How to live a miserable Christian life (part i)

9 08 2006

There is truly nothing that brings more joy to the human heart than to know and live in the reality of being forgiven in Christ and enjoy the delicious fruit of grace. Sadly many struggle with living in this joy as a characteristic of their lives. Instead many settle for sub-glorious moments, hours, days and eventually lives as followers of joy incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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What follows is my humble attempt to serve you. In the next three days I want to outline 10 ways that you can live a miserable Christian life. Perhaps you can identify with some of these.

I have written these to myself first and foremost and desire to share with you. My prayer would be that you would inspect your life, heart and motives for unsuspecting parasites that serve to suck out your joy in Christ that you might pluck them out and hopefully be edified together with me.

1. Try to Repay Jesus for the Cross

The sure-fire way to short circuit joy in Christ is to undervalue him and overvalue yourself. It is really a subtle shift into idolatry. Instead of living your life in complete dependence upon and appreciation to Jesus for everything you have, you find yourself depending upon yourself to repay the glorious gift of salvation and life. What could be more frustrating than this?

This takes the form of practicing disciplines of grace (Bible reading, prayer, meditation, etc…) for the purpose of repaying Jesus. In this posture you see these post-salvation works as somehow meritorious to diminish the eternal debt that was born by the Savior. I don’t know about you but for me the reality of the debt that was born by Jesus compels even more hearty praise and appreciation.

Do you see the offensive shavings of idolatry here? You end up saying that Jesus gave you a good spiritual boost to your feet and now you’ll take it from here. It sounds like an evangelical hybrid with Rome. Instead we need to realize that it is grace that saves sinners, it is grace that sanctifies sinners, it is grace that keeps sinners, and it is grace that will ultimately present sinners as blameless before the throne of God. Our constant dependence upon the grace that is ours in Jesus reminds us of his richness and our neediness; this reality brings joy and intensifies our appreciation of the cross of Jesus. For the sacrifice of the Son of God was never intended to be offensively repaid but rather it is to be valued for its supremacy and efficacy.

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Priorities and Haggai

5 07 2006

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Priorities. We all have them and when we cannot readily recite them our lives declare them. So much of what I seem to encounter on a reoccurring basis is the issue of misplaced priorities. As a pastor I encounter various painful scenarios within the body, however, the symptoms are often times the same. Regrettably it is the often times the most simplistic things for the believer that become the most dangerous when neglected.

As Christians we are called to put the interests of God as preminent in our lives. To pursue what he pursues and to enjoy what he enjoys. God is consumed with his glory and supremacy. And nowhere is this more tangibly expressed than in the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The forum of communicating this exaltation of Lord Jesus is through the revealed word of God.

So the believer, quite simply, is to be pursuing conformity into the image of Jesus through dependence upon the Holy Spirit and obedience to the word of God while loving the glory of God. It is in this posture that the interests of God are in the forefront.

So why do we slip? And where do we slip?

In the book of Haggai the prophet comes to express the divine opinion of the people’s negligence. He calls them to “Consider your ways!” (1.5) they were working hard, busy with life and commerce, but were lacking. They were earning money and resources but in the end were lacking anything, in fact they were in the red.

Why were they lacking? Well quite simply they had neglected the divine agenda. The prophet Haggai urges the people to again “Consider your ways!” (1.7)… to go up and collect wood to rebuild the temple, so “that I may be pleased with it and be glorified” says the Lord.

The people of Judah had simply neglected what was of first importance and God frustrated their labors: ‘“You look for much, but behold it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?’ Declares the LORD of hosts, ‘because of my house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.” (1.9).

We have in the days of Haggai a very similar scenario to what we face today. People are busy. Through the day to day life filled with the day to day tasks and agendas the pursuit of personal advancement was promoted to a position of preeminence. And as a result the agenda of God and his will for his people gets sacrificed on the altar of personal pursuits.

So many times we say that we are too busy…too busy for people, too busy for ministry, too busy for personal Bible reading/devotion, too busy to pray, too busy to meditate, too busy to whatever…to this God says, “Consider your ways!”

God withheld the blessings of the people because they withheld the heart driven worship of Yahweh. Verse10 tells us that “because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce”. God is not going to bless his people with dew of divine joy when they are robbing him of his due glory!

Simple questions to ask ourselves in light of this reality from Haggai:

  1. What is my chief and or ultimate priority?
  2. Would my time (day by day scheduling) support this?
  3. Why have I allowed something/someone to have preeminence over God?
  4. What must I do to replace/reform my life’s habits to conform with what God desires?
  5. Do I really believe that God is supreme?

When we do not ascribe to God the supremacy that is deserved and enjoyed by him we are opposing him. We cannot walk in opposition to God and expect his favor. Therefore, our steps and the motives behind each step must be carefully processed through the gracious sifting of the revealed word so that our steps may be aligned with the will of God.

This change is never to be motivated by just a guilty change of behavior, as in just replacing something bad with something right, but instead out of an understanding and agreement of the supremacy of God and so therefore our ultimate dependence upon him for everything!