Today’s reading from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest underlines one of the points I tried to make in yesterday’s sermon. God’s priority is relationship. I have invested so much effort in cultivating virtues, and championing the good, the true, and the beautiful. These are all great things, but if they eclipse Christ Himself, they are dangerous. I am seeing in a deeper way what I have always “known”, that the Christian life is first and foremost personal, not conceptual or even theological.
Jesus invites us into a friendship. If we are true friends of the bridegroom we are concerned, not for ourselves, not even for our own holiness, but for His glory, for Him to shine, for people to see Him and think of Him.
This reminds me of the beautiful lines from St. Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
The primary job of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Christ, not to make me Holy. My holiness is a biproduct of the Spirit’s presence. My own virtue should be almost a matter of indifference to me, compared to my primary concern–that Jesus would be seen through me. The Holy Spirit wants to make like Christ so that people can more clearly see Christ, not how Christ-like I am. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but the difference is profound. It makes sense when you approach the whole thing personally.
Maintaining the Proper Relationship
By Oswald Chambers
…the friend of the bridegroom… —John 3:29
Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ.
If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness; it is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself. Others will be left with this thought— “What a fine person that man is!”
That is not being a true “friend of the bridegroom”— I am increasing all the time; He is not.
To maintain this friendship and faithfulness to the Bridegroom, we have to be more careful to have the moral and vital relationship to Him above everything else, including obedience. Sometimes there is nothing to obey and our only task is to maintain a vital connection with Jesus Christ, seeing that nothing interferes with it. Only occasionally is it a matter of obedience. At those times when a crisis arises, we have to find out what God’s will is.
Yet most of our life is not spent in trying to be consciously obedient, but in maintaining this relationship— being the “friend of the bridegroom.” Christian work can actually be a means of diverting a person’s focus away from Jesus Christ. Instead of being friends “of the bridegroom,” we may become amateur providences of God to someone else, working against Him while we use His weapons.