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Archive for August, 2011

To Live Is Christ

August 30th, 2011

For to me to live is Christ…

Philippians 1:21

We tend to think that life is about me and perhaps Jesus can help us a little to get by. He can help with circumstances, or give me patience in a difficult moment, but then it is all back on “my” shoulders as I try to trudge along through life.

The Bible has a very different perspective, that life is about Christ, that it is centered in Him. He becomes the life of the believer and the life around the believer. He leads, He enables, He guides, He indwells, He encourages, He lifts up, He empowers. We are still independent creatures, with our own personalities and capacities for thought, feelings, and actions, but Christ is to indwell and to be so present in our lives that nothing is excluded from Him. He makes us new creations through the gospel, so then we should expect new realities with this new work of Christ.

The path of victory is the path where we can truly say, “Not I, but Christ.” In this sense our lives are lived for Christ, in Christ, and by Christ. We die to self – to self-ambition, to self-rule, to self-centeredness, to all that “self” apart from Christ is – and live to Christ. The “old man” must die so that the “new man” in Christ can live.

Watchman Nee wrote:

God’s way of deliverance is altogether different from man’s way. Man’s way is to try to suppress sin by seeking to overcome it; God’s way is to remove the sinner. Many Christians mourn over their weakness, thinking that if only they were stronger all would be well. The idea that, because failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power.

“‘If only I were stronger,’ we say, ‘I could overcome my violent outbursts of temper,’ and so we plead with the Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control. But this is altogether wrong; this is not Christianity. God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. This is surely a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not by helping him to do anything but by removing him from the scene of action.”

This is not just Evangelical tricks with words. It is the biblical message and therefore one that we can and must accept into our hearts. Today die to sin and self, die to self-ambition and to the self-focused life. By the Holy Spirit live in Christ.

Christ did not “help” you become saved – He saved you. Christ does not help you live for Him – He becomes your life! In our weakness is God’s strength made perfect.

Prayer:

Lord, do in us and through us all that You desire. May we come to the end of ourselves that we may live victoriously in You. Amen.

Evening Devotionals ,

August 29th, 2011

Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden … the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Genesis 39:20-23

The success that the Lord gives to us His followers has at its foundation the transformation of our character. Joseph succeeded in difficult situations not out of some mere luck that came his way, or that God had hypnotized his supervisors to favor him. No. He succeeded because he had the character that a man of God should have.

One of the most notable examples of this was his ability to not be overwhelmed by unpleasant realities of his life, to trust that God was present with him even if he had been betrayed by others, and to work optimistically in the present circumstances he found himself in. Many another young man, if not most, would have been so embittered by the fact that his brothers had sold him into slavery, so shocked by the change in his circumstances, that he would not have been able to even function. But Joseph, because of his character, was determined not to let the bitter experiences of his life get the best of him. Even after harsh betrayals he persevered in faith that God was still with him and would bless him.

The ancients used to evaluate mature character in four broad categories:

Fortitude: the courage to face adversity

Temperance: self-control over passions

Prudence: practical wisdom, the ability to make the right choice in specific situations

Justice: fairness, honesty, lawfulness, the commitment to keep one’s promises

Character, as God would develop it in us, takes these traits into account, but adds such things as love, humility, discipline, patience, sacrifice, and hope. This may all be summed up in the character of the person of Christ, in whose spiritual image the Spirit of God is now forming us.

God is seeking to make us His success stories, as we let His Spirit change us. We should cooperate with Him, and look to see how these traits are being developed in us by His Spirit. So, how are you developing along these lines? Where are you weak? Where have you seen progress? Where do you need to grow more?

Prayer:

Lord, let us always seek to be growing into Christ-likeness. Show us where we lag behind in our personal growth, and how we may let Your Spirit’s work deepen our character further. Amen.

Evening Devotionals ,