SunriseSecondCampus

The book of I John is shining in Advent at Blanchard Warrenville this year. As we move ever closer to Christmas, I’m amazed at the mystery and wonder of what Christ accomplished that night he was born in Bethlehem.

It’s a wonder which A.W. Tozer spoke on many years ago at Southwest Alliance Church in Chicago. As he reflected on the text of I John, he marvels at “that light”, a powerful descriptor of God as if He’s a luminous mountain, a bright presence so wholly other, so purely full of light and life–that any of us who confess our sin and darkness have access “this light”, thus restoring our broken relationship with God.

This, Tozer preaches, is the wonder of Christmas. In his message from I John, The Theology of Christmas, which I encourage you to stream or download here from sermonindex.net, is captured in its seven points below…

1.  The wonder of “that” eternal light
2.  The wonder of “that light” manifested
3.  The wonder of the nature of God:  “God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”
4.  The mystery of iniquity
5.  The wonder of sin forgiven when confessed
6.  The wonder of cleansing from unrighteousness
7.  The wonder of “restored moral innocence” by the blood of Jesus.

May the wonder of the Light of Christ burn in our hearts anew like the two walking on the road to Emmaus experienced after He met them and explained everything about himself in the Scripture on that great day of His resurrection.

God save us from complacency this Advent season–move us to wonder and be filled with Your light anew…

A closing prayer:
As each day passes, the end of my life becomes ever nearer, and my sins increase in number. You, Lord, my [light], know how feeble I am, and in my weakness, strengthen me; when I suffer, uphold me, and I will glorify you, my Lord and my God.  –Ephrem the Syrian

The evil habit of seeking ‘God-and’ prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the ‘and’ lies our great woe.”

Skye Jethani recently “tweeted” this Tozer quote–so I’ll use him as my muse for this post today…

Tozer has a way of cutting to the quick–making us terribly uncomfortable in just a few pithy sentences.  I’ve been reflecting on our expectation of the miraculous power of God within the Church and our own lives since Easter Sunday.  The resurrection of Christ changed everything forever for all of us who believe in Him.

Here’s where that Tozer quote makes me uncomfortable.  I really don’t think Christ is “enough” for us anymore in the Church.  Sure, we sing along with Chris Tomlin’s anthem, but do we live like we believe it?

When the lights go out and I return to me everyday life in my neighborhood, do I trust that Jesus Christ in and of Himself is enough to bring me to complete wholeness and health (spiritual, physical and emotional) as a human being?

I’m feeling both discouraged and petulant today–sad that God hasn’t changed a lick in forever and, like a spoiled, impatient toddler,  I’m on to something new every ten minutes.  A.B. Simpson’s hymn/poem “Himself” used to be one of the clarion calls of our denomination (The Christian and Missionary Alliance, in case you were wondering…).

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

All in all forever…  Jesus will I sing
Everything in Jesus and Jesus everything

Once ’twas painful trying, Now ’tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.
Once ’twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

Once ’twas busy planning, Now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.
Once ’twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking, Now ’tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.

Trusting Christ to be who He says He is–like Simpson so beautifully writes–trusting God to empower us to put Jesus at the center of all things is hard over the long haul, to stay relentlessly committed to.  The things of this earth have a nasty habit of creeping in to steadily diminish our full reliance on Christ–whether it’s psychology, the next, great book by the next, great evangelical Christian leader (Skye once also cleverly tweeted that “he reads dead people”).  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against learning from other sources.

“All truth is God’s truth” was the motto of my Wheaton College education.  But when those other sources start sapping the bedrock of my non-negotiable belief that Christ is my All, my Healer, my Miraculous Immanent Sanctifier, my primary source of life’s power to grow as His devoted follower–that’s when I (and we Christians) sink into powerlessness.

I’m discouraged by Christians who keep dragging around their old sinful selves, the sins of the past because we refuse in faith to crown Christ as Living Lord over everything—that the resurrected Jesus is high and lifted up and powerful enough today to free me from any sin that is entangling —worthy of honor and glory and praise!

So, I’ll call you what you are (or can be ) today.  Powerful, life-filled Christians—don’t get trapped or live powerlessly  in and with “God-and“-ism.  Expect the victory Jesus won by coming to life on Sunday to be enough to conquer every day’s obstacles.

Like a character in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt a tug in my spirit as I drove by a man walking alone in the frigid cold on Butterfield Road last week.  I was in a hurry to get to a meeting…no time to stop.

The “Bottom Line”?

Hurry in my life boils down to my own selfishness. Spending more time on things I want to get done for myself — on my checklist, on my timetable.

My Hurry crushes the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life–the “humblest” member of the Trinity–as A.W. Tozer used to preach.  This is the greatest tragedy of all.  God is not in a hurry. He’s already got a plan for my day–if I would give him the time to speak a Word in edgewise (see Eph. 2:8-10).  He has promised to fill me with the Holy Spirit to be a part of completing His earthly mission–”that none should be lost”.

In my small group, we’re reading Francis Chan’s Forgotten God, his study of the modern Church’s failure to teach Christians what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit–to rely on His power to build us and His Church to all the measure of the fullness of Christ.

You remember Jesus’ “ask, seek, knock” teaching?  Although it’s referenced two different times in the gospels, it’s in two different contexts.  The first, in Matthew 7:7-12, is probably the most commonly referred to as an encouragement for Christians to be bold in prayer.  The second occasion,  in which Jesus is documented as teaching with this phrase is in Luke 11:5-13.  Interestingly, Jesus completes his teaching by identifying the object of our seeking,  He said,

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (NIV, emphasis mine)

I can’t honestly say, as a rule, that I’ve followed Jesus teaching to ask, seek and knock for the Holy Spirit in my life.

When I was studying to be a pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, I remembered being irritated with one of the standard lines of doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit–in particular, to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The line was:  seek not, forbid not. Although I don’t know for sure, my suspicion is that the motivating factor for this rather wimpy, politically correct teaching was fear–that crazy things would start happening in our church services if we encouraged some of the more radical, discomfiting gifts related to the work of the Holy Spirit–words of prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc.  I also think it was an effort to more clearly differentiate C&MA churches from our Pentecostal brothers and sisters.  But, unfortunately, this teaching has had an unintended chilling effect on our churches over the long haul–a lack of expectation or welcome for the Holy Spirit to have his way in our corporate gatherings.

That’s why I used the very strong descriptor of my personal hurry as “hell”.  I deny myself the beautiful opportunity to commune with the Holy Spirit, to invite his teaching, guidance and correction in my everyday life.

How about you?  Are you intentionally asking, seeking and knocking for the Holy Spirit in your life?  Let’s not be afraid.  Let’s just take Jesus’ encouragement at face value and enter in to see what God does!

Then, maybe next time I’m on Butterfield Road, I’ll have the space, time and room for the Holy Spirit to lead and work through me to reach out to others He is seeking to fill as well?

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