Love

7 06 2009

(Yeah, I couldn’t think of another title. Eye-catching, though, right? :) )

I read a very thought-provoking entry in my copy of Watchman Nee’s devotional A Table in the Wilderness earlier this week.

JUNE 5th

As many as touched him were made whole. Mark 6. 56.

Recall the incident of the Pharisee and the publican at prayer in the temple. The Pharisee understood all about tithes and offerings, yet from him there was no cry of the heart to God. It was the publican who cried, “Lord have mercy upon me!” Something went out to God from that man which met with an immediate response, and Jesus singles him out as the one whom God reckoned righteous. For what is it to be reckoned righteous? It is to touch God. The great weakness of so much present preaching of the Gospel is that we try to make people understand the plan of salvation, and all too often we see little or no result. Wherein have we failed? I am sure it is in this, that our hearers do not see Him. We have not adequately presented the Person. We point them only to their sin or God’s salvation, whereas their real need is to see the Saviour Himself, to meet Him and to make contact with Him.

“The great weakness of so much present preaching of the Gospel is that we try to make people understand the plan of salvation.” This statement especially resonated with me. I find that much of Christianity is overly focused on telling people about God and His plans and what He can do for people. It seems that most of what we call “witnessing” is telling people about what we’ve seen rather than showing them.

Say someone tells me about this awesome band that is groundbreaking in the genre of electro-emo-classical-industrial-metal-post-opera-rap-spazz-core. He tells me that it’s the single best band that has ever existed. This person can tell me all about the music, what his favorite songs are, how mind-blowing the technical skill of the players is, and even how the music has changed his life. I may even give mental assent to the fact that, yes, this may be the greatest band of all time, based solely on his description. However, until I’m actually presented with the music and hear it for myself, any admiration for the band will be feigned and derived from what someone else says about it rather than my personal experience. My friend will have to actually allow me to hear the music before I can fully agree with him, that yes, the band is flippin’ awesome.

In a similar way, many Christians will try to “win souls” for Christ by trying their damnedest to explain complicated theological concepts that most Christians barely even understand. As Watchman Nee says, “Wherein have we failed? I am sure it is in this, that our hearers do not see Him. We have not adequately presented the Person.” Instead of loving people as Jesus would, many Christians feign affection for people while in the back of their minds they think of them as projects that they are trying to complete for God. I’m not saying that they don’t care for these people, but many become so focused on “saving” them and become so desperate to do so that they forget to care for the person as a person.

Consider Matthew 9:9:

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.”

As I read this recently, I wondered to myself how I would have reacted to a call like that. If I was just sitting and doing my job when this strange-looking, relatively unattractive man (see Isaiah 53:2- “there is no beauty that we should desire him”) came along and told me to follow him, what would I do? There must have been something about Jesus that compelled Matthew to follow Him, but it wasn’t deep theology or complicated exegesis. Nor did Jesus say to Him, “Follow me so that you can be saved from your sins and an eternity in Hell, which salvation will become complete after I atone for your sins on the cross and then rise again three days later, after which I will return to Heaven and send you the Holy Spirit.” He simply saw Matthew sitting there and told him to follow Him. Consequently, Matthew simply saw Him and followed.

Shortly after this incident, Jesus is found in a house, eating and drinking with “publicans and sinners” (Matt. 5:10). Earlier today, my pastor did a Sunday school lesson on whether or not God has a sense of humor, and pointed to this passage. He found it hard to imagine that Jesus would sit there eating with a morose look on His face, remaining completely serious while the rest of the group enjoyed themselves and had a good time. No, as my pastor said, most likely He was enjoying the company of sinners and discussing things such as the weather and their occupations and being generally easy to be around.

All it takes for someone to want to follow Christ is to see Him for who He is. If we want people to know God, and “point them only to their sin or God’s salvation,” what good will it do? Will our words save them? Will their ability to comprehend the plan of salvation save them? Will their acknowledgment of their sin save them? NO. None of these things save a person, they only lead to dead mental assent and legalism. All that will bring a person to life is God revealing Himself to a person in His own time.

So, what is left for us to do? How can we present Jesus in such a way that people will “meet Him and … make contact with Him” without all our theological jargon? What is God that we can show Him to others? “God is love!” (1 John 4: 8,16). How do we show people God? — by showing them love! How do we show people love? — it starts by forming real relationships with people. As much as I tire of hearing the old cliché, “It’s relationship, not religion,” I find I must admit that this is the only real starting point when it comes to showing people real love, not throwing guilt or fear in people’s faces and expecting them to respond to “God’s call on their lives.” Of course, the natural next question is, “What is love?” To use another cliché, read 1 Corinthians 13 and you’ll find your answer.

It is not our job as Christians to convict people who don’t believe. Conviction can only happen once people have seen Jesus for who He is. Showing people love is the best way to show them Jesus. Let God take care of showing people their sin, and once it’s seen, God may use us to help people to understand the more complex matters. To start with fear and guilt, however, only leads down a dark road of legalism that forks into either excessive pride or insanity. Love is the most important gift God has given us, and it should be our primary concern to show that love to others in whatever ways we can.

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2 responses

6 07 2009
Len

‘ Spiritual authority’ This is one of the books that was used as a foundation for the Shepherding movement back in the 80’s.-here are specifics;

Below are a few statements in this book that I don’t see New Testament support for.

Page 22-23 under “First Lesson a Worker Should Learn Is Obey Authority”: We are under men’s authority as well as having men under our authority. This is our position. Even the Lord Jesus on earth was subject not only to God but also to other’s authority… A Christian worker ought to know who is above him. Some do not know who are the authorities above them, hence they do not obey. We should not be occupied with right or wrong, good or evil; rather should we know who is the authority above us. Once we learn to whom we must be subject, we naturally find our place in the body.

Page 71 under “Be Fearlessly Subject to Delegated Authority”: People will perhaps argue, “What if the authority is wrong?” The answer is, If God dares to entrust His authority to men, then we can dare to obey. Whether the one in authority is right or wrong does not concern us, since he has to be responsible directly to God. The obedient needs only to obey; the Lord will not hold us responsible for any mistaken obedience, rather will He hold the delegated authority responsible for his erroneous act. Insubordination, however, is rebellion, and for this the one under authority must answer to God.

Page 180-181 under “To Be in Authority Often Means Loneliness”: In learning to be in authority we ought to be sanctified before brothers and sisters. Many legitimate things we cannot do and many lawful words we cannot speak. We must be sanctified both in words and in sentiments. According to ourselves we take a certain attitude, but among God’s children we will be sanctified. Even our fellowship with brothers and sisters must have a limit beyond which we will neither be casual nor frivolous. We should rather lose our liberty, we rather will be lonely. Loneliness is the mark of authority… The opposite of holiness is commonness, not sin. To be sanctified is to be different from others….The sparrows fly in flocks, whereas the eagles fly singly….To be in authority requires restraint; one must sanctify himself. Others may but you cannot; others may speak, but you cannot….You may feel lonely and miss the fervor of the crowd; nevertheless, you dare not mingle with the brothers and sisters in joking and jesting. This is the price of authority. Unless we sanctify ourselves like our Lord we are not qualified to be in authority.

Page 182-183 under “To Be in Authority Requires Restraining One’s Affections”: I will show myself holy among those who are near me.”…There is a much severer discipline applied to them than to the people in general…. As has already been mentioned, the opposite of holiness is commonness. Holiness means that others may, but I cannot. What the disciples may do, the Lord does not. What other brothers may do, those in authority cannot do. Even lawful affection needs to be put under control; otherwise death can be the consequence. The people of Israel died because of their sins, but priests may die because of not being sanctified….Those who serve are anointed by God. They should sacrifice their own affections, denying even legitimate ones. All who would maintain God’s authority must know how to oppose their own feelings, how to lay aside the deepest of their affections towards their relatives, friends and loved ones. The demand of God is exacting: unless one lays aside his own affections he cannot serve God. He who is sanctified is God’s servant; he who is not sanctified is a common person.

Page 184 under “Sanctified in Life and Enjoyment”: It is therefore a matter of enjoyment. Others may enjoy, but we cannot. Others may rejoice in pleasures (for wine speaks of rejoicing), but we cannot. People serving God are under discipline that they may be able to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean…. The higher the office, the stricter the demand. The degree of nearness to God becomes the degree of His demand. Of him to whom God entrusts more, the more will He demand. God especially concerned with whether of not His servants have sanctified themselves.

Page 185 under “Authority Is Based on Sanctification”: Authority has its foundation in sanctification… You cannot represent God if you maintain very liberal and loose communication with the people. The higher the authority the greater the separation.

Page 191 under the chapter “The Conditions for Being Delegated Authorities”: To be in authority is costly; such ones need to be sanctified from the rest and be ready for a lonely life…. As soon as one becomes too common, he is dropped from the work. His usefulness is gone, and his authority is lost.

Its about controlling people, legalism, a very dangerious form of fundamentalism

King George 111 used Romans 13 against the colonists in the revolution. Romans 13 was the bases of ‘divine right of kings’ to rebel against them, was to rebel against God, a nifty arrangement. He was told “If Kings rule by divine right, then let them rule in heaven!”-Thomas Jefferson

Watchman nee’s book is a return to the authoritarian legalism of ‘kings,’ dangerous, medieval, scary.

I know who I would agree with, between Watchman Nee, and Jefferson!

I invite comments;
Len

20 08 2009
ourwingsareburning

Sorry it took me so absurdly long to read your comment and reply, I didn’t have the Internet for the entire month of July and I’ve been catching up on other e-mails, message boards, etc.

Those passages are very interesting. While I still love most of Watchman Nee’s writing, this, I admit, was slightly off-putting. I can see where he’s coming from, though. I don’t think that he is necessarily saying that those in authority should possess more power to control those beneath them, but moreso that they should be held to a higher standard and be a better example to those around them. While I personally believe that such an extreme separation is unnecessary, I can see why Nee may have found it essential. Those who lead God’s people should not be given to baser pleasures such as those with less power may be. I also don’t think Nee is advocating a “divine rule” idea either. I believe he is only saying those that feel called to spiritual leadership (or a position where they are readily seen by the public) should be especially aware of their own behavior in the view of others.

On the flip side, I personally admire and respect my pastor, who is jovial and very down-to-earth with the entire congregation. He isn’t afraid to be on the same level as those he speaks to and doesn’t put on airs of superiority. This (I believe) doesn’t cause him to lose the respect of the church; instead I believe it only increases it. Of course, my pastor is also a very moral man who avoids unnecessary worldly pleasures, and doesn’t partake in the same sorts of activities that most of the congregants may in their free time.

In conclusion, I’d say that I can definitely relate to where Nee is coming from in his book, but I find his opinions about the separateness of authority to be a little too strict. I don’t judge him for this, however, (and forgive me if I make a misrepresentation here) since his Chinese culture is one rooted in deep respect and deference to authority. Everyone is biased by their own cultural upbringing, and this may have contributed to his thoughts on the matter (just as our American upbringing causes us to be much more naturally easy-going with authority).

Hopefully the above made some sort of sense. Thanks for the comment!

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