Simple thoughts from a simple mind…..

This may be a shorter post (due to extreme neck spasms while typing), but I just had to express praise to God for the work He is doing in me.  Just when we think we are plateauing in our walk with the Lord, He brings us to new heights, that reveal His beauty and greatness with more clarity than ever,  this of course does not come on a bed of ease, nor on a path heavily trodden.  However I am reminded to take heart, because although, I can’t know who was on this very path before me, I can see the foot prints of many other saints more worthy than I, that have traveled this lonely road before me. 1 Cor 10:13 assures me the temptations I face are not unique to me, and I need to endure, with the resolve to fight and contend for my faith in Christ [1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:7, Jude 1:3].  If you are in Christ, God has directed a specific path for you, and at times you will feel alone like no one else can relate, whether it be the fear of a diagnosis, the pain of loosing someone, the brokenness of a relationship, or simply the unpopularity of an uncompromising walk.  No matter the specifics of the path that God has laid before you, one of the spiritual blessings promised {it is a blessing because of the conformity to Christ it will yield}, is some form of suffering along that path of obedience, but don’t grow weary, it is not in vain.  Romans 8:17 tells us that as children of God we are co-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him.  What a promise and hope to hold on to as we  run this race with endurance.  Maybe you are in the race, but you are weary from the fight, not wanting (or even tempted) to give up, but just want to take a time out, I can only pray that God will encourage you through His word, His Spirit, and through the many other weary racers around you that have resolved to expend their last breath for the kingdom.

Must I be carried to the skies, On flowery beds of ease?
While others fought to win the prize,
  And sailed through bloody seas?

Issac Watts

{sidebar: the word encourage has plagued me for sometime, I used to cringe whenever I heard that word being used, because it normally would be followed by some trivial superficial flattery, that was nothing more than a vain attempt to boost morale for a minute or 2, kinda like those nasty energy gel packets at a marathon. There is a burst of energy at consumption but is quickly burned off.  A pastor described the biblical concept of encouragement perfectly several years ago and it has stuck with me ever since, the Greek word is paraklesis (other forms,parakelo, paraklete=Helper, as in the Holy Spirit), and its root word we all recognize, “para”, or along side of/adjacent to, the basic meaning is “to call or come along side of”. He gave 2 illustrations to demonstrate this meaning, one was a sapling on a bluff by the ocean that was constantly under the pressures of gail force winds, in this case the force, from an external source was too great for the tree, here the encouragement needed would be the 2 wooden stakes driven deep into the ground with wires connecting to the tree.  The other illustration was of a knee brace, here there is an intrinsic weakness causing instability, 2 metal rods “come along side” of the knee inside the brace and give it stability. That is how we ought to encourage each other, using Gods word as the stakes in the ground [Romans 15:4], come along side of them and ground them in Christ.}

The last few weeks, I have been studying 1 Peter 1, which besides Romans 8, might be my go to chapter when in the midst of strange trials.  Beginning at verse 13, Peter under the direct inspiration of God’s Spirit, instructs us of this monumental obligation as believers, which speaking for myself is something that I don’t think about often enough, for the simple fact that obligation carriers a negative connotation.  For that reason, I need to change that word to responsibility, and a even better word  yet would be to call that responsibility an enormous honor, in which God gives us His Spirit to carry it out.

Even though our salvation, which comes completely and UTTERLY, by God’s unearned, and undeserved GRACE, there is a responsibility to those that receive that gift. Both Luke 12:48 and Matt 25:29, illustrate this responsibility beautifully, I would recommend reading both parables entirely, on your own, but in short Jesus is teaching about servants that were entrusted with much and were found faithful, as well as the servants who were not found faithful.  The servants that were not faithful with which they were entrusted with, did not receive a strong rebuke, that would have been a gift compared to what they got.  In one parable the faithless was cut into pieces, and in the other parable the servant was cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  My focus is not on the faithless but on the faithful, I merely brought that to light, to highlight that we are not talking about Christians that are nominal verse super-Christians, (which is not even a biblical reality).  But rather we are talking about those, who have been entrusted with this gift, will by God’s grace and Holy Spirit, carry out the responsibility that comes with salvation.

We often want the gift with out the responsibility, we want the fire insurance without having to live our lives in complete submission.  We want the dramatic change in our eternal destination, with out the dramatic change in our lives.  Think about the world and the same view taken with other privileges or gifts; people want pleasure of sex without the commitment of marriage, they want the joy that children bring to their lives without the diapers, sleepless nights, and bills, they want the power and freedom of being the boss, without the endless personnel problems, unpaid overtime, and financial risk and responsibility.

In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we are instructed of our responsibility to be holy as God is holy, what an imperative, and honor to be instructed to share in God’s holiness.  Oh how my mind has been renewed by Gods Spirit in concert with His Word, the 2 gifts He has left on earth for us, to transform us more into the image of Christ as we live for Him.  Not that I have arrived to a spiritual apex, but even a year ago, I would view God’s commands, as orders to be carried out regardless of the purpose, for the simple reason, GOD is GOD.  Not that “blind” obedience is wrong, if He told me to dress like a clown with a purple wig, a big red nose, and big red shoes, than I would, without question, after all He is God, my Creator.  That type of obedience isn’t wrong, however it certainly does not capture all of God’s character as the One giving the command.  His statutes, precepts, and law all have purpose, and that purpose is a beautiful joy instead of heavy order to carry out like so many of us can be tempted to think.  It is not a drudgery to obey the Lord, it is a joy.  To be completely transparent, just so some of you don’t think I’m speaking “Chirstianese” or “Churchianity“, there are moments, days, even weeks that my flesh cries at the top of it’s lungs for comfort, and in those moments obedience is difficult, but I recognize these times as the old wanting back in, instead of the normal pattern of obedience which I am called to.

When we view God’s commands, we can’t view them as commands from an egotistical dictator, (that is not the God of the Bible), rather we need to, without compromising any of God’s character, especially His holiness, (a trap that most fall into), see the love of God, in His moral law, as He desires us to share and reflect His character, thus fulfilling our call as workmanships in Christ for good works [Eph 2:10], which then leads to a deeper satisfaction and joy in Christ!! I have to pause right here…..Did you get that?….You mean that the more obedient I am, the more joy I have in Christ?? Don’t take my word for it, open up your Bible and see for yourself, and if you are still a skeptic, I dare you to become a doer of the Word and put Gods instruction’s to practice in your life.

Ravi Z. says it well and much more eloquently:

“The moral law is not grounded in the commands of God but rather in the character of God. This is why the command of God in Scripture is not simply to “be holy according to my commands.” No; the reality is far more profound: “Be holy as I am holy.”It is a unique command. No other God either makes or sustains the claim to absolute holiness.”

Could it really be that God out of His beauty and love, designed and created us in a manner, where the more we reflect His character, thus bringing glory to Him, the more joy and satisfaction I have?  Not a question that I will answer for you but I can only pray that along with myself, you pause and ponder the greatness of God, and His will for your life which is explicitly clear in 1 Thess 4: 3-4, 7-8, obviously speaking of the revealed will of God and not the specific course He has plotted for your life.  I will say though, the more I pursue God, and His revealed will, the less Im concerned with the “who I am to marry”, “where I am to live”, and “what my next 5 years is going to look like” questions.  The reason is because I am content in the Lord, as He works on me, I find more and more satisfaction in Him, when I am living in His perfect will, I am set apart for His purpose to glorify Him, when I glorify Him I am fulfilling my purpose, hence His design for us to be most satisfied when He is most glorified.  Jesus states this clearly in John 15: 8-11, He ends with, “that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full”

In Matt 5:13-16 and Luke 14:34, we are called to be salt to the earth, in full disclosure, I never fully comprehended that analogy.  However this past week, studying holiness and our call to be holy, I learned the Greek word for holy is “hagios” which fundamentally means different or set apart.  We are set apart by God and for God…….I think this is when these passages started to click on a new level.  Salt, for ages has been used to preserve meat that could not be refrigerated, preventing it from spoiling. The preserving property of salt, is the very characteristic that sets it apart from all other spices for this specific purpose, if it were to loose that preserving property than it is rendered useless, not even good enough for manure piles as Dr. Luke tells us.  {Bing!….. that elusive lightbulb, has shown its face again…….}.  The holiness that comes from God, and that we are called to pursue daily by putting off the old and putting on the new [Gal 5:19-23], is the very quality of God that sets us apart from all others, this is what makes us the salt of the earth.  Perhaps in a loose sense (my thoughts only), we are called by God to preserve certain souls from spoiling (i know it’s a stretch to make that connection, but it is just a thought), but the essential truth here that we cant miss is that we are set apart for His purpose and glory, and holiness is that defining quality that no other can grant or share, other than the Lord of hosts, in which His holiness is emphasized by the seraphims in heaven, which proclaim “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  I believe it was David Jeremiah that pointed out God’s holiness was shown in the design of the seraphims stating that animals are created for their environment (fish have gills to extract o2 from water, birds have wings to fly, and so forth).  These heavenly creatures were designed for the holiest environment, they had six wings, 2 to cover their eyes, 2 to cover their feet, and 2 to fly with.  God is so holy that the creatures He design to be in His presence, had wings to cover their site and their feet, which should take our minds to Exodus 3:5 when Moses is instructed to take his sandals off, for he was standing on holy ground.

With holiness being inevitable for the genuine believer who has placed their trust in Christ and repented from the their sins, why are we called to pursue it with the vigor and intensity that the Bible instructs us to?  The simple anti-climatic answer would be, God requires and expects that of us, as the recipients of grace.  But truly, if that is, in deed a deep inquiry of your heart, than you need to first answer the question, why not?  If you are claiming to be a follower of Christ and you have correctly understood and responded to the Gospel, then where is your motivation to sin, found? Where is your motivation for laziness and self indulgence, (in any form) found?

The self exposed problem with the question of “why” to pursue holiness, is the same fundamental problem with the question of, why pray? or why evangelize?  If God in His divine sovereignty, is working everything out, than why am I called to pray, why am I called to evangelize, I cant change who God has called or elected for His purpose.  This mindset can only be conceived and birthed from a lack of understanding the Gospel.  If you understand who you are in light of who God is, defined by the Bible of course, and if you understand the redemption feature of salvation, or the incarnation of God to humble Himself, by emptying His divine attributes to come in the form of man to serve us, than it is inconceivable to presume on Gods grace and internally say “if i’m going to heaven already on the basis of God’s work than why do I have to try to live holier”.  Maybe it is a lack of clarity of the Gospel for a moment, or as I like to call it “spiritual amnesia”, in which, in a self indulgent rut you are tempted with this thought, but if not, there are sobering symptoms of someone that may not know God in a way that can save, and enough reason to pause and contemplate the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians [2 Cor 13:5], which instructs us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith.  There are many things that we need to exercise caution with in life, do i have enough coverage on my health, car, or life insurance? Am I investing my money in the right market? and on and on, but none have the eternal consequence of a bad soteriology (study of salvation), if there is one thing in life that you don’t want to take your “uncles” advice on, it’s this.  God’s word and His word only is our benchmark and or standard, so we better be going to His word to know the absolute truth on salvation.

We serve an amazing God! I am wordless, when I try to exalt His name properly!  I pray that God may be glorified as we strive to reflect His character more and more each day.  He has created 7 billion miniature statues of Himself, running all over this world, this should speak volumes to our call (specifically as His children) to become more like Christ as we traverse this life with His Holy Spirit leading and empowering us each step of the way to bring attention to His Greatness.

I leave you with this powerful scripture to encourage you not to grow weary in your attention to how you live as souls redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish [1 Peter 1:19]

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”1 Peter 2:11-12

The path of holiness may be lonely at times, but it always leads to exaltation of God’s great name, and you can be assured that the bravest and most courages saints of history have walked the same path, and have experienced the same temporal feelings of desolation.  But take heart that our God never leaves nor forsakes us, so be strong and courageous [Deut 31:6], knowing that you have surrendered to a God that knows the path you take, and when you come out from beyond the “desolation” that trials may bring, you will be much finer than gold [Job 23:10].  Any light and momentary pain or loneliness that you may experience on the path of obedience is producing a peculiar and eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison [2 Cor 4:17]

.barren path

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