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Jul 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

The Shepherd and the Star Pt. 2 07/23/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community. The Lord is with you!

I bring another word picture this morning, and this time I remember where I heard it.  It was on James Finley’s podcast “Turning to the Mystics,” and this has been a helpful image for me.

If you will, picture with me a man looking into a mirror and seeing his own reflection.  Now see it from the perspective of the reflection looking at the man.  One day the reflection begins a conversation with his man:  “I’ve been with you a very long time.  I know your ways.  I dress like you; I move like you.  I think it’s time for me to break out on my own.  You’ve taught me well.”  “Well,” the man replies, “You are made to be my reflection. This is your Reality.  If you walk away, it’s not going to go well for you.”  “Nevertheless,” the reflection says, “I’m going.” 

From Thomas Merton, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us.  When our life feeds on unreality, it must starve.  It must therefore die.”  And that’s what happened to the reflection who forgot how his Real life worked. 

I don’t think any of us would purposefully walk away from our Maker, but recently I did find myself outside of that reflective light.  Do you ever find yourself frustrated, discouraged, angry—feeling the feels of the big Ego?  You, like me, might realize that you have drifted away. 

This is how it looked for me:  First, my prayer:  Change them.   Then: I’ll try harder (I’ll work at it).  Then: I’m not doing well with this strategy.  I’ll ask God to help me. (Notice that I’m still trying to get my way).  I also realized that not only was I saying, “I can do this,” I was saying, “I should be able to do this.” Then, the turning!  Turning around is to repent, a turning away and a turning toward.

When I come to my senses and return to the mirror, I am returning to be-ing.  I am brought back to the Real.  Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt once described contemplation as taking a long, loving look at the real.” A reminder that this is our way.  It’s not just a one time and done, it’s a way of living.  This is the gift of our Creator.  At times, we might find ourselves even saying, “This is Unreal.”  Ah ha!  Perhaps it is.

Pray with me, will you: Lord God, in You we live and move and have our be-ing.  Forgive us when we think otherwise.  Thank You for the gifts of the Real Life of knowing You and reflecting You.  Draw us back to long, loving looks at the Real.  Thank you for this place to listen and practice Your Presence.  May we be receptive and reflective.  For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Him [Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me Colossians 1:28-29

Intro: About twenty years ago, Barb attended a seminar at work

A psychologist lectured on Compassion Fatigue Syndrome
– it is a common condition among healthcare professionals
• their encounters with the suffering of others takes a toll
◦ if they are not treated yet continue to work, they can become numb
◦ they stop feeling empathy for their patients’ pain and grief
• the speaker provided the audience with a list of symptoms
◦ Barb said as she was going down the list checking boxes, she was thinking,
“Yes, that’s Chuck. Yep, that too.”
– I was burned out and seriously questioning whether I should stay in ministry
• one morning I told Barb I was going to fast until evening
◦ I read, prayed, listened—but did not get an answer
• so when the sun set, we went to see a movie
◦ I broke my fast with a salted pretzel and a Coke
◦ but in the middle of the movie, I could feel something big was coming
The movie was “Along Came A Spider,” and the dialogue was between actors Morgan Freeman (playing detective, Alex Cross) and Monica Potter (playing Secret Service agent, Jezzie Flannigan)
Cross: You do what you are, Jezzie
Jezzie: You mean you are what you do
Cross: No, I mean you do what you are. You’re born with a gift. If not that, then you get good at something along the way. And what you’re good at, you don’t take for granted. You don’t betray it.
Jezzie: What if you do, betray your gift?
Cross: Then you betray yourself. That’s a sad thing.
– I knew that God meant for me to hear that–it was my answer

I was going to stay in ministry, but something had to change

My vision for the church had grown old and tired
– reading through Colossians, the Lord stopped me at the verses above
• Jesus told me, “This is what you will do. This is who you are.”
– immediately, I felt totally comfortable with this arrangement
• in this instance, Paul became my mentor and example

Paul wanted these Christians to know how privileged they were

In verse 26 Paul tells them about a mystery, “hidden for ages”
– in the New Testament, “mystery” doesn’t mean a puzzle or an enigma
• it refers to something unknown and unknowable
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever . . . .” (De. 29:29)
◦ what mystery was Paul talking about? what had been hidden for centuries?
• God, the Savior of Israel would open the door to Gentiles
◦ no one expected this – not even Jesus’ disciples
◦ and when it began to happen, they still didn’t believe it
– Peter needed a vision from heaven to persuade him to go to a Gentile home to tell them about Jesus
• when he returned to Jerusalem, he “criticized” for being with Gentiles, so he had to explain
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18)
• Paul mentions this mystery in several of his letters
For instance, Ephesians 3, When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to [humankind] in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (vv. 4-6)
◦ God had at last revealed this mystery
◦ and the Colossians were privileged to be beneficiaries of it

I wish we could hear Paul’s words the way the Colossians would have
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (v. 27, and “you” is plural)
– Christ was among them, within their community
• but he was also within each person who had received him
• Paul explains it more fully in Romans chapter 8
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Ro. 8:9-11)
– reading both passages I noticed Paul refers to the Lord as “Christ” and not by his name, “Jesus”
• it is not that Jesus and Christ are not the same person or entity
◦ the title Christ derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah
◦ Jesus is the unique “anointed one” of prophetic promise
• I think for Paul, “Christ” refers specifically to his spiritual role
◦ as God’s appointed representative and shepherd-ruler
◦ it’s in his role as the Christ, Jesus takes his place in our lives

Recently I have wrestled with the idea of “Christ in me”
– in me where? my brain? my bones?
• I’ve wondered if this were merely a metaphorical indwelling
◦ but I don’t think so – and I’m pretty sure Paul meant literally
• in the Romans passage I read, Paul said we have the Spirit of Christ
◦ it is not that he is located somewhere in our bodies,
◦ but that your true self is spirit – and Jesus meets us Spirit to spirit
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Ro. 8:16)
– there is a real sense of Christ being in our true self—our aware self
(and if he is in me, then he is always with me)
• the most beautiful sermon from the 20th century that I ever read,
◦ was preached by G. Campbell Morgan
Morgan, We rejoice in Jesus’ first and second coming, because of “the mystery of His personal coming into our own life. . . . ‘Christ in you.’ That is the great miracle, the great mystery, the individual fact on which all the other facts of Christianity are based, and through which the other forces of Christianity become operative in the history of [humankind]. Christ in me—the Christ light—so that I see with His eyes. Christ in me—the Christ aspiration—so that I desire with His desire. Christ in me—the Christ impulse—so that I am driven as he was driven. Christ in me—the Christ consciousness—so that the world’s sin burdens me in the same fashion as it burdens Him, and the world’s agony hurts me as the world’s agony hurt Him.”

So, back when I was wondering about my new job description,

Jesus spoke to me through these two verses — I will take them line-by-line
“Him we proclaim”—proclaiming Jesus would then be for ever my priority
• my ministry was to present and promote Jesus
◦ this has proved to be tricky—for myself and others
◦ ministers are like everyone else, we want to know that we’re good at what we do
◦ but the truth is, there’s no way to calculate our effectiveness
• instead of simply preaching Jesus, we end up promoting ourselves (it seems like a subtle shift)
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 4:5)
– I enjoy talking about Jesus; telling his story, explaining his teaching
• that comes first—present Jesus, bring him into focus
• it’s a continuation of Jesus’ ministry—as well as an extension and expansion of it
◦ as such, the love of Jesus is revealed in broader dimensions (“all the world,” “all flesh,” etc.)

Then Paul says, “warning everyone” – literally, to place in mind
– to provide biblical and spiritual counsel—personal care
• answer questions if possible; give direction; spiritual training
“teaching everyone” for me means to inform, to instruct
• to help make sense of the Bible for others and clarify things
“with all wisdom”—in scripture, wisdom the useful application of knowledge
• some people don’t get why I study certain subjects
◦ they understand my biblical and theological studies,
◦ but why neuroscience? why psychology and sociology?
• I started studying human consciousness because I want to be as fully conscious of God’s presence as possible
◦ how were the prophets and apostles so aware of God? Is it a matter of discipline or is all grace?
◦ I want to be useful as a resource — and to know where pastoral counseling leaves off and psychological therapy begins
“to present everyone mature in Christ” – complete
• think of working on a project until it is finished—that is what this word means
◦ and God’s finished work in us is the fullness of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Php. 1:6)

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (v. 29)
– this is my work—sometimes it is toil and struggling
• but it is also the presence and support of God’s Spirit

Conclusion: I want to tell you to spend some time in scripture

Read, and think about what you’ve read
I want to tell you to spend some time in prayer;
pray your anxieties and sit in silence with your heart open to God
I want to tell you to spend some time in Christian conversations; with friends or our Lexio Divina meeting
I want to tell you to do these things, but I won’t
Instead, be kind to someone who isn’t doing well
As far as it is possible for you, be gracious with everyone
This is how we move toward maturity, and best represent Jesus
And remember, Christ is in you; remind yourself to enjoy him

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