“In God, With God and By God”

7 November 04

Texts: John 8:38; Psalm 119:33-40; Philippians 3:8-15


            One of the greatest challenges of the Christian life is that of staying teachable.  Our text; John 8:38  "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.", is about the teachability of our Lord.  Teachability is the sign of a humble heart, a heart that doesn’t presume to think that it knows it all about anyone, any thing, any circumstance.  I was blessed to hear a portion of Dr. David Jeremiah’s radio ministry this past week.  I heard him talk about what he learned through his life/health crisis with cancer--I resonated with his learnings although I was dealing with heart disease.  He learned that God is in His circumstances, that God has promised grace to see him through, that there is not progress without pain and that we will, if we endure, be a changed person if we are willing to learn what God has for us to learn in it all.  Jesus remained teachable throughout His sojourn on this earth--what I have seen, what the Father shows me, I speak forth.  He expresses this various ways:


John 7:16  Jesus therefore answered them, and said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.


John 5:30  "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.


John 5:19  Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. John 5:20  "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.

If we want to be like Jesus, we should endeavor to remain teachable.[1]


                        My second example of a teachable spirit, after Jesus , is King David himself. Would that we all were as supple and teachable as King David!  King David is a fine model for modern manhood.  He is our spiritual better, or superior in many ways and he was intentionally, volitionally teachable.  He is a man bravely and beautifully inspired of God to praise God!  He is the inspiration of this sermon “In God, With God and By God.”  Beloved, the truth is that should we ever exhaust our earthly teachers, there shall remain for us a heavenly teacher--God instructs those who are close to Him and who ask for wisdom.  The proud dote upon their own knowledge; they are puffed up with their intelligence but they are not wise.  They are not like Jesus, Solomon, or David.  Psalm 119:33-40 deserves exposition on this theme of David’s teach ability.


Psa 119:33  Teach me, O LORD, the way of Thy statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.

Psa 119:34  Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, And keep it with all my heart. Psa 119:35  Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, For I delight in it.

Psa 119:36  Incline my heart to Thy testimonies, And not to dishonest gain.

Psa 119:37  Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Thy ways.

Psa 119:38  Establish Thy word to Thy servant, As that which produces reverence for Thee. Psa 119:39  Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Thine ordinances are good.

Psa 119:40  Behold, I long for Thy precepts; Revive me through Thy righteousness.


            Let’s consider  v.33: Teach me, O LORD, the way of Thy statutes.  This means teach me the daily usage and practicality of your laws, God.  This God inspired yearning is gifted to all who ask for it--it is the cry of all who are teachable.  I believe that there are four chief ways that a person  may remain teachable:


1.       By humbling asking for instruction.

2.       By considering the example of those, greater than ourselves, who have gone before us.

3.       By meditating on the benefits of divine teaching.

4.       By exposing ourselves to opportunities for instruction by those competent to teach.


What David is asking God to do for him is this: grant me knowledge of the way. I will walk in it.  David is very like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  What a great question.


            The next verse Give me understanding (v.34) is about what to do after grace grants understanding to the heart--that is, power to comprehend and the continuing power to learn.  That I may observe Thy law, And keep it with all my heart.  What David wants to do is to embark on the walk of beauty, intimacy and adventure--the quest of the God-fashioned heart, the heart of every man.  This is the man of God’s mission--to observe God’s law with the entire heart, to keep his spirit teachable.  In the days of chivalry, this would have been known as the behest of the king, or the bidding of his lady--both are compelling to the heart of the man.  For the sake of this behest, he would entertain vows of celibacy, purity and hardship.  A virtuous man rises to the level of what’s asked.  He longs to be committed, indeed he is committed to the performance of the behest so entirely that his life becomes a journey of focused energy--he spends all to obtain the prize, to achieve success in this matter of the heart.  This mission makes life thrilling and sacrifice worthwhile.  To be found faithful, or to die trying. . .that’s manly.  That’s the “let’s roll” of a brave, good man on a hijacked plane--sacrificing his all for others. For loved ones, for God.  No matter what the cost, in spite of all danger, good men and true thrill to the call of God on their lives.


            Why?  Because we are made that way.  We know intuitively that the joy is in the journey of being in God, with God and by God!  We learn as we go.  Sometimes we improvise.  It’s the journey, the odyssey of faith--the pilgrimage of peril--we are in love with an adventuresome God.  And that’s because life is created an adventure, an epic battle, a fight for what the good, true and beautiful and free.  Life demands courage, virtue, strength and above all faith--trust in the king who sent us on the errand, or the lady who waits at the end of our quest to welcome and reward us.  And of the lessons learned along the way, this one is critical--no one makes it on his own, no one succeeds in his strength alone.  No one.  There’s always, in the story, amazing provision--the miraculous, the wonderful.  There’s often companionship--other brave souls, squires, armor bearers and allies--some unexpected, but welcome.  There’s always costly doing and daring.  The adventure is not the same thing as entertainment.  It more likely an ordeal, a trial by fire, a transformation and change of being--and, at several points, men and women are prone to faint at what’s demanded of them.  Some even die the hero‘s death.  Throughout it all, the mission, the sacred purpose, or resolve defines and defends us.  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Yes, we have provision, companionship and great daring, but we must watch over our souls individually as if we were solely responsible although we know we are not!  And we must do so with utmost care, diligence and attention.  Just like our Master we are to perform to the letter all that we are commanded/commissioned to do so that, in the end, we can also say, “It is finished.” and “I have run the course set before me.”


            Faith, the first prerequisite, is basically trust.  We begin the adventure, make the journey trusting in divine grace to make us faithful to the utmost, completely brave and absolutely true.  We willingly embrace the path of obedience, sheer and  unlimited obedience, entire submission, and resolve to go forward undiscouraged, undeterred--pressing onward to the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:12-14)


            Secondly, we begin the journey of faith by claiming our soul liberty, by shaking off the shackles of sin.  The power of sin has so long oppressed us that we have lost our faculties of discernment.  Our spiritual eyes are so damaged that we must ask to be shown things so apparent to Adam and Eve.  We must ask to be healed.  And we must ask for the answer to the Sphinx’s riddles with full knowledge of the mortal consequences.  We know that we will die if we answer incorrectly, and we know that we will die if we do not ask at all!  We will succumb to the perils of the journey if we do not seek divine aid and succor--help, knowledge and the power to remain teachable.  There is survival value in being teachable.  The world through which we journey is in a dangerous state of complicated ruin--death and decay, betrayal, deceit and darkness have intruded themselves like magma in the igneous rocks all around us.  Everywhere we observe the basalt of folly and fool’s gold.  We face the choice: either to die in despair, or to cry out for grace to learn, light to see, life to undertake it all.  And those who do advance towards the goal.


            Thirdly, we must desire intensely that things of God!  Can you hear the heart cry of the redeemed?  Psa 119:35  Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, For I delight in it.   It’s not about being rich, famous or beautiful for all those things are vanity, they are passing away, they are ephemeral dust!  No, the cry of the redeemed is to be great in our love of God, great in obedience, and teachable.  To such persons, the astounding beauty of the Law of God is more fully revealed.  And, then, the staggering beauty of the Lamb overwhelms us, drenches us in wonder, and more and more praise arises from our smitten souls.  The whole vista of God’s redeeming work opens up like a grand, glorious sunrise--so breath-taking that our souls engage, our souls love God with all their quickened powers exclaiming, “Majesty, Glory, Honor and Praise be unto Him forever and ever!”

Isa 40:25  "To whom then will you liken Me That I should be his equal?" says the Holy One.

Isa 40:26  Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power Not one of them is missing. Isa 40:27  Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"? Isa 40:28  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. Isa 40:29  He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Isa 40:30  Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Isa 40:31  Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

This is the One we worship.  He inhabits the praises of His People.  Then wholeness comes, and inner unity is born in and amongst us again.  Life is indeed the gift of God. . .and we know certainly that we have not life if He does not grant it.  Lord, just as you have caused me to delight in you, to love your law, I now ask you to cause me to walk in it all.  Surely, then, you are the God who lives and the God in Whom we live and move and have our being.  So, our prayer is to be: take my love of holiness to the next level, take it from a distant admiration to the level of possession and practice.  I do not need a trophy righteousness, but a saddle-worn one.  I want truth, wisdom and teachability.  These will bring you glory and that will be glory for me.                                                                                                                                  Amen.

[1] Another teachable type is the student/son in Proverbs; namely, Solomon, who is being instructed by King David and Bathsheba: Hear the instruction of your father. . .forsake not the law of your mother.” Proverbs 1:8.  We typically gloss over the familial element here--this picture of a God-centered, God-directed, royal family.  This is where Solomon was tutored so as to ask for wisdom and knowledge.  We must learn not to overlook the obvious in our handling of the Word!  What is this “law of your mother”?  Well, I can tell you what it is not: it is not some new teaching, a feminist perspective or new age religion.  It is the law of godly direction by a faithful woman who had endured the chastisement, or severe discipline of the Lord (the death of her love child, the death of her husband and subsequent marriage to his murderer!  Suffering and repentance and consequences. Prov 1:22  "How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge? Prov 1:23  "Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.  And yet she did not become angry and bitter, her counsel in Proverbs is precious and sublime--it is the outcome of a teachable heart!  Was it hard, painful?  You bet, but it was beneficial because God was then and is now in the circumstances.  And what can we add to our knowledge of David who wrote the psalms--who was a great king, but whose greatest influence was not geopolitical, but inspirational?  He was the man after God’s own heart.  Or that we all had the heart of Solomon!  2 Chr 1:10  "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?" 2 Chr 1:11  And God said to Solomon, "Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king, 2 Chr 1:12  wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you."