dinsdag 6 augustus 2013

And He Came to His Own

Chances are if you consider yourself a believing Christian at some time in your life you were invited to ‘receive Jesus’.  It’s the common evangelical catch cry for ushering unbelievers into the Kingdom of God.  Countless numbers of church goers believe they are going to Heaven because at some time they raised their hand, signed a card, or repeated a prayer that indicated they were “receiving Jesus as their personal Saviour”.  This is despite the fact that the Bible endorses none of these methods as evidence that an individual has started following Christ, and the concept of a ‘personal’ Saviour is not even found in scripture. 
Some posts I write are easy to prepare.  From first conception to their final expression they seem to flow smoothly and without struggle, like milk and honey.  This one is not like that.  This post has been difficult to bring to birth.  It has been more wrestle than flow, more question than answer, more challenge than encouragement, more grief than joy, and, I believe, more “God breathed word” than personal opinion.  For that reason I am endeavouring to leave as much of myself out of it and as much of Christ within it as I possibly can. 
In the first chapter of the gospel of John we read one of the saddest statements in all of scripture:
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  John 1:10-11
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him…..   
Friends, how long shall we go on deluding ourselves that we have received Jesus, when in so many ways, we have yet to receive Him?  Here are just some starting points to clarify that last statement:
*When we, as individuals, consciously choose not to deny ourselves in order to indulge our flesh just that one more time, we have not received Him.
*When we, as individuals, demonstrate greater loyalty to family, tribe, denomination, political party or nation than to His Kingdom, we have notreceived Him.
*When we, as individuals, elevate the tradition of our church or denomination as equal to or above His Word, we have not received Him.
*When we, as individuals, knowingly withhold from Him His rightful Lordship over any and every aspect of our life, we have not received Him.
*When we, as individuals, seek after the approval of any man or woman more than the approval of the Lord, we have not received Him.  
*When we, as individuals, judge Him unjust by questioning His fairness, we have not received Him.
*When we, as individuals, are ashamed of Him before others, we have notreceived Him.
*When we, as individuals, harden our hearts to the cry of the poor, the needy, the brokenhearted, the widows and the orphans, we have notreceived Him.
And what of His church, the corporate Body of Christ, the multi-membered witness of Christ on planet earth?  Surely the church has received Him?  Consider the following:
*When we, as His church, reject, control, manipulate or quench His gift of the Holy Spirit, then we have not received Him;   
*When we, as His church,  limit the power of His shed Blood to save, heal, sanctify and restore, to only certain segments of society, then we have notreceived Him;
*When we, as His church, elevate mere men or women as mediators between God and ourselves, then we have not received Him;
*When we, as His church, seek salvation through our religious acts rather than His holy righteousness, we have not received Him;
*When we, as His church, decide between who is worthy of the Father’s love, and who is not worthy, then we have not received Him;
*When we, as His church, desire signs, wonders and supernatural experience more than Christ Himself, then we have not received Him.
*When we, as His church, misuse our stewardship by using the offerings of the poor to build monuments to our own ministries, then we have notreceived Him;
*When we, as His church, seek to perpetuate our ministries, our influence and our institutions rather than taking up our Cross and following, then we havenot received Him.
*When we, as His church, allow the sins of spiritual, sexual and physical abuse to go hidden and undealt with in our midst in order to protect our reputations and our lifestyles, then we have not received Him.
These lists are not exhaustive.  I am sure many other valid statements could be added.  But they are enough.
Brethren, how can it be that in so many ways we, His own, have not received Him?   How is it that the Christian church worldwide is not found on its face seeking repentance and forgiveness for the audacity of our nakedness?  How is it we are not ashamed?  How is it, as His corporate Body, we do not share the Spirit’s grief over the depth of our emptiness?  How is it we count ourselves as having received Christ, when again and again we demonstrate that we have not?
I cannot say I have the answers.  I can only say I know the Spirit grieves deeply over these things.  And when the Spirit grieves, the Father and the Son grieve also.  If John were writing to us today might he not confront us with our spiritual nakedness in the follow way:
He was in the church, and the church was made through Him, and the church did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
Receiving Jesus is not a momentary, one off event.  He is not a package deal.  He does not come wrapped in a tidy little box with hearts and ribbons.  Receiving Jesus is a lifestyle.  It is an ongoing, ever-expanding phenomenon.  Our hearts need continually to be opened wider and dug deeper by the Holy Spirit in order to receive more of His fullness.  We did not arrive at our destination the day we signed that card, raised that hand or whispered that initial prayer.  We simply began a journey into Christ, a journey in which complacency and pride are our worst enemies.
Let each of us continually examine our own hearts humbly and openly before Him, allowing His holy fire to burn freely, convicting us, cleansing us, moulding us into the true image of Christ.  Not because we need to strive for our salvation.  If we have believed, we have that.  But He came to do more than save:  He came to inhabit. 
May the Lord grant all who are willing the grace to cease playing church, coming before Him in all humility to finally know what it is to truly receive Christ.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013