Sunday, December 23, 2012

Back to Basics

It’s almost Christmas! Only a few more days to go, and all the crazy shopping, wrapping, eating and drinking will be over. But despite its craziness, I have to say, I love Christmas. I love seeing family that I don’t get to see much of throughout the year, I love eating plenty of good food and I love finding presents that I know my friends and family will enjoy (trust me, it doesn’t happen every year!). But most of all, I love Christmas carols. I love them because they proclaim good news of great joy!

            … Peace on earth and mercy mild,
            God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies,
With angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!

Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the new born King!

I’m often blown away that for a good month and a half, every shopping centre and cafe blasts the news of Jesus’ work of salvation through their speakers. It’s amazing! I really appreciate the carols throughout the Christmas period, because they bring me back to the reason for celebrating. They bring me back to the basics of Christmas; the Son of God born in a manger, so that he might bring sinners back to God.

John Stott’s book, Life in Christ, is a true Christian classic. It brings us back to the basics of Christianity, found in Jesus. And these basic truths are so foundational, so vital and so necessary for life and faith that it is worth sitting down to read and be reminded of in the busy season, and in every season.

I love how Stott looks at the prepositions used in the Bible in relation to Jesus, to discuss a Christian life and faith, which is focused on Christ. They’re phrases we read all the time in our Bibles, but I wonder just how often we read them as familiar words without stopping to think what grand truths they are describing. 

And so in the first half of the book, Stott walks us through four of these individual phrases: through Christ our mediator, on Christ our foundation, in Christ our life-giver and under Christ our Lord. The second and fourth of these struck me the most.

As Stott helpfully points out, the stability of human lives depends largely on their foundations. What great assurance and hope we as Christians have then, to have our lives firmly built and established on Christ the rock! I have to say that, knowing of the saving work of Christ, I cannot think of any other foundation in the world that I would rather rest my life upon. And what a joy it is to rest on Christ. As he is resting from his work, having completed it once for all, we rest on His work, depending on Him alone for our acceptance with God. This should give us such great peace as Christians. For the many of us who keep (even subconsciously) trying to do things to gain God’s acceptance, Stott offers this necessary rebuke:

“Work and rest exclude one another. If we are working for our salvation, we are not at rest, but if we are resting in Christ’s finished work, then we are also resting from those feverish works we used to do to try to win God’s favour.”

Let us rely entirely on the mercy of God and His true promises to us, and not sink back into silly ideas that we need to do anything to win God’s favour.

That said, I was struck by the importance of humble obedience to our Lord and King as Stott examined the phrase “Under Christ our Lord”. We do have full assurance as we rest in Christ’s work, but this doesn’t mean we can sit around, be lazy and do whatever we want whenever we feel like it! If we are trusting Jesus as our Lord, then we need to live in submission to Him. This is something we Christian women don’t think about too much. But to obey Christ and follow Him wholeheartedly will require listening constantly to Him as we read the Bible. It will require godly decisions and godly lives. And it will require patient endurance.

I’m praying that this Christmas I can spend more time rejoicing in the rest that is mine in Jesus Christ and reflecting on what my obedience to Him will look like in the coming year and the years ahead.

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