By the time you read this letter we will have broadcast the messages found in Contemporary Christian Music for 17 years, 181 days and a few hours. As you have listened, I trust your confidence and understanding of the Love of God has increased over that period of time. If you have listened to us for very long, you know that’s our ultimate goal at the station. Our message has not changed over the years, nor have we wavered from the original ‘vision’ for this radio station. We just feel that discovering God’s amazing Grace is enough to set men and women free from just a simple religious experience. We know it can encourage them on to an intimate daily experience with God. Over the years, we have come to know that the Gospel of Christ is more than an ethic or moral system. It is more that just spending a couple days a week in a formal ceremony to honor some long ago philosopher type that dispensed good ideas. More than just a wise man passing out his hope designed to make the world a better place. No. It’s more than all those things.
On January 8th, 1990, we broadcast for the first time. Our broadcasts have turned into ‘singing’ the message of Christ for just over 9 million minutes. We are here to encourage believers that this can be a 7-day a week, 24-hour a day relationship with God. While most of us waver in and out of that intimacy, we never really lose the relationship He has freely given to us.
If you’ve listened for very long, you know we have broadcast a program called Grace Walk twice each weekday for almost 10 years. Steve McVey is the program’s host. Even though it has been broadcast over and over again, and in spite of having been out of production for almost 8 years now, it is still a refreshing look at the Gospel of Grace taught by the apostle Paul. Each month we receive Steve’s newsletter. This month I wanted to share with you the ‘gracevine’ note Steve sent.
His teachings are generally pretty close to our expression and vision for WBVN. His June newsletter is an expression of what we feel it will take for any of us to go further into the intimacy that God has ‘cheered’ us on to. I hope Steve’s simple message is an encouragement for you to consider.
How To Love Jesus More?
For years I prayed, asking the Lord to help me love Him more. Have you ever prayed something like that? As I grew in my own grace walk, I began to understand the key to loving Him more. The answer is so different from what I used to believe.
In the past I would have said that to love Him more we needed to spend more time with the Lord in prayer and in the Bible. I would have said that we needed to spend time with other people who love Him to increase our love for Him. (I even used the illustration of how one piece of charcoal will grow cold if it is set off by itself, but in a pile it will stay red hot.) I spoke of how our love for Jesus grows through serving Him. I argued that the ‘service approach’ to loving Jesus wasn’t a fake-it-‘til-you-make-it approach, but instead was a faith-it-‘til-you-make-it approach.
It all sounded so good, so right, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course, we can experience a sense of intimacy as we pray and read the Bible. We are able to be encouraged by the company of other Christians and we may find fulfillment as we serve Jesus. However, these things aren’t the key to experiencing intimacy with God. In fact, you can do all of these things with great commitment and still be spiritually cold. I’m not minimizing the value of the actions mentioned above, but I’m simply pointing out that ‘doing all the right things’ won’t necessarily generate intimacy. What then, is the key to loving our Father more? It is so simple that it’s hard to believe that I missed it for so long. What is the key to loving God more? It is to grow in our understanding of how much He loves us. That’s it – growing in our understanding of how much He loves us will cause us to love Him more. 1 John 4:19 says that ‘we love Him because He first loved us.’ Do you want to grow in your love for Christ? Then grow in accepting His love for you. Nurture yourself in the realization of His passionate and lavish grace. See Him holding you, hugging you, kissing you. Accept the reality that He is proud of you, that He adores you.
“But it isn’t about me!” one person recently protested when he heard me share this truth. “No”, I answered, “it isn’t about you and to think that the key to your relationship to God is for you to love Him more puts the burden of intimacy on you, not Him. You’re right. It’s about Him.” The essence of the gospel is that God so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son. That’s the gospel. He loves you. Stop trying to love Him more and simply accept His acceptance of you and watch what happens. You’ll be amazed at how much your love for Him will increase.
Steve McVey, PO Box 3669, Riverview, Fl 33568, (800-472-2311)
I remember a story Steve tells about a little boy, who was asked if he had found God. The boy’s reply was ‘I didn’t know He was lost.’ It’s so important that we realize that we do not seek God, but that God came looking for us! That’s one of the real differences between our Faith and all the other religious groups worldwide. In our Faith, God is seeking us out, seeking us for the object of His amazing Grace. That’s part of what makes it amazing. We’ve learned over the years that the thing that brings us nearer to God, the thing that draws us closer to the heart of God, is not a revelation of the ‘sorry’ condition we find ourselves in, rather it’s in the revelation of Him. Who He is, what He has done about us, that’s the thing that causes us to be changed from ‘glory to glory’. We can ‘work on us’ from now through all eternity and still not get to the place that we are justified or feel we are good enough to stand before God. However, understanding we can stand before God ‘just as we are’ is the thing that originally made us new Creatures. A revelation of His acceptance is the thing that refreshes us each day.
Ephesians 3: 17-18; ‘…that you, being rooted and grounded in His love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and the length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you might be filled up to all the fullness of God.’ To understand all the dimensions of God, to know the fullness of Him, to know Him in all the ways possible, we will have to be rooted and stabilized in His love. We might understand some things about Him but we will never understand the fullness of Him without a foundation of the Love of God for us. It must be our first and foremost understanding or we will never understand the completeness of God. Jesus wisely warned us that if we did not come to understand the depth of his forgiveness for the whole world we could never understand the fullness of his passion for us. If we get that wrong, we will become insecure and double-minded in the very relationship He has paid such a high price for. The Father’s cry is not so much ‘stop your trespassing’ as much as it is ‘come unto Me’. God’s passion for us is as Rich Mullins described a ‘reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.’
As believers, has God given such a burden to perform in living the Christian Life that we simply cannot accomplish it, or have we simply taken on a burden of our own design so that we cannot successfully experience the Christian Life? It’s a question that we should consider occasionally, so that we can rightly divide the Word of Truth. Evaluating the purpose of our performance will help us not to burnout, crash, give up or get discouraged. After all, Jesus taught us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Did that sink in? Paul further states that if we took up Christ’s yoke, we would find rest! We would not find more work than we could possibly handle. Is that our experience? If not, we need to take another look at what we are ‘picking up.’
Jesus certainly indicated that we would have much to ‘deal with’ in this life. Some parts of this life would be ‘heavy’ and cumbersome. But, just as importantly, He indicated that one of His purposes in coming was to help us through the tough times that would occur to us, or the tough times that we create ourselves. Scripture reveals that Jesus is the true vine and without him nothing could produce the Christian life. (John 15) To be successful living the Christian Life, we will need to make Him the source of that life. Not as just our leader into Truth, but also permitting Christ’s life to live through us. Our role is to bear much fruit. But, it should be His fruit, not our own. That’s one of the places we run into trouble living the Christian life. It gets ‘heavy’ trying to do the Christian thing in our own ability, but we should never have picked up that heavy burden. His ability propels us through the Christian life. Christ is the author and finisher of our Faith. He has started that process in each of us, and He alone will be able to complete it. The Gospel life is about Him, not so much about us. Taking up the Christian life is to take up His life, not our own.
We are encouraged to mount up on eagles’ wings. Eagles move effortlessly through the air. They appear to be resting rather than flying. How many trees do you know that think to themselves, “I’m a tree and trees have to bear fruit.” No, trees bear fruit because they are trees! Nothing on their part is required other than being created a tree. When we are ‘created’ anew, the life we bring forth can come from the very source of having become what God intended us to be. Who teaches a canary to sing? It simply sings because it’s a canary! It does what canaries do best. It does that because of what it is; it does not do anything to become a canary. Christians should not perform and bear much fruit to be Christians; they bear much fruit because they are Christians.
Resting in Christ gives us the opportunity to relax, trust and believe that God will live through us. We can serve God best by yielding our lives to His ‘living’ rather than serving Him with our living. Now I know that sounds ‘goofy’ compared to how we usually talk of serving God, but we have to get in the order of God to experience God. After all, laying down our life doesn’t mean going out in the street and getting in front of cars. It means putting our life at rest so that God can use it for His purpose. I remember a teaching by Bill Gillham years ago. Bill taught us that ground is just dirt unless God is present. With the presence of God it becomes holy ground. God’s presence in our lives is what makes anything we do holy. We are not that by ourselves, even when we are the best ‘ourselves’ we can be!
During our most recent Celebration, Mike Middleton and I were talking about how to live the Christian life. Mike made a statement that I have been thinking about ever since. We were discussing the necessity of reading scripture and keeping our minds on Christ. We both agreed study is a very important part of staying on course with God. However, in that same conversation, Mike noted that study alone would not permit us to experience the Christian life in full. He suggested that the Christian life is like many of the artists that we bring in concert. Once they have learned the lyrics to their songs they no longer need to read the words to sing the song. They sing them effortlessly, without having to even think about the lyrics. They have placed those lyrics in their hearts and draw on them without having to have a sheet of paper with those words on it. That’s not to say that we should not read the Word of God-obviously we should. There is no substitute for reading the Word of God. The Word of God is exactly what turned so many of our lives around. But reading and doing are not exclusive of one another. Reading the Word and doing the Word is the best mix. Jesus taught that believers who hear the Word and do the Word is like a man who built on a strong foundation. When the storms came he could not be shaken. But, he that hears and does not do them, the ruin of his house was great. (Luke 6:46-49) He did not say that they were condemned. Rather that only reading them without doing them was not enough to stabilize our walk. Doing the Word became possible when the Spirit of God came and re-birthed us, empowering us to live the Christian life- just like that canary can sing without ever being taught to sing.
Most of us have read stacks of books, listened to cabinets full of cassettes and still asked what might be called ‘silly little questions’ about the Will of God, seemingly stumped about what we think God wants us to do next. By this time, some of the teaching in the Gospel should have become natural for us to do, things that we do so instinctively we hardly think of them at all. Things that let us do the Gospel as easy as that canary singing. We don’t work hard to do them; they have become part of our natural expression. Jesus taught of a group that was always learning but never coming to the Truth. Always memorizing but never living scripture. I believe the knowledge of God is in the reading– preservation of God is in the doing.
Jesus wanted us to take up his ‘burdens’ and discover they are natural for us. They are not too much to carry. Those things He asks us to do are possible because He is the one who accomplishes the task, carrying them for us. Not something that we have to struggle with or go out and figure out the mystery to. The Christian life was not given to us as a puzzle, but something that even a little child could experience. In fact, it is as a little child that we will have to come in order to experience the Christian life. It’s a song sung from the heart rather than the head. It’s a song whose lyrics have been placed in our heart just as that canary’s song. Canaries can’t go to canary school– they just draw on the song God gave them to sing.