a lazy faith

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 3

I often find, sadly, that when things are going well, I can have a quite lazy faith. One might even say this can be a first world problem, because relatively speaking compared to many in the world, life is good for most of us. Although hard trials can barge in to any person or family, to be sure. What I don’t like are the very issues and problems through which I might end up much closer to God, and more like Jesus, than I would have been without them.

In the case of the Laodicean church, there was nothing the matter, and life was good. They were living it up in the lap of luxury. Thankfully for them, the Lord was not going to let them go. He stepped in to discipline them in love. He was longing for their communion with him, no less. This isn’t really a passage for salvation, though I’m sure God has used it that way to bring sinners into the fold. But it’s aimed at a church of at least professing believers, surely some of them born of the Spirit, but lazy in their faith to the point that faith was not something really needed for this life.

I can imagine that for some, the way they’ve been mistaught, faith is more or less about getting to heaven someday when they die, akin to what Dallas Willard used to call a “bar code” Christianity. But if we open our Bibles and keep turning the pages, we will see all the many ways that faith is for this life. And particularly when we’re up against it, our faith is awakened to possibilities which before were not needed. And we can grow in our faith, and from that in our development as mature people in a way we otherwise would not (James 1).

The Lord didn’t leave the believers who thought they had it all together alone, and he won’t leave us alone either. He loves us too much for that. Let’s respond to that love, and open the door, and let the Lord have his way in every part of our lives.

Advertisements

embracing the hard places

With a here we go again attitutde, we can shortchange the changes God wants to make in our lives. There are problems, places, and let’s admit it, people, who at times along with us can be challenging, disappointing, and downright irritating. And it doesn’t help when we might be tired, and a bit battered and bruised from what life has brought our way to begin with. While it is true that we as humans are made in no less than the image of God, it is also true that we are dust.

In all of this, of course, we need grace. We need to wait on God so to speak, even in the midst of the flow of life. We should have a sense of expectation in waiting on God to work everything out according to his purpose for us and for others, as well as just his purpose in general, in Jesus. That takes both time and faith. We need to hold on, as it were.

And by faith, we should learn to embrace the hard places with outstretched arms as a kind of sign of the cross as part of a cruciform, cross-shaped life. We do this, not because we want to, or because that is the place we would ever go, but because we do want to follow Jesus in all of life, the one who taught us a good number of hard sayings and teachings (see Matthew 5-7, and read the rest of the gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

Of course we will and do fail along the way. We have forgiveness already in terms of salvation, but we do need to continue to confess our sins to God, and when appropriate at times to others, and walk in the light God gives us to maintain fellowship and communion with God and with each other through Jesus’s blood cleansing us from all sin (1 John).

Embracing the hard places is most certainly an act of faith. We do so believing that good will come out of it from God, as well as to avoid the evil and the problems which come out of our refusal to accept such things. A part of the maturing process which is ours together in Jesus.

in Jesus we are invited to intimacy and enthronement with him

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 3:14-22

We may live in a Laodicean kind of age, not at all related to any dispensational scheme, but with something of the kind of Christianity we see in the Laodicean church of old. They were well off and satisfied with their lives, even as they named the name of Christ. But Jesus told them that there was something vitally missing. It wasn’t necessarily that they lacked a personal relationship with Jesus altogether, though it does seem weak at best. They are told that they are loved by God, and therefore being disciplined, at least that is intimated.

About a personal relationship with Jesus. I know that is bashed in some quarters of the church, but even if it might be overemphasized by some, while other matters of importance which are also central to the faith are largely ignored, it still, I say, is important. We have to keep reading scripture to really see if that’s the case, but I think a fair reading of the Final, New Testament will amply bring that out.

Yes, Jesus is on the outside knocking, so to speak. He wants a close fellowship, or communion with us. That is among other things which is at the heart of the faith, and in a way, we might say, at the heartbeat of it all.

And the idea that we’re not in a battle, and that it should all go easy if we’re in the Spirit is simply not a matter of fact either in reality, or in the pages of the Bible, including the New Testament. We are, and to realize that, we can say, is half the battle. Of course being “in the Spirit” will help us deal with the hard places, but it is no less a battle, of course spiritual in nature.

And what we’re promised if we’re victorious in and through Jesus is shocking and mind boggling. We are told that we’ll end up sitting with Jesus on his throne, even as Jesus after his victory sat with his Father on his throne. I can just imagine millions upon millions upon millions getting to take their turn seated with Jesus on his throne, and in the Spirit somehow always seated with Jesus on his throne. It’s interesting that even now we are seated with the ascended Christ, who is at the right hand of God, enthroned with the Father; that we are seated with him positionally, and perhaps by the Spirit there (Ephesians 1-2).

And so a close intimacy in knowing Jesus seems tied to being victorious in him in this life, so that in the end we are honored with him in and through him. As long as we’re in this present life, both are of vital importance.

…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8

 

prayer as worshipful fellowship/communion with God

Concerning Prayer
149. What is prayer?
Prayer is turning my heart toward God, to converse with him in worship. (Psalm 122, 123)
150. What should you seek in prayer?
In prayer I should seek the joy of fellowship with God, who made me for fellowship with him. (1 Chronicles 16:28-30; Psalm 96; John 17; Revelation 22:17)
151. What is fellowship with God?
Fellowship with God in prayer is relating to him as his children, as we approach the light and glory of his throne. (Revelation 7:9-17)
152. How can you have fellowship with God? Through the death of Jesus as both High Priest and sacrifice, and in his Holy Spirit, I have fellowship with God in Word, Sacrament, and prayer. (Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 1:1-4)
153. Why should you pray?
I should pray, first, because God calls me so to do; second, because I desire to know God and be known by him; third, because I need the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit; and fourth, because God responds to the prayers of his people. (Luke 11:13)
154. What should you pray?
In addition to my own prayers, I should pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, and the collected prayers of the Church.
155. When should you pray?
I should pray morning, noon, and night, and whenever I am aware of my need for God’s special grace. And I should learn “to pray without ceasing” as I grow in knowledge of God’s nearness. (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10-13; Matthew 15:21-28; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Hebrews 4:16)

TO BE A CHRISTIAN: An Anglican Catechism, 39

living in the communion of God in Christ

There is nothing more important or basic, I take it, then maintaining fellowship, a priority coming from the Triune nature of God who is Community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sin breaks that fellowship or communion. So that front and center in God’s redeeming work in Christ is reconciliation. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them. This happened at the cross where people’s sins, indeed all of our sins were absorbed, as Jesus took them on himself, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And yes, I believe Jesus did take something of the punishment we deserve, that in some way, related to the sacrificial system of the temple with all its animal sacrifices for sin, that Jesus was the fulfillment. He was indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The call then is for people to be reconciled to God. God has opened the way through Christ, now people need to accept that, and enter into it for themselves.

And so we are concerned for others, for all of God’s children by creation, to enter into God’s new creation in and through Christ. And we are concerned to maintain fellowship and communion with those who already have. This is more important than the many things which divide us, as important as they may be. The communion or fellowship we have with God the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit is the air in which we breathe and live in the new creation. Apart from this communion and fellowship of love nothing else really matters. Everything finds its proper place and meaning in relation to this, including such Christian theological concepts as justification, sanctification, etc. Not that there isn’t much to consider and be about in the created order, because there most certainly is. At work I’m going to have to be concerned about all kinds of details with reference to the books coming off the machines, making sure the books meet right specifications, that the machines are properly set and adjusted, that we have the right information as well as supplies and set up to get the job done. And all of this is important in connection with the aim of RBC Ministries: to make the life changing wisdom found in the Bible accessible to all. And at the heart of that goal is living well in community in God through Christ. So that somehow everything we do in God’s work is toward and in harmony with that goal.

And so we are careful not to violate this communion, hopefully by the Spirit in our different ways to enhance it. As we seek to grow in it, and bring others into that same fellowship with us in and through Jesus.

life in Christ is a life together

There is no doubt that our life in God through Christ by the Spirit is basic and fundamental. The vertical is always central in our lives in Christ. But the horizontal is never to be lost in that. Central to our lives in Christ, as well, is our relationships with each other in him. We belong to Christ, but we also belong to each other. We are members of Christ, members of his body. And so we are joined together by the Spirit so that our oneness is not only with Christ himself, or with God through Christ by the Spirit, but with all of God’s people, those who are in Christ and members of his body.

We neglect this simple, yet profound truth to our own peril and to the peril of others, we could say, the others. We don’t have any other choice in Christ, but to get along, to get past our differences, so that at least we can live well with each other in him. If we allow other factors to undermine our life together, then we need to consider just what is hindering that, confess it to God, and get rid of it. Working through problems is part of that, rather than simply pushing them aside.

Something will be missing if our lives are only plugged into God through Christ, into Christ himself. We also need to be plugged into each other. We actually are already joined to each other in and through Christ. We are to live that out. Our devotion to God through Christ is never only about ourselves and him. It is always also about ourselves with each other in him. There is no getting around it. Our fellowship in the Father and in the Son by the Spirit is a fellowship with each other. It is both at the same time. This is simply the way it is, organic and as real as the dynamic and interplay between brain and other parts of our physical bodies, from which comes the metaphor of the body of Christ.

Love is key here, the love of God in Christ and by the Spirit which is to permeate our relationship with God and with each other. It is no less than a communion of love. We interact with each other in that love, no less: God’s love in Christ. In this life in Christ, together.

knowing God personally and in community through Jesus

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

John is writing about an incarnational faith, one that is both material and spiritual. Somehow the very life of God was not just spirit, but matter, indeed flesh and blood in Jesus. And the disciples knew Jesus in the way we all know other human beings. In relationship, as a friend. So this knowledge was something very much down to earth, right where they lived. Yet at the same time, heavenly. Bringing both a fellowship to the community of believers with the Father and the Son, and to each individual within that community, eternal life. That fellowship ongoing, not only for believers and followers of Jesus during that time, but for us as well in Jesus.

I like what I read from Michael Bird in his recent book, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction, on the importance of not only knowing doctrine, but knowing God in and through Jesus. What I especially liked from Bird was the thought that this knowing of God impacts our understanding of doctrine. One can of course perhaps understand what scripture says intellectually without knowing God. But one cannot grasp its intended meaning apart from that knowledge of God. In other words the knowledge is indeed incarnational, meant to touch and somehow transform all of life.

This knowing is both individual and communal. In other words we experience it as individuals and in and through community —in Jesus. It is strictly speaking not at all what we know about someone, though that is not cut off as if unimportant. One can know everything about someone without knowing that person at all. To know someone is far more than the sum total of everything we might know about them. But of course it doesn’t mean that what we know about them is unimportant. In the case of Jesus there is no doubt that we need to accept God’s revelation about him. Life is what it is in many details, about us. But at the heart of that is a relationship, indeed a fellowship with the Father and the Son by the Spirit, which we believers and followers of Jesus enjoy together.