Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Preface from Andrew Murray’s ABIDE IN CHRIST

During the life of Jesus on earth, the word He chiefly used when speaking of the relations of the disciples to Himself was: “Follow me.” When about to leave for heaven, He gave them a new word, in which their more intimate and spiritual union with Himself in glory should be expressed. That chosen word was: “Abide in me.”

It is to be feared that there are many earnest followers of Jesus from whom the meaning of this word, with the blessed experience it promises, is very much hidden. While trusting in their Saviour for pardon and help, and seeking to some extent to obey Him, they have hardly realized to what closeness of union, to what intimacy of fellowship, to what wondrous oneness of life and interest, He invited them when He said, “Abide in me.” This is not only an unspeakable loss to themselves, but the Church and the world suffer in what they lose.

If we ask the reason why those who have indeed accepted the Saviour, and been made partakers of the renewing of the Holy Ghost, thus come short of the full salvation prepared for them, I am sure the answer will in very many cases be that ignorance is the cause of the unbelief that fails of the inheritance. If, in our orthodox churches, the abiding in Christ, the living union with Him, the experience of His daily and hourly presence and keeping were preached with the same distinctness and urgency as His atonement and pardon through His blood, I am confident that many would be found to accept with gladness the invitation to such a life, and that its influence would be manifest in their experience of the purity and the power, the love and the joy, the fruit-bearing, and all the blessedness which the Saviour connected with the abiding in Him.

… I pray earnestly that He would, by whatever means, make the multitudes of His dear children who are still living divided lives, to see how He claims them wholly for Himself, and how the wholehearted surrender to abide in Him alone brings the joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh, let each of us who has begun to taste the sweetness of this life yield himself wholly to be a witness to the grace and power of our Lord to keep us united with Himself, and seek by word and walk to win others to follow Him fully. It is only in such fruit-bearing that our own abiding can be maintained.

In conclusion, I ask to be permitted to give one word of advice to my reader. It is this: It takes time to grow into Jesus the Vine; do not expect to abide in Him unless you will give Him that time. It is not enough to read God’s Word, …, and when we think we have hold of the thoughts, and have asked God for His blessing, to go out in the hope that the blessing will abide. No, it needs day by day time with Jesus and with God. We all know the need of time for meals each day – every workman claims his hour for dinner; the hurried eating of so much food is not enough. If we are to live through Jesus, we must feed on Him (John vi. 57); we must thoroughly take in and assimilate that heavenly food the Father has given us in His life. Therefore, my brother, who would learn to abided in Jesus, take time each day, ere you read, and while you read, and after you read, to put yourself into living contact with the living Jesus, to yield yourself distinctly and consciously to His blessed influence; so will you give Him the opportunity of taking hold of you, of drawing you up and keeping you safe in His almighty life.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

There Has Got To Be More - Part 2

In Part 1, I may have done more harm than good. Those who read it looking for hope found condemnation... maybe. But, just like the one who has treatable cancer must hear the word "cancer" before hearing treatable, you and I must admit that we are screwed up before we can become ready for the answer. "If my people ... will humble themselves...."

The “More” we are looking for is ... Jesus. There are Bible verses galore to support this. There is the very life of Jesus, Himself, as told by the Gospel writers that supports it. There is Paul the apostle who said "Knowing Jesus” makes the things of this life (yachts, money, comfort, ease, power, achievement) seem like so much dog-do!

I want that, y'all, don't you?

I want to be so detached from the crap of this world and so enamored with the joy of knowing Christ that my joy takes on such a gleam so that I see my world the way Paul saw his AND others are drawn to that joy in me! I am not there, yet! Heck, I can fall apart if I hit two red lights in a row!

Joy can happen as we seek Jesus. Not service for Jesus. Not church. Not the experience of Jesus. Not His blessings or His comfort. JESUS.

Jesus was rather adamant about this, don't you think? (And, why do we miss the point?) Read.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you” (John 15:4a, The Msg).

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’” (John 7:37, NIV).

There is a profoundness about seeking Jesus, the Person of Jesus and nothing else, for the simple and sole purpose of being with Him.

When we seek Jesus, we begin to know Him.

Some say, “I know Jesus!” No they don’t – they have only begun to know Him. This is why Paul just after saying, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect…” (Philippians 3:8,13).

And, as we begin to know Him we begin to become like Him (Romans 8:29). And, as we begin to become like Him, the world is attracted to Him in us and the kingdom of God is built.

The “More” we are looking for is Jesus.

He can be found! In fact, Jesus is praying for that to happen!

"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent'” (John 17:1-3)

Practically speaking, here’s what I’d do: Make time to be with Jesus. Sorry for sounding so simplistic, but I say that to say this: When you and I sit down with the sole purpose of seeking to be with Jesus, we will nearly instantaneously begin to realize everything we seek other than Him. We want stuff. We ask for blessings. Our arrow points toward self as we seek. Seeking Jesus turns the arrow away from ourselves.

This is not easy, it’s even foreign to many … Christians. But, seeking Jesus is the FIRST THING C.S. Lewis wrote about.

Service for Jesus flows from one who has been with Jesus. How can we expect to evangelize for Jesus if we have not been with Him and begun to “smell” like Him? What is the role of the church if it is not primarily to help people be with Jesus. This is the definition of worship!

The church began and grew because the world recognized the likes of Peter and John “as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

People will read this and think that it’s easy. It is not. The church today is seeking many things. To seek Jesus solely will mean major changes in the way we do church.

Good news: Jesus is not lost, He can be found! He wants to be found be you and me.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

There Has Got To Be More - Part 1

“Come to Me….”
“Follow Me….”
“Abide in Me….”
“Come to Me and drink….”

For quite a few years now I have heard the prevailing phrase, “There has got to be more,” as friends reflect on their church experience. So many of us are fed up with legalism, traditionalism, denominationalism, shoddy music and preaching, and the mentality that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

My knee-jerk response is, initially, there is something more! And there is! But a couple of things need to be said here at the outset. First, for those who seek more, I would say to you, nourish that need: That need comes from a place within you that can only be filled by the Real Thing, God, Himself. It is a legitimate and authentic longing for our Creator and Father (read Psalm 73:24-25).

On the other hand, it is likely the case that you and I have been substantially influenced by the culture of consumerism (under the rubric of sin, flesh and the devil). Just as when Satan enticed Adam and Eve to adjust their gaze a mere one degree off the object (or the Person) of their ultimate affection, namely from God onto themselves, so you and I have been drawn into thinking that “something more” has everything to do with “me.”

Here is what it looks like. It is Sunday afternoon around 12:30. You are finally in the car on the way home or to McDonald’s. You breathe a sigh of relief, loosen your tie and enjoy a prolonged period of silence, like say, five seconds. “I didn’t get anything out of that! Did you?” And the usual conversation ensues precisely as if you had just exited the local movie theater. Point is, we are not in church primarily to “get something out of” it as one would watching Pirates of the Caribbean.

For another way to see Christian consumerism surface is in the way we pray. Let me take this route: Were you ever taught A.C.T.S. as a pattern for prayer? “A” stands for Adoration, “C” for Confession, “T” for Thanksgiving and “S” for Supplication. Which of those prayer components is the hardest to do and which one is the only one not focused on me? The answer is the same… “A”! You may say not so… “T” is thanks to God, right? I say that thanksgiving is thanks to God for what He has done for ME. Those of us suffering from Christian consumerism to one degree or another see self as the locus for success of the church/God experience.

“There has got to be more” is an expression that is both legitimate and honorable. But, it must be refined and purified in order to lead us in the right direction. Step One is to repent of our self-orientation when it comes to church.

Next and now we need to recognize the church’s complicity in the problem. Yes, Margaret, there is an elephant in the sanctuary! And, she ain’t moving unless and until we first say with audible clarity, “There-is-an-elephant-in-the-sanctuary!” One of the main reasons you and I come away from church spiritually anemic is because

Remember C.S. Lewis’ quote: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”?
I am about to generalize what I feel are the few categories of second-things-first churches:
1. Church is a duty. You have an obligation before God to be here. Never mind that you are bored!
2. Church is about little more than evangelism. Even the Valentine’s Day banquet has an altar call.
3. Church is about church work. You come to church to serve… the church.
4. Church is where we receive our weekly stamp of absolution.
5. Church meets our social needs. It is a great place to meet friends. Belonging to XYZ Christian Church is a clear asset when running for the school board or city council.
6. Church is a generational thing. I go because my parents, their parents, etc. went.
7. Church is about learning the Bible and becoming a better Christian.

Each of these “second things” in this list is of some value. The problem lies in the fact that we have nearly forgotten the First Thing. And, because we do everything except the First Thing, people by the droves are leaving the church in order to find God! Imagine that!

In Part Two of There Has Got To Be More, I will attempt to describe the First Thing we all long for… essentially putting first things first.