Grant Marshall – AoE Ministries UK
Grant Marshall – AoE Ministries UK
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119: Bet 9-11
If one has good parents, by that I mean a father and a mother who are educators, encouragers and examples — people who have not given up when their marriage and task of bringing up children have exhausted them, brought them to breaking point; people who have endured the vow and have placed a high value of what they signed up for, then you are indeed blessed. Their hard work and devotion will not have been in vain and the blessing of strong marriage and family will be an inheritance. But sadly, not all children are blessed with a happy family home. I am sure that you might reflect with me that as a child I heard my peers talking about their fathers and how great they were, and how some of them wanted to emulate them and do what their fathers do. Today, I feel, and I know that there are many exceptions, that the encouragement given to the young goes something like this: ‘Do what ever makes you happy; that’s the most important thing.’ It is such a selfish statement. Putting yourself first and your own happiness, is a destroyer of relationships and breaks down the most fundamental part of our nature — communication.
David, when writing psalm 119, placed before him the prime objective in his life. His personal psalms reflected his struggles and victories (which were always given by God, by the way), the benevolence and faithfulness of God and power and wisdom of God’s words which were the foundation of his life. The wisdom of David was based on his communication with God, and through that communication, he was able to speak to God in a way that most people don’t.
We must understand that before we begin our relationship with God, we must have some concept of who He is, and the many facets there are to His nature and position. First, God is God:
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.
In this passage we are shown that God is sovereign — above the assembly of gods; He is powerful, mighty and to be feared. He is Judge and cannot be swayed or tempted. He is the Father of fathers, the Husband of husbands and is willing to show His favour to all. He is also the defender of His family — slow to anger — loving and persevering.
There are of course many more attributes to His nature, but the few given us in the passage of scripture, highlight David’s familiarity with God. David loved the Lord and wanted to reflect His heart in his life. That’s just like the little boys and girls who want to be like their parents. But how complicated the path of life can be. Despite David’s rise to power and fame, he knew his place before God and was often reminded that he was still a child in the eyes of Father God. As long as we maintain this kind of relationship, we are never truly free in the sense that we perceive it, because freedom does not mean that the chains are broken so that we can run unbound, but that we choose to be connected, still linked together, seeking the wellbeing and survival of each other.
Freedom is a very powerful concept. With it comes responsibility. To use it as a game card or licence to do as one wishes, places our foundations upon uncertainty. Freedom, it would seem, is given, and is not a right. It comes with conditions, constitutions and laws. How we use it can also come through choice and qualification. It is defined through regime and culture. However, David writes in psalm 119, that God’s Law is always before him. God’s precepts and Torah come first. He writes how he loves God’s word and how he desires to seek God’s ways. He puts God’s word and his relationship with himself first. It is this that qualifies him to do what God calls him to do. David does not want the praise or accolades of men. God qualified David by taking him from being a young shepherd boy, to ruling as the second King of Israel, superseding Saul in that David was chosen but Saul was requested.
So how do you view your position before David’s God. Do you look at what you have achieved, your qualifications and accolades? Do you look at your ministry and God given gift, or theological training and good works? Do these things sit in your curriculum vitae?
Everything we bring to God is wrapped up in a ribbon of complexity. We often fall, through our attempts to please God, even accessing the presence of God through means and contrivances that simply hinder our approach to Him, and His response. It is also often the case that we simply cannot hear from Him because of the rattle of pots and pans and the busyness of our lives. We even make conditions, finding excuses and spend far too long convincing ourselves and God of our own worthiness and unworthiness, whatever the case may be as to why He needs to pay attention to us.
My friends, we are born through the passageway of darkness and slide into the light and oxygen of this world from our incubated room. We are looked at, prodded, weighed and measured and identified and numbered among both the living and the dead of humanity. In our relationship with the world we become a liability. Our education or lack of it, our understanding and observance of our laws, our jobs and careers and our parenthood, married or single bring us status in society. From the time of our birth, God places our wellbeing into the hands of others. We are held in responsibility by the nurses who deliver us; from their hands we are placed into our parents’, from them to our educators and from them to our employers. However, though this may seem the natural progression of things, we of course, are placed into the hands of government. To them we are simply one of billions of numbers. Our concept of freedom, all of a sudden, begins to take on a different perspective. How far will our qualifications take us now?
God does not look at what qualifies us on earth. He is not impressed one iota. He looks at His book of lineage and sees if we are written in it. This is His concern. We are not trinkets to be placed on shelves or portraits to be hung in frames. He does not look at our certificates and achievements. He looks for the mark, the identifier — the blood of Christ. It lies upon the head of all His children. He has no partiality or fondness for anyone. The righteousness imparted to us through Jesus is the only qualifier. God looks at us and sees His work, not ours.
He looks to see how His work has grown in us and how we have used His precious gift. This still does not qualify us; it only goes to showing Him our reward.
The man who seeks elevation and reward on earth, shall receive it, but he will certainly not receive it in the end, but the man who looks to God and places His kingdom and law first, will rejoice in his reward.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism
Romans 9: 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Can we stand in the presence of God in our own strength? No! Because God can take it from us in an instant. Can we sing a hymn to God in our own breath? No! Because God can remove it from us in a moment and we will be none the wiser. We are purely vapour. Both our strength and breath must come from Him. Our purposes must be understood and our pursuits must be toward His and our goal. Therefore, our arrogance and ignorance must be addressed. The reality of the modern church viewpoint approaches God with familiarity and on its own terms. The doctrine of grace is aberrant and wishy washy. We must understand that God’s temple is not built by human hands. He does not exist in buildings, statues, ritual or tradition. He gives no consideration to those who think He should think like them, but considers those who think like Him and reflect His image. He exists and resides in those who truly love him and desire and consecrate their lives to Him. The word of God must be written upon their hearts. His word and law transcend the page and live and breathe in the world these consecrated ones inhabit.
Our perception and theorisation of who God is, what He does and how He does things, have become over complicated and complex. Knowledge has piled upon knowledge just as sin piles upon itself. They are closely related. We can never understand God. Fundamentally we are not meant to. We were created to live and fellowship with Him in the understanding that He is GOD and that He is loving and faithful, wanting only the best for us. We must simplify our approach — our understanding. We must regress to the childlike state as one who is born again; to be like a child who follows and adheres to the guidance of their parent. We must therefore grow accordingly and mature, for this is the hope of every parent. Our trust can be placed in God only, and the abilities and nature He has given us.
I look at my grandchildren playing together. They find joy in each other and being part of a beautiful family. Their minds are fixed on the games they play and create among themselves. They bring innocence and joy to their parents. Of course they will grow, and that playfulness will deplete in various degrees as responsibility and personal identity struggles to make itself known. Soon questions and resistance will arise as they perceive their own concepts of freedom. Soon adults will take on an alien persona as they no longer understand their needs and what they are going through. The voices of influence will be their teachers and peers. Sadly in this day, it will come from social platforms and the trends that force their way through their various streams of their connectivity.
How much like them are we, the children of God, I mean; and yet we so quickly turn to Him when we have erred and need His help. In such times we realise of course, that the alternative pathways we have taken, have made our corridors into obstacle courses.
Simplicity is the key. Complexity is a fruit of knowledge. We must turn to God like a child. We must regard Him as Father, disciplinarian and teacher. In following this path and making it the only one, we receive the reward of our salvation.
We must remove the debris, the clutter, the dusty books and coaching manuals that sprout all ideas and recipes of success, and turn to the only way possible. One day this earth will pass away and anything that is not of God will be burned up in fire. Our books will make good tinder.
Let us place the Bible, the sacred text in open space — in pride of place in our homes, so that the word of God can permeate the atmosphere of our world and become the oxygen of our life. Let us read it when we sit and when we stand. Let us talk about it when we walk together and may our worship be filled with it. Let us stop for a moment and cast our eyes over its words so that God can change what needs to be changed in us, so that we can become the work of God for this time and this space.
The Bible is not an inanimate object that should be left on the shelf or disrespected as some kind of stand for something to be put on it. The word of God must sit upon everything else. Putting God in His place puts us in ours. We must come and sit at the feet of the Master. Jesus came to teach the Way and the Truth. In these we have life and life eternal. His word is not debatable; His commands are not good ideas. Any argument with Him is futile.
Finally, let us consider this: the first human beings had no need of knowledge until they ate from the tree. Until then God was all they needed. Our pursuit of knowledge has brought nothing but decay and destruction to the world He created for us. The way to God’s heart is what fallen man pursues. It is built into him. God has made the way clear. We just have to walk in it.
So, what qualifications does a child have? It has none to speak of except that it is a child.
Luke 18: 15 And they were bringing the infants also to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples having seen, were rebuking them.
16 But Jesus, having called them to Him, said, “Permit the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of the such is the kingdom of God. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not at all enter into it.”