So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about. He is looking for us.”
This was a saying shared with me once before, and one which I hold dear to me. One asks who Jesus is to me, and that is my answer – He is the Greatest Lover and Pursuer of my soul.
There are beautiful words from our Heavenly Father in the Song of Songs – “My Beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, My love, My beautiful one, and come away” (2: 10). For every woman, there is nothing more she desires than to be pursued – and no one can do like God can, and God does. For me, God has pursued and continues to pursue me each day, ever since that day I gave my life to Him. A sunset (the skies spectacular, here in Durham), a flower growing through a crack in the concrete sidewalk, a friendly gesture by a dear friend and sister, a conversation in passing with an angel (God is gracious – I have met many, one today as well whilst on HOTS (Healing on the Streets), his name I identify as Billy), words of comfort from a mentor….. His Word. I think to days like these, which remain dearly etched in my memory:
God, to me, is the Greatest Pursuer I have met, and Whom will ever be. One asks if there might be differences in the way men/women view God, as we are the Bride of Christ. I do not know if you may identify as with such thoughts/experiences, but to me, being married to Christ and Him my all, I am satisfied and ask no further. I simply allow myself to be pursued by Him. Yes I struggle at times, when worldly comforts and desires beckon and the devil dangles these before me, but I thank the Lord in times of adversity – for it is adversity and temptation I ask and accept, for it is these which remind me I must never be too complacent, never stray, never take for granted, never depart from the full joy and sole satisfaction from the Gospel of the Living Jesus Christ. It is in those times that He has drawn me most closest to Him – these which leave beautiful marks in my memory and which would carry me through the times to come. His Faithfulness and Everlasting mercies, are new every morning. Praise be to God.
He lives in me. And that, I believe, causes me to marvel at the way God’s economy works. That the faith, love, trust in Him I have, is but His very gracious gift to me. Praise God for His abundant Love, grace and mercy. There is none like Him.
One asks what it means to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’. I think this: Our vocation to live as salt and light, must never depart from the Gospel – we are called to constantly show the world our recognition of our humbled estate (of sinfulness, total depravity and helplessness) in light of God’s Righteousness, our need for repentance, and our need for God’s Grace in Jesus Christ. That is what it means, in fact, to do “good works”. The burden to ‘shine for Jesus’ is never on ourselves nor upon our shoulders, the battle is the LORD’s, and the Victory (however small, however significant in the everyday), is His alone, for His glory. The moment we think that the onus is upon us to ‘shine for Him’ – that is where I believe we as Christians get the Gospel wrong, and stray from it in the unconscious.
Perhaps these thoughts, taken by a favourite book of mine by Scotty Smith, will help in expressing where I am as a Christian. I once assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, and then afterward we advance into deeper theological waters. But God (and through my church here, Christchurch Durham) has helped me to realize, that once God rescues sinners, His plan is not to steer them beyond the Gospel, but to move them more deeply into it – the gospel isn’t something which simply ignites the Christian life, but is the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day.
The Gospel is the instrument of all continued growth and spiritual progress, even after a believer’s conversion. Growth in the Christian life is the process of receiving Christ’s words “It is finished!” into new and deeper parts of our being, it happens as the Holy Spirit daily carries God’s good work of justification to our regions of unbelief. Daily, in prayer, I am to feel my desperation, cry out for deliverance, and celebrate my pardon.
My relationship to God my Father thus, depends not on my performance for Jesus, but on Jesus’ performance for me. I learnt that because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak. I learnt that because Jesus was won for me, I am free to lose. Only the Gospel can cause me to rejoice and be glad in my expendability: because Jesus was Someone, I am free to be no one.
I have realized, one of the occupational hazards of ‘vocational ministry’ is equating doing things for Jesus and spending time with Jesus. The joy of being used by the LORD can mimic the delights of walking closely with the LORD, at least for awhile. But preaching and applying the gospel to others is never the same thing as preaching and praying it deeper into one’s own heart. There is nothing more than the Gospel, there is just more of the Gospel. There is a huge distinction there. As His child, I am to incessantly mine the unsearchable riches of Jesus, and one may do this best, through Bible study and consistent prayer, realizing that we are, on ourselves, nothing, and in Him, everything.
With the recent intrepid experiences I have found myself in, I am spurred on to do this – I want to be more intentional in looking for Jesus in every part of the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. I need to discover, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, what was said in all the Scriptures about Jesus. Since all of God’s promises find their ‘yes’ in Christ (2 Corinthians 1: 20), so I must pray these promises, with my eyes fixed on my Lover, my Saviour and His purposes. Would you agree too, that God’s promises claim us a lot more than we claim them?
I think therefore that I must intentionally always, always return to who I am in Christ and who He is in us. Like Martin Luther once said, we need the basics of the gospel every day, because we forget the Gospel every day. With Jesus as our Great High Priest and our Source of Light (as we then reflect His light), one must always honour Jesus as the Perfect Sacrifice for our sins, the Righteousness we have by faith, the Obedience we could never be. He is the High Priest who meets and greets us at the throne of His grace. A throne no longer of judgment or legalism, but a throne of Grace we are free to draw from when we ask. How amazing! He is the one making all things new – including us, and the broken world all around us.
I think therefore, that is why I have been drawn to the Charismatics/’HOTS end of the Christian spectrum’. With a Presbyterian background for which I am deeply thankful for (which meant my first approach to the Gospel of Grace began with a strong rootedness in the Word), I am learning to engage with Jesus, not less with my cognition, but yet more with my feelings – that, for me, is complete mind-body-soul surrender. I think I had ever tried to reconcile my feelings with my thoughts, and found it incredibly difficult for I find myself as much as feeling person as I am a thinking person. There is a sense of free-ness, a sense of liberation, that is attractive with the HOTS-kind of engagement with the Spirit, in partnership with the Word. And I am glad that the Lord is gracious to open these paths of exploration, I do appreciate greatly.
The central and operative question in my life, I think, is not “What would Jesus do if He were here?” Rather it is “What is Jesus doing?” since He is right here, and everywhere else, right now. That is how I believe we may be more fully alive to Jesus on a daily basis and to witness how His gospel bears fruits and grows, all over the world through the nations, and in every sphere of life, slowly, gradually, but sure-footedly steady.
One mentions 1 Corinthians 13, and recent thoughts have come to mind with the “… but have not love” part. The point, I concur, is not that “with love, I am then….”, but the very fact that is I can never, on my own, have this “love”. I am in absolute poverty of my own, and remain so. The Love of Christ – His Love – is all that propels me forth. Therein lies the beauty of this expression. I allow myself to be loved by Him, embraced like I have never been, and through this, the recognition of my complete poverty, with humility that God might even choose to use me, a broken person, as a vessel for His Kingdom and His glory… This is how He accomplishes all that He wishes, for His world. You see then, that it is this recognition of our state, which sets the Christian free to love. For we are not bound by duties to ‘live out His commandments by His grace”. We are not bound by grace, but free in His grace.
There is then, a deep freedom to being a “slave to righteousness” – for this Righteousness is not my own, but in the beautiful person of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I don’t ‘go forth as a Christian’, I go forth in ‘Christ’ – that is what makes me Christ-ian.
That is why, one may ask, who Jesus Christ is to me,
And I reply,
He is the Greatest Lover of my soul.