“These insights I have gained in the school of life”
So much of our spirituality and religion is greatly affected by who we know God to be. A.W. Tozer said, "Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God." We all have within us a gallery images of who God is, and those images dramatically affect our responses to Him. This gallery greatly affects the faith and religion we live out each day in relationship with God. The trouble is many, if not most of those images are distorted at best or entirely false at worst. This God many of us relate and respond to is not the God of scripture, and we begin to wonder why some of us live out such a grim, hard, and loveless faith each day.
It is because the God we have come to believe is distant and hard to please. God becomes a cold Father demanding your work without encouragement or love or pride in you. It is very difficult to serve that god with enthusiasm or joy. It is difficult not to chalk up other more enthusiastic brothers and sisters to fanaticism when the god you know is cold, removed, and grim. But this is not the God presented in scripture. This is the god of the Pharisees and he will always drive a Pharisaic religion and faith.
The moment I was first ambushed by the love of God is when I came to see the Father of Scripture who loves and delights in me, His son. He comes close to me in a true fellowship where I can find rest and healing. He is not hard to please.
Yes, he disciplines us, but I have come to know His delight and smile. He will correct and challenge me with the smile of a Father who is tender and proud. My Abba is proud of me and knows I am His "imperfect by promising" son. I see His delighted smile which knows I am coming to look more and more like my Abba every day.
Once I come face to face with the real gospel of Jesus, it will well up within me either of great appreciation or joy or a rebellion and resentment. Many of us, particularly many Americans, resent a vital part of the gospel, namely the giftedness of it. Once many are face to face with the fact they have to accept a gift rather than give and give and give of their earning efforts, we are resentful of the gospel.
The gospel makes clear we are "justified as a GIFT by His GRACE through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ" (Rom. 3:24). Oswald Chambers writes, "We cannot earn or win anything from God; we must either receive it as a gift or do without it."
Here is a stark challenge to the way many of us try to understand the gospel. If you are not receiving it as a gift and trying to work for it with all your own efforts, you are missing it. If you are trying to work and earn God's love, you are choosing to do without it.
It is gift and it is to be received. It does not require your giving or your work. It is selfish pride just as much for me to refuse a gift, because even in that refusal I make way more of myself and less of God.
One of the reasons we do not hear God as we did in the Old Testament is because our sin has grown to do this to us. Humanity has been so sickened with sin that we have lost our hearing and we no longer even speak God's language enough to understand Him if we even could hear His voice.
Hearts have been so hardened over time that we are too incredibly foreign to God whose image is actually imprinted upon us. We who are in His very image are terribly foreign to Him because of our sin.
The good news is that God desires his imprinted people. He desires connection, contact, and conversation once again. The silence we hate is as hurtful to God.
He had to speak a language we would finally be able to understand. Jesus is that language. "Jesus is God spelling Himself out," wrote SD Gordon.
Jesus is God Himself. Jesus is God Himself speaking a language our foreign sin-soaked hearts can finally understand.
That intimacy we once knew in Eden is possible now only in Jesus.
There are so many times in scripture where we see God "turn them over to their own stubbornness" or "remove his hand from them" or "allowed them to walk in their own devices." This happens over and over again, and it is striking to realize this characteristic in God the Father. He will as often in Scripture say things like "Oh that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways."
This is not the "Old Testament God", as if God goes away to summer camp between testaments to really work on Himself. This is Almighty unchanging God we see here. Jesus does give us an access to God and His grace we could never give to ourselves, but let us realize God's action toward our stubbornness has not changed.
There come times when we choose to disobey God enough times that He will just let us go down that road to experience the pain and the brokenness He would have protected us from if we had only listened and obeyed him in the first place.
This is sobering to our hearts that are prone to wander. We must intentionally keep our hearts focused, open, and obeying, or we may very well see God remove his hand from our stubborn hearts.
Our hearts are truly and terribly wicked. THey need to ALWAYS be focused and disciplined to obey, follow, and love God above all else. But because of the fact that our hearts just really are so so wicked (depraved) there simply is no room for comfortable apathy in this life. Every day my heart is drawn toward its own wickedness, and I have to intentionally focus my heart each and every day on Jesus Christ and the God who demands that I follow Him and obey Him.
My heart is so easily turned away; like terribly easy to be turned away. This depravity and wickedness angers me. I hate that my heart is aligned toward sin and terrible choices, but over and over again I see this in my life.
O God, my heart is so wicked and prone to wander, I am truly prone to leave the God I love and turn from you.
Here is my heart, LORD, take and seal it for thy courts above. Seal and cap my heart for you and your alone. O God, my heart is prone to wander. It is so easily turned from you. Seal my heart. I hate my wickedness. I hate that I am always turning from you if I am not remembering the grace you have given me in Christ. I desire to follow you and lead your people with a fear of you, but heart pulls me.
My heart is depraved and wicked. While I have been redeemed in the blood of Christ on the cross, I still feel prone to wander and leave the path of the God I love. I hate and despise that feeling.
I also realize if I am not intentionally focusing my wandering heart, I will be too easily turned. So seal my heart. Draw me close to you and I will obey you. I will follow you and honor you.
With Psalm 80 I pray, "O God, restore me, and cause your face to shine upon me and I will be saved."
My heat is truly wicked and prone to wander from you. When I do wander, I find brokenness at every turn. So I pray for restoration, and I pray this on a consistent repeat.
Restoration is a return to an original condition before wear and tear and brokenness began to set in.
The Body of Christ has been preached for centuries, but something I do not recall hearing about the body and its parts, which we are, is what happens when they are severed from the body.
The Body of Christ only grows when it is held together. When it is disconnected parts, those parts die and cannot continue forward. Stay close and connected to the gospel and to the Body of Christ.
Over and over again I watch people disconnect themselves from the Body of Christ and attempt to go it alone. With the fervor of Hebrews 10, I say, "DO NOT give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. " I have told people more times than I care to count: if you attempt to grow and move on your own, you will fail. If we play out the realities of a Body, not only will you fail, your will likely die.
"(22)For I have kept the ways of the LORDAnd have not acted wickedly against my God... (25)According to my cleanness before His eyes." -2 Samuel 22:22,25
It is difficult to believe verse 22 without reading verse 25. David would not be blameless in our eyes. In our eyes, David is an adulterer and murderer.
In God's mercy-tinted eyes, David is forgiven and blameless. How God sees us is all that is truly important.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your work. - Psalm 73:25-28
"Whom have I in heaven but You?" If I got to heaven and received all the promises of heaven, but God was not there, would I still want to go? If Jesus were not there, do I still even want it? I want to live a life now where I desire nothing but Jesus. I want god to be my only desire; not his blessings, not peace, not joy, but God alone. I want my heart to live a life by which God IS MY FULL PORTION forever; where my heart and mind fully realize that my greatest good in life is nearness to God.
I desire for God to be my greatest desire; not only His blessings, joy, peace, or provision. All those things are OF GOD, and that means peace, joy, provision, and refuge will only be found in Him.
This means that God is strength and refuge. He will only be MY refuge when i am found near and in Him.
While we realize she does not understand the water Jesus is referring to, there is a strong reflection for me to find myself in reading this story.
She does not know the power and ability Jesus has. She does not look at the circumstance at hand and think anyone could even possibly make this request happen. Jesus makes a request of her, and she is simply showing him the request is literally impossible. She does not yet understand or trust that what Jesus asks of her is actually possible or He would not have asked her to do it. She does not trust that what Jesus asks of her is possible, because of Jesus, to actually be done.
I sit here looking over my life at this time and of the things Jesus has called me to do and pursue in life. I look at my circumstances in life and will almost always wonder how in the world he could expect me to draw from such a deep well without a pail. Life is not exactly conducive to what you are saying, Jesus. Those things are literally impossible.
It is easy enough to think, "I only doubt myself, but not Jesus." But if I am honest, I do not doubt myself. I know what I am capable and incapable of. Suddenly I am stricken with the reality that I do not trust Jesus.