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Archive for November, 2012

The Fellowship of His Sufferings

November 29th, 2012

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…

Philippians 3:10

Oswald Chambers’ devotional today (Nov. 29) addressed a common concern for each generation, when he wrote that the pietism of his day lacks the “rugged reality” of the New Testament -

…there is nothing about them that needs the Death of Jesus Christ; all that is required is a pious atmosphere, and prayer and devotion. This type of experience is not supernatural nor miraculous, it did not cost the passion of God, it is not dyed in the blood of the Lamb, not stamped with the hall-mark of the Holy Ghost; it has not that mark on it which makes men say, as they look with awe and wonder - “That is the work of God Almighty.” That and nothing else is what the New Testament talks about.

We could say the same thing today about much of our Christianity, that it tries to set the mood for devotion, emphasizes appearances and feelings, but it lacks the power of the cross.

It is instructive that Paul wrote about the power of the resurrection first, for our new life is by grace. We are recipients of His grace before we understand the crucified life. To live the crucified life is not the requirement for salvation - only repentance and faith in Christ is needed - but it is the command of Christ for His followers. Many languish in immaturity, where all they know or want is Christian entertainment, and they will only go forward in their growth as they embrace the cross in their own life.

We want the crown without the cross, but the cross always comes before the crown. We are crucified with Christ before we can say, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). If we want to share daily in His life, we must share daily in His sufferings. There are two aspects of this - inward and outward. The inward is the prayer of the heart of commitment to God, the mortification of the flesh or the crucifixion of the old man - to die daily to sin and self. The second is to live out this death in practical ways, to take up one’s cross in the public square and to follow Him where He leads. It is to associate with the rejected, to love the unlovely, to endure difficulty without complaint, to undergo rejection without whining, to experience injustice without becoming cruel ourselves, to reach out in compassion to those who require much of our energies, to go where it is difficult, to be where it is hard, to forgive the offender and never breathe a word about it, and to do it all for the sake of Christ.

We need both the inner and the outer commitment. Pray within your heart, reach out to God in faith and commitment, die to self, die to sin, die to unholy thoughts, die to greed and hatred and revenge, give in to forgiveness, release your heart into the hands of Christ. But then, when you get off your knees, look for how this can be lived out in your life. Where are you called to join in the fellowship of His sufferings?

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Uncondemning Grace

November 28th, 2012

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:11

How different Christ is from us. We are quick to condemn, quick to take pride our judgments, quick to forget compassion and to magnify the other’s fault. Christ is quick to forgive, quick to cover over the sins of the one who turns and trusts. Though His judgments are always true, He never forces them down our throats. He draws us to Himself with compassion and releases us from the hold that sin has on our hearts. To follow Him means to live in the freedom of the forgiveness He offers.

Christ was thrown into a situation where a woman and a man were caught committing adultery - a common offense of the day. The man we never hear of, but the crowds wanted to stone the woman. Christ knew what was in the hearts of all people (John 2:25), and saw the anger, pride, denial, hypocrisy, envy, and injustice of it all.

He wrote in the dust as the crowd gathered around him, and though there is no record of what He wrote, many things have been suggested, such as, perhaps, the sins of the people standing there. Personally I doubt that was what He did. This was the only record in Scripture of Christ writing anything, but the appearance was that He wrote it in charity to help the people calm down, and He wrote it in dust! Pasquier Quesnel wrote: “How widely does Christ differ from men! He writes his Divine thought in the dust: they wish to have their cut in marble, and engraved on brass.” If He was writing down sins, and I doubt He was, but if He was then we can find comfort that He writes them only in dust, and erases them with His grace. He forgives our sins and remembers them no more.

Christ, in refusing to condemn the woman, did not mean that He did not acknowledge adultery as a sin, but that He refused to play the role of magistrate that the crowd had tried to force upon Him. His kingdom was not of this world and He claimed no civil authority. We also cannot deduce from this that forgiveness is received on the basis of unjust punishment, which the woman had already been subjected to in part by the shame they placed on her. The command to leave a life of sin is also a command to enter into life - to leave the broad way that leads to destruction and enter into the narrow way that leads to life. As He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life gave her this command, it was He who invited her also to trust in Him and in His words. That was a divine encounter for that women, whether she would embrace Christ in faith, agree to leave her life of sin on the basis of His word, or not.

To forgive graciously is different from treating sin lightly - something He never does for He Himself paid for our sins and knows the cost of our rebellion - but having paid the price, He now pours out grace abundantly on those who trust. Christ calls us to receive His grace through our faith and repentance, and then releases us into freedom to live in grace.

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