Friday, April 6, 2007

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone. What does that really mean? What does it mean to let Him alone be the center of our lives, to be our only source of comfort, joy, peace, satisfaction? To so fully fix our eyes on Him that everything else becomes as shadows and dust around us in the overwhelming knowledge of Him - of Who He is and what He has done? To live completely for Him, with reckless abandon for His glory and the honor due His name? I don't know honestly... but I'm starting to learn a little bit.

The song woven throughout this post is one that has ministered powerfully to me in recent months (by which I mean about the last six to eight months, not just the last couple). There's a hope and a reassurance in knowing that our hope and our strength and our song are to be found in Christ alone; a peace and a security that defy description when we begin to truly rest in His leading instead of our understanding. But it's not just about us. Pay close attention: it's really about Him. It's about the cross, about the empty tomb, about His ultimate and complete victory over sin and death. We just get to be partakers of that. I hope it's as much a blessing to you as it has been to me.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

The last months have been interesting. Exactly a month ago - though it seems much longer - God began the process of dealing with me extremely seriously and severely about certain sins in my life. It has been an excruciatingly painful process at times. The process has been one of over and over again seeing the sin and blackness in my heart for what it really is. I walk in so much pride sometimes... and it has brought immense destruction. I can't think of a single day in the last 31 that haven't opened my eyes just a little bit more to the degree to which my pride and arrogance have caused me to respond to the people around me in a mean-spirited and hurtful way. Sin has this horrible tendency to infect every part of our lives: our thoughts and words not least. And sin is also insidious. It's as if a virus has gotten in and remapped your immune system so that your body no longer even recognizes it as being alien, foreign, and destructive: but it is. Jeremiah 17:9 nails it: the heart is more deceitful than anything else.

You see, I had myself convinced that I had dealt with these sins. I was doing okay. Not well - I still had work to do, a ways to go. But I was making progress! At least, that's what I told myself. But I was lying to myself. In so many ways, I was deceiving myself, because I didn't want to go down to the black depths of my heart and see the evil there for what it was. I didn't want to see that there is horrible wickedness in me; that there is horrible sin in me. I didn't want to deal with my own pride and arrogance, and I didn't want to deal with the source of them: my own fallen notion that I am self-sufficient. Indeed, even my response and attempt to deal with that sin was prideful and self-oriented: it was a self-motivated striving to overcome out of my own strength. I wasn't letting the Holy Spirit do His perfect work in my heart; I was trying to change myself to win the approval of God and man. That's a failing proposition in every case. We are not capable of winning God's approval, and seeking man's will lead us to destruction in every case.

I didn't just see this, either. Friends and mentors and parents had all tried to gently point it out to me before March 6. I sort of acknowledged it, but ultimately, I never dealt with my sin or the deep twisting of my heart. I am blessed because those around me care about me enough to confront me with my sin in a much sterner way. God has answered the prayers that were prayed over me before I left and gave me Proverbs 27:6 friends: friends that will faithfully wound when necessary. My friends went over my head to those in authority over me and had me confronted with my sin. By God's grace, they have had the wisdom to start walking me through the process of dealing with all the blackness in my heart.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Brought with the precious blood of Christ

Sin's curse has lost its grip on me... that thought sticks with me. I have been bought with a price - the price of the blood of Christ, of God Almighty become a man, of perfect divinity given in perfect sacrifice for... me. For you. For all of fallen, tortured, corrupted humanity. The sins in me are a nasty thing. In part they are simply the outworkings of my fallen nature: of my rebellion against God and all the evil that arises from that rebellion. In part they are the response of a fallen heart to wounds that have been taken over the years - but, to be sure, an inexcusable and sinful response. As my mentor here told me, "Hurt people hurt people." I let my own previous wounds and my still un-dealt with insecurities give rise to extremely hurtful ways of communicating with people; and to very destructive patterns of thought and behavior. It is only by the grace of God that I have the kinds of amazing friends that I do. I don't deserve them; that much is certain. When Beth was out here, she rightly commented that I have amazing friends - and I do, not least because they have stuck with me in spite of the sometimes terrible ways I have treated them.

Here's the amazing, inspiring, fall-on-your-face-before-God part, though. He doesn't leave us in our sin. He calls us out of it. More than that, though: He gives us power to walk out of it, and wisdom. He convicts us, and then He shows us how to walk. He has given us all that is necessary for life and godliness. He has made a way straight before us. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. He didn't simply condemn us and leave us in our trespasses, but came so that we could be free of them. He has done that in my life. I am not anywhere near where I need to be: but I am not condemned; nor am I in chains any longer. Rather, I am being set free, little bit by little bit, every day.

It's interesting: God has been dealing with me in every area of my life, and He has brought wisdom on this from every angle. Be it my own quiet time, my meetings with those discipling me, my conversations with friends, the teachings of my pastor, the teaching at Glorieta, conversations with my parents... every one has opened up my eyes to how much farther God wants to take me; how much more He has to do before I am just a clear pane of glass that He can shine through unobstructed by all my fallenness. Just yesterday, I was talking to my mom, and she said something that broke my heart: she pointed out how much I resist the things my parents have to share with me, because I have so fiercely fought for my independence and accused them of being overbearing and parental. Are they still making mistakes and learning and growing? Yes. Do they still have immensely more wisdom than me, and hearts that are burdened for me with much that I have dismissed because of my own arrogance? Yes. It is to my shame that I have so cavalierly dismissed them.

I've tended to do that a lot. Just dismiss people and the words they bring - to not be teachable. Why? Simple. I think, at some level, consciously or unconsciously, that I am better, smarter, wiser, you name it. I don't need them. They need me. Do you hear that? Do you see how sick and twisted the things that have so long inhabited my heart are? I wish I could excise it all at once, claw it all out. But I can't. My own strength is never enough. I am comforted, though, by an analogy that C.S. Lewis once drew. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the characters finds himself transformed by his greed and some ancient magic into a dragon. When his friends are about to sail on, having discovered no cure for his state, he begins to despair... and then Aslan appears, confronts him with the need to have that dragon skin torn off. He desperately claws at himself, scraping away as much as he possible can - but to no avail. His state is just the same. After a short while, Aslan stops him with the truth that only His claws can pierce deeply enough to tear off the false dragon flesh and restore him to what he ought to be. He eagerly embraces the cure... only to find it excruciatingly painful. And one deep and agonizing clawing from Aslan doesn't do it. It takes many painful strokes - relentless, driving, merciless (and yet so merciful), before he is finally restored to what he was originally meant to be. That is exactly what God does in our lives: He tears away at the false selves we have constructed and the sin that is layered so thickly over who He created us to be until we are at last restored to the imago dei we were created to be. But it is a process, and one that is both time-consuming and deeply painful. Yet there is hope for me: though I am having to walk through difficulty now for a season, I can look ahead with hope to the finish line, and then run with endurance the race set before me.

Interesting point about that passage... we can run with endurance because our eyes our fixed on Christ alone. Not because of our own strength, or even because of our supportive friends and family and church body... but because of Christ. We can step out of the boat into the crashing waves, and whether we sink or swim depends on whether we have our eyes on us or on Him.

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

There is encouragement to be had in Jeremiah, as well. Just a few chapters after that condemnation of our hearts - of all the evil and rot that fills them so completely that they are deceptive above all else - is the following encouragement from God to His people in Israel: "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord..." So long as our hearts are truly fixed on Him - so long as we stand only in the power of Christ - He will be found by us; He will heal us and mend us and make us anew in His image.

There is no power in hell and nothing even in our own hearts that can keep us from the overwhelming love of Christ, from the power of Almighty God. Jesus does command our destiny; we are held in the palm of our Father's hand; our lives are channels in the hands of our Lord; our guidance can be from the Holy Spirit alone.

I have been in terrible sin. But there is no guilt in life and there is absolutely no power in death. This is the power of Christ in me. To those of you I have wounded - and I'm sure that is many of you - I am deeply sorry. I ask your forgiveness. More, I hope that you see the power of Christ in my life, and that you let Him continue to transform yours.

2000 years ago, he died, and then He rose again - to set us free, because He loved us.

That's worth dying for, in every way.

May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and minds; may you know the power of His love and His mighty salvation.

- Chris


  1. "No power of hell, no scheme of man" is such a comfort to me. I don't need to fear the enemy. I don't need to fear my own sinful nature. God is greater. Praise Him!

    I have always loved Lewis' analogy with Eustace and the dragon. It has been and is my heart. Only He can cleanse and set us free.

    Lift up your head, Chris, that the King of glory may come in.

    Love you!

  2. Chris, I want to show you something beautiful about you. You, my friend, are teachable. Remain there, no matter your age or status or knowledge. Remain teachable.

    My 73 year old mentor is teachable. Often, as we studied word for word through the Bible, I would comment on what I would *see* and what God was teaching me, and she would speak of how *I* taught *her*!!! She who knows SO much and has studied so extensively remained so teachable that she willingly learned from me! She taught me a lot through her example.

    There will never be another too young or inexperienced or immature or unknowledgable to teach me; may it be the same for you.

    My ex was and is not a teachable man. His pride was/is such that he always knows what he needs to know without another teaching or pointing it out to him. My ex is an extremely intelligent and brilliant man. It is his downfall.

    You, too, are extremely intelligent and brilliant. May you see it for what it is - gifts and talents from God, of God, to be used for His purposes in your life. Never were they designed to make you better than another or to be used on yourself. God purposefully filled you with remarkable wisdom and intelligence and brilliance for HIM alone.

    I am blessed and thankful to have opportunity to watch you discover these truths from afar thru cyberspace :) Not only do they warm my heart as your friend, but they give me hope and encouragement on many levels - as a momma for my girls, as a friend to others.

    And, in a more personal way, you show me that an intelligent and brilliant and extremely talented young man can make God-honoring choices. It validates the truth about my ex. He had the same freedom and opportunities to make the same choices, yet did not.

    May my life give you a view from afar of what your choices which you are making now will look like as they pan out over time. Your choices to honor God will not divide your family, they will draw it to God and to you. And it will be beautiful :) Continue to choose wisely, my friend, and you will never know what it will be like for my ex to have to answer for not doing the same.

  3. I love that hymn. We sing that at RUF sometimes. It is so full of piercing and heartfelt truth.


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