This is the text of a talk given by Don Wilson at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility, as part of a REC (Residents Encounter Christ) weekend. God bless this ministry, please pray for all those imprisoned, and for all who serve them.
Christian Life? – How do we search for it?
How many folks here today think they can live out the Christian Life all by themselves? Many people try to do just that. They’re pretty sure God has saved them, but in practice, they believe a life that pleases Him is possible only through their works and efforts.
This is how I felt for many years!
I felt that if I attended church, tithed enough, not only donated but delivered food to the Food Pantry, and always had a smile on my face at church, my life would go well, and consequently I’d be saved.
*Well, while that was all going on*
I still experienced times of envy, anger, jealousy, lack of patience, and pride – till one, day I realized my life was actually an EMPTY Struggle (Kind of like being on a Hamster/wheel)?
I thought as long as I had this one2one relationship with God (Just ME and HIM) – I would be much better off than my friends, looked on with favor by God, and most of all be Saved – Kind of like: making sure I paid my insurance premium on time?
It’s one thing to struggle through life on our own. But it’s something else to walk through life with Jesus at our side?
Let me first congratulate us all on the fact that we are here for this weekend’s Retreat, and attending Bible Study together on Thursday nights. This very action puts us at the “GO” Square on the Monopoly board of seeking a Christian Life.”
Many People ask:
How do I live the Christian Life? >Perhaps you never learned how to live it.
>It is something we don’t just inherit.
“I will do my best to provide you some elements, or steps, to aid in your search but ultimately it will be YOU who will find your way. You see my methods work for me but yours may be a little different.”
Who is a follower of Jesus Christ? >Someone who knows he cannot inherit Christianity?
>Someone who has made the Decision to commit themselves to a Christian Life.
>Someone who has a hunger, desire or calling to follow Jesus Christ.
If that hunger, thirst, or Desire is there…. That Desire will overtake you.
Many times we want postpone the Decision, — Don’t really feel the Desire.
Kind of like:
“Make me a Christian Lord – But not today”
In the Lord’s Prayer there is a line that goes: “Thy kingdom come” – to abide by that we need to be willing to accept: “My kingdom Go”
➢ To Receive Christ – is (no doubt) an act of our Will
➢ Perhaps someone has asked you, “Have you had a Personal encounter with Jesus Christ?”
➢ Many Ecumenical Evangelists ask: “Have you been to the Cross?”
What are my 4 steps/elements in my “search” for the Christian Life?
ONE: HUMILITY – the admission of our remorse or shortcomings. (Contriteness) – Acknowledge that you have tried to live the Christian Life but have been unsuccessful. The first act should always be the act of Humility, followed by reflection, atonement and penitence
Think, for a minute, how Father Shaw or Chaplain Anne starts the mass each Saturday? We are acknowledging our humility and our contriteness to God when we hear: “My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins.”
TWO: DESIRE – We need to possess that hunger, thirst, ambition and attitude to want to receive Christ in to our Life. The act of our WILL to serve —-Christ and One Another.
The Desire to establish Community or what we call, “The Church” – A solitary Christian life – is not what is meant by Church.
Seek out your brothers of other ecumenical and inter-faith religions here at Coxsackie. And when you speak to them call them by “name” – there’s no greater compliment in a conversation than addressing someone by their name. There is so much to be learned from them.
THREE: DISCIPLINE– The discipline of Prayer, Reflection, and Surrender.
Pray earnestly and continuously. That dialogue with the Lord is perhaps the most important acknowledgement we can make to His Holy presence. And once you’ve found that victory in the word – be sure and share it with your Brother’s in Christ, here at Coxsackie
Read the Bible with an ambition of “Expectancy” – Lead with that Humility again. Go in to Him and say: “Jesus, come to me in my reading – I’m lost and need your help.” Then just be still and wait with an open heart – how long —- I can’t tell you that! – I can only tell you that if you bring expectancy to the ambition of Prayer, you will be more successful than if you bring doubt or anger.
Discipline ourselves to Prayer – Sometimes we don’t feel like praying?
If possible set aside a particular time in the day (Evenings perhaps) – WE all know that this is not easy request in this environment.
Discipline ourselves to find “Quiet time” – Listening is sometimes the hardest thing we try to do -Especially, here, inside Coxsackie.
Perhaps we can find that image of our “inner sanctum” that I’ve often referred to on Thursday nights. – Go to the Lord with the ears of and open heart – and, go to it with that Expectancy I just spoke of.
FOUR: FORGIVENESS: – The act of letting go of Anger.
(Ephesians 4:30-32) – Memory verse!
Adversity comes our way; Loss comes our way; Regret, Remorse, and Hurt come our way. I guarantee you; every one of us is experiencing some degree of Adversity this very day. I suppose we could try to handle it on our own. Or we could choose to see it as a path to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you are a searcher for the Christian Life and a true believer: The awesome power of the Holy Spirit is available to equip, transform, and carry you through any suffering or adversity. The Bridges of forgiveness, adversity, and suffering can take you to an indescribable closeness with our Lord and Savior.
Perhaps we’re feeling a lack of DESIRE, or we’re dwelling in a time where something or someone caused us anger, injury, or a hurtful experience. Our pride is saying “well he should make the first move.”
There is awesome power in Forgiveness. It is God’s solution to bitterness, resentment, and hostility. You and I need the freedom found only through sincerely and completely forgiving others.
What are some of the obstacles to Forgiving? (What brings on that “un-forgiveness” that is so easy to find)? – I’m sure you’ll recognize some of these examples, especially from your experiences here at Coxsackie.
➢ Negative advice: Not so well-meaning friends don’t always offer Godly counsel.
➢ Relying on our immediate emotions: Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you feel like forgiving – the longer you put it off, the less likely you will do it.
➢ Expecting quick results: Forgiveness can & does take time.
As a “searcher” for the Christian Life, we all have the responsibility to take the initiative in dealing with our un-forgiveness.
Just recently I came across a book written by Ray Edmund entitled, “They found the Secret.”– It’s book of 20 spiritual biographies, not of the Saints or formalized clergy, rather it’s about common people, authors, blue-collar workers, labors, teachers, people we might meet on the street.
The summary of the work provides a simple: “4 (A’s) to the Christian Life:”
Abandonment = Abandon our current life in search for the “Christian Life.” This is tougher than you think. Remember my illustration of “Thy Kingdom come”?
Abiding = is done by Obedience to His Will (It is not struggling or striving – rather it’s the resting-in or listening for the Faithful One’s word – our surrender is what He’s looking for. It doesn’t matter our works but rather the determination of our Will:
The Holy Spirit t will fill your life with the presence of Jesus Christ. – By your Faith- NOT just by your Works.
Abundance = the Christian Life can be an abounding one –The Savior has promised “Rivers of Living water” to flow from a Spirit filled with His Life…..He is always Generous yet will be just Sufficient enough to give us what we need when we need it.
Adventure = the journey is a mystery and is ongoing and ever changing. Faith and Prayer will be your compass in navigating your way. Yes, you will make mistakes and occasionally take wrong turns….
Who is in charge of your life – you or Jesus Christ? If you are in search of the Christian Life, you will allow the Son of God to direct you each day. Let him give you guidance, direction, and the power to make godly choices. Does this mean you will escape all your problems, heartaches, and burdens? NO. Nor does it mean that you will never sin again. But you won’t struggle on your own. Instead you can walk in the power of the living God Celebrate the “Christian Life” – it is life at its very best ***Lets Go Find It Together!!***