Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Christian Maintenance

"If words are to enter men's minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men's defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds."
- (From Here by John Bertram Phillips)

I attended a meeting the other day, and one of the attendees made the comment that when we are caught up in the passion of current events that we should not forget our first love. This being a group of concerned Episcopalians, he was referring to our love for God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that love that was given to us by God. When someone surrenders to Christ and is "saved," what happens next? How do they maintain that initial passion and keep the flame going for the rest of their life? This love, if true, can never be "lost." The human experience of a lost "first love" suggests that the desire, the yearning, remains present, and can be rekindled even after decades of separation (although sometimes with disastrous consequences when people reconnect with their first human lover). Similarly, I think that the love of God we first experience upon our conversion may be laying dormant in many of us as we live our lives out in the day to day "maintenance phase" of faith.

This maintenance phase of faith is not unlike many long marriages. The Church probably has more people in this phase of life than any other. How do we nurture these folks? We (Our Saviour) are not a church that holds tent revivals or such events to gin up the congregation (although we did do the "Faith Alive" thing a few years back).

Can we ever expect to be so in love again as to relive that conversion experience on a daily basis?

If you need advice, you might consult with J.B. Phillips' advice for the lovelorn like I did.

Due to it's length I have shortened the following from J. B. Phillips on Christian Maintenance , but in the spirit of J. B., read the whole thing.

"In order to live a life of New Testament quality, we shall find it necessary to work out some kind of practical plan to keep us alive and sensitive to the Spirit of the living God, which will keep us supplied day by day with the necessary spiritual reinforcement, and which will help us to grow and develop as sons and daughters of God. It is unfortunately only too easy to slip back into conformity with our immediate surroundings, and to lose sight of the supra‑human way of living, except perhaps as a wistful memory... It is quite simply because we are surrounded by unreal and false values, by a pattern of living divorced from and unconscious of spiritual realities, that we have to take time and trouble to maintain supra‑natural life, even though that life is in the truest sense the natural one. Experience shows that Christians whose lives are illuminated by the new quality of living, only maintain that inner radiance by taking certain practical steps.

The first essential need is for quiet... It is imperative that somehow or other we make for ourselves a period of quiet each day... if we see the utter necessity for this period of quiet, our ingenuity will find a way of securing it... daily quiet we simply must secure, or the noise and pressure of modem life will quickly smother our longing to live life of the new quality.

Prayer has so many aspects that it requires much longer treatment than I can give it here, and I will only mention three which seem to me the most important. The first is the value of worship...
The second important point I should like to make is that in our prayers we should not merely confess our sins and failures to God, but claim from Him the opposite virtue...
Thirdly, I should like to stress the value of intercession for other people...

It is very noticeable in the New Testament records of the early Church that Christians existed in fellowship... Even though, judging from the evidence of Paul's letters, it was not very long before factions and "splinter groups" arose, yet the overall picture is of the Young Church standing firm...

...All this means that a very large part of our Christian maintenance will consist of joining in with the fellowship of the Church, in its prayer and worship, in its work and service. Many people who profess to be Christians are very irregular worshippers. I do not think they can possibly realise how they weaken the cause of the Church, and in addition starve themselves of Christian fellowship. Many people appear to be convinced that they can lead good lives without committing themselves to Church attendance or the fellowship of the Church.

Again, if the Church is to make any worth‑while impact on the surrounding community, if it is even to speak with a voice worth hearing, it must have the active committed support of all true Christians. I repeat, I do not think that the many delightful casual Christians whom I know have the slightest idea how they sabotage the power and witness of the Christian fellowship by their haphazard attachment to the Church.

Sharing our inward lives, then, and joining in the fellowship, worship, and service of the Church, are essentials for Christian maintenance.

Very close to them in importance lies the habit of regular Bible reading. Countless men and women throughout the centuries have found their inspiration and nourishment for the Christian life in reading the Word of God. Now, I am not at all sure that our modern way of living is suited to the old‑fashioned methods of Bible study...

...This intelligent reading, particularly of the New Testament, will keep alive and alert our inmost spirits. The sacred pages are truly inspired, not, I believe, in any "verbal inspirational" sense, but because they contain the Word of God or, in case that is a meaningless cliché, they contain truths of the Real World in the language of this. Again and again we shall find ourselves challenged, convicted, inspired, or comforted by truths that are not of man's making at all, but which are bright shafts of light breaking through into our darkness.

Closely allied to intelligent Bible study lies Christian reading... There are many Christians today who from one year's end to another never read a Christian book. They have little or no idea, for example, how Christianity is spreading throughout the world, of the triumphs and disappointments of the world‑wide Church...To be brutally frank, they are very ignorant both of the history and of the implications of their Faith. In other departments of life they may be highly competent, efficient, and knowledgeable; but over this, the very heart and centre of their true life, they are frequently abysmally ignorant. These are, I know, harsh words, but the Church could be infinitely more powerful as God's instrument for the establishment of His Kingdom if its members were better informed in their minds as well as more devoted in their hearts."

How I long to rekindle that lost love, for then I will be forever loving God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul. It won't come quickly, it may take a long, long, long time.

"It's been a long long long time,
How could I ever have lost you
When I loved you.

It took a long long long time
Now I'm so happy I found you
How I love you

So many tears I was searching,
So many tears I was wasting, oh. Oh -

Now I can see you, be you
How can I ever misplace you
How I want you
Oh I love you
You know that I need you.
Ooh I love you."

"Long, Long, Long"
George Harrison 1968

Ignoring the "be you" line in Harrison's song, there is such a Love that is dear in so many ways that it bears reliving over and over again.

This love comes at a dear price, but the price has already been paid for us without our even asking. So why do I feel guilty about accepting His gift of love? Perhaps it is pride, the pride that won't accept something unearned. Pride interfering with Love's free gift. Part of the price we have to pay is the giving up of our selves, our pride, in order to regain our first love.


  1. I appreciate the general drift of this and your conclusions in particular. I take issue with one statement by Phillips:

    "The sacred pages are truly inspired, not, I believe, in any "verbal inspirational" sense, but because they contain the Word of God or, in case that is a meaningless cliché, they contain truths of the Real World in the language of this."

    There is no logical reason to not believe in the verbal inspiration of scripture. Even something as mundane as Paul asking Timothy to "bring the cloak and the parchments" can inspire, as Phillips later says, the study of Christian reading.

  2. It is an interesting take on the inspired word of God proposition. He follows it up with,

    "Again and again we shall find ourselves challenged, convicted, inspired, or comforted by truths that are not of man's making at all, but which are bright shafts of light breaking through into our darkness"

    If they are not of man's making, and not "verbal inspirations," then the Biblical truths are just that, Truths.