Bruised and Smoldering

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
— (Isaiah 42:1-3) 
 

“Obey God and he will bless you,” says the wind and the reed is bent over and bruised throughout. “God will never stop loving you but you can disappoint him,” says the wind and the once lit candle is now a sad smoldering wick. “God never gives you anything you can’t handle” says the coffee mug of Pop Christianity and the soul who is barely hanging on is now tapping out. “You can have your breakthrough if you just: say this prayer, declare it to be so, or obey this command,” shouts the charismatic, narcissistic, popular Christian speaker. The hot air from him blows many future bruised reeds and smoldering wicks to believe that Scripture is about their action for Christ and not Christ’s action for them.

“If you would just do this.” “If you would just let God do this.” “Do this and you will get this from God.” Sentences like these from the pulpit that revolve around a Theology of Glory crash into the congregation, bruising and quenching reeds and wicks in the process.

Have you ever felt like a bruised reed or smoldering wick? I have. In my Christian life I have often been a bruised reed and smoldering wick. Here are a few of those moments:

 
  • Monthly/weekly “rededicating my life” by walking down an aisle during the invitation after all 9 verses of “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” and begging God to take me back (as if he ever left me).
  • Seeing others get re-baptized because they are serious about living like they are a Baptized Christian, leading me to feel guilty that I had only been baptized once (when there is only one baptism: Ephesians 4:5).
  • Spiritual Growth Charts in Seminary; logging how many hours I prayed, how many hours I read my Bible, how many hours I served my neighbor, how many hours I discipled someone.

That “Spiritual Growth Chart” about killed me. Do, do, do more, more, more go-get-em, Git-R-Done-Christianity has led me to burnout, despair and what Luther referred to as “anfechtungen” (what Luther described as an inner struggle that has no English translation; somewhere in between depression and terror).

The weight of what popular Christian teaching and preaching demands (that the Christian ought to conquer the world for Christ and live radically for him) plunged me to look inside of myself and all I found was hopelessness. My faith was in a continual state of flux. The light of my faith reduced to a smoldering wick over an answer to a prayer that was not the answer I wanted. To make matters worse, many times in my life I have been the one that bruised the reed and reduced someone else’s flame to a smoldering wick. I have often pounced on the opportunity to break the bruised reed, quench the smoldering wick, in order to get an “atta-boy” from other members of my tribe, to feed zombie Old Adam the self-righteousness that he craves. Bruised, smoldering sinner me would have shuddered at the thought of Christ showing up in the same room with me.

“Don’t look at me Jesus! I am unclean! I am unworthy! I am a sinner! Have mercy on me!”

“Done! You got it! Absolutely! Fear not little flock it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom! Today you will be with me in paradise.”

I’m stunned at the response of Jesus. The bomb blast of the gospel is more explosively good than I even fully comprehend.

GOOD NEWS!

What makes Christianity Christianity is NOT just my light for Christ but Christ being my light. Not my strength for Christ, Christ being my strength. Not just giving me strength but being my strength; which is a world of difference! Not just my faithfulness to Christ, but his faithfulness to me.

Christ IS my strength. Christ IS this little light of mine. Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

I have begged God to be real in my life, to make himself known, to speak to me. I used to believe that the proof, the evidence of him being in my life was my “better living.” I used to think that my primary objective as a Christian was to live a life that inspired others to live a life that inspired more others to live a life that resembled the life of Christ. This is not helpful.

I need to break away from the mindset of looking at people only as potential prospects that can be used by God but rather people whom Christ died for. Rather than viewing people as soldiers to conquer the world for Christ, let’s tell people that Christ has conquered and overcame the world already.

Christianity is not a battle cry to make something happen. It is a news report of something good that has happened.  

Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you, you are forgiven.

 
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
— Romans 5:6
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8
But God being rich in mercy because of the great love which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved.
— Ephesians 2:4-5
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’
— Romans 4:5-8