February 19, 2018

When a convert is not a convert . . .

Tozer writes that you cannot help a chick get out of its egg. It will never develop properly unless it breaks the shell with its own beak and struggles its way through the ‘birthing’ process. It is the same with a butterfly. That struggle develops its wings and body for the life it will have.

Helping these creatures with their birth can be compared to an error made by Christians whose efforts to lead someone to Christ are untimely and unhelpful. Whether the ‘convert’ is a child eager to please or an adult who wants to be right with God, leading them through the sinner’s prayer does not necessarily mean that ‘convert’ is actually converted.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)

For those who are genuinely reborn into God’s family, receiving Jesus and believing on His name go together. God gives His people a role in the process, a small role. We are told to ‘make disciples’ wherever we are. This is done by sharing the good news of the Gospel, baptizing those who believe and receive it, and teaching them whatever God has taught us.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

However, I cannot make anyone believe in Jesus. For a long time, I thought that if I told them all about Him and fed them some Bible verses they would, but that is not how it works. I read the Bible for seventeen years and it swished in one ear and out the other. I don’t remember anyone telling me the Gospel, although I realized later that they did. I just didn’t get it. I was not ready to hear it — and the Holy Spirit was not speaking to me.

Tozer gives a name to those who push for a ‘commitment’ too soon. He calls them “midwives in the henhouse” because their efforts are like trying to help a chick out of the egg. That chick might be joyful in what they think happened, but as he said, they are weak and walk with a stagger. They do not develop and their lives give no evidence of being reborn.

This produces a serious problem: that sort of ‘convert’ might assume that salvation has occurred and start to live with a false assurance. They think that because they have “prayed the prayer” or “accepted Christ” that they have eternal life, when God has not done anything in their hearts.

Tozer says that when the Holy Spirit brings a sinner to the new birth, “they bounce out into the world healthy and howling. Their sins are forgiven; their burdens have been lifted!” This is not always true (Paul was blinded for a time and not exactly bouncing), but when Christ comes in, sin should start falling out. Those whose lives are made new will begin to hate sin, love others, desire time with God, tell others they are followers of Jesus, and produce spiritual fruit that only comes from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, I know people who think they are Christians. They are nice people and mean well, but they have not developed. Like the chick who is helped out of its shell, they are weak when it comes to resisting sin, and constantly stumbling instead of standing strong in faith. Some of this can be expected in a new babe in Christ, yet not for years and even decades. Without wasting time, You change lives. For me, grant me discernment and wisdom in my relationships with those who live with false assurance. Give me opportunities to share with those who base their salvation on what they did years ago instead of on You and what You have done and are still doing for them. Most of all, send Your Spirit to speak into their hearts that they hear and respond in genuine faith.

February 18, 2018

Integrity = doing and being are aligned!

A friend once said, “Sometimes, to think right you have to do right.” She was responding to my statement that God wants our motivation to be behind what we do and our thoughts in line with our actions. I was convinced of that because of these verses:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)

Yes, our bodies belong to God and what we do with them is to be an act of worship, yet the transformation starts with a renewed mind that can discern the will of God. It seems to me that I cannot obey the will of God unless I can figure out what it is and put my mind on it.

Tozer says that the Holy Spirit makes this happen. He gives us the ability to offer ourselves as a sacrifice set apart to serve God. Tozer also says we are in danger if we think we are delivered from sin but have only moved from one sin to another.

My first thought is about a small quilt that I just finished for another person. It was a sacrifice for me because it took time and effort and was not a design I would have picked to make for the sheer enjoyment of making it. Yet during the process of this ‘sacrificial’ action, I’ve noted pride. I’m proud of my sacrifice — moving from the selfishness I thought I’d abandoned to pride about doing it.

In a broader sense, this shift from sin to sin can happen to those who are not saved but start going to church. Tozer warns that we can think we have become Christians yet in reality, we have only changed location. He compared this to once “sinning in the far country among the swineherds but now chumming with religious persons” which might make us more respectable in appearance but not actually transformed by the power of God through His redemption.

Tozer adds that a saved person is convicted of sin, but also of sinfulness. God wants me to know that it is not just what I do that makes me need Christ; it is what I am. Doing is a surface issue; the root of it is in my being. That is, I cannot do a wrong thing, confess it, and be transformed without considering what motivated that doing. He calls me to dig deeper.

Jesus, while this quilt-making seems a little thing, it reveals how much I can make myself the center of even a small sacrifice instead of doing it out of love for You, love for others, and to glorify Your name. I bow my head in need of forgiveness and the grace to live according to the new creation that You say I am.

February 17, 2018

Hearing the Word, hearing the Spirit

Over the decades, most if not all the churches I’ve attended have been strong on hearing and obeying the Word of God. For them, that Word is the Bible. If the Bible does not back it up, then all our ideas are either from human, worldly, or even demonic wisdom. Any inner voice could not be called the ‘leading of God’s Spirit’ unless it could be verified in the written Word.

Most Christians I know realize that God does impress truth and direction on our hearts and minds. We might not be able to find a chapter and verse to prove it even when the principles of God’s Word are not being violated.

Over the past couple of years, our current church has offered an eight-week study called “Hearing God.” The women are currently in a study by that title. I’ve several books with the same title or topic. These are wonderful attempts to help us with discerning the voice of God as Jesus said we could . . .

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

God can speak inside our heads. As Tozer says, hearing the Bible read, or reading it ourselves is not enough. Even had I stood on the earth at the time of Paul, his speech could do nothing for me without the voice of the Holy Spirit backing it up loud and clear in my conscience. I need to listen to that inner voice. Otherwise, the Bible is just a jumble of words. This is what James refers to when he says:

“Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18)

No person is reborn without that combination: The Word of truth and the Holy Spirit speaking truth into their heart. One without the other is either incomplete or dead.

These last few days God is speaking to me about obedience. I can hear and understand. I can know where this verse and that passage fit into the plan of God. Yet understanding is not enough. James also says:

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22–25)

The intent of God is to transform me into the likeness of His Son. He does this by the power of His Word, but without obedience, nothing happens — except that I can become a Bible-know-it-all with a fat head and little evidence that I practice what I preach.

Jesus, I don’t want to be a pain in the neck to those around me. Your intention is that I hear and follow You, that I am a ‘firstfruit’ who lives out what You are putting in, a doer of Your Word, a listener who obeys. Too often I fall short. Forgive me. I thank You that You grant grace to my ears, but also to the rest of me that so I will respond with a changed life.