Monthly Archives: January 2009

Book Blogging: Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray – Introduction

To those who still read this blog, I apologise for the infrequent posting of late. I have been swamped with much work, and so have little time to think through the issues I want to blog about. I am expecting this trend to persist for the rest of this term, so I’ve decide to switch gears and am planning to blog through a book instead for the next month.

The book I’ve chosen to start off this new category of posts is Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. I chose this book because the command of Jesus to abide in Him is one that has held my attention for some time, yet I must profess ignorance in my understanding of how it is to be obeyed. I feel an urgent need to resolve this ignorance, simply because, in Murray’s words (emphasis in italics mine):

It is to be feared that there are many earnest followers of Jesus from whom the meaning of this word, with the blessed experience it promises, is very much hidden. While trusting in their Saviour for pardon and for help, and seeking to some extent to obey Him, they have hardly realized to what closeness of union, to what intimacy of fellowship, to what wondrous oneness of life and interest, He invited them when He said, “Abide in me.” This is not only an unspeakable loss to themselves, but the Church and the world suffer in what they lose.

This book was written as a set of 31 meditations, to be reflected upon day after day for a month, that we might learn through repetition the important lesson of abiding in Christ. The chapters are short, and so I will remain faithful to the author’s intentions and read (and blog) it over the course of a month. If you wish to follow me through the book, you can easily find an online copy in the public domain by googling the title and the author. I will officially start on the 1st of February. A peculiar month to start, I must add, given it only has 28 days.

I end with yet another quote from Murray.

I pray still more earnestly that [our gracious Lord] would, by whatever means, make the multitudes of His dear children who are still living divided lives, to see how He claims them wholly for Himself, and how the wholehearted surrender to abide in Him alone brings the joy unspeakable and full of glory.

This is Murray’s prayer for his readers, and it certainly will be my prayer over the next month.

The Glory of the Cross

Words and music by Bob Kauflin
As recorded on
Songs for the Cross Centered Life

What wisdom once devised the plan where all our sin and pride
Was placed upon the perfect Lamb who suffered, bled, and died?
The wisdom of a Sovereign God whose greatness will be shown
When those who crucified Your Son rejoice around Your throne

And, oh, the glory of the cross
That You would send Your Son for us
I gladly count my life as loss
That I might come to know
The glory of, the glory of the cross

What righteousness was there revealed that sets the guilty free
That justifies ungodly men and calls the filthy clean?
A righteousness that proved to all Your justice has been met
And holy wrath is satisfied through one atoning death

What mercy now has been proclaimed for those who would believe
A love incomprehensible our minds could not conceive?
A mercy that forgives my sin then makes me like Your Son
And now I’m loved forevermore because of what You’ve done

1 Corinthians 1:20-25
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The foolishness of God is wiser than men. Preaching and knowing Christ crucified may seem like folly at times, but to paraphrase the words of the song above, it is the wisdom of a Sovereign God whose greatness will be shown when we who crucified the Son rejoice around His throne. That is a great gospel indeed.

The most influential biblical command in my life so far

I quote it here in its context:

2 Peter 3:17-18
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 

A simple command

I came across this verse in the summer of 08, when I was preparing 5 messages on the Christian journey, from conversion to glorification. In particular, I had two messages on Christian growth in holiness, or sanctification.  The first was on the means of growth, and here I talked about the place of the Word of God and of prayer. The second was on growing together as a church. In my search across the Bible for the countless times God calls us to be holy, to grow in godliness, to grow in love and faith, and the like, this verse caught my attention. 

It is a simple command. In fact, I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say that the all of the Christian life is captured in this one verse. And not just life on this earth, but life in eternity with God as well. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ both now and forevermore.

A profound command

It is a great indictment because we know very well that we do not grow, or seek to grow, as we ought to.

It is a simple yet effective measure of what we do. For example, some people consider Christianity a checklist religion: come to church on Sundays, give 10% of my income, attend a small group in the middle of the week, serve on the weekends, spend half an hour each day reading the Bible, pray this prayer, and so on and so forth. All these things are valid, but they ought to be valid only as a means of growth. If what we are doing does not help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, then we ought to abandon what we are doing. The same principle applies to things outside the sphere of direct church ministry, such as work, or family, or studies.

It sets the role of the mind and the heart in their proper places – we are to grow in both knowledge and grace. Either alone is insufficient. Both are to abound together.

It places Christ at the center of all things. We are not trying to become holier, or godly, or upright, or respectable as an end to itself. Rather, these come because we are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Grace and knowledge of Jesus inevitably produces right living.  But the main thing is that Jesus is at the center. This is why glory ought to be ascribe to Him forever, just as will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him who saved us and rules over us.

It is one of two alternatives. Notice the conjunction but. The other alternative is that we are carried away by error. We have two options, plain and simple. Be carried away by error, or grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.

How then shall we obey?

How then are we to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Yet again, the methods are simple. We grow in grace through prayer – the means by which we daily depend on the grace of God which comes in the name of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. We grow in knowledge through the Word of God – where God has graciously revealed Himself, most fully of course in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. And these two disciplines build upon the other. Grace will continue to flow to us through the Word of God, which is the bread of life and living water for the soul. And the knowledge of God will continue to be revealed to us in prayer. These two simple disciplines are not to be practiced in private only, but in the context of the church. We are to grow together. For to each Christian God has given a measure of His grace and knowledge. We are fools if we deny this. We are made wise if we will accept the fellowship of others and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as each instructs the other.

An exhortation

Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is a simple command. Yet it is the one that has most shaped my life today. And it is one I pray will shape the lives of the believers I know.

A reflective pause.

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You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

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Ah. What a glorious sunrise. It certainly made me pause in my reading. Now it’s a bit too bright and I must close my curtains. But it’s a reminder of that glorious day when we shall be able to behold the light of the glory of God with our naked eyes.

Back to metrics reading 🙂

The cross precedes the crown

This line, drawn from the song In The Valley, on the Valley of Vision CD I spoke of recently, has increasingly convicted me in the past week. I can’t shake it out of my head. 

We talk about the glorious hope of the Christian life, and the reward of heaven, and the good blessings of God on this earth. But do we ever realise that the road to glory is always one of suffering? It was for Jesus. And so it will be for us.

We see this in Romans 8:17

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

And we see it in Revelation 2:10

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

If we are fixated on the crown of life, we must first take up the cross of death. For he who loses his life for Jesus’ sake will gain it.

But practically, where are we asked to take up the cross? We don’t live under persecution or the threat of death. But we still take up the cross in the way we handle all of life. We must discard pragmatic solutions in favour of biblical solutions, even if we must suffer as a cost – this applies to our work and our relationships. Do we lie to ease things true, or do we hold fast to the truth? Do we keep quiet when we see unethical business practices so that we may keep our jobs? Do we unabashedly exaggerate our accomplishments and skills so that we might get that job? Do we take the promotion that pays better but spells less time for our families?

It is when we embrace the road of suffering that we can truly say with Paul, the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. He did not give himself so that our sin might abound. He gave himself to free us from the dominion of sin, the world and the devil. He gave himself to secure for us the glorious hope of heaven, the crown of life which we shall look to. And so through Him, we are crucified to the world, and the world to us. We would do well, infintely well, to remind ourselves of this.

Truncated theology leads to truncated lives

I have found this a profound truth.

Too many Christian nowadays have barricaded Christ into a section of their lives. The Bible is only of relevance on Sunday. We have a duty to know what’s in there. It’s what Christians do.

They have lost their mind. Literally. Of particular importance is that theology no longer informs the way people live. One example is the Christian fight for holiness, to overcome sin and temptation.

Christ did not die to give us free license to sin. Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin, that we might no longer bear the condemnation of our past even as we live new lives. He came to give us life, not that we might die all over again, but that we might live it fully for His glory, without the shame of our sin bearing down on us.

This fight against sin, this fight for life, has lost its intensity in the church today. Too many want their ears to be tickled. Let us not mention that horrible word ‘sin’. It’s too negative. We need positive, uplifting messages of hope.

This is simply because Christians have lost their minds. How do you live life when all your decisions are being informed by your own principles? Christ died to liberate us from worldly principles and philosophies, that we might live according to His Law. If you cannot see that the study of doctrine is essential to living like Christ, then the life you live will mirror the person whose principles you’re living by. You will mirror your old self. It is this old self that Paul calls us to put off in Ephesians 4:22. He tells us: “Be made new in the attitude of your minds; put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The mind is the key to unlocking all of life. We must fill our head with the principles and laws of Christ, that we might live according to His will, and live the life He freed us to live.

Every Christian is called to be a theologian. There are only good theologians and bad theologians. You cannot be a non-theologian. We all live with some concept of God. The question is whether we’ll get to know this God better by serious study of His Word, or will simply be content to live life as we picture it should be lived. If we choose the latter, our truncated theology will lead to truncated lives. And a truncated life is no eternal life at all. 

Of course, we can be good theologians, but we can never be perfect theologians. Who can know the mind of God, but God Himself? But if we do not seek to know His mind, we do not love Him as He desires us to. It is a desire to know Him more and do all we can to do so that is crucial, rather than attaining a certain level of knowledge. As Paul says, the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. A good theologian is one that is never proud, but broken and humbled that God would so graciously reveal Himself to sinners.

We can be good theologians, but be terrible doers of the Word. We must heed the advice of James. Whatever you have heard, put into practice. The reason for knowledge is that our love may abound more and more. Love is about deeds, but is always informed by the truth.

We can be good theologians, and faithfully obey God’s teachings, but not know God. This is why we must pray. The New Testament Christians spoke of a personal God, to whom they talked with and listened to. Jesus Himself modelled this very relationship. God is not content with us loving Him with our minds, but also with our heart and soul. Only biblical prayer engages the heart.

Finally, we can be good theologians, intimately know God and faithfully obey His teachings, yet do not think that we’ll win our fight against sin while we are still clothed in our mortal bodies. As John says, if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives. Far be it from us to make God out to be a liar. Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

May God’s Spirit guide us in paths of truth.

A CD you must get

It’s a strange tale how I came upon this CD. 

I first heard the name Valley of Vision frequenting challies.com. It is a book of Puritan prayers. The rich theology, heartfelt expression, and beautiful poetry of these well-crafted prayers instantly seized my attention.

Somewhere, I also happened to come across a free copy of Bob Kauflin’s Let Your Kingdom Come, which I downloaded and liked. 

But then it was during Christmas, when I was sorting out the files on my laptop, that I came upon the song again, and decided that I ought to listen to the entire CD.

As it happens, it was drawn from a CD titled Valley of Vision, a CD inspired by the book of Puritan prayers.

I immediately fell in love with the CD. It’s one thing to say these prayers, but add a fitting melody and something explodes in the very fibre of your soul. 

It’s a CD I would heartily recommend to any Christian. I have not come across any other CD which strikes such a fine-tuned balance between excellent music and theology. It instructs the mind, warms the heart, and is good for the soul.

http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=M4175-00-21