Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Knock


John Stott had all the right pieces in play.

As a young Christian man, he took time to pray, read his Bible, go to church. He tried to do good and be good. What more can you ask for?

In 1938 while at school he heard a sermon on Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me…”

Stott later recounted this moment:

“For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realizing it, I was holding Christ at arm's length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realize that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life." 1

This moves me in three ways. First, I realize what I’m doing. Know it or not, I tend to keep Him outside. At arm’s length.

Second, I realize He wants more. He wants to come in. To be at home with me, to be at table in dynamic communion with Him. No separation.

Third, I realize there’s something to do. He’s enabling me to open the door. To welcome the most profound change anyone will ever know.

And do it every day. Keep the door open!

This is the problem with sin. I get lost in a “me-world”. Without knowing it, I keep gently, quietly closing the door. Again and again. I fall back into patterns of doing all the right things and push Him away. Keep a safe distance. At arm’s length.

And there comes a knock on the door. He wants more.

Something terrifying happens when we do this for a long time. We actually lose our hearing. We stop hearing the knock. We lose our desire to read the Bible, go to church, get godly counsel, and live in daily fellowship with Him.

And so He knocks. And knocks. But we can’t hear.
He wants us to open the door and keep it open. Always open. No more separation. No more keeping Him at arm’s length.

For John Stott, this simple step “changed the entire direction” of his life.

Maybe this Christmas, the very same thing will happen to you.

Just go, open the door.




1 Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott: The Making of a Leader, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1999. p. 95




Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Would you consider giving to c2d?


The Breakable Unbreakable

Years ago, a man sat in my office sobbing uncontrollably.

He had found the fence. That should have scared him away. But it didn’t. He came right up to it. Felt it with his hands. Before he could really take time to think it through, the impulse seized him and he jumped it.

Straight into the arms of another woman.

He tried to replay the scene for me. Why he did what he did. Trying to find some reason, some excuse. It was a business trip. Couple of drinks afterwards. It just happened. Almost like he had no control of the moment when he knew, even as he said it to me, it wasn’t true. He knew what he was doing.

No one will ever know. My wife will never find out.

All he saw was pleasure in the moment. Confidence that he could handle it afterwards. A quiet whisper over his left shoulder that he will jump back over the fence in the morning and that will be that. As if it never happened.

Complete control. Arrogant self-confidence. The good church-going husband and father doing in the dark what will NEVER come out in the light.

Morning came. The business meetings that day went on as scheduled. The flight home, the first sight of his three little boys as he walked in the house, the first embrace of his wife. All normal. As if it never happened. And it almost worked. He almost got away with it.

I’ve got to tell her. I can’t go on this way. But if I tell her, it’s over. I know what will happen. I’ll lose her. I’ll lose my boys, my family. No, no, I can’t lose them.

The guilt inside his soul was too strong for him. He needed me to help him, to tell him to do something, anything, to make it go away. In the crazy, mixed-up world of his mind, he wasn’t trying to get right with God. Sadly, that didn’t concern him. He needed to get back over the fence to his wife – which, on the wrong side, was too high to jump. Do you think, he asked, God will help me?

Will He fix my marriage? I can’t lose her. I can’t lose my boys.

I did my best to give counsel. To turn the conversation to the only One who can speak into moments like these. But it was to no avail. He didn’t want to hear about Jesus. Only one thing mattered to him. He had to tell his wife and come clean. And that’s what he did. A year later, the divorce was finalized.

Fences. 1

There are fixed boundaries in covenant relationships.

On the one hand, unbreakable. In the marital bond, the words go like this: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mark 10:9) This is it. It’s His work. He takes the two. He makes them one.

On the other hand, there is this IF world: “If you do this…then.” There are ways to break the unbreakable. There are fences, boundaries. Oh yes there are! So if we do the unthinkable, if we leap the fence and commit the immoral act of giving our body, our heart, our soul to another, we break the covenant.

And the soul, the conscience – if it hasn’t frozen hard and cold – knows it.

This is exactly how the Bible speaks of the unbreakable covenant with Him. It is just that – unbreakable. The promises God made to Abraham were passed down to Isaac and Jacob and the children of Israel. All of His promises, the apostle Paul said, find their YES and AMEN, in Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 1:20)

He has called a people to Himself. He has rescued us, saved us, and if we truly belong to Him, He has put His resurrected life into our mortal bodies causing us to be “in Christ” and “Christ in us“ by the Holy Spirit, “born from above.” 2

We are His. He is ours. Forever. And that by His doing.

But that doesn’t mean we get to go do what we want to do when we want to go and do it.

Deep inside the Old Covenant stands the IF. IF we obey the Lord our God. IF we turn to Him with all our heart and soul – THEN we live. But IF our heart turns away. IF we are drawn away to worship other gods – THEN we die.

See I have set before you today life…and death…So choose life. 3

Just as deep inside the New Covenant stands the powerful IF. It’s true. We who belong to Christ Jesus are not allowed to “continue in sin.” 4  It is wrong, ungodly thinking to think that if we’re Christians we’re done with fences.

We can do what we want to do when we want to do it because we are saved forever in Jesus!

IF you think this way, THEN you need time in Hebrews 10:26-27:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

Fences. There are fences, boundary lines. Stay inside and we find what the Bible calls BLESSINGS. Leap outside and the Bible calls it CURSES.

But thanks be to God who has poured out the Holy Spirit into our hearts to guard us from leaping the fences; who has given us the Body of Christ, our brothers and sisters, to come around us in times of temptation; who has given us His Word to light our way; and who provides perfect access to His throne. 5

He knows how to keep His own.

He knows how to keep the unbreakable-unbreakable in our relationship to Him, in our marriages, and in our relationships to others. That’s what He does!

But don’t think there aren’t fences. Don’t get cocky and over-confident and wake up one morning on the wrong side of the fence – in the terrifying world called the breakable-unbreakable.


1 I highly recommend a book called Same Kind of Difference as Me. The heroine of the story is an amazing woman named Deborah Hall who, after the infidelity of her husband, set him on a path to Jesus. Reads like a novel.
2 Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 1:3
3 Deuteronomy 30:10-20
4 Romans 6:1
5 Romans 5:5; Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:16

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?