Returning to Majestic Christianity
by ERIC LUDY
Something is missing in Christianity today.
For years I’ve tried to put my finger on it. And then, when I finally caught it beneath my finger, I spent another few years just trying to articulate precisely what it was that I had caught.
Sometimes I want to call it “The Ancient Grit.” At other times, it seems more appropriate to call it “The Manly Stuff” or “The Rack of Glory.” Leslie refers to it as “The Old-Fashioned Authority.” Whereas I often term it “The Oomph.” But, with all these wonderful descriptors, there are moments when the word “Majesty” says it all. So, that’s where I’m landing.
We are missing “The Majesty.”
Living in Colorado, I’ve got majesty right outside my back window. It beckons my daily respect and admiration in the form of mountains nearly three miles high. But, if you remove the Rocky Mountains from Colorado, you’ve suddenly got Kansas. Sure, there is nothing wrong with Kansas, but no one is booking a trip to Kansas to find some “purple mountain majesty.”
Modern Christianity is like Colorado minus the mountains. It’s lacking something very important. And it is that very “majestic something” that I’m aching to see return to the Colorado, er, I mean the Christian plains. We have a dying world that is booking trips to “Christianity” in order to take a glimpse at these legendary peaks as touted in the Bible, but when they drive through this state they just aren’t seeing it.
When I read the Bible, I hear a voice. It’s a booming voice like the sound of a rushing waterfall or like the sound of a thousand peals of simultaneous thunder proclaiming, “I am your God, bend the knee!”
In this sacred text I see God’s power, I witness His awesome faithfulness, and I behold the rescuing and renovating strength of His almighty right hand. I stand in awe at the foot of the Cross and when I peer inside the empty tomb, I fall to my knees in stunned wonder. And I ask myself a question…
“What is the proper response to such a God as this?”
For some reason, my honest answer to that significant question sounds strange within the corridors of the modern Church system. For it would seem to me that this Almighty God deserves our everything — our every moment, our every talent, our every penny, our every decision, our every thought, our every affection, and our every bit of trust.
Simply put, we are missing the majesty.
For those of you that are a bit doubtful that this version of Christianity actually exists, let’s consider Hudson Taylor’s life for a moment. For that matter, let’s consider C.T. Studd. Or how about Amy Carmichael, William Booth, and Rees Howells? And while we are doing all this considering maybe we should also throw in some consideration of Charles Spurgeon, John “Praying” Hyde, Leonard Ravenhill, Richard Wurmbrand, and George Müller. And since we are in such a great “considering groove,” it would seem a waste of a wonderful opportunity to not also sprinkle in some consideration of Major Ian Thomas, George Whitefield, Oswald Chambers, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Gladys Aylward, Edward Payson, William Carey, D.L. Moody, David Brainerd, John G. Paton, David Livingstone, E.M. Bounds, Evan Roberts, Paris Reidhead, John Wesley, Eric Liddell, John and Betty Stam, R.A. Torrey, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, Jonathan Goforth, Brother Andrew, and Andrew Murray.
In these last two hundred years we’ve seen the magnificence of God in and through the humble lives of obedient men and women of the faith. Each of the men and women just mentioned were athletes of a heavenly order. In other words, this “majesty” wasn’t just in millennia gone by, but it’s been in the recent annals of Christian history. Close enough in history’s timeline for us to know that God is still in the business of building majestic Christianity.
So, now that we’ve diffused all of that latent doubt, let’s get down to the business of seeing this majesty return. To do this, we first need to take a step back to get an aerial view of how the return of this majesty is actually accomplished in the life of the Church.
These Christian heroes of the faith just mentioned all had one key thing in common. They all understood their own inherent weakness. I realize that sounds like a rather strange key to strength. Weakness? Am I serious? Very serious! If we want the stuff of old, then we need to get back to the basics. The most basic of basic facts in the Kingdom of Heaven is, “We can’t, only He can!”
The Marvel of the Longbow
To help you understand this most basic fact, think of God as the Almighty Archer and yourself as a longbow. Can a longbow draw itself? Of course, not. But that doesn’t keep us, as human longbows, from trying.
We are comedic creatures. When we first catch the vision of the impossible pull of the longbow, there is a molten stirring of desire that awakens within us. We crave the authentic version of faith, and we are tired of the stuffy, fluffy version of Christianity so common today. But we often go about attempting to fulfill our high calling the wrong way.
When we hear the overtures of the return of majesty, many of us tend to grit our teeth, dig down deep, and sprint to pick up our longbow. We grab hold of it, purse our lips, and yank at that bowstring with all our might.
This is what I call “self-doing,” and it’s akin to a little two-year-old child running up to a longbow belonging to a ten-foot-tall giant and attempting to pull the bowstring and shoot an arrow. It simply doesn’t work. The child, though well meaning, is not physically able to pull off such a feat. The longbow is huge and the little child is … ahem … not.
This may offend those who have been raised on the motto, “You can do it!” But please hear me out. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying that we, in all our self-doing gusto, are not the ones that make it happen.
We can scour our personal warehouse of strength, talents, abilities, knowledge, wisdom, and resolve. We can run down the stairs into the deepest cellar of our own grit and determination, but we will not find the supernatural stuff requisite to pull off the job.
After all, the job is termed impossible for good reason.
The secret to the return of majesty to the Church of Jesus Christ is not found in our own warehouse of ability. It’s found in His.
When all you know is self-doing, it’s a strange thing to switch to another form of doing. But switch you must.
Let’s call it “God-doing.” The Bible refers to this concept as grace. And this is what the Scriptures tell us is the one and only thing that can pull the bowstring of our lives. This grace is what saves us. This grace is what does the work that we ourselves cannot do in our own self-roused strength. This grace is the hand of the Almighty Archer reaching into our lives and doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It was this grace that crushed the head of the ancient serpent and that has set us free from the power of sin’s penalty and control.
God knew that the human life could only be mastered and properly pulled by His almighty hand. In the Garden of Eden, when we partook of that forbidden fruit and subsequently departed from the Almighty Archer, our lives could no longer wield the arrows of love, faith, and obedience they were created to send forth. They could no longer hit the intended target, for no hand on this earth was strong enough to pull back such a bowstring. And the Great Bowyer (the One who constructs the longbows) wove a simple principle into His design of the longbow. That is: the longbow is simply incapable of pulling itself. Such is the limitation of its design. Self-doing won’t cut it. Only God-doing will work.
God is the only means by which a longbow can be pulled. In fact, He actually humbled Himself and became a longbow. Such is the great and bewildering mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God in the skin of a man. God become the chosen war weapon of Heaven. And, to the amazement of all the onlooking heavens, Jesus Christ, though God, yielded Himself unto His Father, the Master Bowman, and for the first time since Adam’s failure in the Garden, the longbow was pulled. This is God-doing. This is what saves us. And this is also what enables us.
And in this amazing picture of God-doing, the great secret of the Christian life was revealed. For the Christian man or woman is a unique sort of athlete. We, as believers, are not the work of our own efforts, determination, discipline, and study. We are a result of another’s work, another’s fitness, another’s endurance, another’s power, another’s knowledge of the game, and another’s training regime.
The principle of earthly athleticism is practice makes perfect, while the principle of heavenly athleticism is His work makes us perfect. And it’s this grace of Jesus that makes for athletic saints — men and women able to pull the bowstring and do with their lives that which would otherwise be impossible.
For years of my life, I esteemed the fact that Jesus drew the longbow and shot through the devil at the Cross. I believed this fact, but this fact didn’t truly alter me. For when I went to live out my Christianity, I was no stronger than the God-forsaking man next door. I meant well, but I couldn’t do well.
Hudson Taylor struggled with the same perplexing dilemma. He esteemed Christ’s pull of the longbow and went into all the world to tell about it, but struggled to know how his own life was to prove a similar athletic pattern of His beloved Forerunner.
Hudson Taylor’s story of transformation has had a great impact upon my own personal life. For Hudson Taylor ached for an answer to this weighty question: “Can my life demonstrate God’s life?” He prayed. He fasted. He cried out to God for an answer. And, in the end, he found something golden. The golden truth had been there all along and was embarrassingly obvious once he finally grasped it in his spiritual grip. It was an idea. An idea of Christ being his Life — His All in all. And it was this heavenly idea that shaped him into a man that altered the history of nations. In seeing Hudson’s discovery, I too, as a young man, set out to find this secret of strength and authentic Christian action in the person of Christ. My life has never been the same. The epic vision was awakened in me — the craving for the return of majesty stirred within.
When Hudson Taylor was discovering this grand truth, he was already a missionary. His life was already devoted to the service of his King. However, a new pair of glasses seemed to supernaturally set itself upon the bridge of his nose. And suddenly he could see. He realized that resting in Jesus and letting Him do the work made all the difference.
How simple a discovery it was. And yet, how profound. Like a longbow, he finally recognized that he couldn’t pull himself, but if he yielded to the hand of the Archer, the bow could and would be pulled.
In the classic Christian biography of Taylor’s life, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, it mentions the dramatic impact this transformation had upon his life:
“Whenever he [Hudson Taylor] spoke in meetings after that, a new power seemed to flow from him, and in the practical things of life, a new peace possessed him. Troubles did not worry him as before. He cast everything on God in a new way, and gave more time to prayer.”
Taylor referred to this profound occurrence in his life as “the exchanged life.” He realized that he needed to give up his own life, lay it down, surrender it, and receive the Life of God in its place. He did just that. He gave his life to Jesus Christ — lock, stock, and barrel. And then he unlocked the door of his life, body, mind, will, emotions, future, hopes, and dreams and invited the Holy Spirit of God to come inside.
What Hudson Taylor did was what all of us must do. And this is how the ancient majesty will return to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Remember the most basic of principles in the Christian life? We can’t, only He can!
What Hudson Taylor found is not special or unique to him. It’s the common treasure of the people of faith. In fact, it’s the gift that everyone of us MUST receive and exercise in our daily lives. The supernatural demonstration of heavenly strength that Hudson Taylor modeled in and through his life, marriage, and ministry was not something meant only for his life. It’s intended to be enjoyed by everyone.
This means that the very same vigor that Hudson Taylor demonstrated can and must once again usher forth in this earth. Likewise, the courage and faith of people like C.T. Studd, William Booth, George Müller, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, Gladys Aylward, and Esther Ahn Kim are there for the taking. And God longs for these heavenly attributes to return to this earth full force and undiluted. He simply needs a body to deposit these extraordinary attributes into. And that Body is us, His Church.
Just think … He wants to be our Life!