Monday, June 06, 2005

A QUIET ACTION CALL TO ALL CHRISTIANS!



The Gospel is not primarily a belief. It is an invitation. An invitation to meet and become an intimate friend with a Person who is both truly God and truly human and who gave his life so that we may live in the presence of God forever.
But Jesus is not just an historical figure; not even a unique Figure who performed something that nobody else could (his atoning death and resurrection). He is all of these, but he is also a very contemporary Person who stands before us now as a living figure. Beyond the Jesus of ancient history is the Jesus of the present moment; the Jesus who waits to come and dwell within our spirits and through his Holy Spirit transform us increasingly into his own image.
The Gospel is the good news that this miracle has been made possible by the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus. It is also the good news that this same Jesus now waits for us to turn away from a self-centred life and toward him, by inviting him to come into our spirits in a real and vital way.
Christianity is not a religion.
It is a relationship.
A relationship between a man or woman and God in Jesus. A Christian is one who has Jesus spiritually within.
But this relationship with God is not something simply to be enjoyed by ourselves. We are saved and transformed, not simply that we may become holy people and go to Heaven when we die, but so that we may become parts of a community of people who are similarly being transformed inwardly and who, collectively, maintain the presence of Christ in the flesh within today’s world. This company of genuine Christians, the church (not to be confused with any denomination, or even with the institutionalised church per se) is the Body of Christ today. In a very real sense, it is the continuation of the incarnation of Jesus down through history. Jesus Christ is the Head and the church is his Body; his corporate Body in the world. Through the church, God is involved in human society, just as Jesus was involved in human society. Society is influenced by God to the degree that all aspects of it are influenced by members of the church and to the degree that each of these church members is surrendered to the will of God. The healing of society and its transformation toward a holy and just community is, I believe, a consequence of the sanctification of the individual and the sanctifying influence of many sanctified individuals upon the broader world.
Nevertheless, the church can only be a unifying and transforming factor if it does not succumb to the divisions of human society itself. Alas, this is just what has happened. The church as a whole and the people who are its members have lost sight of the unifying vision of being the Body of Christ and have allowed the false gods of human society to usurp the place that belongs to Christ alone. Christian has become divided from Christian along the lines of race, politics, class (and sundry other “secular” divisions) as well as the peculiarly “religious” divisions of denomination, worship style, theological doctrine and so forth.
These become “gods” when they assume a greater importance than the simple but profound fact of belonging to Christ, being in him as part of his corporate Body and being indwelt by his Spirit.
All of these false gods must go. The church must spiritually unite, not necessarily by merging into a single denomination, but by awakening to a single vision … the vision of itself as it ought to be; a vision of the church in all its sundry and diverse manifestations united in a higher unity as the Body of Christ, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, with Christ alone as its Lord and Head. The church must awaken to the vision of itself as the New Jerusalem into which stream all the diverse strands of human society, merging there as the single citizenry of the Holy City. It must have the vision of this citizenry going forth into the world again, still being members of whatever race or faction they previously were, but now with this one great difference; that from henceforth they carry first and foremost the badge of a citizen of the Heavenly City. Ambassadors now of Heaven, being transformed inwardly by the continuing workings of the Holy Spirit, in the process of being moulded into the likeness of the Man from Heaven, they enter the world again, bringing with them the vision of humanity redeemed, of society transformed and of a world truly reflecting the qualities of heaven.
This is, unfortunately, not what we have today. But how do we get from today’s church to the ideal? How can this great renewal occur? Is it just a dream?
I do not believe that it is just an unrealisable ideal. After all, Jesus taught his disciples to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth as in Heaven. God’s will is followed in Heaven totally, otherwise it would not be Heaven. And in praying what we have come to call the “Lord’s Prayer”, we are praying for the same to apply on earth as well. Surely Jesus would not have taught us to pray for something that would never come to pass!
Once the holiness of God is truly revealed to us, the full force of sin begins to be correctly appreciated.
A genuinely converted person feels inwardly drawn toward personal holiness. If one claims to have been converted and yet delights in some deliberate sin, something is seriously wrong. It is true that even a converted person will, at times, commit sin and it is true that Christians continue to struggle with sin, but it is not true that a genuine Christian can continue to wallow in deliberate sin. Unless holiness becomes increasingly attractive and sin increasingly distasteful following conversion, the validity of that conversion must be seriously questioned, irrespective of the intensity of sobs and fervour of promises at the penitent form.
The church and all those within it must also be clear that Jesus is their personal Lord and that allegiance to Him must come before allegiance to anything or anyone else. Christians must see themselves as individual members of the corporate Body of Christ and must be submitted to the Head and work together in the unity of the Spirit so that the will of the Head (Jesus) is carried out through the corporate Body. We must realise that in trying to put in motion our own plans for the way in which we think the church should operate, we are treating the Body as our own bodies would be treated if our limbs and organs acquired wills of their own and started operating independently of the brain. Our own bodies would tear themselves apart; so why should we expect any less disastrous result for the Body of Christ?

There are some “key” passages in the Bible that are so filled with tremendous spiritual value that all who would call themselves Christian should take time out, not just to read them, but to meditate on them and ask God to illuminate our hearts as well as our minds to their great truths.
I would ask each person reading these words to prayerfully set aside a little time each day, for five days, for the following meditations. This may be alone, or with a small group of people (maybe members of your family, or your Bible study or prayer group). The five days can be consecutive or not, whatever is most appropriate for you, but in any case, it is only a very small investment of your time that has the potential of delivering a huge spiritual dividend.
As well as this set time, I strongly urge that you frequently bring these passages and thoughts to mind during your daily routine. This is something that you should do, not just for five days, but indefinitely. Form a habit of meditating on these verses; on other Bible verses too, but constantly return to these until they become part and parcel of your mind-set. Their message will then be ‘natural’ to you!




Day 1
"Our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29).

Meditation
Here we meditate on the holiness and the power of God; we dare to expose ourselves to holy fear.
Holy fear has somewhat fallen out of fashion these days, and Christians are all the poorer for that. Certainly, we have the immense privilege of being able to approach God through Christ, but we must remember that this privilege is one that has been won for us by the blood of Jesus and that the God whom we approach is a God of holiness and might. We tremble at the power of atomic energy or of an exploding star. How much more should we tremble before the Creator of these things.
But we must also remember that God is all-holy and all-pure as well as all-powerful. We are impure, we are sinful. We cannot approach God in our sinful state any more than a snowflake can sink into a blast furnace. Before him, our greatest strength is pitiable weakness and our greatest good is as a filthy rag! Only by his grace are we not consumed utterly by his holy fire.

Pray that God will reveal something of his awe and purity to our hearts this day, that we better understand who he is and who we are.


Day 2
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

Meditation
The first part of this meditation shows us the way to the God who is a consuming fire, and the Way is Jesus. In Jesus, the Fire wears a human body. Through Jesus and only through Jesus can we approach the Unapproachable and through Jesus alone, Almighty God comes down to us, not in fire and wrath, but in the Person of a divine Human Being inviting us to come into a personal loving relationship with Him!
Jesus is the Way ... the way through whom each individual human being can reach up to God and through whom God reaches down to each of us.
He is the truth ... the truth about what God is and what man ought to be and can be through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
And He is the life ... the Life of Deity manifested in human form so that human life may be transformed and partake of the Divine Nature in and through Him.

Pray that our hearts are enlightened to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.


Day 3
"Jesus is Lord"

Meditation
This is, or ought to be, our response to this revelation of Jesus. It focuses upon the central core of Christian spirituality. It is the absolutely essential step that we all must take to become a true Christian.
But what does it mean - really mean - to accept Jesus as Lord?
It means that we accept him as the central authority of our lives. We make a definite commitment to live the kind of life which he desires of us and we both accept this and welcome the indwelling power of his Spirit who enables us to live in this way.
Acceptance of Jesus as Lord also implies belief in his divine and human natures; that he is truly God and truly Man. If he is Lord, he is also Saviour, but only as both Man and God can he be Saviour. As Man he lifts humanity up to God and as God he brings divinity down to Man.
We likewise note that Paul also says that no one can call Jesus "Lord" except he or she be moved by the Holy Spirit (1Cor, 12:3). Of course, this does not mean that no one can simply say "Jesus is Lord" without inspiration (a parrot could be taught to do this!) but, rather, no one can assert this with conviction. Asserting and truly believing that Jesus is Lord (which really means being a Christian) is not something that one can do "naturally". It is quite literally a divine miracle - dependent entirely upon the grace of God!
Once we accept him as Saviour and worship him as our God, his image becomes - as it were - stamped on a sensitised heart. Something inexpressible begins to happen in our lives; our existence has a new "feel" about it which (though very real) is not easy to pin down with words. A new hunger begins to appear; a new desire to really surrender more and more to Jesus and, paradoxically, the more we rise to this desire, the stronger it becomes. If this inner change truly appears and grows, we can say that we have truly accepted Jesus as Lord and our Christian life has begun.
As we meditate on the Lordship of Christ, keeping these thoughts in mind, we allow ourselves to experience an attitude of total and complete helplessness in the hands of Almighty God. We allow ourselves to feel the weight of our sin and how we are as filthy rags before the absolute purity of God. And yet, as we surrender to Him through our acceptance of the Lordship of Christ, He washes our sins away and looks upon us as pure with Christ's own purity!
We see Jesus as our life, our everything. We depend totally upon God to bring us to the point of acceptance of him. We abandon ourselves completely to God and to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

If we have not accepted Jesus as Lord of our life, we now face the greatest decision that we can ever make, either here or in Eternity, for our very condition in Eternity depends upon what we will decide. Shall we accept Jesus and enter into the family of God the Father, or shall we ignore or reject him and continue on a course that will one day bring us face to face (in full awareness of our sinfulness and impurity) with the God who is a consuming fire?
The choice is ours to make … now.
If we have accepted Jesus as Lord, acknowledge that many times we have acted as though you had not accepted him and ask God to forgive and strengthen us in our continuing commitment.


Day 4
"you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Meditation
As the previous meditation concentrated upon the individual's relationship with God through Christ, so this concentrates upon the life of the believer as a part of the corporate Body of Christ. All who are members of the church are "organs" in the Body by and through which Christ has chosen to be active in the world today.
In our meditation, we remember that the one divine life - the Holy Spirit - inspires and guides each member of the Body and that, through each being united with the Holy Spirit, we are also united with one another.
We remember that as we yield our personal and self-centred lives and wills to Jesus - as we increasingly allow him to be the one true Lord of our lives - we yield our personal life to the life of the Body. We yield to Jesus as Lord and Head of the church as well as to Jesus the Lord of our individual lives.
We seek this deepest life within us - a life manifested through all desires to surrender to Christ and to follow him. We dwell upon these spiritual desires and let all other desires fall away from us. We allow ourselves to be drawn increasingly into the life of the group and, through the group, into the life of the Body of Christ. As each of us allows himself/herself to be drawn into a deepening experience of the Body and increasingly live for the Body through his/her role within it, so the Body itself increasingly functions as the Body of Christ. It comes under increasing control of the Head as each of its members more fully yields to the Divine Mind within the Body ... the Holy Spirit.
This deeper inner commitment will show itself in practical terms as increasing involvement, increasing interest and increasing desire for involvement in church life and witness. It will also manifest as a growing love for other Christians ... including those of different persuasions, temperament or background.

Pray for a growing awareness of being a member of the corporate Body of Christ in the world.

Day 5
"[you] ... have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3: 10-11).
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28).

Meditation
In this meditation, we are shown three classes of division between people and we are assured that they are overcome amongst Christians through mutual unity within the Body.
One division is social. Paul exemplifies this by "slave and free", but today we could also add "employer and employee", "politically conservative and politically liberal", "professional person and manual labourer" and so forth. Think about this. The differences that cause so much division both within society at large and, all too frequently, at a personal level, melt away as we become increasingly aware of the "Body unity". In other words, as we experience fellowship at this deep level, we increasingly see one another as Christians first and primarily. The tags which society may place upon us become decreasingly important.
Another might be called divinely instituted if we bear in mind that it was actually the sin of humanity that made it necessary in the first place. It is the division of Jew (the chosen of God) and gentile or heathen (Paul exemplifies this as "Greek"). What Paul is saying is that both Jew and gentile must leave behind their former position ... the gentile "comes in from the cold", from beyond the people of God, and is brought into union within the Body, but the Jew also must renounce any thought that he is right with God simply by virtue of birth within the Jewish nation. Both groups are now united in being equally in need of Christ and individuals from each group can find fellowship together if they turn away from their past condition and become united in the Body.
Thirdly, membership of the Body transcends natural divisions, eg sexual (male and female) and racial (Greek, barbarian, Scythian). Such natural differences include Asian and Caucasian, black and white and all of the many innate differences between people and groups of people that can so often be exaggerated into matters of real significance. But these differences too melt away into the unity that exists between true Christians.
We meditate on this fact and allow the true enormity of it to become realised in our minds.
With this meditation we touch the very heart of the unity that alone is adequate to bring Christians of different theological and denominational differences into true unity of spirit. We meditate on this fact.
But the impact of these passages goes beyond church unity in the usual sense. We imagine the world as it would be if all its people fulfilled the potential for which they were created and truly became parts of the Body. Imagine the ideal; all divisions transcended by the unity of Spirit knitting all parts of the Body together as all people reflected in their lives the Glory of God!

Pray that the Holy Spirit stirs up within us an overwhelming desire to see the Body of Christ in this world truly Spirit-filled and united, having one Mind and one Spirit – the Mind and Spirit of Christ himself – totally surrendered to God the Father and revealing his glory to the world1