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
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
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
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. + + +