Archive for March, 2011

The Big Picture – Part 13

Servants, Disciples and Sons

The ultimate and final goal for every child of God is that we grow, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Eph. 4:13-15.

God never planted a seed except that it might produce a good crop, enriching and nourishing the lives of others and then after growing going on to reproduce, multiplying itself to create many more like itself. Christ was the first fruit. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Rom. 8:29.

We are here because the seed of Adam has been faithful to produce a natural crop. Christ is here in God’s children because His seed, the Holy Spirit, in us has been faithful to produce a spiritual crop, being fruitful and multiplying.

Hows your crop? My wife enjoys the hobby of scrap booking. They have intense weekend encounters in which many scrappers get together and work hard at making progress in their books. The event is called Crop till you Drop. I think we Christians should crop till we drop too. Don’t you?

Go back and look at the progression for the journey that God has in mind for us. That we move from “children tossed to and fro”, to completion or full maturity “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. This doesn’t occur overnight. Think about our natural children. Do they go from a child to a fully mature adult without stages of progression? Neither do spiritual children.

Just as a natural son goes through many stages: newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent, teenager, youth, young man, man, adult, etc. and then eventually on to being a father himself, so goes the spiritual.

There are quite a few different Greek terms that we have interpreted as “son” in our Bibles, each with their own respective and unique meaning for that phase of the maturity process. I will not go into these although they make a fascinating study themselves. Instead I want to look at the manifestation, what we can see and experience of the maturity of the inner process going on.

There are many subtle nuances of degrees of manifestation besides these three but I want to focus on the hallmark divisions as the Bible has, namely — servants, disciples and sons. There are many references to the types of relationships we have with Christ in each of these roles.

I believe that each has to do with a maturing process in our own hearts. God is always our Father and his heart is always perfect toward us. It is our heart that is growing toward Him in Love and Truth. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” 2 Chron. 16:9.

Our heart is not automatically perfect toward
God although it could be at any time. We can even waver in indecision in our hearts which is the situation when they are not perfect toward Him. It is a matter of our willingness to die to ourself and live to Him. It depends upon our being living sacrifices. It is all bound up in the statement, “Not my will but Thine be done.”

Servants serve out of a sense of duty, because they believe they must. In their hearts there is a fear of punishment or loss. “If I don’t obey, I will have to suffer a consequence.” It is true that being disobedient carries a natural consequence but that is not the right reason to do God’s will.

A good way to explain the heart of a servant is: “I will do your will because I must.” This servant gives the right result with the wrong motive.

Disciples choose to do His will — and make no mistake, it is a choice of the will. They see that there is reward and benefit to doing God’s will. They take note and realize that the law is good and right. They follow Christ with a part of their heart, the part that is interested for what Self will gain. Remember that Judas is labeled a disciple. Remember also the rich young ruler. He kept the law, but when asked to make a personal sacrifice he went away sad. The heart is involved for sure, but why?

A good way to explain the heart of a disciple is: “I will do your will because I see that it will be good for me.”

Now each of the roles of servant and disciple are not wrong or bad they just are not best. They are not revealing the that heart that is well pleasing to God. That is the heart of a son. “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3:17. Remember God is looking for those whose hearts are perfect toward Him.

God uses even our wrong motives to move us along the path to sonship. We are moving from faith to faith one step at a time, precept upon precept. Servanthood and Discipleship are steps to becoming the sons of God.

Now the heart of a son of God is the heart of THE Son of God. God sent us Christ so we could know Him and so we could be like Him. The heart of a true son is grounded in love for the Father. It is not interested in it’s own will. It only seeks to please and do the Father’s will with no strings attached.

That is where God is bringing those who will follow and stay their course, trusting Him, depending on Him. He does not promise that every child of God will be a son of God. He gave the power, not the promise. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12.

He did not even promise that every child of God would be a disciple. Throughout it is a choice you must make. Here are some supporting verses:

Luke 14:26: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:27: And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:33: So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

No all along it is a choice. It is a matter of your heart. Do you want to be a servant, a disciple or a son? There is a progression on the Way. Get on it and stay on it!

A son says, “Not my will, but Thine be done”. The motive is the love of the Father. We know Him because we have served Him and followed Him. “We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.

Job reveals the heart of a son when he is tested. Remember the scene?

“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.” Job 2:1.

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15.

That reveals a motive of love, not fear, not gain… a perfect heart — a son’s heart.

Quote Title Quotation Source
No Finish Line, No Pit Stops Just as the end of life is the beginning of death, so also stopping in the race of virtue marks the beginning of the race of evil. Gregory of Nyssa – The Life of Moses, circa 375; excerpted from Devotional Classics by Foster and Smith © 2005
Walking Is A Continuous Action If self-denial is a condition for salvation, desire to be saved must make self-denial a part of everyday life. If humility is a Christian duty, then the everyday life of a Christian must show forth humility. If we are called to care for the sick, the naked, and the imprisoned, these expressions of love must be a constant effort in our lives. If we are to love our enemies, our daily life must demonstrate that love. If we are called to be thankful, to be wise, to be holy, they must show forth in our lives. If we are to be new people in Christ, then we will show our newness to the world. If we are to follow Christ, it must be in the way we spend each day. William Law -God the Rule and Measure, circa 1750; excerpted from Devotional Classics by Foster and Smith © 2005
The Victorious Virtue True virtue and love reside in the will alone. It is a great virtue to always desire God, to keep the mind steadily turned toward Him, and to bring it back whenever it is perceived to wander. In short, to will nothing but what He wills,… to remain the same in the spirit of a submissive irreclaimable, burnt-offering. Fenelon – Christian Counsel, circa 1690, copyright 2002 Bridge-Logos Publishers
Freely You Have Received, Now Give Freely The true Christian life is a balanced life one of receiving and giving. When we first come face-to-face with God’s presence, when He draws us to His throne, there is no other reasonable act than to give, give the bended knee in humble, reverent awe and adoration. So John the Baptist came proclaiming “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” In other words, give give your reasonable act of worship. Kill the disposition that I am here for me and what benefits me. Bow and die in the presence of a Holy God. Unfortunately, the church for many generations, has approached the Christian life as an opportunity to get. The first emphasis is to receive Christ and He is the gift of God. Then continue to come back each week as His gifts are doled out in a perpetual succession, one after another, week after week. Always receiving. To be sure there are emphasis on giving too. Give to the church building program, the church operational budget, the church’s programs cost money too. Give your time and talents to the church’s program so that its influence will grow in the community. This is not Christianity, this is a mere business transaction. Tit for tat. A one-hand-washes-the-other thing. God came and gave, not so He could get, not so you would give, rather because of your great need. Now He does not call you to a business relationship but to a love affair. In true love identity is lost. The two become one. He gave so we might have the right to become Sons of God. How does that work? Sons share all things in common with their Father even the family business. He died so we might become like Him, giving His life for many. You see the only reason we were given His life is so we might give it to others, broken and poured out. Tom Van Hoogen
Lost to Me, Found in Him O how few are the souls that attain to this perfect way of praying because they do not penetrate enough into this internal recollection, into mystical silence, and because they do not strip themselves of imperfect reflection and of sensible pleasure! O that your soul without thoughtful attention even to herself might give herself in prayer to that holy and spiritual tranquility and say with St. Augustine, “Let my soul be silent, and pass beyond herself, not thinking of herself” (Confessions 9.10). Let her be silent, and desire neither to act nor to think; let her forget herself and plunge into that obscure faith. How secure and safe would she be, though it might seem to her that abiding thus in nothingness she would be lost. Miguel De Molinos – The Spiritual Guide, 1675 – excerpted from The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGuinn copyright 2006 by Random House, Inc.
At the Sight of Holiness The work of unheard-of condescension proceeds in silence, until the turn comes to Simon Peter. Here, as might be expected, resistance is offered and a stand is made. When the Master approaches him, his face flushes with a fiery excitement. He hastily draws back his feet, and, as on a former occasion, he exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, oh Lord!” so now he cries in the violence of his feelings, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” He cannot comprehend how any thing so unseemly should take place. The glory of the Lord and the worthlessness of the creature contrast too strongly. How deeply does Peter abase himself in this expression of his feelings, and how highly does he elevate his Lord and Master! “Thou, the Holy One,” is the language of his heart — “I, a worm of the dust! It cannot be.” F. W. Krummacher – The Suffering Saviour, Meditations on the Last Days of Christ, Wipf and Stock Publishers
Robbed of Happiness but Not Joy All degrees of joy reside in the heart. How can a Christian be full of happiness (if happiness depends on the things that happen) when he is in a world where the devil is doing his best to twist souls away from God, where people are tortured physically, where some are downtrodden and do not get a chance? It would be the outcome of the most miserable selfishness to be happy under such conditions; but a joyful heart is never an insult, and joy is never touched by external conditions. Oswald Chambers – The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers
A God-sized Peg for a God-sized Hole In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. Our ever growing soul and its capacities can be satisfied only in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has no peace until it rests in God. Sadhu Sundar Singh – With and Without Christ – circa 1925; excerpted from Devotional Classics by Foster and Smith © 2005
Are You a Kingdom Worker? Neither the home nor the foreign missionary work of the church will ever be done right until every believer feels that the one purpose of his being in the world is to work for the kingdom. Andrew Murray – God’s Plans for You, circa 1890, © 1983 by Whitaker House

One to Many, Many to One

Religion is a trap that is easy, almost impossible not to, fall in to. Be careful since the snares are everywhere and the land mines don’t even make noise when they take you out. It is all very quiet and subtle, not disturbing anyone’s peace.

Here is how it works. You are a new believer and have this amazing love for God that is growing in your heart. You have been renewed in your spirit-man and that life within you surges and begs for relationship with God, for Connection with Him.

But you (your spirit-man) are new, brand new, yet your soul is very fragile at this point. Your spirit has soared to its place over the soul but the soul has not bought in yet. It is still full of its old thinking and emotional trenches dug and fortified with years of reinforced fortresses.

You must begin to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philip. 2:12. You must be busy, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:5. You must become and continue to become sanctified in your soul.

Here is where it gets tricky. Our spirit is longing for Connection with God but our soul is still deeply entrenched in the “old man”, Self and his ways. The soul is looking for something it can sell you other that a spiritual life. When you become spiritual the soul loses its control over your person (Christ has control when you are being led by the Spirit) and is very crafty in fighting back against this.

It (the Flesh of Self) knows better than to just come right out and say, “I hate God”, so it just finds something else to love. This is where a Religion Factory comes in handy. Self says to you (in your thinking), “I know, I’ll join with the others who are trying to learn how to do this Christian thing.” And very subtly, very quietly the focus of your walk with God shifts from Christ to the many who are “working out their salvationn”.

But God did not say in His Word, “work out your salvation”, He said, “work out your own salvation”. Our salvation is in Christ, and in no other. You can’t look to others to find your salvation nor your sanctification. Granted others are used in mighty ways by God both knowingly and unknowingly to lead us to understanding and knowledge about Him, but they do not change us by looking into their faces.

Religion is a one to many scenario, where each one is looking at many others to learn and find out about God. Relationship is a one to one scenario where each one is looking at One, even God in Christ, to know Him. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3. Relationship gets each individual’s heart turned toward God and toward nothing or no one esle.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.” Exodus 20:3-5.

When each of us are looking at God for our own salvation, to be like Him we have a many to One situation. Many one to one situations. We are each created uniquely to be a manifestation of our Father. Only He knows what and who we are meant to be. Don’t look to men, look to your Creator — God. Read Psalm 139 to find out just how unique and wonderfully you were created.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Rom. 12:2.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor.3:18.

Many to One, not one to many.

v334 Wake Up Call

Wake Up Call

There was a point in my life (now about 11 years ago) where I exercised a decided act of the will to do God’s will and not my own. It was my wake up call. I moved from the nebulous, “Well, if God shows me His will then I will try to obey it”, that included the escape hatch of “try”, thus leaving room to not do it and be OK with that, and moved to the decided, settled and stable declaration of “not my will but Yours, Oh Lord, be done.”

Someone asked me the other day how I got to the new frontier of obedience and submission and I immediately answered, “Romans 7”. That is where I decided to quit being Lord of my life and make Him, by reckoning it so, Lord. You see, I always thought my “I will try” was making Him Lord, instead it was clearly leaving me room for disobedience and lack of faith, in fact, the very act of trying was ensuring my failure to do His will. True Faith, however, does not have any escape hatch. It doesn’t need one. Faith in Him trusts Him, believes Him and sees as possible and actual things which are not.

Romans 7 brought about a crisis in my life. As I have mentioned many times before, crisis is illustrated perfectly by the Chinese ideogram (i.e. picture-word) that depicts the picture for danger and the picture of opportunity alongside each other. That was where the Holy Spirit through Romans 7 led me — to a crisis. See if you relate to this at all:

“I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” part of Romans 7 from The Message

This is where many have fallen. They decide to do God’s will and then Sin (Self acting independent of God), in their members comes to ruin their plan. So what is Self’s counsel? “Try harder, you can do it.” This is exactly the wrong counsel and will lead you further and further into this trap and into deeper and deeper desperation.

Listen to what Paul discovered closer, “The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.” You can not live the Christ-life. You never could or it would be the YourName-Life, not His. Only He can live it! That is the whole point.

Here is what happens when you listen to your Self’s counsel. You begin to energize and puff up and expand the Flesh (the part that is opposed to the Spirit) and then head into a battle that you were losing before the Flesh was fully fueled and psyched for battle. Now you have just fortified and strengthened the very enemy you are wanting and needing to defeat. You will never gain a victory over an enemy that you are supplying the ammunition to defeat you.

In a nutshell, You are the enemy, your Flesh, your effort, your Self energized with your will to do and accomplish. Here is how it is put in another verse: “For the flesh lusteth [wars] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 5:17.

In the Message it is put this way: “For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?” Gal. 5:17-18.

This was my wake up call. I hope that by the Holy Spirit it would be yours too. “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Eph. 5:14.

Stop trusting your own thinking and feelings. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7.

If you truly love God and want to do His will you must quit going to your Self and asking you what you should do? If you do you are only working [warring} against the will of God for you. Go to Him and He shall direct your paths.

%d bloggers like this: