Tuesday, May 30, 2017

great effort or great faith...opposites?

The question isn't whether diligent effort brings great results; it is what drives our effort i.e. why do we act. Do we act for God's honor or our own? 

Great results never comes without great effort...ever, regardless of the motive.

*Truly great results (i.e. God honoring) is not a question of effort, but whether those efforts are driven "by the flesh" or "by the Spirit." What determines if results are *truly great is if and when they are driven by the Spirit. 

Being a believer does not mean we are to be passive in general but passive only in independent effort  i.e. in efforts driven "by the flesh."

A desire to give great honor to God is the motive for *truly great efforts. These efforts are driven by the Spirit and never happen without great humility and trust in God. 

Great humility and trust produces *truly great effort which produces great results/fruit. This is to operate "by the Spirit." 

We are to be active and fruitful. Active in our trust, dependence and obedience to God which always results in fruit. As scripture says, "the just shall live by faith." Great faith always results in great effort/action/obedience.

But it all must start with God and driven by him (i.e. in and by the Spirit). This involves who God is for us. How? The more we behold the love of God (the only source of life, love and all things), the greater our trust and dependence on God grows. The greater our trust the greater our obedience. The greater our obedience (action), the greater the results. 

2Co 9:6  The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

John 15:8  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 

John 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 

Psa 127:1  ... Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. 

John 14:15  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 

John 14:21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." 

John 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 

1Jn 5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 

1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 

2Jn 1:6  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 

For a fuller discussion of what it means to live by the Spirit or by the flesh click here.


------------------------------------------

*I am using "truly" great in contrast to just hard work i.e. there is hard work and than there is hard work driven by trust in God. By "truly" great effort I mean the later. 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Maturity

Maturity is marked by a tension of an increasing awareness...

* Of the total extent of our brokenness i.e. our persistent tendency to try and be our own god and make life work without God. 

* That we make a very poor god and can not make life, as it should be, work without Him. 

While at the same time becoming increasingly aware

* That God's love for us has nothing to do with our brokenness (or "goodness") and has everything to do with Christ being broken for us, 

* Resulting in our increasing love for, trust in and pursuit of God.


Our awareness of this tension between our brokenness and God's complete remedy for it increases as we continue to mature.  

The greatest indication of maturity is not our obtaining perfection but the growing awareness of our imperfection and God's total remedy for it. 



Monday, May 15, 2017

Starting in the Spirit, ending in the flesh.

To operate in the flesh is acting to get love/approval/acceptance. It is acting out of need. 

To operate in the Spirit is acting to give love because we already have it in Christ. It is acting out of the fullness of God's love for us. 

If we are in Christ we already have God's perfect love i.e. God's love for his children is perfect (complete), non stop and infinite because of what Christ has already done. Nothing we do or don't do will add to, take away or inhibit this love.  

To more fully experience it (subjectively) however, we must remain (abide/ believe) in that objective reality (for a further discussion on abiding see link below). 

To remain in it suggests we can and do discontinue operating in and by the Spirit. Not only do we start in the Spirit but we are to continue/remain in the Spirit (Gal 3:3). 

To start out operating in the Spirit does not mean we will automatically continue to operate in the Spirit. Our activity can start in the Spirit and deteriorate into an act of the flesh (i.e. performance, living under the law; living to get approval/love). 

The reason we are called to abide is our tendency is to not abide i.e. to operate in the flesh. In fact operating without the Spirit (in the flesh) is our default way of doing things (i.e. we naturally act without the Spirit moving us). 

If we do not continue to abide in God's love, we will digress into operating in the flesh. Without the Spirits (Loves) enabling and empowering, we are naturally inclined to operate in the flesh. It's a constant pull on us until we learn to operate under grace i.e. in/by the Spirit. 

To start and remain (abide) in the Spirit requires a constant attitude of ongoing acceptance of (trust in) and dependence on God's love i.e. Without me (in and out of all my love for you) you can do nothing John 15:5.

It is the exact opposite of operating in the flesh or what I like to call "performance based" action. Performance based action is acting to gain God's approval and acceptance. Spirit driven action is out of love for God because we already have his approval and acceptance/love in Christ i.e. based on Christ's efforts that gained it for us, not our efforts/action. 

Any activity that creates or strengthens a desire to stay focused inward (seeking to meet our need for approval of God or others) and not outward on blessing others has deteriorated into an activity of the flesh and is no longer actions moved or inspired by the Spirit, even if it started out as an act of the Spirit.

To operate in the flesh is to seek getting what we need i.e. love, acceptance and approval.

To operate in the Spirit is to give what others need because we derive what we ultimately need (total love, acceptance and approval) from God.
  • For definition of terms such as "walking in the flesh" or "walking in the Spirit" click here
  • For a further discussions of remaining/abiding in his love click here





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

two ways we experience God's love

We experience the love of God in two ways. 

When...

1.   We behold the God of love (most clearly displayed in the past work of Christ for us) in our times of meditation and worship (private or corporate) 
and  
2.   We live his love out i.e. when we live for the glory of God by our actions of loving others sacrificially as God loves us.

The former is the essence of the greatest commandment. The latter is the essence of the second which is like it.

Mat 22:36  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 

Mar 12:29  Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Mark makes this statement of worship, whereas Matthew doesn't so I inserted it here between the quote from Matthew). 

37  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the great and first commandment. 39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

Those who do the former (only meditate and gaze upon his beauty) without the latter become spiritually fat and lazy.

Those who attempt to do the latter (loving others sacrificially) without the former experience frustration and burn out. 

Though we experience God's love now by faith (i.e. in believing in his love demonstrated in Christ's work on our behalf), we also experience and participate in this love by acting in love toward others i.e. obedience. 

We must have both. The former fuels and drives the latter. The latter expresses/fulfills/ completes the former.

Some might argue, what about those times when God demonstrates his love through special provision in a given situation such as answers to prayer etc? If and when he does, he does so when we are advancing his kingdom and glory  i.e. living his love out to others, which is the second item above. If God were to bless us outside of this it would only strengthen self indulgence not a greater desire to pursue God for who he is, verses what he does. God then becomes a means to another end (i.e. a specific blessing for my exclusive benefit) and not the end himself. 

Mat 7:7  "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 

Mat 7:11  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  
Mat 18:19  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 

Mat 21:22  And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." 

Joh 14:13  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 

Joh 15:7  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 

Joh 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 

Joh 16:23  In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24  Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 

Jas 4:2  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions

____________________________________________________________________________

For a further discussion on the last point above click here



Thursday, May 4, 2017

but I am just telling you the truth...

What is the way of Christ? What does it primarily consist of? For many it is the only true way as well as the way of truth. And this would be correct. Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life…" However is this way only about truth? 

What about grace? Isn't the way of Christ also the way of grace; the good news/gospel way? It is. 

So which is it? The way of truth or the way of grace? It is both

What is interesting is the Bible mentions both of these as vital to who Christ is, but in a particular order. It says Christ came full of grace and truth. Notice grace comes first. 

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

And if you go down two more verses we see this: 

Joh 1:16  And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 

It is also worth noting that this passage is dealing with God incarnate i.e. God himself (the Word was God Jn1:1) revealing who he is in and through Christ.

Why does God the Father describe Christ in this manner i.e. Grace before truth? Is this deliberate? Does it matter?

I propose that the order and emphasis (3 mentions of grace to 1 of truth) isn't incidental. Not only because it is the emphasis and order given but also because we are unable to hear and receive the truth unless we think it is coming from someone we are persuaded loves us first. The old saying, "I don't care about what you know until I know that you care" comes to mind. 

We are not able to hear, see or experience the love of God in our broken state without grace first. God's love is offered, experienced and entered into on the merits of anothers efforts (i.e. by grace), not ours. If our experiencing his love was based on our efforts, we would never experience it. We can never do enough to merit his love. Christ also died for us long before any of us accepted or experienced it. We only trust the words of Christ to be true when we come to believe and receive this unmerited love of God first.

To illustrate, think of someone, a total stranger, being brutally honest about a characteristic of yours that is not very flattering. Let's say you had bad breath or seriously needed a shower and they told you. How would you respond to their speaking the truth? Would you receive it well even if it was 100% true? Truth is important after all. Unless your identity was strongly rooted in God's love for you and you had Rhino skin (actually more of a grounded heart then a strong exterior), probably not. 

Now what if someone also spoke the truth, who had proven their love and faithfulness to you in thick and thin. They have stuck with you no matter what you were going through and they shared the same truth (i.e. you were confident in their love because of a past incredibly huge sacrificial act that resulted in their losing everything for your sake)? Would your response be different?

I propose that many within the church that are quick to go for the jugular with the truth and always try to convince others that they have, believe and are promoters of the truth etc OR they always seek to show others how, when and where they are in error, is because they personally have not experienced the grace of God a great deal (if at all). There view of God is not of one who is loving but one who requires perfect performance and is disappointed in them when they don't perform well. 

The desire to correct others can come more from our own personal insecurity than from a desire to defend the truth or God's honor. 

We must always be sure we are speaking the truth. The truth must never be compromised. But in order for others to hear that truth, it is up to us to also sow those seeds of love and trust into hearts so they might receive it. How do we do so? By only preaching the truth to them? No, by first loving them as Christ loves us i.e. sacrificially with mercy and grace. 

For a further discussion of how we are to approach others click here