A man hired a carpenter to build him a house. He described the house he wanted and told the carpenter "Give me a list of everything you will need. I will get it all delivered." Six weeks later all the material was assembled and the carpenter went to work. A week later the man drove up to the site with a spray can of red paint. He started walking around the stacks of lumber marking some of them with the paint. The surprised carpenter asked "What in the world are you doing?" "You cannot use any of what I am marking. If it has red on it, don't use it." The carpenter did as he was told and finished the house as best he could with the limited material. When the owner saw the house he was disappointed and complained about the carpenter's work. Do we do this with God? He has provided all that is necessary to make us into the person He intends for us to be. Then we withhold part of ourselves - our attitudes, preferences, opinions, prejudices, habits, likes, dislikes - and wonder why we are not as happy and content as we would like to be.
Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you." Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!" Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith? The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him. I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice. Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable."
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group. None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.) That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible) The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape. Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?
One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.
And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.
Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.
But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”
Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.
We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.
We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.
Being alone with God is more than being isolated from others, reading the Bible and praying, sitting quietly and meditating on spiritual things and trying for a few minutes to strengthen the relationship we have with Him.
Being alone with God means being without our “stuff,” entering his presence emotionally, intellectually and spiritually naked. Then allowing Him to change us as He sees fit.
It is possible to be alone with God even when in a crowd, but such intimacy is more likely when there is no one else around. We must cease to be concerned with family relationships, vocational success, recreational pleasure, health, prosperity and all else we consider important in this life. Until we reach this degree of trust these things go with us when we enter his presence. They are unnecessary baggage.
Each time we pray, we should begin with the request for the Holy Spirit to empty us of everything except an awareness of His presence.
Dear Lord, give me the humility to ask for your guidance, the patience to wait for it, the sensitivity to recognize it, the wisdom to understand it, the faith to trust it, the courage to carry it out and the gratitude to praise you for it.
Every blessing I have been given I am expected to pass on to others. These include grace, mercy, patience, sympathy, empathy, tolerance, listening, forgiveness and second chances.
Each day my challenge is to allow the Holy Spirit to change or reinforce everyone of my attitudes, likes, dislikes, plans, opinions, memories, hopes and fears. To do this I must be sure I deny self and permit the Spirit total access to all I am.
I must not allow God to become the “elevator music” that forms the largely ignored background of my life. Instead, He must be the blaring symphony, the hard-driving beat that is clearly heard and seen in every part of my life.
I want God to control our relationship, oversee our companionship, begin and end our conversations.
After the event we call salvation (born again, redemption) God wants to begin within each of us a process called sanctification. This involves each of us ridding ourselves of sin and allowing God to change us. The result of this process is that we will be more Christ-like in our actions, attitudes, desires and motives.
Our part in this process is to make a life-long series of decisions to stop doing certain things and start doing other things. It involves both omission and commission. God’s part is to give us the wisdom and courage to make the proper choices. He is always faithful to do his part if we want Him to and allow it.
Both our worship of God and our service to God are impaired by a lack of sanctification.
There are several Biblical examples of people who were faced with specific things that had to be cleansed from their life before sanctification could take place.
For Gideon it was fear....Judges 7 For David it was lust....2 Samuel 11 For Peter it was rashness....Luke 22 For Zacchaeus it was greed....Luke 19 For Nicodemus it was religion....John 3 For Paul it was tradition and pride....Acts 9 For Martha it was domestic business....Luke 10 For the rich, young ruler it was money....Matt 19 For Jonah it was intolerance and bigotry....Jonah 4
Before we can become a person God will richly bless and effectively use in his service, we must allow the Holy Spirit to carry out the sanctifying process in our lives.
What needs to be added or subtracted in your life in order for you to become more sanctified?
Dear Father, from this moment on, for all eternity, I give you control of All my houses, all my land, all my hopes, all my plans. All my pleasures, all my fears, all my joys, all my tears. Where I go, where I stay, what I hear, what I say. What I eat, what I drink, what I like, what I think. What I give, what I keep, when I work, when I sleep. Where I shop, what I buy, how I live, when I die. What I wear, how I look, what I text, what I cook. When I pray, when I sing, when to let go, when to cling. All my strength, all my health, all my pleasures, all my wealth. What I do, what I see, what I let bother me. When I stand, when I bend, when I back away from friends. When I whisper, when I shout, when I quietly "back out". What I hate, what I love, when to talk to you above. How to serve and obey every moment of each day. All things tiny, all things grand, things I do not understand. In my life, Lord, take control of my body, mind and soul.
Mark 15:23 records that Jesus refused to drink a mixture of wine and myrrh that would have reduced the pain of his crucifixion.
Why? Was there a certain level of physical pain He had to suffer in order to accomplish the purpose of his death? Did the Father require a minimum amount of physical trauma before salvation’s plan would be complete? I don’t think so. For Jesus the physical aspect of the cross, with all its horror, was not the worst part of his sacrifice.
Jesus refused the myrrh because He still had work to do, even after the nails had been driven through his hands and feet. He needed a clear head to to stay sinless until his death.
For thirty-three years He had lived a life of sinless perfection, always obedient to his Father’s will. Even though the crucifixion had begun He still had six hours during which He had to continue to resist temptation. To sin at this late stage would have been to negate all previous acts of service and obedience. He had to remain the perfect Lamb right up to the moment of his death.
The myrrh might have clouded his determination. (He was, after all, still fully man.) By refusing it, He was choosing spiritual purity as a higher priority than the relief of pain and placing obedience to the Father’s assignment above comfort. He could not allow a chemical crutch to interfere with his most important task.
The temptations of those six hours on the cross must have been greater than all the other temptations of his entire life. Truly He was a man among men, masculine, heroic and courageous in every sense of the terms.
The second chapter of James deals with the importance of acting in ways that demonstrate our faith. Faith that is not put into action is basically dead (James 2:17)
The question is “Faith in what? What must be the basis of the faith we display through our actions?” Certainly we need to have faith in the Bible and we need to have faith in God’s promises. But the deep, unshakable faith we must show to the world is faith in God himself.
Abraham had faith only in Jehovah God (Genesis 12:1-3). He had no scripture to read and none of the New Testament promises such as “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) or “I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). Abraham’s faith was in the person of God, the character of God.
To develop such faith we have to know and understand what He has told us. We must search the Scriptures. We must sit quietly and listen for His still, small voice.
Then we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to believe His words. (This has been described as letting knowledge go from the head to the heart.) The Spirit will give us concrete, every-time, every-place, in-every-situation belief that all his words are true.
Such a belief will then enable us to act in obedience to those words and show our faith. This is the type of faith demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. It had it’s basis in their personal relationship with God.
Our faith must be only in the God that created the universe and allowed his Son to die on the cross. The closer we are to him, the more we will have the faith that enables us to base our behavior on his words.