Oswald Chambers spent a good bit of his time in My Utmost for His Highest teaching and reflecting on the believer’s relationship with God. He said a personal relationship with Christ, not public usefulness, was the central element of concern in his teaching. The “whole strength” of his Bible Training College was that “here you are put into soak before God” (October 19th). So I’d like to look at some of the advice he had for maintaining and developing our relationship with God.
The first thing to recognize is how sin itself is a fundamental relationship. The Christian religion, Chambers said, bases everything on understanding sin as wrong being, not wrong doing. It is “deliberate and emphatic independence of God.” Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. He noted that the first thing Christ faced in the individual was the heredity of sin. “And it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power” (October 7th).
The lure of independence from God is as old as the Garden of Eden. Then it was desire to be “like God” in knowing good and evil. It was the gleam of this “fruit” from the tree in the midst of the garden that caught their eye and led Adam and Eve to disobey God. They saw and coveted the potential to be independent judges of the world around them. So they took and ate. The first thing they “knew” was that they were naked and afraid.
This knowledge, not their physical nakedness, was the reason for their fear. Before eating the fruit, they were “both naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). They realized that eating of the fruit independent of the command of God had altered both their very being and their relationship with God. Independence from God meant the loss of relationship with God. Created in the image of God, Adam and Eve could not but feel that kinship in the presence of God. But their rebellion changed them and altered their ability to experience that kinship. So now in the presence of God they were ashamed because they knew they were different and the former relationship with Him was gone.
The lost relationship was the reason God sent his Son. The death and resurrection of Christ “tore the veil” of separation with God. Chambers commented that the cross of Christ was a “superb triumph,” shaking the very foundations of hell. “There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God” (April 6th). The cross is the gateway into His life. “His Resurrection means that He has power now to convey His life to me. When I am born again from above, I receive from the risen Lord His very life.”
When Our Lord rose from the dead, He rose to an absolutely new life, to a life He did not live before He was incarnate. He rose to a life that had never been before; and His resurrection means for us that we are raised to His risen life, not to our old life. One day we shall have a body like unto His glorious body, but we can know now the efficacy of His resurrection and walk in newness of life. “I would know Him in the power of His resurrection.” (April 8th)
In Christ, relationship is restored. Intimacy with God is again possible. The imagery in Psalm 131:2 uses a mother and child to describe this closeness: “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Chambers said that a child’s consciousness is so “mother-haunted,” that even though the child is not thinking about its mother, when a calamity arises, the relationship it wants is with its mother. “So we are to live and move and have our being in God, to look at everything in relation to God, because the abiding consciousness of God pushes itself to the front all the time” (June 2nd).
So we must guard against allowing anything to injure our restored relationship with God. And if something does injure it, we have to take the time to make it right. “The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain.” This is all that God asks us to look after (August 4th). Because of what Christ did on the cross, “Nothing is easier than getting into a right relationship with God except when it is not God Whom you want but only what He gives” (April 27th).
The golden rule for our lives is to keep it open towards God. “The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God.” The outstanding characteristic of our life as a Christian should be an unveiled frankness before God, so that our life becomes a mirror for the life of others. Chambers cautioned to be aware of anything that could befoul that mirror. He said it would almost always be a good thing that wasn’t the best. We should never be hurried out of the relationship of abiding in Him. “The severest discipline of a Christian’s life is to learn how to keep ‘beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord’” (January 23rd).