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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 69
August 1996

IN CHRIST


It's a mystery, and like all good mysteries it compels, it draws us into its depths. It may begin with confusion, or at least questions left unanswered. Or we may think we know the extent of it, only to discover later that we have barely broken the surface. Then come doubt, feelings of inadequacy, maybe even anger over the realization that what we thought we knew was barely more than an illusion. But after that comes the opportunity to finally apprehend that which was before only habit, only words.

 

Immersion

We are presently in the midst of the Olympics, and some of the earlier events have been those held in the swimming pool or, more precisely, the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center.

Being someone who has never been at home in the water, someone for whom it took years of prodding and ridicule before I'd even put my head under water, I've marveled at the familiar ease with which the athletes live with and in the watery depths. They clearly seem more at home immersed in the pool than high and dry atop the deck.

Just as those swimmers are in the water, so too is the believer in Christ. The one completely submerged -- surrounded on all sides by the liquid environment -- is the perfect picture of the one who has let him or her self be totally submerged in the person of Jesus Christ. And, just as even the most expert swimmer is going to swallow some water, so will the one in Christ begin to ingest part of His personality and ways.

But what does it really mean to be "in Christ"? It has become a familiar part of the Christian vernacular, and as such, it has become for many people a meaningless mantra that can take any one of a number of different forms.

When we sign our correspondence we might write something like "Love in Christ ..." or "Your sister in Christ"; when we end our prayers we dutifully recite, "In Jesus' name, amen"; we might tell a fellow believer that we "love them in the Lord"; in worship, we sing hymns that contain phrases such as "Rejoice in the Lord" or that we are to "glory in Christ Jesus".

We can "hope in the Lord" or put our "trust in God". We can be "faithful in the Lord" or pronounce "blessings in His name."


Just two small, insignificant letters, but they hold in their union a veritable universe of meaning. In those two small letters is held the essence of the relationship Christians enjoy with God because of the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus Christ. Every other religion is a codified system in which the adherent spends his or her life standing on the outside looking in; with Christ, we are in. With every other religion the supplicant pleads to a silent lord, all the while wondering, "Does my god hear?" Through Christ, we look up and say, "Abba, Father."

 

SEALED FOR LIFE

The traditional baptism by immersion, in which the pastor or elder conducts the believer down into the waters, is an exquisite picture of how we are brought into the presence of God the Father through the gentle leading of Christ our Savior.

I have never seen it happen where the candidates enter the baptismal by themselves, flop down into the water, then flounder back up and walk out on their own. They are always received by the pastor, who then gently lowers them down into the water, lifts them back out, and takes them by the arm to lead them out safely.

We do not -- indeed, cannot -- come into God's presence without Christ.

But Jesus is more than just a gateway or badge of entry. He is the one who takes us by the hand and gently conducts us into the Father's presence. It is He who vouches for us, verifies to the Father that we are now His possession. Because of Him we cease to be mere spectators and become fellow heirs.

Heaven would be a frightening contemplation were it not for Jesus Christ. We have as proof the narratives in Scripture of those who experienced the throne of God without benefit of Christ. Take Isaiah, for example, who found himself standing before "the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted" ...

But in Christ, we need not fear the one who has become our Father.

A Child of the King

My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King:
With Jesus my Saviour,
I'm a child of the King.

My Father's own Son, the Saviour of men,
Once wandered on earth as the poorest of them;
But now He is reigning forever on high,
And will give me a home in heaven by and by.

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth;
But I've been adopted, my name's written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown.

A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They're building a palace for me over there;
Tho' exiled from home, yet still I may sing:
All glory to God, I'm a child of the King!

             Harriet E. Buell


In the sacrifice of Jesus we have so much more than simple permission to enter through the Pearly Gates. Because of Him -- His life, His truth, His death, His resurrection -- we are actual sons and daughters of God the Father. Because of the blood Christ shed at the cross, we enjoy absolute and total membership in His family, with all rights and privileges.


So what? What does this mean to the believer?

Just for a moment, let me have a private word with anyone who has ever felt disenfranchised -- anyone who has ever felt they were outside the mainstream, outside the 'in' crowd. (The rest of you can please pardon us for a moment.)

Who among us can forget the embarrassment of standing uneasily shifting from side to side in the grass, waiting while everyone else but you is picked for the pickup football or basketball game. Let's be honest: it felt crummy. Who can forget how it felt to be turned away at the neighborhood club house, to be told that you didn't pass muster, so couldn't come in and join the rest of the kids. It felt terrible.

Do you remember what it felt like when a cluster of people looked over toward you and snickered? Maybe you dressed funny, maybe you were overweight, or your parents didn't make enough money. Whatever the reason, you were being made fun of -- and excluded.

Okay, you're all grown up now, and childish episodes like that haven't happened for years. How about applying for a job, and being turned down when you were, to all appearances, qualified. How about applying for a loan, and being turned down because just once, years ago, you missed a payment on the electric bill. Or what about the time you asked someone for a date, and they looked like they might explode with laughter as they turned you down. Or maybe the club you tried to join let you become a member, but you never did feel a part of it, felt always the outsider.

All these things, and many more, have happened to all of us from time to time. In varying degrees we've experienced a lifetime of being made to feel that we didn't belong, or weren't good enough, or weren't ... whatever.

But the wonderful truth of life in Christ is that no matter what anyone else says -- no matter what anyone else thinks of you -- you are in. And just look at the company you keep; you can look boldly toward heaven, toward the omnipotent Creator and Lord of the universe, and declare: "O God, You are my Father -- I am your child!"


Selah
Sealed for Life
Joshua 22:25 Joshua 22:27 Romans 14:14
Romans 16:3 Romans 16:7 Romans 16:11
1 Cor. 1:2 1 Cor. 9:1-2 1 Cor. 11:11
1 Cor. 15:18-19 1 Cor. 15:22 2 Cor. 5:17
2 Cor. 12:19 Galatians 1:22 Galatians 3:26
Galatians 3:28 Galatians 5:6 Ephes. 2:13
Ephes. 2:21 Ephes. 3:6 Philip. 1:14
Philip. 3:8-11 1 Thes. 2:14 1 Thes. 4:16
2 Tim. 3:12 Philemon 1:16 Hebrews 3:14
1 Peter 5:10 1 Peter 5:14 Rev. 14:13

 

UPON THE ROCK

It is all part of a process that only begins as an event.

We may come to Christ initially by placing our trust in Him, but in so doing, we commit ourselves to living every day for the rest of our lives trusting in Him. We may initially hope to find our salvation in the Lord but, living each day with Him, the faith that began as hope unrealized matures into a hope of assured expectancy. Life in Christ moves quickly from being a moment of salvation to a walk of dependent righteousness. What began as a longing, becomes an enjoyed certainty.


The conduct of our life is a demonstration of where we have chosen to place our trust. A formal pronouncement is unnecessary; anyone around us for even a short time will quickly come to know in whom, or what, we have placed our hope or trust.

Is it possible for the process to become short-circuited? Can we experience the initial event, then somewhere along the way lose track of the process?

 

Sand Mountain

[Reinhart enters. He is dressed in a comfortable sports coat and slacks, without a tie. He addresses the audience.]

 

REINHART


It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say Jane and I grew up together. Beginning with Grade School, we seemed to pass in and out of each other's lives: sometimes pals, sometimes enemies; sometimes I had a crush on her-- (wryly) sometimes enemies. We laughed together--sometimes cried on the other's shoulder. We went our separate ways more times than I can recall--choosing different friends, different crowds. But always there was a bond between us. Years could pass without a word, but there remained something that neither of us ever had with anyone else. [Jane enters in darkness. She is dressed in similar casual attire. Lights up low on Jane UC as she looks around the Sand Mountain area.]

 

REINHART
(continuing)


So when I finally--and reluctantly--made the decision to attend my 20th High School Reunion, I hoped Jane would be there. She was, and it was good to see her. But there was something in her voice that told me to accept her invitation when she asked me to join her later at our old meeting place: Sand Mountain. [Lights out on Reinhart, up on Jane. As Reinhart approaches, widen stage area light.]

 

REINHART
(huffing and puffing)


As I recall, those fences used to be lower.

 

JANE


Well, that was at least fifty pounds ago.

 

REINHART


Oh, yeah.
(pause; looking around)

It all looks so different. I wasn't sure I was in the right place.

 

JANE


Yeah, I know what you mean.

 

REINHART
(sitting down next to her)


Have you been back?

 

JANE


Just now--for the reunion. You?

 

REINHART


Once in awhile. Not often.
(pause)

So, why this? Why here?

 

JANE
(reluctantly; a little embarrassed now to come
right out and say it)


I thought you might have some answers for me.

 

REINHART


Me? The class clown?

 

JANE


I'm serious, Reinhart.

 

REINHART


Sorry.

 

JANE
(taking a deep breath)


There's only one reason I came to this reunion: I had the time. Six months ago you would have had to make an appointment just to call me.
(pause; sarcastically)

The president of my company was very sensitive and caring about the whole thing: I showed up for work one day, and they had already stripped the nameplate from my office door. I punched the phone line to his office and my extension was dead. As a reward for 15 years of loyal service, the janitor carried my box of things out to the car for me.
(pause)

One day I was there, the next day I wasn't.

 

REINHART
(quietly)


I'm sorry.

 

JANE


Is that all you can say?

 

REINHART


I don't know what you want from me. I haven't seen you since graduation-- twenty years.

 

JANE


Two weeks after it happened, I had this incredible dream.
(wistfully)

I was walking in a winter forest. The air had that sharp bite to it; the snow was brittle--crunched under my feet. Everything was so clean and fresh; it made me feel as if all my worries were gone. All but one. I don't know what, but there was one problem lingering, hanging like a cloud over me. I was walking through the trees, and suddenly you stepped out. And because it was a dream, it was perfectly natural, of course. You smiled at me, took my hand, put your arms around me. And then I realized the cloud was gone--the last worry had been lifted.

 

REINHART


Jane, I don't know what you want from me.

 

JANE
(wistfully)


You were in the dream.

 

REINHART
(after a long pause)


Remember church camp in 5th grade? Vespers?

 

JANE
(thinking)


Vespers ...

 

REINHART


Church camp in Iowa Falls.

 

JANE


Yeah. Wasn't there this big white cross that looked out over the river?

 

REINHART


I think it was Friday night vespers. As usual, I wasn't paying attention to what was going on. I glanced over to where you were sitting, and with your face painted by the glow of that campfire, I fell in love.

 

JANE
(laughing)


With me and every other girl in camp.

 

REINHART


You stepped into my dreams that night.

 

JANE
(after a pause; soberly)


What'd you tell your wife?

 

REINHART
(going to her; with warmth)


I told her an old friend needed my help.

 

JANE


I hate class reunions.

 

REINHART
(amused)


This is your first one.

 

JANE


I hate class reunions. Everybody trying so hard to be something they're not.

 

REINHART


Uh-huh. And what have you been telling everyone who asks what you do for a living?

 

JANE
(taking a deep breath; with false bravado)


I look them straight in the eye and tell them I'm vice-president of Marketing at a prestigious New York firm.

 

REINHART


Uh-huh.

 

JANE


Then I excuse myself and go throw up.
(long pause)

We had such fun growing up here. Back then Sand Mountain was nothing but soft sand all the way down the cliff to the river's edge. You could leap right off here--head first--tumble through the sand, all the way down without a scratch. Oh, Reinhart, I'm so miserable. Why can't life still be like that? Why does all the soft sand have to be cut away from beneath you? Now you couldn't go more than a few feet without getting cut to ribbons. Where'd all the sand go? Oh, let's get out of here.

 

REINHART
(stopping her with his voice)


What I want to know is, whose name is written in the back cover of your Bible?

 

JANE
(stopping; mystified)


What?

 

REINHART


Simple question: Whose name is in the back of your Bible?

 

JANE
(thinking, then exasperated, throwing up her hands)


I don't even know where my Bible is.

 

REINHART


That's what I thought.
(pause)

When we were in ... Junior High, we sat next to each other here at the top of Sand Mountain and wrote our names in each other's Bible. It was like a blood oath. A pact. We didn't put them together with a plus sign: "Reinhart loves Jane." We didn't wrap a heart around it--we just wrote our names. We were too young to know anything about love, but we were old enough to know there would come a day when we would go our separate ways; we were old enough to know there would come a day when we would need each other. We were too young for love--but we were old enough to be friends. Friends.

 

JANE
(simply)


That's why you were in my dream.

 

REINHART


And that's why I'm here now. Jane, where'd all the soft sand go in your life? It isn't the job.

 

JANE
(irritated)


I invested 15 years of my life in a company that just shoved me out the door. I'm entitled to be just a little depressed about that.

 

REINHART


You want to jump off the cliff? I'm told it's no longer a soft landing.

 

JANE


Don't be absurd.

 

REINHART


You invited me here for answers; maybe I have one.

 

JANE


Oh really.

 

REINHART


Where's your Bible, Jane?

 

JANE
(after a pause; she knows where he's going with this)


Look, you're right. It's been years. I've been working hard on my career; that just became the priority. I was so busy with my life that I didn't leave any time for my Spiritual life.

 

REINHART
(honestly stumped by what she has just said)

How can you have one without the other? What's the difference between the two?

 

JANE


I didn't ask you here to deliver a sermon.

 

REINHART
(jumping up; agitated)


Oh, I see.
(pause)
Why is it people will listen to all kinds of drivel and accept it as gospel truth, but just hint at some Spiritual advice, and they throw up their hands: "Don't preach to me!"
(longer pause)

Jane, we haven't seen each other for twenty years, but long ago we began a friendship--and it's still there. I'm not a preacher; I'm just someone who cares about your life and how you're living it. If I have any answers, they've come by learning from my own stupid mistakes.

 

JANE


So now I'm making a stupid mistake.

 

REINHART
(emphatically)


Yes. Somewhere along the line you cut out of your life your one hope. The one constant you could always reach out to--and you've forgotten how to stretch out your hand. Have you been so long at the top of the corporate ladder? Is God just a calculator that you pull out of your briefcase whenever you need a fast answer? He's waiting for you to be a real person again; just reach out to Him.

 

JANE
(resignedly)


The wall's too thick--and too high. I can't break through.

 

REINHART
(exasperated)


No, no, no ... You've got it backwards. You're not the boss. You got fired. You don't break through the wall. He does.

[Jane says nothing, but sighs heavily. She is still resisting.]

 

REINHART
(looking up)


She doesn't want my advice.
(to Jane; sarcastically)

Okay, here you go. Stand at the edge of the cliff, rub a magic crystal while chanting a mantra, then swing a dead cat over your head.

 

JANE


Reinhart, I've been away too long. I've forgotten how.

 

REINHART


There's no magic chant. Nothing to remember. Just worship Him. Fall on your face and admit that He's God and you're not. And watch how fast He breaks through that wall.

 

JANE
(after a very long pause; with a wry smile)


I hate it when you're right.

 

REINHART
(innocently)


I would think you'd be used to it by now.

 

JANE


So, will it be another twenty years?

 

REINHART


Not if I can help it.

 

JANE
(sighing)


Time to go back into it, isn't it.

 

REINHART


'Fraid so. My wife's going to be wondering what happened to us.

 

JANE
(as they exit; turning to Reinhart)


I hate class reunions.

[Reinhart laughs and puts his arm around Jane's shoulder as they exit together.][2]


Selah
Upon the Rock
Deut. 1:32-33 2 Kings 18:5 2 Chron. 20:20
Psalm 4:5-8 Psalm 21:7 Psalm 31:24
Psalm 37:9 Psalm 40:3 Psalm 118:8-9
Psalm 130:7 Psalm 131:3 Isaiah 40:31
Galatians 2:16 Galatians 3:26-27 Ephes. 1:12-15
Philip. 3:1-3 Col. 1:4 1 Thes. 3:8
1 Tim. 3:13 2 Tim. 2:10  

 

THE SOURCE


There is a painful futility in living unto ourselves.

Just as in the Olympics we can see demonstrations of profound courage, sportsmanship and selfless determination, we can also see shameless self promotion, grandstanding, back-stabbing, oversized egos, and those for whom their own body has become their god. In few other places are there so many opportunities to see in one place examples of both honor and dishonor, nobility and stupidity.

 

Total Surrender

To live 'in the Lord' is to acknowledge that everything we have and are comes from Him. There is no power held in our hands that was not placed there by Him -- no ability or skill which was not a gift from Him. As a consequence, to live 'in the Lord' is to also be committed to returning it to Him.

Living in the Lord means precisely that: living inside Him and, by extension, the Lord living in and through us. It is the direct opposite of what happened to the errant church member spoken of by Paul in First Corinthians.

The word translated 'hand this man over' in the NIV is actually the Greek paradidomi. Here is how the same word is translated in Romans, where Paul describes the situation for the wicked:


This Greek word literally means to surrender or yield up.[4] In modern terms, we might say "Let them sink as low as they can go", let them become totally immersed in their sinful ways, hoping that when they eventually hit bottom they'll see the error of their ways.


In the opposite, more positive sense, this is the kind of total surrender that living in Christ means: a giving of yourself over to Him.

I have never witnessed a finer example of this kind of surrender to Christ than I did years ago at a church in Southern California.

This church (of which I was a member at the time, and a member of the choir) sponsored a Spanish-speaking mission that held its services in one of our Sunday School buildings. Consequently, when the time came for one or more of their members to be baptized, they would borrow the baptistry in our sanctuary.

One Sunday morning, at the start of our worship service, the pastor of the mission gave us the privilege of sharing in their baptismal service. As was the custom, the choir members turned in their seats to watch the event taking place just above and behind their heads. The baptismal service was conducted entirely in Spanish, which means I didn't understand a word being said -- I didn't understand any of the words, but I understood perfectly what was being said.

It became one of those high moments that is experienced once, but then tucked away for safe keeping and pulled out for introspection from time to time. For these were people who loved their Lord with a passion, and were eager and unashamed to demonstrate that fact.

The memory of one middle-aged woman in particular has stayed with me. She couldn't wait to get into those waters, couldn't wait to publicly demonstrate the intense love she felt for her Lord. I've heard enough Spanish to know that she was, indeed, speaking in her mother tongue, but she was also filled to overflowing with the Holy Ghost and loudly proclaiming His praise. Then when she came up out of the waters, this woman became even more effervescent in her praise, weeping with joy over her salvation. Her jubilant, vibrant spirit still rings in my ears. and, for me, this fine woman's exultant joy in her Lord has become the standard by which I measure my own enthusiasm for Jesus Christ.


That's what it's all about! That's how people behave who are living in Christ. And it begins with surrender.

Being in Christ is like filling a void -- like standing in the middle of a dry lake bed and having someone open the gates that let the waters come rushing in to surround you.

Time and again, repeatedly, we erect our wall -- painstakingly setting the stones of self, arrogance, pride, independence into the wall. We imagine that God respects our foolish self-sufficiency, when all the while He is waiting to come rushing into our lives. But He won't, until we put out the welcome mat of surrender.

It wasn't to the lost that Jesus made His familiar invitation. It was to the believers in the church at Laodicea. To people who were already members of His family He said:

To be in Christ is to open that door and let Him in -- not for salvation, but communion; not for a ticket into heaven, but for the opportunity to learn of Jesus and His ways, to begin the glorious and mysterious process of becoming like Him.


'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord."

        Refrain

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
Just in simple faith to plunge me
'Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I'm so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Saviour, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

             Louiza M.R. Stead


Selah
The Source
1 Samuel 2:1 2 Cor. 5:19 1 Thes. 4:1
1 Samuel 30:6 2 Cor. 10:17 1 Thes. 5:12
Psalm 34:2 Galatians 2:4 2 Thes. 3:4
Isaiah 45:24-25 Ephes. 1:3,20 2 Thes. 3:12
Isaiah 58:14 Ephes. 2:6-10 Philemon 1:8
Jeremiah 3:23 Ephes. 3:11 Philemon 1:23
Romans 6:11,23 Ephes. 4:32  
Romans 8:1,39 Col. 2:9-10  
1 Cor. 1:30-31 Col. 2:17  


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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Issue No. 69
August 1996

NOTES

[1.] Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 5. (return to footnote 1)

[2.] The Reinhart Dialogues: "Sand Mountain"; Copyright c David S. Lampel, all rights reserved; Order #1A3, p12 in the His Company Catalogue of plays and musical resources. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] A.W. Tozer, Renewed Day By Day: Volume One (Christian Publications, 1980). (return to footnote 3)

[4.] paradidomi, par-ad-id'-o-mee, Greek Stg 3860; from Greek 3844 (para) and Greek 1325 (didomi); to surrender, i.e. yield up, intrust, transmit:- betray, bring forth, cast, commit, deliver (up), give (over, up), hazard, put in prison, recommend. (return to footnote 4)

[5.] Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 4. (return to footnote 5)

[6.] A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest (Christian Publications, 1978), p57, 63. (return to footnote 6)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1996 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1996 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

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