Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

06 February 2014

Loving Jesus first and best

That moment when I became a Christian, taking up the faith I'd had as a child and making it my own as an adult, was more a case of bowing down before the throne of God rather than kneeling at the cross of Christ.  Which is not to say that Jesus was not important in the equation.  That was just how it was.  And that has shaped me as a Christian all these years.  My default position is before the throne of God.  I get God the Father more naturally than I get God the Son.  That's just how it is.  But at long last (God waits for us patiently) I see I have some growing to do. 

At times I long for heaven.  When I see people around me struggling, when I struggle myself and even when I just feel bone tired or stressed or worried, I long for that time when Jesus will come again and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.  What am I really longing for?  I am longing rest found in God.  That perfect rest.  But it's a selfish longing.

The other day I was reading Psalm 25.  David loves God.  He knows with all his heart, as he says in verse 10, that

All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. 

Sure as he is of God's love and His promises, David makes many requests of God throughout this psalm.

Don't let me be put to shame.
Show me your ways, teach me, guide me.
Remember your mercy and love and remember not my sins.
Turn to me and be gracious.
Look upon me and take away my sins.
Guard my life and rescue me.

I read that psalm and I read those requests and I nod my head in agreement.  Yes Lord.  But why I am nodding in agreement with David?  I know in my heart that I want those things for selfish reasons.  Get all those things right and it's comfortable.  It's a selfish longing.

But directly after verse 10, and right bang smack in the very centre of the psalm I read this.

For the sake of your name O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Being forgiven is not about me. It's not about me feeling comfortable or being seen in a good light.  It's for His sake.  That verse shot out at me like the proverbial silver bullet.  It's for His sake.

I've read through Philippians quite a number of times this year - stage one of memorising it.  And going over those words again and again is already working upon my soul.  Paul says, famously,

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know! I am torn between the two.  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Philippians 1:20-24

Paul longs for heaven.  Not to be comfortable.  Not to rest.  There's not an ounce of selfishness in his longings.  He longs to see Jesus.  And if it is not his time, then to live is Christ.

This year as I read the Bible, as I try to memorise Philippians, as I love and serve the people around me and as I think, read, pray and reflect I find I am asking God a new thing, many times a day.  Help me Lord to love Jesus first and best. 

It's not all about me.  It's not about me at all.  It's about loving Jesus first and best.

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