When evangelist Gypsy Smith was asked why, at ninety years of age, there was still a fresh vitality in his witness, he replied, “Because I’ve never lost the wonder of it all.” I, too, pray for that same effervescent hope and glittery twinkle in my eye for my later years. Check that, I strive in Christ for it! I long to dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide forever in the True Vine.
Far too many in the professing church today are hoping in a false security for all their eternal wants and wishes. Because they prayed a prayer, lifted a hand at a pastor’s behest during an invitation or filled out a decision card, they feel they are “in” and that’s all there is to it. There is no coming under the reign of Christ. They live as they good and well please. The Gospel of Heaven has replaced the Gospel of the Reign of Christ in the modern church.
When John the Baptist came preaching an “at-hand” Kingdom of Heaven, it was clear to him that a characteristic of a Kingdom citizen was one who was continually brought under the Lordship of the Son, the King of that Kingdom, Jesus the Christ.
“He must increase; I must decrease.”
The interesting thing about that passage is its Greek construction. The first phrase is a present active reality. “He must be increasing.” Simply put, the Baptizer knew this about the Kingdom economy: its citizens MUST be seen flourishing in the Life of Christ and He must be seen thriving and thrumming in them. The Good News is, this is not something we can work up on our own.
In the second phrase, the mood switches to the passive, morphing the words into these: “I must be BEING decreased.” I cannot break myself nor can I bring holiness to myself. It is the Lord’s doing.
Be forewarned. Those who would follow Christ are ripe for the anvil since we are all rife with self. Paul of the Damascus Road once shouted with his reed: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection (He must increase) and the fellowship of His suffering (I must be being decreased)…”
And still, still after years of hammering and hurting, scraping and scouring, being cast down, cast out and cast off, this hearty old apostle could say at the end of his days it had been “a good fight.” How can you kill a man who’s already dead?
When young Gypsy made Christ Lord of all His Life, it stuck. He made it his life’s pursuit to know Christ.
Eternal life is not gained by the mere lifting of a hand but with a life that abides in His Love (John 17:3). And it is a restful abiding, to be sure. Our work is only to yield (though that seems like hard labor in a prison yard at times as self is so unrelenting!). But His work is to deliver us all the way from Egypt and to Promise.
And one day, maybe a few hundred miles from this moment, or just a few perhaps, may we also turn to a would-be inquirer with glowing face and smiling eyes and give witness to a life well lived.
A life that, by God’s needful grace, never loses the wonder.