The Experience of Christian Community– Lent with Bonhoeffer Day 23– Purity 995
Purity 995 03/20/2023 Purity 995 Podcast
Purity 995 on YouTube:
Today’s photo of a winding wooden pathway through a field of green comes to us from yours truly as I captured this scene back on May 28th of 2019. It somewhere in upstate NY but you have to forgive me for not remembering where. I work all over the capital district and frequented many a park and hiking trail in Columbia County as well in the last several years so I don’t recall where this is, but it was and is cool. Also that year, 2019, was probably one of the most tumultuous years of my life because I was in the limbo of the time between filing for divorce and waiting for the lawyers to do their jobs, something they didn’t decided to do until the judge threatened us with trial, so you will have to forgive me if I don’t remember where this pathway is. But boy, can I rejoice over the fact that even in the most tumultuous times in my life, I still took some time to enjoy my life by “getting away from it all” with a simple walk through the beauty of God’s creation.
Well, It’s Monday and it is officially the first day of spring, and I don’t care what the weather is like outside, let me encourage you with the fact that spring has sprung and eventually the evidence of the season will be seen and all our doubts about whether or not spring would ever get here will fade away. It may not “feel” like spring, but our feelings don’t always tell us the truth.
Likewise, there will undoubtedly be times in our walk of faith where we will have to stand on the truth of what God’s word says rather than how we feel. Once we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are new creations and we are given everything we need for life and godliness. But we still have all our pre-Christ memories and habits with us, and it may take a little time to see the evidence of our new spiritual life manifesting in our daily lives. Add to this the spiritual forces of darkness who are angry that they have lost you to the kingdom of God and who will do anything to kill, steal, and destroy us and the joy of our salvation, and it is no wonder why we may struggle to full accept that “It is finished” – that we are forgiven, adopted, children of God who have power over sin and death.
But the truth is the truth, and the sooner we accept it the sooner we will start to display the evidence of our new life in Christ. You may not feel holy but you are holy. You may not see “brand new” but you are. You may not feel free but God has set you free. So believe it, receive it, and live it!
One way we can live this thing called the Christian faith is by doing the spiritual practices that will both grow our capacity to live a life of faith and that will simultaneously be evidence of our changed life. Prayer, Bible study, simply believing we are new, worshiping the Lord, praising the Lord, thanking the Lord, singing to the Lord, and showing God’s love to others through kindness and good works are all ways that we can show the world and ourselves that we are indeed Christians and have been forever changed by the new life God has poured into us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
So let’s take one more step into our new lives in Christ by walking into the 23rd Day of Lent (they do skip the Sundays- in case you were wondering) by continuing our current series and the 23rd Day of the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
As a reminder, and as we will say each day of this journey, we take this path to mark the season of Lent and to draw closer to God in anticipation of the celebration of Easter, knowing that if we take this journey of repentance seriously, we will not only see the days and seasons change, the Lord will use it to change us too.
You can sign up to get this devotional yourself by going to the Biblegateway link on the blog ((https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/40-Day-Journey-Dietrich-Bonhoeffer/today)) .
“There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting and blissful experience of genuine Christian community at least once in her or his life.
But in this world such experiences remain nothing but a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life.
We have no claim to such experiences, and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of gaining such experiences.
It is not the experience of Christian community, but firm and certain faith within Christian community that holds us together.
We hold fast in faith to God’s greatest gift, that God has acted for us all and wants to act for us all.
This makes us joyful and happy, but it also makes us ready to forget all such experiences if at times God does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not by experience.”
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called․that you might inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9
Questions to Ponder
- Why is “the uplifting and blissful experience of genuine Christian community” somewhat rare?
M.T. Clark: It is rare because Christianity is so rare today and because the world, the flesh, and the devil do everything to pull us away from experiencing it. Although we are Christians, we are still imperfect people who have to work and find our way in this world, to provided for ourselves and our families and to endure the various trials that come from walking through life in a world broken by sin. We can be distracted. We can be offended. And our neighbors can be those things too. So when we have a uplifting and blissful experience of genuine Christian community we should rejoice because we can truly know that God is with us and has guided us all to be together in harmonious commune that overcomes the world, the flesh, and the devil.
- What is the “firm and certain faith” that holds Christians together even when there is conflict and tension between them?
M.T. Clark: The firm and certain faith that holds Christians together even when there is conflict and tension between them is our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and the belief that God is still in charge and is moving all thing together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The reason we can have a firm and certain faith is because God doesn’t change and His word will endure forever. Regardless of our feeling or our current circumstances, we can stand firm and certain with the Lord.
- What does it mean to say: “We are bound together by faith, not by experience”?
M.T. Clark: The statement: “We are bound together by our faith, not by experiences” points to the fact of God’s immutability – He doesn’t change. The work of Christ has been performed. It is finished. And when we put our faith in Him as Lord and Savior, we stand firm and certain on what has already been done for us. We are bound together by our relationship to God through Jesus, not on our experiences of harmony here on earth, which are subject to change. Our faith is based on facts, not on feelings. So even though we may have moments of blissful harmony in the body of Christ, our common bound is not based on them, it is based on the unchanging, trustworthy God who made us and called us to have peace with Him through Jesus.
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes. Psalm 133:1-2
- Write about an “uplifting and blissful” experience of genuine Christian community in your life.
M.T. Clark: The easiest example of “uplifting and blissful experiences of genuine Christian community” in my life are memories of various worship services where the community of faith was united in praising the Lord in song. I fully endorse and recommend loud enthusiastic singing as a spiritual practice, individually and corporately, because when we are singing praises to the Lord it may be the most appropriate thing we can do as Christians – it’s right – and the Holy Spirit also uses it to transform our hearts and minds as we bond relationally with the Lord and with the body of Christ. It’s the expression of the fruit of joy in our lives, and it gives glory to God and demonstrates our faith experientially. We need each other to have these experiences of genuine Christian community, but we have to be engaged individually to participate in it and whether or not we are bonded to our brothers and sisters present in the building, the bliss comes from experiencing the Lord’s presence in our midst.
- Write about a time when faith kept you in community even though the experience of community wasn’t so good at the time.
M.T. Clark: Oh plenty of times! Some worship services aren’t so great, sometimes people aren’t getting along, and sometimes the trials in our lives prevent us from being in community. But you keep going to corporate gathering, because the word calls us to and because going to church is part of who we are now. Even if I am “not feeling it”, I go to worship the Lord because it is the right thing to do and often the experience of going changes my attitude by reminding me of the goodness of God and what He has done in my life.
Think about your community of faith. If there is any conflict or tension in the community, pray that faith in the unity given by Christ would sustain the community as it seeks to resolve the conflict. If the members of your community of faith are presently at peace with one another, thank God for the experience of unity.
I pray for my community of faith today as recent messages have caused offense as the seating policy of “moving to the middle” has caused some to leave the fellowship all together. I pray for those who left and for those who remain to not let this policy to make room for others cause them offense and to lose focus on the reason we are gathered in the first place, to worship you Lord. Help us Lord to move forward in harmony, united in our hearts to worship you with joy.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Prayer for Today
Lord, I need Christian community. Help me to be there for others in the same way I need others to be there for me.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
(40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.)
***As we are being provided with Bible verses from the 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we will are taking a break from sharing a verse of the day from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”. We plan on resuming that normal installment of the blog following Easter.***
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from A.W. Pink’s “The Sovereignty of God.”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase A.W. Pink’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
By ARTHUR W. PINK
OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD HIS SOVEREIGNTY
What then ought to be our attitude toward the Supreme Sovereign? We reply,
3. One of entire resignation
A true recognition of God’s Sovereignty will exclude all murmuring. This is self-evident, yet the thought deserves to be dwelt upon. It is natural to murmur against afflictions and losses. It is natural to complain when we are deprived of those things upon which we had set our hearts. We are apt to regard our possessions as our unconditionally. We feel that when we have prosecuted our plans with prudence and diligence that we are entitled to success; that when by dint of hard work we have accumulated a ‘competence’ we deserve to keep and enjoy it; that when we are surrounded by a happy family no power may lawfully enter the charmed circle and strike down a loved one; and if in any of these cases disappointment, bankruptcy, death, actually comes, the perverted instinct of the human heart is to cry out against God. But in the one who, by grace, has recognized God’s sovereignty, such murmuring is silenced, and instead, there is a bowing to the Divine will and an acknowledgment that He has not afflicted us as sorely as we deserve.
A true recognition of God’s sovereignty will avow God’s perfect right to do with us as He wills. The one who bows to the pleasure of the Almighty will acknowledge His absolute right to do with us as seemeth Him good. If He chooses to send poverty, sickness, domestic bereavements, even while the heart is bleeding at every pore, it will say, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right! Often there will be a struggle, for the carnal mind remains in the believer to the end of his earthly pilgrimage. But though there may be a conflict within his breast, nevertheless, to the one who has really yielded himself to this blessed truth there will presently be heard that Voice saying, as of old it said to the turbulent Gennesareth, “Peace be still”; and the tempestuous flood within will be quieted and the subdued soul will lift a tearful but confident eye to heaven and say, “Thy will be done.”
A striking illustration of a soul bowing to the sovereign will of God is furnished by the history of Eli the high priest of Israel. In 1 Samuel 3 we learn how God revealed to the young child Samuel that He was about to slay Eli’s two sons for their wickedness, and on the morrow Samuel communicates this message to the aged priest. It is difficult to conceive of more appalling intelligence for the heart of a pious parent. The announcement that his child is going to be stricken down by sudden death is, under any circumstances, a great trial to any father, but to learn that his two sons—in the prime of their manhood, and utterly unprepared to die—were to be cut off by a Divine judgment must have been overwhelming. Yet, what was the effect upon Eli when he learned from Samuel the tragic tidings? What reply did he make when he heard the awful news? “And he said, It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good” (1 Sam. 3:18). And not another word escaped him. Wonderful submission! Sublime resignation! Lovely exemplification of the power of Divine grace to control the strongest affections of the human heart and subdue the rebellious will, bringing it into unrepining acquiescence to the sovereign pleasure of Jehovah.
Another example, equally striking, is seen in the life of Job. As is well known, Job was one that feared God and eschewed evil. If ever there was one who might reasonably expect Divine providence to smile upon him—we speak as a man—it was Job. Yet, how fared it with him? For a time the lines fell unto him in pleasant places. The Lord filled his quiver by giving him seven sons and three daughters. He prospered him in his temporal affairs until he owned great possessions. But of a sudden the sun of life was hidden behind dark clouds. In a single day Job lost not only his flocks and herds but his sons and daughters as well. News arrived that his cattle had been carried off by robbers, and his children slain by a cyclone. And how did he receive this intelligence? Hearken to his sublime words: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” He bowed to the sovereign will of Jehovah. He traced his afflictions back to their First Cause. He looked behind the Sabeans who had stolen his cattle, and beyond the winds that had destroyed his children, and saw the hand of God. But not only did Job recognize God’s sovereignty, he rejoiced in it, too. To the words, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,” he added, “blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Again we say, Sweet submission! Sublime resignation!
A true recognition of God’s sovereignty causes us to hold our every plan in abeyance to God’s will. The writer well recalls an incident which occurred in England over twenty years ago. Queen Victoria was dead, and the date for the coronation of her eldest son, Edward, had been set for April 1902. In all the announcements which were sent out, two little letters were omitted, D. V.—Deo Volente: God willing. Plans were made and all arrangements completed for the most imposing celebrations that England had ever witnessed. Kings and emperors from all parts of the earth had received invitations to attend the royal ceremony. The Prince’s proclamations were printed and displayed, but, so far as the writer is aware, the letters D. V. were not found on a single one of them. A most imposing programme had been arranged, and the late Queen’s eldest son was to be crowned Edward the Seventh at Westminster Abbey at a certain hour on a fixed day. And then God intervened and all man’s plans were frustrated. A still small voice was heard to say, “You have reckoned without Me,” and Prince Edward was stricken down with appendicitis, and his coronation postponed for months!
As remarked, a true recognition of God’s sovereignty causes us to hold our plan in abeyance to God’s will. It makes us recognize that the Divine Potter has absolute power over the clay and moulds it according to his own imperial pleasure. It causes us to heed that admonition—now, alas! so generally disregarded—“Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (Jas. 4:13–15). Yes, it is to the Lord’s will we must bow. It is for Him to say where I shall live, whether in America or Africa. It is for Him to determine under what circumstances I shall live, whether amid wealth or poverty, whether in health or sickness. It is for Him to say how long I shall live, whether I shall be cut down in youth like the flower of the field, or whether I shall continue for three score and ten years. To really learn this lesson is, by grace, to attain unto a high form in the school of God, and even when we think we have learned it we discover, again and again, that we have to relearn it.
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1949), 193–196.