Sunday, August 22

To a point……

"Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried" Daniel 12:10

My hands don't open anymore at the end of outstretched arms as the overwhelming power and joy of worshipping the Lord with fellow believers crashes in waves of cascading water over my being as the music plays; whether old or new, traditional or contemporary worship. It doesn't matter. The burden of this place seems too much for such extravagances.

I tossed the application that I was working on for Moody Theological Seminary-Michigan simply because the journey of six years that I have spent advancing towards that goal seems self-serving anymore and it would seem, as I watch the world of Christianity develop around me that either the rejection of the body in the pursuit of this 'perceived purpose' is correct or the anointing or 'hand of God' in the Spirit upon me has been lost or removed, too tarnished by my struggles and trials to be seen as it once was.

I grow so tired.

It is said that such defeat is a sure sign that I do not have to fear falling into the pharisaical danger of self-righteousness, where there is no conviction of sin and the piercing arrows of God's angel-flung and barbed discipline bounce off the self-protective armor that encases the soul. Others would say that it's a sure sign that God's redemption and salvation aren't realized in this life I live and therefore it is my sinfulness that creates a barrier in finding the peace, restoration and joy that comes from being 'one of the family.'

Satan is given the authority, no matter how he may have usurped its ownership, upon this world and the people who live upon it because we have separated ourselves in the sinfulness of humanity from the possibility of relationally being present within the holiness and righteousness of God. That is why the barrier, the curtain, existed between the world seen and the Holy of Holies. That is why sacrifices and atonements in the Old Testament where so meticulously written out, step by step, so that mankind's reckless decline could be restrained and reset. Satan continues to fight against this, even in this place, leading mankind into sin to abandon us there where we no longer feel the presence of God and are broken upon the mountain of our own despair and desolation. This is where Satan tries to defeat the purposes of God in the anointing of His calling (whether a testimony at work or a lead pastor in a church) by the silence of our own foolish self-righteousness. And when we blunder past temptation's warnings and into the dark despair of sin, we complete Satan's efforts by the self-destruction of our meager faith.

No matter how many times we have done so in the past, we reach that point where we fear to seek the pardon for our sinful waywardness because we see ourselves approaching the white throne of judgment and hearing that sigh; that mournful, sorrow-filled sigh of a Savior who can only say…."I offered Myself as an atonement for your sins, a fragrance pleasing and acceptable before the Father….but you've tipped that cup one too many times."

We condition those in the body to such conceptions; unwillingly and unknowingly certainly in many congregations and fellowships that span the whole of the family of God. Unfortunately, too, is the bitter realization in the fact that there are those who willingly enforce that doctrine to the point of theological acceptance and crucify those that are pierced by sin's commission.

We don't want to be involved in someone's life to the point of full and unhindered admittance; there are some things we would not want to be burdened with or have knowledge of because then we would be faced with the burden of trying to unconditionally loving and holding to account, picking up and carrying our brethren when a fall comes or a temptation is surpassed by the darkness of sin. We don't want to be that burdened where a faithful and spiritually mature member of the family either falls or questions their faith, crushed and despaired by the evilness of the attacks that come from the evil one as a matter of fact and regularity like the weather. We want simple right and wrong in the relationships of our lives, whether personal or congregational, and despair of the messiness that lies in full involvement. We want to deal with others…….to a point.

Why, we see others who struggle in the daily simplicity of life; financially, spiritually or morally as beggars before the righteousness of the throne; their pitiful moanings of self-abasement as unwelcomed and undesired as mud on our favorite leather shoes or cow manure on our tennis shoes that cost us a week's pay. We listen to the testimonies of these beggars and are dismayed, listening as we do for the 'touch' of God within them, and miss the utter agony of their condition; broken and utterly lost in the realization of their despair. After all, we of the Church teach that in the beginning of the Christian life is where we come to an utter realization of our need for a Savior and everything else afterwards is a 'uphill' journey towards the righteousness of Christ cloaked upon our sinful old nature like new clothes. It is up to us, after this 'covering' whether or not we get them dirty.

We simplify the verse that says once we call upon Christ's salvation, the old nature is gone and the new is alive.

And introduce into the 'acceptable' image that 'shows' salvation outward appearances of superior faith, whole belief and complete subservience of self to the Cause. We then sit back in Church, that we've driven to in our nice leased vehicle having hurried through the neighborhoods where cars still sit parked in the driveways and children stop running after the basketball that has bounced out in the street to let you pass. We meet with those who we know and enjoy, occasionally wandering out of our 'comfort' zones to engage someone else….definitely smiling to those who are new to our fellowship. We engage in the social gathering before and after the service…….to a point.

After all, there are things to do; family, friends, and even outreach programs.

I have carried myself in this endeavor to find and fellowship with Christ as far as I can. I give up, I am tired and I have nothing more to convince or convict myself with. I have used all the knives and condemned all the flesh.

And find nothing has changed.

I have come to a point…..and the uttermost of the unseen, unknowable and unrealized brings me to my knees because I can no longer stand with the trembling that consumes them.

The tears of my pain, the moaning of my sorrows, the depths of my despair that once poured from my soul have come upon the silence of their continuance where no longer can my ears hear them because they have faded into the background noise and are as common as my rising and falling asleep for the nourishment of my physical body.

I have come to a point where I am beyond tired. Exhaustion haunts my being.

I can only beg God to take my heart, a heart that I thought I had freely given to Him, as brutally as necessary to make it His own as I have uttered so much in the past that it was. I can only weep with the despair of my own weak, unchristlike self that cannot be kept pure for His sake, no matter how much I try. The lips have expressed the poverty of my sinfulness while my soul puffs up with its own conceit of superior humility and exalted righteousness. In the efforts of my own good works, done for the glory and purpose of the kingdom in as much as I can do so, I have found nothing sustaining in their efforts or rewarding in their commission. Because most of them were done with expectations of family ownership and not in a brokenness that relied on a power born outside the fullness of self.

All I am, all I thought I could be have come to a point…………

Humiliated, heart-broke and condemned, I hear Nathan's declaration to David….."You ARE THAT MAN."

I have reached a point…….

Where the quick, temporary and uttered brokenness of my old nature that has trumped the new is no longer an effective balm of soothing peace and comfort. Where the uttering of my 'purpose' is conceived to be for the development and discipling from others to be achieved. Where the works I do in the context of my faith lie barren upon the soil that was developed for the substance of others.

I have come to a point where I behold Christ and see nothing beyond my own weakness, poverty and defect that is as real as my physical body. Lost and hopeless, clad in the filth and grime of my own sinfulness and old nature that brings the utter devastation to my soul….I cannot be saved, love or cherished because I am too far gone into sin.

I have come to a point where, in the harsh light of Christ's purity I can see the glaring blackness of my own depravity.

I mourn its appearance, though it has never truly left. In the advancement of my faith, I have come to the point where the utterance of my need for a Savior and the glaring un-entitlement of the sacrifice He gave is too often the focus of my glaze as I slide down the mountainside where I once climbed with foolish abandon. The point where I would rather sacrifice my life than to live or continue in the brokenness of my sin and where I cry upon the altar of the congregation my sinfulness and lack of confidence that I will be able to overcome the self-righteousness of my flesh. Where I claim no righteousness within God's grace and no ability to manipulate His mercy.

I have come to a point where I fear to trust my own strength, fear to withdraw my hand for an instant from Christ's bloody palm and walk even for a moment without His judgment, His authority and His discipline even as I know the truthful honesty of my own pitiful assessment in the holiness of God's glaze that leaves me utterly unable to be worthy of Him.

This life cannot be sustained by myself.

There is a point that Christ reached, in His humanity, that He could no longer carry Himself upon the knowledge that He was doing God's will and that He was well and pleasing in His Father's eyes. He reached a point where no miracle, no sudden blast of holiness and no shout of authority could carry Him anymore. He reached a point where the desire to be what He was called to be could not get Him to the purpose.

In the garden, He broke in sorrow. He reached a point where it was His Father who carried Him.

And as Christ reached the point where the fulfillment of His goal and purpose in becoming fully human while being fully God, and the pain of being rejected, crucified and condemned by those He had come to save infused His mortal flesh and God turned His face from the One He loved for the sake of all those who had wandered away from its embrace and those yet to be born who would do the same… that point, all the humanity of His suffering became complete.

And the world stopped……at that point.

The corruption of mankind's sin upon the innocent body of the Lamb was committed.

And Christ overcame its stain through the power of His holy blood.

At that point…….

In that point where I have realized that "in me dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18) I cannot carry the ideal of my purpose, the purity of my calling and the hope of my designed place in the body of Christ.

I cannot hide my depravity, religiousize my brokenness or claim the fullness of restoration.

I can only hide in the rock of this place, in the 'cleft of the rock' as Moses did as the glory of God passes by.

And the love of a Savior reaches a point where I cannot believe but He can prove its existence and make its sustaining redemption felt.

And the exaltation of my soul becomes louder than the sorrow of my heart…..

And in the brokenness and depravity of my old self, the new brings a wellspring of joy because the living of Christ's authority and grace at the absence of my own ability to grasp it, my own skill to realize it, and my own certainty that it is not deserved becomes joined with the despairs of my soul into a song of sorrow and sin that is immersed in the blood of Christ to be a living, breathing and fragrant offering to God.

And I reach that point……

Where it is no longer I who live.



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