Withheld affection breeds a deeper affection for Christ–we just aren’t sure exactly how…

Do you have a friend or loved one who stands against your faith; who rejects the God you spend your life investing in? Do they think you’re weird and off-base and a little taken in by foolish notions? Are you thought of as a naive individual because of your decision for Christ? Do you wonder why it has to be so hard–why the world around you has to reject you so fiercely?

Do you lose sight of your reward because so many earthly rewards are being stripped away? If the communication lines have gone down between you and some of your loved ones because of this, perhaps it is because God wants to deepen your personal fellowship with Him.

You can never underestimate the worth of this–no matter how great the challenges that He uses to bring this about. Your life is of more worth to you than anything, but so often the things you and I count as life-giving fall so far short of the real thing. God’s care for us in trials like the one we’re discussing here are often an expression of God’s will that we be not cut off from the life that only He can give. God’s wealth of life goes deeper than anything we can experience apart from Him. Because this life is so good for us, God will push us to mortgage all the other forms of life available to us on the hope of finding and resting in His.

As He does this, He teaches us to go deeper with Him. To lay aside short-sighted and shallow affections for the sake of pursuing Him into places sometimes so sparse that He is the only one present to treasure. This is good for us, my brother/sister. God could not give us a better gift. It is the gift of Himself.

Certainly, it comes at a cost. But this cost reveals the genuineness of our affection for Christ as it tests our willingness to count all things as loss compared to Him. Therefore, as hard as the trials that confront us from every side are, they come with the power to make Christ the central object of our faith and the fullness of our confidence. We learn to want nothing but Him because we know that there is no one to compare with Him.

That’s a blessing wrapped in grace that does not shy away from thorns or ridicule–this was the fare of our Master who passed this grace on to us, let us also receive it as fare befitting we who have taken on the glories of fellowship with Him.

I can’t find ME in Humility!

You’ve emptied me in a new way, Lord. I don’t know what to think of Your activity this time. Am I okay? What are You doing? Can I trust You with a completely new thing?

I know I can, I just know at the same time that I don’t want to! I want You to be more understandable, nicely fitting into what I was already was hoping for. AGGH! This is hard. Waiting on You must become waiting for You. Am I really so far off from that?

I like to believe that I’m okay and You like to show me just how un-okay I am. You’re humbling me in ways I never expected. Most of my inclination is to just plead with You to stop. Somehow You hold onto my spirit, causing it to still blossom in Your presence.

I want a life that is far more happy than this. A humble heart does not seem to be worth all this! I want ease, not accountability. Popularity, not purity. Besides I can’t even see any fruits from this. If You’re going to do such a holiness-motivated work the least You could do would be to impress me with the great measure of reward I will receive from it.

But that would that really be part of humbling me successfully? Isn’t the point here for me to see my emptiness and the unreasonableness of my pride? How can that be accomplished if pride and its demands are yet acknowledged and shown great respect by Your Spirit? How can I expect my spirit and flesh to thrive at once?

Unlikely, Unintentional, Mostly Unwilling Servant

If you’ve read the title of this, I’m sure you have been struck by the appealing description I give myself. If only it were less than true. I am not a servant. I don’t like the idea of serving. I enjoy doing activities categorized as service, but not primarily because they are a way that I can lay down my life and desires for others. I do it because I enjoy it, like I said, and because it makes me feel important and necessary and because it is also something I do well in most cases.

Now all of this makes sense at some level, but that doesn’t necessary make me godly for what I do, certainly not for why I do it. I am just doing what comes naturally to me and while there appears to be nothing wrong with that at first glance–which is as far as I’ve been willing to go in examination up until now–there is something wrong, or perhaps I should say there is something not right about it all.

I’m not completely clear on all this, but what I’ve gathered so far is that all is not right when I easily assume that I’m just okay. It’s not enough to rate myself by how I feel when I am doing something “good” or by how others honor me when I do it. I need to know what is good in its purest form and then understand how I measure up against it.

Learning to walk with Christ, and in consequence, be a servant, is not about automatically performing a task or rite that will get us those five gold stars we crave as quickly as possible. When we get the Christian life down to a science we lose. We become stale “lifers” who really know nothing about being a Christian except that we are one.

I think being a Christian and knowing Christ–the one thing this life must be about–is more about mystery than we would like it to be. We strain for comfort so much that we introduce it when God does readily accommodate us. We do what we are supposed to, but we do it in a way that is all us. We essentially brand our actions with the personal identifiers that will make it impossible for anyone to miss the fact that we are in line for our reward.

But, could this behavior be keeping us from the very Reward we are promised? How is it even possible to recognize Christ as our reward and the reason we do everything if we are doing what we do simply as the outgrowth of actions we know will get us what we want?

Obviously this is a question of motivation, less obviously this is a gracious invitation for transformation made to us by our Maker. Will we be delighted in Christ authentically unless we can authentically put Him forth as our delight and motivation for service and obedience that strips us of our delight in mere fleshly treats?

I don’t think so. That’s why I can’t stay where I am. I must move with all my might of spirit toward self-depreciating works that scorch my flesh and draw me closer to Christ.

Heaven is what makes earth happy

Happiness cannot be contained by this world. It is not to be forced into certain contexts or expected to spring out of little cartridges. Happiness does not belong in these things — at least not in its fullest, soul-satisfying form.

Happiness, instead, is a heaven-thing that flits about down here, appearing in little wisps for brief moments to give a hint of what we must seek heaven to find. The whole design in happiness and our desire for it is to get us disengaged from the all-consuming, life-impacting policies of this world and reengaged with the claims of a heavenly paradise that boasts its claims all around us.

One thing does not lead to the other

Now you may be saying, “But since when does heaven hold out happiness; I’ve only seen where hell can do that!” Well, first of all, I’m so glad you asked, because that is a most crucial question. One of the biggest things we have to decide in this life is what to believe about the next one. Based on what we believe about heaven and hell’s opposing parties, we will choose the one we want to be apart of.

Second, I would like to contrast the supposed advantages of each. I will begin with hell. Since the Fall when mankind committed its initial act of rebellion against God, Paradise — as it is referred to in John Milton’s classic poetic masterpiece — has been Lost. Not only has our world been corrupted by the literal death-grip of our sin, but hell has laid claim to every one of us under its power.

You see, the tales you have been hearing about the freedom and favorability of hell are lies made palatable to you while you are at odds with God. Heaven is so pleasing to our bodies and imagination — even after these things have been corrupted by evil — that Satan has to do everything in his power to keep us from ever seeing it accurately.

This does not mean that he always denies that heaven exists or that it is wonderful. Sometimes all that he needs to do is keep us content with vague ideas of how to get there. If we don’t know that we are ineligible by our own merits, then there is no danger that we will go — even if we spend our whole lives in an attempt to “make it.”

In this way it is not necessary for Satan to make us perfect miniatures of himself for us to be destined for hell. All that he has to do is prevent us from realizing that our good is not good enough. For we do not stump him by diligently following the course of all our religious strategies, we destroy his hold over us by abandoning them for his sworn enemy. Christ is our Savior because He is Satan’s victorious opposition.

Therefore, if heaven is Christ’s home, how can it be ours unless we forsake Satan’s home (hell)? Heaven is the reward of the Christ-like. It is possible for every person to image-God (as I mentioned in an earlier post), but only we who have received Christ as our righteousness can image-forth that likeness.

I don’t know about you, but if I created heaven to be a place of glory and perfection, I wouldn’t be welcoming in anyone who wasn’t. Especially not if I had already put forth an open invitation to the world on the condition that anyone who would come should believe in the power of my death rather than the power of their own lives.

Why do we expect God to accept us on our own terms when He has already made it possible for us to gain acceptance on His terms? Jesus Christ is the Door to heaven and we will not find ourselves on the other side unless we walk through Him.

A masquerade of mercy offers pithy bail

What is mercy? Does it mean that we get off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket? Does it mean we get the threat of jail but are then dismissed? Could it ammount to a few days behind the bars of the penitentiary until we are given an unexpectedly early release?

No, these things I would call coersion, threats and partial punishment. But, if this should masquerade as mercy, it is no doubt a weak form. Mercy exists because the offended has absorbed what should have been our punish according to their rights so that we could be restored to their good favor.

If we think we are worthy, or have , we have missed the point of it entirely! Mercy is not a reward for good behavior, but a treatment of bad behavior that reveals the incimprehensible love for the offender by the One he mistreated.

Yet, don’t get me wrong here, mercy is not something that may be offered without a cost to the One who chooses such a presentation. Mercy does not do away with the debt, but calls upon the One whose right it is to call for the payment to insteadblay down their rights and see that it is paid for by themselves. In this way, though we mortally offended God by our sin, the Bible says that He was not willing that we should perish by the penalty that sin deserved, so He reserved the entire wrath-filled execution for Himself.

He went to the Cross in the Person of Jesus to pay for our sins so that we could be proclaimed new and acceptable to Himself. Not only did He take our deadly reward from us, but delivered in its place His lively reward. He would die so that we might rise when He did to live forever as a treasure of our God.

Weakness introduces Strength in a most attractive way

Could this God

be enough for you?

Will “yes,” bring

more disappointment

than hope at its end?

Is there reward in seeking

more than you could

gain by yourself?

 

Sometimes I wonder.

Sometimes I want to believe

Just the whispers of

My weakened self,

Not the silence

of His Grace.

 

He is at horizon

Beckoning me

To come see His

Son rise.

But I quickly

look away.

 

“Me?”

I ask

with

quaking

voice.

“Have You

seen me lately?

I am here because

I can’t get up.

I don’t think You

Realize how impossible

It is to meet You like this.”

 

Then He begins to speak:

“I am not mistaken

When I call your name;

I know that you are weak —

Don’t forget that it was I who

Have made you this way.

I understand you’re afraid —

let Me remind you why

you don’t need to be.

I don’t want you

to miss this,

So I insist:

Come!

Yes, even as you are;

And if you find that you still cannot,

My child, take as your own My strength.”