Do You Love Me?

Jim Cymbala recently remarked that, “our people will pay good money to go hear some Christian musician but they won’t come to meet with Jesus for free.”  This stinging rebuke points to something deeper than Christians with misplaced priorities.  It points to Christians who have a problem with love – or more precisely, a lack of it.

 

When Jesus proclaimed to His followers that the greatest of all commandments was to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Mt 22:37), He was not only prioritizing the most important of all Biblical commands, but He was declaring that the fundamental relationship binding us to Him is one of love.

 

What does loving Jesus mean?

 

Jesus tells us in the Gospels that loving Him does not consist in saying, “Lord, Lord!” but in doing the Father’s will and in keeping His words (Mt 7:21-29).  When we speak of loving another person, we mean that we seek the good of the person loved.  It means that we desire and seek to procure that person’s well-being. However, there is no good that we can desire for Jesus that He does not already have. Hence, for Him, all the loveliest qualities of loving are subsumed in that simple act of “doing the Fathers will.”

 

How can we cultivate love for Jesus?

 

            Jesus is not merely a historical figure, a philosophical concept or a remote invisible Deity.  He is truly God yet truly man.  He is a living person who is a “you” and a “friend.”  He is someone who can be loved and someone who reciprocates our love!  The saints have given us multiple examples of this love relationship.  Paul’s love for Jesus was such that he wished to be released from the body in order “to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23).  The Apostle John often referred to himself as that “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). On the eve of his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote, “All I desire is Christ . . . I seek Him who died for me, I desire Him who rose again for me”!  How can we cultivate this level of love for Jesus as well as this level of awareness of His love for us?

 

There are no married couples who cultivate their love for each other in exactly the same way.  Each couple has their own preferred way that works best for them. However, there are common means that can be witnessed in the lives of all married couples who seek to cultivate a deeper love relationship.  The same is true in the cultivation of love for Jesus.  Individually we might have our preferred means, but there are certain common means that Christians have used for centuries in developing such love.

 

One of the primary ways saints have cultivated love for Jesus is through the means of grace: studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, contemplation, good works toward our fellow man, singing to the Lord (private worship) and receiving Holy Communion.  The faithful pursuit of these means will enable us to “know (experientially) the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (comprehension)” (Eph. 3:14-19). It is important to add that these practices must be enabled and aided by the Holy Spirit. The most brilliant and acute Christological analysis, void of the Holy Spirit, will reveal nothing transformative nor increase our love for Him.  Jesus is not revealed by “flesh and blood,” that is to say by human brain-power and research, but by “the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17).  It is the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus to us and enables us to love what we see in Him.  It is the Holy Spirit that brings life to what would otherwise be dead works.

 

The Apostle John provides another way to increase our love for Jesus.  In 1 John 2:5 we learn that, “whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” My studies in spiritual formation have taught me that formation in Christlikeness is oriented toward explicit easy obedience.  It is also true that as we go deeper in obedience to Jesus we increase our ability and capacity to love Him.

 

Jesus gave us insight in how to love Him more in the Sermon on the Mount. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Mt 6:24).  John tells us to, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).  There is a law of moral affinity and it will develop in us either a love for Jesus or a love for this present world depending on what we set our affections upon.  There is no middle ground or safe zone where we can love them both. If you wish to grow in your love for Jesus, then the love of this present world can have no place in your heart.

 

Someone has said that at the end of life we shall be examined about love.  If that is true, the question we face might be, “How much did you love Me?”  In light of such a possibility, it could be profitable from time to time to let the question of Jesus to Peter, “Lovest thou me?” speak freely to our inner man to see if we can honestly respond,   “Lord thou knowest that I love thee.”

Are Christians Really Different?

Believe it or not, the question posed in my title has been challenging for the church to answer in practical concrete ways! It has struggled to find balanced answers that keep it from falling into the ditch on either side of the question. When it over emphasizes uniqueness and separation, it falls into the ditch of reclusion and isolation. When it over emphasizes relevance and contextualization, it succeeds in filling up churches with people who have not experienced real gospel transformation. Both extremes produce the same result – no real transforming impact of the surrounding culture.

However, the Bible makes it quite clear that true Christians are not only distinct from non-Christians but also from those who are merely religious (Matt. 6:1-8).  The most definitive statement Jesus ever gave on how truly different an authentic Christian is and how that difference is lived out in concrete terms is found in the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon is filled with illustrations that compare and or contrast authentic Christians with non-Christians.   In doing this, Jesus contrast: two sets of values, two kinds of disciples, two kinds of righteousness, two kinds of spiritual exercises, two motives for obedience, two masters, two paths, two trees and two foundations. When He uses comparisons, He primarily compares the Christian view with the worlds view (someone who doesn’t know God) or the Christian view with the view of someone who is merely religious (rule and tradition keepers that have no real relationship with God).

Being Different is Essential

The New Testament makes the case that authentic Christians are indeed different and that difference is fundamental. The greatest eras in the life of the church have been when the line between the church and the world was the most distinct. I fear today’s church has forgotten this principle.   Christians certainly live in the world but they are not of the world. When the church becomes the same as the world, the church loses its unique ability to be a change agent.

How are Christians distinct from the world?

They are different in what they value (Matt. 5:3-12). One example of this is that the Christian values true humility while the world despises such a person. To the world, he lacks self-confidence, self-expression and the mastery of life.

They are different in what they seek (Matt. 5:6; 6:33) The Christians seeks after God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. The world seeks, fashion, longevity, wealth, status, power and publicity.

They are different in what they store up (Matt. 6:19-21, 25-33) The Christian stores up the kinds of things that have permanent value. The world stores up treasure that is passing away and has only temporal value.

They are different in whom they serve (Matt. 6:24) Jesus makes it clear that when it comes to material and spiritual things either your material things become your god or God is God of your material things. You can’t serve both! The world serves the god of the material while the Christian lays all his material things at the feet of his God.

How are Christians distinct from people who are merely religious?

True Christians are utterly distinct from those who are merely religious. In the gospels you see anger by Jesus toward the institutionalized religion of the Pharisees. However, when Jesus gets around sinners, He is patient and kind. When he gets around merely religious people, He is severely direct and critical. The reason for this lies in the difference between the two. Even though the Christian and the merely religious person may look much the same on the surface, there is a significant difference in the two.

They are different in the way they impact people (Matt. 13-16). Christians are attractive to and attracted to the kind of people that live in the darkness of sin. They run to bring the light of Jesus to the dark places of society. Christians are willing to engage the decay of the world with the salt of the gospel as well as their personal involvement. However, merely religious people are turned off by and alienated from these same people of darkness and decay. They put their light “under a bowl” while pulling their righteous robes about them lest they actually interact with these kinds of people.

They are different in the way they position themselves to other people (Matt. 7:1-5). Merely religious people see their sins as speck of dust and others sins as a huge plank. Christians see their sins as a plank and others as a speck of dust. In other words, the merely religious feel superior to others while Christians understand their need of constant grace.

They are different in their concerns for holiness (Matt. 5:17-6:6). The merely religious are concerned about externals while Christians are concerned about the heart. They seek conformity to letter of the law while Christians seek to obey not just the legal aspect of the law put the ethical side or the “spirit” of the law. The reason for this is that the motive for obedience is different. Merely religious people are motivated by the need for rule keeping and the fear of others while Christians are motivated by a love for God and His Word. Merely religious people let what others think become more important to them than what God thinks and in the end become a performer for the audience (others) rather than living a life solely for the glory of God. It is no wonder that Jesus charged the religious for having such a distorted view of scripture. The Christian, however, runs everything through the law of love.

They are different in their relationship to God (7:13-29). A Christian and a merely religious person may look much the same on the surface. They both may be orthodox in doctrine, passionate in service, moral in behavior and socially useful. Each builds on a foundation, bears fruit and claims to be on the path to heaven. But one’s foundation is firm while the other is faulty. One’s fruit is pure while the other is poison. One is on a path toward life while the other is on a path toward death and destruction. The key to the difference is found in Matt. 7:21-23, “ Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

The questions we must ask ourselves if we want to know for certain that we truly are Christian are these:

  • As I examine the actions and attitudes in my life, and look at my life in detail, can I claim for it something that is essentially distinct and never found in a non-Christian?
  • Is the difference more than just “not being like non-Christians” but rather a positive conformity to the image of Christ?
  •  Is this difference something that can only be explained in terms of a life-changing relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ?

The fundamental issue that Jesus points out so clearly in the Sermon on the Mount is that if Christians are going to make a difference they must be different. We can’t transform our culture by simply adding more of the same. It is not a difference just for the sake of being different, but a difference that comes from knowing and being known by Jesus!

 

God Wants His Job Back

I once heard a former missionary speak passionately about the importance of relying completely on God’s Spirit to accomplish the work He has called us to do. He gave numerous personal illustrations demonstrating the futility of trying to do spiritual work through mere human ingenuity. He closed with this lamentation, “God wants His job back.”

 

No one would ever admit to wanting God’s job, much less taking it! But every time we make decisions that marginalize His involvement; every time we allow political considerations to silence the voice of biblical principle; every time we let self-interest edge out kingdom priorities; every time we turn to secular institutions to change what can only be changed by Divine intervention, we are in effect telling God that we can run things more effectively than He. We are assuming a role that is His and His alone!

 

This is not to say that human involvement is not im­portant to God’s work. On the contrary, God has chosen to save the world through the foolishness of preaching—man’s involvement is not only crucial but also central to the spread of the gospel. Yet the proper balance between human energy and divine grace is sometimes difficult to find. One of the reasons for having the book of Acts in Holy Scripture is to provide a vivid illustration of what this tension looks like. It actually gives a front row seat to witness how this cooperation between the human and the divine plays out. The opening verses of the book tell the reader that what unfolds in the following pages is the continued work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. However, what one witnesses is an amazing group of very human yet remarkable characters whose personality strengths, human gifts and personal intelligence are utilized completely by the Holy Spirit for the advancement of God’s Church. Peter, the one time denier, holds the Church together by his unshakable testimony and leadership. An unlearned, unlettered deacon named Stephen mystifies the doctors of the law in a spellbinding sermon that precipitates his being stoned to death. The remainder of the book highlights the ministry of the Apostle Paul—a ministry that entails the most amazing missionary journeys the world has ever witnessed. On every page it is evident that God is using human hands and feet to accomplish His work. But it is also equally clear that those same hands and feet are filled and directed by the Holy Spirit.

 

How is this Balance lost?

 

I believe this loss of balance happens when in our zeal to see God’s work advance we become willing to rely on human wisdom, secular institutions, religious denominations, or political activism as the catalyst for change or advancement. These are shortcuts that may give the appearance of success, but, in the long run, they will fail to bring about lasting change. Christians and churches alike often turn to everything from marketing strategies to politics for the cultural and spiritual changes that actually can only come by grace. How often have you heard a pastor or a politician make the statement that the only way to effect cultural change is to send the right man to Washington? This is the false notion that change comes from the top down. The truth is that there must be a change in the spiritual culture at the grassroots level before anything can happen on the national level. The Wesleyan Revival plowed the ground and planted the seed for social reform in England at the grassroots level long before William Wilberforce (who was transformed by that same revival) was able to pass legislation changing the slavery laws of the nation. Churches that have an effect on lasting change are churches that are joining hands with God’s Spirit to effect spiritual and cultural change at the grassroots level of life—one man, one woman, one family at a time!

 

How does God get His job back?

 

God gets His job back when the Church recognizes that it is God alone who can effect deep and lasting change in both the hearts of men and the moral fabric of a culture. His divine management is re-established when we surrender to His full control and learn how to faithfully walk under the direction of His Spirit; when we honor His Word through prompt and careful obedience; when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and really mean it. God has His job back when we finally grasp that spiritual success is finding out what He is doing and then linking our hands with His to make it happen!

 

God Prefers Straight Back Chairs to Padded Pews

Occasionally I am privileged to speak to an audience that is composed of primarily older Christians. Recently, in one such gathering, a retired minister, who was asked to lead in prayer, recalled how God use to move back when all they had was “straight-backed” chairs and not the nice padded pews of today. I smiled inwardly as he momentarily reflected on “the good ole days.”   In his mind he could see the old shoe-boxed shaped, wood-framed tabernacle filled to capacity with “straight-backed” chairs and every chair filled with someone hungry for a divine visitation. The scene in his memory was quite different to the one before him – one of a large sprawling sanctuary filled with an abundant supply of richly cushioned pews. As I continued to mull his statement over in my mind, it seemed that God said to me, “I do prefer straight-backed chairs.” Now what took a nanosecond for me to see will take a page full of words to explain! That being the case let me quickly make it clear that God was not voicing His preference in seating options nor is that the point of this article. The point is far deeper than the foam on a padded pew and much more uncomfortable than the hardness of a straight-back chair.

The Straight-back Chair Years

When ministries are born, they often have small staffs, limited funds, inadequate facilities and very little prestige (these are the straight-back chair years). However, these deficiencies can serve as the soil out which some very wonderful organizational attributes can spring to life.

  • They create a humble dependence on God – the kind of dependence that builds faith and encourages prayer.
  • They breed a determination to do the very best one can with what one has. God is pleased when we offer Him our very best.
  • They open a door of opportunity for people to offer themselves in sacrificial service – the kind of service that develops saints, attracts other followers and builds loyalty to the mission.
  • They tend to make the exciting part of ministry the “outward focus” rather than the “inward focus.”
  • They make for a strong sense of unity.

 

All of these are characteristics that attract God’s attention, elicit His blessing and provoke Him to give mighty outpourings of His Spirit.

 

The Padded Pew Years

As a ministry organization matures, some of the natural processes of organizational development can actually undermine some of the benefits of the “straight-back chair” years.  As the organization grows in financial strength, facilities are improved, volunteers are replaced by salaried professionals, a higher level of sophistication is expected (weeding out deeply committed but less talented people) and respectability is strongly desired and generally obtained from peer organizations (these are the padded pew years). None of these things are wrong in themselves and can actually be a sign of health. However, all of them hold the potential for undermining a culture of radical reliance on God. This development process is called institutionalization and is a process that is unavoidable for any developing organization.

Institutionalization

The good side of institutionalization is the forms and processes it puts into place that aid in making the ministry efficient and effective. The downside of institutionalization is the tendency to make the organization an end in itself – a thing to be performed, perfected and promoted. Instead of the institutionalization providing a helpful skeleton to support the heart and flesh of ministry, maintaining the skeleton becomes the only point, and soon all that’s left is the skeleton, the form. Then the ossified ministry can descend into an era marked by blandness, uniformity, mission drift and preservation thinking. Rather than making an organization more useful, institutionalization has then actually taken away what made it unique, attractive and effective. Gone are some of the very things God delights in blessing.

When has Institutionalization adversely impacted a Ministry?

  1. When preaching and teaching are used primarily to advocate our priorities rather than God’s.
  2. When the focus on institutional preservation blinds us to ministry deterioration.
  3. When institutional traditions are more highly valued than Biblical truth.
  4. When institutional image is more important than institutional character.
  5. When the institution is driven by fear.

Can Dynamic Relationship and Radical Reliance be restored?

            The churches at Ephesus and Laodicea stand as eternal witnesses at how quickly institutionalization can rob a ministry of their “first love”. They also stand as perpetual guidepost for the way back to a relationship of radical reliance. The key is repentance – a sincere turning away, in both the mind and heart, from self-reliance to God! Most organizations do not turn around, but yours can.   And you don’t even have to sell your padded pews!

The Light of the World

Light is one of the great Johannine words that occurs no fewer that twenty-one times in the fourth gospel. It is one of the two key words upon which John builds his testimony of Jesus. John describes Jesus as a light that has come into the world to light the life of every man (John1:9). Another one of John’s key words is darkness. John saw a darkness in the world that was very real and very hostile to the light. This darkness represents evil. Sinning man loves the darkness and hates the light, because the light exposes their wickedness. John takes these two themes and shows their natural opposition. He portrays a universal battleground where the forces of dark and light are arrayed in an eternal conflict. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it (John1:5). The darkness seeks to eliminate the light of Christ—to banish it from life, but the light will not go out!

This conflict is played out in the pages of sacred history. The Old Testament lets us witness everything from individual struggles with evil for the soul of a man to heavenly warfare for the soul of a Nation. In the New Testament this conflict emerges with intensity around the cradle of the incarnate Christ as the forces of darkness unleash Herod’s sword in a futile attempt to eliminate the light. The ultimate battle, however, would unfold at Calvary. The rulers of this age and the powers of darkness thought if they could only nail Christ to the cross that darkness would win once and for all. They thought the crucifixion of Christ would be the ultimate defeat and their final triumph. In fact, it proved to be just the reverse. Out of the darkness of his death came the blinding light of His resurrection victory. The light of this good news exploded out of the confines of Palestine and across the known world like a quickly spreading flame until, in a few decades, the gospel had impacted every major population center of the Roman world.

The powers of darkness responded with persecution and torture. But wild beasts and boiling oil couldn’t put out the light and the blood of the martyrs only fueled the flame. When persecution from without did not succeed, the forces of darkness turned inward and awful darkness settled down over the church. But out of the heart of that darkness, reformation fires began to burn and the light prevailed. Every counter move by the forces of darkness to extinguish the light only brought revival fires that would break out and save lives, transform nations, and change the course of history.

The darkness has used all sorts of political ideologies, human philosophies, and false religions to advance its cause. But the light always breaks through to enlighten the mind and liberate the hearts of men. As you gather with friends this Christmas season, light a candle and lift your voice in praise for light has come into the world and the darkness has not and will not overcome it!

High Places

Mention the name “High Place” and God reaches into His vocabulary and uses a word that expresses His most severe moral disgust – “abomination.” Mentioned over a 100 times in the Bible, the high places were originally centers for Canaanite idol worship. Located on mountain tops or elevated pieces of ground (hence the name high place), some of the most detestable things imaginable took place in the worship of false gods. Even before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan, Moses commanded them to demolish all the Canaanite high places … “or they shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:52, 55). Yet despite Joshua’s passionate destruction of such places, these pagan worship centers continued to plague the nation of Israel (Judges 2:12-13, 17; 1 Kings 14:22-24).
Tragically, it was Israel’s leaders who allowed worship on the high places to continue. King Solomon actually built high places for gods such as Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh (1 Kings 11:6-7). King Jeroboam established high places in Bethel and Dan so the northern tribes would not travel to Jerusalem to worship the true God (1 Kings 12:25-33). In their time each leader in Israel and Judah had to decide what he would do with the high places. When a good King would come to power, he would rid the land of idols and demolish the high places (II Kings 18:4; 23:4-20). Evil Kings, like Ahaz and Manasseh, would give full support to the high places and even offer sacrifices on them (II Kings 16:4; 21:1-3).
Over time the scriptural record notes that even among the good Kings “the high places were not taken away” (I Kings 15:14; 22:43; II Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4; 35). The surrounding cultural pressure to be like the other nations was so strong that most of Israel just “winked” at the remaining high places. Eventually, these high places became so entrenched in Israel’s culture that they seemed normal. They were so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things were, that even the best of Kings did not think to remove them. So the old high places that were an abomination to God became the “new norm” for the nation Israel.
Is there a lesson here for today’s Church? Have we accepted things into our lives (the way we behave and think) and into our culture (the values that we embrace) that at one time were considered an abomination to God? Are there issues we have grown so weary of opposing that we have simply yielded to the surrounding culture and subtly accepted them as the “new norm”? I believe the answer is yes and I believe these things are our “high places”.

“Sensuality” is one of our High Places
If we could transport Christians from the past into our present day, I think the thing that would surprise them most is how much at home we are and how tolerant we have become with the pervasive sensuality of our culture. Sexual perversion is not new to the Church. To be certain the church has always had to fight against sexual sin. It is on every list of vices in the Bible. It heads the list of things the Apostle Paul says are not fitting for a Christian. Yet today, mainline denominations are on the fast-track of accepting, even celebrating, homosexuality, same sex marriage and all other manner of sexual perversion. Even though most evangelical Christians still oppose these more blatant sins, they are far too accepting and tolerant of the sexual crudeness, vulgarity and carelessness of today’s world. Even worse, many entertain themselves with movies, television programing and novels that celebrate homosexuality, marital infidelity, fornication and nudity while often mocking purity and abstinence. This has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to cry against it. This has become the new norm!
One of the most visible indicators of the churches acceptance of this “new norm” is the immodest dress of America’s Christians. Actually the two are tied closely together. Whenever a sense of modesty is lacking, human sexually becomes fatally trivialized. And when human sexuality is reduced to consumer merchandise, the display of the body becomes the main billboard to advertise its sexual value. Even though the problem of immodest attire is widely acknowledged, few church leaders (men or women) offer guidance and biblical instruction. Their fear of becoming legalistic or offensive keeps them silent while the voice of a fallen world has no such inhibitions. This is one of our high places.

“Spiritual Mediocrity” is another High Place
With the proliferation of electronic media the average Christian has available to him more preaching and teaching – more information about the Bible and Christian living than ever before in the history of the world. We are clearly the most informed Christians that have ever lived! Yet one leading American pastor was forced to ask himself, “Why is today’s church so weak? Why can we claim more people with more conversions but have less and less impact on the surrounding culture? Why are our Christians indistinguishable from the world?” Dallas Willard’s response to this dilemma is interesting. He claims that it is not in spite of what the church is teaching but precisely because of it! He goes on to say that the church has pitched its message too low! It has offered a form of “miserable sinner” Christianity that tells believers we are but miserable sinners and that moral failure is expected. Hence we offer a gospel of “sin management” where the essence of the gospel is simply the forgiveness of sins – a message that neither offers nor expects any real transformation of life and character. As a management expert would say, “This system is designed to yield the results it is getting.”
This low level of spiritual living has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to expect anything else. This has become the new norm! But you can be assured of one thing; this is not the true gospel! The gospel not only offers the forgiveness of my sin but the real transformation of the heart! It clearly teaches that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the abundances of God’s grace we can live in full obedience to the commands of Jesus – “not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10).

“Worldliness” is a High Place
I am using the term “worldliness” in the Biblical sense as to how people “think” and subsequently “behave” (Rom. 8:5-7; 12:2) The word for world (kosmos) means an order or an arrangement of things. Hence we can define the world as “Human ability organized historically and socially into a system where humans use natural ability (their own resources) to achieve what they want and to promote what they value, a great deal of which is in active hostility to God.” The Bible defines “living in the flesh” in much the same way. When the New Testament speaks of those who live in the flesh it speaks of those whose lives are oriented around themselves and who know only their own resources. A “man of the world” or someone who “lives in the flesh” is someone who thinks and acts from a point of view that leaves God out of the equation. To them the only reality is the temporal – what they see, touch and know.
True Christian living is the antithesis of this. Christians place the eternal over the temporal. They live from an alternate reality. Their life is drawn from divine resources. This way of living is in significant contrast to the world and has two major implications for the Christian. First, he thinks differently than the world thinks! His thinking is not limited to the confines of mere human understanding. He doesn’t determine his course of action by what Godless men say, no matter how brilliant it sounds (Psa.1:1). Second, he behaves differently than those who are of this world. He doesn’t seek after the “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes” nor is he controlled by the “pride of life.” To him the world is “passing away” and lacks permanence. Hence he “sets his affection on things above” and “stores up treasure in heaven.” This makes his life recognizably different; distinctly unique from everybody who is not a Christian (Matt. 5:47). He is in the world but not of the world.
The only problem here is that the description I just wrote of the Biblical Christian is not recognizable, much less acceptable, to the average Christian today! Our obsession with the material, our addiction to more, our love of the good life and our captivation with this modern day Sodom hardly receives a slap on the hand by even the most radical of prophets. Worldliness has become so common, so ordinary, so much in keeping with the way things are, that many Christians have ceased to it see as a problem. This has become the new norm!
The high places of our lives may be varied and unique but they are all equally despised by God. We may have changed the words we use for them but God still uses that same old word from long ago – abomination!

Echoes of Eden ~ Reflections on walking with God

If there is one person mentioned in the Bible who has always intrigued Christians, it is Enoch. His biblical importance is such that he is mentioned by four of the inspired writers, yet the personal information given about him is scant. What is given can be summed up in just four simple words – “Enoch walked with God”. One might be tempted to overlook such a brief simple biography but, in the estimation of heaven, these four words speak more completely of a greater life and character than could ever be ascribed to the most renowned warrior or statesman by the whole voice of history.

Enoch’s story is remarkable for not only what is said about him but also for what is not said about him! This bit of silent but important information is tucked away in a genealogical list found in Genesis 5. This list is composed of the descendants of Adam through his son Seth. The scantest of information is provided on each firstborn male and then each descendant’s life is concluded with the same three words, “and he died.” The writer uses the technique of repetition to remind the reader that the dire judgment pronounced in Eden “you will surely die” did indeed come to pass with unfailing certainty on every son of Adam. Every one, that is, but one – Enoch! The sobering phrase “and he died” is never used of Enoch. The writer says it like this, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him”.

His story is even more remarkable when one remembers that he lived his life and raised his family in the antediluvian world. Genesis 6:5 tells us that during this time the wickedness of the human race had become so great on the earth that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time”. Yet it was in this setting that Enoch walked in such harmonious fellowship with God that he was graciously exempted from diluvian judgement as well as the universal end of all men – death. Enoch’s life proves to us that a man can live pleasing to God in whatever circumstance he may find himself. This has been true of all the saints. They have shown us that the Christian life can be lived!

Echoes of Eden

Enoch’s wonderful account of walking with God tells us as much about God as it does about Enoch. Enoch’s story repeats for us what we learned in Eden that God desires man’s fellowship. He desires a “walking relationship” with man that involves companionship, dialogue, intimacy, joint decision-making, mutual delight, and shared dominion. This is clearly stated in the creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) and beautifully illustrated by the walks God took with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Further on in Genesis we learn that God walked with Noah and Abraham. It is in these two accounts that we learn something else about God. We learn that God needs to walk with us before he can work through us. Or to say it another way, God works with his friends. When God can establish a friendship with us, then His divine activity can and will accelerate in our lives.

Reflections on Walking

Enoch’s life models for us the three simple components that are crucial to walking with God.

Faith
This is, in fact, the basic requirement for walking with God. The Hebrew writer informs us that Enoch had this level of friendship with God by faith and faith alone. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6). Now the writer of Hebrews simply asserts that faith embraces two basic convictions: First, that faith holds the firm belief that God is and that He is who He says He is. Second, that faith is confident that God will reward those who seek Him. (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)

Fellowship
Enoch’s walk of faith was one of fellowship God. When two friends walk together, they do so to enjoy each other’s company. But they are only able to enjoy the fellowship because they are in agreement one with another. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The word used for “together” gives the idea of two people moving in rhythm together, as in riding a tandem bicycle. Enoch was in perfect harmony with God’s will and way.

Obedience
The apostle John tells us “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6). One cannot walk with God and live in rebellion against Him. The overall pattern of Enoch’s life was one of obedience toward God while staying away from sin. Such obedience left Enoch with the commendation that “he pleased God.”

Enoch a Model for Today

Someone has said that if there is a crooked stick, and you want to show how crooked it is, you need not waste words in describing it, just place a straight one by the side of it. This is what Enoch did. His simple daily walk with God spoke powerfully to the world around him (Jude 14-15). We also know that such a walk has generational implications. It was his great-grandson Noah that also walked with God. Oh, let it be said of you and I that we “walked with God!”