"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God..." 2 Cor. 3:5(NKJ)
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."John 3:6 (NKJ)
The new year is upon us. Many will be looking back on their spiritual growth this year and maybe examining how they can improve on their spiritual life or their walk with the Lord.
In my Bible I have written down on all the blank pages little sayings, and lessons I've learned along the way that have gotten me through the hard spots in life, or that the Lord has especially taught me. One of them is this: Never be sure of your own spirituality, only be sure of the Holy Spirit and His power.
What does that mean? Well ... it is something I keep learning the hard way as I grow in the Lord. After being a Christian for many years you can grow in the Lord and hopefully reach a "higher level of maturity" ... or maybe growth in faith. But I have learned that my flesh is my flesh and always will be my flesh. It is only the work of the Holy Spirit that always matters.
Let me try to explain. You struggle to overcome an area of your flesh. You realize that it is impossible in your own power, and you finally find that place where you surrender it to the Lord and find His power in you to overcome, put it to death by the Spirit, and walk in victory. So continually when that thing comes to bother you again you know you call on the power of the Holy Spirit to stand ... standing on Him alone, not trusting in your flesh. Eventually that thing doesn't bother you anymore. You're above it ... or so you think. You don't have that particular battle with the flesh anymore and are confident that you have overcome it.
Then one day it's there again and you fall. *Crash* Why did it happen? I thought I was above that!! How could I have let that happen?? What is wrong with me!! I'm a more mature Christian than that! I'm more spiritual than that!! That's an old thing! I shouldn't have to deal with it again!!
Well ... our flesh will always be our flesh. It will never be more "spiritual". It will never improve. It will never change. It will always be corrupt and full of sin. That is why Jesus doesn't try to strengthen or improve us in our flesh. No ... His solution to our self nature is to crucify it, not to try to improve, or change it. Psychology seeks to strengthen the flesh. Christianity seeks to put it to death. No we don't need a changed life, but an exchanged life. His life in place of ours.
Our sufficiency is always, always, ever going to be the Holy Spirit ... not our "level of attainment". I think sometimes the Lord allows us to fall to remind us of that. No matter how strong in the Lord we have become ... it is always only ... IN THE LORD.
I believe that is one of the pitfalls we need to be aware of in growing in the Lord. We seem to think ... "ok Lord ... You got me this far, I'll take it from here." No ... it never ceases to be Him that we rely on. NEVER! We can never become confident in ourselves. If we do, look out! A crash is coming.
Phil. 4:13 ... (Amplified Bible) "I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]."
Yes we can reach higher levels in the Lord as we grow, but it is never our spirituality. It is never our attainment. It is only that we have become less dependent on ourselves, and emptier of ourselves, and more dependent and more full of God.
If you have suddenly found yourself in a dry place when you thought that wouldn't happen to you again, remember ... the well that never runs dry is always the same. It is Jesus. His Spirit is always sufficient for the need and He never runs out of reserves for us. Don't try to look within yourself to reach again a level that you have fallen from. Just come again to the Spring of Living Water that never runs dry. He is always there and always has an abundance.
There is really such a joy in being humbled and being brought to a place where we see our own human frailty and when we are made to realize we really aren't all as great as we thought we were. We don't need self-esteem, but God esteem. It is when we see our nothingness that we truly see His all sufficiency and are satisfied with that. It is when we don't have to think of ourselves anymore that we can become more content with Him, and be free of worrying where we are at spiritually. Empty of ourselves, we can be more full of Him.
I'm learning to leave my spiritual measurement up to the Lord. It's the times I thought I was the most spiritual that I fell the hardest. I don't think any of us can truly know that. Only He can.
Our place is to just daily trust Him to do it and yield to Him, keeping our eyes off from ourselves and onto Him and His sufficiency.
God bless and keep you!
Some think the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of condemnation. They are afraid to come near a church and listen because they know according to the Bible they are sinners. They know they can't change. They do the best they can and they don't want to hear that they are condemned. They think by staying away from hearing it, they will be ok.
But you see, without that Gospel...which is really a Gospel of life...not condemnation...they are already condemned. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus came to save us from that condemnation. The condemnation is already there. He came to bring life, not death. Forgiveness, not condemnation. Freedom from sin...instead of bondage.
John 3:17-18.."For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is conemned already. because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
If you don't know that freedom from condemnation it is available to you. Click and read HERE how it can be yours.
But perhaps you have believed in Him (relied on, clung to, adhered to, and put your trust in Him) and yet now you are feeling condemnation, because you just can't measure up. You seem to find yourself falling into the same sin over and over and just can't overcome.
Or so the enemy has convinced you.
What do you do with this dilemma? You can give up...resign yourself to it as hopeless, and figure God's grace covers it and He understands. Yet you know in your own heart it leaves you with a sense of broken fellowship with Him. It robs your faith. You read in the Word of something higher...an abundant life...a life free of condemnation, yet you feel under the heavy burden of your sin.
Your other choice....to actually believe (rely on, cling to, adhere to, put your trust in) that Gospel of life that says you have been set free from sin's dominion.
Do you know how the enemy defeats us? He convinces us that what God says about His children is not true. He convinces us to believe his lies that we are still bound to our old slave master...sin.
And so you will be if you believe (rely on, cling to, adhere to, and put your trust in) Satan's lies, instead of God's Gospel of Life.
But the Gospel of Life says NO! You are not a slave to sin! It shall not any longer have dominion over you! Rom. 6:14 "For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God's favor and mercy]."(amplified version)
So what do you do?
Rom. 6:4 (amplified version) "We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might [habitually] live and behave in newness of life."
How was Christ raised from the dead? By the "glorious power of the Father." How are we raised from spiritual death? By "the glorious power of the Father."
No...not by psychology, no...not by our own self effort, no...not by behavior modification. All these things can have a certain amount of success to a certain point, but this is the old struggle..the struggle of the law of sin and death that Rom. 7 talks about. God has something much higher.
That higher thing is the resurrection power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to give you freedom from sin's dominion in your life.
So now you're frustrated, thinking what can I do to have that?
The answer is so simple that we miss it. It is surrender and faith. The power is real. It is not mind manipulation. It is real! It is by faith alone, trusting that what He has promised He is also able to perform.
Before you are finished reading this, I have a suggestion for you if you struggle with sin you cannot overcome. Take a day off and take your Bible and sit at the Lord's feet. Open to Rom. 6, in the amplified, if you have it, because it spells out your victory so clearly. Then spend the day, with Rom. 6, as if it were the Lord Himself speaking it to you (it is!) and talk back to Him, responding to Him about what He is saying to you. Ask Him your questions, pour out your heart, confess your weakness, accept and admit you cannot change a thing about yourself. Then take what He says there, and believe it (rely on it, cling to it, adhere to it, trust in it). Act on it, as if it is true (it is!) Determine to cling to and reckon His Word true everytime the temptation comes to you until, by the Spirit you have put it to death. You won't be disappointed. You will receive life and freedom. You will find that He is able to do it!
God bless and keep you!
How do we become the fragrance of Christ? What kind of a fragrance do you give off when you enter a room, and what is left when you leave?
Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up. He saw an awesome vision of God's holiness. When we see God's holiness it will never leave us the same. Isaiah's response to this vision was "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." (NKJV)
It left him with a total humility. He saw himself as he was, truly, in the light of God's holiness. When we come into God's presence this should be our first reaction. We should be so struck with a sense of His holiness that we cry out.."Woe is me! I am unclean!"
Humility is simply this...seeing the truth about ourselves in God's light. No man can have an inflated opinion of himself in God's presence. It is this humility that makes it possible for us to receive the grace of God and be born again. Without humility it is impossible to come to Him.
When you walk into a room do people notice you or do they see Jesus? Who do you want them to notice?
When a flower is crushed, it gives off a fragrance that others can enjoy. Sometimes it is not until we have been crushed that the fragrance of Christ is seen in us. It is when we have become nothing and He has become everything that others will receive the sweet aroma of His life in us.
By our nature, we balk at those experiences in life that will naturally humble us. But they are brought to us for our good. (Rom. 8:28) There is nothing in our life that isn't under the hand of God to conform us to the image of His Son if we are His children. If we will but yeild to them instead of rising up in our pride to protect ourselves from the humility they bring, then Christ can be formed in us. (Heb. 12:5-11)
In Andrew Murray's book, Humility, He says "Meekess and lowliness of heart should be the distinguishing feature of the disciple as they were of the master."
Jesus was our greatest example of humility. Though He was God, He left His home in glory to take on the humble form of a man. He recognized the body of flesh he lived in as needing to be totally dependant on the Holy Spirit. "The Son can do nothing of Himself" (John 5:19) "I can do nothing of myself"(john 8:28) He humbled Himself, wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him." (Phil. 2:8-9)
The only path to the higher life is to go lower down. "Everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself whall be exalted." Luke 18:14
When seeking to grow in godly character the starting place is always humility. All other Christian virtues flow out of true humility in the heart. Without it we cannot even approach God. "...God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6b (NKJV)
What's your reaction when you are criticized or corrected? If someone else is preferred over you? When you don't get a chance to speak your opinion in a discussion? Do you do most of the talking or do you listen? Are you easily embarrassed or offended?
Well...our natural reaction is always one of self defense, or self-promotion. But if we welcome the experiences in our life as coming from the hand of God to form in us the true humility of Christ then yield ourselves to the Lord to let Him crucify our pride, we will find a freedom from ourselves that we won't find any other way.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be free from being offended, free from anger, free from embarrassment, free from caring what other's think of us? The world tells us it's because we have a low self-esteem, but I challenge you to see what the Word of God says about it. I believe it shows us that it is because we think too highly of ourselves. In fact true humility just plain doesn't think of self at all! It is too busy caring about others, and full of God's love.
Love and humility go hand in hand. Without humility one can not love because we are only full of ourselves. Look at what 1 Cor. 13 says about love and see how much humility is required for us to love.
"Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own right or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]." ! Cor. 13:4-5. (amplified version)
Humility, sadly, is one of the lost virtues of Christianity in our day. I hope this will challenge you to put it high on your list of things to seek God for. There is no greater freedom than the freedom of self.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:24,25 (NKJV) When we are free of ourselves we can be full of Him!
Out of true humility, the wonderful fragrance of Christ will flow from our lives and bring others to the knowledge of Christ. Isn't that what we seek as children of God? To be like Him? To be filled with His life until it overflows from us and fills others around us?
It is a life that He is calling you to today. Listen to His call!
God bless and keep you!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.'"
Sometimes our trials are like a fiery furnace...threatening to consume us. We may hear voices saying to us "who is the god who will deliver you?" Sometimes there is no way to avoid the fire, if we stay true to the Lord, and don't deny Him, but stay in the path He has led us. We must face it, and walk right into that fiery furnace, knowing Jesus is there in the midst of it with us. the flames, He will keep from devouring us.
Isa. 43:2..(NKJV) "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.
I don't know that there is any greater physical pain than being burned. I think the times our soul is in the fire are equally as painful. the temptation for us is to find quick relief...a quick solution...perhaps to turn to whatever is there reaching out to us to save us from the fire, even if it is not from God. But God saves us in the fire.
Look again at the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. "If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."
Let us trust the Lord in the fire, clinging to His promises and never compromising with the gods or idols of this world. Anything we would trust in to draw our life from or worship (give adoration or devotion to, make supplication to, pay homage to, or honor) in place of God, becomes an idol to us.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego could easily have spared themselves by simply bowing down to the image of the king, but they chose the fire. And what would they have gained had they chosen to bow to the image? Escape from the fire, honor from the king? Yet, they would have lost God.
Their salvation would have been temporary. They chose God instead and their salvation and deliverance was eternal and they had His life and fullness and honor.
Note that they were ready to die...even if the Lord chose not to deliver...they would still trust Him!
Maybe you are feeling that you are in the furnace and you don't feel the Lord is there with you. Yet He is there in the midst of the fire. His promises for you, His dear child, are as sure as His promise that He would send His Son into this world. He will never leave you or forsake you, even in the fire.
If we trust Him in the fire He will purify us and make us His vessel of honor. You will come forth from the fire whole, and purified, and the flames will not have devoured you.
In Phillip Keller's book, The Master's Hands..(© by W. Phillip Keller, Servant books), a book which I highly recommend, he says on page 41...
The old gentleman invited me to stoop down and peer through a small quartz window into the fierce fires of his retort. Just the heat radiating from it made me draw back lest I be burned.
"This is where the final glaze is put on the pottery." A strange little smile played about his lips. "Most people do not know that fine china comes from fierce fires." He looked away softly into the dark shadows of his shop. "You cannot get beauty without severe suffering!"
Are we willing to say, "Lord, You are the potter, and I am the clay?" Are we willing to trust His hand in our life to mold us carefully, lovingly, into the perfect vessel He meant us to be? Will we trust in that greatest of all love...that love that went to the cross for us...that nothing will befall us that doesn't first come through His nail scarred hands; nothing that He didn't forsee ahead of time in His plan for us?
Yes, dear child of God...He is there with you in the midst of the fiery furnace! Don't despair!
May God bless and keep you!