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Go deep in God

Today I was watching as a large bird was flying over the water, so close to the water that it seemed to be barely above it at times.  This bird was on a mission, searching for it’s next meal. The victim would be a fish that was swimming close to the surface and easy to snatch up. The bird can’t go into the fish’s environment to get it so it has to wait until the fish is close enough to the bird’s own environment. And the unsuspecting fish hanging out in the shallows becomes dinner.

Shallow living is dangerous for the fish in water and the Christian on earth. We have an enemy who walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  For the believer safely abiding in Christ, the devil may not. But the believer who plays around in the shallows of this life rather than plunging deeply into intimacy with the Saviour, makes themselves an easy target as they live their lives on the fence called compromise.  They venture so close to the enemy’s environment that he snatches them up in an unsuspecting moment and they find themselves a captive to some sin or other…never knowing they had been so vulnerable.

Go deep in God, believer. And then go deeper still.

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The final portrait is your own and it remains unfinished. Each day it is being painted, moment by moment and choice by choice. With each rising of the sun you are given another opportunity to pour your life out for Jesus, to forsake all to follow Him, to count your life as not dear to yourself and to live boldly for the glory of Jesus alone. As His purchased possession, do we dare live unto ourselves? As His bride, why would we even want to?

 So now… what will we do? Will we be satisfied with the safe and comfortable life, with church attendance, with a good work here and there? Can that possibly be enough? Or perhaps we will hear through these portraits from the past, the call to a passionate pursuit of Jesus – a pursuit that disregards the opinion of man, religious tradition and our own reputation. A pursuit that will no doubt lead us to the foot of the cross again and again and to a very real forsaking of all to follow Him. Oh that we might hear the call to run after Him with all our hearts and let our lives be poured out at His feet. Listen carefully… do you hear it now?

 My soul follows hard after thee…Psalm 63:8

 

The apostle Paul was a man selected by Jesus to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Incredible miracles were performed through this man. He wrote two thirds of the New Testament, had visions of heaven and made disciples of Jesus everywhere he went. He threw away a respectable future in religion for the sake of a gospel that was hated by those whose favor he had once courted. And he never looked back. He was a man that walked with God. Yet as intimately as Paul knew the Lord, as he approached the end of his life his cry was “that I may know him.” His life had become a constant pursuit. His gaze was fixed upon One infinitely more glorious, more desirable, then anything he had known before and a glimpse of His glory had ignited a hunger and thirst within his soul that could not be quenched. And for the remainder of his life he was willing to suffer the greatest of hardships for the name of Jesus Christ and for the sake of His gospel.

 

The sinful woman was a well-known character in her town. The people whispered about her when she passed by. She tried to ignore them but mostly attempted to avoid them. There were a thousand reasons she could justify her lifestyle. Until that one day… and that one Man. She heard His words and they pierced her heart. Confronted with a God whose mercy was extended even to her, all the years of coldness and hardness of heart began to melt away. And in a moment, a glorious moment, she became a different woman. A forgiven woman. Her life was so transformed and her heart so full, that she searched Him out and found Him… at dinner with the religious folks. Certainly she knew the ridicule, the rejection she risked by approaching Him in such a setting, but she was compelled by love and a heart overflowing with gratitude to do it. And as they sneered and scorned, she wept at His feet the tears of the redeemed. The religious crowd hated her for her emotional display, but to Jesus it was precious and He memorialized her forever for it.

 

King David was a man elevated from shepherd boy to king. Not elevated by man, but hand chosen by God Himself. He experienced victory over all his enemies, fame throughout the nations, amassed great wealth, and enjoyed the goodwill of his people. Yet none of that satisfied him. Hear the longing of his heart:

 ”One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.“ Psalm 27:4

 If the temple had been in existence at that time David’s longing to dwell in the house of the Lord would have been more understandable. Who wouldn’t enjoy meeting with God amidst the ornate carving and abundance of gold in Solomon’s temple? But during the life of David there was no temple. The ark of God remained in a tabernacle of skins and curtains as it had done since the days of Moses. King David had built for himself a house of cedar, certainly something grand and palatial – suitable for a king. Yet his heart longed more intensely for the tent where God was than the comfort of his own dwelling.

 Kings belong in palaces, not tents. Yet Almighty God dwelt in a tent, and that made it a palace to David.

 

Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a despised man, considered a traitor to his country. Among a thronging crowd of religious followers he would have been an unlikely and unwelcomed character. While he may not have had the good opinion of his fellow Jews, he certainly had everything else. Everything that money could buy anyway. But that was no longer enough Zacchaeus and maybe it hadn’t been for some time. One wonders if, at night when all was quiet, the emptiness of his soul was exposed. Desperate to see this Jesus he had heard of, he ignored the hateful glaring stares that were surely cast his way as he attempted to push through the crowd. Unable to get through, he went up. Up into a tree, undignified but determined. What a spectacle he made of himself that day. The little man in the tree! How the crowd must have laughed at him. But only for a moment, for when Jesus passed by He called him by name and came to his house for lunch and Zacchaeus had a feast of grace. Zacchaeus ended that day owning much less than when it began, yet now he possessed everything.

The sorrow of the tamed

I went to the zoo a few years ago with my family and have tons of happy memories. But there is one sad memory that I’ve never been able to shake off. The gorilla exhibit. I don’t know if I can adequately express what I saw in the eyes of that animal. If I had to describe it, I would say it was sorrow… a resignation to a life that wasn’t how it should’ve been. He was meant to be wild. He was meant to be free. But he is not allowed to be that and so he sits and looks at those who stop to look at him. He even seemed to pose for the pictures. What else can he do when his life consists only of what is inside of walls and gates and bars. But the look in his eyes seemed to say that he knew his life should have been something other than that. It was the sorrow of the tamed. I’m sure he was well taken care of. He doesn’t have to search for food or shelter. But he wasn’t meant to live a tamed life inside the walls of a zoo. And the nature within him would’ve told him that it wasn’t meant to be that way. I walked away feeling very sad in my heart. Not for the gorilla, but for the church.

Because to a great degree this gorilla story is a parable of much of the church. So many people sitting inside the walls… so comfortable in a climate controlled environment, the padded pews, well fed from the pulpit. Just enough God to get them to heaven but not enough to bring heaven here. I read the book of Acts, the church in the very beginning, and those were some wild people. Preaching everywhere. Defying death to make Jesus known. Risking everything. Think back in your own life when you got saved. Most of us offended our whole families by telling them they were going to hell. We lacked wisdom, but there was a fire in us for Jesus. But then some time passed and we learned how to be proper Christians… and became tamed.

Who told us that our lives were supposed to be ordinary, normal and safe? I don’t believe it was God. You may have had people tell you that you need to be balanced and to be careful that you aren’t so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good. I reject that entirely. The Bible tells us to seek those things which are above, to set our minds on things above. The balanced life that we need is to seek Jesus and be about His business morning, noon and night.

I can’t think of a single place in the Bible where we are commanded to protect and guard our lives. But I can think of many that tell us to lay our lives down, pour ourselves out, give ourselves away for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. If you love your life in this world, you’re gonna lose it. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to drop dead on the spot but that you’ll be reduced to a mere existence. Tamed.

Too often we content ourselves with reading the stories of people in other ages that have done great things for God. Always watching other people serve the Lord. Feeling a sense of envy but not the willingness to do what they did and risk what they risked.  We live without the supernatural touch of heaven on our lives and learn to lean on our own abilities and talents. God wants to be glorified through our lives, but it will only happen as we live supernatural, Holy Spirit empowered lives. The only reason we don’t have that is that we just don’t want it badly enough to press in for it.

So we will live and die… and make very little impact on this world for Jesus. Because it’s not just going to happen because you became a Christian. The impact of your life corresponds to the fire that burns within you.

I remember several years ago hearing a preacher make this statement, “if you want to go to the place where you will find the most potential, go to the graveyard. Most people died with theirs untouched and unused”.  And I remember the cry that rose from my heart… Oh God… please don’t let that be me.

The greatest sorrow of the tamed will be when they stand before Jesus. You are a steward of the gift of your life. You will spend the remaining years of your life deciding what to do with all that time.  Choose wisely.

We spend far too much time and energy getting comfortable in a temporary dwelling place.  Invest your life in eternal things.