Friday, June 27, 2008

Cut Off From Christ For The Love of Another?

"I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." (Rom 9:1-3; ESV)

Perhaps you, like me, have read over this passage a few times without stopping long to consider the gravity of its verbage. Perhaps other times you stopped, pondered shortly and moved on to see how it fit in with the rest of the chapter as is fitting for a good reading. Tonight, however; these three simple verses have left me quite stunned.

In my last post I considered how valuable God's love was to me and how knowing that it can never be taken away leaves me emboldened to say "I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus, I will not merely survive each day but master it in Jesus name!"

It is quite true that the love that God has shown me is valuable to me beyond what any verb, adjective, superlative or any other element of grammar could ever fully describe. Like the man who found the treasure in a field (as noted in Matthew chapter thirteen) and sold all he had to buy the field, so too have I given away anything that was of value to me in order to obtain the ever appreciating worth of knowing Christ and being found in Him.

What do we have apart from Christ? Nothing. We have death, lies and loss of direction. The mere thought of being parted from this lover of my soul makes me shiver inside and cry out as David did when he said, "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalms 51:11)

Christ has become to me as "the one ring" was to Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R Tolkien. It (Christ's love and presence) has cast a deep, intoxicating and controlling power over me that has left me "deformed" and bound to him as Smeagol was to the one ring.

So I assume that Paul (once Saul the Jewish terror to the early Church) felt the same way if not more reagarding the worth of God. This same Paul says to the Philippians,

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Php 3:8-11)

Certainly Paul asserts the nature of his love for Christ in many other words in many other passages. With all that said and established, look back at what Paul says at the beginning of Romans 9; "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

What kind of love did Paul have for his people that he would ever begin to contemplate separation from His Lord and Savior that they too might know Him by such a title and in truth? Notice the powerful and sharp words Paul uses to describe the depth of love he has for his Hebrew bretheren (according to the flesh)--great sorrow and unceasing anguish.

It appears to me, that Paul has caught the terminal virus that is the love of God. He wished that he could be to his people what Christ is to him. He wished that he could be cut off from Christ as Christ was cut off from the Father for the sake of us all. Of course he realizes that only Christ can and does suffice as a perfect sacrifice even for those souls that he is drowning in anguish over, but the inclination and idea is beyond marvelous.

Do we feel this for our fellow man? Do we feel deep sorrow and unceasing anguish for the lost around us? Can we say that we could give whatever we can, even contemplate momentary separation from Christ? Even a moments separation from Christ seems unthinkable and horrendous to me now. Do I truly love my fellow man that much?

God help us to feel great sorrow and unceasing anguish for those lost ones around us. Moreover, let that agony drive us to sacrifice even unto death for their sake, as Christ did for us.

O let me kiss Thy bleeding feet, And bathe and wash them with my tears!
The story of Thy love repeat In every drooping sinner’s ears,
That all may hear the quickening sound,
Since I, even I, have mercy found,
Since I, even I, have mercy found.

O let Thy love my heart constrain!
Thy love for every sinner free,
That every fallen soul of man
May taste the grace that found out me;
That all mankind with me may prove
Thy sovereign everlasting love,
Thy sovereign everlasting love.

Read/hear the rest of Would Jesus Have the Sinner Die? By Charles Wesley.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Than Surviving

One day often seems to slip right into another, with weeks evaporating like a drop of water on asphalt in the high heat of a blazing summer day. Often times I look back at my week and wonder; did I just make it through, though battered and somewhat bloodied, or did I escape without a wound though accomplishing nothing meaningful. Neither of these week-end results seems sufficient to me.

Is the Christian life really one of "just getting by" or "just surviving?" Something about the whole notion of struggling through the minutes and hours just to make it to the seemingly safe haven that we call weekends just doesn't make sense in light of what I know about God and His grace. So what do we know about God and His grace? For starters, we know this,

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than just conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Romans 8:35-39; ESV)

This passage leaves me with two questions:

1) What is God's love worth to me?
2) How should I respond knowing that someting of such value cannot EVER be taken away from me?

To answer the first question, we must be very honest with ourselves and take a good look at how the knowledge of God's inseparable love affects us in comparison with how the loss or gain of other things affects us. Do you rejoice when you receive good things in your life, only to dispair when things are not quite as ideal as you would like? If this is the case, perhaps you must ask yourself, could there be a more ideal situation in life than to have had your soul saved (undeservedly) and to be joined with the Living God Himself through the Holy Spirit?

The all-surpasing worth of the love of God displayed in the incomparable act of forgiveness and renewal of life should be an unending source of joy when all other joys forsake us or are taken away.

How did we respond when the joy of salvation first swept over us? Were you as elated as I was? Did you think you could conquer the world for Jesus the Christ, the redeemer of your polluted soul? I did. I still do.

Perhaps we should scroll up a tad from Romans 8:35 to verse 17 which says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comapring with the glory that is to be revealed to us." And a tad further down in verse 31 and 32 "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare is own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things?"

To answer my second original question, I start by asking this; is there something more than Christ? Is there something we are still lacking? If we are lacking, will God, who "did not spare his own Son," not give it to us? But surely, O Lord, your Son is more than enough for us!

How shall I respond to my knowledge of the value of God's love? Perhaps with faith, joy and thanksgiving of course. More than that though, I shall respond by being more than just a survivor of my days, nay, more than just a conqueror! To conquer means to fight, and we fight with a God who is for us!

When we look at each hour of every day, each tribulation, each distress, each danger and every sword; I pray that God quicken us with the reality that we are more than conquerors through His all-sufficient everlasting love.

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!

At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthem raise!

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ our King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.

See the rest of the hymn here.