The Glory of God 11

Acts 17:22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

The professing churches worship in ignorance if they do not know God. Ministers preach in ignorance if they do not know God. The prayers of those who do not know God are to an unknown God. The congregations worship what they do not know and so they worship in ignorance. This is far from being an unimportant matter, but is really a vital matter of the greatest importance and consequence. If ministers study everything but the character of God, or spend very little time on it, then they will preach very little on the character of God and the God that people must know will not be known.

It is utterly vital for churches to focus on knowing God and for their studies to cover the character of God. It is utterly vital for ministers to preach about the character of God and hold Him up and exalt Him to the people. It is utterly vital for the songs to praise and glory in the true God for who He is and not just for what we think He has done for “me.” It is vital to pray to the true God rather than pray to a God we have heard hardly anything about, or at least we have not heard enough of Him to rely on Him and to seek Him above all things.

The content of modern “sermons” is focused on the so-called needs of the people or seems to be aimed at making them feel good about themselves. Some of these so-called sermons may try to get people to behave a little better, but where are the preachers who are setting out the truth of God who is utterly sovereign and glorious in His being? Where are the churches who want to seek the Lord as the main thing? Where are the people who are weary of churchianity and want nothing but to be in His presence and taste of His glory for the sake of His name? Where are those who are weary of moralism and of religiosity and just want to hear Christ proclaimed in His glory? Where are those who want nothing but Christ and Him crucified? Where are those who want to hear the freeness of grace and of God who shows it for Himself and for the sake of His own name? Perhaps there are so few with that hunger is why there appears to be few if any churches who are like that.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are very deceptive. Our hearts trick us about who God is, about sin, & about conversion. When you hear something of God or about yourself, you will have an inner response. Scripture must interpret these things rather than our own hearts. We all have deep aspects to our hearts that are hidden to us. The study of Scripture will bring those hidden aspects up. We must humbly study the Word for the truth of God and ourselves, or we will study the Bible and twist it to conform to us. One of the great battles we have with our own hearts is to twist what Scripture teaches about God. We would prefer to have God like us in our fallen condition rather than to have to repent and seek Him for grace to be like Him.

A basic truth is that the study of Scripture always leads to conformity. We will always be working to conform the revelation of God to us and our understanding or we will strive to be conformed by it to God’s revelation of Himself in truth. One or the other will and must happen. One is hardening the heart; the other is conformity to the image of God in Christ in softening toward salvation or growing in holiness. We are never the same after a true meeting with God. Hearing a sermon and Bible study is more than just gaining knowledge; it is an encounter with the living God and His glory. When we hear a sermon and are confronted with the attributes of God that can be thought of as a direct encounter with the living God. He is not separate from His attributes. Oh how people need to be confronted with the living God and to know what it means to live and worship in His presence! It is only as we come to know about God that we will know God and learn to worship in true knowledge and love.

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