Friday, April 16, 2021

All Things

I am not claiming any sort of success, but I have been struggling for a couple years now to do "all things" in the name of Christ. There are some things I'd like to mention in connection with that.

First, if there's something I can't do in the name of Christ, I shouldn't be doing it. I think I first read that somewhere in Darby.  I have heard that used as a legalistic bludgeon to pressure people into not doing certain things. That's not at all my intention. My intention is simply to say that there are things I cannot do, and one test is whether I can do it in the name of Christ.

I can feed my chickens in the name of Christ. I can sharpen my chainsaw in the name of Christ. I can repair my truck in the name of Christ. I can even paddle my canoe in the name of Christ. But I can't commit adultery in the name of Christ or lie to a brother or sister in the Lord in the name of Christ. That's an extreme example, but it makes the point plainly: if there's something God hates, I can't do it in the name of Christ.

In one sense, this removes the idea of "grey areas" from our lives. I don't mean that it removes those areas where serious believers disagree. I mean it removes the "neither right nor wrong" places from our lives. If we are doing something in the name of Christ, then it is necessarily right. If we can't, then there's something that needs to go.

Again, I really don't believe in asceticism. I am not espousing a Christianity that doesn't include recreation: quite the opposite! I am espousing a Christianity where even the recreation is done in the name of Christ. Where hunting and fishing and hiking and playing with our children are all spiritual activities, because they're all done in the name of Christ.

Second, Colossians 3:17 goes on to give us the first step in doing "all things" in the name of Christ: it's giving thanks to God the Father through Him. So the first step to doing "all things" is to thank God the Father. This is something we miss very easily. 

I wear hiking boots almost exclusively. I spent several years working in downtown Seattle, and I commuted to work by bus. So I would put a whole lot of miles on my shoes. I eventually decided I would just switch to serious hiking boots, because my feet were starting to complain about my walking habits.

One day my boot laces wore out, so I ordered a new pair from Amazon. Of course I ordered the bright red laces, because I've always thought brown leather hiking boots need bright red laces. I commented to my wife about being grateful that my brown boots had bright red laces, and she told me I was right to be thankful, even for tiny things... and I began to understand giving thanks to God the Father in the context of "all things."

I have so much to be thankful for. Among many, many blessings are bright red laces in my brown leather hiking boots. And this, I have become convinced, is the starting point to doing "all things" in the name of Christ. Can I walk to work in the name of Christ? If I can't, I shouldn't be walking to work. If I can, it starts with "giving thanks to God the Father through Him," and for me, that involves being thankful for my bright red boot laces.

Third, we are to acknowledge God in all things. I was listening to a sermon on Acts 18, and the speaker spent quite a bit of time on "if God wills" in Acts 18:21. Here's what I took from that talk: we're not looking for a superstitious phrase we can tack on to every utterance. I really don't think it honors the Lord for people to say things like, "I'm planning to order a burger when get to the restaurant, if God wills," or "Yes, I'll have coffee, please – Lord willing." Those are silly, irreverent uses of the Lord's name. But at the same time, Paul models for us what it's like to acknowledge the Lord in our daily life (Proverbs 3:5–6; James 4:13–16). There is such a thing as vain repetition, there is also such a thing as acknowledging the Lord in all our ways.

I do this very, very badly. I seem to fluctuate between de facto atheism and mindless superstition. But if I am to live every area of my life under the Lordship of Christ, it seems to me I ought at the very least to be mindful of His Lordship over me in "all things."  So while studiously avoiding tacking on a "God willing" to the end of every statement, I am trying to learn that there is a time and place to say that, as led by the Spirit of God, of course.

Fourth, I am learning that being led of the Spirit isn't just going on autopilot, awaiting some miraculous intervention. There is a very real give-and-take in the Christian life, where there is real, significant human responsibility. 

I have told this story at length to some friends, so I won't go into tremendous detail here, but I think an abridged version is worth relating. Last summer I got a depredation elk tag, so I was all excited to go elk hunting in the early part of August, in depredation season. My hunting partner and I were out there in the woods when the sun came up, carrying rifles and packs, trying to keep quiet as we put so many miles on our boots. The whole time, I was praying that if the Lord had an elk for me, He'd put it right in front of me, with a clear shot, unmistakably from Him. The long and short of it is, He put an elk right in front of me. It wasn't the first elk we saw, but it was the first one I felt like I had a safe shot on. And I knew it was the elk the Lord had for me when she turned to give me a clear broadside shot, then stood there in the middle of the path, 170-ish yards away.

Here's what I learned from my elk hunting adventure: the Lord gave me an elk, but I had to go out and get her. And she wasn't the first elk I saw, but she was the elk who stood right in front of me and gave me the textbook shot. I wore myself out getting that elk: I spent several hours a day walking up and down hills with a pack and a heavy rifle. Did the Lord send me the elk? Absolutely! Did He make me put some miles on my boots to go get her? Yes, yes He did.

I think that's a pretty good analogy for walking in the Spirit. It's being led of God, and trusting Him for the outcome. But it's not just sitting around, waiting for Him to intervene miraculously. It's asking Him to bless, then heading out confident of His blessing. 

I had a friend who used to talk about Genesis 24:27, "I being in the way, the Lord led me." That seems to sum up a whole lot of what I'm trying to say.

My life to this point has very rarely been like that: I've spent many years sitting and waiting for Him to bless, refusing to lift a finger myself. And I've spent many years working hard to produce results for God. Neither one is walking in the Spirit. We look for His results, but we're not afraid to roll up our sleeves when He leads in that direction.

Finally, it is our looking at the glory of the Lord that makes us like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Someday He'll come physically to get us, and we'll get a really good look, and we'll be like Him immediately (1 John 3:2). We're not called to be something we're not: we're made in God's image, and that's not something we're supposed to leave behind. But at the same time, we're called not to show ourselves, but to show the life of Jesus manifested in mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:6–12). These two truths have been very hard for me to see at the same time, but the longer I go on, the more important it is for me to keep them both in view.


No comments: