I’ve been feeling a little more wind in my sails this week, and it feels good. Thank you for praying and for caring. I am a changed person and will never be the person I once was. I am journeying with the Lord and learning to loosen my grip on all the things around me. I am even still having to let go of Diana. I am surprised that she lived to such a young age. I have to trust in God’s plan and timing for her. I am also surprised at how her life continues to impact … me and other people. I can only hope that my life, too, will have a reverberating impact across generations of people over a course of many years after I’m gone.
I suppose all these are lessons we must learn before we finally meet our Lord and enter into His kingdom. Thank you for your patience with me.
I am still challenged by words I read to you a couple Sundays ago from William MacDonald’s True Discipleship. I hope his way of stating the terms of discipleship are not too hard-core for us in this day of me-centered Christianity. In our “Discovering Christ & Our Church Family” class, we’ve been talking about commitment. MacDonald takes commitment to another level – its logical conclusion :
True Christianity is an all-out commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Saviour is not looking for men and women who will give their spare evenings to Him – or their weekends – or their years of retirement. Rather He seeks those who will give Him first place in their lives. “He looks today, as He has ever looked, not for crowds drifting aimlessly in His track, but for individual men and women whose undying allegiance will spring from their having recognized that He wants those who are prepared to follow the path of self-renunciation which He trod before them” (H.A. Evan Hopkins).
The Lord Jesus made stringent demands on those who would be His disciples – demands that are all but overlooked in this day of luxury-living. Too often we look upon Christianity as an escape from hell and a guarantee of heaven. Beyond that, we feel that we have every right to enjoy the best that this life has to offer. We know that there are those strong verses on discipleship in the Bible, but we have difficulty reconciling them with our ideas of what Christianity should be.
We can accept the fact that soldiers give their lives for patriotic reasons. We do not think it strange that Communists give their lives for political reasons. But that “blood, sweat and tears” should characterize the life of a follower of Christ somehow seems remote and hard to grasp.
And yet the words of the Lord Jesus are clear enough. There is scarcely any room for misunderstanding if we accept them at their face value :
- A supreme love for Jesus Christ.
- A denial of self.
- A deliberate choosing of the cross.
- A life spent in following Christ.
- A fervent love for all who belong to Christ.
- An unswerving continuance in His Word.
- A forsaking of all to follow Him.
Each of us stands responsible to God as to what it means to forsake all. One believer cannot legislate to another ; each person must act as a result of his own exercise before the Lord. It is a tremendously personal matter.
If as a result of such exercise, the Lord should lead a believer to a degree of devotedness hitherto unknown, there is no room for personal pride. Any sacrifices we make are no sacrifices at all, when seen in the light of Calvary. Besides all this, we only give to the Lord what we cannot keep anywayand what we have ceased to love.
Question is : Have I really ceased to love the things of this world ?
Am I part of a crowd drifting aimlessly in His track, or am I one with undying allegiance to Him who saved me ?
I pray that at Emmanuel we will be all-out followers of Jesus Christ. What a difference we could make ! What a difference you are making !
I was at the church yesterday evening for an Elder Board meeting and was able to stay through the end of JAM and Overflow night at the church. It was so thrilling to look into the auditorium and see it – full of young people with smiles and sweat on their faces – being used in a way we had imagined some years ago that it would be used. I had a chance to interact briefly with some of the parents coming to pick up kids and have to admit there were many kids and parents I just simply do not know making their way in and out of our church home, encountering, we pray, the love and reality of Jesus Christ. You are making that happen ! (By the way, I’m sure Jeff and his team could use some others of you who would be willing to be at the doors on Wednesday evenings, just to say hello or lend a hand to someone needing help.)
As I looked around the table at the Elder Board meeting, I realized that these men – and others who have served before them – make significant sacrifices to shepherd our church flock and become, as a result of their all-out devotion to Christ, targets of spiritual attack. We can all expect that ; we can expect to experience spiritual attack in a variety of forms as we walk closely with the Lord. The book of Daniel speaks to us of spiritual battle, as God seeks to redeem lost people to Himself. We should not expect that the battle has abated since the days of Daniel. On the contrary, as we move closer to the coming of our King, we should expect the battle to intensify.
Thank you for your all-out commitment to the Lord. Where will He lead us next ?! I’m excited to find out.
A Few Notes
- I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our “Discovering Christ & Our Church Family 101” course this month. I encourage you strongly to take advantage of the final class being offered this Sunday at 9:00 am. The theme will be “Our Salvation” :
- what it means to be a Christian
- the meaning of baptism
- the meaning of the Lord’s Supper
- what it means to belong as a member at Emmanuel.
- During the month of October, I am planning on leading an adult class on the topic of “Why Sin Stinks & Why Church Discipline Usually Fails.” This topic will follow up on our 101 course in that we will delve further into the importance of unity in the church, what creates disunity, how to prevent disunity, and what the Bible passages on “church discipline” are all about. I hope you will plan on joining us. The 9:00 children’s activities will take a break during the month of October but will resume during our 201 class in November.
- November’s 201 class will be “Discovering Spiritual Maturity.” It will be about what we do at Emmanuel to grow spiritually – that is to say, how we grow to become more like Christ !
- I am interested in leading a small discussion & prayer group with a few of you who would like to read through True Discipleship with me and discuss its implications for our lives. Perhaps some of you who have been yearning for some personal discipleship would be interested in being part of that group.
- There will be a Congregational meeting immediately following worship on Sunday, October 13. The purpose of the meeting will be to elect a Nominating Committee whose job will be to nominate people for church offices for 2014.
Hope to see you this Sunday !