Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 11, 2019
It’s all about Christ, not me
Somewhere I came across a charming little poem that begins with the words, “Elizabeth Bates has been to Rome.” Elizabeth, as described by the poet, Milo Ray Phelps, is a “world traveler” who is all wrapped up in herself. She has traveled the world over but “never yet has been out of herself.” All she saw on her way around the world “was Miss Elizabeth Bates.”
Many people, like Elizabeth, live their whole lives centered on themselves. To them, life is “all about me.” Followers of Jesus, however, view life differently. They are not on an ego trip; they are on a mission trip. Since the first century, Christ has sent his disciples on a mission focused on Jesus and not themselves. The essence of the gospel is the uniqueness of Christ as the source of salvation. It’s all about Him, not me or you.
When we repent of our sins and surrender to Christ, life becomes wonderfully different. The difference is Christ who offers to live in us and invites us to live in Him. Watchman Nee offers a simple explanation of conversion. Asked to explain his experience of Christ, Nee took a very hot cup of tea, dropped a lump of sugar into it and stirred it well. “Now,” he said to the enquirer, “try and take the sugar out of the tea!” The enquirer smiled and replied, “How can I? For the tea has become the sugar and the sugar has become the tea!” “Exactly,” Nee replied. “In the same way I am in Christ and He is in me!”
As we who are Christ followers “go into all the world,” we take Christ with us because He is in us and we are in Him. When we testify about what Christ has done for us, the focus is on Him, and what He can do for anyone who will trust Him. Thus are we “pilgrims” sharing the good news of how Christ can change a self-absorbed person into a Christ-absorbed person. Across the centuries the Church has grown through the work of Christ-centered disciples. Christians who are on an ego trip fail to advance the Kingdom of God.
John Wesley preached until he was 87 years old. Riding a horse around England over 250,000 miles, Wesley preached Christ, served Holy Communion, cared for the poor and worked tirelessly to get people connected to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Those who surrendered to Jesus were organized into study groups so they could grow in grace. Wesley did not offer people Wesley. He offered them Christ because Christ was the center of his life.
The missionary work of David Livingstone affected thousands of people across Africa, people who had never heard the Good News about Jesus. Through his mission bases he taught people the truth about Jesus and cared for their needs. Like Wesley, he did not offer Africans Livingstone; he offered them Christ.
William Booth’s vision for evangelism and social reform led to the formation of the Salvation Army. Booth and his Army did more than rescue the poor from poverty; they offered people the salvation that God gives freely to all who will surrender to Christ. Like Wesley, Booth offered people Christ.
Offering people Christ remains the primary mission of the church. God has not called pastors to make sure their people are “politically correct” but to inspire them to live so that lost people will want to know the Christ whose light shines forth in their daily conduct. The church’s agenda is not the agenda of society. The main business of God’s people must always be to lift up Christ with their lips and their lives so that nonbelievers will become hungry to taste the Bread of Life which is our Lord Jesus Christ. In a society plagued by hatred and violence, Christians may “offer Christ” by loving their neighbors and building bridges of friendship with deeds of gentleness, kindness and civility toward all people.
The world today remains hostile to people who offer others Christ, as it was in the days of Wesley, Livingstone and Booth. But, like them, we can find the grace to share the good news in the face of resistance as long as we remain Christ-centered. We must learn to glance at our problems and gaze at Jesus, for it was He who warned us, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” He is the Source of our strength because He is the vine and we are the branches. As branches, we share His life. Unconnected to the vine, we have no life.
Instead of traveling light, as Jesus instructed his disciples to travel, we can, if we are not careful, burden ourselves with the extra weight of anger, disillusionment, apathy and weak faith. These attitudes disconnect us from the vine, and disconnected, we wither, decay and die.
Anger toward those who resist us will defeat our best efforts. Love alone will carry the day. And when we work feverishly in our own strength, trying to do everything ourselves, we fail and soon become apathetic and disillusioned. Apathy will rob us of our faith and our enthusiasm. We simply must remember that “the battle is the Lord’s,” not ours!
In these days of my life, walking is impossible without a cane. At first I was embarrassed to be seen carrying a walking stick. But no longer. Balance is a problem. I need the assistance a cane can give me. So, like the Psalmist David, I rejoice that the Lord’s staff comforts me. Jacob, when dying, leaned on his staff while praying and worshiping, so I can do the same without shame.
In a real sense my cane, my staff, is the Word of God and Jesus is the Word of God. Leaning on my staff reminds me that I am unable to do the will of God on my own. I need help and Christ, the living Christ, is my Helper! There is no shame in leaning on the One who is the strength of my life.
My four-pronged cane constantly reminds me of my weakness. But I try to only glance at it and instead fix my gaze on Jesus so that He remains the center of my life. When He is the center of my life, I can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That was Paul’s way of saying, “It’s all about Christ, not me.” Those who remain self-absorbed, like Elizabeth Bates, may see the world but never know the joy of the Christ-centered life. + + +