During the renaissance, Michelangelo sculpted The Moses. A fine work that stood almost 8 feet tall carved entirely in marble. It took two years for Michelangelo to conclude his work on it. One look at the art-piece and you would know, something is very wrong about it. The Moses has horns! The story goes that back in the day, Michelangelo heard in a sermon and read in a book that Moses, after receiving the Ten Commandments had “horns coming from his face”. Someone misunderstood Hebrew scripture and translated a word wrong. So instead of putting a halo on top of Moses, or some representation of glory shining from his face, Michelangelo decided to put horns. And thus, today, the statue of Moses has two horns. You’ve got to feel bad for Moses! Many other renaissance artists have done the same thing Michelangelo did- simply because, you know, Michelangelo cannot be wrong.
Drawing a parallel, very often, we are like Michelangelo. We draw horns because someone else said so. Many times we are like the Jews who said “The God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”. We need to step up and be like David, who writes in Psalm 63, (in the desert of Judah- while he is thirsty), “Oh God, you are MY God!”. He knew God on a personal, intimate level. We are extremely dependent on our preachers, parents, mentors, scholars, writers and friends for the belief system that we develop in life. There is nothing wrong in this. This is essential. Sermons are good. Theology is good. Theology, however, is not what God primarily desires. God has enough and more of theologians. What God wants today, as Tozer writes, is a saint! What God wants today is a man after His hearts. God wants realists! God has enough and more of inferential Christians who know God because of things he has done. God is so much more! As James writes, it is one thing to know God. Even the demons know him. What we need to do is pursue Him. Become intimate with Him. I may be wrong, but I believe that many young men and women in our generation, especially Christians (probably even old) fall to shallow love, lust and infatuation just because we have not yet tapped into the love of God. I believe that if we truly understand even a miniscule percentage of the absolute love of God, we cannot but fall in love with Him. So what does it take for a man to understand this misunderstood Father?
- Who do we need?: We need Him! As Tozer suggests, we cannot “understand” or “pursue” God without Him pursuing us first. Christ says, “No man shall come unto the father but by me”. Hence the desire to know and pursue God comes from God. Without Him, there is no desire. Forgetting this can be fatal. It can instill a deep sense of pride in our hearts. I know that the year 2016 marks Abba’s loudest knock on my heart. He wants me to know Him more this year. He wants me to pursue Him. Seldom have I heard Him speak this loud. I know that the cross demands my life encompassing pledge of allegiance. The cross is God’s cry for my loyalty. The cross demands that I love God and pursue him with all my heart. This is why I want to pursue God as David pursued Him. (Psalm 63:8 : My soul followeth hard after thee, thy right hand upholdeth me (KJV)). Not because of me, but because of Him. Because His right hand upholdeth me!
- What must our attitude be? I do not remember who said this, but I remember reading this somewhere about finding contentment in a walk with God. “There are two ways to be content- to accumulate more and more and find contentment at each milestone, or on the other hand- to desire less”. As Christians, we need to step up. We cannot be stagnant Christians. We need to desire more, not forgetting that desiring God comes from God. And for that, we need to be connected to Him. Our pursuit requires His strength and His love. It is also important that we do not be misled by our own hearts or own strength. “He that trusts his own heart is a fool!”(Prov 28:26). It is important that in our pursuit of God, we rely entirely on Him. The pursuit, knowledge, desire and love of God comes from God.
- Humility and Prayer: As much as Christ was God, he was also –man. How was it even possible that he never sinned? How did he pursue the cause of the Father? How was he so obedient? Paul writes, “He humbled himself to the point of death (Phil 2:8)”. Christ is the ultimate model of humility and obedience. Every good virtue was perfect in Him. I believe that because Christ was perfectly humble, he was also perfectly obedient, and hence, perfectly perfect. I am sure that Christ found his source of humility in His prayer life. His moments of weakness where he cried, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from me!” were his moments of ultimate strength! Prayer breeds humility. Humility makes way for the grace of God. God’s grace crafts our obedience. It is THAT obedience which is greater than Sacrifice! The bible says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. It was because He had the grace from the Father that He was able to be obedient. Must we not rely on God’s grace just for the forgiveness of sins, but also for the salvation from sins? Salvation and forgiveness are two distinguishable, separable things. God’s grace has the power not just to forgive, but to also save. Hence our only ally in finding a consistency in our pursuit of God is humility birthed from prayer. Prayer; as CS Lewis said, “I pray because the need flows out of me, all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me!” A praying man is a humble man. I really like the conversation that Christian has with Faith, in the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian meets with Faith, who walked in the Valley of Humility. Faith tells him that in order to know God, he had to abandon a number of friends, namely, “Pride, Arrogance, Self-conceit, Worldly-glory”. In the valley, Faith reminded himself “Before honour is humility, and a haughty spirit before a fall”, and quotes also this, “That which is highly esteemed among men, is had in abomination with God.” Without being humble, we cannot pursue God. We may manage something for a day or two, but it takes humility to bring forward the best in us consistently.
- Embracing discomfort: We must not forget that it is not easy to pursue God. To seek God’s heart calls for us to step out of our comfort zones. Someone once said “It is not for eagles to walk like chicken. “ After Joshua, the Israelites became like Sunday Christians- Without order, consistency and discipline. Every once in a while, they would have a judge come and save them from their enemies. Almost instantly, they would fall to sin and disobedience, and earn the wrath of God. I have learnt from my life that if we are selectively obedient, we are comfortable Christians who have a habit of selective hearing. We are Christians with “itching ears (2 Tim 4:3)”. If we look to the book of Judges, we see a crazy trend of “selective obedience”. An obedience that is shallow and comfortable. An obedience that says “Yes”, only when it is easy. An obedience that is misled, numb, and apathetic and yet believes it has found peace with the situation and has handled the situation well in the absence of prayer. An obedience that eagerly listens to the Christ who said “Oh come ye all weary and heavy laden for I shall give you rest” but stays numb to the Christ who said “Take up your cross and follow me”. That is why prayer is important. Prayer is that one spot where the Spirit of God battles with you and makes you sensitive to your infirmities and takes you to a point of surrender where you understand that that God alone can help you overcome! Oh, if we only pray like Christ prayed at Gethsemane, as it is written in Luke 22:44, if we can sweat it out in prayer! Obedience that is birthed out of a fervent prayer life can have no limit in potential. In a moment of ultimate weakness, Christ, after praying said, “Father, not My will, but Yours!” O Hallesby writes, “You do not need to be a saint to pray. Prayer is meant for the sinner as much as it is meant for the saint. The sinner needs it more.” Prayer-Humility-Grace-Obedience-Discipline. In that order.
- Where do we start?: Christ before his ministry, spent 40 days and nights in the desert praying, fasting, and communing with God. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes of his travel to Arabia, where he stayed for three years, alone- It was only after these three years that he returns to Damascus, travels to Jerusalem and starts his epic work. The best of good works are birthed out of an intimacy that one finds with God. Jesus invested into it. Paul invested into it. Paul’s three years with God, in the desert made him the man for the job. The blinding miracle was when he saw God, the removing of scales was when He accepted salvation. But, above all, it was in the secret place, in the quiet of the desert that he knew God- and learnt humility and obedience. Philip Yancey speaks about how he set himself apart for a week in the mountains, isolating himself from family, friends, churches, books and spent time unlearning theology and learning to find intimacy with the Father with just the Bible in hand, knees to the ground, and how it benefited him. It takes effort. Nothing in the world is free except salvation. It will not be easy to set aside all other priorities, but it certainly is worth it. Although I am not sure how theologically sound the practice is, I have read that Thomas Kempis had a daily ritual where he would spend two hours in isolated silence. Apparently, it benefitted him much in his personal walk with God as it was during these two hours that he would just focus on listening from God. Maybe that would be a good place to start. Read your bible and take a walk focussing on embracing wholeheartedly, the entirety of what God spoke.
So, back to the first question, What if the God we know today isn’t the God He is in the first place? What if we are like all those renaissance artists who sculpted and painted Moses with horns just because Michelangelo justified it? What if we have sought comfort in a knowledge of God that is faulty? What if we have not really learnt to be humble but live in a façade? What if we have misunderstood the Father?
As Tozer writes, “Our God waits to be wanted”. It is my heart’s deepest desire that 2016 marks the beginning of a race, an eager, hungry race, where I pursue God as he pursues me and that we meet midway as did the Father meet the prodigal and find love like never before! May my heart be steadfast and seek to love God. May I seek to be a saint first, a theologian next. May my heart never be puffed up with knowledge! May I walk the valley of Humility as did Faith walk and disengage all my pride and worldly glory as I set my eyes to the Ultimate Prize!
The Bible (Psalms 63, Hebrews, Galatians, Luke, 2 Timothy, Habakkuk)
The Jesus I never knew – Philip Yancey
The Pursuit of God- AW Tozer
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus- Nabeel Qureshi
Loving God- Zac Poonen
The Imitation of Christ- Thomas A Kempis
The Pilgrim’s progress- John Bunyan