I can’t tell you how excited I am about this final year of the millennium. Only eleven months to go until 2000 years are up and we can all get together with Dick Clark and have a big celebration to welcome the new millennium! OK, I’ll get off that kick. Actually, what I am really excited about is the wonderful privilege that I have to be a part of the cutting edge of something that is changing the course of history. Personally, I am more excited than ever before in my life about my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I am also thrilled to see God opening doors so that His Word can be known like maybe never before since the first century. In this column, I hope to convey to you my enthusiasm about the monumental opportunity that we have today to proclaim the truth about God and His Son. I say “we” because you most certainly are also a part of the ministry that God has so graciously given us all.
Remember that Jude 3 is the theme verse for The Contender. When you study it, you see that what we are contending for is “the faith,” that is, the Word of God (it is the figure of speech Metonymy, whereby “faith” is put for that which we are to have faith in, like in Romans 12:3). Why contend for the faith, God’s magnificent written revelation of Himself? So that people can know Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, which is what true life is all about. The point of knowing The Book is to know The Man. If Jesus is who he said he is, then to know him will be to love him, and such love will issue in good works flowing from this heart-to-heart relationship. Jesus gave all he had to give for you and me, and certainly I will find it most rewarding (literally) to devote my life’s energy to knowing, loving and serving him. What other pursuit could be more noble?
In My Utmost for His Highest (January 17), Oswald Chambers writes: “Service is the overflow of superabounding devotion…[It is] the echo of my identification with the nature of God…[when] I do things out of sheer love for Him on my own account.” I must ask myself to what degree do those words characterize my life. One thing we can see is that our labor for God’s purposes will be in direct proportion to our devotion to Him. Such devotion obviously requires that we have a certain degree of understanding of and appreciation for what God has done, is doing and will do for us, right? It’s like, “We love because He first loved us” or “Christ’s love compels us…not to live for ourselves, but for him who died for us and rose again.”
Of course, because “faith comes by hearing” (and reading), we begin to grasp the magnitude of the Savior’s love for us by putting our eyes on the printed pages of God’s Word, wherein we find “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” These abstract truths then become concrete in our understanding when we choose to obey God and allow Him and His Son to “manifest themselves to us.” The more we obey the truth we know, the more our faith grows, the more our love for God and Jesus grows and the greater our devotion to them becomes.
What is “devotion,” anyway? You’re in luck – I just asked myself the same question, and let Daniel Webster answer it for me. He says that “to devote” comes from the root verb “to vow” and means “to give up (as time, money, thought, effort) to the cause, for the benefit or for the advancement of something regarded as deserving support;” also “to attach the attention or center the activities of (oneself) wholly or chiefly on a specified object, field or objective.” I think we are talking priorities here.
First, we as Christians must determine exactly what is the “cause” that is to be the “object” of our devotion, and I have seen in my own life that it is easy to lose sight of this. Speaking as one who relishes the challenge of being “right” about the Word and contending for it in the face of religious tradition, I can say that too often I have put the privilege of knowing the truth and the work of the ministry before the work of staying in the center of Christ’s heart. HE is the cause. HE is the object upon whom I am to wholly center my activities. Then what I do will flow almost spontaneously from who I am in him. I think it is like what Colossians 2:19 is talking about in regard to “holding the Head.” I don’t want to exchange my relationship with him for a relationship with anything else, even something noble like teaching the Word.
Clearly, Paul’s chief passion was to know the Lord Jesus Christ. The first words he ever spoke to Jesus were indicative of his quest: “Who are you, Lord?” Near the end of his life as he sat in a Roman jail cell and penned the letter to the Philippians, he echoed what had been the cry of his heart since first meeting the Lord on the dusty Damascus trail: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The death Paul is talking about here is dying to self, elsewhere referred to as “crucifying the flesh.” That is, putting to death the subtle, good looking but self-serving thoughts, words and deeds that do not stem from pure devotion to Christ and how he would be toward other people. We put them to death by choosing not to have them in our lives. I must decrease, so that Jesus can increase in my life.
I am thinking of “all of the above” things in light of the recent release of our new book, One God and One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith. Thus far we are thrilled with the feedback, especially like what we received from one seasoned-in-the-Word gentleman from Florida, who exuded that after reading the book he felt a new closeness with his Lord Jesus. That’s just what we want to hear! This is not a book about who Jesus is not, but one about who he is and how we can be like him. It is a book that glorifies both God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a book setting forth the greatest truth there is, a truth with limitless potential to release people from the bondage of tradition and make them truly free. It is a book designed to make known The Man of your dreams.
The sad truth is that, up until about 400 years ago, you and I would have been killed for teaching the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Last Adam, the Man, man’s Redeemer, and not God. Think about the incredible privilege we have today, especially in the United States of America, to freely preach the Gospel. OK, so we are in a minority because we don’t believe that Jesus is God. That’s OK, let’s not get a chip-on-our-shoulder attitude about it., but rather let us show our thankfulness to God for this knowledge by working (contending for the faith) to make that minority larger? There are no doubt millions of precious Christians out there doing their best for the Lord who would love to know him more precisely. Hey, my mouth should be agape with agape!!! The love we have for our Lord Jesus should inspire us to speak for him. Unless everyone you know already has an intimate relationship with Jesus, what are you waiting for?
It is understandable why most Christians are “Trinitarians.” For the same reason that I once was: they have never heard anything but the Trinity preached to them from the time they first encountered Christianity. Think about it – could someone who had never heard one word about God, Jesus or the Bible sit down, read the Word and believe in the Trinity? No way, because it is not in the Bible. But most believers have never heard a rational, biblical alternative to the Trinity. Unfortunately, most non-Trinitarian groups are pretty obviously aberrant about many major biblical truths, and no one wants to be in a “cult.” But, as our book shows, during recent years there has been a growing unrest among Christians in regard to the Trinity. I honestly believe that God has been “teeing up” the opportunity for us (that includes you, remember?) to present our work. How invigorating to think that it is our turn to present to hungry people a rational, logical, biblical alternative to that which has undoubtedly perplexed them, and also hindered them from walking with the Lord to the degree that they have desired. What a great privilege to help our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as those with no saving knowledge of him.
I love what Paul said to the leaders of the church at Ephesus when he met with them for the last time: “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you, but have taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). What had happened in Ephesus as a result of Paul taking this approach? Probably the most dynamic outreach of the Word that the world had seen to date. I have to ask myself whether or not the people currently associated with me see me with Acts 20:20 vision? That is, would they say about me what Paul said about himself?
I want to take heed to what Paul, near the end of his life, wrote to his young protege Timothy, whom he was encouraging to take up the Word that had been entrusted to him and stand boldly in the face of great opposition:
1 Timothy 4:15 and 16
(15) Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
(16) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
In light of the above verses, I must ask myself: Am I giving myself wholly to my individual ministry? Who is seeing my progress? How can I watch my life and my doctrine more closely? Is my life becoming more whole? Who are my “hearers”? What impact am I making on their lives? Interestingly, Ezra 7:10 closely parallels 1 Timothy 4:16. It says that “Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” That is what I want to do, one day at a time, this new year, and until the Lord comes.
The good news is that God will never ask us to do anything that we cannot do, and He has equipped us to do what He asks us to do. Hey, we are loaded. We are filled with the divine nature of our heavenly Father, and somehow we have heard more truth of God’s Word than most Christians who have ever lived. Let us not bury our treasure, but speak the truth in love, using all the “talents” that we have been given, so that our lives manifest the Lord’s goodness to all people, and so that he will be able to abundantly reward us at his appearing.