This weekend I got kicked in the teeth. What began as a pleasant and relaxing “conversation” soon became a time of humiliation, pain, and seemingly endless agony. I quickly realized that I should not mess with an individual who wears an Army uniform and who, as I later found out, enjoys walking around in steal-tipped boots. But unfortunately, this wasn’t my first experience with “teeth-pounding pain.”
Before you think any longer that the money my parents spent on braces has been wasted, rest assured, all my teeth are still intact and doing quite well. My run in with the uniformed officer was actually a Salvation Army Commissioner from the late 1800s. Several days ago I picked up the book Portrait of a Prophet, the biography of Samuel Logan Brengle written in the 1930s, and was quickly and rather forcefully “kicked in the teeth,” if you will. I’ve had similar experiences when grabbing a Christian biography, as I find it perfectly meets me where I am in life at that moment. This was the case.
I know I am not suppose to do it, but when reading about a deeper Christian life, I can’t help but measure myself against the individual. Each time feeling beat-up, bloodied and bruised. Rees Howells deeply convicts me; Amy Carmichael humbles me; Hudson Taylor makes me look foolish; Samuel Morris reveals my greediness; Moody makes me look lethargic. In short, I continually find myself lacking. If I cannot measure up even against such an individual, I reason, how much more do I fail when measured against the perfection of Jesus? A good question if I may say so. But when we turn our focus squarely on Jesus we find even our lacking to be lacking. Brengle said it this way:
I saw the humility of Jesus, and my pride; the meekness of Jesus, and my temper; the lowliness of Jesus, and my ambition; the purity of Jesus, and my unclean heart; the faithfulness of Jesus, and the deceitfulness of my heart; the unselfishness of Jesus, and my selfishness; the trust and faith of Jesus, and my doubts and unbelief; the holiness of Jesus, and my unholiness. I got my eyes off everybody but Jesus and myself, and I came to loathe myself. (page 47-48)
Please let me clarify, the lives from yesteryear are not my standard, Jesus is. Those who have lived the Deeper Christian Life provide great encouragement, pressing, conviction, insight, and a glimpse of what Jesus can and will do with a life completely surrendered and dependent upon Him. I admire and find exhortation in their lives because it is HIS life that is seen living and flowing through theirs. And I too want such a life.
As Moody was about to leave England after his first visit, Henry Varley said to him, “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” My response is the same as Moody’s, “I shall be that man!”
If such a statement is to be true, I must be measured against the perfection of Jesus, the righteous and straight Rod. He becomes the measurement of my life, the standard by which I am proven. Any area lacking or failing to measure up must be made right – which only happens through the indwelling of His Spirit – changing, transforming, and sourcing my life. I must surrender, respond, and live in total dependency upon Him. It is through such living, the New Testament refers to it as “death,” that my life begins to measure up – not because of what I do, accomplish, or pull off, but solely because He is living His life in and through me (literally sourcing my life). Whereas before I could never measure up, as He sources my life, He now measures up to His own standard. I can be like I want to be. I can live how I’m suppose to live. I can have complete victory and triumph as I live in continual surrender and dependency. But not because it’s me … because it is all of Him.
Let us each turn our focus solely upon Jesus and may He not only be the standard of our lives, but also the fulfillment of the measuring.