Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Faith times seven

What's the ratio between the time you spend on studying the Word of God (to increase understanding and put it into practice), personal prayer (talking to God, and listening to Him, one on one), real fellowship (not just visiting), on the one hand; and all your other activities on the other (including sleep)?

I'm usually not an advocate of measuring, because I feel that when you are serving the Lord, no need to count and measure, especially your progress, because if it's good it tempts you to pride, if it's poor, it tempts you to despair. But just this one time, sort of like sticking a thermometer under your tongue. What's your spiritual temperature?

I know you're a talented person and you give generously of your time to your church. You must get some satisfaction from this. Still, nothing, but nothing, can take precedence over the three activities I just mentioned, not even ministry to others.

We are living at the close of the Church Age. In fact, the Church Age really is over, but the churches haven't figured it out yet. They're too busy talking about the latest mission strategy, fashioning more and more customized nets for those fussy fish out there, thinking up new baits for the old ‘bait and switch’ game. Sorry, folks, you're like Peter and those disciples who gave up what the Lord had called them to do and went back to fishing for fish instead of for men (see John 21:1-11). They ‘worked’ all night, yet they caught nothing. But Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, spoke to them from the shore, asking, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ When they admitted they hadn't, He gave them a command, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you'll find something.’ When they did what Jesus commanded, the net became so full of fish, they couldn't haul it in.

Don't you see? When we have let ourselves, who are Spirit-born, anointed messengers of the Word of Life, ambassadors of infinite Glory to ‘a people that walk in darkness’ (Isaiah 9:1), when we have let ourselves become imbued with ‘life as usual’ and, without realizing it, let comfort and contentment with the world (no matter how guilty we make ourselves feel about it) take the front seat of our lives, we walk out of the will of the Most-High God, and ‘to walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere’ (C.S. Lewis, Perelandra). Have I lost you with this run-on sentence?

James, the brother of God, wrote, ‘Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?’ (James 4:4 NIV) When you study the Word of God, you have to believe what it says, even if it doesn't seem to make sense, even if it doesn't line up with what's going on in your church. Even this single verse from James puts many, if not most, churches to shame. If you rely on church protocol as a standard for faith, hope and love, you're lost!

For many, church is no longer there for us, to challenge us, to launch us into the place where faith is possible. Faith, not intellectual assent. Faith, not familiarity. Faith, not obedience to programs (the modern equivalent of "man-made traditions"). Faith, not carefully circumscribed acts of do-good-ness. Faith, not entertainment. Faith, not social or religious conformity. Faith, not labyrinths, seminars, pilgrimages, conferences, Bible cruises, liturgical dancing, acculturation.

Speaking about the saints, I heard someone say, ‘I hope one day to similarly be able to live a resurrection life.’

What? One day? Why not now? Is Jesus the Resurrection and the Life now, or in some indefinite future? Do you really think that patterning your life after the ones you wish to mimic is going to bestow on you ‘resurrection life’? What does mimicking have to do with anything?

We look to the saints for encouragement, but it is only Christ that we are to follow. To follow the call of Jesus Christ sets us free from all man-made ideas of perfection, of perfect life (or whatever you want to label it).

Look only to Jesus, ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2) and, keeping your eyes on Him alone, not on your friends, not on your church, not on your music, not on your mental or emotional state, not on the road ahead which seems too difficult, too lonely, too boring, or too long, enter into that joy, that rest, that peace, that glory, that resurrection, that faith which can move mountains, that wisdom and that God-given worthiness—‘well done, My good and faithful servant’— none of which we can ever enter into or give ourselves by any work we do.

Back to basics. Did you compare the proportion of God's works versus your works that I outlined at the beginning of this rant? The score, right now, doesn't really matter. What matters is only this:

‘…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…’
Matthew 6:33 NIV

You can never get enough of God, of Christ, of the Word of God, of dialog with the Father in the Son's name, of fellowship in the Holy Spirit and in Truth, which is the kind of worship that the Father wants, not what is performed on ‘this mountain nor in Jerusalem’ (John 4:21). Do not limit what the Father wants to give you. Don't ask Jesus to ‘leave the neighborhood’ before He drives another herd of demon-jockeyed pigs into a lake, and makes you sit down in His presence, fully clothed and in your right mind (see Mark 5:1-20). There is nothing that you can want in Christ which the Father is not ready and willing to give you. You just have to ask.

Though you cannot make yourself into a disciple of Jesus by your own efforts, that is what you will become if you keep your eyes on Him, always set your heart on the things above, on His Kingdom and His righteousness (not on your own, mind you), determine never to settle for less than what is promised in the Word of God, nor to seek human approval, but only God's, to seek His commandments, and to love the brethren with a ready will. Study your Bible. Pray. Seek fellowship in Spirit and Truth.

Up to the time of John it was the Law and the Prophets; 
since then, the Kingdom of God has been preached, 
and by violence everyone is getting in.
Luke 16:16 Jerusalem Bible

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