Monday, December 5, 2011

A Puritan Prayer with Challenges for Today

Here’s a excerpt from a prayer (page 117) in the Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett, Banner of Truth Trust:

            “May I …never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions, but acknowledge thee in all my ways; never limit my devotions to particular seasons but be in thy fear all the day long; never be godly only on the Sabbath or in they house, but on every day abroad and at home;

            “never make piety a dress but a habit, not only a habit but a nature, not only a nature but a life.”

Our society seeks to coerce us into compartmentalizing Christianity; it does not appear to seek that so overtly with other religions and philosophies. Yet, the Scriptures teach us to in all your ways acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6a), and Jesus speaks of those who are not ashamed of Him and of those who are ashamed of Him (Matthew 10:32-33). Shall we cave in and surrender to the world’s coercion or will we faithfully witness to Jesus Christ?

It seems that most of our witnessing training is covert, as if we lived in a totalitarian society. Do we? If so then let’s not gloss over the issue; but if we don’t then let’s not excuse our closet Christianity. And whatever the case might be, do we have an excuse to avoid persecution for the Christ of the Cross? If we don’t acknowledge Jesus Christ then how will others encounter Him? After all, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16 – 20) is given to us all.

Hypocrisy can be an enigmatic thing, it isn’t so straightforward as we might think; it isn’t simply about people pretending to be something they are not – that’s too simple. People often don’t know they are pretending; they fall into the deceit, they fall into wearing a mask, and a time comes when they can’t distinguish the mask from the reality – they make piety a dress. The Laodicean Church (Revelation 3:14) didn’t know its own condition, it thought it was doing well, it thought it was healthy and wealthy, but it was poor and naked and miserable and blind; and it was lukewarm.

Those under the broad umbrella of Christianity who reject outright the Divinity of Christ and the Atonement and the authority of the Bible know where they are – there is nothing enigmatic about them – other than why they bother going into the ministry or why they bother operating and attending churches. But those who by compromise and self-righteousness and making piety a dress rather than an inward reality in Christ capitulate to the world’s standards and dictates, and who fail to acknowledge Jesus Christ in their ways – that is enigmatic – because it isn’t likely that they started out that way, it isn’t likely it was their intent – and no doubt we all have elements of these things in our lives.

We are so accustomed to not witnessing that our training in witnessing is nearly all stealth oriented, we are taught not to be straightforward (what Biblical warrant to we have for that?) – seldom is it inculcated in us as the fabric of life; and as much as I value and practice relational bridge-building – that must not be our only paradigm for witnessing, it certainly isn’t the only Biblical paradigm. The central Biblical paradigm is acknowledging Jesus Christ in all our ways, throughout all facets of life; bridge-building should be done in this context – Jesus is not some trump card we hold in our hand until a future time – that may be the norm in the current church, it is not the Biblical norm.

Lord Jesus, help us to acknowledge you in all our ways; let our acknowledgment of you be without self-consciousness or conceit or religiosity; but rather let it be as one friend speaking of another friend, let it be as a spouse speaking of his or her beloved, let it be as a hungry man telling others where he has found bread.

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