If we just had an accurate perspective, we would realize how truly radical it is that the transcendent God put on human flesh and how unfathomably near He now is.
Have we allowed the incarnation to show us how deeply God’s heart yearns for nearness to His people? Jesus is God’s plainly spoken declaration of His desire for nearness. First, He declared that He was God among us. It was a thought that was blasphemy to the Jewish mind, so rightfully lofty was their concept of the divine, and yet Jesus was clear that He was God actually living among us, speaking face to face with us.
Not content with this, Jesus then poured out God’s Spirit on us that we might have the living God indwelling us. How radical was that? God had become one of us but He was not content with interacting with us only externally as that limited His nearness to us to those who could come into close physical proximity. In God’s heart a nearness limited to physical proximity was unacceptable and therefore He poured out His Spirit into our very hearts. Who among us has considered this fully?
How can God even place Himself in fallen man? How is it that your frame and mine can actually carry the living God? God has come to dwell inside, not just in one man, but in every redeemed man (Note that we still must maintain the proper division between Jesus’ divinity and our non-divinity). Saints, if we could only perceive the majesty and mystery of this thing! I fear our language and our doctrinal statements have numbed our hearts to the glorious reality of the indwelling God and the implications to our experience of Him.
Our pursuit of “power by the Spirit” has obscured the very real indwelling of God which has power as its side effect and the revelation of God to the human heart as its primary effect. He desires to be our near kinsman, and too often we are taking that gift and trying to manipulate it for a more powerful ministry or to solve the problem of our boredom with Christianity.
Finally, as though all this nearness was not enough, God closes out Scripture with the very clear promise in Revelation 21 and 22 that when Jesus takes the throne in Jerusalem, leading the earth in the millennial reign, His express purpose will be to prepare us for face to face interaction with the Father. He will draw us near to the One whom the Israelites in the desert found unbearable. Can we not see how intense God’s pursuit of being a near kinsman to us has been? God agreed in the desert with the people that His nearness was unbearable, so He gave us Himself as an intermediary and having become the ultimate near kinsman, He continues to pursue nearness with us until He gets the nearness that He Himself desires.
Can we not see that history is the very story of a God doing all that He might be near to us? How can we be content with a distant concept of God when God has so invested Himself in us? Is the radical passion in God’s heart for nearness, illustrated by His ongoing pursuit of nearness with us, not brilliantly clear, or are our hearts too blind to see? If it is not clear to us, we must ask, “Why is my heart so blind to God’s desire?” If God’s desire for nearness is clear to our hearts and yet we are content with distance, we must ask, “Why am I so dull in heart that I am content to remain apart from the glorious God?”
Saints, God wants a people that are near and He will get that people. The question for you and me is whether or not we will be part of that company. God has done all that He can. He has clearly demonstrated and declared His intentions to us, and yet we remain distant. To address the question of “why do we remain distant?” is to put our heart on full display. It is to uncover the hidden things and expose what is truly there, seeing just why it is that we avoid God.
We place the blame on the God who is distant, but He, with eyes of fire, looks directly into our hearts melting all our excuses exposing our lack of desire for His nearness. It is one of the greatest tragedies that we as believers in the 21st century consider God aloof and distant. We must allow the Spirit to expose and search our hearts that it may be clear to us just why we have settled for the distant God when the story of history clearly shows God’s increasingly radical steps to draw near to us. Why then do we do not believe that He is near to us? Perhaps there are many reasons, but there are two that stand out clearly.
For one, we do not have ears to hear the invitation. Jesus often cried out to them that have “ears to hear.” There are two common reasons that we do not have ears. For one there are few trumpets declaring to God’s people that they must ascend the hill. Sadly, often instead ministers protect their ministry by unconsciously promoting a model where they ascend rather than the people. This breaks God’s heart and yet it is a pattern that we continue to follow even though we’ve broken the tyranny of Roman theology and all nod our heads in assent to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Those who love God deepest and are given a place to minister must, like Moses, call the people to the mountain of nearness with God, not be content to be an intermediary.
God Himself alone is the intermediary now. For a minister to place himself in that place is a dangerous place and, even when accidental, is in active opposition to God’s desire for His people. This does not invalidate ministerial gifts, but rather sets the standard for them. Valid ministerial gifts do not serve as an intermediary between God and the people but rather function as a friend of the bridegroom (John 3:29), exhorting and leading the people to face to face communion with the living God with no intermediary other than the man Jesus. For those that minister, there is safety in ministering as though you were trying to work yourself out of a job, freely giving all you have to those under your ministry and actively calling and empowering them to the place where you are in God.
The second issue with regard to “ears to hear” is that our ears are so dull and continually filled with other voices and amusements that we do not have ears to hear the voice of God inviting us up the hill. We spend precious little time meditating on the Word of God and hearing the Spirit breathe on it until we know the heart of God for us. We turn our imagination lesser things, becoming satisfied by cheap, empty thrills rather than allowing our ears and appetites to change until only a word from God will satisfy the longings of our hearts. We must cut off lesser voices that we might hear the voice of reality from the throne beckoning us to come near.
The second primary obstacle with God’s nearness is that we do not ascend the hill due to the issue of cost. Like the Israelites of old, we are afraid of what it will cost us to draw near to the place where the fire burns and the voice speaks. We are content to remain with dark, dull hearts because it might be costly to draw near to God. Deep within we know that what we are is painfully short of what we are made for, but like a madman we continue to resist the radical change necessary that our hearts may be fully alive. Can we imagine what an affront this is to God? He has provided the intercessor that was necessary, freely places the fire of the mountain in us by the Spirit, and concludes Scripture with the promise of face to face interaction, yet we remain unresponsive.
Our God promises to be near to our call. His promises it not be be near our whim, but our call. Our call contains within it a cry and desire for Him that offers up all of our being. It holds nothing back but invites the fire of God to purge everything in our heart that we might be near Him. It is this sort of cry that brings His nearness. A lesser cry will not suffice. It is the lack of a cry of this kind that causes us to remain distant from the One who is ever near.
We must call out and cry to Him with a longing heart. We must cry, with the Spirit and the bride (Revelation 22:17) that He come, no matter what the cost to us or, ultimately, the cost to the planet in the day of the Lord. When He comes the mountain quakes and our heart is filled with fear, but if we have a proper cry in our heart none of this matters so long as He comes. A valid cry is one that says, “even if I die, I must have Him near. Let Him come near and my being be burnt up, let every other thing I love be shattered, but just let Him come because I cannot remain living so long as He is distant.”
He has left us with a promise to respond to a cry and with no obstacle to drawing near, but our response, typically not in words but in lifestyle, is to remain distant in our own hearts while blaming God for how distant He is. The demands of nearness have caused us, like the children of Israel, to stand back content to ask others to go to God for us. Again, have we really comprehended what a rejection of God this is?
He has called us near and provided the one and only intercessor and still we continue to look to others to ascend the hill for us. He has paid an awful price to enable us to ascend the hill and yet we spurn His invitation content to fill our lives with much lesser pleasures. This is heresy in a day and age when all men have been given access to the living God. Whatever the cost may be to live in the manifest nearness of God, it is truly far less than the cost of living a dull life in bondage to lesser things.
Saints, have we considered how deeply this must hurt His heart? Our God is near. Let anyone who doubts that fact be silenced. It is us who are distant. Let us set our hearts to pay the cost and draw near to the heart of the living One. Let us be those that fill His heart with joy. Man’s consistent rejection of the God that is in pursuit has already caused our God more pain than a human frame can comprehend. Our God has promised to be near when we call. Seeing as our God cannot lie, the issue must remain in our lack of calling rather than in His lack of nearness
As a final note, there are those desperately longing for God who are enduring seasons of wilderness. For those dry and lonely and yet longing for God with every fiber of your being, willing to obey any call for Him to be near, do not feel condemned, but rather encouraged that the God who holds your days in His hand longs for nearness greater than you do and is, in truth, much nearer than you perceive Him to be. Remain steady. He is near. Your perception of His nearness will change if you remain faithful.
By Samuel Clough
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3 (ESV)
One of the core issues of embracing poverty is the issue of self-existence. What makes God unique in all the universe is that He is self-sustaining. Only He can sustain Himself by Himself. All the rest of the creation is dependent on God both for its very existence and for its continued sustenance. When Moses pressed God for a name in Exodus, God declared Himself to be the self-sustaining One that exists with no dependencies on anyone or anything. He is the One that exists irrespective of the existence of any other.
Man, on the other hand, as a created being requires the sustenance from God that He might live and this is at the root of the issue in the garden. The enemy was attempting to divorce man from His reliance on God. He presented this as a deception so that man would imagine that becoming self sustaining, choosing for himself what things are good and evil, would allow Him to ascend to a place like God when in reality it would bring him into a place of death and decay. The glorious life that man was given required the sustenance of the Creator. Man is not self-existent, but lucifer was determined to deceive man because of the tragedy of his own revolt.
As the most beautiful being yet created, lucifer challenged God because his heart was so full of pride that he imagined he could sustain his own beauty. When he staged a rebellion based on the confidence that he could sustain himself without the Creator, to his own horror he became the most horrific and corrupt creature in all of creation. No longer exalted and beautiful, a death of a sorts came in when he attempted independence from the sustainer and it destroyed the beauty in him corrupting all that was beautiful into something horrific and hideous. Lucifer now became satan.
Satan, filled with pride and now finding himself in this horrible place where he was still in subjection to God but now as a hideous, evil being rather than one of beauty, expressed his anger towards God by taking aim to corrupt God’s prize creation. He immediately went to man in the garden and offered man the same decision that he himself had made without telling man of the horrific consequences. Man fell to the same temptation that had seized satan’s heart, that of being self-sustaining or independent of God’s wisdom and sustaining power, and immediately man’s being fell from a place of glory to a place of death. The most beautiful of God’s creatures in the heavens, lucifer, had fallen and become infected with death. Now, the very height of God’s creation, man, had also fallen for the same ruse and now death infected man in that same way that evil had destroyed lucifer’s beauty.
We find this same foundational issue in the next great temptation in human history when satan comes to Jesus in the desert again trying to thwart God’s plan by taking advantage of Jesus’ humanity in the same way that he destroyed the man in the garden. The scene is no longer a plush garden, but this time it is a barren wilderness. When satan first tempted man, he had to convince man there was something better than the beauty and provision of the garden. This time, Jesus was in a barren wasteland. He was surrounded by a hard place and desperately hungry. Surely satan imagined he had the advantage. In the garden, he had to be deceive a man that was completely provided for, living in bliss and in communion with God. This time he only needed to offer a deception of relief to a man exhausted in a dry and barren place that so illustrated man’s fallen condition. Surely he could get Jesus to escape this place. Surely Jesus would long for the place of comfort and sustenance.
With this in my mind, satan went straight to the primary issue and attacked Jesus with the temptation of self sustenance. Satan came and immediately challenged Him to use His divine power to self-sustain Himself as a man in turning bread to stone. Jesus clearly understood what was at state and quickly replied, from the Scripture, that man should not live by bread alone but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God. In other words, man must rely on something proceeding from God to live. Even if He could turn the stones to bread, the issue was that He, as a man, would be sustained by God and not by Himself. Jesus refused self sufficiency as a man, even when it could be obtained using His own divine power, rebuking the enemy by declaring that man, as a creature, was designed to live dependent on God. Satan had begun with the temptation that caused his own fall and that he used to effect the fall of man, but this time Jesus immediately resisted.
In order to make the issue even more clear, God has also given us a parable in our own bodies. Scientists tells us how our bodies are self-sustaining with the cells constantly replenishing themselves until the aging process shuts down cell replacement and we slowly die. From this we can see that the human body was made to sustain itself and live immortally as the Bible teaches. However, no matter how marvelous the human body’s capacity may be, it requires food. Though the body can sustain itself once it obtains fuel, we are still dependent on an external source of nutrients to supply our bodies with the fuel necessary to sustain life. Though our bodies were designed to live forever, they were designed so that they cannot live without any external nutrients. We are dependent on external food sources to fuel the life that is in our bodies.
So too our spirits are designed to live forever and yet are dependent on a fuel which we receive from the only One that is ultimately self-sustaining. We can live in a delusion that we have enough to supply ourselves because we may be popular or talented in ministry, but the reality is that our spirits starve and die if we are not constantly being fueled from the One who is the sustainer of all things. It is those who, like Jesus, live in that place of dependence on the eternal One for daily fuel for their spirits that will be fit to participate in the heavenly government. The poor and the hungry eat everything that is offered to them. It is only those that imagine themselves to be full that push away the gift of food from another. When we truly know our inner poverty, it will cause us to lay hold of the One that can supply and sustain us. Living in that manner will fit us to stand before the One who alone is self-sustaining as we understand, acknowledge, and even celebrate our great need of His abundance.
Really the root issue is dependence. Creation is made to be dependent on God for its supply. Not because God is some sort of ego, but rather because He simply is the only self-sustaining One that exists and He sustains His creation with love and tender care. However, when creation refuses this dependence, death enters the equation because once you cut yourself off from the One that is eternal life the only option is death. If you get the root of the issue with those in the western world that mock the gospel and are the most vocal opponents of the gospel it will come down to the issue of dependence. The mockers of the gospel refuse to be in the place of dependence. They do not want to depend on Him for their life and they refuse to depend upon Him for the definition of morality. Man desires to do what he wants, the way he wants, even when it ends in death. This is the corruption whose only remedy is poverty of spirit.
This is why in John 17 Jesus defined eternal life as the intimate knowledge of God (John 17:3). Apart from intimate communion with Him from a heart posture of poverty, there is no life. I fear that we are too full in our spirits and unaware of how much fuel we really need from the One upon the throne that our spirits may have the fuel that is necessary. Let us go to Him daily in poverty of spirit that He might fuel us with Himself.