Saturday, August 29, 2009

What would I do if Christ did not uphold me?

I would fall.
"It is not fit that, in a covenant of mercy and saving grace, the reward of life should be suspended on man's perseverance, as depending on the strength and steadfastness of his own will. It is a covenant of works, and not a covenant of grace, that suspends eternal life on that which is the fruit of a mans own strength, to keep him from falling. If all is of free and sovereign grace, then free grace has undertaken the matter to complete and finish it, and has not left it to men themselves, and to the power of their own wills, as it was under the first covenant. As divine grace has commenced the work, it will finish it; and therefore we shall be kept to the end."
Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (emphasis mine)

As some of you know, I've spent the majority of my life professing to be a Christian. Then I got saved, shortly before my forty-first birthday.

My relationship to the church all those years often brings to mind childhood memories of the felt boards my Sunday School teachers used to use. They would put up a cloth Jesus. Then they would put up a disciple or two. When the story changed, those flimsy felt disciples would be peeled away to make room for the next character. I, throughout my life, like a felt disciple, adhered myself from time to time, as the story suited me, to the church and its Savior. If I felt a need. I would be there. If I wanted some freedom to be myself - live my own life - I pulled away. This I did time and time again, as did most of the "disciples" I'd known. I sometimes wondered about those occasional disciples that didn't seem to be separate pieces of felt. The ones that stayed up on the board and were never removed - the ones whose lives were bound up with the Savior on the board. Though made of the same stuff, they were different. They were permanent. I wondered about them, but couldn't imagine living that way. I liked my freedom.

As I said, something happened to change all that when I was forty. My life was turned upside down. What I had thought of as freedom, I was beginning to see, was no freedom at all. I was a slave to the various pullings and tuggings of my conflicting desires and appetites. I was a little scrap of fabric, demanding my freedom yet being blown about, trampled and useless. And one day I recognized what I was, and what my "freedom" had done for me. I ran back to the board, as I'd often done. I needed help. But this time I looked at that Savior and realized something new. He is beautiful. I didn't just want something from Him. I wanted to be with Him, forever. I didn't just need some help. I needed to be changed. I wanted to be changed. I wanted to be one of the permanent ones - more than anything in my life, I wanted to be one of the disciples who could never be pulled away from the presence of that Savior. It became the driving force in my life, my great goal. But how could I know that I would not be peeled away this time?
I'd never been able to hang on before (or even really wanted to). What hope did I have that I could hold fast to the end and be saved? I asked whoever would listen, until I finally met a pastor who introduced me to the Scriptural teaching of "the perseverance of the saints". That question is the reason the "Doctrines of Grace" have become so dear to me. I do not love doctrine for doctrine's sake - as some are inclined to do. I love it for the hope it gives me that I can persevere to the end and be numbered among those who are faithful unto death and receive the crown of life. (Rev. 2:10)

5 comments:

Betsy Markman said...

Bless you, I love that kind of testimony!

Lisa notes... said...

Laurie,
I love your testimony, too! (I went back and read your other two as well.) I praise God that he continued to draw you closer and closer into his love and grace.

It's so hard to break free of legalism, but once you do, the freedom is breath-taking. I grew up in a very legalistic church, and only in my adulthood have I come to know the true freedom that comes from being a child of God. Well, I'm still learning it actually; it's so big and hard to grasp.

I love the felt board analogy. And I thank God that he's let us be drawn to the same board. By his grace, we will stay stuck to the board and not be peeled off. Blessings, my friend!

Simple Mann said...

Laurie,

Thank you for sharing Christ's testimony in your life for the edification of the body. I also liked the "felt" disciple illustration. We have a brother in our church who is an evangelist and who was a pastor for over ten years when he was actually soundly converted. I have a recording of his testimony posted on my blog here:

http://simplemann.net/?p=426

It is worth listening to. He talked a little bit about the effect it had on his congregation when he was actually converted and working through the process of everything that meant for him, for his ministry, for his church, etc. I think there are an army of deceived confessing Almost Christians around who love the idea of eternal security, but who lack the understanding of the perseverance of the saints. Thank God for those pastors who preach the whole counsel of God. It sounds like you and I both have a lot to be thankful for the shepherds and the flocks that are part of our lives.

Also (and I apologize for the length of my comment here... I know this is long, but I really couldn't help myself) - you're post made me think of the awesome sermon Paris Reidhead preached years and years ago, "Ten Shekels and a Shirt". If you haven't heard it, go track it down on sermonaudio.com. It is POWERFUL! I am going to leave you and your faithful readers with a snippet from that sermon that I thought was maybe one of the best summaries of what our attitude toward Christ should be. As you spoke of his beauty and his worth, I heard this man's words ring through my heart again...


That's why so many people you know do not enter into the fullness of Christ. Because they want to become a Levite with ten shekels and a shirt. They've been serving Micah, but they think if they had the power of the Holy Ghost they could serve the tribe of Dan.

It will never work. Never work. There's only one reason for God needing you and that's to bring you to the place where, in repentance, you've been pardoned for His glory. And in victory you've been brought to the place of death that He might reign. And in the fullness, Jesus Christ is able to live and walk in you.

Your attitude is the attitude of the Lord Himself, who said, "I can do nothing of Myself" (John 8:28). I can't speak of myself. I don't make plans for myself. My only reason for being is for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. If I were to say to you, "Come to be saved so you can go to heaven, come to the cross so that you can have joy and victory, come for the fullness of the Spirit so that you can be satisfied." I would be falling into the trap of humanism.

I'm going to say to you dear friend if you're out here without Christ, you come to Jesus Christ and serve Him as long as you live whether you go to Hell at the end of the way BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY!

I say to you Christian friend you come to the cross and join Him in union, in death, and enter into all the meaning of death to self in order that He can have glory. I say to you dear Christian if you do not know the fullness of the Holy Ghost, come and present your body a living sacrifice, and let Him fill you so that He can have the purpose for His coming fulfilled in you and get glory through your life. IT'S NOT WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO GET OUT OF GOD, IT'S WHAT'S HE GOING TO GET OUT OF YOU.

Let's be done, once and for all, with utilitarian Christianity that makes God a means, instead of the glorious END that He is. Let's resign, let's tell Micah we're through. We're no longer going to be his priests serving for ten shekels and a shirt. Let's tell the tribe of Dan we're through. And let's come and cast ourselves at the feet of the nail pierced Son of God and tell Him that we're going to obey Him, and love Him, and serve Him, as long as we live BECAUSE HE IS WORTHY!


Blessings in Christ ~

Simple Mann

Laurie M. said...

He is worthy!

Thank you Simple Mann.

I'll have to check out the rest of the sermon. No need to apologize about the length of the comment. I love words, and brevity is clearly not one of my own forte's.

Betsy and Lisa,
Thanks. I love that testimony too! It's God's ongoing work up close and personal.

jeri said...

Amen, wonderful stuff. I can see the felt board story being made into a really neat video. Very good Laurie.

What a good and kind Savior we have.