Personal Experience

It’s 2017!
Who would have thought?  As I think about another new year I think about those laudable New Year’s resolutions which we all make but by the second week of January have given up.  There is one resolution, however, that I pray we keep ever before us.  The Apostle Paul who was a very focused individual.  His goal was to keep “pressing on.”  (Philippians 3:12, 14)   Let’s think about that for just a minute.  How many of you remember driving a car for the first time. I was of the era that Driver’s Education was a requirement of sorts.  It taught me how to drive as well as lower my parent’s insurance premium.  But I think back on those days, attending classes on those warm summer days at Bluffton High School where I had Mr. Edington as a Driver’s Ed. Teacher.   We read books, watched videos, studied the manual and then came the day we all had been waiting for – getting behind the wheel and hitting the road.  Of course, the car also had three other inexperienced drivers waiting their turn and the driving instructor.   I must admit that having others in the car was rather nerve racking and putting the car into drive when I should have put it into reverse made me feel rather foolish.  I mean, this wasn’t my first go around.   But the point is this:  the manual taught you about driving, but you actually learned driving from personal experience. In the same way, Paul says in his letter to the Philippian church, “I don’t just want to know about Jesus. I want to know Him … to personally experience him … to be transformed by him.” Later Paul says, “I press on toward the goal …”   If there was anything we could say about Paul it was that he was a “one thing I do kind of person” – a person with intense focus. Now, as a kid I remember how cool it was to take a simple magnifying glass and bring the rays of the sun into a sharp focus on a leaf or piece of paper. The focus on the sun’s rays would cause that leaf to smolder and then burn.   Regular light goes in every direction.  Turn on a table lamp and the light bulb, and it covers the entire room. Regular light operates on a number of frequencies.   Light focused through a magnifying glass or light from a laser is gathered up and put out in one direction.   And the intensity of that light … the intensity of a laser beam has an amazing power. It can burn a hole in a diamond. It can carry zillions of TV signals at once. It can be used to perform delicate surgery.  It can also cut through iron beams.  The more intensely focused light is, the more power it has. Before his conversion Paul was intensely focused on “persecuting the church” – closing it down – wiping out the Christian faith. After his conversion he was intensely focused on becoming more like Christ and winning others to Jesus.   In the original language, the same word is used to translate both “persecute” and “press”.  It says to me, “Where is my focus?”   Some weeks ago, I heard a song by the Northern Irish Christian band, Rend Collective.  It was entitled “More than Conquerors.”   When my hope and strength is gone You’re the one who calls me on You are the life You are the fight That’s in my soul Oh, Your resurrection power Burns like fire in my heart When waters rise I lift my eyes Up to Your throne   We are more than conquerors, through Christ You have overcome this world, this life We will not bow to sin or to shame We are defiant in Your name You are the fire that cannot be tamed You are the power in our veins   Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror I will sing into the night Christ is risen and on high Greater is He Living in me Than in the world No surrender, no retreat We are free and we’re redeemed We will declare Over despair You are the hope   We are more than conquerors, through Christ You have overcome this world, this life We will…   I would challenge you to reflect on those words.   A Puritan pastor from the 1660s who had studied the Bible for 50 years, one day sat down by a well at lunchtime. As he began to pray, he said, “Jesus Christ came to me, and I sensed his presence. For over two hours, he poured into my heart love and truth, and I learned more at that lunchtime blessing about Jesus and who I am than I had in all the 50 years of Bible study.” Like the Apostle Paul, do we have that desire to know Jesus intimately? –to awake with him in the morning and to live each day with him and in his presence? I find that there is only one inexhaustible person, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. People will disappoint us, but Jesus never will. It is entirely satisfying to know him. So — what goals are we absolutely determined to accomplish this year? Hopefully, each of us can say with the Apostle Paul, “I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Jesus Christ has laid hold of me.”