August 16, 2018

All I need, God provides . . .


Tozer refers to a centuries old idea that the inner person that was made in the image of God is called the “ground” of the soul. This “mysterious primal stuff” makes itself felt in the world through imagination, reason, the faculty of speech and the creative powers.

While this is interesting, the Bible says that God reveals Himself to sinners and regenerates us as new creations by the power of the Holy Spirit. He does not ‘remake’ what was already there, but . . .

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

In that new birth experience, we receive from Christ the nature of God and begin an amazing process in which the old fleshy person is stripped away and that new life becomes more of who we are and what we do.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

In other words, the old sin nature is not added on to, but replaced. It kicks and spits and tries to exert itself and retain its former control of things, but the power of Christ and that new life fights too, and is guaranteed to win. In this war, I am supposed to cooperate!

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:16–18)

Christians are told not to take the powers of the devil lightly, but also not to focus on this enemy who is determined to rule over us. The same could be said of our sinful flesh. Those who take it lightly might say, “Oh, this is just the way I am” without taking responsibility for their sinfulness. Those who focus on it too much also become ‘me-centered’ simply because Jesus Christ is not always on their minds.

I’m preaching to myself. Every now and then I feel as if God abandons me to my own devices and I quickly revert to a BC attitude. I know better. God is not the author of my sin problems. After I ‘wake up’ from a bad attitude, I am disgusted with myself and don’t want to ‘ever do that again’ — even though the experience usually makes me more dependent on God and more aware that I cannot live without Him. My attitudes of the flesh are largely invisible to others, yet they put me under the control of my spiritual enemy. I can hear him laughing and need to carefully read this again:

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

God has given me all that I need to live in a godly way through knowing Him and through His amazing promises. I have His nature and able to escape all the junk that threatens to pulls me back. Only a fool, or a great lack of faith, would cause a free person to crawl back into prison.

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Lord Jesus, You are working to reveal Yourself in me, despite my bad habits and the slippery slopes I step on. Day by day You bless me with light. I’m grateful. The only problem with light is that is also reveals the corruption that is not yet cleansed. Keep at it. I’m willing to change, to be more like You.


August 15, 2018

Keeping at it?


One of the most difficult challenges I face is persevering. I’m interested in everything with a mind easily distracted. I easily become bored. I’m also somewhat lazy. Short-term tasks are not a problem. Even breaking down a larger one is helpful as long as the steps are clear with a beginning and an end. But give me a task that will last for weeks, months, years and I struggle to finish it.

Tozer says small deeds of love are not forgotten by God, so those little things are good too, but the focus is single-hearted obedience to Christ and a deep desire to glorify Him. For this, there is great reward, no matter how long it takes.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7–9)

Eternal life is not earned by my sowing and reaping but it is demonstrated and enhanced by doing good and not giving up. How does God teach this? Certainly the Holy Spirit is part of it for in my humanness I am like a baby who wants what I want when I want it — as in right now! I’m impatient and if things do not happen or get done ‘on time’ I become more impatient.

Yet God persists and in His persistence,  I’ve learned something about perseverance. For one thing, God never gives up on me. If He were not a persevering God, my pillar-to-post drifting would have annoyed Him to quitting a long time ago. When I read the Old Testament prophets spelling out the way His people pushed Him away and tested His patience to the limit, I wonder. He finally exiled them to Babylon where they would learn to hate idolatry, but even that was persistence. He would not give up on them, and He will not give up on me.

How does this translate into everyday life? I tell others that God has taught me persistence in several ways. Right now, the most prominent is through quilting, specifically one quilt. It is a king-size commissioned by a family member. It is huge, difficult (I had no pattern) and physically hard to manipulate. I’ve felt like quitting several times, have procrastinated and strayed off to other projects, but finally told myself that if this keeps up, I’ll die before it is done. All that kept me going is that I love this guy who wants it and I’m hoping God will be glorified in the doing.

Persist. The word runs through my head, followed by ‘but I don’t want to’ and the wrestling match begins. This happens with other things, the most important being prayer, particularly the prayer for which I don’t see answers. God tells me to keep at it for in due season there will be results if I don’t give up.
This week, we had a visitor — someone on that prayer list, someone whose attitude and values were far from God’s will. We have prayed years for this person — another way of learning perseverance. In our visit, we saw changes both in attitude and values, changes that brought tears of gratitude and gave us hope and determination to continue to pray.

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Lord Jesus, sticking to Your plan and doing what You say is seldom easy, even with the Holy Spirit giving me the heart to do it and the will to hang in there. Thank You so much for this glimpse of what You are doing in answer to our years of praying for this person. It gives me encouragement to keep praying, to keep on interceding for all others too. It also encourages me to get that quilt squared up and the binding in place, to finish well. Keep me relying on You for the motivation, the results and Your promised eternal rewards.

August 14, 2018

Consequences


Today’s devotional makes me think about consequences, cause and effect, and the spiritual laws that God has created. As the Bible says, we reap what we sow.

But how does that work? I know people who do whatever they please and never seem to face consequences. Morally, their lives mock God but He has not struck them with lightning. The best biblical responses are that God is being merciful, or that they are piling up wrath. People can fill their shopping cart with whatever junk they find, but someday they will go through the check-out. Consequences will happen later.

The psalms have several sections about this. Most of them say something like this:

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.” (Psalm 37:1–2)

The idea is that those who do evil without repentance will eventually pay the price. The NT calls this the law of sin and death.

For Christians, Jesus eliminated that eternal consequence. That is, for every sin I commit Jesus suffered the price at the check-out. He wrote “It is finished” on the debt I owe by taking my place and paying it.

But what about the consequences in this life? If I robbed a bank, does the death and resurrection of my Savior keep me out of jail? Hardly. If I cheat and lie, will I prosper? Not so. The Scriptures are clear; God rebukes and corrects His children when we violate His will:

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:6–11)

Consequences, and the quicker the better, are one of God’s ways to bring my life into obedience. Like any child, if I’m allowed to get away with my rebellion, then what? These verses suggest that without discipline I cannot claim to be in God’s family. Getting away with sin is the mark of those who do not believe or belong to Him!

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:4–5)

No immediate consequence for sin is merciful in that God can use this to lead sinful people to Him, but anyone who keeps at their ungodly behavior is not thinking about eternal consequences. They are taking mercy for granted, and that is dangerous.

Tozer uses this verse: “Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.” (Proverbs 13:15) The Holy Spirit tells me that I need to work with the spiritual laws of God. I cannot change them by presumption. If I want His favor in my life, then I cannot mess around. Knowing Christ died for my sin is not going to avoid repercussions in this life. If I presume so, I will suffer losses of some kind, losses that rob me of the full joy of my salvation. Would I want this to be any other way? I don’t think so. I want God to be serious about sin.

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Lord Jesus, I hate this awareness of ‘gloom and doom’ but need to think about it lest I step off the path of righteousness into unprofitable paths. In You, I am free from the law of sin and death, but not free from the effects of deliberate sin. Thank You for grace and mercy. Thank You also for being serious about my sin.