REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 52: The world is costing me too dear!
One of my abiding memories, for which I am exceedingly grateful, are stirring hymns, mainly from Golden Bells [Published by Scripture Union]. I can still remember the numbers of some, from the 1960’s where they formed the staple diet of our youth group singing. What a blessing. Not only because of their encouragements but equally for their warnings. In number 204: Tell me the old, old story, the last verse runs: Tell me the same old story, When you have cause to fear, That this world’s empty glory, Is costing me too dear. Yes and when that world’s glory. Is dawning on my soul, Tell me the old, old story- Christ Jesus makes thee whole [K. Hankey].
The world we live in has been made by God [Genesis 1], continues to be sustained by the Lord Jesus [Colossians 1:15-20], provided for by God [Psalm 104, Matthew 5:45], yet sadly, universally ungrateful to Him [Romans 1:21], rebellious to Him and therefore under His judgement [1 John 2:15-17]. Yet remarkably, it is into this very same world that Jesus came [John 1:1-14], as the greatest and truest expression of God’s love for the world [John 3:16]. Even the good things of this world, are to be received with gratitude and joy and not despised [1 Tim 4:1-8].
How then can this world cost me too dear? Why are we encouraged not to be conformed to the pattern of this world [Romans 12:1-2]? Basically because the world seeks to ‘squeeze us into its own mould’ [J B Phillips paraphrase of Romans 12:2], encouraging us to fall in line with its agenda to take all God’s gifts, without thanking Him or adhering to His agenda. David Hewetson expressed this folly ever so clearly: What a staggering thing it is that men who as guests in God’s world not only do not speak to Him, they do not even speak about Him, and carry on as if he did not even exist. This conspiracy of silence, in our own land [those in less developed nations are much wiser and are keener to speak of Him], is not organised, but directed by the Devil, who continues to blind the eyes of most, hoodwinking us into thinking we have no need of a Creator, and certainly not of His Son, as Saviour and Lord. The peer group pressure to not speak of Him is catastrophic. Dean Inge issued this sober warning: whoever marries the spirit of this age, will find himself a widower in the next. But this conspiracy of silence has fatal consequences.
David Brainard, however, speaking in 1742, reminds us of the better and more nourishing path:
Farewell vain world Your charms may gratify
My soul bids you Adieu: A sensual mind,
My saviour taught me But cannot please
To abandon you. A soul for God designed.
The great, and abiding paradox of Christian discipleship is, that the more we find our real pleasures in our gracious Heavenly Father, the freer we will be to fully enjoy the good creational gifts He delights to bestow on us. Thankfully the pandemic has been helping many to enjoy friends and family, where mandated absences have made our hearts grow fonder. The real test as to whether we learn anything from the pandemic is whether we revert to our contentment with His gifts rather than fellowship with Himself. Octavious Winslow sets the choice before us all, believers and unbelievers alike: Love to God will expel love to the world; love to the world will deaden the soul’s love to God.
Our Lord put the contrast clearly before us in two memorable passages. The first in His call to follow Him: What good is it for one to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self [Luke 9:25]. And the reason is set forth in the second, as He speaks about the presence of the Holy Spirit: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid [John 14:27].
Commenting on Romans 12:2 Leenhardt reminds us: what madness it is to join in this puppet show, which is displayed on a tottering stage. The madness is magnified when we believers recall that he has called us to that which is firm, solid and eternal [Hebrews 11:8-16, 1 Peter 1:3-9], for our own security and joy, but also so we can make a difference to those whose hopes are tied to the tottering stage [Matthew 5:14-16, 7:13-14]. The only way to enjoy the world is to forsake it in favour of the One who came from the real world of God and eternity. By so doing we are released from earth’s bondage to keeping up with the Jones’s and building sandcastles [Matthew 7:24-27]. Investing in eternity, by trusting and keeping in step with Jesus, is what we been wonderfully designed and redeemed for.
Peter Brain 1st December, 2020