As We Start A New Year...
By Lois J. Stucky
As we take down the old calendar and put up the new, might we do so with more than fleeting thoughts of how fast 2004 has passed into history. The world may celebrate with firecrackers and festivities, but we Christians must give ourselves to more serious considerations. Stop and think of the significance of this hour. God has brought us to life and has called us into His heavenly kingdom in what could well be the age-ending hour when His Son returns to planet earth! Living in this hour places upon us great accountability. It is not unlike what was on the generation 2,000 years ago that witnessed Christ’s first coming to bring salvation to the world.
How great was the responsibility of that generation! Many were blind and missed the momentous privilege they were having to welcome and to serve the Savior of all mankind. But to those who overcame blinding tradition and unbelief and responded to Christ’s call to "Follow Me…," was given the privilege of experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and of shouldering the responsibility of Christ’s commission to spread His message to the ends of the earth.
The commission to go into all the world, of course, has been upon every generation since, but no other generation has had the opportunities to carry that out as has ours with all its modern means and conveniences. And no previous generation has been so near Christ’s return as is ours! Someone has said, "Ability plus opportunity equals responsibility." God is trusting this generation with great responsibility. Ought the Church not to be giving serious consideration as to whether we are accepting our share of the responsibility placed upon us? Or to bring it down to something I can more readily comprehend, am I accepting my share of the responsibility God places upon me?
Certainly God’s purposes deserve to have first place in my life. Am I willing to give them that? Jesus told His disciples to consider the cost of becoming His disciples, His sold-out ones (Luke 14:26-33). Yes, there is a cost. Might God grant you and me the grace to reckon the price not too great. Might He enable us to focus not on what disturbance this might make in our cozy lifestyles, but rather focus on the gain to God if His people respond to His awakening call. Think what it would mean for God’s Kingdom if multitudes of His people, ordinary folk like you and me, would release themselves totally to God, as Henry Blackaby expresses it in his article in this issue!
Not only would great gain come to God’s Kingdom through total dedication, but blessed enrichment would come to the individual who chooses to become intimate with God, and follows the Lord through Gethsemane and takes up the cross God has appointed for him or her. It is by no means the easiest way to go, but it is the most blessed. Brother Blackaby helps us to understand that this way is the prerequisite for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and it is only through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the individual and the Church is fully fitted for her high and holy calling of going into the world with the Gospel. Here is the pathway to our fulfilling our responsibility to God, and more, the pathway to experiencing the incomparable love, joy and peace of His abiding presence.
"I Delight to Do Thy Will, O My God!"
It is a grand thing that God promises to write His laws in the hearts of His born-again children (Heb. 10:16), so that we take pleasure in doing His will. Our holy example, the Lord Jesus, who has perfect perspective, taught us to pray: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). This expresses a passion of Christ’s life. He did nothing of Himself (John 5:19). We might wish this would be more consistently true of ourselves in all of life’s happenings. Have we not discovered that our will can strongly contend with God’s will, though we know His will is good and perfect?
Arnold Cook writes helpfully in his article as he calls to our remembrance that the self-life must be continually submitted to crucifixion with Christ. If we refuse this, we will be expending our energies battling our flesh life and resisting God’s will. Thus we are unfit to give ourselves to the greater conflict – the releasing of souls from the powers of darkness that hold multitudes captive. Christ wrought victory for us over the flesh life at Calvary (Gal. 2:20). Appropriating that victory enables us to say with A. B. Simpson (who no doubt lived it better than most of us):
"Not I but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ in every look and action;
Not I but Christ, in every thought and word."
Might our prayer be, in Simpson’s further words:
"O to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
O to be lost in Thee,
O that it might be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me."
O the wondrous life to which we are called – to bring joy to the Father as He sees the image of His beloved Son reflected in us, His other sons and daughters, whom He is bringing to glory! Say not, "It’s too high for me." Press on!