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The causes of retarded growth are many, but one is so universal that it may easily be the main cause, and that is failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God. The temptation to make our relationship to God judicial instead of personal is very strong. Believing for salvation has been reduced to a once done act that requires no further attention. The young believer becomes aware of an act performed rather than of a living Saviour to be followed and adored.
Christians are strong or weak depending upon how closely they have cultivated the knowledge of God. Paul devoted his whole life to knowing Christ. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. . . . I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . . . I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3 v8, 10, 14).
Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in personal experience. And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent at the holy task of seeking to know God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him.
A thousand distractions would take us away from thoughts of God, but if we are wise we will put them from us and make room for the King and take time to entertain Him. To neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it. God will respond to our efforts to know Him. The Bible tells us how, it is altogether a matter of how much determination we bring to the holy task.
Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve's confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day we have had a false understanding of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under us the ground of righteousness and driven us to reckless and destructive living.
Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy understanding of God. Certain sects, like the Pharisees, held that God was stern and austere, and managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality, but their righteousness was only outward. Inwardly they were “whited sepulchres,” as our Lord Himself told them. Their wrong understanding of God resulted in a wrong idea of worship. To a Pharisee, the service of God was a bondage which he did not love but from which he could not escape without a loss too great to bear. The God of the Pharisee was not a God easy to live with, so his religion became grim and hard and loveless. It had to be so, for our understanding of God will always determine the quality of our religion.
From a failure properly to understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today. The Christian life is thought to be a glum, unrelieved cross-carrying under the eye of a stern Father who expects much and excuses nothing. He is austere, peevish, highly temperamental and extremely hard to please. The kind of life which springs out of such wrong ideas must of necessity be but a feeble imitation of the true life in Christ.
It is most important to our spiritual welfare that we hold in our minds always a right understanding of God. If we think of Him as cold and exacting we shall find it impossible to love Him, and our lives will be ridden with fear. If we hold Him to be kind and understanding our whole inner life will mirror that idea.
The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed, and He will not condone sin, but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us exactly as if we had never sinned. His mercy will always triumph over justice toward His trusting children.
The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul. He is not sensitive nor selfish nor temperamental. What He is today we shall find Him tomorrow and the next day and the next year. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied. He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.
Unfortunately many Christians cannot get free from their mistaken ideas about God, and these ideas poison their hearts and freedom. They serve God grimly, as the elder brother did, doing what is right without enthusiasm and without joy, and seem altogether unable to understand the buoyant, spirited celebration when the prodigal comes home. Their idea of God rules out the possibility of His being happy in His people, and they attribute the singing and shouting to sheer fanaticism. Unhappy souls, these, doomed to go heavily on their melancholy way, grimly determined to do right if the heavens fall and to be on the winning side in the day of judgment.
How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising child who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.
Some of us are religiously anxious and self-conscious because we know that God sees our every thought and is acquainted with all our ways. We need not be. God is the sum of all patience and of kindly good will. We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still.
From: “The Root of the Righteous”.