“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4).
From the very beginning, God has been calling holy men to the mountain of his presence to hear from heaven. He called Abraham to a mountain to prove him and bring him into close union with himself (see Genesis 22:2). Abraham received the knowledge of who God was as he put the knife to his own son — and God provided the ram as a sacrifice instead of Isaac: “He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad’ … Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in the thicket” (Genesis 22:12-13).
Moses was drawn by God to Mount Horeb, where he received his call to lead Israel out of bondage. And Moses was taken back to the mountain every time God wanted to speak to his people: “And Moses went up the mount to God, and Jehovah called for him from the mountain” (Exodus 19:3, Hebrew Bible).
Peter was on the mount, in the presence of God, when he heard the voice of the Lord. “And we heard this voice which came from heaven, when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:18).
The mountaintop is not easily reached. You enter through the secret closet and you stay, willing to risk everything to be alone in God's holy presence until your soul is on fire. It is reached by coming back every day, going higher each time, over rocks and precipices of opposition—and there is no turning back until the summit is reached. No one gets to the summit of God's presence with one-hour devotions. It must become a way of life.
The revelation of Christ is too vast to ever be fully comprehended. But those who are shut in with God in prayer gain an ever-growing appreciation of Christ as the Holy Spirit reveals him in the heart. Get back to the secret closet and be renewed by the Lord’s glorious presence. You can have a “mountaintop experience” where your joy is restored and your life takes on new purpose and direction.
“God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’ … to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good [obeys]” (Romans 2:5, 8-10).
Most of the troubles of this generation are a result of our own disobedience. When we get caught in the web of our sins, too often we are more concerned about our reputation than how much we have wounded the Savior. It is selfish to grieve more over what people think of us than over the way our disobedience breaks the heart of Jesus.
People all over are hurting. Marriages are crumbling, causing terrible misery and pain to so many involved. Multitudes are living under a cloud of guilt and despair. There are Christians today whose lives are flooded with trouble and sorrow. Never has there been such heartbreak, emptiness, loneliness, and rejection. Only God knows how many Christians cry themselves to sleep, or who can't sleep due to depression, anxiety, loneliness, and despair.
Shouldn't we be getting weary of all the trouble and hurt—enough so that we would begin to hunger after the glorious riches promised in Christ? Oh, beloved, fear is not the best motive toward obedience—love is!
In love we surrender, and sweet surrender to the will of God opens the heavens to us. It is the yielding of every sin and act of disobedience that allows us the revelation of who Christ really is. The scripture says, “Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (1 John 3:6).
Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). Surrender your heart wholly to the Lord and become “rooted and grounded” by his love.
When God called Moses from the burning bush, he commanded him: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Holy ground is not a physical place, but a spiritual one. When God commanded Moses to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground, he was not referring to a two-by-four plot of real estate. He was talking about a spiritual state.
The place was holy! What place? The spiritual condition Moses had finally come to. His spiritual growth had brought him to a place where God could get through to him — receptive, open to listening, mature, and ready to be dealt with by a holy God. Holy ground is a place of no reputation and, as we know, the Lord himself stood in this same place: “He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7).
At one time Moses was held in high esteem, respected in high government places, prestigious and privileged. But God could not use him until he tore away all that popularity and esteem and brought him to a place of no influence. Moses came to that place where he was broken and truly no longer cared about his work or his reputation. He was stripped of all his rights — because that is what was meant by the removal of his shoes. And that is when the great “I AM” was revealed. Thank God for that cleansing moment when by faith the old flesh is done away with and the hand of ministry is purified.
Getting to your personal holy ground will require complete honesty before God — and perhaps some pruning. But when you come to the place of giving up your reputation, you will find revelation. Choose to pursue the Lord with all your heart and say with our fathers in the faith, “Take this whole world, but give me Jesus.”
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV).
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is full of praise, encouragement, and blessing. He is impressed by their walk of obedience and he compliments them on being so easy to get along with. He also praises them for being steadfast and unwavering even when he is not there to guide them.
God is the one who empowers these saints to work and to will — the word will here means to desire, to have a passion for, to really want to go after something. So God is working in them so that they can live fruitful lives, thereby pleasing him. Paul continues: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain” (2:15-16).
This portion of scripture encouraged the Philippians to pay attention when they were in the middle of challenges. “Look at the bigger picture! Don’t complain and whine, because that will stunt your growth.” Even some in the church are not living as they should. They sing the songs and mouth the right words but their hearts are not truly transformed. The Father wants us to shine like the stars in the world around us.
May you follow the example of the Philippian church and live your life in a way that shines forth the glory of God to those around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to draw you closer so that you become consumed with Jesus and maintain a strong witness in the midst of a compromised, wicked generation.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:2-5, NASB).
James was a leader with a direct way of speaking — lacking pleasantries or preambles, he was blunt and straight to business. After a one-word greeting, he launched right into his letter with this imperative: “Consider it all joy.” In other words, be happy when you are in an unlikely place called difficulty. But finding joy when things are rough is challenging, so the following four words will help you understand how you can obtain it.
CONSIDER – KNOW – LET – ASK
James knows that when you come to Jesus you are going to face trials and tribulations, and he says that whenever, not if, you face them, you are to consider it joy. You may have to refocus in order to find the joy, but it is there. It comes from considering the outcome of what you are enduring and following the biblical admonition to closely reflect on it.
Don’t give up before your testing is over. An important thing to know is that your trials are not taking anything from you; they are producing good things in you. It may feel as though God is against you, but he is for you and is maturing you, so don’t abort his mission. In other words, do not waste your trials. You could be close to the end, so let God’s grace enable you to endure.
Finally, what if you get to a place where you have no idea what to do? Simply ask God for wisdom and he will guide you. In fact, asking God is really just another phrase for prayer, so put your trust in him and ask freely — with confidence.
Tim Dilena pastored for 30 years in Detroit and then in NYC at Brooklyn Tabernacle. Pastor Tim, his wife Cindy and 4 children now Pastor in Lafayette, LA.