Saturday, January 01, 2011

That I may know him,
and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings,
being made conformable unto his death.
To what do we point as demonstrable proof of our love for the Lord Jesus? What sacrifices do we make that manifest a remarkable lifestyle of a disciple? 2011 is not a time for making all sorts of shallow and innocuous resolutions that are designed to enhance our own enjoyment of life. These are serious days that are relentlessly marching toward the apocalypse when He shall be revealed from heaven.
One day all the sermons and all the church services and all the worship songs here on earth will be over. The Lord Jesus in all His glory will appear and we will see just how we have minimized and maligned Him by our tepid and milquetoast caricatures. If it hasn’t even entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for us, how much more are we so ignorant and insufficient to imagine the Risen Christ surrounded and glorified by the entire host of heaven?
And in this “new year” the western church will continue to operate as it has in year’s past. Before there can be any corporate revival there must be personal revivals. We know abundantly more Bible than we obey, and we are well versed in Christian music and preacher styles. We rally to church activities and when choosing a church we are mostly concerned with what they have for our children. Many churches have enormous budgets that include inflated church staffs and their salaries, building maintenance, Sunday School materials, and many churches are saddled with colossal mortgage payments.
But amidst all this to and fro is the orphan called prayer. Prayer makes some cameo appearances during church services, and prayer finds an obligatory moment or two during a perfunctory devotional time. The “Polly want a cracker” style is popular as western believers ask God for more and more. Bless this one and that one, and “we thank you for…” is a familiar construct. But elongated seasons of intercession and excruciating times of beseeching God to change us have become narratives of times gone by and not tangible practices in the now.
Let us look ourselves in the mirror and admit something that God already knows. We have lost the practice and lifestyle of prayer, and in many ways we do not even believe in prayer as evidenced by our emaciated prayer lives. All around us darkness closes in and sinners are ambivalent about their spiritual condition and the prospect of eternity. And yet our church buildings are dark during the week except for meetings and activities, and believers by the millions sit glued to the television while hordes of demons roam freely and without fear in their very neighborhoods and in their very homes.
Prayer is the only connection to divine omnipotence we have ever been given and yet we treat it as ceremonial. Do we even know what Paul means when he refers to “laboring in prayers”? And are we willing to release the mutual stranglehold we have with this world in order to aggressively and with brokenness seek the very face and heart of the Living God?? Will we continue to worry about money and success and sports and entertainment, and in so doing we miss the very essence of what it means to be a believing follower of Jesus Christ? How can we still claim to believe in Jesus when we live like unbelievers?
Without a complete and revolutionary change in our prayer lives we are doomed to live 2011 just as we have 2010. And let us not rehearse the good things we did last year as some kind of an excuse for avoiding repentance this year. This may very well be the year He returns, and if it becomes a reality, and if we knew it to be so, would we continue to wander aimlessly within this culture of death? It is past time that a remnant of believers, who immediately reject the self righteousness sometimes connected with being a remnant, come out from among them and begin a process of sanctification within the sacred walls of the prayer closets. Only the furnace of the Spirit can purify these lives that have been so imprisoned by Babylon and its ways.
But since our lives have become so cluttered, before we can fall down before our God in penetrating prayer, we must cast aside much that has found a home in our lives. Some of it may be obvious, and some of it may even be sin. But some things may even be good but are weights and obstacles to our spirit man. Do you understand what “unconditional surrender” means? It means there can be no compromise and nothing held back. It means that the surrender must be panoramic and comprehensive. I have had a number of surgeries, and when you agree to let the doctor operate you do not tell him what to take out and what to leave. You do not direct that doctor at all, and in fact you place your very life in his hands.
And so it must be when we trust God to use us for His glory. Everything must be on the table, and we must be well aware of the craftiness of our flesh that will attempt at every turn to dilute and minimize the voice of the Spirit. If you go before God in prayer with an agenda you may as well spend your time elsewhere. There are things about our lives this very day that God wishes to change, and yet we would be surprised if we knew them. Are you tired of the same old, same old? Do you desire to become daring and vulnerable in your spiritual life? Can you bring yourself to put it all on the line and live a remarkable life that holds nothing back and lives as if life after physical death is a greater reality than this one?
If any of this has struck a cord within your being, then unfurl your sails. This voyage will be both rough and peaceful. You will become a challenge to some and a thorn to others. Accusations of self righteousness and imbalance may become commonplace. You may be led into seasons of fasting. You may be led to relinquish certain things and activities in your life without completely understanding why. This year may bring about many more tears than last year. God may reveal Himself to you in ways you could never have predicted, and yet he may forbid you to share some of them lest you become puffed up.
The Spirit may break your heart for the vilest of sinners, and some will label your compassion as moral compromise. With each new spiritual level you will be tempted to rest and set up camp right there. You will feel a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment, but your thirst for more of Him will only grow stronger and deeper. And if you are granted an especially penetrating glimpse into His glorious revelation, you may even feel as if you were never saved before.
Does all this sound like so much mysticism and voodoo talk? Well then, just punch your 2011 card with the same punch you used in 2010. Your spiritual life is no longer a journey; it is a treadmill. But if that is not your heart, then these verses could become a demonstrably reality in the coming year.

If ye then be risen with Christ,
seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for reminding us to "labor in prayer"!
It is such a privilege to come before the throne of God in this way - and to know our Lord WANTS us to!
"What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer"!
May God bless you and keep you,

Steve said...

This just came in my e-mail from the Barna group, which does polling of Christians and churches. It seems to tie in with your post as regards "shallow and innocuous resolutions." The original goes into further detail about which demographics fell in which category below.

New Year's resolutions (2010 and 2011) fell into these major broad categories:

weight, health, diet 30%

money, debt, finances 15%

personal improvement 13%

addictions 12%

job and career-related 5%

spiritual 5%

educational 4%

I'd like to see "Kingdom of God" at least in the minor percentages, and know some are taking seriously Jesus' command to seek it first ! But the Church is probably largely ignorant of what "the Kingdom" even means: how can you seek what you don't know ?

In Jesus, Steve

Radiance said...

"Your spiritual life is no longer a journey; it is a treadmill..."

That is indeed a scary thought. By the LORD's grace, may that not be the case.