For a few days, I stopped reading Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest). Now I am trying to catch up, and being rebuked and encouraged at too rapid a rate. I need to discipline myself to read every day; he helps me to understand the Word and the Lord in a way that I need just now.
The June 18th and 19th entries struck me this morning. On the 18th, Chambers describes Peter walking on the water, and beginning to sink when he looks at his surroundings instead of his Lord. He writes, “If you are recognizing your Lord, you have no business with where He engineers your circumstances. The actual things are, but immediately you look at them you are overwhelmed, you cannot recognize Jesus [. . .]. Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognizing Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him.”
On the 19th, he writes, “Jesus did not say – Make converts to your way of thinking, but look after My sheep, see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Me. We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on adherence to a belief or a creed. [. . .] There is no argument and no compulsion, but simply – If you would be My disciple, you must be devoted to Me. A man touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says – ‘Now I see Who Jesus is,’ and that is the source of devotion.” (emphasis added)
This is a constant tension in the Christian walk, it seems. Clearly, we need to know what Jesus taught if we are to live it, so Chambers cannot be speaking against knowledge of the Word here. He teaches from the Word himself, after all. But there are those of us who put knowledge above devotion. We are so concerned to be “right” about every jot and tittle of our intellectual beliefs that we forget the One who inspired us to hold those beliefs in the first place. Chambers, I think, is reminding us to look to Him, be devoted to Him, and the rest will fall into place. When I read the Word with devotion to Him in mind, He will reveal to me what I need to understand. I may not be ready or able to understand some things that others do; that’s all right. I may have a different understanding of some things; that’s all right, too.
It will all sort out in the end, after all. Faith is a mystery. None of us has it all down pat; none of us knows all the truth about this mystery – else it would not be a mystery.
Some disagreements about knowledge are very important: when someone says that God does not abhor homosexuality or adultery or divorce, for example, it is important to know that such assertions are wrong and to speak out about clear Scriptural truth. But so many of our disagreements are so much less important, and much of what appears clear to me may not appear nearly so clear to others who love the Lord as much as and more than I do. In these disagreements, I must learn to be humble enough to realize that it is possible (however remotely!) that I am the one in the wrong, and even if I am fully convinced that I am right, to allow that those who disagree may love Him just as much.
(And about the vitally important issues, it is also important to distinguish between someone who is teaching clear untruth and needs rebuke and someone who is seeking truth and needs loving instruction to understand it. Love, based on our devotion to Jesus, makes these distinctions and responds appropriately.)
Chambers speaks against our living for causes instead of for Christ, as Lewis does in Screwtape Letters. It is so much easier to live for a cause. If I put all my energy into what Chambers calls “the cause of humanity,” I avoid the ambiguity of love. I avoid the potential for being hurt, the difficulty of accepting those who are different, the humility of serving fallen people without reference to some list of attributes and beliefs which define their acceptability.
May I learn genuine, deep devotion to the One who gave up all for me. He did not demand of me perfection nor have a checklist in hand, He simply gave me Himself. I would learn to do the same, to remember and live in the awe of that day He first revealed Himself to me, and I said, "Now I see Who Jesus is!"