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More From God or More Of God?
- I the Lord your God am a jealous God.
- —Exodus 20:5
Do you want more of God, or do you want more from God?
If you are like many people in the church today, you want more from God more than you want more of God. Wanting more of God is desiring Him for what He is in Himself. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). Wanting more from God is using Him to accomplish your goals. Wanting more of God is partaking of the “divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Pet. 1:4). Wanting more from God is seeking Him to get what you want. In his sermon “Your God vs. the Bible’s God,” Rolfe Barnard (1904–1969) stated that most people today use God “like a farmer uses a milk cow”—using Him for what they can get without regard to who He is.
There is a fine line between wanting more of God and wanting more from God. The two can easily overlap. What is more, if I pray for more of God, I am in fact asking for more from God; namely, that I might get more of Him from Him. Not only that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). It is not so easy to get to the bottom of our true motives. Why do I want more of God? Is it so I can get more from Him? What will more of God do for me? Why would I want more of God? Or should I want more of God?
With these questions asked, I want to make the case in this book that wanting more from God may be very different from wanting more of Him.
- Wanting more of Him means you want Him for His own sake; wanting more from Him means you want certain things that He might give you.
- Wanting more of Him is focusing on what He is like; wanting more from Him is focusing on what He can do for you.
- Getting more of Him is knowing His Word better and having more of His Spirit; getting more from Him is using Him to achieve your goals.
- Getting more of Him is getting to know who He is; getting more from Him is focusing on yourself.
- Getting more of Him is dignifying His will; getting more from Him is dignifying your agenda.
I remember querying the wisdom of an old friend—Lynn Green—many years ago for going to a church to get prayed for when the Toronto Blessing (as people called it) was beginning to flourish. His kind reply put me in my place: “I want all of God I can get.” I never forgot that. I thought, “A desire like that cannot be wrong.” I began to ask myself whether I wanted more of God so much that I would be willing to swallow my pride and go wherever I might get more of God.
I then asked: “Do I really want more of God? And do I want all of God I can get?” A. W. Tozer (1897–1963) said that we could have as much of God as we want! I have pondered that statement for many years.
The Crucial Question
Can we really have as much of God as we want? Good question. But it is not the most important question. The crucial question is, What does God Himself want for us? What does He want us to want? Does He Himself want us to have more of Him, or does He encourage us to request more things from Him? Or is more of Him given to us mainly so we can meet our personal needs, wishes, and goals? What if our goals are not consistent with His plans for us?
The question comes down to this: Why has God revealed Himself to us? It is, of course, primarily to save us and assure us that we will go to heaven when we die. But there is more. Every Christian is called to come into his inheritance. Some do; some don’t. Whether we come into our inheritance can be put in terms of whether we want more of God or more from God.
Foundation and Superstructure
Assurance of salvation is the foundation for getting to know God. Being on that foundation means we can then build a superstructure. The quality of our superstructure will determine our reward at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). As we shall see in more detail, Paul uses metaphors to show that the quality of one’s superstructure is based on the building materials (1 Cor. 3:12). The superstructure comprised of gold, silver, and precious stones—which survives the fire of judgment—is determined by whether we want more of God. The superstructure made of wood, hay, and straw—which burns up in the fire of judgment—comes by merely wanting more from God.
Since God has revealed Himself to us, He wants us to know Him as He is in Himself—and wants us to want more of Him. That is what this book is about.
There are, however, those who teach that God exists for us mainly to use Him. Such teaching is highly appealing. It often motivates people like no other. It appeals to our fleshly nature. Sadly many good people are consequently never taught to consider the possibility that God has revealed Himself to us so that we might know Him as He is—apart from doing things for us. Such thinking is hardly on their radar screen. Therefore, the premise that God is there that we might know Him and have more of Him—apart from doing things for us—is alien to some.
“Name It and Claim It”
A few years ago Louise and I considered moving from Hendersonville, Tennessee, into downtown Nashville, Tennessee. We found a lovely condo apartment and so wanted to live there. But there were obstacles.
To help us overcome the obstacles, a well-meaning Christian lady insisted that we go to the very building and pray. “If you want this apartment, you can have it. Claim it as yours in the name of the Lord,” she said confidently. She volunteered to go with us. “Let’s go to the building itself and pray there—and you will get it,” she promised.
I was not comfortable with this line of thinking, but, partly wanting to please this sincere lady and partly hoping that perhaps I was being stubborn and missing something that her theology offered us, we went to the ground floor of the building. She prayed, and we prayed with her, claiming the promise “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). It turned out that someone else got this beautiful apartment a day or so later, and we gave up our wish to move for the time being.
This lady was somewhat typical of those who hold to a “name it and claim it” theology, also known as “believe it and receive it” type of thinking. These phrases are fairly apt descriptions of certain teaching that suggests you can have almost anything you want from God. Name it—a better job, a new car, healing—then claim it. Believe it is yours, and you will get it.
This “prosperity gospel,” as some call it, attracts many people, and they travel for miles to attend annual conferences to hear this teaching expounded, based upon selected scriptures. As a result a lot of pastors—including certain television preachers—have made this their central focus and base this teaching on their interpretation of the Bible.
It often comes down to this: money and material possessions. God wants you to have these things, say these preachers. Some see this perspective in almost every verse in the Bible and even claim it as the main reason Jesus died for us. You can understand why this teaching is appealing.
The lady who prayed with Louise and me has been well taught. Her pastor greatly admires her. She is also highly intelligent—being a professor at a well-known university in Nashville—and she was adamant that God would give us that apartment.
What’s in It for God?
The “What’s in it for me?” age has become the warp and woof of many in the church today. The question “What’s in it for God?” hardly ever comes up. People don’t seem to care what’s in it for God. The very idea has not crossed their minds. Who cares?
I do. That is why I have written this book.
When God gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai 3,400 years ago, He identified Himself as a “jealous” God. He actually said, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exod. 20:5, emphasis added). The God who spoke like that was Israel’s God. That means He is our God. All of us are “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). As surely as you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the God of the Bible is your God. You belong to Him. And He loves you with a jealous care. I love it. Some people hate it. Why would they hate it? Is it not fantastic that almighty God loves us that much?
It also means, however, that He wants His will for us to be respected, honored, obeyed, and accomplished in us. God loves every person as though there were no one else to love, said Saint Augustine (354–430), and has plans for each of us as if there were no one else He has plans for.
To put it another way, God has an opinion on everything. Ponder that for a moment. God has an opinion on everything. The trouble is, we don’t always want His opinion! We are afraid it might be different from ours! True wisdom is to get God’s opinion—and follow it to the hilt.
Doxa, the Greek root word for glory, means opinion. God’s jealousy is also His glory. Glory is the total of all His attributes. His glory is His opinion. According to Paul, we are “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will . . . to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:11–12, emphasis added).
God wants us to know Him. According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing God. He said to His Father—who is our Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Some think God mainly wants us to use Him. There is a place for this. Of course there is. We shall see this clearly in this book. But it must follow getting to know God.
We must first get acquainted with the God of the Bible and esteem knowing Him more than we desire riches and personal glory. Some people introduce others to God on the basis that He wants us mainly to use Him to get what we want. Sadly they have bypassed the heart of God and are incalculably impoverished.
To know God is to affirm Him for being just like He is—including that He is a jealous God. So when we pray for more of God, we gladly accept Him as He is. It invariably means accepting not only His Word and His ways but also His will. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
Essential to knowing the God of the Bible is embracing the fact that He has a will of His own. It is not our task to change His will; it is our mandate to find out what His will is and accomplish it. Those who approach God mainly to change His will—even if they don’t mean to—show disrespect for His sovereignty. They want to change His will because they assume they have a better idea than God has.
God has a will of His own. For each of us. A plan. He is not looking to us for input. His Word—the Holy Scriptures—reveal His will. It is an unimprovable will. What He has in mind is infinitely better than anything we can come up with. You cannot improve on what He already has in mind. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). In a word, God only wants what is best for us. We are fools if we try to “upgrade” what God has in mind.
The ancient Gnostics were among the first major enemies of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gnostic comes from the Greek gnosis (knowledge). The Gnostics proposed a new way of knowing. It was dangerous teaching.
They wormed their way into the church (Jude 4). Their presence was like a cancer in the body of Christ. They flattered Christians, praising them for the good things they believed. But they told the Christians they would make their faith even better and that they should listen to them. Wherever they succeeded, the Christian faith was compromised and eventually disappeared. It is the devil’s ploy.
The Gnostics in fact hated the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Their promise to make the Christian faith “better” was a lie from the pit of hell. The truth is, the Christian faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) is unimprovable. It is perfect.
So too is God’s will. Those who try to improve on it are deceived and will deceive you too. God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Rom. 12:2). Don’t try to improve on it; accept it. Adjust to it. This is true wisdom.
- Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.
- —Proverbs 4:5–9
Wisdom has nothing to do with a person’s IQ, culture, breeding, or education. It is within reach of all of us. It begins with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). It’s as simple as that. If you and I will fear God, we will avoid a lot of trouble down the road. If we will fear the Lord more than we fear man, which is a snare (Prov. 29:25), we will obtain true wisdom. We will have no regrets in life. We will not miss what God has in mind for us.
That said, do note these words: “though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7, NIV). Whatever does that mean? Do we have to pay for it with money? That would mean the wealthy can get it quickly, but you and I may never get it! Good news! It does not cost us money. In that sense it is free.
But it does have a cost. It costs our pride and our reputation. It means sometimes having to look ridiculous, resisting temptation, abandoning personal plans, and giving up friendships and associations that are not God honoring. But the cost is worth it. The garland of grace on our heads is worth it all. It comes to all who esteem God’s will above the praise of people.
Getting wisdom—getting more of God—costs everything, and yet it’s free.
- Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
- —Isaiah 55:1–5
A few years ago I was reading my Bible on a plane from New York to Miami, Florida. When my eyes fell on the words of Moses in Exodus 33:13, a verse I have read countless times, I was sobered from head to toe. The funny thing is, it was a request to get something from God! And what do you suppose it was?
- If I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.
- —Exodus 33:13
Here is the background. God had let Moses know that He was pleased with Moses. The implication was that Moses was now in a bargaining position with God—that if God was pleased with him, Moses could now ask for anything and get it. And what was it that Moses asked for? Riches? Long life? Judgment upon his enemies? Personal glory or vindication? None of these. His request: “show me now your ways.” That is what he asked for—to know God’s ways.
We all have our ways. My wife knows my ways; I know her ways. My close friends know my ways. They may not admire all my ways, but these behaviors and habits mirror who I am.
God has ways. Like them or hate them, He has His ways. God is who He is, and His ways will not change (Mal. 3:6). His ways reflect Him as He is in Himself—His person, His character, His attributes. God lamented of ancient Israel: “They have not known my ways” (Ps. 95:10; Heb. 3:10). God wanted Israel to know His ways.
- When Moses was in a position to ask God for anything, he requested to know God’s ways.
- When Solomon was invited to ask for anything, he chose wisdom (1 Kings 3:9; 2 Chron. 1:10). God was pleased with this request.
After I had read Exodus 33:13 and also thought of Solomon’s request, I began asking different people, “If you could ask anything from God and knew you would get it and God would not hold it against you no matter what the request was, what would you ask for?” I got answers such as good health, long life, and to win the lottery. One replied, “That my daughter would come back to the Lord”—a godly request.
What would you ask for if you could have anything?
When Jesus could ask for anything, He prayed for you and me. We saw that He revealed what eternal life is—namely, that we would know the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Jesus has actually prayed for you and me. Our being Christians is a direct answer to His prayer in John 17. He wants us to know His Father and to know Jesus Christ Himself.
Paul’s deepest longing was this: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10, NIV). That is Paul’s way of saying he wants more of God.
It is therefore the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that we know God. He wants you and me to know His ways. He wants us to want to know His ways. This means He wants us to want more of Him. This also means He is willing to grant us more of Him.
Why was I sobered when I read Exodus 33:13 as if for the first time? It was because I had not asked for this myself. I have asked for other things, and perhaps they were not so bad—such as wanting a double anointing. But asking for a double anointing can be so selfish and self-serving. But when I saw what Moses wanted—and saw the person Moses was and the person God used—I felt utterly ashamed. I am ashamed now to admit that up until then it had not crossed my mind to ask to know God’s ways. I realized how little I knew God and began to pray that somehow God might make up for the previous fifty years or so I had not prayed like that.
Was it too late to get to know God’s ways? I asked. I hope not. For this is what I still ask for now.
I am making a big issue of seeking more of God rather than seeking more from Him. If after all that I’ve written, you still pray to receive more from Him, glory to God. The issue is receiving from Him what is pleasing to Him—never forgetting that He is a jealous God.
More of God is the title of this book because I hope it will appeal to people who genuinely want more of God. And I earnestly pray it will make you hungry for more of God and lead you to get more of God.
Those who hear me preach will know that I almost always begin a sermon with a prayer that the Holy Spirit will sprinkle those present with the blood of Jesus. I want to be as sure as I can that those who listen will receive what I say without any misunderstanding or misinterpretation and that I will be clear and simple. You might like to know that I also pray daily that the Holy Spirit will sprinkle the minds of all the readers of my books with the blood of Jesus. I trust therefore that God is answering my prayer for you as you read this book. I seek to be simple and clear. I so want you to want more of God and get more of God.
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