There are times when the truth will receive a wide hearing and times when it will not. Jesus had a congregation of five thousand one day and four women and two bored soldiers another. His message was the same both days. We must learn to live by the truth, not by our feelings, not by the world’s opinion, not by what the latest statistical survey tells us is the accepted morality, not by what advertisers tell us is the most gratifying lifestyle. We are trained in the biblical faith to take lightly what the experts say, the scholars say, the pollsters say, the politicians say, the pastors say. We are trained to listen to the Word of God, to test everything against what God reveals to us in Christ, to discover all meaning and worth by examining life in relation to God’s will.”
“Listen to how the fourth-century Roman historian Eusebius described the early Christian named Sanctus, when Sanctus stood before his torturers in the year AD 177: “with such determination did he stand up to their onslaughts that he would not tell them his own name, race, and birthplace or whether he was slave or free. To every question re replied, in Latin, ‘I am a Christian.’ This he proclaimed over and over again, instead of name, birth place, nationality and everything else, and not another word did the heathen hear from him.” Jonathan Leeman (pg32) from Church Membership
I am a Christian — is this my strongest and most prevailing identity and allegiance? Is my identification as belonging to Jesus more compelling than my age, gender, martial status, family ties, friendship circles, political persuasion, ethical stances, and more?
I am a Christian — is this the pulsating heartbeat of every decision, action, thought, emotion, desire that swirls around in me?
“If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes [Christians], a phenomenon undeniably attested in the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of the resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?”
“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.
Over the last term, at Kingsgate Community Church, I spoke about three glorious world altering cultures found in the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
These cultures are:
A community of people who express the extravigant and life transforming nature of grace
A people who are secure in their identity as children loved by God
A people who prize fellowship with the Holy Spirit
However right at the heart of this whole idea is that every church community on planet earth have been called to one all encompassing mission: to make much of Jesus
The following is a great quote from John Piper to help understand what it means to live a life that centres around this idea of making much of Jesus. Just to warn you this is a prickly quote:
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—
is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the
friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and
all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties
you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no
human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ were not there? ”