Archive

Archive for October, 2011

How Dear Is Life?

October 31st, 2011

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

Acts 20:24

We would expect nothing less from an apostle. Perhaps we would expect also that a missionary or a pastor of today would have the same or almost the same commitment. But the level of commitment here espoused is for every believer – for Christ said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow after me” (Luke 9:23). We should each deny ourselves and be committed entirely to the spreading of the gospel of God’s grace.

The King James translation in particular uses words that are unusually touching, “Neither count I my life dear unto itself,” and seems to catch the spirit of the phrase with its hyper reflexive-ness. It is easy for us to become self-centered, as though our lives serve to merely entertain us, as though we are eternally staring into the looking glass and seeing the many things we can accumulate in life. Yet such a life has a hollow ring to it, like a one-actor play, where the same actor serves as the director, playwright, and even as the audience as well.

The only life truly worth living is not one lived before the mirror of our own ambitions, but one lived under the microscope of the Spirit. And it is in the act of losing ourselves for the sake of Christ that we find ourselves.

This point of commitment is arrived at not out of fear of God’s sovereignty, but out of intimacy with Him and love of Him. I have often heard people give testimonies that reveal a limited understanding of their true relationship with God. Obedience is based mostly out of what they can get from God, or out of fear of His punishment. They see God as mighty and powerful, but then leave Him there and do not follow the entire revelation of God, that He is also our Father and our Friend and our Comforter. If we do not understand these relationships commitment will also have an unpleasantness about it – as though it is some onerous onus that we have to do, but can never truly enjoy. If there is any unpleasantness about this type of commitment we are still considering our lives as dear unto ourselves, regardless of what we have “given up.”

Henry Blackaby has detailed different levels of understanding of God and how these influence our responses to Him. As (1) Sovereign Lord we fear God but keep Him at arm’s length and our obedience is based on fear of punishment. As (2) Forgiving Savior our obedience is based on gratitude and we are beginning to learn to trust Him. As (3) Loving Father our obedience is based on our need for approval and we begin to trust more in God’s love for us. We progress through these three as we draw near to Him and we learn more of His desire to love us and draw us near to His heart.

Can you imagine that the prodigal son coming home to his father but stopping the father from embracing him? Can you imagine the son saying something like, “Oh, don’t misunderstand me! I am grateful for your forgiveness, but I just feel so unworthy that I do not believe I can ever let you embrace me again as a son”? If he had of said that he would have been thwarting the will of the father, who desired not only to forgive his son but to have him back into his intimacy and close affection. We can do the same with God who desires not only to command us and forgive us but to draw us close to His heart.

As (4) our Faithful Companion He is close to us and our obedience begins to be based on love for Him. As (5) our Good Friend we are walking with Him hand in hand, communing with His Spirit daily, bringing Him into every situation and every challenge of life. Our obedience is based on love and on a growing desire for and knowledge of His will. As (6) our Intimate Friend we never want to leave His presence and our obedience is based on a deep heart’s desire to please Him in every area of our life.

As we grow in this love relationship, there is a transfer of our goals and plans and dreams, from our own selfish plans to seeing the beauty of God’s Person and His plans. We are willing to let go of our plans because we have learned to trust that God’s plans are always greater and better.

Prayer:

Lord, forgive us when we have counted our lives as dear unto themselves. Draw us close to Yourself, to Your heart, to Your wisdom, and to Your purposes. Amen.

Evening Devotionals , ,

God’s Greater Work

October 29th, 2011

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

John 9:3

It is not that God used this man callously just to show His power to heal, but that the man himself would receive a greater blessing through his own physical weakness. It was through Paul’s weakness in the flesh that he learned a greater work of God’s grace in his life – that His grace was sufficient. And in our weaknesses we learn to lean more on Christ than in our strength. A lonely experience of pain can be empty and meaningless, but those struggles that are surrendered into the hands of God can be His tools to do a greater work.

The main thing that God must achieve in our lives before we can receive His greater work is to pry our own hands off of ourselves. A door might be closed, perhaps even seemingly slammed in our face, but it is done so in love that we might in our weakness and helplessness turn to Him.

God certainly can heal any disease, resolve any conflict, smooth over all our rough edges, and fix any problem. He is unlimited in healing power, in wealth, in wisdom, and in mercy. But He does require from us the simplest faith that lets Him be God, accepts Him as such.

John the Baptist said, when queried whether or not he was jealous over the popular rise of Christ, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). He had the peace of God because he had allowed God to be God, and had not fought against His will. The victories that God desires to give us must begin with accepting our condition and allowing God to be glorified in our weakness, and to remain in our weakness if that is God’s desire. This is not an excuse for a lack of faith on our part, rather it is the first step to moving forward – to let God be God – and faith is essentially surrender to His will and to His way.

The psalmist described this condition as being like a weaned child with its mother, “I have stilled and quieted my soul … like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). This means to let go of the familiar, of the convenient and past sources of comfort and sustenance, and to leave in the hands of God the mystery of what comes now and next.

But true faith must always be hopeful and expect greater things from the hand of God than what we now experience. If He will not give me what I hope for now, then He has something greater still in store for me. Faith, if it is biblical faith, must always believe not only in the power and wisdom of God, but also in His mercy and in His benevolent nature.

Prayer:

Lord, in the heat of suffering, in the loneliness of pain, we may feel forgotten and doubt Your power and love. Redeem us, restore us to hope and to joy. Let us see that You are the ultimate Victor, that death even has been conquered by You. Amen.

Evening Devotionals ,