He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out –Luke 19:40
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when they, “tell” Jesus to rebuke His disciples, for their praise of Him.
God has been working on me the last several months, and although I still have an undeniable nearsightedness regarding God’s divine and incomprehensible work in my life, He has graciously given me some insight on one issue, and it is a serious one.
It’s been my silence of God’s work in my life, and I have no idea where this is rooted. God is my Creator, my Redeemer, my Refuge…..the Giver of ALL good things [James 1:17], and yet there has been a peculiar silence from my mouth on a daily basis. A silence, that if it were a visible trait, would make me look like Quasimodo in the Kingdom of God, where everyone else looks like GQ models. The “sore-thumb” appearance of a silent disciple of Christ, should be so foreign to us, that it should cause us to immediately address this fundamental, serious, and yet “silent” problem (pardon the pun).
I have heard it said from the rhetorical atheist out there, that if Christians believe all that they claim about God, and His Son, than why are they silent? If it is really the most amazing news that we have ever heard and that we claim to believe than why are we not taking up every billboard space across America, flooding the air-waves with the greatness of Elohim, or passionately share the testimony of God’s goodness in our lives with every soul that we encounter. A few reads through the minor Prophets of the OT, will paint a vivid picture of the unashamed boldness that we should exhibit, countless times these “mouth pieces” of God, stood at the gates of the city and proclaimed the strength, power, and goodness of the Almighty Yahweh. Obviously staying true to context, these men were under direct revelation from God, but doesn’t Scripture give us (21st century believers) clear and eternal indicatives of God-fearing men and women being vocal about the LORD. None the less, silence of God’s workings in our lives is not cohesive with a healthy and thriving relationship with our Creator and Redeemer.
My silence, is ammo for the enemy, and leaves the door wide open for skeptics to chide me on my so-called “faith” in, and “relationship” with the Almighty God, for giving me the most amazing gift the world will ever know. No one is ever silent about their sparkling new car, or their amazing promotion, or their dream newlywed. Why is that?……….
The consummation of our satisfaction in something is the praise of that thing. We have a natural bent to bring “glory” or attention to the thing that satisfies us, and we do that by way of our mouth. Back in the day when I was living completely according to my will, I would see a pretty girl in the mall or on the road, and I would immediately point her out to whom ever I was with, making sure to bring “glory” (or attention) to her best attributes. My praise of her would be the be the physical expression of the satisfaction I was finding in her, and therefore the vocalizing of this enjoyment is the consummation of my desire. Whether it is an object or a person, we will be vocal about the object of our desire. I guess as redeemed sinners called for His purpose, we better make sure that God is the focal point of our desire.
For any well read readers out there, you might have guessed where this is going, and picked up on some “Piperian” language or thoughts. John Piper’s often quoted sound bite…… “GOD is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in HIM”….. This sentence spawned a genuine journey into every aspect of my walk with the Lord, and raised such questions as “Do I glorify God?…..” “How do I glorify God?”…… “Is He the sole source of my satisfaction?”….. “What does this satisfaction look like in my life?”
Lots of questions, and only one place to turn for answers…….God. He is so gracious to have left us with His Word. An infallible, tangible and objective collection of God’s sweet and priceless words that will never fail or steer me wrong, and best of all His Word, like Him, never changes. The psalmist called it a “lamp unto my feet”, “sweeter than honey”, “better than thousands of gold and silver pieces” [Psalms 119: 72, 103, 105] and the author of Hebrews tells us it is “active and living…..discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” [Heb 4:12].
Wow!! With that incredible description why aren’t we in His word day and night soaking up each delicious and priceless word? There are many reasons but none hold water, about 5-6 years ago God gave me a thirst for His word that is unquenchable, but before that, I did not see the eternal worth and the present day application of His Word. However even with this insatiable desire to know GOD through His word, and a desire for Him to lead me, there are microbursts of famine in my reading life. I may never put His word down, but I find many other things to shorten my attention span, steal my undivided cognitive attention, or to lessen my thirst by just a fraction. I can’t excuse these brief periods, but I did hear an interesting fact on the radio today that made me think about why my desire is not consistently strong and growing exponentially each and everyday. It was a fact about the tobacco companies, and with the ample knowledge and proof that smoking will cause cancer, why are there millions of new customers every year?
For every dollar that anti-smoking campaigns spend, the tobacco companies are spending $20 on advertising to young adults and teens. 20 to 1 is a very bad ratio to gain traction in this war of health vs. money. I hope you can see the parallel that exists between this campaign warfare of the tobacco companies and the spiritual warfare that is present in the life a believer. If I am allowing countless hours of continuous, unrestricted, unfiltered preaching from the world (ie…tv, movies, radio, magazines), then I can’t be completely surprised that my fervor and desire for God’s sweet and timeless Word is being challenged, and ultimately siphoned from my heart. After all, if the airwaves I’m allowing to vibrate my tympanic membrane are not God glorifying, than what are they glorifying? What product is the enemy trying to sell to me? These media missiles are designed to target our desires, the aim is to arouse that part of our humanness that screams for comfort and ease. At the top of the best sellers list is discontentment, a product that the enemy has been pushing and peddling for thousands of years. What subtle sway is this lifeless preaching causing on our minds? Is it the lie that we must cater to our platonic desire to “relax”, or else we will self-destruct, or is it that hours of entertainment, is more satisfying, or more relaxing than God’s word? There is no poll out there to display this, but I just wonder what the campaign ratio would be for the average Christian out there, 20 to 1?
(sidebar: before you think I’m advocating ripping your T.V. set off the wall and throwing it in the trash, my personal view is not that we cant enjoy a respite, or glorify God by watching a relaxing show, reading a good book, or by attending an array of live events. But rather to be aware that we are in a world that opposes God, and to realize that the prince of air is not an enemy that fights fair in the open, attacking us from the front, he will infiltrate our lives in the most subtlest, least abrasive, and convenience of ways. One would have to think that by now the devil has honed his battle line strategy over thousands of years, and after endless defeats, knows the only way to be effective against soldiers of Christ, is to appeal to the “Achilles heal” in all of us, which is our “me time”. Me time, is a time that all of us in our heart try to claim as time that we deserve or earned, by how much effort we expended this week. At the very least I am advocating to bring the subject of entertainment and “downtime” before the Lord and ask for discernment, wisdom and self-control, while looking to glorify God even with the breaks in our schedule, as we give thanks and enjoy a freedom and gift that He has given us, which is a time to recharge, so that we can continue to be effective soldiers for Christ as we expand the Kingdom.
I realize that even with this sidebar, some may view this as legalistic. Sadly this shows that no doctrine or teaching is sacred or off limits to the our adversary, I may be alone on this, but I believe that the enemy has exploited the entire idea of legalism, to the point where the word “effort” is a four-letter word within the church today. Most that would criticize the carefulness and effort by which a believer is called to put forth, have done little justice in reading what Scripture says about this subject. Legalism (to my knowledge) in the truest and damning form, is a “works based” righteousness, that says on human effort and ability we are cleared guiltless before a Holy GOD, or on human works I am acceptable to God. It is a religious practice of rules separated from the heart changing Gospel. Whether you believe you are justified with a 100% of human effort or just 1% of your effort combined with 99% of God’s effort, both are equally damning.
From the external, 2 individual lives may look very similar to the observer, but 1 strives for holiness in response to being justified by God, and the other strives for holiness to BE justified on their own merit. From the external this may look virtually identical, but the reality of the individuals are worlds apart, (literally)…… one is cleared by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and will experience God’s goodness for eternity, the other is damned by their works and will experience God’s wrath for eternity. Don’t take my word on it, take God’s:
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”.–Romans 10:1-4
Paul is talking about his fellow kinsmen, the Jews that had a zeal for God, they had no problem with their desire to follow the commands of God (although we know their desire no matter how genuine was a far cry from their actual submission to the law), but this zeal was divorced from the Gospel, it was driven and fueled by ignorance and pride, thinking they could some how achieve the holiness of God on their own merit. They were ignorant of the God’s righteousness, which is the only righteousness that counts, they were banking on their own righteousness, which was their pathetic attempt to follow the rules and earn their spot on GOD’s team. That is vastly different than the reality of our (progressive) sanctification, where we toil and strive, making every effort to pursue holiness, in response to God sovereignly choosing us to be on His team, this is an actual effect of regeneration. We know we couldn’t have made the squad on our own skills, our fervor and zeal to pursue holiness, comes from our gratefulness and honor of being chosen, as well as from the reality of our new identity. A regenerate person, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, will, with out exception pursue holiness, granted it is an imperfect pursuit, none the less there are new, ever growing holy desires, that drive a regenerate heart to keep striving. This Spirit-powered, faith-fueled, Gospel-driven effort, is not only the response of grace, it is the effect of grace [Titus 2:11-12].
If the Chicago Bulls were to call me and say, “You have been chosen to play for our team, and we will compensate you 1 million dollars a year for life”….. My first reaction would be an unbelievable gratefulness, followed closely by a…. “why me” ? I cant possibly match that level of play…. Not in a million years. But my point is not that we are worthy (which we are not), it is how much effort one would put forth, knowing that you are now representing one of basketballs greatest dynasties, practicing on the same court and wearing the same team jersey, and using the same locker room as the great Michael Jordan. Even though I know my effort is virtually futile in raising the level of my game to the standard that is acceptable to the coach to stay on the team, I practice everyday running through the pain of blisters, spasms, and sore muscles, because the honor of who I am representing, because of the obligation of being given much when I deserve nothing, and because of the gratefulness I have. It is not a perfect illustration by any means but I pray it conveys the joyous labor that is involved in our progressive sanctification, that is a result of our calling.
You are going to have to scroll up to remember my last thought before that lengthy sidebar 🙂
If I take the words of 2 Timothy 3:16, and truly believe (not just agree with them), that “all Scripture is breathed out by GOD”, and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”, than I must see that anything and everything that lessens my desire or draws my attention away from His word, as acts of an invisible war that wages against me. I have heard it said before, that the enemy has a better theology than we do, I would agree with that. The fallen angels for, thousands of years, have seen and experienced the power of God’s word, one would not have to expend a lot of energy and or time to convince them otherwise. With a word a legion of demons was cast into a heard of pigs and self-destructed as they ran off a cliff. The enemy knows the power of God’s word, but a more important question is, do we? And if we do know the power of God’s word, are we trusting in it?
To get back on thought, the reason I mentioned God’s word, is because how many of us (most certainly including myself), when we have questions (especially questions about our relationship with the Lord) go to another source other than the bible. Whether it is listening to your favorite Pastor, reading your “go to” commentator, or seeking counsel in a trusted believer. Not that those are not wonderful tools that God uses to shape us and often point us to His word, but are we trusting in the tool, or are we trusting in God (and specifically His infallible word). We say we believe in the power of God’s word, but when trouble arises we are quick to resort to our own measures and might. I am writing this with one person in mind and that is me. It’s so funny as I grow in Christ, I see an awful shadow that is tagging behind me, and it goes by the name of Pride. If through the bombardment of vain words of flattery, I let my guard down for a second, than the “Pope” inside of me thinks he has a concrete pillar of faith that is unshakeable, but it takes just 1 second of God removing His protective hedge around me to show me that my pillar is made of wet paper towels instead of concrete. The substance of our faith is shown when our security is taken away, and the true source of our security is revealed by where I turn.
The more I grow in Christ the more I see that faith is so much bigger than what is preached on Sunday from a typical pulpit. It is our daily choices that reveal the source of our trust and thus the genuineness and depth of my relationship with the Lord, it is not a verbal profession made 20 years ago, as I live my life day after day leaning and trusting in my own strength and understanding. I’m either trusting in my Creator for all, or I’m seeking to establish autonomy in some aspect of my life. How can I claim a faith in God, if day in and day out I am turning to other sources when scared, confused, or frustrated with my current circumstances.
The faith that we are called to, that is active and growing daily is not easy, that is why Paul in 2 Timothy uses terms and phrases as; an enlisted soldier, a hard working farmer, or he likens his effort as fighting the good fight, or his walk as “running a race”. Paul’s inspired writing does not invoke images of palm trees and hammocks in my head, but instead clearly instructs me that living by faith is going to be a daily decision to stay in the race and fight on, trusting in the LORD’s goodness, regardless of how bleak my day, week, or year may be. I read in a MaCarthur commentary that, “faith enables the believer to trust God for the necessary grace in the midst life’s present circumstances, struggles, and anxieties”, and that “hope enables the believer to trust in future grace, to be revealed for them in heavenly glory”.
I like the way that faith is distinguished from hope there, for years my mind had reconciled that my faith in God was only for the future, trusting in His goodness when I die. But it is so much more than that, it is trusting in His goodness everyday, I say this with Romans 8:28 in mind. That ALL things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose, the “good” is conformity to the image of Christ, and “His purpose” that we are called to, is to ultimately glorify Him, using our lives and our voices to point to Him. We are His possession to proclaim the excellencies of Christ [1 Peter 2:9], and to display His goodness and greatness. Look at how the prophet Zechariah wrote it [9:16-17a]:
On that day the Lord their God will save them,
as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty
So amazing that in His divine purpose for us, to glorify Him, that we not only display His goodness and greatness, but we share in His goodness and greatness, as He uses us to accomplish His will! A notion that can barely be grasped by me, is that in His perfect design of a free will being, He designed man-kind to experience the most satisfaction and joy in their Creator, when they are displaying His greatness. This brings me full circle to the uncharacteristic silence of one who recognizes and experiences the graciousness, and the greatness of God’s hand daily in their lives.
God is good beyond measure and I am blown away by His immensity, and when driving on the freeways around Arizona, looking around at what is referred to as “big sky”, I get to praise God and let my imagination run wild, mountains as far as the eyes can see, sunsets that produce the most beautiful shades and fades of purples and oranges, clouds so uniquely rippling and beautiful that they could actually be God’s fingerprint. All that natural beauty spanning thousands of miles around the globe each and everyday acting as a billboard for a GOD that is infinitely bigger and more awe inspiring than His creation, and even more mind blowing is that it was brought into existence in an instant, by the word of GOD.
On the other hand, God is so perfectly and divinely interested and involved in the most minuscule detail of our lives. The psalmist shares this intimate side of GOD, by stating God has “kept count of my tossing’s”, and that He “puts my tears in a bottle” Psalms 56:8. So incredible!!……and yet, I find myself the most quiet about the intimate involvement of God in my life. This wretched flesh of mine, has a sinful propensity to logically justify every little detail that went my way today, instead of simply giving God, my Father (who keeps count of every restless night I have) the glory and praise, for a day; without disease, without a mood altering headache, without a flat tire, without a car jacking or whatever else can occur in our day to day lives, that we slough off as just “good odds”, I don’t care what the odds are, it was God’s hand that prevented those things today.
Or what about the countless blessings of God that only He can pour on us, the numerous affirmations that we are living in His perfect will, on the path of obedience. Or the things so small that you are almost embarrassed to acknowledge in front of others, the cup of coffee that was paid for by the patron in front of you at a Starbucks drive-thru, getting all green lights on the most loathed section of your commute, the savory flavor of a good meal, or simply a good nights rest where your mind was not running endlessly over this weeks anxieties. Whatever it is, big or small, if God is the giver of it, than it is an occasion worthy to praise His name.
With all the intimate involvement of God in my life, where does this uncharacteristic silence come from? I can’t answer this for anyone else other than myself, but I can confidently say that there is a disconnect somewhere that needs to be addressed. It is not a matter of a shy personality, or I praise God in different a way than others, or I am in fear of rejection or revilement from the world …… no…… the root goes much deeper than any of those excuses, it goes to the fundamental issue as I stated earlier.
God is not only the source of my complete joy and satisfaction, but He is my complete joy and satisfaction. I once heard a preacher ask his congregation, would they still want to go to heaven if God was not there? Without getting into a theological debate, over the question, would you want to enjoy everlasting life and riches if God were not there? I had to think about that for a minute, I know what my public response would be…. No!… of course. However, what was the answer of my heart? To be completely honest I had never thought about it, but the way the question was posed, was in a way for the individual to examine their focal point of their desire, love, and worship. Am I in love with and consequently desiring GOD because He is the Great I AM, or am I in love and desiring the good gifts of God (eternal life)? The gifts are good, simply because of the hand that gave them (and in loose sense they are an extension of His divine attributes), heaven is to be desired because God is there.
I heard on the radio driving to church today just one line of a song, (I couldn’t tell you the name if my life depended on it), for a split second I stopped zoning and my ears picked up on the line,….. “Lord forgive us for seeking Your hand only, and not Your face”…. it was as if God took His highlighter out and stroked over that line just for me. Am I seeking God just for the work of His hand, or am I seeking Him. To much to get into right now, but I really believe that the answer to that question will change how you live out your sanctification. Pushing past the spiritually young mind frame, of the, “just get me in the door” mentality, I can see how my growing desire for GOD, and not just His delivering hand in my life, is a foundation for living more purposeful and intentional for GOD.
My prayer life has grown from a list of problems I have, to an intimate conversation with my Creator who I love, and can’t fathom how I am allowed to approach Him even in prayer. My prayers are no longer is a list of problems that I dump on His lap, but a time where I ask God for a heart that can love Him more, and the ability to carry that love out, as I trust Him with the “pressing matters”. My obedience is no longer in fear, as orders given from a dictator, but now my obedience is in reverence and awe with purpose as an expression of my growing love to the Almighty God who has grafted me into the palm of His mighty hand.
Like all sin, this silence is rooted in the heart, and must be addressed at that level. A simple resolve to be more vocal is not adequate for our LORD and King, it must be an out pouring of the heart’s posture. If not, than one may be treading on the sobering grounds of giving lip service to God, but their hearts are far from HIM, [Matt 15:8, Mark 7:6: cf. Is 29:13].
Not a day should go by where we are not proclaiming all that the LORD has done and is doing in our lives, whether to fellow believers, or to the lost and dying world. Whether it is vocalizing the beauty of his “invisible attributes” [Romans 1:20] in His immense creation, or proclaiming the intimate loving hand of a Father that “bottles each tear” [Psalm 56:8] of His children. Our purpose as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession”….is to.…. “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” [1 Peter 2:9]. We are set apart to bring glory to Him and that comes by the way we live [1 Peter 2:12].
But it can’t stop there! Just flip through Psalms to see of the vocal exaltation of the Almighty, and as you read each Psalms that praises God, you can see quickly that this praise is an out-pouring of the writer’s heart. These psalms are not written by a Sunday morning, hand-raising, pew jumper, that lives in a chronic pattern of sin from Monday-Saturday. These psalms are written by men, who have walked by faith, who’s hearts are consumed by God, who have been delivered by God’s mighty arm, who not only have knowledge of God’s power, love, and faithfulness, but have been delivered by God’s power, love, and faithfulness. Their mouths are simply amplifying the sound waves that are being strummed on their heart.
This is where it has to come from and be dealt with. If you are in a similar season like myself, then humble yourself before the LORD and confess your sin of silence, and ask God for a heart that can know and love Him more. Then ask Him for the ability to carry that knowledge out.
I know I am dating myself, but to close I have to reference a singer from the early 90’s, Wayne Watson, he conveys my convictions about stopping the silence in my life and to open my mouth as often as I can to magnify God unashamed, for delivering me from the flames of hell “according to his great mercy”….and….”he has caused”…. me… “to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”…..[1 Peter 1:3-4]. A passage like that should turn each one of us into an Andrea Bocelli, for the Kingdom of God.
May God be glorified forever and ever!!!
The beasts of the field, the birds of the air
Are silent to call out your name
The earth has no voice and I have no choice
But to magnify God unashamed
Let the rocks be kept silent for one more day
Let the whole world sing out, let the people say
Almighty, most holy God
Faithful through the ages
Almighty, most holy Lord
Glorious, almighty God