The Believer as a Container for God’s Presence

By: Miscellaneous Authors
From: September-October 2010
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
Have you ever felt that you need more love for your unsaved brothers and sisters around the world? Have you ever asked God to make you a better servant of Jesus Christ?

When I was in the British army in World War I, God very plainly called me, though I’d planned another career, to join a little independent missionary group just starting in Africa. I wasn’t there very long before I deeply felt my inadequacy.

It wasn’t that I was lukewarm for Jesus Christ; it wasn’t that I had turned away from Him to some other interest. I was a servant of His, and my whole interest was set on introducing my brother Africans to Him.

The inadequacy I felt in myself first of all was the need of love. I deeply felt, when I got among them, that I just didn’t have that love which bridges the gap. With that went the need of faith — and with that the need of power. All of these were linked together.

Response to the Christian message in Central Africa, like the United States, appears to be quite large. But I soon found there was much more profession than possession. I began saying to myself, Are we bringing the Africans anything really worthwhile? Are we just bringing a code of ethics? Or a liturgy, or historic faith? Have we got something genuinely transforming to transmit to others?

Then I made the question personal, “Have I?”

I thought He should channel in some love into my heart, some faith, some power, some holiness — and improve me.

As I asked these questions, I discovered that when your ministry is disturbed, it tends also to disturb your personal life. I found myself, as my wife well knew, irritable at home in a way I hadn’t been irritable — and critical of others to cover my own failures.

As I doubted, asked questions, and searched the Bible for some kind of an answer to my inadequacies, I found some amazing answers. Some of them have shaken me considerably. They have changed my whole viewpoint — and my experience.

I can’t call them revelations, because they are based on the revelation, witnessed to by the Spirit.

To begin with, my attitude was that God should improve me.

Well, I’m a servant of Jesus Christ, I thought. I’ve been redeemed by His grace, I belong to Him. I must ask God to make me a better servant of Jesus Christ.

I thought He should channel in some love into my heart, some faith, some power, some holiness — and improve me.

I had to learn sharply that self-improvement is both a sin and an impossibility. It came as a considerable shock.

But though my idea of how God should answer my problem was completely wrong, my sense of inadequacy was good. It sent me to the Bible. And my first discovery came as I read one famous verse in the first letter of John: “God is love.”

Suddenly the is stuck out. What dawned on me went something like this: It doesn’t say God has love, but God is love. If some body has a thing, it isn’t he himself. It’s something just attached to him, as if you’ve got a coat on or something in your pocket. You just have it, and you can share it. But the Bible doesn’t say God has love, but God is love.

I Could Never Love!

Love, therefore, must not be a thing I can have. Love is exclusively a Person. God is love. Therefore, there is no other pure, self-giving love in the universe beyond Him Himself. Love is exclusively a characteristic of one Person only — and that’s not Norman Grubb.

That was a deflation for me. I had thought I could have love imparted to me, channeled into me, and I’d be more loving. But I suddenly found God saying, “You’ll never have one iota of love. I am love, and that’s the end of it.”

Not Christ has the power, but He is the power.

Love is a Person; one Person only loving — and that’s not I, and that’s not you. God is love and, therefore, love is God loving.

That set a new trend of thought going. I began to relate this to my other need of power. And I suddenly found a verse in the first chapter of I Corinthians where it says that Christ is the power of God. Not Christ has the power, but He is the power.

Once again, I had thought power was something which was given to me, and I’d be a powerful servant of Jesus Christ. I suddenly found that power, also, is a Person. And that person is not I but is exclusively Christ, Who is God; it doesn’t matter whether you call Him Father, Son or Holy Spirit.

Then I came to the one thing every Christian claims to have. Every believing Christian accepts the fact that he has eternal life. He takes it that he has a life which will go on forever in Heaven. (“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”)

But I suddenly found that eternal life is not something I can ever have — for Jesus did not say, “I have the life to give you” — but, “I am the life.”

Once again I had found that something I had thought I had — eternal life — is one person only, and that’s not I. Jesus Christ is that “eternal life.”

But where did I fit into all this?

Finally I came to a statement which gathered all together and finished off my investigations by its absoluteness. The verse was Colossians 3:11, where it says of believers in Christ that “Christ is all and in all.”

Christ is all, not Christ has all.

And if Christ is all, what’s left for me? Not much by my mathematics.

I had thought I was somebody, and something or could get something. I found God had taken the lot. Christ is all.

Then I got the link. Christ is all and in all.

Once again I had found that something I had thought I had — eternal life — is one person only, and that’s not I.

Then I saw for the first time that the only reason for the existence of the entire creation is to contain the Creator! Not to be something, but to contain Someone.

So there dawned a very important truth. We humans naturally regard the human self as important. But we’ve got the wrong ideas of the reason of the existence of the self.

An immense distortion has come into the very warp and woof of humanity. It’s the distortion of the ego — of the self. Though we feel self to be important, all of this showed me that self is extremely unimportant.

There is only one Self in the universe who is really important. I would almost say there is only one Self. 

Why? Because there’s only one Person in the universe who ever said, “I Am.”

there’s only one Person in the universe who ever said, “I Am.”

God said that was His name thousands of years ago when Moses asked what he should say when people would ask, “What is the name of your God?” (Exodus 3:13, 14).

We are told that at the end of the history of the universe it is God Who will be all in all. God all in all! Then what’s left? It’s terrific.

Why We Exist

There is only one Person, and the human creation is brought into a living relationship with this One, so that He can manifest Himself in His perfection of life and love through us.

The whole creation exists because Spirit must have a body in which to manifest Himself. As the Scriptures say, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” They say that Christ ascended “that He might fill all things.”

If He fills all things, all things are containers of Him.

If He fills all things, all things are containers of Him. Here is both the height and the dangerous depth in humanity.

The height is simply this: the rest of creation can contain manifestations of God; we can contain God as a Person. A person cannot manifest himself as a person through anything else than a person. You can’t fellowship with a dog or a stone. You can enjoy the marvels of the atom or of a precious stone, but you can’t fellowship with it. But I can fellowship with you because we are of the same makeup.

God can manifest His marvels and His beauty through the flowers and trees. We can view them through the microscope and telescope, and marvel—but we do not say, “That’s God.”

The greatest marvel, the greatest height of personality, is when we can look at a human being and say, “God is there.”

The depth, the dangers, of humanity are that personality means freedom. Intelligent choice is the essence of personality.

Therefore, God appeared to be on the horns of a dilemma when He created people. (Of course, He wasn’t, for He knows His own business in the end.) But it appeared so because the people He created could turn around and say, “Thank you very much, I don’t want You to live in me.”

That’s exactly what happened.

We make self our god, not God. We just naturally run our own lives. And that’s our whole trouble.

We make self our god, not God. We just naturally run our own lives. And that’s our whole trouble.

There isn’t a single problem in humanity except our self-reactions: not one.

The Devil is no trouble. He was dealt with 2,000 years ago.

Your neighbor is not your trouble.

Circumstances are not your trouble.

The only trouble is your reaction.

Distorted self, self out of gear, is our problem.

Once we know how to handle the human self and put it back where it belongs, we’ve found the key to life.

Norman Grubb (1895 – 1993) was a missionary, author and teacher. Read more about him on http://www.NormanGrubb.com.

This article is an extract from the article called “The Key to everything.”