Part 1 Know the Lord

Chapter 1. The Study of God

The conviction behind the book is that ignorance of God—ignorance both of His ways and of the practice of communion with Him — lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of selfcontent, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.”

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of selfcontent, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.”

It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.

Chapter 2. The People who Know their God

We live with them as our ‘crosses’ (so we call them). Constantly we find ourselves slipping into bitterness and apathy and gloom as we reflect on them, which we frequently do. The attitude we show to the world is a sort of dried-up stoicism, miles removed from the ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’ which Peter took for granted that his readers were displaying. ‘Poor souls,’ our friends say of us, ‘how they’ve suffered’ — and that is just what we feel about ourselves!

When Paul says he counts the things he lost rubbish, or dung, he means not merely that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind: what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure?

Yet the gaiety, goodness, and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have known God are rare among us — rarer, perhaps, than they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known. Here too, it would seem that the last may prover to be first, and the first last.

A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.

One can know a great deal about godliness without much knowledge of God.

We have said that when people know God, losses and ‘crosses’ cease to matter to them; what they have gained simply banishes these things from their minds.

. . . the action taken by those who know God is their reaction to the anti-God trends which they see operating around them. While their God is being defied or disregarded, they cannot rest; they feel they must do something; the dishonour done to God’s name goads them into action.

It is simply that those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God’s truth and honor are being directly or tacitly jeopardized, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men’s attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it—even at personal risk.

Yet the invariable fruit of true knowledge of God is energy to pray for God’s cause—energy, indeed, which can only find an outlet and a relief of inner tension when channeled into such prayer —and the more knowledge, the more energy!

These were the thoughts of God which filled Daniel’s mind, as witness his prayers (always the best evidence for a man’s view of God):

It is those who have sought the Lord Jesus till they have found him-for the promise is that when we seek him with all our hearts, we shall surely find him-who can stand before the world to testify that they have known God.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” (No panic!) “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” (Courteous, but unanswerable—they knew their God!) “But even if he does not”—if no deliverance comes—“we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods.” (It doesn’t matter! It makes no difference!)

Chapter 3. Knowing and Being Known

Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.

The action of God in taking Joseph from prison to become Pharaoh’s prime minister is a picture of what he does to every Christian: from being Satan’s prisoner, you find yourself transferred to a position of trust in the service of God

The Jesus who walks through the gospel story walks with Christians now, and knowing Him involves going with Him, now as then.

His ‘voice’ is
– His claim,
– His promise, and
– His call.

Knowing about him is a necessary precondition of trusting in him (“how could they have faith in one they had never heard of?” [Rom 10:14 NEB]), but the width of our knowledge about him is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of him

All four, of course, were beavers for the Bible, which counts for far more anyway than a formal theological training.

‘Know’ when used of God in this way is a sovereign-grace word.

I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

Knowing about him is a necessary precondition of trusting in him (“how could they have faith in one they had never heard of?” [Rom 10:14 NEB]), but the width of our knowledge about him is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of him. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and am I glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough).

Chapter 4. The Only True God

Accordingly, we take the second commandment – as in fact it has always been taken – as pointing us to the principle that (to quote Charles Hodge) ‘idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the true God by images.’

Images dishonor God, for they obscure his glory

The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent

the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of his deity, his victory on the cross, and his present kingdom. It displays his human weakness, but it conceals his divine strength; it depicts the reality of his pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of his joy and his power.

We should not look to pictures of God to show us his glory and move us to worship; for his glory is precisely what such pictures can never show us.

we should not look to pictures of God to show us his glory and move us to worship; for his glory is precisely what such pictures can never show us.

Images mislead us, for they convey false ideas about God

Psychologically, it is certain that if you habitually focus your thoughts on an image or picture of the One to whom you are going to pray, you will come to think of Him, as the image represents Him.

Just as it forbids us to manufacture molten images of God, so it forbids us to dream up mental images of Him.

Imagining God in our heads can be just as real a breach of the second commandment as imagining him by the work of our hands.

We were made in His image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours.

God the Creator is transcendent, mysterious, and inscrutable, beyond the range of any imagining or philosophical guesswork of which we are capable; and hence a summons to us to humble ourselves, to listen and learn of Him, and to let Him teach us what He is like and how we should think of Him.

. . . the positive force of the Second Commandment is that it compels us to take our thoughts of God from His own holy Word, and from no other source whatsoever.

The mind that takes up with images is a mind that has not yet learned to love and attend to God’s Word.

Those who look to manmade images, material or mental, to lead them to God are not likely to take any part of his revelation as seriously as they should.

all man-made images of God, whether molten or mental, are really borrowings from the stock-in-trade of a sinful and ungodly world and are bound therefore to be out of accord with God’s own holy Word.

Some risks are not worth taking.

Chapter 5. God Incarnate

But in fact the real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here at all: It lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one—the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.

The Incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.

The story is usually prettied up when we tell it Christmas by Christmas, but it is really rather beastly and cruel.

The Word of God is thus God at work.

The Son of God is the Word of God. We see what the Word is; well, that is what the Son is.

He was not now God minus some elements of his deity, but God plus all that he had made his own by taking manhood to himself.

The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it.

When Paul talks of the Son as having emptied himself and become poor, what he has in mind, as the context in each case shows, is the laying aside not of divine powers and attributes but of divine glory and dignity, “the glory I had with you before the world began,” as Christ put it in his great high-priestly prayer.

The impression, in other words, is not so much one of deity reduced as of divine capacities restrained.

The Son appears in the Gospels not as an independent divine person, but as a dependent one, who thinks and acts only and wholly as the Father directs.

Though coequal with the Father in eternity, power and glory, it is natural to him to play the Son’s part and to find all his joy in doing his Father’s will, just as it is natural to the first person of the Trinity to plan and initiate the works of the Godhead and natural to the third person to proceed from the Father and the Son to do their joint bidding.

And therefore we conclude that, just as there are some facts in the Gospels which contradict the kenosis theory, so there are no facts in the Gospels which are not best explained without it.

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity— hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross.

For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.

Chapter 6. He Shall Testify

The heart of Christian faith in God is the revealed mystery of the Trinity.

we can only appreciate all that our Lord meant when he spoke of “another Comforter” as we look back over all that he himself had done in the way of love, and care, and patient instruction, and provision for the disciples’ well-being, during his own three years of personal ministry to them.

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the Cinderella of Christian doctrines.

Christians are aware of the difference it would make if, after all, it transpired that there had never been an Incarnation or an atonement. They know that then they would be lost, for they would have no Savior. But many Christians have really no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in the world.

Why, were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit there would be no gospel, no faith, no church, no Christianity in the world at all.

To the apostles, he testified by resealing and inspiring, as we saw. To the rest of us, down the ages, he testifies by illuminating: opening blinded eyes, restoring spiritual vision, enabling sinners to see that the gospel is indeed God’s truth, and Scripture is indeed God’s Word, and Christ is indeed God’s Son.

It is the sovereign prerogative of Christ’s Spirit to convince men’s consciences of the truth of Christ’s gospel; and Christ’s human witnesses must learn to ground their hopes of success not on clever presentation of the truth by man, but on powerful demonstration of the truth by the Spirit.

Part 2 Behold Your God!

Chapter 7. God Unchanging

The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place.

The link is God himself. For the God with whom they had to do is the same God with whom we have to do.

“He cannot change for the better,” wrote A. W. Pink, “for he is already perfect; and being perfect, he cannot change for the worse.”

This thought brings comfort as we enter into the perplexities of each day: amid all the changes and uncertainties of life in a nuclear age, God and his Christ remain the same—almighty to save.

Chapter 8. The Majesty of God

The Christian’s instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God. But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby.

We are poles apart from our evangelical forefathers at this point, even when we confess our faith in their words. When you start reading Luther, or Edwards, or Whitefield, though your doctrine may be theirs, you soon find yourself wondering whether you have any acquaintance at all with the mighty God whom they knew so intimately.

Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite and almighty. He has us in his hands; we never have him in ours. Like us, he is personal, but unlike us, he is great.

Right from the start of the Bible story, through the wisdom of divine inspiration, the narrative is told in such a way as to impress upon us the twin truths that the God to whom we are being introduced is both personal and majestic.

Representations of God like these are meant to bring home to us the fact that the God with whom we have to do is not a mere cosmic principle, impersonal and indifferent, but a living Person, thinking, feeling, active, approving of good, disapproving of evil, interested in his creatures all the time

A God whose presence and scrutiny I could evade would be a small and trivial deity.

Living becomes an awesome business when you realize that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.

Our thoughts of God are not great enough; we fail to reckon with the reality of his limitless wisdom and power.

It is as false as it is irreverent to accuse God of forgetting, or overlooking, or losing interest in, the state and needs of his own people. If you have been resigning yourself to the thought that God has left you high and dry, seek grace to be ashamed of yourself.

The need for us is to “wait upon the LORD” in meditations on his majesty, till we find our strength renewed through the writing of these things upon our hearts.

Chapter 9. God Only Wise

For us to be truly wise, in the Bible sense, our intelligence and cleverness must be harnessed to a right end. Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.

Wisdom without power would be pathetic, a broken reed; power without wisdom would be merely frightening; but in God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust

But we cannot recognize God’s wisdom unless we know the end for which he is working.

His ultimate objective is to bring them to a state in which they please him entirely and praise him adequately, a state in which he is all in all to them, and he and they rejoice continually in the knowledge of each other’s love-people rejoicing in the saving love of God, set upon them from all eternity, and God rejoicing in the responsive love of people, drawn out of them by grace through the gospel.
This will be God’s glory, and our glory too, in every sense which that weighty word can bear

What Abraham needed most of all was to learn the practice of living in God’s presence, seeing all life in relation to him, and looking to him, and him alone, as Commander, Defender and Rewarder.

We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly.

We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here.

But how are we to meet these baffling and trying situations, if we cannot for the moment see God’s purpose in them? First, by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the gospel of God requires of us, second, by seeking God’s face specifically about them.
If we do these two things, we shall never find ourselves wholly in the dark as to God’s purpose in our troubles.

Chapter 10. God’s Wisdom and Ours

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Chapter 11. Thy Word is Truth

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Chapter 12. The Love of God

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Chapter 13. The Grace of God

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Chapter 14. God the Judge

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Chapter 15. The Wrath of God

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Chapter 16. Goodness and Severity

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Chapter 17. The Jealous God

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Part 3 If God Be For Us—

Chapter 18. The Heart of the Gospel

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Chapter 19. Sons of God

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Chapter 20. Thou our Guide

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Chapter 21. These Inward Trials

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Chapter 22. The Adequacy of God

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