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Lowell Brueckner

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Is There an Obsession in Your Life?


Oh Lord of Hosts!                  O righteous Father!

“The angel of the Lord said, O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?” (Zech.1:12)  I love to find this little word oh in the Bible text. Why do the translators find it necessary to include it here and in many places? It doesn’t add anything to the meaning of the sentence; it doesn’t clarify any point. It doesn’t name or indicate an action; it doesn’t define a noun or a verb. The translators discerned an expression of passion and for that reason we have it in this prayer from the Angel of the Lord to the Lord of Hosts. Oh! is an exclamation.

The Holy Spirit, author of the Bible, gives us an unparalleled privilege, allowing us to observe a scene that is too sacred for our eyes and unworthy thoughts. It is the communion that Jesus, the Son of God, had with His heavenly Father in John, chapter 17. There we see Him opening His heart and expressing His most intense and intimate desires. In verse 25, He demonstrates His passion: “Oh righteous Father!” It is holy ground and we ought to take off our shoes. The Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel is the same Person, who is called the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah.

We listen to His words as He comes to the apex of His prayer: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you love me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn.17:23-26). Now, that is the Gospel! This is Christianity! This is the will of the Father in sending His Son into the world. This is the Son’s deep longing, expressed to the Father.

I haven’t been able to find it, but I am sure that I have read something from A. W. Tozer about an error in calling the will of God “the work”. How can we call what we have just read of the passionate prayer of Jesus, “the work”? He is pleading for His church, the people He has called out of the world… His body… His bride.  Our message must be more than informative sermons over biblical doctrines; it must be illumination over the three Persons of the trinity. From the onset of his Gospel, the Apostle John presents to us a Person: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn.1:1).

During the ministry of Jesus, when the question came up, concerning the supreme commandment, the answer was: “You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (and in Mark 12:30, with all your strength).” Jesus then cited the second priority: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt.22:37,39). Christianity has everything to do with relationships. Take away everything else that might be built upon it and you will see that Christianity will continue to exist upon the basis of love between God and men and the love among the brethren.

Obsessed with the love of God

A little meditation over the first commandment will bring you to the conclusion that what God expects from us is an obsession. “Isn’t that what the word “all” infers? It enlists the entire being, body, soul, mind and heart. It demands something that we cannot give, if we are only motivated by a keen sense of responsibility. It must flow liberally from the inside, immersed in a supernatural, overwhelming love.  

Divine love is a unique love that proceeds from God and is revealed in Christ Jesus. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn.4:10). What can originate in a human being towards God is not worthy to be called love, and can never fulfill the supreme commandment. That is why Jesus prayed “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them” (Jn.17:26). This is the love that moved God to sacrifice His Son for His enemies: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn.3:16). This was the love that Jesus showed towards His disciples: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the extreme (gr. to perfection)(Jn.13:1).

Because I have been studying the prophecy of Zechariah in these last months, I am very conscious of what this book teaches about the passion of God. “I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her” (Zech.8:2). The MacArthur Study Bible notes: “This very strong language expresses the idea that God can’t bear the estrangement from his chosen people…”

If this love lives in us, we will not be able to return less than our whole being. We will be like Mary, who chose the one necessary thing (Lk.10:42), and like her also, who poured that which was extremely costly over Jesus without taking into account its price or its usefulness (Jn.12:3,5). Is that not an obsession? I believe that we are in the last times and God’s is moving in a wife, who is preparing herself for the Marriage of the Lamb (Rev.19:7-9). I am seeing people with passionate longings to draw intimately close to God. They are devouring His word desperately in order to discover its secrets, perturbed at any disturbance that interrupts them. Isn’t that an obsession?

Obsessed towards a complete confidence in God

The word faith only appears twice throughout the Old Testament, but when the writer of Hebrews describes the testimony of those saints, he writes in one chapter, the 11th, eighteen times about their faith. It’s not possible to count the number of those in verses 32-34 or those of 35-38, who did not except deliverance. Therefore, we can see that faith not only existed in Old Testament times, but dominated the lives of these outstanding people.

The word commonly used in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, is trust. Psalms 62 expresses a singular trust or faith. The Psalmist is showing his passion in the search that he launches to achieve a confidence placed solely in God. I think we could call it an obsession: “My soul waits in silence for God only… He only is my rock and my salvation… My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation… Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him” (Ps.62:1,2,5,6,8). Trust is synonymous with faith and only a trusting faith is true faith. We can as well ask someone, if he or she has trusted Christ, just as we might ask if he or she has believed on Him. To profess faith in God, without depositing our trust in Him, is to not truly believe. The true believer has surrendered his whole being to the Father and the Son.

I do not blame the word faith, as it is expressed in the Bible, but I distrust the modern usage of the word. Perhaps trust better expresses, in these times, an intimacy with God. Certainly Paul relates faith with intimacy, when he writes of “faith working through love” (Gal.5:6). Many times he joins faith with love in his letters. His song of love in 1 Corinthians 13 unites faith with hope and love permanently. They are inseparable attributes from eternity to eternity. We will continue to hope and trust in God forever and ever.

Good theologians tell us that Mark 11:22, “Have faith in God”, can just as well be translated, “Have the faith of God”. When the disciples asked for increased faith, Christ taught them about a kind of faith, not a quantity: “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed…” (Lk.17:6). Speaking to Peter, Jesus said that he prayed for him “that your faith may not fail” (Lk.22:32), and was referring to something more powerful than Peter himself and something that would remain after Peter’s fall.  When I read Hebrews eleven, I see that these people did not control their faith, but that faith controlled them. We see clearly in Isaac’s case, who “invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau…” (v.20) that he did not do it as he pleased, but that faith led him and even dominated over his will. Paul said, “Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God…” (Gal.2:20, KJV).

The Christian life is characterized by faith and so it is called, simply because it is a life of faith, from its beginning and into eternity. After giving the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, Jesus added this question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk.18:8). It’s a good question in these days, when the world offers us so much, in which to confide. Since we have seen that faith works by love, a confidence in the world denotes a love for the world. According to the apostles, James and John, to love the world constitutes us as adulterers and enemies of God.

Martin Luther taught on this subject: “Yes, to have a god means to trust and to believe in him with your whole heart. I have often said that only the trust and faith of the heart can make God or an idol. If your faith and trust are true, you have the true God, too. On the other hand, where trust is false, is evil, there you will not have the true God either. Faith and God live together. I tell you, whatever you set your heart on and rely on is really your god.”

The faith and the love that proceed from God work an obsession in the Christian to trust, as the Psalmist, solely in Him. I remember the day, when there were no seat belts in cars. You may think that I am a little too simple, but when I heard the insistence by the media, persuading everyone to use them, I rebelled. I do use them now, but not out of desire or my will for security, but because I am legally forced to put them on. I still prefer to trust God and as time goes by, to trust Him more and more! Our family has been kept alive and preserved from the threats of men. God has supplied all our needs and has led us in all aspects of life. Before we were conscious of it, He was working out all the preparations and means for our eternal salvation. And am I not going to trust Him for all things the rest of my life?

An obsession to obey

Studying the book of Zechariah, I was impressed with the urgency that is clearly shown in obedience to God. In 2:4, an angel was instructed, Run, say to that young man…”. Instantly, the word from God was given to the youth, Zechariah. In 5:1, we can observe a scroll that flew and its purpose is to carry a curse from God to the houses of those, who steal and swear falsely in the name of God. They flew in carrying out the curse. In verse nine of the same chapter, Zechariah sees two women with wings, with which they could rapidly fulfill their mission, and to speed them on their way even more quickly, a wind blew in their favor. In chapter six, God gave Zechariah orders to receive an offering from men, who recently arrived from Babylon and he was told to go that same day to a certain house to take a message to them.  

My dad always expected an immediate obedience. I remember a time that he gave me a job to do and about an hour later, asked if I had done it. I answered that I was just at the point of doing it. He didn’t seem to think that was soon enough. We were at the table at our son’s home in Alaska and our youngest grandson stood on his chair. His mother calmly told him to sit down. He kept standing, until our daughter-in-law made a move to get up. He fell to the chair like a rock! In the same quiet voice, his mother said, “Too late!” and took him to his room to receive the just recompense of a retarded obedience. When God speaks, we should not delay to obey! His word should be carried out immediately, by angels or by human beings.

Genesis 24 gives us an extraordinary example of obedience. In this chapter, we learn of a slave totally obsessed with the will of his masters. His entire reason for existence was entwined in their well-being, without taking into account personal matters or rights. When something happened towards the success of his masters in his mission, he worshipped God. Towards the end of the story, he had achieved the purpose of his journey and his hosts attempted to detain him in their house for a feast, but he responded, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master” (Gen.24:56). His manner of obedience was not only to do as he was instructed, but to do it as soon as possible.

Paul taught that the Christian is a slave: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Co.6:19-20). In the next chapter, he takes his point into the realm of an obsession, because he instructs us to perform the service of a single Master exclusively, leaving no room for another: “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men” (7:23). We are Christ’s possession, because we have been bought at the highest price… the price of blood: “You were ransomed from the futile ways… with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pt.1:18-19). We belong entirely to God, because we are His creation. Listen to the praises for the King of Glory around His throne: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will (pleasure) they existed and were created” (Rev.4:11).

However we should not entertain the thought that our slavery is a hard bondage, but a glorious privilege, carried out in practice liberally through the love of God, “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Ro.5:5). The fountain of obedience is love to Christ. When someone is motivated by God’s love, he is quick to obey. Jesus Himself said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (Jn.14:23); love will be the motivation for the whole of Christian living, and not only is it the only motivation that makes it possible to live this life, but it transforms it into a compulsive pleasure.

Hear Ruth’s obsession: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17). Through love’s great power, Ruth did not find it difficult to follow the will of God for her life, even in the culture of a strange land.

An obsession to live in holiness

I am referring especially to holiness, according to Webster’s first and second definitions of the word holy, which is totally consistent with the biblical meaning of the word: “To be exalted or worthy of complete devotion” or “to be devoted entirely to the deity”. To be holy means to be totally set apart and separated from all else, in order to be consecrated to God. If we are contemplating purity, then it means to be totally separated from the unclean for God’s sake. If we are speaking of living a pious life, then it means to be set apart from the world, in order to live wholly for God. In every case, holiness signifies departing from every disturbance, so to be able to live as close as possible to the heart of God. In the words of the writer of Hebrews: “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (Heb.12:1). This obsession was expressed by Robert Murray McCheyne: “Make me as holy, as it is possible for a saved sinner to be!”

In the tabernacle of the Old Testament, there were two elements that illustrated this theme of holiness. One was the holy, anointing oil. In Exodus 30:31-32, God commands: “This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.” God held the exclusive “patent” for this oil and no one could duplicate it for common usage. The incense for the altar was to be treated in the same way: “The incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the Lord” (v.37). God also forbade that another composition could be used: “You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it” (v.9).

In the New Testament, a holy act is recorded, made by a woman, who poured a flask of extremely expensive ointment, called nard, upon Jesus. The disciples were indignant, complaining that it was wasted and that the money, if it were sold, could be utilized to alleviate the poor. The disciples made mistakes from time to time, but none were as flagrant as on this occasion. The greatest offense was to judge Christ unworthy to receive such an honor. The second was to think that this perfume could be used in some humanitarian work. It could not be! Just as the incense in the tabernacle, this “composition” of the human heart could only be poured out to God.

In the same way, when the soldiers of David brought him water from the well of Bethlehem, David poured it out to the Lord, because these men risked their lives, so that he could have it. David judged correctly that no man should receive that kind of honor. This consecration is exclusively for the Lord and only He is worthy to receive it. No humanitarian should incite people to make sacrifices on this level and then put his hand on their donations to distribute it to human need. There is no way to offer this spiritual perfume and oil in an indirect manner. It is exclusively for the Lord. Not always in serving man are we serving God.

Our first obligation is to love God with all our soul, with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. We should have an obsession for that which is sanctified and set apart only for the Lord. As the disciples, we err seriously if we place priority upon the second commandment over the first. This error come from a false love (as Luther said), in a spirit of ecumenicalism or universalism. The Universalist believes that in the end the entire world will be saved and he is winning more and more people to his side from the evangelical branch of Christianity. He pretends to love humanity, but the result of his doctrine in the end will be the condemnation of many more, because they are deceived into a false hope which he preaches. These preachers not only do not love God, but they don’t even know the God of the Bible. They are false prophets.

May the following hymn be our prayer and obsession:

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King.

Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold.

Take my will it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne
Take my heart it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne

Take my love, my God, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee


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