USING OR BEING USED BY THE LORD?
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
How shall I say this? It is so basic an idea that I am sort of overwhelmed. As I was musing last night, the following passage came to me:
Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover? (Song of Solomon 8:5)
“Leaning on her Lover”! I thought, “That’s me. I want to live by the Life of the Lord Jesus so that His thoughts are my thoughts; His words are my words; His actions are my actions. I want to hear as He is hearing; see as He is seeing; feel as He is feeling. Amen.” Then my mind went back to a booklet I wrote several years ago: A Wife but not a Queen. Same thought: “Leaning on her Lover.” “Living by His Life” “A Wife but not a Queen.”
Queens often are self-contained—rulers in their own right. The only queen in the New Testament is Babylon. King Jesus’ Queen is an integral part of His own Body, not a self-willed independent personage.
Can you get a feeling for what I am talking about?
Either we are attempting to use God for our purposes, or we are waiting continually on Jesus to find out what He wants from us. It is as simple as that.
I have been a Christian for many years. I seldom have heard of ministers who waited on Jesus all the time, who had no program of their own. Oh, they speak about being used by the Lord. But when you listen to them, they are seeking to use the Lord to accomplish what they believe to be the Lord’s will. They haven’t actually heard from the Lord, but they are under the impression they are doing His will.
When in Bible school, I heard and read about many “great men and women of God,” how they prevailed in prayer until God did what they wanted. “God in the hands of a man.” This sort of thing. “If we will pray and fast, we can get God to do so and so.” And “when praying for the sick, we must never say, ‘Your will be done,’ because that is an admission of unbelief.” Can you imagine? They say the strongest prayer of all is an admission of unbelief!
Something is upside down here. Is God running the program or is He not? Is Christ building His own Church or is He not?
How can we say “Our work is God’s work,” unless we are under the impression that God cannot speak to people today as He used to; or else we actually have heard from God, which I believe is not always the case.
There is a saying today that the Bible is Jesus speaking. This is nonsense. Because the Bible says we are to preach the Gospel to every person, this does not mean we are to go down town, stand on an orange crate, and speak into a microphone saying, “Believe on Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” If we did do that, without hearing from the Lord, many Christian people would approve of our actions.
Could it be that we were not in Christ’s will if we did that? The fact is, it most likely was not Christ’s will for us to do that. So the Bible is not Jesus speaking. That is the attitude of some religionists, but it is not true.
The Bible is a guideline for us until we are able to hear accurately from the Lord.
So what are we do to? We are to present our body as a living sacrifice so we can prove the will of God for ourselves.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. (Romans 12:6)
I am a pastor and I encourage prophesying in our assembling. But we must learn when to prophesy. We do not just break out when we have a stirring. We must learn to pray for the Lord’s timing. Otherwise we cause confusion. Sometimes a prophecy given to us on a Sunday morning is not to be given until the following Sunday morning. Obviously, to properly develop and use a gift of prophesying requires much practice and looking to the Lord.
“As many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God.”
Let me return now to the central idea of this essay. Are we to use the Lord, or are we to be used by the Lord?
Give some careful thought to this. Is the Bible a record of people using God or God using people?
What we call “stepping out in faith” is not faith at all. It is presumption. Each Christian institution has goals of its own. People make sacrifices in order to reach those goals. Sometimes much good is done in this manner. But how many Christian institutions have as their goal to listen to the Lord until they know what He is saying? This is difficult because Christian institutions are made up of people, and people want to be successful. Success means large numbers of people. Therefore, they put programs in place that hopefully will influence many people!
The Book of Hebrews tells us about God speaking in time past to the fathers, and today by the Lord Jesus. It is not that men sought God, it is that God sought men.
The Bible is a record of God using individuals, not large numbers of people. Often even the man’s wife is not mentioned. This is because God creates His own witnesses. In order to make a witness of Himself, God must tear that individual apart until his personal ambition, his own life we might say, has been crucified. Then he is ready for God to speak through him. God does not do this to two people at a time, only to one selected person. It is to him who overcomes, not to them who overcome.
Sometimes God places a burden on someone to pray about a specific matter. If that person is obedient, the prayer will be answered. The very best prayers are those God gives us to pray. “Ask of Me, and I will give you.” This sort of thing.
I realize the Bible encourages us to ask that we may receive. And it absolutely is true that if we ask anything in Jesus’ name, God will answer. Sometimes not right away, and on occasion God will lead us to modify the prayer so we are praying for what God actually wants and not what we think God wants.
We are advised to persist in prayer. Often this is the proper attitude to take. But as we grow in the Lord, He gently leads us away from our striving to obtain what we think God desires. He tears us down, as I said previously, until we learn we are not to attempt to use God to get what we think God desires. Rather, we are to flow with God’s desires until God gets what He wants.
This is a total reversal of our approach. It is to live by Christ’s will, Christ’s Life, rather than to keep trying new formulas to see if we can move God to march at our command. We do not use spiritual formulas to solve our problems. We call on the Lord directly and request His assistance.
This is true if we are praying for our personal needs of desires, or for something we believe to be important in Gospel work.
To “let go and let God have His wonderful way”—that is the best procedure.
Think for a minute about the Apostle Paul. When reading about Paul, do you get the impression that Paul was attempting to use God to get what he thought God wanted? Or was Paul a servant of Christ who through much suffering followed Christ and worked as Christ directed him?
For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city. (Acts 18:10)
How about Mary? Was she praying to be the mother of the Son of God? Or did Mary, in faith, obey what was told her? Can you see the difference?
When I was in Bible school in the late 1940s, I was challenged to “do great things for God.” I read about Hudson Taylor, Dwight L. Moody, C. T. Studd, and others who had “done great things for God.” The proposition was presented that the heathen were sliding into Hell every day because no one cared; no one would go forth and tell them about Jesus so they would not go to Hell. This in spite of the fact that the Bible does not present Jesus as our pass out of Hell but as the Author of the Life of God in place of our dead sinful nature.
The only time Hell was mentioned by the Lord Jesus was in the context of sinful versus righteous behavior, never as the place we go if we do not believe in Jesus.
Am I accurate in saying this?
Well, being a conscientious person, the thought that people were sliding down into unbelievable suffering because I was too indifferent to do anything about it caused me to be upset in my mind, as one might imagine. So I prayed about this. One time when I was ready to dash off to Tibet wearing only my sweater, the Lord spoke to me and said, “I love you.” There was no going down to the train station and having a stranger come up to me and say, “Here is your ticket to Tibet.” I read somewhere that that had happened to a missionary. Well, I finally said, “Lord, if you do not care enough to use your power to save these millions of savages from Hell, then I am not going to worry about it. Either you know what You are doing or you don’t. In any case, I do not know what to do about it.”
I also told the Lord at that time that if He would tell me what to do, I would do it, if He supplied the grace. Kind of reckless, I guess, because the prevailing belief at that time was that if you would do the whole will of God, you would suffer endlessly. So I kept “looking at my feet,” meaning I lived one day at a time without thinking too much about the future, or about the men, women, boys, and girls sliding down into the flames because they had not accepted Christ when they never had heard of Christ. So ridiculous!
While I was still in Bible school, Jesus told me that the Jewish Day of Atonement would be fulfilled as His Church was brought into Divine judgment. I did not really understand that but I felt it was the Lord.
Brother Fullerton, a distinguished Assemblies of God elder, came to the Bible school and taught us about the “rest of God.” The local ministers did not receive him warmly, but our school president, J. O. Dowell did. There was kind of an uproar at the school that resulted in five of us students, all veterans of World War II, being brought on the carpet for heresy. This completed my tenure at Berean Bible school.
Somehow Brother Fullerton’s emphasis that Christ was in us stuck with me. Over a period of twenty-five years or so, the idea of our being the temple of God developed in me. I was working as a public-school teacher and principal. While still teaching at the fifth-grade level in Walter Hays elementary school in Palo Alto California, I began to write. I have been writing ever since, more than forty years of attempting to explain the “rest of God,” the significance of Christ being in us rather than just with us.
Also I have been pressing the idea that the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement has commenced, and that God’s household is being judged.
Being in the “rest of God” does not mean we do nothing. It means that we cease from our own works and obey what Christ is telling us personally to do. We are not to be “an empty vessel” and wait until the Holy Spirit “moves us.” This is the trap of passivity. Rather we are to actively look to Jesus at all times day and night so that we always are certain that we are in the center of God’s will for us. We do what God directs us to do. We do not set out to create our own salvation. We read our Bible each day and meet with fervent Christians on a regular basis, as possible.
While I was musing, early this morning, this thought came to me: “The question is whether we are supposed to be using God or God is supposed to be using us.” Are we to work for God or work with God?
You can see how this concept originated in my mind at the time that I was fretting over whether or not I should cast aside all practical considerations and go to some foreign land and save the natives from Hell, or whether I should keep on looking to Jesus, living a day at a time, and letting God do His own business.
That really is the question isn’t it? Is God active in saving souls or has He left it up to us while He concerns Himself with the angels? Has the spreading of the Gospel been left up to us, or is God directing the work of the Kingdom to the smallest detail?
What do you think the Christians institutions will roar with one voice? “THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SPREADING THE GOSPEL HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US!” Is this what the Bible teaches? Or rather, does it state that God has given gifts to each believer according to God’s will, and we are to regard ourselves soberly according to the faith that has been given to us?
Is the flavor of the New Testament that Christian people are to go out and “bring them in,” or is the flavor that we should serve Christ by listening to Him and doing His will? Is the accent on putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature, or is it on personal evangelism?
There is very little said in the New Testament about the believers going forth to “save a lost and dying world.” So what is the response of people who do not listen to Jesus? They make personal evangelism a prime emphasis of Gospel teaching.
There is much said in the New Testament about personal holiness and righteousness, beginning with the Gospel accounts and ending with the Book of Revelation. So what is the response of people who do not listen to Jesus? They invent a doctrine of “grace” which serves as an alternative to growth in godly behavior.
I know we are not stupid, so either we are wilfully perverse (which I do not believe) or else the meaning of the Bible is hidden from us so we cannot see what is written plainly.
Well, our emphasis on personal evangelism has resulted in church members who know little or nothing about their own personal gifts and ministry. In addition, they are tone-deaf to the call for “going into the highways and byways.” They have heard this all their Christian lives and have never had the grace or the desire to do anything about it.
Our emphasis on lawless grace has had the predictable result of Christian people who understand little or nothing about what Peter terms “the way of righteousness.” They have “accepted Christ” so that when they die they will go straight to a mansion in Paradise. They are sublimely ignorant of the Divine war against evil. This is the result of today’s Christian preaching.
The secular society of America is falling into a swamp of immorality because of the dimming of the moral light of the Christian churches. Abortion, the molestation of little children, homosexual behavior, the worship of money, the increasing demonic activity as God’s Presence leaves our shores, is leading directly to moral and physical chaos in America.
Evaluate the validity of what I am writing. Much blood shall be shed in our country, and the end result will be the reducing of the influence of the United States until it no longer is a leader in world affairs.
The proper response to the prospect of this massive disaster lies with an individual Christian, or two or three individual Christians. God is looking for believers who will set aside their own lives that the will of Christ may be done.
You may exclaim, “An individual Christian! How ridiculous in the light of the magnitude of the problem!” Not at all. One American Christian who will give his or her life to wait on Christ and perform His will perfectly and in detail will make an enormous difference in the destiny of our country.
“I looked for a man”!
I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:30)
Will you be that man or woman?
(“Using or Being Used By the Lord?”, 3910-1, proofed 20210917)