He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)
As I meditated on this scripture this morning, God impressed upon my spirit that rather than dwelling in the shelter of the Most High God, Who so many of us claim to worship and follow, we are, instead, dwelling in the shadow of the world.
Jesus reiterates in the New Testament, that to truly be His disciple, we must abide in Him: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither you, unless you abide in Me… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:4-10).
Far too many of those who claim to belong to Christ, are living spiritually fruitless lives because they are not dwelling in the shelter of the Most High by reading, studying and living according to His word, fellowshipping with other mature Christians, nor spending significant, heartfelt time in prayer seeking His presence and will for their lives. But rather, our thoughts, desires, likes and dislikes are all shaped by the world. Instead of being products of the life-changing, transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we are products of our culture. A genuine relationship with Christ is supposed to free us from all that. When Jesus said, “Follow Me”, He was calling us to an act of surrender that would lead to our freedom. But truly, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).
The foundation of the Gospel is repentance that leads to salvation. Jesus’ first recorded words in the Gospel of Mark, when He begins His earthly ministry, are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). Jesus preached the Gospel by saying, “Repent.” To repent means to turn away from one thing and turn towards another. And Jesus said to be His disciple, we would have to do it every day, for the rest of our lives (Luke 9:23,24). Despite all our efforts to repackage the Gospel, to make it “culturally relevant”, or more appealing and “seeker sensitive”, the foundational message remains the same. We have confused “relatability” with “appeal”. Jesus never sought to make the Gospel appealing, but He did seek to make it relatable. People are affected by the Gospel of repentance and Lordship salvation because they can relate to it, not because it appeals to them.
On the contrary, the Gospel, in and of Itself, is wholly UN-appealing to sinful men. The Gospel accuses us of treason against God and convicts us of our guilt as sinners condemned to hell. The Gospel forces us to look at our desperate, lost condition, magnifying the warts of our flaws and weaknesses. It is an eternal reality-check that reminds us that we are but clay vessels, broken and shattered, useless and dead in our sins. Yet at the same time, it gives us the single, solitary answer to our wretched condition: Jesus Christ. The hopelessness of our condition is remedied through our surrender to follow Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); The Light of the World to those who live in darkness (John 12:46); The Gate for the lost sheep (John 10:7-9); The Fountain of Living Water to those thirsty for truth (John 4:10; 7:38); and The Bread of Life for those hungry for righteousness (John 6:35,48,51).
However, the transformation to newness of life offered by Christ can only come when we truly follow Him. And to truly follow Him, we must repent and turn away from the brokenness and sinfulness of our world and culture. We must die to our self so that Christ can live in us to do His work through us. Salvation in Christ is the free gift of grace offered to all mankind, through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of our life (Eph 2:8). Which begs the question we must all ask ourselves: Is my faith in Christ simply an intellectual awareness of Him, or have I truly let go and surrendered to Him as Lord? Is my faith based on an ideal? A denomination? A concept? Or do I truly know Christ as a person? Can I recognize His voice over my own? Do I have intimate knowledge of His commands and teachings? Do I long to apply His words of truth to my life?
The Apostle Paul warns young Timothy of the characteristics of many of those who will call themselves Christians in the last days. Among those characteristics, he says that they will be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Tim 3:4,5). Of this verse, Arno Froese asks, “What power are they denying?” To which he answers, “The power of turning a sinner into a saint; the power of turning a saint into a sacrifice; the power of the Gospel to take away my rights, my self-assertion, and replace it with total servitude to the Lord. That is the power of the Gospel being diminished and denied today.”