I was saved into chorus-singing charismatic circles at the tail end of the Jesus Movement, and we didn’t sing hymns. One of the places I occasionally attended back in those days was the Agape Force field station in Tacoma. Several of my dearest friends were members there. They had some rock-solid teaching in those days, influenced by such men as Leonard Ravenhill, A.W. Tozer, Charles Finney, and John Wesley. At one of their meetings, we sang the first hymn I ever heard in Bible-believing circles, Johnson Oatman’s Higher Ground. It struck me with its depth and power. From that day to the present, it has been my favorite hymn.
Two of the verses raise a hefty challenge to the complacency that continually tries to grow in the heart of every believer:
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
Do we really press DAILY forward toward higher ground? Are we really gaining new heights every day in our devotion, prayer life, understanding, application, character? Or are we merely coasting … going to church occasionally … spending an occasional snatch of time in the Bible or a Christian book?
Do we really want to live ABOVE the world? Are we really striving by the help of the word of God and the Spirit of God to rise above its temptations, distractions, and defilements? Or are we merely avoiding gross sin … content to live a relatively clean life that revolves around the relatively clean stuff of the world?
If we honestly face this question, it could prove to be revolutionary. The call of discipleship—the call to follow Jesus—is a call to the potter’s wheel, the blacksmith’s anvil, the fuller’s soap, the washing of the word, the leading and encouraging of the Holy Spirit. This path always and only leads higher up the mountain of conformity to Christ—our mind more conformed to his mind, our heart purposes more conformed to his heart purposes, our character more conformed to his character, our separation from the world more conformed to his separation from the world, our life less lived for temporal things and more lived for eternal things.
And there is no good reason to fear climbing higher up this mountain. Higher ground is always and only a gain. We can’t give up or lose any lower elevation things except for things we are going to lose in the end anyway. And the higher elevation things we gain are eternal gains that entail eternal rewards which we cannot lose.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard