Saturday, March 1

A Full Life, and an Empty Life?

Warren Chastain of OMF, writing in Perspectives, makes a remark that most people speak of an altar of sacrifice, but usually manage to turn it into a stage for seeking applause. Too often in our own churches we see individuals who have a "cross to bear" which garners them all kinds of respect and support among the congregation at-large. One story has been told of a woman who would stand to ask prayer every Sunday night for her unsaved husband, often salting her pleas with the latest news on her sufferings in that marriage. After a couple of years a new preacher came to that church and decided to spend some time on her husband. Not a lot of preaching, but a good amount of time spent fishing or playing golf. The husband did become a Christian, but the biggest surprise was the man's wife. She was furious! No longer could she be the star of the prayer meetings and the darling of the sewing circle. Suddenly her credibility was about what kind of Christian she was, how closely she herself related to her Lord, and the fruit that relationship bore in her own life. All those years invested in self-pity had done nothing for her own Christian walk, and the most glorious thing that could have happened for her affected her as if she had been robbed.

What kind Christians are we? A previous piece on this site covered some basic meanings for that word: Whether we are born in a "Christian" culture, grow up in a "Christian" home, "convert" through some ritual (Holy Baptism, "praying the prayer," etc.), or whether we are actually living "by the faith of the Son of God."

A preacher I once knew would butter up the congregation with words about how they were, every one, "filled with the Spirit" and use other such words to paint them a picture that they were all just as complete, consecrated, and holy as God intended. Then he would go on to say how badly he wanted to see revival. If everybody's already so holy, then what was lacking? One 19th Century evangelist wrote that the first thing needed for revival was for the people to be anxious about their own souls. This fits perfectly with Paul's words, that we should, "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Notice, now, that he did not say, "work for," but "work out." A maths prof would give us sheets of problems with the answers already printed on the sheets. It was one thing to have the answers given to us, but to go through the process of working out the steps in between made the difference between seeing the answer and having the answer: God wants us to not just be aware of it, but to possess salvation. That preacher had not worked it out that the Gospel is not just "God is for us," but also about "God in us!" Jesus didn't give his life for us to say, "gee, thanks" and continue to lie back in our sins, but to be raised up in newness of life and apprehend, by the power of the Spirit, the fullness of the life of Christ in our own existence here on earth. "Christ in you, the hope of glory" was Paul's bragging point for the Philippians: Not just "Christ for you."

So, can we get something if we keep our hands in our pockets? Can we embrace the crucified life with our arms folded? There were seven churches that Jesus to whom Jesus dictated letters. Some were healthy, some he gave stern warnings, but the one which was the most sternly warned (Some might even say He was on the point of giving them up!) was the one who was the most assured. Can we learn something from this?

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent"


  1. The husband did become a Christian, but the biggest surprise was the man's wife. She was furious!

    If we are open about our sin and limited nature, being occasionally exposed is not near as bad. I pray for purity from God.

  2. Just to pull your chain, Russ, when you pray for purity (very scriptural prayer!), do you expect to get it, or do you take it for granted that it's always gonna be out of reach? (Read Ephesians ch. 1&2 before answering, just to stir the pot!) :-D

  3. I pray for perfection, but have to die for it.;)

  4. Dr. Clarke said something about that- that if we look to death to make us holy, then that makes our last enemy our dearest friend! Or, should we read all exhortations to love, obedience, purity, or holiness as, "drop dead?"

    Or, if we look at Heb. 12:14, how do we make the divide? If we have not attained by faith the required holiness on this side, then how are we going to be transformed into His likeness by seeing Him?

    Not that I have all the answers, just a bunch of questions!

  5. Hi Robert,

    We have both taken a BlogRush/Traffic Jam fall, oh how the mighty have fallen, win some lose some.

    In reality, I think much of it depends on writing a catchy headline.


  6. Yeah, that or the fact that I haven't touched mine in about a fortnight... Fact is they didn't send an awful lot of traffic this way when we were on the front page. I think what I need to do most of all with this blog is to do some editing and recycling. There are some pieces I probably should not have posted, and some others posted before a decent read, but for now I've got a couple of dozen Wesley sermons to outline, a couple dozen more of my own to write, and a fair amount of reading to do while I'm on break here!

    Blessings on ya!


So what's your take?