Friday, May 19, 2006

Arriving

Sometimes other Christians who know me find it extremely hard to understand where I am coming from.

It's not their fault.

If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus... then Nick Payne is definitely not a local boy - heck I'm probably from Krypton.

Now as Christians we were all lost, but none of us were found by Jesus in quite the same place... for this reason what is appropriate for one Believer isn't always appropriate for another (the reverse is sometimes also true). Yet despite this, isn't it so easy to judge other believers actions on the basis of what we know is right and wrong for us personally? Why do we expect other Christians to conform to the pattern that is specific to our own calling?

I know the place from where I was called:

I was like Gideon in his winepress. You remember Gideon don't you? Called by God to defeat the Midianites - addressed as "mighty warrior by" the angel of the Lord... yet a man flawed by reluctance and fear. Where do we find this mighty warrior at the start of his journey? In a winepress threshing wheat! So scared was he of reprisals, that he farmed his crops in hiding... where no-one could see him to steal from him. You can read it in Judges 6.

I'm not any more special than any other Christian I am no "mighty warrior", but I am different from practically all the Christians around me, if only because of the distant place I come from in my walk.

In my youth, my contact with secular culture was minimal. I was also a solitary Christian. Let no one in, let no one out... in these matters I was pretty insular... I don't want to dwell on this now, but if you want to read up on it, I've blogged about it in the following entry:

Scar Tissue

I mentioned before that I have a new found belief that God is allowing me to rediscover the extrovert so long trapped within me by circumstance. I believe he has waited till now, for me to reach a point where I am grounded enough in both faith and past experience to be able to navigate through the pitfalls I will inevitably encounter... for in order for me to be effective as an olive branch to the lost... I need to establish a rapport - I can't talk about Jesus to them if I can't talk to them full stop.

So God calls me out of my winepress... he taps me on the shoulder and tells me to stop burying my talent in the ground. He begins to teach me that you have to speculate in order to accumulate. Go to the people, learn a natural affection for them... not just one of duty and a righteous desire for their repentance and salvation... but true compassion for them as people. They are not lepers. They need us to embrace them, not stand off them and watch them fall.

Yes they are sinners , yes there are wounded people out there, who if we are not careful will bring us down... but when did that stop Jesus? He criticised the pharisees for sticking to their church communities and preaching from a distance.

Jesus Christ had a righteousness that surpassed that of the pharisees - who were controlled by fear. You see their righteousness was founded on their need to be seen as outwardly clean... and they loathed to touch anything that made them unclean. Jesus however, knew his personal righteousness was not in question... and he just got stuck right in. He was criticised for eating and drinking with sinners and yet it wasn't their sin that touched Him and made Him dirty - it was His unassailable goodness that touched their lives and set their hearts on fire. It gave them hope and challenged them to connect with God on a deeper level.

Perfect love drives out fear.


THAT is where we need to be as Christians. We have to be confident in our God... not arrogant or self righteous... but confident that His grace is sufficient for us... that His saving power cleans, shields and protects us from and against anything the world can chuck at us.

I was afraid they could hurt me, I believed I could be deceived and dragged into the mire... but that is fear speaking and not love. As a Christian my righteousness does not come from my own strength - it comes from that of Christ. He sends you and I out into the world to give people the opportunity to know the Father.

God is a God of risks when it comes to reaching the lost.

In His mercy He sent Jonah to preach conviction to the sworn enemies of His people.

In His mercy He sent Peter to preach the Gospel in the house of Cornelius, who as a Gentile, under the Law would have made him "unclean".

In His mercy He struck down Saul of Tarsus - scourge of the Early Church and convicted him of his persecution of Christians... in the process bringing him to salvation and turning him into the "Apostle to the Gentiles".

God has a way of reaching out to His enemies in very special and unexpected ways (ultimately through the death and resurrection of His Son).

God is teaching me to take risks and while many of my contemporaries think me foolish, they misjudge me because they fail to understand or take into account where I came from in the first place. Issues like this are not new... they came up when the Gentiles first started to come to Christ. Peter, John, James and Paul all banged heads together in prayer and had to discern between them what God was saying with regard to this new breed of believer and they set the Gentile believers free from conforming to the more strict regulations that applied to Jewish believers.... regulations that were largely foreign to them as outsiders.

With regard to myself, I know that my confidence does not come from within... it comes from the God who changes me and sustains me through life. I already know that many things in society don't have a hold on me and yet I have rarely used this strength which God has given me to further his work.

Were I to rely on my own power I would wither and perish... but God, my God has brought me this far and my God will lead me home..

When confronted by the pharisees over his apparent closeness to sinners Jesus himself responded by quoting the prophet Hosea:

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."


Look up the word mercy in your dictionary... go on. Do you notice that in the Oxford English Dictionary, one way of looking at the word mercy is to describe it as quality of compassion.

The Lord desires the quality of your compassion, not your mere sacrifices of praise.

We need to grow into a place where we are confident in our own salvation... where we know that darkness cannot overcome that which is within. "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean." We need to grow into Christians who radiate Christ... so that the sick can see their Doctor again.

Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Are we that petrified of being snatched away that we would rather seek the comfort of our stone halls then risk touching those in need?

The future seems to be holding lots of changes for me... Nick Payne - the Krypton Boy, has finally entered the Solar System. God has put me in these new places for a purpose... now all I need to be wary of is spiritual Kryptonite!

God bless


N

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