Monday, June 25, 2007
TO WILL ONE THING
To will one thing (Soren Kierkegaard)
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Beloved, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards, in Christ Jesus.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'
'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'
Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.'
The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?'... He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' 1800
Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, 'Follow me!'
(2 Chronicles 16: 9; Philippians 3: 12-14; 1 John 1:9 -- all NIV; Romans 8: 28-29, NIV/NRSV; John 21: 15-19, NIV)
In Hamlet, Shakespeare has Polonius give this advice to his son, as he leaves home in pursuit of an academic career:
To thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night
the day, Thou canst not then be false to
But what is 'self'? Elizabeth O'Connor in Our Many Selves describes the inner complexity of a person. The kind of self-love which tries to get the best place in the synagogue, or to be seen praying on the streets is pathological. This is self-love at the expense of the interests of others. But self-love which moves from self-acceptance to love of neighbour is surely biblical. So our 'self' needs both a change of master and direction. How can Christ be Lord of the inner self?
First, we must reckon with the past. Forgiveness is not simply theoretical. When Jesus healed the Gadarene demoniac, a complete change took place: the man had a new self-identity.
Then, in the present, we are in the process of 'becoming' the self God intended us to be. Our changing circumstances are less in control than is our heavenly Master-
The future security a Christian anticipates is a function of trust in a trustworthy God. John Sanford (The Kingdom Within) writes: 'For the sake of our own relationship to the Kingdom, as well as our relationships with other people, our attitude towards ourself must be one of self-acceptance. This comes as a shock to people who have often been trained to reject themselves.'
So there is a forgetfulness.
You cannot turn the past into a blank:
the Bible does not encourage this.
In reality, this is not possible.
There can be selective forgetfulness.
Let the failures of the past teach you.
Let them not terrorise you...
Not despair but development.
You must learn to forget successes.
Their remembrance must make us grateful and humble.
Conceit and self-sufficiency are hindrances to growth in faith.
There is also a forwardness in faith.
The goal is 'Christlikeness'.
When a child is born, the family looks for 'resemblance' in the physical appearance of the baby to the ancestors -- present and past. One day, when the wheels of time stop spinning -- and we 'move on' -- then, God looks for the recognisable resemblance with the Elder Brother', Jesus Christ.
Refusing to surrender to God does not mean that we have not surrendered to any other. All of us surrender to something. Most of us surrender to ourselves as 'god'. But we dislike this 'god'. We do as we like and by now we do not like what we do. We express ourselves, but dislike the self we express. We do not like ourself as it is and others also do not like it.
So may thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills one thing. In prosperity may thou grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distraction, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing.
Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
Our perfection, therefore, is not to be flawless, but to be in tune with our redeemed destiny in Christ.
P.T. Forsyth, Christian Perfection
Faith is the condition of spiritual maturity in the sense of adultness, of entering on the real heritage of the soul. It is the soul coming to itself, coming of age, feeling its feet, entering on its native powers. Faith is perfection in this sense. It is not ceasing to grow, but entering on the normal region of growth.
P.T. Forsyth, Christian Perfection
Setting up a saving relationship with Christ is not essentially different from setting up a warm human friendship. In the latter the steps are five: (1) The stage of drawing near. This is a tentative, explorative stage. You are not certain whether you want to give yourself inwardly to the other person. It is the stage of yes and no. (2) The stage when there is the inward decision to give yourself to the other person- the stage of decision. (3) You implement the decision- you actually make the inward surrender to the other person. (4) Having given to the other person, you are now free to take from that person. There is an exchange of selves- you belong to that person, and that person belongs to you. You are one. (5) There is a continuous mutual adjustment of mind to mind, will to will, and being to being down through the years. The friendship unfolds.
E. Stanley Jones, Conversion
What happens to the self when surrendered to God? Does he wipe it out or wipe it clean? He wipes it clean of selfishness. The very act of self-surrender gives him the opportunity to cleanse us from our central selfishness. He gives the self back to itself. When we obey the deepest law of the universe it works: 'If you would save your life you will lose it' -- centre yourself on yourself and the self will disintegrate. Every self-centred person is a disintegrating person. Centre yourself on your self and you won't like yourself -- and no one else will like you. But the rest of that verse is just as true: 'Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it' -lose yourself in the will of God by self-surrender and you will find your self again. It is a paradox, but you are never so much your own as when you are most his.
Bound to him you walk the earth free. Low at his feet you stand straight before everything else. You suddenly realise that you have aligned yourself with the creative forces of the universe so you are free -- free to create, free to love, free to live at your maximum, free to be, to be all he wills you to be.
E. Stanley Jones, Victory Through Surrender
Read John 21:15-19 again and reflect upon your own life calling.
1. If you were asked the same question that Jesus asked Peter, how would you respond?
a. Yes -- all of the time.
b. Yes -- most of the time.
c. Yes -- some of the time.
e. Ask me tomorrow.
2. 'Take care of my sheep.' If Jesus said this to you three times, what would this mean to you now?
a. Get going.
b. I'm counting on you.
c. Get your eyes off yourself.
d. Consider the whole world.
e. Seek first the kingdom of God.
3. In the past three months, where have you seen the most progress in your life?
a. Personal discipline
b. Spiritual development
d. Concern for others
e. Family relations
f. Moral courage
g. Bible understanding
h. Openness to God's will
i. Change in priorities
j. Attitude about work/school
k. Ability to relax/unwind
L. Coleman, D. Rydberg, R. Pearce, G. Christopherson (eds), Serendipity New Testament for Groups
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery.
'Your Majesty,' said Prior Richard, 'do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.'
'I understand,' said Henry. 'The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.'
'Then I will tell you what to do,' said Prior Richard. 'Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.'
When King Henry died, a statement was written: 'The king learned to rule by being obedient.'
When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us, and when he returns, we'll rule together with him.
Steve Brown, Leadership
Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know;
Spirit breathing from above, thou hast taught me it is so!
Oh, this full and perfect peace! Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease, I am his and he is mine.
His forever, only his: who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss, Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heav'n and earth may fade and flee, first-born light in gloom decline,
But while God and I shall be, I am his and he is mine.
George W. Robinson
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed thee.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give humble and hearty thanks
for all your goodness and loving kindness to us...
we bless you for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your amazing love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace;
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us that due sense of all your mercies,
that our hearts may be truly thankful and that we may declare your praise
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory
now and for ever. Amen.
An Australian Prayer Book
And now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with all you need for doing his will, through the blood of the everlasting agreement between God and you. And may he produce in you through the power of Christ all that is pleasing to him, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13: 20-21, LB
Rivers in the Desert ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 180-186