“Principals only take you so far. At some point, every person must hear from God, must know what God is calling him to do apart from others.”
I have been pondering on the nature of the “Kingdom of God” or in other words, the attributes that describe God and what he wants his people to value and reflect. Basically, how does God order things. What is most important? What is less important? If God could ask you to do one thing, what would it be?
Christians have VERY different answers to this question. We all have proclivities. Different comfort levels with different commands of God. But if we attest to follow Christ, and be “Christ like” our proclivities and the aim of our heart should reflect that of whom we follow. We should adopt the values and nature of our King that we serve. Similar to when you believe in an organization or company, you want to take their “mottos” or “agenda” and make that your own and spread them to others because you believe they work… Except for God’s kingdom is ultimate and higher than any made of man and deserves all importance. It is all together true, holy and trustworthy.
As I was thinking about this, God reminded me of the parables and the beatitudes that Jesus taught.
Have you heard a sermon like this in a while. . .
“Blessed is the poor in spirit…” (Mt. 5:2-11)
If you were to foster an attribute, would it be “poor in spirit”? He goes on…
“Blessed are those who mourn…. Blessed are those who are meek… blessed are you who others revile” (v. 4, 5 & 11)
When was the last time I felt blessed to be reviled? How does one even do that? Or “poor in spirit”. I spend most my time trying to be “good” and “all together”. When was the last time I was even ok with being “poor in spirit”, much more finding it a blessed or good thing!
“Blessed are the meek…”
Man, does frustration rise up inside me when I don’t get the honor I believe I deserve. And to be seen as “meek” by others, even worse! How many people can relate to my feelings?
Let me ask you as I also ask myself… Why do you think God calls these things blessed? Let’s think about it for a while. Why does God choose the foolish to confound the wise? Why is it not ONLY ok, but called “blessed” by Jesus to be called a meek, poor in spirit, mourning, reviled, least of these, Jesus follower? Here are a few thoughts:
The greatest love is to lay down your life for a friend (Jn. 15:13)
Jesus laid down his life to save us. To be with us. Immanuel. Jesus’ love for us required humbling himself from his throne of power to become a baby and live a hard and “unglory-filled” life for our sake. By the time he died on the cross, all his disciples basically left him. He fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” His disciples followed suit. Are we willing to follow?
We are not the answer
The plan of God’s redemption was never that we would be the answer. That our glory and performance would usher in the Kingdom. John the Baptist who paved the way for Jesus said, “I must become less, so that Jesus could be made much of” (John 3:29-30) The is also our call. We are not it. Jesus is. So as we die to ourselves and be made alive to Christ, we can walk with him in full freedom, not holding on to any pride or need for glory, but entrusting it all to the one who does deserve it – Jesus.
Those feelings and experiences in the beatitudes are inevitable for those who follow Jesus’ foot steps and teach his Truth
In the gospel of John, Jesus says that the world will hate you, because it first hated me. You cannot be above your Master or expect to have a different experience. What feelings do you think Jesus felt when betrayed, devalued by his closest friends, tempted, debated, pursued to be murdered out of hatred and utterly despised by so-called ‘godly’ leaders? Could it possibly have felt something similar to “poor in spirit”, “meek”, “reviled”? Being honest in experiencing these attributes doesn’t devalue God’s glory if he himself says these things are “blessed”. And it does not impact joy either. The Bible also says, “Jesus counted as joy to go to the cross….” He joyed in his death. Why? Knowing he would get us. Knowing he was doing the Father’s will, in which he utterly trusted. He had his sights on the God’s redemptive plan: he saw the end zone. He knew God was making all things new, and using his sacrifice to reconcile man to God forever. The end was enough for him.
If we have nothing, there is nothing to protect
Two of Jesus’ parables say basically the same thing (Lk. 14:11, 18:14). The greater you are, or think you are the higher chance God will humble you or possibility you might not be his child or in his kingdom. And the more humble, and dead to your sense of self-righteousness you are, the more he will glorify you. I think part of this has to do with the less you glory in yourself, the more you will be free to glorify him. In another parable it says, he who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much. If in small ways you honor the Lord, when unseen, then God can trust with you, knowing his message will not be tainted by pride or deception with greater places of glory and honor.
It is our gift to give God glory, and be made less of and him be made more of. Why? Because we inherit the Kingdom of God. Is that enough for you? Is that enough for me? It was enough for Jesus. Jesus had God’s ultimate glory and goodness in mind for our salvation, when he found it joy walking toward the cross.
If it is to God’s glory and goodness to make me less, my prayer should be so be it. If it reveals the truth of grace to have me reviled by others, I want follow. If my shame is God’s glory, I want to trust. This is the prayer of my heart. That I would truly die to myself and fully entrust myself to God’s goodness and purposes, no matter where the road takes me… Even if it takes me lower.
The Kingdom of God is a “narrow door”, and not many want to go through it the way Jesus is leading. And Jesus is asking, will you follow?
And someone said to him (Jesus), “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
This sermon is gold if you ever wanted to know what it looks like to experience God and what the difference is between someone who has beheld God and one who is religious or moral. Soooo good and convicting that God will not be controlled and a great reminder of how great his love is, that moves and remakes us! Pastor Tim Keller paints a great picture that God’s work in us is not counter to intellect but moves the knowing of truth into the whole of our being.
I love TK!
“Then Israel will no longer be tempted to trust in Egypt for help. Egypt’s shattered condition will remind Israel of how sinful she was to trust Egypt in earlier days. Then Israel will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.”
(Ezekiel 29:16 NLT)
What a gift when God breaks the bonds of our sin! What a gift when he rips out of our hands our precious idols! What love of our Husband that he would fight, even die, to win back his love from her many ‘mistresses’ after she had cheated and gone astray. Or what love of a Father, that after his son have left home and lost himself, used up every form of sin, He still welcomes us back into the family with celebration and honor.
After we had tasted intimacy with the King and said “This is nice but I think there is something better out there.” What wildernesses we wander in that come up dry and ultimately bring us to back to you! Oh God, how humbling, and bitter sweet is your forgiveness. Let the humility of our selfish efforts change us to remember. To remember to die to our trust in ourselves, and place it back in you hands. You allow us to denounce past “slave drivers”, and take our place as sons and daughters of the king of Kings without recompense.
What painful grace is that which receives us when we do not want to be found. Which follows us, when we do not want to be followed. Who loves us when we want Egypt instead! The Psalmists get it right when the writer meets the grace and mercy of their Maker, and declares “Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! You alone are worthy!” God’s grace is painful in that it reveals his goodness and our own wretchedness. Once seeing this amazing grace, we can only choose between turning from it to be slaves to self-righteousness or die to self and be alive in Jesus. His love makes it possible to not be crushed by our sin because he said, Christ was enough. He paid it all. It is finished.
God’s sweet love crushes our idols, and false hopes and false dreams.
I want to praise God for the crushing because he does it to let me know who he is. The he is my God. My God is jealous. My God fights for our love. That I don’t deserve it but he choose to pursue me when I had already betrayed him. Just like Israel, God chose covenant with me based on his efforts and not mine. And he does everything to fight for his Bride.
How great is this love!
“The key to seeing the gospel is to despair of your own efforts” – Dustin Kensrue
Needed this today. And every day. All the time.
I must die so that I might live in Christ.
I doubt God’s goodness more often than I want to admit.
I believe that God is good but I live expecting the worst. Recently there have been circumstances God has surprised me by them not working out the way I thought. They were better. And given God’s nature to be good, steadfast, faithful and all together perfect, I should expect Him to have more positive and life-giving outcomes of things He is involved in, including the things in my life.
Then why, given what I know that about God, why do I expect so little? Why is it more comfortable to not expect much?
I think because I also know depravity of man. I have felt it’s sting, been under it’s wrath. I let the pain of suffering weight in too heavily into the argument. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s all I hear. But when I allow the reality of evil in the world to be bigger than the steadfast, righteous and good God I worship, the King over the world, I am degrading His glory. I am stripping him of what he deserves: All my faith, all my worship and all my trust. Cause God wins. At times it might not feel it, at times I feel stuck in the mud or endlessly wandering the desert valley, but in the end He wins. And he already won and I am supposed to live in the knowledge of that. I think this is why God says:
“But let him who boasts, boast in this – that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
So I want to repent of this preparation. The readying myself for situations in preparation for the worst. I trust too heavily in my instinct and ability to read people and to protect myself from harm. But God, even the pain and the discipline you bring me under when I enter your presence, I see the end. I see you as good, and therefore the pain as good to me. I cannot believe you, without experiencing your goodness. Help me not run from your discipline, or hide from your reprove, for to me I would rather stay under the Hand of God than to run into the unknown where God is not.
But sometimes, you don’t choose suffering to grow me. Sometimes you choose joy! I will rejoice in that! You are so much better than I give you credit for. You are incredible. No situation or struggle you bring me through is thoughtless or without purpose. But you also choose to bless, grow, breathe life into dead bodies, break bonds and set captives free. You care about my good and the good of your children. I don’t need to prepare. I don’t need to self protect. I need to lean. Lean into the Spirit…. Lean into You. You knew that blessing would remind me that I can trust you. You can handle this – You have got this perfectly figured out. You do not need my help. You want my heart and soul.
So I am just freaking thankful. Thankful that God loves me enough to remind me of his goodness. That although his plans include suffering, his goodness and power is ever present and I can continually trust.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10
“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalm 25:10
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7
“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
Beholding God is more important than figuring your sin out. God can do a better job at that anyway. If you abide in Him, he will work out your sanctification – In his time, by his power, in perfect conviction and perfect grace. Beholding the one who is Love and Truth must produce fruit simply because you cannot behold something so good and not be changed.
Lord – Is there anything you want to speak to my soul? I do not want to manipulate you or use you. You will not be used. I do not want to fake it or twist it. You deserve my worship and my all.
So here I am.
I loved last night how Timothy Keller said – “ If you seek happiness more than you seek me, you will have neither; if you seek to serve me more than serve happiness, you will have both” (The Meaning of Marriage). How true is that! I have first hand experience of trying to fix my mood and it getting worse and worse!
I don’t want anything but you.
My heart and flesh war against my spirit but you give me a new heart that longs for you. That, although tempted, only wants you. Help me trust you, Jesus. Help me trust you in my temptations. Trust you with my heart. I believe the lie that I can control my heart and flesh… but it’s only by submission to your Spirit that I find FREEDOM! Amen!
Take my heart – use it. May I love you more than life. I have searched the world and found only you to be the one that satisfies my soul. That gives meaning to the chaos. To my life. Open me up, I am broken before you. Take me – I am yours. You are my rock, redeemer, friend. Help me rest in your sweet mercy and grace. Help me bathe in your presence. The essence of who you are is perfection. I am utterly amazed. If I am overcome by you, what else matters? If my heart is in your hands, who can harm me? You have the words of life. Living water that never runs dry. I will speak of your goodness forever. I will worship you all the days of my life. My cup will never run dry. You are it. You are all. You are MY all in all.
I have only but to sit and be amazed.
The Psalm came to mind as I was praying – It includes some of my favorite verses as a well as the lyrics to one of my favorite Rich Mullins song’s “Nothing is Beyond You”. (Yes – bringing it back old school).
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Vulnerable (Adj) – capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.
Why Does the Gospel Provide a Way for and Call Us to be Vulnerable?
I have never met anyone who likes to be completely honest and vulnerable all the time. I think most of the time we are afraid because of our need to control and/or in an effort to protect something other than God. Being vulnerable makes us open to get hurt by people who want to harm you, or even worst, by the people you love. It feels, at times, like there is so much at stake. What is never at stake in being vulnerable is your standing before, relationship with and love from God. In fact, the more open and honest we are before a loving God, the more we are shielded from the attack of the enemy and others. I want to explore why being a follower of Christ invites us into constant vulnerability with God and with others.
1 . The Gospel Requires Need
The gospel is all about need. It’s grounded in the fact that we need a Savior. Our first ‘parents’, Adam and Eve, chose to be their own ‘gods’ in the garden, rejecting God’s plan of intimate relationship and trusted in themselves, choosing something outside of the safety of a relationship with their Creator. We have lived with the consequences of that first sin since, as now all man are born into sin, desiring to be their own gods. God, in his great love for us, even with the weight of our rejection, sent his Son to die, making a way for us to be united to him once more. The gospel is the good news that we have a Savior who has wiped away the sins of the world. Now we must, in response, die to ourselves (our trust in our own “lordship” of our lives), trust and follow the only trustworthy One who is able to provide for all our needs. We walk in a new understanding that we cannot do it alone. The foundation of our faith is based on the need for a Savior to save us from ourselves. Saving requires an admission of weakness.
2 . The Gospel Calls us to Community
i. God is in Community within the Trinity
- If you want to have your mind blown read Jesus prayer in John for his followers (John 17:22-25)…. He repeats over and over how he is unified with the Father and he wants that same intimate unity for his flock, the Church.
ii. Honesty in Community is a protection against Pride
- Our hearts are deceitfully wicked, who can understand them? To assume we will be able to see all our sin, and have a correct perspective of ourselves, others and the gospel all by ourselves is just a little silly. The Holy Spirit does convict us, but God says we need each other to speak truth in love so that we might grow to all maturity. I believe pride is tied in closely with hearts being hardened in sin and falling away from the faith (Heb. 3:12-14). The protection from this is to live in the light with believers who know you, pray for, rebuke and suffer long for your good, like our Father in heaven is doing.
- “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart [a]that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)
iii. Image of God is complete in the Body not in one part (i.e. you)
- 1 Cor. 12:12-31
iv. Call to love your Brother/Sister requires knowing and being known
- My favorite scriptures for this are in John and 1 John. You cannot love someone you don’t know. You cannot truly be loved, without being truly known.
v. Unity is God’s chosen way to display his glory to the World
- “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:22-24)
3. The Gospel is about Truth
- Let’s just be honest – The naked truth (pun intended ;)) of our desire to not be open is a desire to lie and deceive. We do not want the truth of who we are to be in the light. We do not want to be seen. . . Seen for the broken, hurting, flawed people we are. But we are already seen by God. God sees all and knows us completely. His Son died for our flawed, hurting, brokenness at the cross. Living in light of this reality is that we are able to live openly, honestly unashamed! “They look to Him and were unashamed..” (Ps. 34:5). What a beautiful picture of grace. We are fallen, broken, sin-ridden rebels and yet while we were enemies of God, God loved us (Rom. 5:6, 8:1) If that is not acceptance and love, I don’t know what is. So we can live in the reality and know that nothing we did procured that grace and salvation in Jesus. We are free to live openly, free to follow the Holy Spirit. When we do not walk open and honestly we are living as though God is not enough. We are walking in agreement with the father of lies and deception – Satan.
- Jesus is our best example of a truth teller and revealer. Jesus revealed people’s hearts and pierced through bone and marrow with the Word. He was not about an image or a task but about the whole person – both physically and spiritually.
4 . Living in Honest Relationships in Community is Evidence of Personal Fellowship with God
- “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)
5 . Hiding/Shame began at the first Sin of Adam & Eve
- Whether we want to admit it or not, hiding is a tactic created by our enemy Satan to shame, isolate, divide, corrupt and ultimately destroy. It somehow entices us to believe in the lie that we can hide from an all-knowing God. Walking in the open before God and others, is walking in truth, knowing that God saw our sins and loved us anyway. Our sins, as people who have repented and received Jesus’ forgiveness, have no effect on your standing before a God that chose to die for them. To continue to want to hide or walk in shame, is to want to control our standing before God by our own acts of righteousness and not by the gift of grace.
The primary desire to be “needless” is to be your own god – contrary to a intimate, dependent relationship with God.
The type of relationship God had always planned for his people was intimate. Before the Fall, God walked in all His glory among Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8). God chosen people, Israel, although penetrated with sin (unable to commune with a holy God), was accompanied by the holiness of God in the middle of their tents in the wilderness. God made a way through the law for them to dwell together. GOD chose to come down and dwell with them. And of course the ultimate proof of God’s desire to be with his people is sending “God with us” our Savior Jesus Christ when we were enemies to die for our sins, making a direct way to commune with the Father. Jesus is our physical representation of the invisible God. On top of that, he sent part of Himself – the Holy Spirit – to indwell us. Like literally inside of us! Is it clear yet? God wants to be with us. Not an image of ourselves, our cleaned up version or our sacrifices. He wants us. Our hearts. Our failures. Our victories. Our desires.
Besides the ridiculousness of this reality that God would want to be with us (given who we are), God knows He is the only solution that will satisfy our wandering and needy hearts. His presence, His peace, His forgiveness, and just plain old – Himself. So who else should hold our brokenness, our weakness, failures and faults but the one who forgave, absorbed them in the greatest act of love that will ever be.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered
One of my favorite pictures my husband has taken of me. Josh wanted to get more photos for his portfolio and I was being his model ;). I have to admit, there have been many times on a run or … Continue reading