Tuesday, April 2, 2013


As Galatians 1 shows Paul testifies to God's working during his conversion, that God revealed Jesus for whom He is in the Apostle? We need to ask ourselves whether our “conversion experience” can be recorded similarly.
Why should our conversion, our “born again” experience be any different to that of Paul?

Quite obviously it made a world of difference in the way Paul lived his life, and the way he was perceived by those around him, as radically changed from a murderous Roman military man to a representative of the King of Kings, writing words such as, So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

It appears that the change to Paul was marked, not by his theological expertise, his preaching ability,the number of letters he had after his name, nor his authority over others, or, any other quality other than his willingness to obey the One who was revealed to him on the Damascus road, who had chosen him to make disciples of the Gentiles.

It's rather interesting that the very same charge is given to all who have been truly converted, and become a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in he name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

That charge is given to all followers of Christ. Such people are, by definition “disciples”, which causes me to think of something that Theodore Austin-Sparks wrote in, The Centrality and Supremacy of Christ, ch.1:
The church has no existence in the thought of God apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ, and it is judged according to the measure in which Christ the Son of God’s love is in evidence by its existence. ”

If those, who, claiming to be “Christian”, belong to an entity calling itself “church”, are not, in every aspect of life, calling the worlds attention to the evidence of Christ the Son of God’s love, they are using the name “Christian”, and “church” illegitimately. Look at Jesus' words in Luke 8:16,
No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

When I was very much younger we lived on a farm. The house was built on one side of a large valley. Arising, as we did, at 4.30 a.m. I looked across the valley, which was pitch dark, except for a pinpoint of light, about four miles away on the other side of the valley. The utter darkness of this moonless early morning was no competition for the pinpoint of light I knew came from a farmers house.

I have no doubt this is a sound illustration of Jesus words, to His followers, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden”.

In other words, a genuine follower of Christ will stand out, in the same way as light stands out in darkness,or, as a city on a hill declares itself.

If that is true, then no individual, group, or organization calling itself an assembly, church, fellowship, is justified in its existence, from God's standpoint, except to the degree or extent that Christ is expressed to the world at large by it, as that distant small light stood apart in the blackness of the morning.

You and I have no warrant, to claim to be Christians except in the degree in which Christ is evidenced in us, both individually and corporately; and as the darkness of that night in the valley, mentioned above, all the powers and inventiveness of hell seeks to hide that evidence, and seek to defeat all attempts to do so.

Far too many who call themselves Christian, smugly think that they are safe from any attempts to kindle in them anti-Christian life-style, attitudes, behaviour. They are most decidedly wrong. More than anyone else in this world believers are the targets of deception, the very worst being the idea that they cannot be deceived..

Paul was certainly aware of the problem as he wrote to the believers at Ephesus about their associations, Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)...,” and, as he counselled the followers of Christ at Philippi, Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,...)

Do you ever ask yourself the questions,
Why has God revealed Jesus Christ to me, and caused me to be the recipient of His saving grace? What's the point?”,
"I claim to bear the Name of Christ, so, what am I here for?"
"I believe what the Bible says when it tells me that through His saving grace I'm now a son/daughter in His Family, so, what is the meaning of my being related to the Lord?"

Are we still so infected by the sin of pride that we attach self-centered, selfish meaning to these questions?
Is it not true that we rationalise the answers to these questions?

Most of the modern “Christianity” we know convinces us that comfortable, self-indulgent lives are our legacy through salvation; that we have been given God's grace for our own personal satisfaction, and self-gratification!

The evangelical “Christianity” with which I've been associated for 60 or so years, quietly assumes receiving Christ as Saviour and Lord as the end in itself!

What we have missed is that genuine saving grace is a revelation, much as it was to Paul, but not necessarily as dramatic, and is the revelation, the “seeing” , of Jesus Christ, the awakening to the truth of His centrality and supremacy in all things to do with life.

Some of us, and I was one of these, when we do have this “Eureka” moment as it applies to the aforementioned revelation of Christ, immediately think about how we will apply it to life with the assumption we now need to do some some “thing”, or “work”, or, for some of the more aware, to some independent function upon which we need to focus our lives.

Again our traditions fail us. Becoming a genuine follower of Christ, does not entail our applying our lives to an entity which is called a WORK, which requires our devotion and faithfulness.

The centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ is the calling of every genuine believer. Christ is the beginning and the end of everything in the believers life, the A to Z, the Alpha and Omega, and all else will flow from that.

"Christ in you, the hope of glory". A fact so many claiming to be Christian have missed, such as a couple my wife and I know, and are so involved in WORK. I asked them why they have no peace and rest from their gut busting efforts.

Their answer? “We are trying to please God!”

During my years in pastoral ministry I heard many an account of people, including pastors, boasting of their dedication to the denomination, or, a para-church organization.

It took me far too long to realise that, since the Apostles, much Christian activity has been the fostering, and promoting of a denomination and its distinctives, or, the spreading of a particular teaching, or doctrinal emphasis, of an institution calling itself “church”.

All of this action, and busy-ness disguises the reality that the Body of Christ, the ekklesia which He is building, has no being or nature apart from the “seeing” of Jesus Christ, and that the ekklesia, the church He is building, is announced to a lost world by the measure in which Christ the Son of God’s love is in evidence by those who claim to belong.

For most of my long years as a part of this institution, no matter where I look, and despite the showcase activities, the pomp and ceremony, the entity we call “church” has been nothing more than a pathetic caricature of the genuine, of which I share the blame and  shame.


Simply because it is not the genuine article. It became a “thing”, a lifeless object which sees itself in the secular light of a movement, a mission, a teaching, a testimony, a fellowship, which has replaced the Lord Jesus Christ as the mediating, authoritative influence in the world.

The ekklesia Jesus said He is building is meant to be the personification of its Master to a lost world!

Paul understood this reason for being was Christ, But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.”

Imagine how different things might have been if the Head of the Church, the God who loved to such an extent that He incarnated Himself, and suffered and died as a man, on behalf of man, defeating death as a man, had been outstandingly revealed by those who claimed His name.

 What would have been the outcome if He had remained central and pre-eminent, as Paul sought for Him to be, as he wrote to the Christians in Colossae, And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”?

Could we dare to dream that we could experience the Body of Christ withoutall that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1Jn. 2:16), instigating the decaying, decomposing , politicised and institutional jealousies.

If we are honest , we have to confess that our “work” today is more about protecting our turf of being the “right” one, or, the “only true one”, whatever that “one” happens to be.

There can be no argument, the evidence is clear that, and please note that I'm writing in generalities, apart from lip service, Jesus Christ is not the obvious focus of the work of Christians, assemblies, churches, denominations of today.

The reason for this is that the majority have become members of an earthly organisation for a myriad of reasons, of which most are self centred.

Very few can say, as the blind man did in John 9:25, One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see”.

The Apostle Paul explained this so well to the Corinthian brethren, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”(2 Cor.4:6)

From a lifetime of observation, I believe the traditional assumption of most is that a Christian is a person who carefully does prescribed range of things, and that such Christian does not do another whole range of forbidden things.

As soon as this assumption is made the damage is done! The matter is exacerbated because the leaders of the organisation into which they have come, reinforce this thinking; and again, for self-centred reasons.

A genuine Christian is not governed by the rules and regulations of a religious system imposed as a way of life, which declares, "Do this," and "Do not do that," a genuine Christian is one, who like the blind man above,is able to “see” Jesus Christ for who He is. Such a person has had an experience of something done to them, of which they can say,”My eyes have been opened, and I see Jesus, for whom He really is, the One whom, as a man, has done, and not done, everything legalistic religion expects. Everything, on behalf of all who “see" Him!

We have passed off the dramatic Damascus road experience of Paul as simply the unique experience of this spiritually hardened military man.

When we do that we miss the point. Look away from the drama, and you will see a simple act of God revealing Himself to a sinner like you and I, who found himself confronted by Truth, "Who are you, Lord?".

The answer is simple and uncomplicated. No lists of rules and regulations: "I am Jesus of Nazareth." Paul certainly didn't see the drama as being of any consequence. His testimony to the Galatian believers was simply, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me."

That is one and the same thing, as the experience of the blind man. “Seeing” inwardly, in heart and mind,
is what causes one to be a Christian, no fanfare, no rumpus, no pomp and ceremony. "God.....has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ(2 Cor. 4:6).

A Christian has “seen” Jesus for whom He is:" But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.(Heb.2:9)

The church as we have traditionally known it is fading fast. Why?

I believe it is because we have externalized what it means to be a Christian, relying on legal means, rules and regulations, to maintain the strength of the “work”.

If this is the case, and I think it is, we are like the blind man before he received his sight. We have not “seen” Jesus. Much of the cause for this is that we preachers suffer from the same blindness.

Those who have “seen” Jesus have a passion for Him, but the evidence reveals that we have focused on other things which we have decided are in the best interests of our particular patch.
We have sought the satisfaction of our own desires and for Him, rather than the satisfaction of the Fathers heart, the glorification of His Son.
We, as individuals, must realise that you and I have no warrant to make any claim to be Christians apart from the measure in which Christ is evidenced in you and I.
The powers of darkness are a determined adversary against the revelation of Jesus Christ, and will lead us down a path of human desire and ambition, which our nature is apt to follow.
As the blind man, and Paul reveal, everything begins with this, the revelation of Jesus Christ within, “seeing” Jesus for whom He is, why He took on human form in which He lived and died, and what He really achieved on behalf of all who would trust Him.

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