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Categorized | From the Pulpit

Hold on loosely

Pastor Chad Wight
chad@thejourneychurch.net

Climbing a deep ravine to the large oak tree at the forest’s edge near my boyhood home, I stood at the gateway to a 9-year-old boy’s most amazing adventures. The acres of woods before me were wildly entrancing as the terrain and corresponding “dangers” were unique in every direction. From sunrise to sunset, from hideouts to creek beds, no two days were the same.
Engaging God the Creator, who on a Tuesday of the first week plastered the earth with forests and firmament, has proven to be equally unpredictable, challenging, and at times “dangerous.” Childhood is long gone for me, and it seems with each passing day I have more questions than answers. Every attempt to make God merely a favorite “hide-out,” of sorts, has led only to arid familiarity; and you know what is said of “familiarity.”
A close companion of Jesus wrote about a woman named Mary who stood sadly in a cemetery that first Easter Sunday (John 20). Seeing a man whom she thought was the local gardener, upon hearing His voice she lunged for her Savior. Jesus’ response may have surprised her when, in effect, he said, “Stop holding on to me. There’s a new way to know me that’s different from what you’ve experienced thus far. You must let me go for I must move on.”
Christian author and speaker Frank Viola best explains the principle in all this in his article “A Vanishing God.” You cannot cling to the Christ you know today because He will vanish from your midst. Christ is an elusive Lover, and seeking Him is a progressive engagement that never ends. While we all wish to cling tightly to the One whom we know now, or the Christ who has been revealed to us today, the harder we try to hold on the more elusive He will be. I have noticed this in my own life. Jesus woos us one way, but that season eventually ends, and just when we think we’ve laid hold of Him He slips out of our grasp. He will then reappear, and most likely as a stranger (Luke 24). Only by looking and listening closely will we discover that He’s no stranger at all.
We often cling to the Christ we know by accepting only those who talk our language, participate in our religious forms, and share our ideas—and all along we end up turning away Jesus Himself. But then He returns to us in a way we do not expect, through people we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off for a myriad of arrogant, religious reasons. Unfortunately, if we fail to receive Him in those unexpected ways, He moves on and the revelation we can have of him ceases to grow.
In drawing close to God, we are always standing at the edge of something much too deep. Jesus Christ is richer, larger, and more glorious than any of us could ever imagine, and ironically He comes to us in ways that make it tempting to reject Him. He will always break free from our frail attempts to pin Him down, box Him up, hold Him in place, and play Him safe.
This ought to make us think about how God goes about His plans in this world, for every day is a new day, and there is a God who wants to be known.

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