Friday, December 31, 2010

A True Passion for Christ - John 4:14

Jesus said, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

James Montgomery Boice writes, “This is what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying. He is promising to place a spring within the life of anyone who will come to him. This spring will be eternal, free, joyous, and self-dependent. But he is also warning you that you will never be able to bulldoze anything over it!” [Boice, James M. The Gospel of John, vol. I, 280]

As we close 2010 and reflect on the events that affected us during the year and the actions we engaged in over the course of the year, we must give consideration to Christ. A true passion for Christ produces a burning hot desire within the Christian to please Him! Over the last year we no doubt have made mistakes we would love to take back. We have sinned in small ways and perhaps in egregious ways. There have been numerous disappointments and failed expectations. However, regardless of the number of failures we may have encountered, the number of times we can remember specifically letting someone down, or even worse, missing the mark of holy living before a loving heavenly Father, the spring of living waters placed in us by God Himself continues to bubble up within. Yes, we disappoint one another. Yes, we sin against our God again and again in small and even big ways. We experience unrealized hopes and expectations at work, at home, and even in the church. Our struggle not to adopt cultural attitudes that run contrary to the mind of Christ ebbs and flows from one day to the next. Yet, I am reminded that God holds me in the palm of his hand. Jesus said that of all the Father has given me, I will lose nothing! Peter said we are protected or kept by the power of God. My continuing in Christ does not depend on me or my self-determined will. It depends on the power of the One who has called me to Himself. God keeps me! Christ implanted a spring of life within me that I realized 31 years ago now. That water is the only water I need and it is the only water I want. Once we drink that water, Jesus says we will never thirst again.

We will never thirst again because this water exists within and we drink from it continuously. It is the passion that is Christ and that we experience as we live our life to please Him. For the genuine Christian, obeying Christ in every place we know to obey Him is not an option. The Christian does not come to a commandment issued by his Lord and Master and ask whether or not he will obey it. It goes without saying! The believer, having been firmly planted in Christ, and having Christ firmly planted within does not ask how little she may do to qualify for the kingdom. She asks how much she may do to please her master. As far as the Christian is concerned, there is no such thing as enough obedience, enough love, or enough service. The passion of Christ floods our heart as a lively spring bursting forth with its sole aim to glorify God with a life of humble obedience and service to the Father.

Jonathan Edwards remarks, “From hence it follows, that in those gracious exercises and affections which are wrought in the saints, through the saving influences of the Spirit of God, there is a new inward perception or sensation of their minds, entirely different in its nature and kind from any thing that ever their minds were the subjects of before they were sanctified.” [Edwards, Jonathan. On Religious Affections] The passion for Christ that is produced in the whole person of the Christian is a result, not of the volition of the individual, but rather, God’s Spirit as He presses us into the kingdom. This is a desire stronger than any other desire to do what we know honors God. The absence of such a passion to please God indicates a lack of grace that should give rise to great concern for the person. If there is a sense of this passion lacking in the desires of the individual, the person would do well to fall before a loving heavenly Father and beg for mercy, repent of this lack of desire to obey, and plead with God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. Every Christian experiences times of this sort in their life. But the true believer responds with despair and pleads with God to take the sin away from them and restore to them the righteous desires implanted there by the Holy Spirit. Edwards continues, “It was before observed, that the affection of love is as it were the fountain of all affection; and particularly, that Christian love is the fountain of all gracious affections. Now the divine excellency of God, and of Jesus Christ, the word of God, his works, ways, &c. is the primary reason, why a true saint loves these things; and not any supposed interest that he has in them, or any conceived benefit that he has received or shall receive from them.” [Edwards, On Religious Affections]

Notice that if one wants to fill a well with dirt and rocks to remove the water, they may do so. But the same cannot be accomplished with a stream of water. You cannot hold it back but so much. Place a line of dirt across the stream today and return tomorrow to see what you will find. The stream will push around, through, or over the obstacle. The same is true with the living water that bubbles up within us. Indeed the passion for Christian living may run low at times as if in spiritual drought. But the water of Christian passion and life is never entirely extinguished. The stream always returns to its proper levels as the Spirit, in good time, provides the rain necessary to return the waters rightly. Christian love serves as the predominant fruit that is prominently displayed in the life of the Christian for all to see. Christian love is a selfless love that serves first to please God through active obedience regardless of the cost of that obedience. Indeed, the cost of godly obedience can be high. In some cases it may cost one their source of living. In other cases, more severe of course, it may cost them their life or the lives of their family. It may cost them their freedom. In America, it rarely costs so much. Not intending to indict those of us who are spoiled American Christians, the most it ever costs us is the selfish desires of the radical and extreme individualism of which we have become accustomed. Our condition is sometimes so poor that even ministers cannot find the courage to help us overcome ourselves in this regard. The plight of American Christianity, both in reformed and evangelical circles is dire. Our sermons and teachings are shallow. We dare not meddle in the affairs of givers who may, in their individualistic custom, take their gifts and move down the street to a church that suits them! Is this the passion of Christianity? Does this reflect the heart that burns for God? Alas, we are in a backslidden condition and sorely in need of a revival individually and corporately in the American church. For those Christians who find themselves in a different culture, where the gospel of Christ and a passion for loving God persist in the Christian community, you must pray for the plight of the American Christian. On our behalf, plead with God for revival as you have never done before.

2010 has come and gone. Where is our passion for Christ? Is it in word only? Have we convinced ourselves that passion and love for God is possible without complete surrender to his expressed will for our lives? Have we deceived ourselves into thinking that we can adopt a lifestyle of materialism, hedonism, and radical individualism while at the same time possessing a vibrant and passionate faith? If so, we have buried our heads in the sand. Did we enter 2010 living a lifestyle of blatant rebellion before God and exit it in the same condition with the same self-justifying mindset? Have we moved at all in our spiritual growth? Do we have broken relationships that we entered and exited 2010 still in a broken condition? Are our churches experiencing a revival of passion for Christ that is being clearly expressed in loving relationships, unity, peace, the teaching and preaching of sound doctrine, and a discipleship process that serves to help everyone build close relationships and maintain the necessary level of personal accountability that is, to this point sorely lacking in the Christian community?

If we find ourselves exiting 2010 in the same spiritual condition in which we entered it that is regrettable and unfortunate. The Christian life is not a life of stagnation. It is a life of passion, beauty, love, and vibrant faith. It is a life of movement! The believer is ever growing, learning, and transforming. Are we more like Christ today than we were when 2010 began? If not, something must change. And it must begin to change now! What does living a successful Christian life before God with passion look like for you in 2011? What things must change in order for you to change? Write them down and create a plan. Grab a fellow brother or sister in the church and share these goals with them. And then ask them to meet with you regularly and hold you accountable for engaging in the new behaviors you have outlined. If you do not change things, nothing is going to change. Will we continue to devote an aberrant amount of time to self? Will the bible continue to be neglected in reading and living as we prefer to devote our time and attention to television, material goals, jobs, and shallow relationships?

There are three kinds of people in the world today: people who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who wonder what is happening. Which one are you. The Christian life is a life of passionate change. A passion for Christ means that we are constantly moving, changing, and transforming our lives and churches more and more into the image of Christ. Now is the time to address the behaviors and attitudes that are getting in the way of your desire to be more like Christ. If there are open issues in your life that are causing tension, sin, and other conditions that run contrary to God’s expressed will, now is the time to move expeditiously to begin to bring closure. Only make sure that this closure has, at is foundation, a desire to carry out God’s mandates above all else. What is your plan for change? The only reason that you should not create and execute a "change plan" in 2011 is if you are content with who you are as a Christian right now. If that is the case, then feel free to ignore this article and pray for the rest of us. Here is hoping that 2011 will be a year of tremendous change, passionate transformation, and radical revival in all our lives.

Jonathan Edwards says, "Truly gracious affections differ from those that are false and delusive, in that they naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy as appeared in Christ." [Edwards, On Religious Affections]

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