When you live in a country where violent crime, and in particular murder, is, unfortunately a way of life, and when you know that man's heart is not just wicked, but " desperately wicked", and can only be changed by the good news of the Gospel of Christ, there is always an anxiety to
" win souls", and so change one's country. For the same reason, in discussions with relatives, or people in the media or professionals or politicians, or people who seek your professional help, or those who have turned their back on the faith, there is a temptation to " defend the Word of God" as the only source of help for the unbelieving. However, in very clear messages the Lord issued a caution to me and to others as I continued to read the Complete Works of Oswald Chambers this week.
The first message came from a Section of the Book entitled " The Origin of Our Salvation and a sub-text " The Reason Why" which featured four reflections on the Cross of Christ.
4....and Discipline ( Gal.2:20) which is the one that contained the first message.
" I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me". NIV
Chambers - This is not a theological statement, it is a statement of Christian experience wrought by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one Who regenerates us into the family to which Jesus Christ belongs; through the eternal efficacy of the Cross we are made partakers of the Divine nature.
" I have been crucified with Christ" (RV). Paul's personal identification with the death of Christ is simply the presentation of how that death will work out in the life of anyone. The Cross of Christ is the Self-revelation of God, the exhibition of the essential nature of the Godhead.
Nowadays the great passion is the passion for souls, but you never find that passion in the New Testament, it is the passion for Christ that the New Testament mentions. It is not a passion for men that saves men; a passion for men breaks human hearts. The passion for Christ inwrought by the Holy Spirit goes deeper down than the deepest agony the world, the flesh and the devil can produce. it goes straight down to where our Lord went, and the Holy Spirit works out, not in thinking but in living, this passion for Christ. Whenever the passion for souls obscures the passion for Christ, Satan has come in as an angel of light.
For me this was a very profound moment as, no doubt some of us, including myself, have often allowed our desire to promote the gospel, to write Internet Messages, to send text messages, to do " good works" in inner cities and many other aspects of our lives, to relegate a focus on the Cross of Christ to a few minutes in the morning, at mid-day and at nights. Rather than allowing what Isaiah calls " steadfast " gazing on the Lord. And which steadfast approach to a relationship with Christ is the only basis on which, the Holy Spirit will flow out through us and effect God's will in this " broken and confused world. It is not that I was not aware of the importance of spending time with the Lord, as in fact words from Psalm 27 have provided much courage in the face of recent adversity:
" The Lord is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life--
of whom shall I be afraid?
........One thing I ask of the lord,
this is what I seek:
that i may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life........
for in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling.....
But on reflection, I can see where I was more concerned about the state of the nation, the heinous crimes being committed and what ought to be the response of the church, rather than spending quality time brooding on the Cross of Christ. In fact, though I welcomed the " rebuke"
from the Lord and gave thanks, I am not sure how I got there, as the reason why this Internet Ministry started has all to do with Christ and not "doing work", for Christ. I was in Singapore attending a Leadership Conference in Evangelism, to which I had been invited by a group by the name of Haggai International. ( They have been in the business of training leaders, ordained and lay members of the church, to be evangelists, and then to return home, especially in South East Asia and Africa where it was proving difficult for " outsiders" to gain access to the population).
One day during devotions I witnessed a brother weeping as we sang:
As the deer pants for water,
So my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You
You alone are my strength, my shield,
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire
And I long to worship You
I was so moved by this experience, as I had never witnessed anyone in my Anglican church weeping with joy for Christ in this manner, that I wrote to a dear " Sister in Christ", who is a Priest and shared with her, my amazement. And God bless her soul, as she replied appropriately and shared with me an old Hymn from my Hymnal, the words of which have blessed me so much over the years, and to which I returned, time and time again this week, as sought to love my Lord Jesus for Himself alone.
My God, I love thee, not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love thee not
Are lost eternally.
Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me
Upon the Cross embraced;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
Yea death itself ---and all for me
Who was thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Nor of escaping hell;
Not from the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as thou hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.
So would I love thee, dearest lord,
And in thy praise will sing;
Solely because thou art my God,
And my most loving King.
I am sure that I told this story before, but since then the Lord has added many others to this Ministry, so that it was worth telling again. The point here, however, is that we must be vigilant in "keeping our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith", lest we stray far from the only power which enables us to " bear fruit " for the Lord. As no amount of desire to change the hearts of wicked gunmen is going to make a difference, unless a renewed church, a repentant church, a church which spends time " brooding on the Cross of Christ", and whose Holy Spirit will then enable us to carry out God's will in God's time, so that all the honor and glory may be given to Him when such a change of heart takes place.
And just to make sure that this revelation was not just something that happened by chance, the Lord led me, in a Bible which has meditations from Saints of old, using the passage from Isaiah which was of such great help to me recently, to reinforce the message - in another meditation from Oswald Chambers and another very special " Anglican hymn".
" You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you".
Isaiah 26:3 NIV
IS YOUR MIND STAYED ON GOD OSWALD CHAMBERS CLASSIC DEVOTIONAL BIBLE
Verse Isaiah 26:3 Passage Isaiah 26: 1-6
Is your mind stayed on God or is it starved? Starvation of the mind, caused by neglect, is one of the chief sources of exhaustion and weakness in a servant's life. If you have never used your mind to place your before God, do it now. There is no reason to wait for God to come to you. You must turn your thoughts and your eyes away from the face of idols and look to him and be saved( see Isaiah 45:220.
Your mind is the greatest gift God has given you and it ought to devoted entirely to him....When you have thoughts and ideas that are worthy of credit to God, learn to compare and associate them with with all that happens in nature --the rising of the sun, the shinning of the moon and the stars, and the changing of the seasons. You will begin to see that your thoughts are from God as well, and your mind will no longer be at the mercy of of your impulsive thinking, but will always be used in the service of God....
Remember whose you are and whom you serve. Encourage yourself to remember, and your affection for God will increase tenfold. Your mind will no longer be starved, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright.
The day I first read the above meditation, the Spirit of God led me to the great passage
in the book of Romans.
" Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God --this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. the you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will". Romans 12: 1-2 NIV
As I write here tonight this renewing of the mind which only comes when " Your eyes are stayed on God" is the answer to the prayers of the faithful for those who come to church and spend most of their time chatting and thus losing out so much on what is being revealed in church; the answer to the prayers of the faithful for those who spend so much time being entertained by the television, on the Internet, on the cell phone, on their "blackberries"; the answer to the prayers of the faithful that the church may be renewed so that the nation may be renewed. Amen.
Next week, reflections on the " Anglican Hymn " Jesus, the very thought of thee...."
And reflections of the reading of God's Word by non-believers and by us, the baptised of Christ.
And more as the Spirit of God directs. Please continue to pray for this Ministry.