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So Send I You, Part 5

June 8th, 2012

Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.

John 20:21

The fifth and final stanza of Margaret Clarkson’s hymn, “So Send I You,” expresses the reality of witness and identity with the death of Christ, but also reminds us of the hope confidently stated in the New Testament, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom. 6:8).

So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see,
To spend, tho’ it be blood, to spend and spare not-
So send I you to taste of Calvary.

There is some nature of Calvary in every act of witness and service for Christ. Not everything we do for God is unpleasant, but in everything we do rightly for Him there is an element of self-denial. If we do not deny self, we will not follow Christ in our spirit. We may seem to follow Him in the eyes of others, but eventually some aspect of self will leak out and “spoil the broth.”

The soul of man is often described as combining the mind, the emotions, and the will in a coordinated action – just how well coordinated they are will depend on whether the life is surrendered to Christ, whether self is on the throne or Christ. But still they work in concert together. In an un-surrendered life the mind will seek to reason its way through circumstances and place its “knowledge” above obedience. The emotions will be over or under sensitive and subject to whims and fears, even elations, for all the wrong reasons and in the wrong directions. Un-surrendered emotions lead toward jealousy, anger, pettiness, impatient rashness, and self-protective reactions.

And the un-surrendered will – My goodness! Where do we start? – will serve or lead with determination, but even if it picks up the prophet’s mantle, though some may be saved and others helped, it will also have a distinct divisiveness about it. Against the backdrop of the arrogance and determination of Saul which had resulted in partial obedience, Samuel said, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). God had told Saul to destroy all of the animals of the Amalekites, but they had kept the best, presumably, “to sacrifice to the Lord,” or so claimed Saul. But the un-surrendered will cannot understand the paths of the Lord, nor will it choose His ways.

In serving hearts “made hard by hatred,” or lives that have been made unkind because of the sin of the world, we will often experience rejection – even from those we have come to serve. Christ died in love for the sins of the very ones who condemned Him, judged Him, abused Him, ridiculed Him, and nailed Him to the cross. And if we are sent out like He was sent out, then there is our standard – to love like He loved.

How poorly we do this! How quick we are to respond to our hurt feelings, to try to maneuver with our intelligence for some element of revenge, to decide never to be hurt again – this is how the natural man thinks. There is a point to church discipline – “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After than, have nothing to do with him” (Titus 3:10) – but it can only be properly done by those surrendered to God in their hearts. The servant of Christ, who serves and follows in the Spirit of Christ, who is sent out like Christ, loves the hardened, the morally blinded, and even those who chose to remain blind.

Like everyone else, I have failed to perfectly fulfill these standards, and have found that I can only begin to understand and apply them as I forsake myself and seek the filling of God’s Spirit. But this is exactly the Lord’s plan. How often have we been loved by others when we were unlovely ourselves? And if nothing else it is fair play to take our own turn at loving the difficult. But there is more to it than this, for even that thought is of the flesh. We are to taste of Calvary because we have recognized our own ineptness, our own weakness, our own sinfulness – as Paul wrote, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 8:18).

To die to sin and self in Christ means to be set free and to live in the love and power of the Spirit, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!” (2 Cor. 3:17) We have in Christ the freedom not to serve according to un-surrendered our mind, emotions, and will, but to serve in the new way of the Spirit. “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released form the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6).

All of this, however, is mere biblical theology until we claim it by faith, and faith always entails surrender to the idea. I show my faith in a bridge by walking on it. I show my faith in the safeness of food by eating it. I show my faith in Christ by surrendering in my heart to His authority and His life, and by trusting Him to do in me all that He said He would.

The Christian faith is always first and foremost about our relationship with God through Christ. There are intimacies in our hearts we share with Him through sacrificial service, through tasting of Calvary, that we will not experience any other way. When we feel rejection and the hard difficulty of loving those who strike back, we are not alone. He served this way and we can take time to fellowship with His Spirit and find the encouragement we need.

Those who taste of Calvary also taste of the resurrection, and live by and within that reality and hope. This is not mere optimism, but it is life in the Spirit of God, and He fits us for service, for bearing fruit that will last.

So Send I You

So Send I You, Part 4

June 7th, 2012

Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.

John 20:21

The fourth stanza of Margaret Clarkson’s hymn, “So Send I You” is, to me, the most touching because it simply emphasizes the issue of taking up one’s cross daily and following after Christ.

So send I you to leave your life’s ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long, and love where men revile you-
So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

If we are true servants of Christ, if we will go out to serve in a world as Christ went out, then there is no place in our hearts for our desires to compete with God’s. We must lose our life in His.

This is a position of blessing, for His life is infinitely greater and more majestic than ours. Our paltry interests and self-centered desires have little of eternity in them, virtually nothing of the Kingdom and glory of God in them. They typically flitter from one thing to another and other than ego and pride have very little to keep them on a steady course. His life, on the other hand, is fixed to the mind and purpose of eternal God.

All positions of ministry are places not of exhibition but of execution, not merely places where the very human desires to look good, to live comfortably, to gain respect and authority, are sought to be fulfilled, but places where the spiritual desires of “not I but Christ” are fulfilled. There is plenty of jealousy over positions of service in Christian ministry – an unfortunate fact, but true – so the goal of losing our life in His must be put to the forefront of the Christian life.

The fulfilled servant is the one who has cast off his personal ambition and desires like unwanted baggage and has sought one central thing in his life, “That I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7-11

Paul came out of a system that rewarded diligence in the name of God, but whose end products were proud and self-important people. He had seen the emptiness of having this “righteousness of [his] own” because the system had turned that which should have been holy and good and for the glory of God into something selfish and filled with the glory of self. His path as a Christian was in the exact opposite direction – to live by faith, to love by grace, to serve by the Spirit, to share in His sufferings, to receive the same rewards as Christ had received. Christ was rejected by men but honored by the Father, and that was the life that Paul sought.

The phrase “and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” may seem as if there were some doubt in Paul’s heart about salvation, that perhaps salvation would not be from faith after all but from self-sacrifice and service. This notion, however, makes no sense when we consider that in the same breath he spoke of the “righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” In this passage he spoke of the resurrection in these terms because just a few verses earlier in Philippians he had given his great hymn of the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ. (See Philippians 2:6-11.) The word “somehow” addressed the mystery of how God will fulfill His promises to exalt the servant, not confusion as to the place that surrender and faith play.

His hymn in chapter 2 ended, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place,” and in his passage in chapter 3 he mirrored in his own heart the humiliation of Christ, putting aside his self-centeredness and simply knowing Christ and following Christ, and trusting God to honor and vindicate his life. Paul did not write, and God will also exalt me to the highest place, for such a thought would have ended at the wrong conclusion. We may become like Christ by losing our life in His, but we do not become Christ. Our hope, rather, is the resurrection and to live in the resurrection power of Christ today. The attainment is God’s not ours, and this applies to us today and after death. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Christ said to His disciples at the well in Samaria, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32), referring to the constant renewal of God in His heart because of a completely surrendered life. There is no pleasure in humility for humility’s sake alone. There is no glory in our abasement or deprivation or shame if it serves no higher purpose. The glory and the thrill comes from losing our life in His life, from putting aside our selfishness and taking up our cross and following Him, of being connected to the life-giving Vine and finding our life in Him,

A few years ago I saw a team of about 20 servants of Christ demonstrate this attitude. We had been for more than three weeks working hard as volunteers holding five spiritual renewal seminars across South Africa. The day before we were to fly out had been reserved for us to be tourists for a change, to go to a nature preserve and see African wildlife. Many people come to Africa just for these types of things, but we had each paid our own way for another purpose – to witness for Christ. On the evening before the team coordinator said that we were needed to do something else – to help distribute food and share in the preaching of the gospel at a school – and there was absolutely no hesitation from anyone on the crew. We each said as one man that we would rather do that anyway. So, so far as I know, none of us ever got to the nature preserve, but we received the greater thrill of losing something of self-pleasure in the life of Christ.

When in our lives we lose people and things in our service for God, when our finances are not what we would wish them to be because we have stood for Christ, when our selfish dreams are exchanged for God’s plans, when we are humiliated because we have trusted in the Name, we should never lose our hope or feel forgotten. The life of Christ is ours, and the greatest experience that any of us can ever know is to lose our life in His.

In Hebrews 11:16 a testimony is given about God, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” It refers to the spiritual and heavenly blessings God has in store for people of surrendered faith, and it simply means that all those who have traded in their life ambitions for the purposes of God will find their reward. No one in heaven will feel cheated or disappointed. And no one on earth who loses his life in the life of Christ will feel that he has made a bad deal. Earthly pleasures and dreams often disappoint, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, but “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Whatever we lose or put aside in the pursuit of knowing Christ will not be missed.

So Send I You