Monday Exposition Idea:
I Met God There
By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
Dr. John Ervin Huss (1910-1987), former pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, confesses,
It was so beautiful in Bellingrath Gardens I wanted to stay. I met God there. I can better understand now that if one goes to the Holy City, never would he have a desire to return to this world. Yes, I wanted to stay. God said, “John, I need you to preach My Word.” Yes, I realized again that life’s “Ridgecrest experiences,” and life’s “Glorietas” and visits to gardens has as their real purpose enduing of greater power to serve God in the hard places.
According to the LifeWay website, “Ridgecrest Conference Center, near Asheville, North Carolina, and Glorieta Conference Center, located near Santa Fe, New Mexico, have ministered to millions of guests during their many years of ministry.” For more information, click here.
Dr. Huss further recalls his memorable visit to the palatial home and garden paradise near Mobile, Alabama, envisioned by Mr. and Mrs. Walter D. Bellingrath in his book titled I Met God There (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1956).
Noting a sign in the gardens that simply reads, “Look,” Dr. Huss comments,
Sad to say, the sign is necessary. We can live in a paradise and never look. . . . People live near Niagara and have yet to see its awesome beauty. . . . We can have at our disposal the Word of God, and yet keep its pages closed and never see the Christ the Bible tells about.
Dr. Luke records Jesus Christ’s affirmation of His primary purpose, as He said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Paul the apostle explains, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). As a sinner, I met God there.
Jesus Christ taught with an astonishing authority attested by the response to His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Robert A. (Bob) Briner (1935-1999) writes about “Jesus Christ, the greatest of all teachers” in The Management Methods of Jesus. Mr. Briner explains,
Jesus was often called rabbi, which means teacher, and he taught constantly. His teaching brilliance is revealed in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which are full of his remarkable insights. His ability as a teacher is also demonstrated by the success of his pupils, his disciples as they carried out his plans and programs.
We read in Matthew 7:28-29, “28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Dr. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) contends in The Walk, Conversation and Character of Jesus Christ our Lord,
PREACHING has fallen low enough in our church and country sometimes, but it has sunk to such depths of imbecility as the preaching of the Scribes. Their own books, preserved to this day, prove to us that the New Testament plain-spoken as it is, has not told us the half of the scandal of the life and the teaching of the Scribes and the Pharisees. You would simply not believe the frivolities, and the superstitions, and the downright immoralities of the teaching and preaching of the Scribes and Pharisees, as all these things stand written in their own records.
We learn from reading the Sermon on the Mount and the other teachings of Jesus that He did not attempt to make men think wrongly about themselves. For example, we read in Matthew 7:21-23,
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Regrettably, some Bible teachers today try to make people think everything is okay regardless of what they believe or how they live. Jesus Christ shared the truth about man and the eternal truth from His Father in heaven. While the Sermon on the Mount is not the plan of salvation it carries important implications and imperatives for the believer.
From Matthew 6:25-34 we discover Jesus specifically speaks about the issues of life.
I. On living amid fears and failures, Jesus exhorts,
25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
. . . .
31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (Matthew 6:25, 31)
II. On looking at fowls and flowers, Jesus states,
26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:26-30)
III. On learning about faith and focus, Jesus explains,
32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matthew 6:32-34).
While reading the words of Matthew 6:25-34, as a saint, I met God there.
May each one of us truly be able to say first as a sinner and then many times as a saint, I met God there.