NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A TIME
Article by: West Miller
NEVER has there been a time in history where the call to the follower of Jesus Christ been more urgent.
NEVER in the history of the Christian Church Body of Believers has there been a time of a needing to SEPARATE & QUIT touching that which God has deemed unclean. (What's unclean cannot be clearly known unless one is well equipped and versed in God's Word).
NEVER has there been a time when the importance and pertinence of 'knowing' God's Word been so eminent.
We are, AT THAT TIME NOW. How many more messages on the lukewarm Church do we need to hear before we take a hard look into the mirror and closely examine our own lives with a fine-tooth comb, and, along with the miraculous help of the Holy Spirit to point some difficult truths out? What is it that 'we' are waiting for? But more appropriately, what is it that 'I' am waiting for. The evidence surrounds us (me). The news and events of 'The World' overwhelmingly floods our homes and our very lives. We see it. We feel it. Even at times, we dive in and become a part of it.
My question (prayer) to God is, "What do You want me to do Lord?" "What is Your will for me?" "What is it that I need to disassociate with Lord that revival can begin in my own lukewarm comfort"? (Here I am! Send me!(?)
Finally, "What do I have or need to do to allow You to put Your fire in me to 'stir' me up?"
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
He Leads Us in His Rest
And he said to them, "Where is your faith?" Luke 8:25
We must learn never to make any excuse for ourselves that gives us a justification to panic. Jesus relentlessly demanded faith at all times from his disciples. The beautiful conclusion that can be deduced from this truth is that, with Christ, there really never is a true reason not to have a faith that manifests itself practically in not panicking. “But we are in the face of death!” So were the disciples, and Jesus still rebuked them and asked “where is your faith?” “But we are professional fishermen and we know storms, and there was no getting out of this one.” That’s right as far as it is reasoned without Jesus, but with Jesus present the rebuke still comes to us just as strongly. And if there is always a reason to have faith in any circumstance, the implication is that there is always a reason to rest, like Jesus, amidst any storm.
We must always comfort ourselves, not with possible outcomes to our circumstances, but with the attitude that Jesus himself takes toward our circumstances. If our reasoning goes toward our desired outcome, and our heart gets set on it, immediately our panicky mind will work its way back toward the “how” that will lead to that outcome. Our thoughts will therefore be on the oars, or the sail, or blaming those around us for not doing their job. Ultimately we will set ourselves right up against Jesus, humanistically making our worry the measure of the situation, rebuking Him for not being worried enough! “Master, we are perishing…” as if Jesus didn’t care, or didn’t know. The strength to rest in the midst of storms comes not from playing out certain outcomes, but from measuring the situation according to the fact of Jesus resting. That he is resting means there must be no true reason to be afraid.
Jesus disciples even knew the outcome — “let us go across to the other side of the lake,” and yet still panicked. Jesus might want you to make it through a particular trial, he might will for your marriage to be restored or your family member to be at peace with you, but even that knowledge is not enough to sustain the human heart from panic while the marriage falls apart or while the tension is occurring at that family party. The rest comes from looking to Jesus in his rest NOW. Jesus, asleep on the boat, was sending his disciples a message—“This is my attitude toward all that you are afraid of, therefore it ought to be yours too.” Jesus was not just sleeping, he was leading them in rest.
What might Jesus have wanted them to actually do? What would a faith-filled response have looked like to which Jesus might have congratulated them, “well done, you have shown much faith?” It would sound very spiritual to say, “lay down with Jesus in the boat.” But I think that a very impractical and improbable answer. What would he have wanted? For them to wake him up right away, at first sign of trouble, and ask him to give them his rest before they do anything. A mature Christian is not one who rows and rows with his own strength until finally the trouble seems unconquerable, but rather one who wakes up Jesus at the first sign of trouble. So often we are rowing in storms thinking that we are heroic victims paying the price to really help God when in fact we are only victims of our pride for waiting so long to wake Jesus up! Wake him up with faith! Cry out with confidence! Beat your chest in humility! Shake yourself from the dust of faithlessness! If there is any fear may it be fear to face any trouble on our own. Call upon him in a day of trouble and he will answer you and you will glorify him.
Now put yourself into Jesus’ place. In his rest he bore criticism—The disciples essentially rebuked him for his rest. For the man of faith who leads others in faith there will always be those critics trying to shake you from your slumber. “They are threatening to close the church down if we preach such and such a message, wake up and do something!” If we respond with panic, panic will spread like a forest fire. Once in a tense moment, after trying to work through a difficult situation, I was driving my car nervously drumming my fingers. My wife has learned that this is what I do when I am internally panicking. After 5 minutes or so of silent drumming she reached over and grabbed my hands and stopped me—and it struck me. Perhaps those whom I am leading are panicking because I am panicking. I still have not learned to lead in rest like Christ because I am still internally trying to wake Christ up that he may join me in my panic. Perhaps I need Jesus’ rebuke, “where is your faith.” May the Lord close down our churches, shut down our businesses, and kill us off before we are shaken out of the conviction to measure every situation according to Jesus’ rest.
When I first came to Calvary Chapel Living Hope, I was perplexed concerning how often they took communion. I wasn’t against it, I am a Christian after all. I think it was more that I couldn’t keep up, it seemed overbearing, perhaps, or made things seem somber unnecessarily.
On top of that it seems that every time we took it somebody was suppose to share a word on communion. I remember reflecting on this “how can somebody share a different communion message everyday, there aren’t that many passages in the Bible that talk about communion?” I would say, “communion is just another thing in Christianity, just like prophecy, or spiritual gifts, or baptism. Why this overbalance? Grace was just one topic among many, it didn’t have a priority.” I was constantly asking why, in our conversation at church, we couldn’t get past talking about Jesus’ death and on to better subject matter. I was missing the only subject that matters.
All of these thoughts were evidences that the cross represented something peripheral in my Christianity.
It might be asked, then, what was indeed central to me in my Christianity? The answer I have now settled on, with humble regret, is that it was myself. I had been lured into that deceitful snare that history had told me about again and again of using religion for my own ends. I had learned a lot about Christianity, but I had not in my heart approached the central point of Christianity: death to self, life in Christ. The cross needed to become central so that God himself could become the end. Not only did I need to be taught, but my whole paradigm of “do that which was most expedient” needed to be torn down.
For this God used the relentlessness of communion.
There are many lessons that have lead me to advocate for more communion, below are three:
1) First our physical life is intrinsically tied to our spiritual life.
Since we are bodies as well as souls, what we do with our bodies brings into (or out of) focus certain spiritual realities.
Why do we get on our knees when we pray? Why do we lift our hands when we praise? Why come together when we eat? Why do we find quiet peaceful places when our souls are disturbed?
It’s not just that the physical act responds to the state of the soul. It is also that we begin to do the physical act precisely because we are desiring a certain state of the soul. It might be that feel humbled in a time of prayer and get on my knees, but it might also be that I can’t seem to humble my soul enough in a time of prayer and therefore I get on my knees.
Those physical commands that Jesus did give are intended not to be simply a response to the reality in our hearts, but to awaken our hearts to reality. Communion is one of the stokers for the fire of the heart—the cross is the fire.
Everything inside us and outside us tells us not to glorify a crucified Christ, therefore we must take communion more often.
“God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it." -C.S. Lewis. “Mere Christianity.”
2) The cross is both a receiving and a becoming, the benefits are for us, and a work is done to us.
Therefore we eat and drink communion, because in eating and drinking we both receive and become what we eat.
I have been confused throughout the years as I have taken communion. At moments sitting with the elements the cross seems to be a wonderful gift of friendship. It speaks of forgiveness and God’s offering of himself to be fellowshipped with. Of course I would take opportunity to be reconciled to God! When I take counsel with him, when he establishes my heart, when I find myself casting my sins upon him and knowing that sweet taste of freedom again and again—all of these are worthy of communion reflection.
This is all illustrated in communion for in the acts of eating and drinking I am fed, I receive.
However, there are other moments in which the over-abundant gift is shadowed by an inner question, “hey bro, what are you signing yourself up for?” The Bible comes at me with phrases like daggers threatening my soul, “crucified with Christ…” and “baptized into his death?” Well in answer to that question, I’m not sure I did know, but I’m sure thinking about it now. Why? Because I’m eating it and drinking it in communion!
Because whatever I eat I do not only receive, I become.
The great truth of the cross is that in my receiving the life of Christ, he will make sure to conform me to his death. He will not leave one ounce of corruption left to dominate my soul. The dish cannot be cleaned out, the residue is too sticky, it must be re-fabricated completely. The hardest and most wonderful truth that communion teaches us is that in our death with Christ, there, right there, is the life. The receiving comes with the becoming.
My pride might keep me from receiving the gift of the cross, my fear might keep me from becoming conformed to the cross, but I take communion as much as I can, and God levels them both to ground zero and makes me into new creation.
3) Communion brings us to the table of fellowship.
It is “eating” after all, and since ancient days eating has been used as an excuse for people to sit together in fellowship. In fact Christ gave us communion at a feast of fellowship.
The question, therefore, must be asked concerning why Christ would see the need to remind us with a physical act of communion to fellowship with him. Wouldn’t we already want it? Shouldn’t it be easily deduced as a beneficial thing? Wouldn’t we think that the invitation to come and enjoy some time with a friend would be often taken advantage of? Why should we have to be reminded that the point of this whole thing is “to know him.”
Unfortunately the track record of religious humanity tells us a different story. From priests to the people, from popes to laymen, from mega church pastors to country church members, from high church to low church to high, and from paganism to pantheism, and from California to China, humanity does not desire God for God’s sake, humanity desires to use God for his own sake. “You seek the scriptures for in them you think you have life, but these are they which speak of me, and yet you will not come to me that you might have life.”
What does communion teach us in the midst of this? Come to God to enjoy God at a table of fellowship. The idol depresses us and the idol exalts us, but at the table of joyful fellowship with the Lord, we forget us, because we are enamored with Him for his own sake. We need Him as often as we can have Him, therefore we take communion “as often as we drink it, in remembrance of Him.”
JESUS: “The trouble is that you have been thinking of the quiet time, of Bible study and prayer, as a means for your own spiritual growth. This is true, but you have forgotten that this time means something to me also. Remember, I love you. At a great cost I have redeemed you. I value your fellowship. Just to have you look up into my face warms my heart. Don’t neglect this hour, if only for my sake. Whether or not you want to be with me, remember I want to be with you. I really love you." - Robert Boyd Munger from “My Heart—Christ’s Home”