Let this quote, by Tim Chester, get under your skin and challenge you…
“We value the extraordinary over the ordinary. Whether it’s conferences, spiritual experiences, revivals – we are looking for the extraordinary. But Jesus conducted his ministry in the context of meals, journeys and homes…
Many think the goal of spirituality is serenity and stillness. But the goal of biblical spirituality is conformity to Christ. It is to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. And the cross was not a place of serenity. It was a place of selflessness and sacrificial love in the midst of hate and violence… ”
Charles Spurgeon, in his own unique way, shows what it means to live a cross shaped life in a sermon preached called “Grand Glorying”. He is a short extract:
“”He means that ever since he fell in love with Jesus Christ, he lost all love for the world! It seemed to him to be a poor crucified, dying thing, and he turned away from it just as you would from a criminal whom you might see hanging in chains–and would desire to go anywhere rather than see the poor being. So Paul seemed to see the world on gallows–hung up there. “There,” he said, “that is what I think of you and all your pomp, and all your power, and all your wealth, and all your fame! You are on gallows, a malefactor, nailed up, crucified! I would not give a fig for you!”… And now observe the other Cross. There is Paul on that. The world thinks as little of Paul as Paul does of the world. The world says, “Oh, the harebrained Paul! He was once sensible, but he has gone mad upon that stubborn notion about the crucified one! The man is a fool.” So the world crucifies him… So is it with the world and the genuine Christian”
“Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” verses 1-2
The Psalms have an amazing ability to strip away any form of pretence or religious ‘make up’ that we try to cake ourselves in. Here at the start of Psalm 26, it feels to me, like I’m stood in front of a full length mirror and the sight is not very pretty! What do I mean by that? Well for starters, I certainly can’t pray with confidence for God to Vindicate me… [because] I have led a blameless life”. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve even led a blaneless day, let alone life! The mirror just keeps on exposing the naked reality of my life, for it says “I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered”… err… nope I’ve faltered and if I’m honest I continue to falter in my trust. Like a cruel group of school kids, peering and jeering as they look over my shoulder at my exposed relality, the Psalm continues; “I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” Oh how I wish that was true! However, there are just so many moments I can look back on when I did anything and everything but remember the unfailing love of God and as a response lean back into his faithfulness.
So what do I do with this Psalm? Try and avoid it? Whisper the words very quietly hoping that no one, especially God, will hear me? No! This mirror-like work of this Psalm is a good thing! It leads me to some sobering and soaring realities. Firstly, I’m a man desperately in need of a saviour. When I look back at my life, fragility and failing are the constant drumbeat. However, gloriously this Psalm also throws me into the arms of one who has lived a blameless life, who never faltered in his trust of his Heavenly Father, and one who enjoyed and lived in the unfailing love of his father in heaven and who was able to face everything, even the cross, because he relied upon his father’s faithfulness. Yes one who is even greater than King David. His name, if you’d not already guessed, is Jesus.
As these truth settle afresh in my heart, it centers my life back on Jesus. It reminds me that everything that I see in the full length mirror was totally dealt with by him at the cross. My sin-smeared life exchanged for his blameless life. My faithless wonderings replaced by his trust-filled obedience. My spiritual blindness to the love of God replaced by a big neon sign saying loved and chosen before the foundation of the world.