A Living Testimony

Matthew 10:39 – He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Philippians 1:21 – For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 3:7-8 – But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

In one sense, it has not been a stellar week for me, I am sorry to confess. At my son’s soccer game, the old competitive beast within me surfaced with an unholy vengeance. I yelled abruptly at some of the kids and one parent rightly called me on my inappropriate behavior. He just happened to sit on the board of directors for the league. This incident has been eating away at me for days, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it was bothering me so much. I really felt ruined deep down, and the sense of self-loathing just lingered and wouldn’t let go.

Like every child of God, I have carnal moments – more than I care to admit, where all the evidence under heaven proclaims loudly that nothing divine has ever really touched my life. But something was different here; it was almost debilitating. I just couldn’t stop playing it over and over in my mind. Perhaps you have experienced something like this. Repentance doesn’t take it away. Time doesn’t soften its edge. It just plagues you until you can’t carry it anymore.

And then it struck me, like a thunderbolt from heaven… The old man was still trying to live, to survive, to express himself, to get the world to pay attention.

If I understand this correctly (and it is still unrolling in my spirit), I was grieving the fact that everyone present at that soccer match did not witness the person of Jesus Christ, but a pathetic little man attempting to assert his place in the world. This was a corrupted witness, whereby I was expressing myself above, and instead of my Master. What is startling about this is that lately I have been asking the Father to allow me see things more clearly through His eyes, as they truly are, both in myself and the world around me.

Which leads me to this question… How pure and unadulterated is our testimony and witness of Jesus Christ in this darkened world? The answer, I would suggest, grieves the Father terribly.

We are instructed, and the spirit confirms within us, that we are to act graciously and magnanimously in every situation (yes, even a kid’s soccer game) – that we are to express the character and grace of our Master whom we faithfully serve and represent. What the world (or my small town anyway) witnessed last weekend was anything but that!

What a testimony! They witnessed someone alright, but not the High Lord of Life. Was He increased and I decreased there in that pathetic outburst? Was the Living Gospel accurately portrayed by my behavior and example?

My friends, sometimes we think we are moving on down the road and advancing in this walk of faith. We start seeing ourselves above the passions and lusts of the unbelieving world. Our Father in Heaven is even starting to seem imminently closer, like we can almost apprehend Him, reaching further into the light, drawing closer, and deeper into Him.

We want ever so much to lose our lives in Him and His beloved Son, the One in whom was found neither vile thought, nor selfish ambition, nor any unclean desire. We momentarily forget what we are truly made of – the filth and rot brooding beneath the surface, the corruption not yet refined by His refining fire.

We may have a website even, dedicated to pure things, to truth, to what is real. And the very devil himself is screaming “hypocrite” with every thought we share. And you know something – he is right.

Yet all I have is Him, and this living testimony. He is all I have because He is my life and if I cannot live in Him then I don’t want to live at all. It is not enough in this world that the message of my life is “me” and not “Him”. Even if it means to be laid naked and bare before you and all the world, to be viewed as I truly am. All I can do is to be real – nothing changes until that happens; nothing can.

I have tearfully repented of grieving the Spirit of my Lord and His testimony, and He has brought me out the other side of this, very much bruised but improved. For you see it is much larger than simply losing your cool at your kid’s soccer game.

For all those who will say that I am only human, you have missed the point entirely. It is that the people there saw just another human being doing what all human beings do, naturally and impulsively. They never even got a glimpse or suggestion of the Savior and Shepherd of their souls, of His grace and peace.

But, you say, most there probably didn’t even know you were a Christian.

Nonsense! I reject that absolutely!

I know, and God knows, and if I had in fact expressed Jesus Christ then and there, then they would have surely known, for they would have seen Him. Here then is the point! That unbelievers can see and touch and taste the life of Jesus Christ, whenever they behold this testimony, which is His life lived and breathed in us. It is a living testimony whereby we are walking but it is His shadow being cast on the world.

I apologize that this post is so close to the bone. It is difficult to share, but this, you see, is what His Church is all about. We are the same you and I. Our origins in this world and our lives in what the Bible calls “the flesh” will always be the same. Why do we attempt to mask what we are – to hide from ourselves and from one another?

Let us draw deeper into the only One who can save us from what we are, and bind us together and to Himself!

Please pray for us here at Living-Walk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do.

Your friend in Christ Jesus,

Wayne

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The Beauty of Brokenness

grain-of-wheat

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24)

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2 NASB)

Little ones, there is a profound beauty in brokenness; that process whereby we are in some manner reduced by our Lord’s loving and artful hand. By failure perhaps, or persistent, nagging sickness or disrepute, or even poverty – all of course working to lead us to that ultimate state of nothingness, that He alone can be the All in our lives and the Substance in our hearts.

How can it be? we wonder. What good can possibly come from such humiliation? From such painful denial? From such a lowering of our station in the world of men?

Yet the beauty, my friends, rests in the loving wisdom of a heavenly Father who wishes to bless us to all abounding with the lasting riches of His fullest and abiding presence. It is in the stripping away of all that inhibits or corrupts this potential gift, where the truest splendor shines. For brick upon rotting brick must be chiseled away until the foundation is exposed. Only then can our blessed Advocate secure Himself as our sure and solid foundation.

The beauty ultimately lies in the purification of our hearts that results from being exposed to the Refiner’s fire. Here is where all the dross of selfish ambition and love of the world is burned away from our lives, leaving a pure and refined saint where a sinner and rebel once stood.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the LORD
An offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)

The beauty also shines forth through the dynamic and living testimony that results, as our wise Counselor and Teacher permits us to prove what He is revealing to us, whether it is a test of our faith in His love, or His trustworthiness. When the devil or his darkness comes at us head on, to tempt or corrupt us, our Lord must know that our light will remain, that we will stand firm as His faithful lamp stand.

And always resisting and grinding under it all is the swollen, festering pride of humanity, the ‘oh that I were a king‘ presumption that surfaced first in that ancient and sordid heart of the archangel Lucifer. How it loathes failure, defeat and loss of any kind. How it despises dependence on anyone and submission to circumstance. Watch as it writhes and coils under the weight of so many painful setbacks and assaults on our self-sufficiency.

I remember vividly when my wife and I relocated to the Midwestern United States from Canada some years ago. Here I was, with a number of university degrees, a growing career and business, a heart full of my own esteem and importance, unable to find a decent job. Despite numerous attempts, every door seemed to close abruptly on me, as if God Himself and all His angels were against me.

I guess I knew intellectually that we are tested as Christians, but somehow this was different, infinitely more real, and more painful. I was forced, for a number of years to take some menial jobs that I felt were far below my credentials and ability. As a husband my self-worth started to sink as I was unable to adequately provide for even my wife. I grew increasingly languid and depressed, with seemingly no way to escape. I would pray, sure, but gradually all that was coming out was “Why Lord why?” and “When Lord when?”

You must also understand, that all of this was happening in the mid-nineties at the height of the health-wealth gospel. Every Christian television station seemed to be littered with sharp-dressed showmen pulling out proof text after proof text to convince us that our material success was indicative of our spiritual condition and faith in God. Here I was, ready to go under, and this was effectively like someone throwing me an anchor.

Other Christians meant well too, but after a while I couldn’t bear to hear another Bible verse used to convince me that God chastened the children He loved, or the pastor telling me that there was some unrepented sin or idol somewhere in my life, that I might not even be saved.

I attempted not to lose heart, too hang on, but it was so terribly hard. The world seemed to be advancing ahead of me and I just couldn’t keep up. I was angry and bitter and alone. I felt like something was dying inside me, like I was losing my grip on reality.

And you know what, my friends, that is exactly what was happening – and I have since come to realize that all that I experienced, all of the deep down hurt and abandonment was securely in the hands of a loving Father who was breaking me down in order to build me back up again in His Son.

This is the part that is beautiful, if we have eyes to see. Believe me, I know it is not easy, nor does it appear beautiful while we are right in the middle of it. Yet it shows us vividly how deep our roots run into this world and its self-worshipping spirit.

So often in the Christian walk, our Lord needs to know that, stripped right down to nothing (as the world measures things anyway), we won’t abandon him. He needs to know that if all else has been lost, that He is our sufficiency; that He will be increased while we are being decreased.

Hear this, my friends…

You and I are only on this earth as disciples of Christ for one reason, and one reason only – to represent a true and living witness to the kingdom of God that is coming soon.

(I encourage all of you to familiarize yourselves with the concept of the Holy Spirit being sent into the world to procure a bride for the Father’s Son, as typified by Abraham’s servant being sent to find Rebekah and bring her to Isaac).

And just as this is true, so it is also true that this testimony (the entire sum of our lives as God’s witnesses on earth) must be forged in the furnace of His refining fire. There can be no exceptions! You can survey all the pages of the Bible and you will not find one! Wherever there is light, there is soon darkness coming against it with all of its hellish fury!

Perhaps this is why the physical birth of a human child is such a violent affair. Where there is newness of life, there is pain and upheaval and tumult… yet look at the beautiful result.

From such crushing and at times bloody denial, the brash heart within us is brought patiently or perhaps abruptly to the point of need. Here is the moment of truth; here is the place where the inner man (spirit) and the outer man (soul and flesh) collide; here is that divine pathway to contriteness and true biblical humility; here is where all things beautiful in the soul of a redeemed human being have their genesis. Truly the grain cannot grow until the seed is made to fall to the ground and die.

Notice how Watchman Nee conveys this –

broken-vessel“Anyone who serves God will discover sooner or later that the great hindrance to his work is not others but himself. He will discover that his outward man and his inward man are not in harmony, for both are tending toward opposite directions. He will also sense the inability of his outward man to submit to the spirit’s control, thus rendering him incapable of obeying God’s highest commands. He will quickly detect that the greatest difficulty lies in his outward man, for it hinders him from using his spirit.

Many of God’s servants are not able to do even the most elementary works. Ordinarily they should be enabled by the exercise of their spirit to know God’s Word, to discern the spiritual condition of another, to send forth God’s messages under anointing and to receive God’s revelations. Yet due to the distractions of the outward man, their spirit does not seem to function properly. It is basically because their outward man has never been dealt with. For this reason revival, zeal, pleading and activity are but a waste of time. As we shall see, there is just one basic dealing which can enable man to be useful before God : brokenness.”

The man who would follow the Christ too must be loosed from the self, oftentimes painfully, in order that Christ might prevail and assume His rightful pre-eminence. And just as a broken stallion is both a splendid and useful creature, so the man of God has been brought by his assorted ordeals to be something better and higher; to assume his proper station beneath the Most High.

My friends, as we attempt to understand the harsh trials coming upon us, consider the perfect beauty and power of broken-ness – how our bruises are working to purify and refine us for an eternal purpose; how our faith and trust in our God is being emboldened and hardened from the testing; and how our love for Him is being purged of all devotion to self and any created thing.

We understand from the Book of Job and other places in the Word how intimately our Loving Father loves us, and is in involved in our development and sanctification, and how He was even willing to release His own perfect Son to the same suffering and death that we could be redeemed and made whole. What a wonderful thing when we see it in the eternal context of His plan for our lives as His children.

Is it easy? No. Is it often painful and humiliating? Definitely. But is it profoundly beautiful when seen through heavenly eyes? Absolutely!

Brethren, to pursue this important topic further, I strongly recommend Watchman Nee’s book, The Release of the Spirit.

Please pray for us here at Livingwalk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do.

Your friend in Christ Jesus,

Wayne