Him!!!

According to scripture the most profound analogy in human experience regarding what following the Lord is all about is marriage. If we therefore understand the marriage relationship, and we can to a significant extent, we will also understand more clearly what we need to know regarding our Christian lives. And I want to home in on what I believe to be the single most important thing that goes wrong for us in both regards.

Because we are sinful everything is skewed, and the work of the Holy Spirit is, in part, to un-twist that twisted-ness and be all the time returning us to the straight and narrow of clear thinking. And one of the ways our thinking is lacking is our tendency to miss the whole by mistaking it merely for the constituent parts. Let me explain.

With marriage comes a great many duties and responsibilities. There are, of course, all the fun bits, the cuddly bits and exciting bits, but there are the less fun, and cuddly and exciting bits too. Marriage takes a lot of hard work and commitment, to say nothing of stuff like bringing home the bacon, raising the kids, painting the house, getting the car serviced, putting the fences back up after a storm, visiting Auntie Flo often enough…and a gazillion other things! Such are the numerous constituent parts of marriage. But none of them, however important, right and necessary they may be, are what a marriage actually is, or about. My marriage is about one thing and one thing only….though of course it’s not a thing at all! It’s a person! My marriage is solely, completely and one hundred per cent about Belinda. It’s about my wife! It’s about the woman I fell ridiculously head over heels in love with and couldn’t imagine ever being without! Everything else, that is, the resultant constituent parts that go to make up that life together as man and wife, are purely secondary! They are merely what loving my wife means in practical terms! My marriage is decidedly not about them! My marriage is about one thing, and one thing only….my wife!

And of course our parenthood is likewise solely, completely and one hundred per cent about our daughter. It’s about Bethany. Raising her has meant, and still means, that there are a gazillion resultant constituent parts involved in the practical outworking of that parenting, but none of those resultant constituent parts comprise what we are actually about as parents. No! Our parenting is about Bethany herself! It’s solely, completely and one hundred per cent about her! I trust you can see where I am going with this!

In the summer of 1971 Jesus revealed Himself to me, and I was utterly undone! In a moment of time I went from not knowing Him to knowing Him as if I had never been without Him. Ever since then my life has been about one thing and one thing only…Him! The relationship we have together results in a great many duties and responsibilities that fall upon me, and I have known much failure over the years in seeking to carry them out. But not one of those duties and responsibilities must ever become what my life is actually about. My life must only ever be about…Him! Following the Lord has many resultant constituent parts, but just as I seek to fulfil my duty as a husband because marriage is all about my wife, so anything that ought to result from following the Lord should do so solely because it’s about Him, and not merely for it’s own sake, or because it’s right or proper in itself.

Possibly the most subtle idolatry of all is when the duties and responsibilities of Christian discipleship actually replace the Lord in our lives, and our focus becomes our discipleship (a subtle manifestation of the very self we need to crucify) as opposed to Jesus Himself! Just as we sometimes need to fall in love with our wives all over again, so do we, as followers of Him, need to return to our first love.

That night I came to know the Lord I started to both believe and do all the right things. Not perfectly, of course, and all these years later I still have a very long way to go. But everything nonetheless changed that night and I began to think, live and behave completely differently. But I did so not because I had embraced some new philosophy, or been persuaded by a doctrinal position or some attractive morality. No, I changed because I had come to know Him, and I have ever since had to battle my tendency to let even the resultant and constituent aspects of following Him usurp His place on the throne of my life. How easily, and how sadly my discipleship becomes about me and what I believe, think and do, rather than solely, completely and one hundred per cent about Him!

As a husband I am faithful not because I want to be a good husband, but because I love my wife! It would be a nonsense, of course, to say it’s therefore OK to be unfaithful, or to be a bad husband. Indeed, such would be a complete and total betrayal of the very thing marriage is: that is, loving your wife! But we must nonetheless be careful lest we mix up the resultant constituent parts of the outworking of married life with marriage itself! Marriage is solely, completely and one hundred per cent about your spouse! Indeed, if you didn’t have one then you wouldn’t be married in the first place, would you?

Should a Christian, then, seek to live a holy life in obedience to the comprehensive teaching of scripture? Of course! But that’s not what being a Christian is about! Being a Christian is about Him! Obedience to scripture and living a holy life is just the result of understanding that and following Him! Should a Christian seek to be a light to the world by way of being a witness to unbelievers? Of course! But that’s not what being a Christian is about! Being a Christian is about Him! Being a witness to unbelievers is just the result of understanding that and following Him! Is it important to be well grounded in the objective doctrinal truths of scripture? Of course! But that’s not what being a Christian is about! Being a Christian is about Jesus! It’s about Him! Being doctrinally or theologically sound, or however you want to put it, is just the result of understanding that and following Him!

So there you have it! Being a Christian isn’t about believing the right things, or doing the right things. Neither is it about not believing and not doing the wrong things! It’s simply about Jesus! It’s about Him! Believing and doing the right things, and not believing and doing the wrong things will follow on as the resultant constituent parts of ongoing discipleship; but none of that is what being a believer, in essence, is actually about. Being a believer is actually about the One in Whom we do believe! It is about Jesus Himself! Just as my marriage is about my wife and my parenthood is about my daughter, being a Christian is about Him!.

When we start to think in terms that following the Lord is about us and what we do, our obedience, works and faithfulness, we have fallen into a trap. We are then, as scripture would put it, walking after the flesh; and to the extent we are ever thinking that it is about us and what we do by way of serving the Lord, then all we can do is perform in our own strength, inevitably experiencing the failure and sin which will always result! But when we are simply looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and realising that it’s all about Him, and not us at all, then that is when the constituent parts naturally fall into place, and His life becomes manifest in us. It is a truth sadly un-comprehended by many believers, but holiness (sanctification) is not something we are meant to produce in or of ourselves. Holiness is Jesus just being Himself in and through us, with us out of the way.

Should there be obedience, good works and faithfulness in our lives? Of course! But not because we think that such things are what being a Christian is about, because they aren’t! No! Being a Christian is the realisation that what it’s all about is Jesus! That it’s solely, completely and one hundred per cent about……Him!!!

 

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The Joy of Repentance

I can truly say that I want to please the Lord. For all the things I am not sure of, and everything I still don’t understand and can’t work out or properly comprehend, I am nevertheless absolutely clear that I do want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. My problem is, however, the sin that stands so distressingly in the way. I want to please Him, yet know my heart to be full of pride, selfishness, covetousness, self-righteousness and all kinds of evil. In what possible way, then, can I please a holy God? Well, there is a way; and it not only pleases Him, it utterly delights His heart:

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”(Luke 15:3-10)

And there you have it! Those verses don’t say that it is the angels who rejoice, though I’m sure they do, but that there is rejoicing going on before them. And so I ask: Who is it in Heaven before Whom the angels stand? Answer! The Lord Himself! Imagine! The Almighty God rejoices when a sinner repents. It would obviously be so much the better if I could please Him by not actually being sinful any more, and that day will certainly come when I am with Him having been freed from this body, and it should certainly be the case for all of us that we are seeing a progressive victory in overcoming sin in our lives, but it is nevertheless wonderful to know that, in the meantime, being honest about sin, and coming clean through confession when we have sinned, brings Him joy. In other words, I can’t please Him with sinlessness (if only I could), but I can bring Him pleasure and joy through ongoing confession and repentance.

Now there are those who would argue that the rejoicing alluded to in the above verses is limited to a sinner’s initial conversion; that is, when they first come to the Lord in repentance and faith, and of course it most most certainly does include that. But in the same way that a father is joyful at the birth of his child, and then joyful from that moment onwards, so too is the Lord thrilled not just when we are born again, but continuously as we grow in Him throughout the ensuing years. There is no way I can properly express the joy I knew when Bethany was born, yet that joy has increased as every year has gone by, and not in any way decreased. Whatever thrilled me about her when she was born, and she thrilled me beyond words, still thrills me all the more as each month goes by as I have watched her grow and develop. What a sad father who knows joy for their child’s birth, yet not throughout the years that follow. In fact, in becoming a father I have experienced an ongoing paradox which I’ve never been able to properly describe, though I do intend to have a jolly good go!

At whatever point in time I look back to as Bethany’s father I know that I was as thrilled to bits with her as I could have been. When she was a baby my overwhelming feeling was, “Man, this is amazing! She’s incredible! It just can’t get any better than this! Please Lord, don’t ever let this change!” Then, when she was a toddler I was thinking, “Man, this is amazing! She’s incredible! It just can’t get any better than this! Please Lord, don’t ever let her change!” Then, when she was small child I thought, “Man, this is amazing! She’s incredible! It just can’t get any better than this! Please Lord, don’t ever let her change!” Then when she got to her teens I thought…and so on and so forth, right up to this very new morning as I write!

From the moment she was born I thought she was absolutely amazing and, just as did Belinda, I fell utterly and completely in love with her. At any given moment it was completely beyond me how she could be any better, and I could only see any change as a negative and a step down. I therefore longed that she never would. Yet as each and every ensuing minute, hour, day, week, month and year passed, it was equally utterly beyond me at any one of those given moments also how this fatherhood thing could get any better, and my ongoing desire was always, at any given time, that she would never change. And yet, by definition, she was changing all the time, if only in that she was slowly, but surely, in the process of growing up. So I could never imagine how it could have gotten any better because I knew it was already as good as it could possibly be, and so I therefore didn’t want anything to change; but of course she did change, and yet I was still always, in any given moment, thinking, “Man, this just doesn’t get any better! Please Lord, don’t let her ever change” And so it goes on…

For me, therefore, fatherhood has been to live in a completely paradoxical state of being utterly unable, at any given moment, to imagine how being my daughters father could get any better, thereby never wanting anything to change in such regard, yet finding the exact same thing to also be the case at every point during the ensuing years, meaning that it was actually getting better all the time, and that she was changing and growing, even though it seemed to me at any one moment that it never could get any better or that her changing could ever be an improvement. At any given present moment I could look back on any given past moment at which I genuinely perceived that neither parenthood, nor Bethany, could have gotten any better, therefore yearning for it to never change, yet whilst still perceiving exactly the same thing in any given present moment, which, by definition, meant it had obviously gotten better, and precisely because she had changed…yet it still couldn’t have gotten any better because it was already as good as it could get…and…and…Man, life sure is strange…!!!

However confusing all this might seem it’s really just a description of what it means to love someone…and I love my daughter very, very much. She is, quite simply, wonderful, and always has been, but of course it is as much my love for her that I am describing as it is a description of her, and that is the real point here when it comes to us understanding in what ways we can be pleasing to the Lord! Because however deep and real my love for Bethany is – and it is extremely deep and intensely real – it is as nothing compared to how deep and real God’s love is for me…and therefore for you! And He loves us in exactly this same paradoxical way that I have just described in regards to my own fatherhood. His joy at our repentance, indeed, His joy at us, is not just for when we are born again and when we first come to Him in repentance and surrender, but precisely, just like our human parenting, from that point onwards. We have been born again into His family and have therefore become His children, and that in itself makes Him extremely happy; but it is wonderful in the extreme to know too that, whereas I make Him happy simply because I am His child; indeed, I can’t but make Him happy in such regard – after all, I can’t ever stop being His son – I can actually bring Him joy and pleasure on top of that by being on-goingly honest, and repentant, concerning my sin.

My joy over Bethany is therefore actually two-fold: firstly, simply because she is my daughter; but secondly, because she truly is as delightful, kind, godly and gracious a young lady as you could wish to meet. (Just ask anyone who knows her!)  And although it is wonderful enough to know that we please the Lord simply because we are His children, I for one nevertheless want to please Him also by the way I actually am; that is, by living in honesty, confession and repentance of my sins. Many Christians, I am greatly saddened to say, aren’t particularly honest about their sins or repentant of them, but at least I can be if I so choose. And that choice brings me joy in knowing not just that the Lord both forgives and restores me, but that it actually brings Him joy and happiness that I am so living.

Like my joy over Bethany, the joy of repentance is also twofold: It is joyful for the one who is penitent because of the peace and forgiveness it brings, but it is also a joy to such a one’s Father in Heaven Who finds infinite pleasure in His children being honest about their wrongdoing, and then saying sorry not just to Him, but to each other as well.

As a young Christian, before I properly understood what the Lord’s grace actually was, and what it actually meant, I was uncomfortable in the extreme with the subject matter we are here discussing, and I remember coming across a book, the title of which utterly baffled me. It was called, “Repentance: the Joy-Filled Life!” Just the title frightened the life out me, and I wouldn’t have dared read it back then in a million years. But now? Well, now I get it! And man, how wonderfully I get it too!

The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to boldly approach the throne of grace in a time of need to receive mercy and help. Firstly, thrones are usually representative of power and strength, not grace and mercy. But then Jesus sits on this throne, and so I feel safe. Secondly, I come boldly and not in snivelling fear! Why?Because I’m qualified! I meet the criteria for approaching! And thirdly, I get what I come for! That is, grace, mercy and forgiveness! And why? Because my need, every day, even as a believer – no, precisely because I’m a believer – is to have my sins cleansed and removed by the Lamb of God Who takest away the sins of the world; mine included!

A Belated Mother’s Day Thought!

MotherhoodMy American readers might be wondering how I could have let Mother’s Day go by yesterday without comment whilst posting an entry on it which had nothing to do with it. Well, that’s because in England we have already had Mother’s day a few weeks ago and therefore already ‘done’ it! (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) But I’m going to get the best of both world’s now and say some stuff anyway.

It’s a bit of a cliche, and even a bit on the glib side, to say that motherhood is the most important job in the world, but I wish to make clear that I for one actually believe it to be the case. Indeed, I have held for many years that the reason the Lord’s design is that the man who goes out to work is precisely so he is able to provide what his wife needs in order for her to be doing the really important work; that is, being the children’s constantly available mother! Not that I for one moment think the husband has only a minor role in raising his children, of course not, but it’s nevertheless the case that it is the mother, and not the father (and definitely not anyone else), whom the Lord calls to the task of being available for her children morning, noon and night.

Family life under attack…

The whole push behind modern western culture is a relentless, and carefully co-ordinated, Satanic attack against both Christianity and Christian values, and at the heart of this is the targeting of family life as it is taught in scripture. Hence the current obsession with the promotion of the homosexual life-style and the redefinition of marriage, plus the whole trans-gender agenda. The fact that this is taking place on the heels of two generations of the increasing laxness regarding normal heterosexual sexual morality reveals what the so-called sexual revolution was really about, the destruction of family life as instituted by the Lord. Though on the surface sexual immorality is primarily about unbridled personal pleasure, the underlying dynamic now is the evil one systematically dismantling God’s design and order for society in preparation for the last ditch stand he is going to take against the Lord before He returns.

…and especially Motherhood

In order to destroy the family Satan has to target both men and women, and the way he has targeted women is through the now monolithically present idea that for a woman to be at home and fully available for her children is beneath her. Wherever you go in the west women whose daily ongoing occupation is that of caring for their children and managing the family home face the unrelenting response, “Oh, so you don’t work then!” And this, along with the temptation of the extra money that can be earned, makes even Christian mothers want to have a career or, if they are faithful to God’s design and do stay at home, become frustrated at the creeping feeling of inadequacy Satan throws at them as they yearn for the children to grow up so they can get a job and become somehow fulfilled. It is a deception that strikes at the heart of a mothers very discipleship , and that causes her to become discontent, and to feel undervalued, and her gifts and talents underused for doing what is the single most important job in the world, being a mother!

Stay at home moms, what you are doing is more important and of greater significance than being the President of the United States, or the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Your time is being spent in something that is accomplishing more than all your husbands occupations combined. You have greater street-cred in your occupation in the Lords eyes than do all the kings, queens, famous film or pop stars around you put together. When you feel you are drowning in your motherhood then realise that it is only in the same way that Barack Obama or David Cameron sometimes feel overwhelmed by their work schedule and responsibilities. But when you feel that what you are doing is in some way less productive, and less respected and honoured than the career women who are not available for their children, and who have to give them away daily to the care of others, then know that the enemy is telling you a complete pack of lies in order to undermine your femininity and motherhood, thereby making you less effective at doing what is quite undeniably the most important job in the world.

Mothers of the world unite

Mothers of the world do right

Mothers of the world, stand strong

You’re the best, the world is wrong!!!!!