Just from Sin and Self to Cease

by Alexei Laushkin

One of my favorite hymns is ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus.‘ Surprisingly simple and to the point. A fairly simple refrain too: ‘O for grace to trust Him more,’ and ‘Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him.’

Trust, love, grace.

Dwelling and being. Simple, straightforward, almost childlike. Not like a meaty hymn or things that are equally true of God, but just pure and to the point and life giving if we take the time to dwell in it. Consider Matthew 18:3:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

There’s something about the life of faith that has the quality of simplicity, peace, rest, and non-complexity. A profound beauty that enters into our lives of chaos and busyness and says-be still. That says to us in a decisive way, no not these things, but these things.

You see that’s what the delight and joy of children do to you. They point out your world and invite you into theirs. Theirs which is a simple, pure, delight in being in your presence, or playing outside, or just finding something funny, as if for the very first time. As a busy adult, entering into the life of a child, is jarring and very freeing. Try it sometime.

You’ll find a simplicity that pushes back against the complexities of life that to often determine the pace of our days as adults.

It’s echoed best in these lines from the hymn:

Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

Taking life, taking rest, taking joy, taking peace. It’s almost like entering into the quality of the beauty and refreshment of what it must have been like when the world was first made. Those early days in the garden. We’d want to lose ourselves in that kind of peace and wonder.

That kind of peace is an aspect of faith. It’s the aspect less tied to sin and more tied to self.

Open to New Possibilities 

Turning from self is perhaps one of the most difficult disciplines and dilemmas that Christians have faced in every age, but is particularly poignant today.

The American life is filled with kinds of promises, kinds of means of salvation, kinds of good news. If you work hard, play by the rules, you should be given a chance at a good life. It’s a great promise, but when it becomes an idol it really can drive things in unfortunate ways.

God’s presence entering into our lives can sometimes feel like a strong wind. Think of how God used the wind to part the Red Sea.The work of the kingdom can feel like a great wind, drawing us from our own-selves and complexity into something entirely different.

One response to this wind is to be overwhelmed, another response is a kind of childlike awe. That quality of humble delight is often much better suited for those moments where we are being pushed beyond our comfort zone into something much healthier.

This requires a different inner expectation. An expectation open to new possibilities, open to how God might use the circumstances of our lives for purposes we didn’t really fully imagine for ourselves. That’s an aspect of living by faith too.

God invites us to sit at his feet like Mary, to learn of his ways, to understand his purposes, to enter into the mystery which was the life of Paul’s, the mystery which was the revelation given to the Apostle John, of God working with us in real time, and making himself known to us in simple, small, but steady ways.

Like Moses encountering God at the burning bush, he didn’t know the God who would work through him to rescue God’s people out of Egypt, or the God that would speak with him as a friend, the intimacy and trust wasn’t there yet. Before Moses could speak to God and had his face shine brightly from the encounter, he had the bush. And the God of that burning bush began to re-orient Moses.

Moses needed a faith that was open to his expectations of his life changing. God met him as he was and gave signposts as he worked with Moses.

And the aspect of faith that is ok with change, is childlike.

It’s the simply taking, life, joy, and rest from God. It’s one way we know God is with us, God as Emmanuel, being open to our plans and ideas changing, because God is anchoring down the aspects of us that need anchoring for the journey ahead.

This hymn like the last one I covered, is just a profound and simple reminder, how trust and re-orienting ourselves to the living God produces some marvelous moments of joy and peace. And that childlike pleasure in the love a child has for his parent is available to us in the faith.

That’s also an aspect of journeying. Just enjoying who God is and how he works. A relief from the weights and toils and a foretaste of the kingdom.

Alexei Laushkin is Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network,  a Board Member of the Kingdom Mission Society,  and writer of the Foolishconfidence blog. His views are his own. 

 

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Just A Closer Walk With Thee

by Alexei Laushkin

There’s something very simple in these powerful lines from “Just A Closer Walk with Thee.” Consider:

I am weak but thou art strong

Singing from such a simple place. I am weak without you Lord, help me walk closer, help me draw near, help me be more confident in my walk with you. Help me know you walking with me, help me make you my desire and confidence today.

The author of this hymn, is giving us a timeless Christian prayer.

Lord I need you more, help me draw closer. Grant me the desire and unceasing focus to draw ever-closer and lean ever-nearer into my daily walk with you.

Desire is the Beginning of Christian Formation 

We have to desire and want to draw closer to God. How that desire comes about is different for everyone, but we can say desire is so key whatever the starting point.

We can also say that desire becomes a great treasure to us, a pearl of great price, helping to cement our deepening love and walk with the Lord. At that point we start seeing the fruits of living a fully Christian life. Not the fruits of changed circumstances, but the fruits of a God who brings in his wings, healing, worth, affirmation. We begin to know a God who says, I know you very well, and I am well pleased with you, I am glad I made you and took the time to create you. I delight in you because you are my son, you are my daughter, and that’s reason enough. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, to me you are very worth while.

For many that kind of deep and intimate loving affirmation is really what helps them know and see a truly loving God.

Usually when we know him well and we feel the love of him knowing and accepting us fully, wanting to know him better comes fairly naturally to us. The way you might miss a friend or loved one, you begin to miss the Lord when your attention has been drawn away from him. And so you strive to make more complete the promises of faith so that they might re-anchor and re-orient your sense of time and meaning and purpose. 

When this occurs, no matter what happens to the Christian that simple confidence of faith is never shaken. Christianity displaces the life of the Christian, it re-orients his sense of time, it re-orients his loves, it re-orients his commitments, it displaces secular time, and fills him with great joy, because it is durable through the trials, waves, temptations, storms, pains, and tragedies of life.

It’s durable not as an escape from time, but as a reformation of time, a re-orientation of time, through the Holy Trinity we are drawn into God’s sense of time and goodness and provision, and that sense is so much more trustworthy and durable and full than the day to day we used to experience that it grants us great contentment, because our contentment is re-oriented towards the kingdom of God.

This is the victory of the saints. His blessed assurance. Not well being, but a very intimate and loving God who intervenes and makes things well in this life and the one to come through his presence. This is the ark of rescue, and in this way Jesus makes a mockery of the sin, evil, and decay in this world.

Begins with the Daily Walk 

This victory is for the Christian, and it is accompanied by the prayers of desiring that closer walk.

Just a closer walk with you, that’s my plea. Jesus grant it, let it be. Daily drawing closer to thee. Let it be Lord, let it be.

Alexei Laushkin is Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network,  a Board Member of the Kingdom Mission Society,  and writer of the Foolishconfidence blog. His views are his own.