Monthly Archives: February 2009

An update (and a few requests for prayer)

1. I’m sick. Terribly sick. Not a fever or anything. The sore throat phase has also passed. This is the flu stage, where your nose is running all day, and you just feel really tired. Please pray for my health.

2. Work seems to be mounting. It’s not overbearing, but it does require much time and effort. So again, pray that I redeem my time wisely, and use it as productively as possible.

3. I will shift my book blogging to every two or three days. Two reasons. I need time to think and blog through each chapter. And it seems I have a bit much to say.

4. Please pray for a friend, an economist at my college. She’s on the verge of making a choice on who Jesus is to her. She finds Christianity a rational and reasonable faith. And it seems to her that there isnothing to lose; we give up much in following Christ, but we gain infinitely more – any economist could tell you that’s a trivial utility maximisation problem. Ask that God will give her that little push, that she might fall into His loving arms and never regret it, as I never will. It also explains why I haven’t had much time to blog lately, given I’ve been spending quite a lot of it talking with her, getting to know her better and sharing Jesus with her, which I’ve throughly enjoyed.

5. I’m a bit worried about what I’ll be doing in the summer. I have not received any offers so far. Perhaps the recession is biting a lot closer than I realised.  Perhaps I’ve been a bit picky. Perhaps I’ve made a few poor choices here and there. Perhaps I’m just not the type of person the companies to which I have applied are looking to hire. Though I trust that God is sovereign and wise and loving, and will work all things for my good, there remains that nagging worry at the back of my mind, that comes upon me unsuspectingly in my weaker moments. Do pray that I learn to rest more in the love of Christ. Which is probably why I picked the current book to blog through as well.

6. I miss my church back in KL. Please drop me a message on facebook, or preferably, please send me an email.

7. Finally, in all the sickness, busyness and worry of the past week and, likely, the weeks to come, pray that I’ll continue to abide in Christ. I would appreciate any form of encouragement.

Abide in Christ, Day Three

In the past two days, we have seen that all the promises of joy, peace, love, strength and rest are tied to the condition of abiding in Jesus. But do we ever question whether such a blessed life is possible for us?

 Is it possible, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Saviour? Eminent Christians, to whom special opportunities of cultivating this grace have been granted, may attain to it; for the large majority of disciples, whose life, by a divine appointment, is so fully occupied with the affairs of this life, it can scarce be expected. 

I think this accurately describes what many Christians think. We have this idea of hierarchy in the church: the leaders are the holy and godly people who seem so at peace with Christ, and everyone else sees this grace as a bonus, an add-on to salvation. They think they live in the ‘real’ world while the spiritual leaders have the luxury of attending to spiritual things. Some do really desire to be like their spiritual elders and try extremely hard to imitate them but fail to achieve this bonus. They fail simply because it is not a bonus. As long as they consider it a bonus, they will never succeed. Their idea of grace is plain wrong:

The idea they have of grace is this–that their conversion and pardon are God’s work, but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians, and follow Jesus. There is always the thought of a work that has to be done, and even though they pray for help, still the work is theirs. They fail continually, and become hopeless; and the despondency only increases the helplessness.

Murray seeks to correct our understanding of the relationship between Christ’s work and our work. He does not wish that we fail continually and become hopeless. Therefore, he wants us to see that as Christ gives us grace to come, so He also gives us grace to abide. Just as the grace to come is solely the work of Christ, so the grace to abide is solely the work of Christ.

And if the question be asked, “But surely there is something for us to do?” the answer is, “Our doing and working are but the fruit of Christ’s work in us.” It is when the soul becomes utterly passive, looking and resting on what Christ is to do, that its energies are stirred to their highest activity, and that we work most effectually because we know that He works in us.

This sounds ridiculously simple! At heart, we all know how to rest. We enjoy lying in on the weekends, in the illusion that we will not have to confront for a little while more the responsibilities and worries that the world places on us. We immerse ourselves in things like computer games, where it seems we’re no longer troubled by this world, absorbed by the realities of a virtual world, where failure can be easily rectified with a restart. We waste away in front of the TV, enamoured by the lives of others, so that we will not have to scrutinise our own. We get involved in all sorts of recreational sport, enjoying the rush of endorphins when engaged in fierce competition, not having to worry about anything else but the present game. Victory or defeat, though we always like to walk away as the victors, are ultimately inconsequential, and the memory of it only lasts till the next game, where bragging rights are either retained or relinquished.

The problem is we rest in the wrong things. We grow bored of our computer games, we constantly switch the channels on our TV, we eventually have to get out of bed, and age catches up with even the best of sportsmen. These things do not offer rest. Our ultimate rest can be found in Jesus alone. And it is as we do this, resting in the knowledge of who Christ is, what He has done for us, and what He is presently doing, that we are strengthened to do every good work.

And so if you think this good work is unattainable, if you think that abiding in Christ is too difficult, this is the knowledge of Christ Paul offers as an encouragement:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Philippians 3:12

The thing which Paul speaks of obtaining is the reality of becoming one with Jesus, of being found in Him. And the reason Paul can press on to make this reality his own, the reality of being found in Jesus, is simply because Jesus Himself has made Paul His own possession. This then is the truth about Christ that we should fix our hearts and minds on, that Christ has made us His own! The confidence that we can truly abide in Christ comes not from the strength of our will but from this very truth. It is not our work; it is His work. If we trust that Christ can accomplish this in us, to make us one with Himself, if we fix our eyes intently on this truth, then we can take this leap of faith – to surrender ourselves wholly to Him that He might abide in us.

Remember from our reading on Day Two that it is not the yoke that is difficult, but our resistance to the yoke. This resistance can be broken down if we fix our eyes on the truth that Jesus has made us His own. Do you not trust that the One who saved you has power enough to keep you abiding in Him, the source of all love and joy and peace and strength? Yield then to Him, that He might work this in you.

And if ever doubts again arise, or the bitter experience of failure tempt you to despair, just remember where Paul found His strength: “I am apprehended of Jesus Christ.” In that assurance you have a fountain of strength. From that you can look up to the whereunto on which He has set His heart, and set yours there too. From that you gather confidence that the good work He hath begun He will also perform. And in that confidence you will gather courage, day by day, afresh to say, ” `I follow on, that I may also apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.’ It is because Jesus has taken hold of me, and because Jesus keeps me, that I dare to say: Saviour, I abide in Thee. “

Abide in Christ, Day Two

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Chapter Two: And you shall find rest to your souls
Murray’s main point for the day is that the promise of rest for the soul hinges not only on the coming, but also on the taking of Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves and learning from Him:

Giving up one’s whole life to Him, for Him alone to rule and order it; taking up His yoke, and submitting to be led and taught, to learn of Him; abiding in Him, to be and do only what He wills–these are the conditions of discipleship without which there can be no thought of maintaining the rest that was bestowed on first coming to Christ.

We must come and take His yoke upon ourselves and learn from Him. Then and only then can we find rest. Simply because “the rest is in Christ, and not something He gives apart from Himself, and so it is only in having Him that the rest can really be kept and enjoyed.”

That line caught my attention. How often are we tempted to think blessings of joy and peace and rest are distinct from Christ, when in truth they are found in Christ! Why do we settle for the blessings when we can have the Blessed One Himself? Murray pinpoints a good reason why this might be so:

But, alas! I hear someone say, it is just this abiding in Jesus, always bearing His yoke, to learn of Him, that is so difficult, and the very effort to attain to this often disturbs the rest even more than sin or the world. 

In essence we want rest but we think that Jesus demands more than we can offer – Murray’s insight here is spot-on:

It is not the yoke, but resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole-hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and our Keeper, finds and secures the rest.

It is because the blessing is so great that our little hearts cannot rise to apprehend it; it is as if we cannot believe that Christ, the Almighty One, will in very deed teach and keep us all the day.

And there is the heart of the problem! Our hearts are too small to comprehend that Jesus will do the work of keeping us safe in His rest. We find it difficult to surrender to His yoke because we find it difficult to trust His promise. We do not believe Him when He says His yoke is easy. We do not believe the truth He utters, that “the yoke gives the rest, because the moment the soul yields itself to obey, the Lord Himself gives the strength and joy to do it.” Yes, Jesus does demand more than we can offer, but He will supply what we lack. 

Jesus only asks that we surrender ourselves to Him, and  “His almighty love will hold us fast, and keep and bless us.”

Thought for the day
This is troubling to me in a specific way. It is not the yoke that is difficult, but rather that we are resistant to the yoke. Why do we not trust the words of Christ that He will give rest to those who come and take His yoke upon themselves?

I know that if I do not trust these words, I am accusing Jesus of not being trustworthy or faithful or sovereign. Yet my heart and mind finds these accusations repugnant. Rather it would appear that I am caught somewhere in the middle, knowing what Jesus is like, yet finding it hard to wholly surrender. I believe many of us are here too. Perhaps we just cannot tolerate the idea of being dependent and surrendering ourselves wholly to someone. There is that part of us that constantly lies to us that we need to be in control of our lives and our future. We like things to go according to plan.

If so, we need to come to grips with the truth that it is God alone who works all things according to His own plan. We need the Spirit to illuminate our hearts to see Christ for the strong, faithful, loving, trustworthy and majestic God that He is. God who nevertheless became man that He might identify with all our burdens and restlessness in this world. We need to be weaned off our pride, and submit humbly to the plans of God.

We need to trust that in our surrender, “His almighty love will hold us fast, and keep and bless us.” This is what it means to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. We need to cast our eyes on the cross constantly and remind ourselves that if God the Father loved us such that He would give His Son for us, that if God the Son willingly gave His life in exchange for ours, then God will certainly give us all that we need for this life and the next.

Abide in Christ, Day One

Murray’s point for the day is that Jesus calls us to come to Him AND abide in Him. Too many Christians taste the sweetness of coming to Jesus at first only to experience disappointment at how the blessings of conversion have become a faint and feeble memory, simply because they do not abide in Him. They do not realise that the call of Jesus to come to Him is for the sole purpose that we might then abide in Him. And so many merely come to Him for a few short hours, before leaving to wander a world of sin. It is unsurprising then, that so many fall away easily, and so many become discouraged.

We can surely identify with Murray’s portrayal of many Christians who come for a season and leave full of vigour,  only to become depleted over time because we do not abide in Christ. 

Murray also wishes to point out that the blessings of abiding far exceed the blessings of coming. He argues persuasively, “You did well to come; you do better to abide. Who would, after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited in to dwell in the King’s presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life? Oh, let us enter in and abide, and enjoy to the full all the rich supply His wondrous love hath prepared for us!” He also writes, “By every motive that had induced you to come, did He beseech you to abide.” He then draws out an extensive list that shows we miss the fullness of the blessings we receive from Jesus when we come to Him because we simply do not continue to stay with Him.

As I reflected on these times of sweetness I spent with my Saviour, my heart suddenly longed for even sweeter times, and the key to this is clearly to learn how to abide in Christ.

Finally one last quote, from Murray (emphasis in italics mine):

And observe especially, it was not that He said, “Come to me and abide with me,” but, “Abide in me.” The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete. He opened His arms, to press you to His bosom; He opened His heart, to welcome you there; He opened up all His divine fulness of life and love, and offered to take you up into its fellowship, to make you wholly one with Himself. There was a depth of meaning you cannot yet realize in His words: “Abide IN ME.”

The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete. There is most certainly a depth of meaning in His words, “Abide in me”, which we fail to realise. It is incomprehensible that sinners like us can be taken up in the divine fullness of life and love, into unbroken and intimate fellowship with the Triune God, a union so complete that it is as if we are wholly one with God. Sinners, wholly one with a holy God, living in the fullness of divine life and love. This is the love of God, that while we were still sinners, worthy of judgment, Christ died for us, that we might be reconciled to Him. This is clearly something to rejoice in!