It is said that the way to win victories on the field of battle is to discover the weakest spot in your enemy’s defences, and there to deliver a crushing blow. Upon this plan are the devil’s tactics, when he seeks to hinder the believer from being a witness in this world for Christ.
I am no soldier, but I know that it is a matter of prime importance with every advancing army to keep open and protect its lines of communication.
Now it is certain that nothing is more important for us, as we advance in the Christian pathway, than that we should jealously guard and keep open our lines of communication, i.e. personal intercourse with God.
Let but the enemy strike us here, and woe betide our Christian testimony and spiritual joy!
Why is it that much of the Christianity which surrounds us today has no backbone? Why all this uncertainty and lack of knowing one’s own mind, as though it were the height of spirituality to be sure of nothing? Why the diversity of opinion amongst Christians, and lack of power to discern the will of God? Why the indecision, the vacillation, and the powerlessness in the presence of the foe, of which our own history furnishes too many examples? WHY? Because we know little or nothing of personal intercourse with God.
When you read your Bible, get truth and points and information if you will, but be sure you get at its spirit and sap. This will lead you into intercourse with God, so that you receive communication from Him.
When you pray, ask for many things if you will, but be sure you cultivate that sense of the divine presence and conscious laying hold of God, which alone is true intercourse in communicating with Him.
In Galatians 1 and 2 Paul is presented to us a striking pattern of this.
In Galatians 1:1 he received his mission straight from God—“not of men, neither by man.”
In Galatians 1:11-12 he received his message straight from Christ—“neither of man, neither was I taught it.”
Now this direct dealing with God made Paul at once the most remarkable of men.
In these two chapters he is characterised by four things.
1. Certainty in the midst of error (Gal. 1:7-9). These words breathe a spirit of holy intolerance quite refreshing in the midst of modern latitudinarianism. A man must be tremendously certain of his ground to use language such as this. And Paul was certain, not with the certainty of a self-conceited ignoramus, but of one who had received what he had got direct from God.
2. Solidity in the midst of men-pleasing and fickleness (chap. 1:10, 16). The Galatian believers may not inaptly be compared to a balloon. They went off with a great bounce (see chap. 4:13-15), and yet were swayed by the slightest breeze of human influence and opinion (chap. 1:6-8). We are certainly no better than they, but to the apostle God was so great a reality that he walked before Him, and not before men.
3. Rigidity in the midst of opposition (Gal. 2:4-5). The preacher of old speaks of “a time of war and a time of peace,” but when the very foundations of the gospel are assailed, as in this instance, it is assuredly not the latter. Hence, in the presence of bitter opposition, Paul is absolutely unbendable, though he found at Jerusalem the very stronghold of the errors he withstood. And wherefore? Says he, “I went up by revelation,” i.e. by a command received directly from Christ.
4. Stability in the midst of dissimulation (Gal. 2:11-14). At Antioch the Church was like a ship in a storm-tossed sea. When Peter withdrew and Barnabas dissembled, two of her anchors gave way; but, thank God, Paul stood firm and saved the situation. It is no easy matter to stem the current and stand alone, and the man who accomplished that feat in a spiritual sense, and stood when all others fell, closes his inspiring address with the words, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” He was in direct enjoyment of the love of the Son of God.
This is deeply encouraging, for what Paul knew we may know, since he was but a man of like passions as ourselves.
(1) Certainty; (2) solidity; (3) rigidity; (4) stability.
Oh for the earnest mind to desire these things, and to seek after personal intercourse with God just for the sake of its own intrinsic blessedness!
Simple Testimony 1900, p.190