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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Living in Exodus

by Alexei Laushkin

The Exodus is a pivotal moment for the people of God. They are rescued from Egypt, where their lives were filled with slavery, toil, and oppression and they make it to the desert on the way to the promised land.

And what do they encounter? They encounter their hearts which are filled with self-slavery, self-toil, and self-oppression. They exchange the hardship of Egypt for the hardship of their own inner life.

And this inner life provokes them against God even in the midst of great blessing, and God having known and foreseen His people’s sin waits and tests and sees if they will repent and turn.

For that is open to all of us who know the mercy of God, to turn towards him during the times of trial and great difficulty, especially as we are often deeply caught up in our own sin. We turn, he responds.

Yet instead of turning and even while being daily provided for and being rescued from enemies far stronger than them, they wrestle with God.

The God who single handedly freed them from Egypt now keeps them in the desert for 40 years.  You can almost hear echoes of the famous hymn lines:

Born to wander Lord I feel it, born to leave the God I love

Every since Genesis God has been in the process of reconciling with his people. First we have Noah, where God provides a rescue plan, an ark, and a covenant.

Than we have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Jacob is one of the more interesting of the old Patriarchs, for he steals his brother’s birthright and is hounded by his conscience. Jacob is the father of Israel, and he wrestles with God, wrestling with his identity and God’s promises, wrestling with how he has made and what he wants and what God wants of him.

Jacob is  a man like us, unsure and wrestling with the sin within.

You see, since Genesis we are waiting for restoration, we are waiting for Jesus.

Jesus enables a restoration from our fallen nature of sin into the glorious freedom of the children of God. He is our justification from living like Jacob at his worst, or David at his worst or ourselves at our worst, to where Adam was before the fall. He restores and heals our fallen nature. Not all at once (though justification is all at once) but through a process.

Through a journey, into the wilderness. 

The wilderness was a time of testing for the people of God. Would they wait, would they stay focused even while everything was provided for, would they be content with trusting God’s goodness.

The desert tested God’s people, remove the comfort from a man and he’s lifted with a heart that is miserly, desires that are unmet, and a total lack of contentment.

Perhaps you yourself have felt these desert moments. These times when God seems absent, though he may be providing your every need, where your heart seems to wander and get lost in its own discontent.

God’s people having been rescued from Egypt, are in the desert. Their memories quickly fade, they begin to question Moses, they know God is with them, but what sort of God lets us wander aimlessly, when do we get to become like the Egyptians great and strong, instead of weak and dependent, a wandering nation.

Can you hear some of the dialogue of what might have been desired and yet what was experienced.

Yet God’s rescue plan for humanity is playing out in this same desert. His trying of character, as in the days of Abraham, so in the days of Noah, so in the days of Moses, is there no one who will follow me? Is there no one righteous to be found?

Why is God asking these sorts of questions of humanity? Like waters in a desert stream is the man who can trust in God despite his circumstances. You see our ultimate rebellion was to trust in ourselves, and so we reap what we sow. But when we trust in God even if nothing good occurs we reap a rich inner harvest for this life and the life to come.

Consider the very lives of Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Moses, and David. Where any of their lives simple? Where they not harassed, constantly facing danger and toil, and yet the Lord God delivered them from all these challenges, temptations, and tribulations.

Blessed is the heart of a man who is stayed on God and knows Christ as his true dependence, whatever he may face in outer oppression (matters of Justice) or inner oppression (matters of the heart). For both can derail a man from trusting God in his wilderness, and yet dependence, and yet blessed is the main whose heart remains focused and steadfast whether he sees oppression from without and from within.

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.