By Dr. Gene Scott
(Preached January 9, 1977)
In 1st Peter 1:8, please underline these words: “Whom having not seen, ye love.” We will come back to the context later, but initially, I want us to concentrate only on these words. A helpful method of mining the depths of God’s Word when you study is to take a verse and read it over and over again, but each time you read the passage, circle a different word. Force yourself to pause and look at the verse from the perspective of that one word, and you will find that this book grows richer as you study. It is so easy to read God’s Word and race along through it, but that isn’t the way you get the depths of its meaning.
Let’s start with that first word, Whom. Immediately, the attention is on a Person. The heart of this relationship with God comes out of the Hebrew tradition, culminating in what Christ brought and left with us in the Holy Spirit. All through this book, if there is any one thing that comes out loud and clear, it is that Christianity involved a very personal relationship with a living and very real Person.
God said, “let us make man in our image,” and in the cool of the evening God would come down and Adam would walk and talk with God (Genesis 1:26, 3:8). In essence, man’s sin was that God was not enough; Adam and Eve had to have the fruit of the forbidden tree. The consequence of their sin was separation, to be driven out of God’s presence; and this entire book of revelation is God’s covenant work to bridge the gap. It is God seeking to break what Paul calls a barrier between us and God because of our sins (Ephesians 2:14-15). For sin comes death, and “without holiness no man will see God” (Hebrews 12:14).
God is the source of life. To have communication with God is to have contact with life. The consequence of the first man’s sin was to place mankind out of fellowship with God thereafter. It was the beginning of death, and mankind has been dying ever since. God has been trying to bridge the gap and find a way within the frame of His integrity to establish the relationship with man again. All of these covenant plans, altars, sacrifices, and methods of contact in the Old and New Testaments are God writing the terms whereby we can have contact with Him again. God is not a beggar; He is not desperately in need of meeting our terms. But because He wants a relationship and the fulfillment of the enlargement of His family that He intended when he created man, He has been trying to get us together again. You meet the terms of His covenant, and the relationship is reestablished. He writes every jot and tittle. It is a lost world that He came seeking to find, lost out of His presence.
It is a Person that we follow. All through God’s Book the giants of faith are those who separate from the crowd because they make contact with God as a living Person. It is testified of Enoch that he “walked with God: and was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). It is interesting that he lived 365 years. When Enoch was 65, he had a son; he named his son Methuselah. The name Methuselah literally meant that when he died, the judgment would come. The very name was prophecy of doom that was going to come upon the Earth, a day of destruction. That sure would make you watch your kid closely! So from the day his son was born, Enoch walked with God. And when he was 365 years old “God took him,” which is one of those great mysteries of the Old Testament. It was a relationship between one man and God (Genesis 5:21-24).
Abraham was called “a friend of God” (Isaiah 41:8). David was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). What separated David from the crowd? Everybody else was studious in all of their rituals and behaviors and their knowledge of creeds, but you can’t read 1 and 2 Samuel without seeing it
again and again: David inquired of the Lord, the Lord said, and David went and did. David had a personal relationship with an unseen living Master.
What made Elijah different? The very presence of Elijah woke people up to a consciousness of God when the subject came up. He came upon a widow gathering sticks, and she said, “As the LORD thy God liveth” (1 Kings 17:12). She had a knowledge that God lived. Her creed was correct; she could get an “A” in theology. When Elijah came upon Obadiah, the same thing happened. Obadiah said, “As the LORD thy God liveth” (1 Kings 18:10). Elijah had the “plus factor.” He had the creed plus something else, whether he was in the king’s court or hidden on the back side of the desert: “As the LORD God of Israel liveth, in whose presence I stand” (1 Kings 18:15, 2 Kings 5:16). He maintained an awareness of a personal unseen Presence; it wasn’t just something that he agreed with when the subject came up. God was very alive and real to him.
What made the disciples different? God came out of the invisible world and moved into a tent of human flesh; the disciples met a Person. To them, the King was there: “We beheld his glory,” John says later (John 1:14). That which made the disciples different was not their performance: the rich young ruler could have outperformed them any day of the week. It was not their theological finesse: a Pharisee could argue the principles of resurrection with a Sadducee on any street corner better than any one of those disciples that Jesus picked. They would be changed for the better after they witnessed the Resurrection, but in terms of theology and creed, they were ordinary men. They failed Him most miserably at the end of His ministry. What made them different was that Jesus passed by and said, “Follow me . . . And they straightway left” whatever they were doing and went after Him (Matthew 4:19-20). “And Jesus ordained twelve,” Mark says, “that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14).
That is what this word Whom is saying. Peter writes to saints scattered all across Asia, in the midst of all their persecution, and he zeros in on the benchmark: Whom; not what, not it, not that. Not a creed, not a ritual, not a set of behavioral rules, but a Person. Jesus came preaching Himself. Jesus did not preach a creed apart from Himself; that is the error of the liberal theologians. He did not preach a set of behavioral rules, an ethical way, apart from Himself. He said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). “I am the door” (John 10:7,9). “I am the light” (John 8:12). “I am the life” (John 14:6). “I am the door of the sheep: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:7-9). Not “Do as I say,” but “Come after me” (Matthew 11:28, Mark 1:17).
When Jesus was preparing to leave, He said, “I will not leave you comfortless. I will pray the Father, to give you another Comforter,” the Paraclete, meaning “One alongside” (John 14:16-18). This verse rivets my attention to a Person. That is unique to Christianity. There are those who would put Jesus in the camp of other “respected founders of religion.” He is different! In every other major respected religion in this world, the heart of the religion does not rest in the founder, no matter how revered he may be.
Buddhism does not place the emphasis on the Gautama Buddha, the prince in India who originally founded this faith. In their own sermons on record, their “baskets of scripture,” he said, “I am not important. All I leave you is the way; the eightfold path, the middle way.” He had sought deliverance from “tanha,” as they call it in their language, the thirst that drove him. After trying extreme ascetic paths and extreme sensual paths, he finally came to the middle way. Buddha testified that this was where, in a trance-like state, he was delivered from his own thirst and he could live his life and not be dominated by it. He said, “That worked for me; I leave it for you.” The middle way was all that was important, he did not preach himself.
His followers had to wrestle with the problem in meetings that occurred centuries later. They had to somehow get around Buddha’s own denials of importance. They finally declared that he could not have done what he did unless he had been divine. In spite of his own statements, Buddha’s followers stamped divinity onto Buddha, and then started accumulating other buddhas. But Buddha did not preach himself; he preached a way.
Don’t ever call a true Moslem a Mohammedan. They are not worshippers of Mohammed. There is only one god, Allah; that is their view. Mohammed was his prophet. He received visions he put into the Koran, and he left that way for them. He was the prophet, respected and revered, but not worshipped.
Confucius made a logical analysis of society and left an ethical way to follow that he had worked out. It is not Confucius who is front and center. It is what Confucius said that is the focus.
All through this book, it is a living Person who is piercing through the stuff, but the world is forever trying to substitute something else for Jesus Himself. The literal meaning of the word Christian is “a follower of Christ.” Our word church comes from a word that literally means “the Lord’s:” it is a “people who belong to the Lord.” They gave evidence in New Testament days of an unseen Master so real, and exhibited in their lives such a devotion to Him, that the world stamped the name on them: “There they go; they’re the Lord’s.”
Throughout the Bible, you will find God’s people forever get off this focus. In Numbers 21, God used a brazen serpent raised as a visual focal point for healing His disobedient people in the wilderness. But after enough time, those Israelites started worshipping the serpent instead of the God who gave the ordinance. They are polishing the brass and burning incense to the serpent! In time of revival, God’s leader made them bring it forth and he named it “Nehushtan,” which literally means “a thing of brass;” and he broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4). The people of God are forever taking the things that God does for them and worshipping those things.
The church is the King’s house. A building is not a substitute for God; neither is a pastor’s position in the ministry. I’ve seen men even put their ministry between them and God. I had a close friend who thought he was dying of a heart attack. He testified to me later that he said to God, “I’m ready to go, but what about my ministry?” In response to his question, he felt the definite impression in his heart, “Whose ministry?” The inevitable tendency is that we will substitute things: deeds, rituals, creeds, places and emotional ties to anything in the seen world for Him. Many who grow up in the church who leave the church leave, not because of Him whom we ought to love, but because of His servants. The strength of the New Testament Christians was in their problems. Peter, piercing through all the “stuff” to those Christians scattered throughout Asia, immediately brings their minds to the right focus: all of this is about a Person.
We get our eyes on everything else except Him. There needs to be respect in God’s house. The average person, when he walks through the door of a church, has only a minimal awareness of Jesus. Yet that same person would give instant attention to some well-known guest on the platform. There’s only one reason for a meeting: Jesus. He said, “If any two of you gather in my name, there am I in the midst” (Matthew 18:20). There are hundreds of churches that could function just as well every Sunday if Jesus never put in an appearance. Christianity deals with Jesus, who revealed God to us. A large percentage of people, if asked what a Christian is, would say, “A Christian does this, and does that, and does this other thing; and doesn’t do this, and doesn’t do that, and doesn’t do this other thing.” That is not what a Christian is. They may or may not do some of those things, but a Christian is a follower of Christ.
That is why we must cultivate an awareness of the unseen Person. You ought to create a place of devotion in your home, but don’t ever suggest that He will only meet you in that place. Out of cognizance of His
presence, you ought to create a place so that all through the day and the week and the year, your family will grow up with a constant reminder of the fact that there is always another Person present. You don’t have to practice God’s presence; He is present no matter what you practice. It is awareness of His presence that the church has to work on.
“Whom having not seen . . .” There is the problem: “having not seen.” We are crusading to demystify spiritual things. The problem of the Christian world centers precisely on this point. In New Testament times, the most spiritual church in terms of named enduements of power in the Holy Spirit was the Corinthian church. Today, only ruins remain. Yet they were said to be “behind in no gift” (1 Corinthians 1:1-7). Their problem was that they had to see it and touch it and feel it. Paul told them the crux of the issue, “We look not on the things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal,” and I might say from another context, “will pass away,” but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
For a time, God came out of the unseen and camped in human flesh. When He was preparing to leave, Jesus stated the problem of His departure and he said, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will pray the Father, to give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” One of His disciples may have queried Him about it and, in answering that question, Jesus said the world would not receive this Spirit that would come. Then He gives the reason: because they cannot see it (John 14:16-17).
The world operates in the sensory realm. That is why every time God deigns to move on the scene, it is the enemy’s trick to try to maintain the felt and seen expressions until people will lose sight of God Himself if they can’t put their hands on the expressions. It has always been the same. God’s people departed from His ways in the Old Testament. The prophets said, “It is because the people had left God’s law.” The scribes then began to perpetuate God’s law. In intertestamental times, the people had become so degenerate that they threw the discus in the temple and turned all of the Jewish worship practices into naught. There emerged a band of people called the Pharisees, which literally means separatists, who rose up together and led the Maccabean Rebellion precisely for one reason: to bring God’s people back to God again. By the time Jesus came on the scene, they couldn’t even recognize God in their midst, they were so busy going through their rituals, spouting their creeds, and practicing their rules.
Christianity is a relationship with that which is unseen. It calls for faith. There is no way you can erase faith from the Christian walk because “faith is the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Christianity is a body of people leaning into the strife and going against the direction of this world as though they were being driven by a hidden magnet, toward an unseen Driver. God’s work is forever being destroyed by those who try to bring the magnet into the seen world.
There isn’t any way you can make it easy. God will not condescend to make every church service send shivers up and down your spine to tickle you; the prince of the power of the air is easily able to do that. God is looking for a people who, at risk of their life, will hang their body on a promise of God in commitment to an unseen Master. The New Testament Christians would go through darkened streets in Rome and, if they were caught, instant death was their portion. They had no organ music; they had no particular rituals; they had no beautiful building. They would creep through darkened catacombs to find a cavern somewhere, because Jesus said that when they came together in His name, He was there (Matthew 18:20). That is what Christianity is all about. “Whom having not seen . . .” is a conditioning of a frame of mind. It is an ability to hurl an anchor into eternal things and walk every day of this life as though you are “riding loose in the saddle.” Our hope is in eternity.
Too many Christians are nailed down to the seen, felt expressions of this life. Praise God for what the
Comforter has brought, but that which is the experience of a genuine relationship with God is the fruit of faith, not the result of the experience. That is the difference between those who know the ways of God and those who try to find something that they can attribute to the action of God.
Faith hangs in there on God’s promises; I don’t have to feel anything. The day I settled my faith, I closed the last book I had been studying; and I said, “Jesus came out of that tomb; what’s my next move? Well, believe Him, believe He is going to keep His Word!” He said there would only be one sign to the sign watchers, “the sign of Jonah” (Luke 11:29). The sign of Jonah was the symbol of death and Resurrection. God proved He kept His Word when He brought His Son through that rock. That’s why Paul can say, “If there be no resurrection, our faith is vain” and we would have no basis for what we believe (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).
I’ve heard it all growing up in the church. There are Christians who feel a sense of defeat because they come to an altar and try to have an experience there that they heard someone else testify to. Glory to God for every experience, but if I were to take the starting point of the psychologist, I can explain every single spiritual experience anyone has on psychological principles. But the starting point of faith is “Thus saith the Word of God,” and “If you ask Him for bread, He won’t give you a stone; if you ask Him for fish, He won’t give you a serpent” (Matthew 7:9-10).
When you open your heart to God, who has been proven trustworthy, and you put your life in His hands and ask Him for His Spirit, He will build that protective arena of grace around you, and what you receive will come from God. The starting point is faith in the unseen that produces the results in the seen world. If your faith is starting with the seen and is dependent upon what you see, including your spiritual experience, it is just as weak and wavering and unstable as the periodic flow of your experience. But if your faith is in an unseen God, who has proven in every page of His record through the Bible that when He says something He will do it, you can hang your body on that and know that if you never feel a thing from here to glory, it is sure going to come on like a flood when you get there. That’s what faith is!
Let’s focus our attention on the last part of Peter’s declaration, “Whom having not seen, ye love.” That loudmouth! All the time he was with Jesus seeing everything, all he could do was put his foot in his mouth and then fail. But finally, when the Master sought him out on the shores of Galilee after the Resurrection, Peter learned to love Him (John 21:15-17). He could later write, almost with amazement, to these Christians scattered and bearing up under persecutions none of us have ever seen: “Whom having not seen, ye love.”
Nobody is able to love a set of rules. I grew up in the church. Christianity cannot be enculturated. I learned how to act like a Christian before I ever met the Lord. As Pastor, I will not lay down a set of behavioral rules and call it Christianity. Kids will respect God’s house, not because they see Him, but because the Pastor makes them aware of that Presence; and that is what you ought to do as a parent in the home. Your kids will respect God’s Word, whether they believe it or not. They will learn from the strength of your belief that they had better sit up straight and listen when it’s coming forth. They will never forget that.
With the heavy load of rules and regulations and creeds that have been laid on a generation that has grown up in the church weighted down with traditions, what Jesus said is equally true today: “You have made void the word of God,” made it of no effect, “by your traditions” (Mark 7:13). What is the Word of God? Jesus! How many sermons have you heard in your lifetime on how to go about getting acquainted with Jesus as a Person? I have heard every prophecy explained, I have seen prophetic charts rolled out and every new chart has a different date on it. I have seen hell, Heaven and everything else described except that which Jesus said
is eternal life: “This is life eternal, that a man may know thee the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent” (John 17:3). I almost lost my faith completely, but I couldn’t get around that empty tomb. I don’t have the luxury Peter had: the presence of the Living Word. I have to take those glimpses from the written Word. Glory to God, the experiences came later; and this written Word has given me faith in my experiences. But when I started this journey I said, “From this day onward, that is the best answer I have to the problems of this life: I’m hanging my body on what Jesus said.” My experiences became the fruit of faith; and my experiences began to be changed by my faith. I began to hang my body on God’s Word as though it were more real than what I saw; and the invisible began to change the visible, instead of the visible dominating the invisible. That is what Christianity is and that will never change.
Where is your focus in your religious experience: your behavior, your tradition, your heritage? I know it just feels good emotionally to get in a certain place and do things a certain way, but it is a Living God we serve: He changes not, and He is not seen. One day He will take us over there to be with Him, but in the meantime we are marching, following an invisible Master who left us a road map. It is to those Christians that Peter said, “You are citizens of a heavenly kingdom; act like it. You are children of a heavenly Father; act like it. You are pilgrims on a journey, this world is not your hope; act like it” (1 Peter 2:9).
And finally we come to the last part of the words we have been mining, “. . . ye love.” In the midst of everything around you that is crushing everybody else, eulogize the Lord you love! Ye is personal, it is not talking about your parents, or your neighbors. Do you love Him? “Though now ye see him not, yet believing . . .” How much of Christianity today qualifies for the rest of this passage? “Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” “Well, I thought the end of my faith was getting all these blessings that I’m promised down here.” The “end of your faith” is the salvation of your souls. You can gain the whole seen world, but “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37)
That’s the way it is: Christianity relates to a Person. You can love Him, but not in miserable subjection. You love Him because He is building a mansion for you; He will come to get you; and He died for you and this miserable world of ours.
Christianity hangs and falls on this sentence: “Whom having not seen, ye love.” Small wonder some people have no love in their Christianity: they haven’t gotten past the “stuff” to Him.
Reprinted with permission of Pastor Melissa Scott
I think that we have much to learn from God’s creation. Jesus often used the natural things around us as a means of teaching spiritual things. He spoke of the lilies of the filed, the little sparrows, and the grain of seeds, among other things. He used it all in parables so that those who have spiritual eyes can see and be saved. In John 15:2, He says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit.”
Rodney and I worked in the yard a few days ago, pulling weeds, planting bushes, and pruning. We have a Crabapple tree that we planted a couple of years ago, and it needed pruning badly if it’s ever to grow as it should. I started cutting and suddenly realized that I wasn’t up for the job. What if I cut too much? Or what if I killed the tree? That was my thinking. I felt like a coward. And then I knew - only God has the strength and courage to prune, and I was no longer thinking about the tree, but how He leads, guides and prunes us. He does what only HE has the courage and ability to do.
Prayer Requests for November, 2010
For Mike Long, at Larned, Kansas, for health.
For Ken Hogan, Death Row at McAlester, Oklahoma, for his shoulder to completely heal. It is much better but still bothers him when he sleeps.
For Wade Miller’s Mom, and his aunt Cindy, who are going thru some rough times. Wade is at Lake City, Florida.
For William McAlester’s friends, Clay & Jessica, that they will be able to visit soon. William is at Danville, Illinois.
For Cleveland Cook, Buckeye, Arizona, that he can be baptized soon.
For Johnny Carruthers, Florence, Arizona, who will be having hernia surgery any day now (We keep saying that, because the prison officials won‘t tell him what day he‘s scheduled).
For Willie Davis at the Cook County jail in Chicago, who is being retried after an appeal.
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, who just filed his appeal.
For William Holland’s friend, Rosie Turner, who just had several eye surgeries. William is at Menard, Illinois.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for his health
For Jimmy Huff, Colorado City, Texas, for his health. He also needs transportation.
For Willie Clark, Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be transferred closer to Houston to be near his family.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will find a good job. He has a young family to take care of.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas. The Supreme Court denied his appeal but Frank still has other petitions pending.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, for his health and that he stays “cancer free.”
For Willie Harper, Joliet, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for his health.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread.
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