Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

June 03, 2004

Filthy Rags, Frayed Ropes, and the Otherness of Christ

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, God keeps pointing me in one direction and saying, "Here, look. This is the way. Walk in it."

I want to point out a few things quickly. First, Messy Christian posted on the subject of The Beauty of the Desert. A good read. Second, Ruby says she's broken too. Well, it's a good place. A good place, yes. Susan also has come to the end of herself. She writes, "I only walked half way of the path of faith, and I mixed faith with the good intention of human heart and natural strength. By doing that, I actually created a platform for the enemy and I actually shoveled God out of the whole thing." These are wise words, Susan.

We will continue to hang onto the frayed rope of ourselves for dear life . . . . until we come to trust God completely.

Yesterday I said I was broken. I wasn't trying to be dramatic or anything. I wasn't trying to create a mood of suspense. I'm not even sure how I came to this place. I just know that I have.

I think it's a word that's been misunderstood. It's not a eupemism for sin. It doesn't mean exactly the same thing, although of course these two realities, sinfulness and brokenness, are closely intertwined. It simply means broken. Incapable. Not able to function adequately. Not able. To be broken and know it, that is a good place.

I used to take pride in my prayer-life. I was very organized. I had three-by-five cards with a name on each one. Every day I would pray through my stack of cards. I would write down impressions. I would cry. And I was able to turn all this into a self-affirming thing. I would tell people about it, ostensibly to encourage them, but really to show them what a warrior I was, and how strong my faith was, and especially to win their admiration.

But I think God is washing this desire for the praise of men out of me. It's absence, though, seems a kind of emptiness, but a good emptiness. Like putting down a heavy burden. I pray to God that this is no temporary illusion.

Kenneth Boa writes, "The alabaster vial of the self-life must be broken (Mark 14:3) to release the perfume of the new self in Christ. If we wish to manifest the fragrance of Christ, we must allow God to bring us, in His time and way, to the painful place of brokenness on the cross of self-abandonment to Him." From Conformed to His Image (p. 193)

I quoted Austin-Sparks yesterday. I'm just beginning to discover this man's work. I sort of stumbled over it on the web, you know how that happens. Well, Austin-Sparks talks about a man on a journey coming finally to the end of land and facing the ocean. And this is like coming to the end of yourself. There is no getting over that ocean, there is no comprehending it. It is nothing less than the righteousness of Christ. And it is too vast. It is too mighty. It is too much what it is, while you are too much what you are, and you are struck dumb, you are helpless. The continent of self had been, well, so various, so full of resources, so habitable. And yet you knew it was not your home, and you had even learned that to live there would in the end mean only death, not life, and so you traveled on, and you traveled on, and now you stand at the edge of this ocean, and it is seemingly so forbidding, so other. What are you to do? Who shall save you from this body of death?

Do you understand, Ruby? You are at a good place. To be there, on that shore, with all your self-reliance behind you now, and all the good you'd hoped to do in tatters. Now you are broken. Your cry now is, I am not able! But the Lord, He is able!

John the Baptizer knew this. He said, "He [Jesus] must become greater, and I must become less." John 3:30

Austin-Sparks wrote, "That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life. If ever you and I should come to a place where we think we know, we have it all, we have attained, and from that point things become static, we may take it that the Holy Spirit has ceased operation and that life has become stultified."

I have been confused about this business called sanctification. I had thought that we come to the end of ourselves finally in our days of rebellion, and we repent and return, like the prodigal son, and from that point on we're just living in the blessing of the Father. I didn't know how often I would once again find myself seeking satisfaction among the scraps and fodder of the pigs.

I read something from A. B. Simpson. He said something like this: Too often we're seeking the blessing, but not the Blesser. Too often we're struggling in prayer for the anointing, rather than seeking the Anointed.

But Paul speaks of a different kind of life in Romans 1:17, where he speaks of "a righteousness that is from faith first to last" [literally, from faith to faith]. And Jesus Himself says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." Hunger is good. If you think you've had your fill, you're in a very bad place. Let the Father lead you on to hunger, child of God.

It comes down to moment by moment trust. Moment by moment affirmation, with Paul, that as to any good thing, "it is not I, but Christ in me."

It is one thing to know that your sins do not condemn you, and another to know that all your righteousness is as filthy rags to God. If you know that finally, child of God, then at last you are ready to grow.


Blogger Jackie said...

Bob, there's so much you said here for me to think about. I know I am in a good place because my heart is longing to love God more - but- there's something I am holding back, and a statement you made brought it to my mind for some reason.
You said
But I think God is washing this desire for the praise of men out of me.Do you see any connection between the desire for the praise of men and fearing men? (when I say 'men', I mean people)

More thoughts tomorrow. Blessings.

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