The Believer as a Container for God's Presence
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
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?"
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."
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.
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
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,
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 relation ship 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. 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
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
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.
There isn't a single problem in humanity except our self-reactions: not
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.
That's what we're going to examine.
From The Key To Everything (Part 1) by Norman Grubb