Dear praying friends,
We live in a time when the sensual focus of our culture works to anesthetize our hearts so that we are insensitive to the presence of God in our world. As in the days of Paul, when the pagan culture lulled many into a spiritual sleep, the word comes to us anew: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” [Eph.5:14]. We must constantly guard against the dulling of our spiritual insight and our ability to “hear” the Lord’s “still small voice” that guides us. Many, who have come to the light of Christ in salvation, still walk in darkness. Though they “have eyes, they fail to see” the things of God. And having ears to hear, we have become dull of hearing so that we do not receive the things of God revealed to us by His Spirit [cf. Mark 8:18, 1 Cor. 2:9]. Read, hear and be instructed by the following parable from modern life:
“…ears to hear…”
[A musician is playing a violin in a Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007.]
He played six Bach pieces for about 60 minutes. During that time approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After:
A middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
A three year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.
The musician played. Only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
This is a real story. The Washington Post, as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities, arranged the entire scenario. Playing incognito, no one knew the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days prior to this, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the tickets averaged $100 per seat.
The questions raised: In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty; do we stop to appreciate it; do we recognize talent in such an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ....... How many other things are we missing?
And for the awakened heart the question comes: “If I do not have a moment to listen to the Lord of the universe who invites me to know His heart and hear His voice, what am I missing?”
Jesus reminded us that, we, His disciples “… should always pray and not faint…” [Lk. 18:1]. Still many of us “sleep-walk” though the world, unconscious of the presence of the Lord of life! Only by prayerful alertness can we escape the darkness of this present “evil day” through which we are called to walk. As Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” [Mark14:38].
In grateful awareness of God’s love and care,
ON KNOWING CHRIST AS MY LIFE
“God has chosen to make known…this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” [Col. 1:27].
“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Col. 3:4].
“But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” [1 Jn. 3:2]
As we continue the teaching of “knowing Christ” as the heart of our gospel [See last month’s letter], we want to emphasize the revelation of the mystery aspect of this truth – that of knowing “Christ in you” as your very life. To state it more dramatically” knowing Christ in you as you! [Your true identity found in your union with Christ by faith]. It was this deeper “knowing” that Paul longed for when he testified: “I want to know Christ… becoming like him…and so, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” [Phil. 3:10,11]. He was longing for Christ to manifest his resurrection life in his earthly body in his lifetime! This is the earnest desire that “groans” in each one of us who have “the firstfruits of the Spirit” [Rom. 8:23].
In the two scriptures above that link our likeness to Him and “when He appears,” the Greek word used by both Paul and John means, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, “to be brought to the light.” It connotes something that is hidden to the natural mind and perception, but “shines forth” when Christ is revealed to the receptive heart. Though it is true that the ultimate “appearing” of Christ is related to the second coming in glory [cf. 2 Tim. 4:1; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 9:28], it seems clear that believers are to long for and expect “the appearing” of Christ in spiritual encounters of His Manifest Presence. Such a “spiritual experience” was granted to the disciples gathered at the “breaking of the bread” [Lk. 24:30,31] and to John in his lonely exile on the Isle of Patmos. His record of that experience is preserved for us in the book he wrote – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”- the last book in our inspired scriptures.
Because such experiences of His appearing have been counterfeited and abused by “false prophets,” down through the centuries, spiritual leaders have rightly warned believers to be wary of them. But, as everyone knows, the reason that counterfeits exist is because there is something real and valuable that presupposes the “fake” distortion. There are “false apostles,” operating in fleshly deception, who have robbed the Household of God of the great “treasure” to be found in beholding the face of Christ. James warns that “…where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice” [Js. 3:16]. Still, there remains the promise that we may indeed discover this true “…treasure in jars of clay,” our earthly bodies.
It is for those who patiently “…get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in us” [Js. 1:21] that the Holy Spirit comes to reveal the Son in us! The Lord still today, “…makes his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” [2 Cor. 4:6]. For those who earnestly seek Him it is written, that “…we with unveiled faces all contemplate and reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed in his likeness with ever-increasing glory” [2 Cor. 3:18].
In coming to “know” Christ, not simply “according to the flesh,” but revealed in us [cf. 2 Cor. 5:16-17; Gal. 1:15,16] , we come to know our true self, “…created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” [Eph. 4:24]. After that we “…glory in Christ Jesus and …put no confidence in the flesh” [Phil. 3:3]. Having come to “know” ourselves as “…a man in Christ…” we confess with Paul: “I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses" [2 Cor. 12:2,5].
True spiritual humility consists in knowing that apart from Him, we are nothing and can do nothing, while at the same time knowing that “…he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” [1 Cor. 6:17]. As boldly as Jesus Christ confessed, “I and the Father are one” [Jn. 10 30], so may we boldly declare what Jesus said of us: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” [Jn. 14:20]. Fixing my mind on Him, seeing Him as He is in me, I come to know in spiritual reality: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me!” [Gal. 2:20]. Continued….