Reading this morning John 3 was refreshing and encouraging, so much so, that I had to put words to my thoughts. This is going to be unedited, but I just had to get this out there and trust that God will use this with all its errors, on someone’s heart that might have been bogged down with something heavy whether it’s sin, pain, or just confusion on where God has you right now.
John 3 is a chapter that I need to read more often, or maybe just read more slowly. When you ask God to soak your mind in the life changing truth that Jesus is and that Jesus spoke of, He is faithful to bring understanding and wisdom [James 1:5]. My mind and eyes had become dim, and although I never parted from faithfully opening God’s word every morning and night, my eyes were not able to clearly see the glory of God in His Word, which is Christ. It was frustrating to say the least, especially coming out of long season of joyful and exciting, life-changing reading, in which the beauty of God was revealed in each verse. This vista was a gift along with the spiritual eyes to view it. Much like the vista of the Swiss Alps or the Grand Canyon, this can only be enjoyed to the fullest, the way God intended it to be, with the sight that He graciously gives us.
It is not a struggle or burden to stand in awe of this jaw dropping view, there may be some sweat and effort to get to a place to enjoy the view,(creating time in our chaotic lives) but once you are there the view holds you, you don’t hold the view. There are days when getting into God’s word with a mind ready to worship Him through learning about Him, are difficult for me, for reasons that are varied. But whatever the reason I need to come humbly before Him, in confession and contrition, asking that He will open my sight. I think about Christ’s word to Peter in the garden of Gethsemane “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”[Mark 14:38]. This was eye opening to me, to say the least, and I truly believe this can be applied throughout our lives, as we daily seek to know God.
For me, I have tasted the goodness of the Lord and He has bestowed on me such amazing blessings, and I am not talking about the tangible (although He is gracious in that realm to), but rather spiritual blessings. The unmatched desire to know Him, the fulfillment in obedience, the joy and eagerness to run to His word each morning when I wake up, and the excitement to get back into His word at night, so much so that I race home from work, scarf down some form of (barely) edible homemade dinner, and launch myself on the couch with His Word and a highlighter. So awesome that, I in my delusional wretchedness thought, that this was me, I acknowledged God bringing me to this place but somehow I thought, it was me carrying on, because “I” was on fire for the Lord. I was keeping this fire burning by my obedience. But God being gracious has humbled me as I saw my eagerness fade the more I pushed in my flesh.
Lest I forget that the fire burning inside of me was not only lit by God, but sustained by Him each day. This all comes from the new birth that Jesus speaks about in John 3. I am not a renewed version of myself, Jesus did not offer a syringe of spiritual testosterone, so that I could carry on as myself with supernatural spiritual strength, He offered new life rising from a new birth. Born of the Spirit, so that I can walk by the Spirit [Gal 5], and am able to set my mind on the Spirit [Romans 8]. Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit rebuked the Galatians for the same temptation that I had begun to fall to. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh” [Gal 3:3]. The fruit doesn’t sustain the root, rather the fruit is the proof that is produced by the root.
Thank God that we are born again! And this time of imperishable seed [1 Peter 1:23], I find it so easy (by God grace) to be zealous for obedience, which is good, but much like the exhortation to Peter and the disciples, Jesus knows that our flesh is to weak to carry out these new desires that rise from our new birth in Him, and He exhorts these men to keep watch lest they be taken by temptation. I know in the physical context of Mark 14, the rebuke was meant to address the physical weariness, but I don’t need to be a biblical scholar to draw out the spiritual truths that are in line with Scripture and are applicable today, from what Christ instructed His disciples in the Garden. We must watch and pray much like Peter who was extremely zealous in spirit to obey Christ, that we don’t let our zeal get ahead of our faith, and start walking in the strength of our flesh. It’s through faith that we receive the atonement of our sin that was paid by the precious blood of Christ and it is through faith that Christ by His Spirit and Word continues to cleanse us. It is He that is “able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy to the only God” [Jude 24]. Isn’t it amazing that Christ will not only present us blameless to God, but it is His joy to do so!! So incredible, is Jesus that He does this paramount task with joy, as if we are His gift to His Father, and that this gift (us), is a good gift.
Its not my work, my love, my zeal, my obedience, or anything else God has given me as part of my spiritual blessing of being in Christ, that keeps me right with God. Christ’s work was completely sufficient and finished on the cross, and it is His zeal, His love, and His obedience which works in me today and carries me the distance till the day of redemption. I am not preaching to anyone except myself, it is these fundamental truths that I have wrestled with and need more than anyone. I am seeing in my life, the more I yearn for Christ, the greater the temptation to let my zeal get ahead of my faith in Christ, and consequently the greater the temptation when I fall, to wallow in my defeat with a legalistic mindset that I am not worthy of the Kingdom now. The truth is, I never was worthy of the Kingdom and I never will be worthy of the Kingdom separate from Christ, that is why it is AMAZING GRACE! This isn’t so much legalism as it is egoism, for I know I can’t earn my way to God, but there are times when I think I can keep what He has given me in my grasp and by my strength. It is placing my love of God, over God’s love for me, and that is a most terrible sin. It is saying, as long as I love God with all my heart and soul I am fine, but the moment when I fall to a motive, thought, or action that opposes Gods nature, I crumble because my love has failed. Lord forgive me of this most wretched sin, pride, and this egotistical religion that is born out of it.
In my flesh I am quick to boast much like Peter I will never deny Christ, “if I must die with you, I will not deny you”[Mark 14:31]. In my spirit I can’t deny Christ, because the His Spirit indwells me, and He cannot deny Himself, but my flesh is weak and if I go in the strength of my flesh I will fail, and by my actions I will deny His authority in my life. But thanks and glory be to God that through Jesus, the Lord of all, I can come to the “throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” [Heb 4:16]. The question I should be asking myself, if the Lord is gracious to grant me 50 more years of life, is not if I am willing to die for Christ, but rather, Am I willing to live for Christ, and live by Christ? Lord I pray that I can wait on You and rest in the work of Christ. This rest is not passive in one sense, it is actively trusting God as I continue to walk on the path that Christ cleared for me already. I am not called to a life of bush-wacking a path of righteousness, not only is that impossible, but Christ did it already, the path is cleared, I need to rest in the finished work of Jesus. The moments of sin in my life are moments of faithlessness in which I pick up the machete in a fit of impatience and start blazing my own trail, in which I doubt that God can fulfill me on this path of obedience. The path I make leads to multiplied dissatisfaction and frustration. Lord allow me to wait on You, trusting in Your promises that in You is the “river of delight” , “the fountain of life” ,“fullness of joy”, and “pleasure forevermore”.[Psalms 36:8-9, 16:11].
Thank you God for the truth in John 3! I am born again of a seed that will never perish and my union with Christ, in which You sought me, will never be broken by anything, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything in else in creation (including my weak flesh), will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Rom 8:38-39].