Monday, 5 December 2005

Being radical

We live in resurrection life, we're in the Kingdom of God, citizens of heaven (1 Pet 1:3, Col 1:13-14, Phil 3:19-21) . Living in the light of being called into his Kingdom and glory (1 Thess 2:11-12), it being blatantly obvious to everyone that we've turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess 1:8-10)

This is so radical! It seems to be a lifestyle completely upside-down, obsessed with hope of future salvation in Christ. It fills my head with images of spending all my time doing things which will show that I have this obsession, and particularly, spending all my time calling others to it. It seems to contrast with and laugh at me sitting in my room studying, or making dinner, or catching buses and trains to meet half a dozen students to study the Bible then return home. It seems incredulous at my love of reading and my watching a film or going to a concert. It seems to call with Baxter, "What is a candle but to burn?" It seems to feel at odds with e.g. 1 Timothy's steady 'put the church in order for the long haul' kind of stuff - with its 'receive and enjoy good things with thanksgiving'. It holds up the example of Roger Carswell (or *insert the non-stop evangelist you know best here*), not me, or the banker, academic, full-time parent, cleaner, etc .

And it can be easily imagined that if only we in the Western church had some persecution, we would get this vision, everything could be black and white and we would have a Thessalonian witness.

Yet the NT was written to persecuted churches and what do we find? Disputes over leadership style and personality, cross-cultural disunity, arguments over doctrine, heresy, love grown cold, early gnosticism, etc. Persecution does not make a testimony radical. The truth is, that a radical testimony is "work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess 1.) The faith, love and hope are all in Jesus. The faith, love and hope get on with working steadily. The priorities are transformed outward - the work is faithful, the love labours for others and the hope for the future keeps going in the now. It doesn't make us all into non-stop evangelists, but it does infect everything.

If we don't have this radical testimony now, we can't imagine that persecution would make it clearer.

So my obsession with this is not necessarily to show by completely changing the things I do - Paul rebukes the Thessalonians for quitting work: "we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." But everything I do spend time doing is to be transformed so that it reflects the resurrection life and Christ's kingship.

I guess that often that won't be striking. But it is radical - right down the very root of it all. And that, I find a challenge.


Cate said...

Thanks for this post Rosemary. I often wonder why my life doesn't seem or look that radical, and pray (with Jim Elliot):

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life, that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one, like You Lord Jesus"

P.S. Twas GenCom @ NUCU on Friday, and I read part of the email you sent me about the CU movement in Belgium. It truly puts the richness of the blessings we have in Nottingham into a fuller perspective!

Daniel said...

I think the first step in being on fire for the Lord is recognizing when we are not on fire.

After than we either get used to it and think it is the way it is supposed to be - or it eats us alive until we are willing to go down to the cross in identification with Christ and lay down our right to this life and the right to run it - just as Christ did - that is, go to the cross and die.

We sing There's room at the Cross - we ought to be singing There's room on the cross.

Why am I not living for God's glory? Because God doesn't share his glory with anyone. Until I am no longer living for my glory - that is, until I am living the crucified life - I am not going to live for God's glory.

The Christian struggle of our day is this: why am I not utterly surrendered to Christ?

The answer is, because while I am thirsty and would take a drink if someone offered one, I am not about to sell everything I own to buy a drink of water.

Not only are we infatuated with this world and the things in this world we are myopic (to the point of uselessness) about our own love affair with it. Christ told the rich young ruler to sell all that he had, not because money is evil - but because that rich young ruler loved money more than the cross. If we are not on the cross, it is because we value something more than the cross - we may as well try and put a camel through the eye of a needle!

We need to identify the root problem, and the root problem is love of self - we love ourselves and are not willing to go to the cross and die there - and until we do, the grain of wheat doesn't fall to the ground and produce the harvest that we desire in Christ.

The trouble is that no one wants to die, and even if they did - no one can put themselves on the cross. The best that we can do is give it to Christ in faith, and let him do the rest.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Interesting thoughts.

étrangère said...

Thanks for those thoughts Daniel: challenging. I wasn't thinking so much about being on fire, but about what it looks like - the tug I feel to be radical merely by spending all my time DOING lots of radical-looking stuff (and the way doing ordinary everyday stuff seems to mock that). But actually the real root stuff is work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ - which may not look so radical on the outside but surely is. Certainly all that you said applies to that and is deeply challenging.

étrangère said...

Cate, God can set your life on fire for him without consuming you in the burnt-up-and-nothing-of-you-left sense. When I quoted Baxter, "What is a candle but to burn?" I was being slightly critical (it sounds marvellous but has a low view of what God's created us for) - for some people, they will serve God to his glory with a short faithful life; for others, they will serve God to his glory with a long faithful life. Being consumed by God doesn't equate with getting yourself burnt out! Going the distance by Peter Brain is good on this (even for those of us who aren't his assumed readership of Anglican ministers!) Reading Elliot's quote makes me amazed at how God was so clearly preparing him for the life and death he had for him. I think I'm trying to say that we're to present our bodies as a living sacrifice; not as a burnt-up one. The dying is not running our bodies into the ground, but all that Daniel said about dying in Christ.