As a city kid with limited experience of the desert (one brief, quite comfortable sojourn in the ‘wilderness’ of modern Israel, and it rained the day we visited Jericho) I admit that I need help to understand it as a metaphor for the isolated, arid, testing times in our experience as Christians. This second brief post on the theme of our desert experiences also comes from J. I. Packer…
J. I. Packer shares five values that God highlighted for him during years of ‘desert’ experience…
- Goodwill. I should not get bitter or lapse into self-pity or spend any time complaining and angling for sympathy. God was using my ministry, and I was forbidden to get fixated on my frustrations.
- Hope. I was not to become cynical or apathetic about the vision I had been given or to abandon it because there was no immediate way of advancing it. God is never in a hurry, and waiting in hope is a biblical discipline.
- Faithfulness. As a husband, father, teacher, honorary assistant clergyman, and occasional author, I had plenty each day to get on with, and I could not honor God by slackness and negligence, whatever discontents I was carrying around inside me.
- Compassion. Clearly I was being taught to empathize more deeply with the many Christians, lay and ordained, male and female, who live with various kinds of disappointments, and thus were in the same boat as myself.
- Humility. I must never forget that God is supreme and important and I am neither, and he can manage very well without me whenever He chooses to do so.
From J. I. Packer in The Desert Experience
We are, rightly, never to preach, talk, or sing, about God’s love for us (or our love for Him) without focusing on the Cross of Christ. His sacrifice is the measure of His love for us and the motivation of our love for Him. If, some day(s), we are called upon to die for love of Christ or for love of our neighbor (these may be the same thing) it will only be by the gracious work of Christ’s Holy Spirit in us that we may ever hope to emulate Him. This third brief post on the theme of Christlikeness comes from Charles Spurgeon…
“For to me to live is Christ…”
Philippians 1:21 ESV
“The believer did not always live to Christ. He began to do so when God the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and when by grace he was brought to see the dying Saviour making a propitiation for his guilt. From the moment of the new and celestial birth the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price, for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our (heart) that it beats alone for him; to his glory we would live, and in defence of his gospel we would die; he is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character. Paul’s words mean more than most men think; they imply that the aim and end of his life was Christ… his life itself was Jesus. In the words of an ancient saint, he did eat, and drink, and sleep eternal life. Jesus was his very breath, the soul of his soul, the heart of his heart, the life of his life. Can you say, as a professing Christian, that you live up to this idea? Can you honestly say that for you to live is Christ? Your business – are you doing it for Christ? Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage? Do you ask, “Is that a mean reason?” For the Christian it is. He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing a spiritual adultery? Many there are who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dare say that he hath lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did? Yet, this alone is the true life of a Christian – its source, its sustenance, its fashion, its end, all gathered up in one (Name) – Christ Jesus. Lord, accept me; I here present myself, praying to live only in thee and to thee. Let me be as the bullock which stands between the plough and the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, “Ready for either.”
From C H Spurgeon in Morning and Evening
Of course, if I am to really become more like Christ, it’s not enough for me to think that I can put on Christ, at worst, like a mask, or, at best, like my very own super-hero suit. “He must increase, but I must decrease“, said John the Baptist and so it is with any disciple. This second brief post on the theme of Christlikeness comes from John Piper.
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8 ESV
“This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit. It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness. If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes. Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”). But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.”
This devotional is written by John Piper.
For more information about Piper’s ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org.
‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, and to us as well who find ourselves in Christ today; so we may discover for ourselves what it means to be filled from the inside out with His overflowing Life; and, at last, find a new appearance to properly match our new heart. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Christlikeness comes from C S Lewis…
C S Lewis wrote… “Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups, playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.
Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash up. Well, go and do it.”
C S Lewis in Mere Christianity