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Archive for May, 2010

Many Christians (myself included) have not been able to fully surrender themselves to God; holding nothing back, no reserves.  I suppose that there may be many reasons for this but I want to expose one particular reason – we tend to think that our Heavenly Father wants to make us miserable.  

Below is an excerpt from Hannah Whitall Smith’s most excellent book “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”:

“A great many Christians actually seem to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable, and to take away all their blessings, and they imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write the words, and yet we must face a fact which is making wretched hundreds of lives.

A Christian lady who had this feeling, was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done,” and how afraid she should be to do it. She was the mother of one only little boy, who was the heir to a great fortune, and the idol of her heart. After she had stated her difficulties fully, her friend said, “Suppose your little Charley should come running to you tomorrow and say, `Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your own way with me from this time forward. I am always going to obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I know you love me, and I am going to trust myself to your love.’ How would you feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, `Ah, now I shall have a chance to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his life with every hard and disagreeable thing I can find. I will compel him to do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give him all sorts of impossible commands.” “Oh, no, no, no!” exclaimed the indignant mother. “You know I would not. You know I would hug him to my heart and cover him with kisses, and would hasten to fill his life with all that was sweetest and best.” “And are you more tender and more loving than God?” asked her friend. “Ah, no,” was the reply, “I see my mistake, and I will not be afraid of saying `Thy will be done,’ to my Heavenly Father, any more than I would want my Charley to be afraid of saying it to me.”

Better and sweeter than health, or friends, or money, or fame, or ease, or prosperity, is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. He always reigns who has made it his kingdom; and nothing can go amiss to him. Surely, then, it is nothing but a glorious privilege that is opening before you when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I cannot have you look at it as a hard and stern demand. You must do it gladly, thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege side of consecration; and I can assure you, from a blessed experience, that you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.”

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Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Phil 1:6 (NIV)

Many times I have become as Joyce Meyer says, “Holy Spirit Jr.”  I feel as though I have to witness to everyone, pray for everyone, and do all of these grandiose things.  And, of course, I never tend to meet my expectations of myself.  I fail to witness to someone or fail to pray for them and then end up beating myself up because of my failure. 

In the end, the Christian life just seems too hard.  It seems as though I will never be able meet my expectations of myself.  I don’t have the fruits of the spirit that I believe I should have (i.e. love, joy, peace, etc) because I feel this constant pressure to perform.  I am not free to love people the way I should because I feel that I have to win them to Christ.  I have a secret, ulterior motive.  Love is not the end.  It’s only a means to win them to Christ. 

Where did this come from?  I believe it came from Satan himself.  He is the father of lies and poses as an angel of light (John 8:44, 2 Cor 11:14).  He twists the truth so that it still has an element of truth but it becomes a lie because it’s not entirely truth.  Jeannie’s Journal says the following:

“The enemy’s purpose is that with all our self effort that yields no results, we’ll give up on the Christian life because it’s TOO HARD. That’s his number one trick for making people either turn away from God or turn to religion and rules over relationship. The most disciplined wins, the least discipline loses. The truth is, they both lose because they have listened to the voice of the enemy and tried to become holy in their own self effort, outside of God’s perfect, loving, gentle plan for their sanctification.”

Satan knows where we are in our Christian walk.  He knows what we are capable of at this point in time and he knows what we are not capable of.  He tries to get us to do the things that we are not capable of by making them look like the right, Christian things to do (he poses as an angel of light).  He tries to get us to walk before learning to crawl.  Then, when we fail, he is right there accusing us and telling us how bad we are.

“Being” and “Doing”

Jeannie touches on something that I believe is often misunderstood in the Church.  She uses the word relationship.  Over the years, many teachers / preachers in my life have focused on “doing” instead of “being”.  They have taught about being Christ’s hands and feet but have failed to focus on having a relationship with Christ.

I believe that “being” should be our first and foremost priority.  God wants to know us intimately.  We are His dear children whom He loves very much.  Then, only after “being” in the presence of our Father, are we equipped and capable of effectively going and “doing”.

I will say this again, we are not capable of effectively “doing” until we have “been” in the presence of our Father.  Sure, we can go and “do” (without “being”) by our own self effort, but it will be ineffective.

Two Illustrations from the Word

Let’s look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ”

Here we see that Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening while Martha is busy working, worrying, and being generally stressed out.  Martha asks Jesus for help and Jesus responds, “only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better…” 

What if only one thing was really needed — sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening, “being”?  What if everything else (“doing”) flowed from this time at Jesus’ feet?

Another example from God’s Word is found in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”

Here we see that many people will do what they believe to be God’s will – prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles, etc.  However, God will not let them enter into heaven.  Why?  Because they didn’t take the time to know God well enough to know what His will really was for them.  They read the Bible and modeled what they saw in it – prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles, etc – but this was not God’s will for them at all. 

The only way that we can really know what God’s will is for our lives is to spend time with Him.  To get to know Him on a personal and intimate level.  Then, He will be more than happy to tell us what His will is for us.

The Most Important Commandment

In addition, Jesus tells us that the most important commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29-31).  How do we do this?  The only way for us to do this is to get to know Him.  In order to love someone with this kind of intensity, we must truly know the person on a deep intimate level.  We must know their character so that we can freely love them for who they are. 

 When we don’t truly know and therefore love God as we should, the Christian life will seem too hard.  It will seem like a bunch of “do’s” and “don’ts” (rules) that we must abide by in order to please God.  What does this sound like?  Works based salvation. 

 There is no such thing as works based salvation.  It is only by grace that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  However, when we don’t truly know and therefore love God as we should, we try to earn favor with God by being good and by doing good works.  Many times we are not even aware that we are doing this.  We do it on a subconscious level.  We wouldn’t consciously choose to do it because we know intellectually that we cannot be saved by our good works.  Yet, because we don’t know and therefore love God properly, the “doing” cannot flow naturally out of our great love for Him.

The only thing that is left is “doing” out of duty or obligation.  Because God loved us first and saved us, we feel contractually obligated to love Him and to live a good Christian life.  So we try to love Him deeply without truly knowing Him (which is impossible) and try to live the best Christian life that we can by our own self effort.  This results in us attempting good behavior and good deeds out of duty or obligation instead of out of our great love for Him.

God does not want us to love him only because we feel that we are contractually obligated to do so (its okay if this is where you are currently – don’t feel condemned – read on).  He wants us to love Him freely for who He is.  He wants us to get to know His character.

David said that, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).”  Jonah echoes this when he says, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (Jonah 4:2).”  This is God’s character, who He is.  However, these may be just words on a page without real meaning if you’ve never gotten to really know Him.    

Summary

The most important thing in this life is to “be” in a relationship with God.  To get to know Him, His character, and who He truly is.  Once we really know God, loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength will come naturally.  Our love for Him will not be out of duty or obligation but out of first hand knowledge of His goodness.  The Christian life will not be too hard because the “doing” will flow naturally from us “being” in relationship with our Father who loves us dearly.      

Practical Steps to Take

As part of your daily devotions, find a quiet place that is free from distractions.  Spend some time just “being” in the presence of God.  Do not pray or read your Bible.  Just relax in the presence of God.  Mediate on Him.  Try to visualize Him or perhaps a scene from the Bible (this will keep your mind occupied so that it doesn’t stray).  Listen for any words that come to mind.  Write them down.  One way that God speaks to us is through spontaneous thoughts.  My prayer is that God would reveal His true character to you in this time.

In addition, learn scriptures about God’s character, meditate on them, and confess them out loud.  I like to write scripture down on index cards and carry them around in my pocket so that I can recite them and meditate on them throughout the day.  Also, listen to worship music and sermons about the character and love of God.  Read books and other materials about His character, grace, mercy, and love.  I would encourage you to pray that God would give you a “conscious knowing” of His great love for you.  Do these things for as long as you need to.  It may take many months but it will be well worth it.

A Final Word from Jeannie’s Journal

“God loves you so tenderly. He loves you exactly like you are, with all the unsanctified thoughts and deeds you do. He has a plan to change you that is slow and steady and full of peace and joy. His plan will prevail. YOU ARE PREDESTINED FOR IT. And it’s not you that will do it…it’s all Him. You don’t have to work. God does the work. The Christian life is not too hard. It’s not hard at all. It’s about cuddling up in the arms of the father who loves you. The father who accepts you just as you are today. He isn’t disappointed in you. That’s the lie of the accuser. The Lord wants you to quit listening to those lies and take back your inheritance – the peace He purchased for you. It’s yours.

You are acceptable to God.”

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“THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.” — Romans 8:1 AMP

Many of us hear a sermon or read something and feel guilty because we feel that we don’t measure up to the standard that is being presented.  Perhaps we need to repent and make a change in our lives, which is legitimate conviction.  However, many times, what we feel is NOT conviction at all, it is condemnation.  We feel that we are a failure and that there is little hope for us ever changing.  At least this is how I have felt on many occasions.

What’s the difference between condemnation and conviction?

Condemnation comes from Satan and is meant to destroy us.  It points out what a failure we are and how badly we have screwed up.  It focuses on the problem (the sin, the past, and our failures) while avoiding the solution.

Conviction, on the other hand, is referred to in the Bible as Godly sorrow.  The scripture tells us that Godly sorrow is what leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Condemnation tells us, “You are such a failure! You’ll never change!” while conviction tells us, “Come to me and I will forgive you!”.  Conviction gives us the solution to the problem (the Blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin and failures).

How do I tell the difference between the two?

Many times we feel guilty but it is unclear as to whether we are being convicted or being condemned.  Jesus said that He was not sent to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17).  Therefore, Jesus (God) will NEVER tell you how much of a loser you are, how much of a failure you are, or how much of a screw-up you are ( So, if you hear any of these statements, it is either Satan, yourself, or others telling you this).  Instead, as a loving Father with a soft, gentle voice, Jesus (God) invites you to come to Him and receive His forgiveness.

What do I do when I’m feeling guilty?

When I’m feeling guilty I now ask myself , “Is this God convicting me or is this condemnation from myself, others or Satan?”  If I’m still not sure, then I pray and ask God to make it clear to me.

Remember the following (an excert from Jeannie’s Journal):

“God loves you so tenderly. He loves you exactly like you are, with all the unsanctified thoughts and deeds you do. He has a plan to change you that is slow and steady and full of peace and joy. His plan will prevail. YOU ARE PREDESTINED FOR IT. And it’s not you that will do it…it’s all Him. You don’t have to work. God does the work. The Christian life is not too hard. It’s not hard at all. It’s about cuddling up in the arms of the father who loves you. The father who accepts you just as you are today. He isn’t disappointed in you. That’s the lie of the accuser. The Lord wants you to quit listening to those lies and take back your inheritance – the peace He purchased for you. It’s yours.

You are acceptable to God.”

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