THE CRY OF OLIVER TWIST – AND SOME CHRISTIANS!

(July 12, 2017) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share a challenge on commitment in following and serving Jesus…

‘Please, sir, I want some more’ from Charles Dickens’ second novel Oliver Twist are words so famous that virtually everyone remembers them.

The outraged response of Mr Bumble, the workhouse supervisor, is well known too.  The musical Oliver portrays Bumble’s enraged reaction as ‘More? You want more?!’

In other words, ‘What you have already received is enough, more than enough!’

The Christian catchcry of ‘More’
Some twenty-five years ago ‘More, I want more’ became many a Christian’s Oliver Twist catchcry in various church circles.

Today as we minister around various denominations and engage in pastoral care/mentoring, we still hear another cry for more, and not  just from a mere few Christians.

It’s a cry of longing for something better than …

  • An unsettled heart
  • Discontentment with current personal circumstances or marriage
  • Churches not displaying friendliness and Christian love
  • A lack of taught ‘real’ biblical truths of meaningful ‘meat’
  • Weird so-called ‘new’ teaching
  • No personal relationship with our loving heavenly Father
  • Not knowing the written promises of God, and neither reading or grasping their truths
  • The absence of the supernatural Holy Spirit in church life and people’s lives (even leaders).

The above short list and other things result in that Dickensian expression of ‘More. I want more’ but for more of something precious, meaningful and wholesome.

Yet the real biblical more has already been given to born again Christians!
One of the meanings of ‘more’ is to have ‘enough to spare’… what then are we doing with the full cup of ‘more’ that we already have?

The truth is that Jesus has already given us all of the more we could ever want!
We need to know this, to understand it and to live it because the challenging question is: ‘What are we doing with it?’

As recalled last month … at least by some churches, hopefully particularly by Pentecostal and charismatic ones… when the Holy Spirit fell on that Acts 2 first Pentecost Sunday over 200 years ago, the church of Jesus was born and his followers – faithful, committed disciples – received an incredible ‘more’ that caused them to immediately praise God, forget about the negativities around and excitedly hit the streets with such confidence and positiveness sharing the more they themselves had received!

It was the fulfilment of Jesus’ John 14: 16-17 Mge promise to send a new friend, the Holy Spirit into their midst – ‘… the Father [will] provide you another friend so that you will always have someone with you. This friend is the Spirit of truth.’

And as Peter clearly proclaimed in Acts 2:38-39 Mge, this promise is for everyone who genuinely repents and accepts Jesus: ‘Change your life. Turn to God and be baptised, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away – whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.’

Merely the beginning of a bold new way of living
Accepting Jesus and being filled (pleroofilled full; Ephesians 5:18) with the Holy Spirit is but the beginning of a dynamic exciting new life!

But alas, sadly the bottom line appears to be this: Many Christians haven’t built a relationship with Jesus and still don’t realise even these important aspects of what they already have in him –

  • Complete forgiveness of past sins
  • Not being dropped when we happen to sin again but genuinely repent
  • A bright tomorrow every new day
  • No matter what may go down or wrong, God isn’t caught unawares – he doesn’t sleep!
  • Negativeness from the past replaced with positiveness about the future
  • Overall a full-on new life and inner assurance and confidence
  • Energy, vitality and newfound abilities
  • Peace and joy and other fruit of the Spirit
  • Our great friend the Holy Spirit and his power within
  • Regular opportunities to serve the master, Jesus
  • The ever present prayer-answering Father God who so cares he will never forsake us
  • Andmuch more, the real moreall inherent in our salvation.

There is a longing within for something more that will help them know God’s will for our life and to enjoy it satisfactorily, knowing within we can trust him afresh each new day for whatever may come.

In fact what’s missing is the knowledge of treasures a convert to Christ now has because of genuinely repenting, asking forgiveness and accepting his offered salvation, the depths and reality of it all (Matthew 6:21 NLT, ‘Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be’).

Understand we already have all the ‘more’ we could ever want!
Paul wrote with confidence in Colossians 2:10, ‘Because you belong to Christ, you have everything you need.’  No suggesting we request ‘more’ in this scripture! The surrounding verses speak of Jesus being the epitome of fulness. And, as the NLT indicates, because of our salvation, we too are full – ‘So you also are complete through your union with Christ.’

In simple terms, we really don’t need nor can we get ‘more’ (as we would interpret the word) because God has already given us everything we need!

What’s missing in many Christians is the reality of living out everything that God has made available to us. This is the ‘more and more’ Paul requires of us – ‘… live in order to please God …. we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more’ (1 Thes 4:1 NLT). ‘More’ here is mallon… in a greater degree, better.

The revelation of what we have in Christ comes through…

  • Growing in our Christianity
  • Knowing God’s word and ways through scripture meditation
  • Obeying scripture, not just reading it (James 2:12, ‘You must do what it says’)
  • Fellowshipping with experienced Christians who have successfully travelled life’s road
  • Attending church regularly and hearing meaningful Bible-based sermons
  • Learning to fully trust the Holy Spirit who dwells within.
  • Believing and moving to the inspirations and directions that come from trusting!

A blackboard full
We recall way back in the 70s when we first church planted, asking a Bible study group to write on a blackboard a list of what we actually already have in Christ based on the reality of Colossians 2:10. Growing, maturing Christians only hesitated for a moment before each wrote something. Soon that blackboard was full!

That growing list included … the reality of the gospel, full salvation, contentment, boundless joy despite hardships, victory over challenges, peace, success opportunities, general good health, needed healing answered by prayer and faith, deepest comfort when losing loved ones, revelations, Bible knowledge, prophecies, solutions, visions, goals, abilities, intimacy with the Holy Spirit resulting in authority and supernatural power, and much more – the real more that has already been given.

Then we gave the challenge – ‘Great…but are you fully living it all out?’ Admittedly there was a negative shaking of heads as the group openly and honestly confessed that they were …

  • Not fully realising the depths of God’s love and graciousness
  • Not acknowledging that everything has already been given
  • Were so often insulting God by not embracing it all
  • Not accepting that, although so blessed, we are but servants
  • Not understanding that Jesus is Lord – therefore master in charge of all things.

Maybe it would help discontented, lacking Christians to take a sheet of paper, think, and write down a Bible-based list of all we have in God through Jesus. And to note that anything not yet fully operating can be prayed about and believed for.

God too has a cry of ‘More’?
What if we take our focus of ourselves, our longing for more and centre this catchcry on God? Yes, on God! Have we ever considered that God is pleading with many of us, ‘More? I want more… of you!’

John the Baptist was a follower of God: bold, outspoken, and unafraid of critics both religious and political. He knew his ministry and engaged in it whatever the cost, obviously aware the God would take care of him in every way, in life itself and beyond.

His concern was not for himself, ‘his’ ministry, how he dressed or what he ate or, but that Jesus would be honoured and pre-eminent. Hence he declared, ‘He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less’ (John 3:30 NTL).

Many great sermons highlighting ‘More of Jesus, less of me’ are based on this great Bible verse, not self! The Message reads: ‘This is the assigned moment for him (Jesus) to move into the centre, while I (John) slip off to the sidelines.’

Praise God that there is a fresh good ‘I’ cry rising today among some Christians, especially young people, in respect of a badly needed aspect of ‘More’… ‘I want to know the Spirit personally more and how to move in his gifts so that I can meaningfully help my pastor build this church and reveal to a needy community that Jesus is alive and real.’

This ‘more’ reflects a fresh commitment to the lordship of Jesus and the master’s service, to moving on – echoing the prophet Isaiah’s famous cry, ‘I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

Isaiah prompt response: ‘I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!”’ (Isaiah 6:8 Mge).

We all need to note such emphasis – ‘I spoke up.’ The language indicates a willingness to move out of comfort zones and onward. The question today for Christians, for leaders, for churches is: ‘Are we too ever willing to boldly declare like Isaiah… “You’re the boss, the Lord. I am willing – have more of me, send me, use me”’?

Jesus’ followers are committed to ‘No turning back’
Many people, even non-churchgoers love and respect well-known old hymns that often carry more great biblical truths than some ‘modern’ choruses. Such as the simple but meaningful No Turning Back, attributed to Sundar Singh, the great Indian missionary who had converted to Christ as a teenager and became treasured by many as a formative figure in the development of the Christian church in India.

Singh travelled extensively, even around the world, and was astounded at incredible materialism in Christian circles and self-centredness. But, committed to his master and gospel truths, he moved ever forward, not counting the cost of ridicule, stoning and (like Joseph) being cast in a pit. Aged only 40, he mysteriously disappeared in the Himalayas. He had obviously been a committed Isaiah type. May we be too, noting Singh’s emphasis on moving forward whatever the cost in these (excerpted) stanzas…

‘I have decided to follow Jesus; No turning back, no turning back.
Though I may wonder, I still will follow; No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow; No turning back, no turning back.
Will you decide now to follow Jesus? No turning back, no turning back.’

Such discipleship is a bit like skydiving… once you take the plunge, there’s no turning back!

Recent personal challenge and commissioning
Isaiah 6:8 became very meaningful to us last month when we were asked by the Lord to commit to meaningfully supporting a treasured visionary pastor friend and his 28 acre church organisation in Western Australia. Especially as it was believed (and prophetically confirmed) that I should be commissioned as chair of the church’s first-ever governance board.

Without going into the incredible Macedonian dream (Acts 16:9) I had weeks beforehand, leading to all that happened since, let’s just say this new highly responsible challenge would indeed prove to be a commitment of no turning back.

And it involves Maureen too! We’re both committed to praying much for this great WA church, to intercession, to thinking about the staff and our governance board members and so on. And committed to flying over not only to cover board meetings but to bless the wonderful congregation and to input into leadership at this great church that has a Christian college, a food bank, has founded and supports an Indonesian intercontinental school, and plans to grow further as it proclaims the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

Needless to add that we’ll be relying as usual on the anointing of our fantastic friend – the powerful Holy Spirit.

The master’s promise to committed disciples
In commissioning his first followers to spread the gospel by teaching what he had taught, and indicating that the Spirit would be sufficient for them, Jesus declared that ‘miraculous signs will accompany those who believe’ (Mark 16: 17).

When we too willingly accept whatever task the master gives any of us today, we too have the powerful back-up of the Spirit following us. We are not left alone…filled with the Spirit; we have the ‘more’ already within us!

Ephesians 6:10’s ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power’ is great encouragement to go forward, step up to the plate, move ahead or whatever terminology we care to use.

Whatever the task Jesus gives, remember this great piece of advice… When we turn commissions over to Jesus, the power behind us is greater than the challenges before us!’

Back to  that ‘more’ cry … may our cry of more be for fresh infillings of the Spirit to help us honour Jesus, our Saviour, Lord and Master!

Then we’ll be meaningfully filled and Matthew 6:33-34 (NIrV) will be a reality re needs: ‘Put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ 
_______________________________________________________________________________________

(Scripture emphases ours) Links:  * George Forbes’ https://connectingwithyou.net/2017/07/15/moving-forward-on-the-cutting-edge-2/ * Jim McClure’s https://connectingwithyou.net/2017/07/11/a-deborah-in-our-midst/

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