Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I am a Christian

Aside from the fact that God has graciously saved me from the path of destruction through His loving election, there are a great many things in my every day living that confirm in my mind the Truth of God's glory and energize my will to pursue Him fully.

Here are a few that have been on my mind in recent days:

The majesty of God and the Truth of His glory has been revealed to me through the local assembly of Wesminster Presbyterian Church in Bryan, Texas. The church is by no means a perfect body, and in many ways we fall short both in our duties to one another and our duties to the community in which God has placed us, but these are areas for God's grace to grow us. What has been evident is the love of Christ in the midst of suffering. In the three plus years that I have been attending WPC, we have had a surprising amount of death and suffering for a congregation of little more than 300 people. The most recent include two fatal car crashes--one of a sweet older lady in our church and one of a local high school coach at the Christian school where several of our children attend. In the past year we have seen the miracle of two premature babies whose life hung on a thread for many months be delivered from death by God, to our great joy. Only four months ago our family pastor lost his 18 month old son in a tragic accident. Our church continues to grieve for Knox and I would encourage you to visit our website and listen to the sermon from Knox's funeral service. I have never witnessed how much God can be glorified in the death of a loved one until I was witness to Knox's death and the ongoing ministry of His saints even now.

Knox has been a continual influence upon me in these last few months. His mother keeps a blog devoted to memories of him. I hardly knew Knox before his death, but the love for this little boy has made his life in heaven as much a joy in my life as his life on earth was for those closest to him. That may sound like an odd statement, but it is less odd when you consider how often we are impacted by the lives of saints and missionaries. The odd thing is that Knox's "deeds" in this life were not characteristic of those we find inspiring in martyrs and defenders of the faith; nor of missionaries and preachers of the Gospel. The testimony of Knox's life is that he was a boy who loved and a boy who was loved by many saints in our midst. It would be easy for Knox's family to keep their grief to themselves, to hide in the solace of each other and keep others in our church at a distance. But instead this loving family has opened their lives to allow others to partake in their grief. Brothers and sisters this is the love of Christ. How else could it be possible for those whose hearts are broken to actually minister to those whose hearts are broken for them? And in opening their lives to others they have also been filled with the love of Christ through the works of His people who have cared for them in a host of ways--from the very practical and simple to the very deep and complex--and all in proportion to what gifts God has given and what relationship they have to the family of Knox.

The love of Christ in the midst of grieving is a local story that will spread into the world through the lives of believers who go on from WPC into other places, and those who stay and touch the lives of others in our community here (as we continue learn that it is also good to open our lives to those who are not yet of our assembly willingly, but whom God has prepared for us to find for His sake). But in the past year I have also been witness to a host of global stories through the various missionaries that we support, and in particular through the life of our former RUF minister who took his entire family to Peru last year to minister in a burgeoning project of growth that is truly a model of Christ's Kingdom. John and his wife Heather were a big part of my life here in College Station and continue to be a part of my life though they are at a distance. John is currently teaching apologetics to young and eager Peruvians who will tomorrow become the men who pastor parish churches that will serve entire communities in Trujillo and elsewhere. John is also preparing the beginnings of a college ministry (RUF) in Trujillo that will influence the thousands of Peruvians students who attend the several universities in the area. Peruvian Christians do not share the same culture as we do, and though they face their own spiritual depravity, they are outspoken and eager to make disciples of their fellow countrymen. The parish model combined with the training of indigenous ministers is an approach that takes seriously the commission of God to transform culture by the Gospel of Christ, and to ensure that most of what is translated is the Truth of God's Word and not the culture of white westerners. Peruvians know best what the ills are that choke their people, and they are also the most equipped to bring the light into their corner of the world. John, his family, and the other families (Peru mission is growing greatly!) are carving out parish communities, a seminary, and college mission that will eventually overtake the syncretistic, secularized Catholicism in Peru. The government is so happy that Peru Mission is willing to start Church-Hospital-School facilities that they have give over a dozen pieces of land them for free! God-willing the Gospel will spread broadly and deeply into Peru.

Brothers and sisters, I believe Augustine was more right than he was wrong. We, the City of God, are traveling side-by-side with the City of this World and though many seek to live on the border, or even to rent space in our city while holding allegiance to the world, I am convinced that God is not willing that His City should fail. It is His Church, His people, the inheritance of His Son, the One whom He loves and for whom His glory was manifest in us by the power of His redeeming love. There are many who look into the pages of Scripture and they see reflections of this present world in its pages--shades of deceit, colors of apostasy, the pallor of a people living in ungodliness. But what is too often overlooked is Christ. Not the Christ who saves us from our sinful state, who has become our righteousness and our intercessor--for that Christ is on all of our hearts and lips who sense our own sin and need of salvation. No, the Christ who is overlooked is Christ the King, Christ the heir of God, Christ the God of all Creation. We speak of Him, yet as though He were far off. We long for Him, as though He has not yet come to us fully. We pray for His power, yet we do not expect it to accomplish much until the consummation of all things. We have let the hope of the perfection of glory yet to come overshadow the work of Christ in us that is ushering that perfection in! The King does not work as an individual, but expends His power through those who are loyal and obedient to His rule and reign. We are His Church, we are His Body, we are His Hands and Feet in this world. We are building the City of God, but unlike the Israelites under the watchful eye of Ezra we are not working with a will to win, but we are like the Israel of Habakkuk, waiting for some miracle to occur, when God has equipped us with all of His power in the person of the Holy Spirit and the full revelation of Christ.

Brothers and sisters we lose sight of Christ if we bemoan our situation to satisfy our self-righteousness. If you see a problem in the world then find the place in your part of the Kingdom where you can stamp it out! The overarching problems we face are also the problems right in front of us.

Brothers and sister we lose sight of Christ's calling if we pretend that victory is at hand. The good we experience is but a taste of the glory yet to come. We are not working hard enough yet, nor will we ever work hard enough until Sabbath comes. Six days we shall work, and we know not yet which day we are in, so rest not yet for the hope of tomorrow, for the Jubilee shall come when the Kingdom has been flushed of its iniquity. The King's call has gone out, but who will answer it?

Brothers and sisters we have all of Christ in our presence. We are lifted up to Heaven each time we partake of His body and blood, the spiritual sustenance for the battles of the week. We are given our battle orders each time the Gospel is preached to our hearts. We are comforted in our afflictions when our fellow soldiers stoop to pick us up from the wounds of sin.

We have so much, so very much, more than all this world can fathom. Let us not squander it in ignorance and self-satisfaction.

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