Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Went To The Woods

Some years ago I read these words by Henry David Thoreau:

"I went to the woods because I wanted to see if I could not learn what life had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

I love the woods. I guess growing up on the Gulf Coast made me appreciate the woods even more. We lived for a period of time in a rural area surrounded by woods. I could look out the study window and see the woods in the background. One day I was fortunate enough to have my camera. It turned out this picture would be a reminder of what once was; but no longer exists. Hurricane Rita cleared the trees shown in the picture.

I first discovered the words of Thoreau while looking at this scene - of course, the deer were not always there. Most of the time they were. My thoughts often go back to the woods that surrounded our home on the hill. Today it caused me to think of Thoreau's words. I have been trying to understand my life in terms of my relationship to God through Christ. In the past two years I have had to make a number of adjustments in my thinking and understanding about what this new life means and how it is to be lived. I never dreamed that this would be happening to me at my age; but I am thankful that God has allowed to take this journey of discovery. It is like I have been given a new framework for living. It is like the number of pixels of a camera have been increased. As a result, images of understanding have become sharper. The key that has opened yet another door in my life has been the result of a fresh understanding that new life in Christ is basically one of living out the gospel. This has been a major discovery for me. Before that, I just saw the gospel as the entry point for my salvation - not something that was meant to engulf my life - not something that was meant to continually be a point of reckoning.

I often wonder how many people have or will discover, too late, perhaps, that they have not lived. I am convinced that many Christians will find that this has been true in their life. For those who care, I hope it will not be too late for them to do something about it. Many Christians may not recognize that they are living, at this very moment, a life that is empty and without real meaning. Some may; but they don't know what to do about it. They may know something is wrong; but they may not be clear about the problem. Their life can be just too cluttered with other things - with substitutes. They are just going through the motions - doing church. For them new life in Christ is a matter of religious performance. It is only an outward reality. Their life is one of trying to be a good person - trying to live up to moral standards that may be self imposed or imposed by others. They "go to church." They study God's Word and may even teach His Word. Some may wonder from time to time whether there is more to this "new" life. They may wonder what happened following their "experience" with Christ. The gospel came into their lives and they trusted Christ. And yet one day a person like this may say, "I thought I was really living the Christian life; but I haven't lived at all." I know from experience - this can happen. Why is that? What happens to people (not all people; but many)? Why do Christians settle for substitutes that leave them without deep reverence, repentance, and worship or concern for God's glory?

Conditions like these may explain why there is a growing emphasis on helping Christians feel better about themselves. Many Christians can recite Paul's great affirmation found in Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Yet, these words, which express the reason for our being and the very essence of our new life in Christ, are just words. I am sad to say that for much of my life, those were words that I could recite and talk about; but they were not always words in my heart. I want to understand what happened and how I got off track. This has required, once again, that I go back to the summer of 1946 when I came to Christ in faith and retrace my steps from that point forward. What I have discovered so far has left me with both disappointment and gratitude. I am disappointed because I did not understand sooner the meaning and importance of gospel centered living. On the other hand, I am grateful that God, in His grace, is giving me the opportunity at this juncture in life, not only to understand what that kind of living means but also to allow me to start living that kind of life - experiencing the encouragement of Christ's presence and glory - beholding His glory and experiencing its transforming power by faith. I have already learned that my mind must be continually filled with thoughts of Christ. I must continually find delight in Him and pleasure in Him. I must identify the things that will hinder me in doing that and then seek, with His help, to deal with those hindrances. I realize that it sounds like I want to walk around with my head in the clouds; but that is far from the truth in terms of what God wants and what will happen when that is the characteristic of my life. I will be living out the gospel. At this point, I have no idea where all of this will lead in terms of my obedience to Him and that leaves me somewhat apprehensive. Yet that apprehensiveness is overshadowed by a greater concern for how I finish the journey.

For the next series of posts, I want to explore what happened to my life and why it happened. I believe, for me, it will prove to be a time of on-going discovery and understanding - sort of a re-constructing of my life in light of the gospel. What I write today may have to be revised tomorrow. That probability is part of the journey. Ultimately, I am expecting to experience a total re-arrangement of my life - a clarifying of understanding when it comes to real living - gospel centered living. It will be a quest to understand the gospel and grow deeper in that understanding. I want the results expressed in Colossians 1:5-6, to be true of my life. "...Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,..."

I know for certain that from "the day I first heard it (the gospel) and understood the grace of God in truth" that it has been bearing fruit and growing in my life. I was not always aware that this is what was happening. One reason that I know this has been true is because of what is happening in my life. Without the gospel having taken root in my life, I would not be here today. I would not be seeking to understand it more and more. I am not sure where I would be; but I would not be on this journey.

In the last few weeks God has given me a picture of what this part of the journey will be like. I recently got a pair of progressive type glasses. The bifocal lens has been replaced with a progressive type vision. It has required some adjustment because I am having to learn to look at things through lens that are quite different. It is working; although, I had my doubts. The new lens for me in this journey will be gospel lens. It has already resulted in a time of adjustment and in a different view of things. I like this idea of progressing - especially at this point of my life.

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

1 comment:

Nat Pat said...

Hope you had a great birthday! :)