This morning I was reading an article by Oswald Chambers called "Frontiers of the Worker's Life." Oswald Chambers was a British pastor, preacher, teacher and scholar who died at a young age at the beginning of the 20th century. I have his complete works in an enormous volume (1500 pages of tiny print) and aim to read one article (a page or less, usually) each day. He never fails to challenge me. I have shared often in the past from what God has told me through Chambers and you can expect to hear much more in the future.
I think the "worker" in today's reading refers to all committed Christians who want to see others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to know Jesus and not only believe in him but trust him. A key passage from the Bible is where Paul is talking to King Agrippa in Acts 26:18 about how he turned from a persecutor of followers of "The Way," to a devout follower and evangelist of The Way--Jesus Christ. He is quoting what Jesus said to him in a blinding vision on the road to Damascus where he planned to imprison and kill the Christians:
'Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God's people, who are set apart by faith in me.' (NLT)"Set apart by faith in [Jesus]." As Christians, we know we are to be holy and most of us understand that to mean doing what we should but really, the word "holy" means "set apart." God is holy because he is set apart from all other gods who are worshipped. The tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament were holy because they were set apart for the sole purpose of worshipping God. The pots and pans, tongs and spatulas, bowls, plates and cups in the tabernacle and temple were holy because they were to be used only in that place for the worship of God. The high priest's wife couldn't borrow them when she held a large party and didn't have big enough pots or enough utensils. They were holy; set apart.
Jesus was telling Paul (who was still known as Saul at the time) that his (God's) people are set apart or holy by their faith in him. Our faith sets us apart, not so much in our theology but in how we live--what I think Chambers means when he refers to sacramental personality--living by faith in Jesus, not by convictions or doctrine but by faith, trusting and deferring to Jesus in everything. By doing this, we are automatically set apart and different.
Chambers says we need
...two centres to our mental life...: 1. Personal faith in Jesus... [and] 2. Personal reliance on the human reason that God made.The thing is, he warns us, is that faith is not reason and reason is not faith. It is impossible to "state explicitly in words what [we] know by faith." If we can, it is not faith.
Never have the idea that you are going to persuade men to believe in God.... How can they believe when every spring is impure? The great need is to have a channel through which the grace of God can come to men and do something in their unconscious life.That channel is supposed to be us.
He goes on to say,
Then slowly, as that breaks into the conscious life there will come an expression of belief, because they see Jesus; but the way they see him is through the worker who is a sacramental personality.I see this as a promise and a warning. The warning is that if we want to be a channel of God's grace that plays a part in others coming to believe in Jesus, we must live sacramentally; we must live by faith in and dependence on, listening to, hearing and obeying God's Spirit and not living solely by doctrine, theology and convictions. The latter are important but they're not what lead to transformation.
You cannot argue men into coming to Jesus or socialize them into coming; only one thing will do it, and that is the power of the Gospel drawing men by the constraint of God's grace.In other words, as I understand it, we can't persuade people by reason to come to Jesus. Instead, by staying attached to the vine, we are an unsuspecting channel of God's grace to others--unsuspecting to ourselves because we aren't aware of when God is using us and channelling his grace through us.
This grace begins to work in their unconscious life and slowly breaks into the conscious. Then belief comes because they see Jesus in us. This is powerful stuff! A sacramental personality is one that reflects God clearly in all one says and does.
This is the kind of person I want to be. What about you?
All quotes not from the Bible are from "God's Workmanship" in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, pages 453, 454.