The 40 Year Journey – What Next? (Text – talk)

DSC_0211(Opening talk by Ian D’Souza at the Ruby Jubilee CCR Convention held in Mumbai, India, on 3rd & 4th February, 2012)

The purpose of this opening talk is to interpret the spiritual journey of the CCR (its people) over the last 40 yrs and discover what God wants for us ahead.

In your program brochures you will find an article titled “the 40 years gone by”.  There we have traced a brief history of the past, as to how the renewal started from very humble beginnings.  We are privileged to have the two people God used to bring the renewal to Mumbai from the US 40 yrs ago, right here in our midst – They are none other than Minoo & Luz Maria Engineer!  It has always amazed me that the Lord should ever choose human instruments to carry out His work here on earth.  We are well aware that He does not need us, but chooses to include us in His plans, which is nothing but a privilege.

As we are all well aware, the renewal started in Mumbai and it is fitting therefore that we celebrate this jubilee event in Mumbai to begin with. Besides Minoo & Luz Engineer, there are a number of other persons that the Lord used mightily in those early days and years all of which are listed in your brochure article to the best of our knowledge. We are also indebted especially to Minoo Engineer who had the foresight to record carefully and precisely quite a detailed account of those past years.  In fact in the year 2008, Charisindia published a lengthy series of articles (14 articles) on the “beginnings of the CCR” which were sourced from his personal archives.  This is particularly worthy of mention because if it had not been carefully recorded, those of us who came in later on would have no clue of our roots, how it all started and what God has done in the past.

The last 40 years in the CCR have not been without their ups and downs, joys and sorrows, intense persecutions  from some sections and grateful acceptance from others. But rather than go into all those happenings, I would urge anyone wanting to update their info on the past to go through all the articles printed in Charisindia during 2008 for a historical education is always valuable and insightful when looked upon in retrospect.

Over the years, we have seen the Lord mature us in the way we think and relate to Him and the church.  We are well aware that in the early years there were many excesses which came out of innocence and ignorance perhaps, but today growth and some level of maturity have stabilized most of those things.

As far as growth of the renewal in numbers is concerned, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap (papal preacher) stated in his special retreat conducted in Sept 2003 for 1000 delegates from 73 countries:  He said; Taking into account Protestant, evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, and some members of the Orthodox Church, it is estimated that 500 million Christians have had the charismatic experience, till date (Zenit Sept 26, 2003).

He then urged the lay people, bishops & priests present – not to be afraid of the renewal, but rather to seek God in it. He said; the present Pope (John Paul II – 1978) is not afraid and often referred to the Charismatic Renewal as signs of a new springtime in the Church [ZE03092610]. And Pope Paul VI said it was an opportunity for the Church..  What is it that made our Popes and eminent leaders of the church recognize the hand of God in the Renewal.  I believe the answer lies in the testimony of every charismatic holds which is more or less as follows:

All of us without exception, have similarities to the following kind of a testimony.  We may have been born and baptized in the Catholic church and grown up receiving our first holy communion at one stage, confirmation at another and the regular sacraments all along.  However, if we are honest, we have to admit that for most of us at least, all of this did not make any difference spiritually.  We may have attended church, but our lives were not awakened spiritually. However, in God’s time He got hold of us by grace through faith and we had an encounter with Jesus through a Charismatic retreat or Life in the Spirit Seminar, etc.  It was in that retreat or LSS, wherein we heard the complete Gospel of our salvation for the first time in our lives and responded to it in faith, repented of our sins and surrendered our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Thereafter we were prayed over for the Baptism in the HS which proved to be the turning point in our lives.  From that day onward our spiritual eyes were opened and the HS was released in our lives in a more powerful way.

But the confusing question is, why did this not happen from childhood when we were baptized by the church as infants.  Why were we not so spiritually alive right from the beginning since we received the HS through our initial baptism as infants.   From the time of our infant baptism to the moment of our BHS there seems to be gap wherein we were spiritually dead almost, that we tend to forget about.

Thank God Fr. Cantalamessa once again supplies the answer: As Catholics, though validly baptized as infants, the Church requires us to ratify that baptism with an adult confession of faith in Jesus Christ for it to be effective. “For most of us, baptism is a bound sacrament. That means that while we have received baptism in the church, the church gave it in the hope that at some point in our adult life we would confirm our “I Believe” in a personal, free act of faith. Until there is this act of faith in the life of a Christian, baptism remains a bound sacrament.” [Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Charisindia July 2011 pg. 29]

Tied Sacrament: The Baptism in the Spirit’s (BHS) effectiveness in reactivating (our infant) baptism consists in this: finally man contributes his part — namely, he makes a choice of faith, prepared in repentance, that allows the work of God to set itself free and to emanate all its strength. It is as if the plug is pulled and the light is switched on. The gift of God is finally “untied” and the Spirit is allowed to flow like a fragrance in the Christian life. [Cantalamessa – ICCRS newsletter – 1980].

And from then on, there has been no looking back, as we began to desire more of HIM.  The Word of God opened up to us becoming alive and the gifts and fruit of the HS began to be manifest in our lives. In the same way we received our newfound faith in Christ, in the same way we endeavoured to make Him known to others, through retreats and LSSs.   Besides the use of program methods, another hallmark of the renewal during those initial years of awakening was the intense desire towards personal evangelism (one-to-one) in order to lead all those the Lord would send our way into a similar experience of encountering Christ through the Salvation message (Gospel) and the BHS – both go hand-in-glove with each other. None is complete without the other.  We have a tendency today to speak only of the BHS which is incomplete really.  No amount of praying over for the BHS will have any effect unless it is preceded by coming to the cross in repentance first.

So far, so good, as we learned about the two-twin disciplines needed to grow in the Christian life – that of prayer and the Word, we began to take our personal prayer seriously and our study of the word became an important part of our lives.  The result was a gala time in the Lord, enjoying His presence which is always filled with spiritual delights and wonders.  This included attending a myriad of conferences, bible classes, charismatic conventions and seminars.  All was sunshine and roses as we rejoiced in being used by God to serve Him in so many ways. This joyful time often referred to as the honey-moon time in our relationship with the Lord went on for quite some months and years in the early stages.  The young spirit filled Christian was filled with the HS and rejoiced in the God of his salvation, and his freedom from sin’s clutches. Daily his mouth was filled with praises, with alleluias and hosannas pouring forth from his lips.

This has a clear parallel in the OT when Israel was taken out of Egypt and brought out of captivity.  [Egypt being symbolic of Satan’s kingdom of darkness – which held Israel in bondage and captivity.  Moses was a type of Christ that rescued his people from Egypt and brought them out of captivity].  He then led them to the Red Sea where the waters were parted and they passed through – symbolic of their baptism – baptized into Moses (1 Cor 10:2).

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Cor 10:1-2).

[In Exodus 15:1-5 we have the song of Moses – I will sing unto the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously, the horse and rider thrown into the sea…].  They rejoiced initially at seeing and experiencing the wonders of God on their behalf.  As they came out the other end, they found themselves in the wilderness, but they had a goal, they were going somewhere – to Canaan, the land of promise.

Then followed a long journey through the wilderness, where God was after one main thing.  He had got them out of Egypt, [Egypt being a symbol of Captivity and also of the self-sufficiency of the flesh] but He now had to get Egypt out of them. And hence a long period of testings and trials followed where they were called upon to let go of their crutches and self-dependency and become totally dependent upon God.  [Eg: manna had to be gathered daily]

In the same way, we have been delivered from our Egypt (our captivity under Satan & sin’s dominion and the realm of the flesh), we have passed through the Red Sea (our infant baptism & the BHS) since the BHS is nothing but reactivating our first baptism through our adult confession of faith in Christ.

CCC=But above all, the crossing of the Red Sea, literally the liberation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, announces the liberation wrought by Baptism: You freed the children of Abraham from the slavery of Pharaoh, bringing them dry-shod through the waters of the Red Sea, to be an image of the people set free in Baptism  (ccc 1221). [prayer made during the Easter vigil]

So just as God needed lots of time (40 yrs, which was largely increased due to their disobedience) to try his people and test them and prune and refine them all with the purpose of getting Egypt (the flesh) out of them; so also when we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought out into his marvellous light, the Lord now undertakes to get Egypt out of us – that is to deliver us from our self-dependence and self-efforts.  That is from that day of our encounter with Christ, He sets us out in the wilderness for the same reasons.

How this actually works:

Shortly after our BHS which marked our initial encounter with Christ, we emerged from our captivity from the evil one and from the dominion of sin and we embarked on our honey-moon phase with the Lord enjoying His mercy and grace and love showered upon us lavishly through the delights of his word, bible conferences, conventions, sacraments coming alive, freedom from sin, etc.   As I said earlier this initial phase goes on for months or even for a few years with the young Christian basking in the glory of the Son.

Then before long, without announcement, quite slowly and almost imperceptibly, the young Christian begins to experience a slowing down of ecstatic spiritual experiences and the glow of the honey-moon begins to fade.  Strangely the desire for prayer and the word also becomes difficult and hard work.  Not realizing that earlier we were being carried by grace, the young believer becomes frantic and pushes his level best to restore himself to the earlier stages of joy by praying longer and harder, putting in more hours of bible reading perhaps, exercising the spiritual disciplines that he has learned more rigorously, but all to no avail, it seems.

Just like the Israelites entered into the wilderness which they traversed for many years as God worked in them, so also the Christian’s honey-moon and sunshine time now comes to a standstill as the Lord undertakes the next more important phase in his life – that of maturing the baby Christian and emptying him of self, so that it is no longer he, but Christ!  To do this effectively, He removes His hand of blessing for longer periods of time allowing us to go through a long wilderness time ourselves.

[These are 2 important lessons the Lord wants to achieve in this time]

Firstly, the Father intends for us to walk by faith and not by sight (sense).  Till now the baby Christian has been walking largely by his senses which included a sense of God’s tangible presence.  Like a wise mother, the Lord weans us from the breast – which has been our comfort zone till that moment – and lets us down to walk upon our feet.  He initially continues to hold our hand, till we learn to walk by faith and then lets go and withdraws but always watching us as he has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us. As you can imagine the young Christian goes ballistic trying to figure out why the Lord is absconding and cannot be felt (by his senses) any more.  To keep us sane, the Lord does send times of refreshing and blessing so that we do not breakdown.  But on we must go with the lesson of learning to walk by faith and not by sight.  [Dark Night of the Soul – St. John of the Cross]

Secondly, During this time the Christian begins to notice that some of the old sins begin to show themselves once again. The Lord must allow this to surface for one very important reason and that is to make the Christian realize that though delivered externally from the captivity of the enemy, there is another more deadly foe on the inside that has to be dealt with and that is the old-man (sin nature) or the self-life.  From here our loving heavenly Father starts us out on a long journey in the wilderness whose chief purpose is to educate us about the awful wretched self-life within.  Why is this so and why does this take so long – because most of us – St. Paul states – tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to (Rom 12:3) – and therefore we must be shown in great detail the depths of depravity of sin that we are capable of in the old man of the flesh.  St. Augustine says:  Let me know myself Lord and I shall know thee (Soliloquy Bk 2, Ch 1).

St Paul had already begun to find this out in Rom 7:15-17; I know what I want to do, but end up doing what I do not want to do…..There dwells in me no good thing, except sin (v. 18)….Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death (v. 25a)….praise the Lord…the Lord Jesus Christ!

I remember in my own life those depressing moments when sin seemed to always be on top of me.  But because I loved the Lord and would not give up, I tried with all my self-ability to overcome sin, only to find to my dismay that the harder I tried, the harder I fell.  I tried every self-help method, every holiness method that I could find, made more retreats of every type, only to end in dismal failure time and time again.  Never did I guess that “failure” is one of God’s chiefest instruments to bring me to an end in myself.  The problem is that we have always believed that God only helps those who help themselves (even though this is not scriptural), but the truth is that God only helps those who come to an end in themselves.  And failure is the chief means by which God is able to bring us to an end in ourselves and our self-efforts of trying to overcome for Him.

I had reached a point in my life when I had had it up to here.  And I told the Lord that I was quitting since I was not able to overcome the many sinful thoughts that plagued my mind so often. And so I gave up and silently said bye to God and the CCR!  During this time while I was finishing some reading material, the Lord suddenly showed me something:  He helped me understand that nowhere in His word was I told that I was supposed to overcome sin.  I had a frantic time resolving this especially since I had taught so many times on the subject of overcoming temptation where we always had to make the effort.  But eventually I realised that He was right and I asked then what Lord is the answer:  It was then that he opened my eyes to see the truth in the book of Romans Ch. 6:6 that the old nature within [which He had been exposing before my eyes for the last so many years – in order to make sure that I knew that I knew that I knew that there dwelt in me nothing but sin] had been crucified with Christ on the cross and hence was nullified of it power and the power of sin therefore had lost its grip over my life, I need not give in to its temptations any more, but all I had to do was reckon myself dead to it and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

That day the scales fell from over my eyes and I realised for the first time, that when Jesus died on the cross, I also died with him; and not only did he pay the penalty for my sin, but He  took me (the sinner) to the cross with him, and there destroyed the source of sin over my life.  No wonder Paul said that “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me” (Gal 2:20).  For too long we have been living by one half of the Gospel, that Christ died for my sins, but have ignored the second half (as important) that we the sinner died with Christ.

I know there are many among us even now that are struggling in the same way with sin and that is perfect; you are in the right place where God wants you to be.  He has allowed and even engineered every struggle and every failure with regard to sin, because He intends to bring you to that point of despair and exhaustion of self-effort, so that you will stop trying and struggling and let go and let God open the eyes of your understanding to see what His Son has accomplished for you on the cross in that glorious finished work.

In that instant I was filled with the HS and waves of relief cascaded over me while I rested in His presence with nothing but praises on my lips and a song in my heart.  From that day on I ceased from my struggles and was immediately at rest trusting in His finished work.

The same was the case with Israel. The older generation of Israelites failed to enter into that promise of rest typified by Canaan (and its flowing milk and honey) because of their unbelief (Heb 4:6 DRA).  And so the writer of Hebrews warns us “Therefore, while the promise of entering His Rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers” (Heb 4:1-2).  Like anything else in the Christian life, our walk is begun, continued and finished by faith. In fact without this faith, it is impossible to please God.  So the writer continues to exhort us “Let us therefore [by faith] strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience (Heb 4:11).

This rest of God is not reserved for any special people, but God desires that we all come to that matriculation of sorts whereby we will cease from our efforts and rest in His finished work. It is to this end that our loving heavenly Father is directing us; this is where He wants to lead us to – into His rest. Like Israel of old, we too are on the threshold of a promise that awaits the New Testament Christian who aligns his walk in obedience with the scriptures.

God is moving us onward from the basics to mature manhood….we need to press on to maturity, into His Rest!

As the writer of Hebrews rightly points out: everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…(Heb 5:13-14; 6:1a).

After 40 years of wandering, it is time to enter into His Rest.  Many of you may be already there, I am sure. But our loving heavenly Father is waiting and yearning for all the rest of us to enter in, but it involves the narrow pathway of the cross.  It involves voluntarily accepting the fact that your self-life has been crucified and put away; and that means no more indulging in its pettiness.  It means saying no to sin and the fleeting delights that it brings.   It means reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

When we cease from our efforts and embrace the cross by reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:11), then we are at Rest already.  “As we grasp this two-fold focus of Paul’s spirituality of the cross [enumerated in Rom 6:6 & 6:11], we will grow in our love for what Christ did for us when he died on the cross, and we will also experience new power through the cross to overcome habit patterns of sin in our life.” – Fr. Gerard Beigel, (S.T.D), The California Mission.

I know that there may be many of us that are struggling with our sins and being defeated with them, failing time after time; but let me give you hope and good news this morning on this great jubilee celebration day beloved; you are in the right place where God wants you to be, that is a place of failure in self-effort.  Give up that self-striving and ask God to open the eyes of your understanding to see what He has done through His Son Jesus Christ and you will have rest for your souls.  For our Christianity is not Christ plus my efforts, but Christ plus my receiving what He has finished on the cross – ALLELUIA!

Everything changes once we are at Rest in Him, there was a time I used to labour and work hard in ministry and become exhausted with little fruit to be seen; but today things are different – I still work hard, but it is no longer I that live and do things, but it is the Life of Christ in me that produces effortless fruit, better fruit and fruit I know that will last.

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