Publication:Pastoral Letter, October 2019
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray you and your loved ones are well! This month, I want to look at some vital questions about how to locate where we are in life and in our walk with the Lord, Who is our source for life. No matter where you are today, this is a timely subject.
Last May, at our CSM Gatlinburg Leadership Conference, our great friend Curtis Forman shared a story. Curtis loves to sail, and is an experienced boat captain. One night, coming back into port, he looked for the navigational markers to guide him home. Spotting a red light, he set a course in the darkness and steered his vessel toward the channel. He noticed the trip in was taking a lot longer than normal, and then realized that the red light was actually an onshore Ramada Inn sign!
It’s dangerous to be lost. It’s even more dangerous to be lost, yet still believe you are on the right path. But I’ve come to believe that the most important part of knowing where we are and where we are going is knowing who we are with for the journey. “Where Am I?” is not simply a geographical question; it is relational.
Sin (literally “missing the mark”) separates us from God; it separates us from reality, hope, and wisdom. Sin separates people from each other. It puts us on the path that leads to death instead of life (Romans 6:23). And all have sinned, every one of us (Romans 3:10-23).
But the Good News is that repentance reconciles and restores! It re-connects us in fellowship with God. Repentance puts us back on the path that leads t o life; it brings refreshing, renewal, hope, vision, purpose, joy, and strength. Repentance simply means a change in direction. It’s not wallowing in regret and self-pity, but it is turning away from destruction and walking toward restoration in Christ.
The late Jim Rohn once said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction. And your direction will determine your destination.” We may not yet be where we need to be geographically, but if we are “in Christ” relationally, He will bring us to the place He has prepared for us. It is the profound will of God that there be reconciliation between Himself and His people, as well as among His people with one another. When that happens, new life and new hope are released in our lives!
One of the saddest and most devastating stories in all of human history happened near the beginning, in Genesis 3. The first man and first woman, Adam and Eve, had perfect fellowship with God and each other. They walked and talked with Him every day in the lush, beautiful Garden of Eden. But one day, they avoided their walking appointment with God. In fact, they hadn’t forgotten about it, but they were hiding from Him. Why were they hiding?
God had given them every good thing in abundance, and had given them tremendous freedom and authority. He had only forbidden them to do one thing: do not eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which was in the Garden. God had created Adam and Eve for perfect relationship and trusting in Him for guidance and direction. But the enemy of their lives, Satan, was jealous and filled with hatred … for them, for God, and all that God had created. And so, Satan, in the form of a serpent, offered an alternative plan.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So Adam said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:1-11).
God asked, “Where are you?” His question was not because He didn’t know where they were; it’s because they didn’t know where they were. Where we are is not first a geographical question, it’ a relational question. They were hiding from God because they had just deliberately ignored and rebelled against His instructions. Broken relations lead to wrong destinations!
As their Creator and Father, God had designed everything perfectly for their enjoyment and blessing. When they rejected Him, it brought shame and fear into their minds. It made them run from God, their “Life Source” and Guide. They lost their home relationally, which caused them to lose their home geographically in the garden; they lost their way and their place.
W H E R E A R E Y O U?
Their sin separated them from God’s presence, and introduced sin and death into the human gene pool. It brought separation from one another and introduced alienation into their family and all families who followed. Mankind became wayward and lost. The remainder of the Bible tells the extraordinary story of the supernatural lengths that God went to destroy sin and death and to restore His fellowship with humanity. The Bible is, at its core, a love story. It’s a gigantic neon sign that points the way home through faith in Jesus Christ.
Our Father is asking again: “Where are you?” He knows where we are. Do we? He cares for us, so much more than we realize. Sometimes we think He is so far away, but if we would only turn around and look, we would see that He is right there, right with us, calling for us, seeking us, desiring still to have fellowship with us.
Let’s get rid of those things that have separated us from Him; our old ways that lead to death and destruction. We were created for perfect fellowship with our Creator. Our spiritual enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to separate us from God and from God-ordained relationships; he wants to trap us in ungodly and deceptive relationships. But Jesus came so that we might have light, life, freedom, and reconciliation with Him … and with life-giving people of integrity and grace.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING?
Each one of us was made in such a way that we are not fulfilled in ourselves alone. We are completed in relationship with God and with His people. Likewise, knowing where we are is not based upon our independence, but upon connectivity to an outside source.
Today we use GPS technology to show us where we are; we can connect to a space satellite that will pinpoint our location on planet earth! Once upon a time, we used maps. Ancient navigators used the stars. What is your source for knowing where you are? What is your landmark? More importantly, who is your landmark?
Is your source for guidance trustworthy, tried, and true? Is it based on objective reality beyond yourself, or simply upon your own feelings, moods, and whims? Are you seeing things the way they really are, or the way you wish they were? We must reckon with reality and face the truth. A proper diagnosis of a problem is vital in effectively overcoming the problem.
The Bible and the Holy Spirit will shine a light and show us truth. What we see may not be “pretty”, but the Word and the Spirit also offer us hope, strength, and direction. God convicts, but doesn’t condemn us when we are in Christ. If we are lost and confused, we need a Guide to lead us back onto the path. Isaiah 30:21 says that as we repent, “…your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
Walking in relationship, fellowship, and accountability with other followers of Jesus is also a key to staying on track. With whom are you walking? You weren’t designed to walk alone. Are your
companions for the journey encouraging you toward light or darkness? It makes a difference!
God sees things as they really are, and He makes it known to us. But God also gives us what I call “Transcendent Truth”, or a Word that transcends our reality. Jesus gives a perfect example: “In this world, you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We have a truth that transcends our problems and limitations.
• Yes, we have trouble, but we also have Jesus, the overcomer!
• Yes, we have sorrow, but He gives us His joy, which brings strength!
• Yes, we have fears, but He gives us His love, which brings His peace!
• Yes, we have questions, but He gives us His Spirit, Who gives us wisdom!
• Yes, we were once far off, but now we have been brought near to Him!
• We may grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13)!
Whether you are a seasoned Christian, a new believer, or a seeker today, you need to know this: God loves you where you are, just the way you are. And, He loves you so much, he won’t leave you where you are, the way you are. If you allow Him, the Holy Spirit will change you from glory to glory and lead you from victory to victory.
If you feel isolated, lonely, or exiled, I pray you will ask, “Where am I?” He is right there with you, ready to take you into a deeper and greater relationship than you have ever known. Please know that you are not alone. If we can serve you here at CSM, I hope you will let me know.
Wherever you are geographically or circumstantially today, I hope you can say that you are in Christ. You may be in trouble, but if you are in Christ, you have all that you need to not only survive, but thrive. You may have sinned, you may have missed the mark, but in Christ, you have forgiveness, hope, and reconciliation with God. You have purpose, you have hope, you have a future. In Christ, we not only have a map, but the Guide Who walks with us and even carries us when we cannot walk. What a friend we have in Jesus!
“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (see Romans 8:1).
P.S. Please keep CSM in your prayers and in your financial support this month. Opportunities—and challenges—are great. Visit csmpublishing.org or our Charles Simpson Facebook Page for more information.
SCRIPTURE REFERENCES: Romans 6:23; Romans 3:10-23; Isaiah 30:21; John 16:33; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Romans 8:1