Sunday, July 5, 2009

New life in Christ Jesus

For the past three weeks the Word of God, and commentary on His Word, have come alive to me like no other period in my life. As I have literally had to depend on His Word for life and thus to experience that which Jesus told his disciples:
" The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life". John 6: 63 NIV.
Two prayers, in particular also meant a whole lot to me during that period. One is the prayer which sustains this Internet Ministry:
" Lord renew thy church beginning with me. Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation".
So I spent a lot of time praying for my own renewal, the renewal of my home church - St. Andrew Parish Church - and the wider body of Christ including the Pentecostal, the Church of God, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Moravians, the Salvation Army, the United Church, the Seventh day Adventists, the Roman Catholic church, the Anglican church and all the other evangelical churches - and the renewal of my nation, parish by parish. And just this evening I recalled that in our national pledge is a prayer; "...that Jamaica may play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.
I prayed in particular that the Lord would use His renewed church to drive out the wickedness in the hearts of men which has occasioned so much bloodshed in my country. So much murder, so much pain, so much loss of hope so much destruction of the good name of my people. And further that those who are influencing our children into a life of immorality may be stopped as this moral plague on our land is but the flip side of the " coin " of murder.
One hymn which is sung during Holy Communion, together with other " signals" from God, including a deep meditation on the great repentance Psalm ( Psalm 51) and in particular :
" Create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me", led to a deep outpouring of repentance for named sins. A process which is the first and most important step in renewal of an individual and I dare say the church and the nation.

And now, O Father, mindful of the love
That brought us, once for all on Calvary's Tree
( You can almost hear the well known crusade hymn echoing in the back ground; " All the way to Calvary He went for me, He went for me.......for thou I have so many many sins, Jesus washed them all the way and pardoned me)
And having with us him that pleads above,
We here present, we here spread forth to thee
That only Offering perfect in thine eyes
The one true, pure, immortal sacrifice.
(...power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb)

Look, Father, look on his anointed face,
And only look on us as found in him;
Look not on our misusings of thy grace,
Our prayer so languid, and our faith so dim:
For lo, between the our sins and their reward
We set the Passion of thy Son our Lord.

( One of the truths about which the Lord reminded me , and demonstrated in no uncertain fashion, so that never will I ever forget, is that " dim faith and languid prayers" have no place in the Christian life. They are literally an insult to the One who died on the Cross for our Salvation, and of no value whatsoever when real trouble, evil attacks you. They may provide a kind of
" baby like pacifier" for the young Christian but have no place in the life of the mature believer. Further we have so much to repent of for " misusing God's grace", " forgetting our first love", rebelling against His commands, disbelieving His promises, judging others, being so easily angered and demanding of our " rights", ignoring our neighbours, being lukewarm in our support of our church, being highly critical of the pastor and other members.......... And in all of that forgetting that we are the greatest of sinners, and hence the reason why Christ died. Finally, that God that in His mercy, does not see our sins - if we repent regularly and with a contrite and broken heart - but looks on the Passion of our Lord and sets aside His just wrath.

And then for those, our dearest and our best,
By this prevailing Presence we appeal:
O fold them closer to thy mercy's breast,
O do thine utmost for their soul's true weal.
from tainting mischief keep them white and clean,
And crown thy gifts with strength to persevere.

( I found this verse very helpful in my prayers, not just for " our dearest and our best", and there are many for who I pray, but for all for whom I have been praying regularly that they would surrender their lives to Christ Jesus. And many of them who are part of this Internet Ministry and read the messages, fall into this category - not yet baptised, not yet in an intimate relationship with Christ Jesus, or having at one time made a commitment have now fallen away).

And so we come: O draw us to they feet,
Most patient Saviour, who canst love us still;
And by this food, so awful and so sweet,
Deliver us from every touch of ill:
In thine own service make us glad and free,
And grant us never more to part with thee

( Finally, my " take home message" from this verse, is a deep recognition that quite often in our " doing God's work" it is quite possible to " forget our first love" and fail to spent quality time with God in Christ Jesus. So " grant us never more to part with thee" means for me to be always seeking to know and to feel the presence of Jesus with me, in all places, in all circumstances, for His glory alone.

And so I close with the second prayer that is ongoing, very demanding - you cannot know Christ without suffering - very humbling but yet very rewarding.

" I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing his sufferings, becoming like him in his death ( Baptism), and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I also pent a lot if time reading John Stott's commentary on " The Sermon of the Mount" where in essence Christians are called to be manifestly " different" from non-believers.
Bonhoffer's " Life Together: A discussion on Christian fellowship - where we are called to remember that " Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Christ.........Christians need each other because of Christ - therefore there is no such thing as a single Christian staying at home and worshiping God by themselves - Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.
And finally this very evening I took up the full works of Oswald Chambers, whose shorter book,
My Utmost for His highest", I read at nights before retiring to bed. And the reading of which has already impacted my life profoundly, as I was led to read again, but with a different attitude, believing in all my heart, one of the great prayers in the Bible.
" I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so Christ may dwell in your hearts though faith. And i pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together to with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:16-19. NIV

I will certainly write about my experiences with Stott, Bonhoffer and Chambers, all great theologians who have made God's Word more easily understood by us ordinary readers of this precious book. I have no doubt that through these prayers, and the prayers of the faithful in Jamaica and worldwide, that God will indeed renew the church, the nation and indeed that whole human race. But first it begins with you and I. And repentance with a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise is the first order of business.
I praise God for hearing the cry of His servant, on whom I waited patiently, and who then turned to me and lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire and set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place on which to stand and put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. I praise God for the love of family, new Christian friends and the prayers of the faithful, but more than ever I thank God for Jesus, in whom and through whom we have all been given new, renewed and eternal life.