A heart to heart

It is Monday morning, and most minds right now are consumed with corralling our focus to tasks that await us, and changing our mental gears from leisure mode to battles we face, be it an over-loaded inbox, orders to fill, rounds to make, problems to solve, what have you.

Is life nothing more than toil?  Do you find yourself feeling like you are barely hanging on to your semblance of competency, sanity, order, peace, hope?

Do you long for rest?  For a day without struggling?

There are two kinds of people in this world.  Those who realize how small, frail, and weak they are, and that they need someone bigger, smarter, wiser, and stronger to turn to, and those who resist admitting this, even to themselves.

Because the truth is, no matter how “together” you appear, there is something out there capable of breaking you.

If you have not encountered it yet, you will.

There is a rule of thumb for leading the lost to Jesus.  Grace to the humble, law for the proud. Law only condemns, but not for the sake of condemnation, for the sake of recognizing our unrighteousness, and need for redemption.

Jesus said, “I come not to call the righteous to repentance”.

What is “wrong” with that statement?

Your answer will place you in one category or the other.

The way that Jesus operated in His dealings with people, was to deal with pride first.  Always.

The law is a schoolmaster, so to the rebellious, Jesus spoke the law.

The thief on the cross who recognized his own guilt before the righteousness of Christ, he had but to ask the Savior to remember him, and Jesus immediately assured the thief that he would be in paradise with Him that very day.

When we are saved, the sinful core within us is not removed, deactivated, or transformed.  Instead, a “new man” is placed inside and does battle with the sinful flesh at our core.  That flesh has been rendered powerless to condemn us, but has not been annihilated.  The task we face as Christians, is to bring that flesh into submission to the new inner man as Christ is being formed in us.

Just like parents are charged with the responsibility to teach their kids right from wrong, and to chastise them when they cross the line, we are, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to subdue our flesh and learn to live our lives out via the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is our consolation.  He is the One who stands with us, and reminds us there is a way to prevail over our own flesh.

We are engaged in a battle that never lets up.  And that is hard for humans.  We are weak, our endurance falters because we do not have infinite strength and we require rest.  This is why we must always bear in mind that there is a season for everything, including a legitimate time for dormancy.  The great Commission never rests, but the foot soldiers who are charged with carrying it out, must do so.

I look around at the Christian blogosphere and I recognize more wolves every day.  They almost seem to outnumber the sheep.  Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t, but sheep can’t depend entirely on other sheep for their safety.  It takes someone smarter than sheep to do that.  Sheep are not that smart or resourceful.

There are also sheep who just get lost.  They have wandered off, or been intentionally led astray.  They don’t turn into wolves, but might inadvertently become useful to the wolves in their own ignorance.

Maturity in the faith only comes from struggle and pain and heartache, disappointment, and failure.  Until you have those, you only have head knowledge, like the new nurse who just graduated from nursing school.  Nursing school does not make you a nurse, it just prepares you to become one.  You become one in the doing.

Life is messy.

When we get saved we must never make the mistake of ever again putting any trust in the flesh.  The flesh is irredeemable.

I read a post by a blogger who has become extremely popular in some of the circles I encounter online.  She is a self-professed minister.  A concerned commenter spoke truth out of sincere concern, to her in response to a video she made and included in her post.  She responded very defensively.  This is because she does not know what she does not know.  But she is leading people astray.  The person who challenged her will be criticized as judgmental, maybe even jealous.  I do not question this lady’s love for the Lord.  Not in the least.  But I can say with confidence that she has some rough things ahead of her because God will honor that love, and will show her the truth, and it will hurt.  Discipline always does.  When I was an adolescent and into my teen years, there was a fellow in our town who faithfully spoke scripture truth to everyone he met.  He was our neighbor, an older fellow, and he challenged me one time when I was sunbathing in our back yard, regarding modesty.  I was very defensive, and though my reaction was directed toward him, it was really my own flesh rearing up against the testimony of my own conscience which agreed with what the man had to say.  I knew for myself the man’s words were scripturally sound, and God stood on the same ground the man did.  He as God’s audible reiteration of His own written Word, to me that day.  It was a testament, a marker placed on my record, if you will, which God could point to and say, “you have no excuse, do you?”.  To which I can only confess I did not.  Nothing but the blood of Jesus can mitigate, can advocate, can allow my righteous Judge to pardon my offense.

In that seemingly “small” wrongdoing.  Sin.  Let’s call it what it is.  The Bible says that to bare the thigh is nakedness.  I remember the first time my Mom sewed a bikini-type swimsuit for me.  I remember the first time I removed the outer clothes so I could swim in it, and how “naked” and self-conscious I felt as a fairly young kid in the seventies.  It is the very same sense which led Adam and Eve to hide after they ate the forbidden fruit, because they realized their nakedness and were ashamed.  Why is it shameful to be naked?

Because God said so.

It is as simple as that, and though to “free-thinking” Westerners such as ourselves, this constitutes a laughable statement.  It is not so arbitrary as it might seem.  God says so for good reason.  At one time, that was good enough for mankind.  We only delude ourselves when we imagine the current way is better.  Don’t you ever long to return to the simplicity, the naivety, the “innocence” of childhood?  Now that you are an adult, now that you are “the boss” haven’t you learned that all that freedom and autonomy comes with a flipside you hadn’t counted on, which is all the risk, all the accountability, all the liability?

Just being a parent most days will give a person more appreciation for the merits of being the child instead.

That is what we threw away.  That is what we lost in the garden of Eden, but it is also what God wishes to restore to us!!

Come to Him.  Know that He died on the cross for you personally.  You don’t have to fully understand.  The “faith of a child” is the most effective kind.  No matter where you are today, lost sinner, doing it your way the whole time, disillusioned seeker, prodigal child.

We are living in sober times.

A separation is coming, and lines of demarcation are being drawn across history itself.  An age is ending, and a different period will begin, but not like the “New Ager’s” think.

Without faith it is impossible to please God.  Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing cometh by the Word of God.  But faith is perfected in trial, heartache, loss, failure, and suffering.  Faith by sight is not faith.  It is only faith when we believe in something as yet not proven to us or not as yet fully formed in us, or fully understood by us.

I guess my message is to anyone today who is feeling like you are not quite sure how much longer you can hold on, or someone who thinks they might have permanently “blown it”.  God’s grace knows no bounds. He does not want to condemn you.  But he that does not place his belief upon Christ Jesus, is condemned already. If you believe in Him, but feel that as a Christian there is no further grace or forgiveness and now you have no place to turn because you have failed in upholding His standard, the good news is, yes, there is someplace to turn, and it’s the same place you went the first time.  Back to the cross.

While you are there, thank Him that He saw fit to allow you to falter so that you could learn, again, your need for Him.  Our enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We can never afford to let down our guard against any one of them.

Yes, it’s a long war.  But we are not fighting it alone.  We have the Holy Spirit.  We have the Word.  We have the Armor.  Let us pray that God will teach us, in these increasingly evil days, how to live our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The snares are always out there.  We do not enjoy the immunities which political ambassadors enjoy.  We have a higher standard instead of a lower one.  Jesus is our example.  It is hard being asked to strive toward something we are incapable, in ourselves alone, of achieving.  Perfection!  But it is really all a matter of which way you are moving.  Because you are either moving forward or backing up.  There is no standing still, and there is no neutrality.  Jesus said, you are either for me, or you are against me.  The straight way is very narrow.  The opposing forces of evil are unrelenting.  The “prize” is off in the distance, and not in hand yet.  We are tired, and we are frail.  We lose heart, and sometimes we have to rest, but we dare not step out of the yoke.  Jesus will keep walking upward and we will be moved along as long as we are in the yoke with Him.  It is when we think of taking a rest apart from Him, of coming out from under the yoke for just a while, that we become most vulnerable of all.

It simply does not work that way.  A detour and time of wandering will ensue.  Count on it.

Run back.  Confess your weariness, your disappointment, your fear and your faithlessness, but stay with Him.  Keep the march in forward motion even if it is mere centimeters at a time.  Don’t yield ground to that blasted enemy.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.  Jesus is sufficient where you lack.

It’s just a little further, now.  Stay at it.  Don’t give up.  You have bought the oil.  Your lamp is trimmed.  So you faltered.  So you dozed.  You laid your armor aside and took a hit.  Put it back on!  We are almost there.

 

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