The call of God upon our lives is most profound and all-prevailing. The image which surrounds this call is that of the cross. Accordingly, before we address ourselves to what God requires of us we are wise to consider what God required of His Son.
The only way of salvation is that of the cross and the only One who can bring salvation is the Son of God; Jesus Christ the LORD. And He did it. He bore the cross, His cross for me. We so easily read that the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal.2:20) and yet do we realise that His experience was that of giving Himself totally so that we might be saved; so that we might be blessed. Consequently we sing “you gave up everything for me; suffered at the hands of those you had created” (see Praise! Hymnbook; 743).
The question then comes if He gave up everything for us then how much will we give up for Him? This leads us into the teaching which God has for us concerning the lifestyle that pleases Him. Such a lifestyle is a cross centered and patterned lifestyle. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:27). These are the searching words of our Lord Jesus.
Let us think then of what it is to live the life of the cross. The image we have to have fixed in our minds is that of a convicted criminal in Roman times. He has been sentenced to die and that death was the death on a cross. He is given a cross and forced to bear it to the place of his crucifixion. If you saw such a man there would be three conclusions you would reach:
he has finished with this world.
he is finished with living his own life.
he is destined for another world.
These three things are the axioms which should govern the life of the Christian. Our lives should be finished with this world, a denial of our own lives and focused on the next world.
Paul summarises these essentials when he says you are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies (1 Cor 6:19b-20a). Accordingly, how sad it is that Paul has to report to the Philippian Christians that he has no-one like Timothy for everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:21). Remember in saying this Paul is writing about the Christians that are around him. How distressing it must have been for Paul to have seen so many Christians putting their own interests before Jesus Christ.
And is it any different today? How many among God’s people say; I will give more when I have more money. They say I will go to church when I have the time or it is convenient for me. They say they are concerned about others, but they never call them or visit them. They have homes and provisions, but fail to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Pet. 4:9). Our lives then should be cross-shaped lives governed by the desire that Christ would always be pre-eminent.
Our attitude to God is also shown in our attitude to the place where God has promised to dwell. In the Old Testament God chose to place His Name in the city of Jerusalem. That was His special place on earth. And in particular the temple, in Jerusalem was the focus of His operations and delight. Accordingly, you could tell how much a person was delighting in God by how much he was delighting in God’s place. Read Psalm 122 and you will see the delight of a man who was appreciating the house of the Lord and Jerusalem wherein it stood.
Likewise today God has His special place. It is not a building; it is a people. When Christians gather together, being properly constituted as a church, then that is God’s special place. And, as a general rule, you can tell how much someone is delighting in God by how much they are committed to their church. The writer to the Hebrews therefore urges us to not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:25).
Some say I will put God and His place first when I have resolved my present problems and I find I am in better spiritual shape. The reality is though that such people generally never sort themselves out. The antidote to all our failings in this realm is to put God first. The believers in Malachi’s day were failing in their giving and seemingly were oblivious to their failure (see Mal. 3:8-9). Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Mal.3:10).
This immortal word from the LORD follows all of us down the ages who refuse to put God first. He says put me to the test and see what I will do. If we put him first he promises to bless.
This abiding challenge / promise ties in with two abiding principles of God’s Word. They are:
Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained (1 Sam. 2:30b) is what the LORD declares.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Gal 6:7). Someone who gives the cross priority in His life will know the blessings of the cross. Someone who puts themselves first will only be blessed by themselves and that is miserable.
Let us then heed God’s call and put Him first in our lives. We will never regret that; neither in time nor in eternity.
(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of November 2007)