Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thinking About Forgetting


"Don't look back; you're not going that way."


Social media loves wisdom memes like this. And this is a good one, so far as it goes. 

The apostle Paul said, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3.13b)

....forgetting what lies behind...."  he says after spending the preceding paragraph recounting all the things in his past he was once proud of. He hasn't forgotten anything. 

Paul is talking about a forgetting in different way, a way that fully understands the import of the past, that clings to the truth of it and the wisdom gained from it, but leaves behind its vanity, foolishness, and sin.

“...then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” ‭‭Deut.‬ ‭6:12‬‬

Wisdom looks back and remembers the faithfulness and mercy of God it has already experienced. It looks back and remembers past mistakes and sins so as not to repeat them. It looks back to remember the upward call of God.

Wisdom doesn't see today as a moment disconnected from all days past and future. It doesn't see it disappearing into nothing. It sees every today is the yesterday on which tomorrow is built. Wisdom ensures that today is not wasted. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Experiencing the Fullness of Christ

How can we experience Christ?

I've heard a lot of ideas about that over the years. But it wasn't until I slowed down and listened carefully to Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church that I saw something I'd never seen before. Paul prayed, among other things, that they would know:

"...what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints..." Eph. 1.18

Where are the riches of Christ? Where is His glorious inheritance?

"in the saints"

That's me and you. We Christians are his riches. We, the church, are his inheritance, his treasure. 


In the next sentence Paul tells us that the church is Christ's body,

"the fullness of him who fills all in all." Eph.1.23

Where do we go to experience the fullness of Christ? 

All of Christ's riches, all of his energy and resurrection power are invested in one place, his body, the congregation of his people. There is nowhere else to go to live in his fullness but to the church. 

The place to find Christ is not a quiet place within ourselves, though, if we are his, he is there. The place to find him in all of his fullness is in the gathering of his people. 

This discovery has changed my life, and my attitude about what experiencing Christ is about. It's not so much a feeling, though there are a lot of feelings involved. Living as his body means living among his people. It means suffering with him among his people, often because of his people, just as he did. Experiencing Christ's fullness is not fun and games, any more than being our Savior was fun and games for him. 

So lets not let anyone or anything, any offense, any strife, any hurt, any fear, any bitterness keep us from experiencing the riches of his grace the only way we can - together.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Be Still

He spoke to them in parables all day before setting out to sea. Those of his disciples who were fishermen by trade manned the helm while he lay down for a much needed rest.

I'll bet those seafaring men had a special place in their heart for Psalm 107, the one with a verse about guys just like them. I imagine they had sung it many times over the years while they hauled in their catch or mended their nets:

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

And while Jesus napped they saw the deeds of the LORD, for he commanded and raised the stormy wind. And while Jesus napped their courage melted. They reeled and staggered, and when they were at their wits end they cried to Jesus. "And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mk. 4.39)

The storm was still. The waves of the sea hushed. "And he said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is
this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'"

They went from fear to fear as the psalm unfolded before their eyes. Only Yahweh had command of the seas. Jesus looked at them. Do you recognize me? "Have you still no faith?"



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Transformation

Today I revisited a book that changed my life a dozen years ago, The Assurance of Our Salvation, by Martin Lloyd-Jones. Flipping through, I landed on this, all underlined and asterisked:
“We are all too interested in our own moods and states and conditions; we are all too psychological and introspective, and too concerned, therefore, about the benefits that the Christian gospel and salvation have to give to us. And the result of this is that we we miss something of these great glories of the gospel as it is unfolded in the New Testament. This comes out very clearly if we listen to one another; have you not noticed how there is a tendency to be talking about ourselves? We are always telling people what has happened to us. 'Testimony' today generally means what we have experienced, or what has happened to us. How rarely do we speak about him!
"...If you read the lives of the saints who have gone before us in this world, you will find that they spent most of their time in talking together about Jesus Christ. Their testimony was a testimony to him, and to his praise. Their emphasis was upon him. They spoke about this wonderful Christ and the glory of his person, whereas we always tend to talk about ourselves... 
"...there is no real hope for revival and true awakening until we come back to this. And the way to do that is to study the Scriptures, to spend our time in reading and mediating upon them and then in humbling ourselves in worship and in adoration before such a marvelous truth....I advocate this because, apart from anything else, the real cure for most of our subjective ills is ultimately to be so enraptured by the beauty and the glory of Christ that we will forget ourselves and will not have time to think about ourselves at all."

Which last bit brings this to mind:
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Cor. 3.17,18
Transformation comes as we behold him. And until the day we see him with our eyes, we behold him through his word handed down to us through his apostles, safeguarded by those who love him for two millennia, translated by dedicated Christians into the language we speak today, in words simple enough for the simplest of us to understand.