The Wrong “I”

Of Christians I want to ask: have you said (as I have from time to time), “I am offended,” or, “I can’t forgive that hurt”?

I feel wronged and offended when I have been insulted, slighted, overlooked or marginalized – “I,” meaning the old self with whom I wrongly identify at those times.

My born-again spirit, which ought to be the “I” with whom I identify, does not get easily offended, and when it does, it is for an offense toward God rather than toward self.

How did Jesus avoid anger when Pharisees said slanderous and hurtful things about Him, even to His face? He did not identify with the self life, but with the life of the Spirit of God within Him.

Why do I persist in identifying with the old “I” – the “I” that has been crucified with Christ and yet cries to be rescued from the cross.

Could it be that I still pursue the fleshly, selfish life, thus minimizing, marginalizing, the life of the Spirit of God?

When will I confidently and truthfully say, as Paul did, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

That can happen only when I can say, and mean it, as he did, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Philippians 3:8

Is your “I” the wrong “I” sometimes, also? It’s time we see the old life clearly, as the dung and death it truly is.

 

Well Done…

Christians hope to hear one thing at the Judgment: “Well done, My good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord!”

That tells us that something must be DONE. (Not to acquire salvation, but to show the fruit of its reality.)

But, among all the things we might possibly do on earth for good or bad motives, what can unequivocally be termed by Jesus as “well” done?

The New Testament identifies one thing that, by definition, will never fail to be done well: agape (pronounced ah-gah’-pay) love.

Faith may be called little, weak, strong, great or dead. Works may be good or bad, obedient or disobedient. Love may be of four varieties, but only agape never fails.

But, you ask, Is love something we do? Aren’t we expected to just HAVE love for everyone?

If it does not translate into a characteristic of Jesus, then it is not agape love. Love must produce some spiritually profitable result in order to be categorized as agape love.

For example, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love [agape] of God in him?” (1 John 3:17) And “… though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love [agape], I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2; see also vv. 3-7)

You and I have only two commandments for this life; they are so inextricably linked that they amount to one: love with agape love.

Without agape love, nothing is done well in the eyes of God

Distinction Without a Difference?

How is your life different from the lives of worldly people?

Are you addicted to entertainment, as they are, or have you kicked the entertainment habit for the ways of God?

Are you affected by a desire for social status, as they are, or are you free from the trap of needing to be socially significant?

Do you give yourself to worldly identification, being entangled in political issues and rivalries as they are, or do you identify completely with Christ and His Kingdom?

Have you made secular education your hope for future opportunities, as they have, or is God’s word your textbook and the Holy Spirit your Instructor and Life Coach?

Is money the solution to most of your problems, as it is with them, or is Jehovah Jireh your Source and Supply?

Are comfort and financial security your measures of success in life, as they are with them, or have you turned to godliness with contentment?

Are reason and common sense your decision makers, as they are with them, or does love for God direct your path?

The “us” and “them” dividing line is not something concocted by religious legalists; it was God who said, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17 And it was He who said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

We are to be a peculiar people – meaning, a people beyond the usual – because of His indwelling presence with us.

The dividing line is already drawn between followers of Jesus Christ and the world. They are not enemies, but the lost, who need us to reflect God’s light rather than reflect the trappings that already furnish the cells of their prison.

To Know Him is to Love Him is to Know Him…

If you say you know God, know this: that if you know Him you love Him; otherwise, you do not know Him. And if you love Him you will do His will. (1 John 2:4) The way you know that you know Him is if you love Him. No love means no knowledge of God.

The next thing you must know is that if you truly love Him, you can enter a cycle in which your love moves you to know Him more. Moreover, once you know Him more, you will love Him more, and consequently, on loving Him more, you will desire to know Him even more. And all this time you will be doing His will toward the lost, the hurting and hungry. Knowledge of God is the fuel and love is the fire. And happily, the fire generates more fuel to make the fire more fervent, and so on.

If you are not experiencing this cycle, or it stops, you merely need to love God more. That is a choice of your free will, and only your love for your self and the world will hinder this love cycle in God. If you cooperate, you will never reach the end of this cycle until you get to heaven, where you will know even as you have been known, and love as you have been loved.

Love God and know Him until the cycle begins and then follow the love.

Closer to God

Have you ever wondered why some are closer to God than you, and why they hear His voice more clearly?

I have, and always the answer comes: You are as close to God as you have desired.

Calvinists may say that nothing is up to you, that God controls all, even your desires. Perhaps there is truth there. But, for myself, when I desire something, I begin moving toward it, no matter whether it’s a genuinely good thing or something that has little or no intrinsic worth.

I don’t know how that might work from God’s standpoint, or a Calvinist’s, but I know that it is up to me whether I cooperate with the urging and drawing of God.

I am as close to His heart as I have desired. And the distance remaining is due to my lack of desire, not His. The question is, Do I have the will and capacity to draw nearer to God? The Bible tells me I do.

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8a

At times, I have to confess, I did not desire to be closer to Him than I was. And more than once, He has drawn me nearer to Himself without any proactive decision of my own that I could recall.

At other times, I have desired it and purposefully set aside time to come close to Him. And I did come nearer.

Again, I don’t know to what degree God controls my life, but I know He gave me a command. And I know He would only do that if He intended for me to obey it. That command was to love Him with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength.

I don’t see any wiggle room in that command, no room to love the world or anything in the world, as I have disobediently done.

He has left it up to me to draw myself to Himself, but He has – by drawing near to me – let me know He is there, as though saying, Are you going to reciprocate?

There is no room in His command for me to love things such as home, car, fame, land, position, money or even my own will. The room that stands between me and Him is due to the fact that I have not desired the closeness that He commanded.

When I pursue things in the world, I am revealing my desire to ignore His commandment. Can I close the gap between my love for God and His love for me? It’s such a huge gap, I don’t know how possible that is, but His command tells me to give it my all. All.

I do have control over my will. I can cast down thoughts and imaginations and bring every thought into alignment with God’s will, knowing that my words and actions have their genesis in my thoughts. And I can do it more effectively when I ask Him for the grace to do so.

I think those who are closer to God than I am have done that. And I can do more than just admire their desire.

If…

If people care as much about the name of Jesus as they do about the American flag, they will object vehemently when others trample on it.

If people care as much about communicating with God as they do about using their cell phones, they will spend at least as much time in prayer as they do in texting and talking.

And further,

If people care as much about God’s provision as they do about America’s economy…

If people trust God for their health as much as they trust doctors and medication…

If people trust God’s version of prosperity as much as they do the stock market…

If they listen for His voice as much as they listen to media…

If they want His peace as much as the peace they get from cigarettes and drugs…

If they want His love and acceptance as much as they want it from their peers and society in general…

If they expect justice from God as much as they do from the government…

If they value God’s grace as much as they value it from a court of law…

If they love eternal life as much as they love this life…

If they value heavenly citizenship as much as they value American citizenship…

Do you see where this is going?

When Distraction Becomes Idolatry

Entertainment can be – and is for many – idolatry.

Years ago, I had a dream to write, but I never seemed to have the time. I was frustrated because I knew God had given me a gift and that things were inside my heart that needed expression, but getting them out seemed impossible because of the limited time I had.

One day, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, How much time do you spend watching TV every week?

I didn’t know, but I knew I watched every day. I began to take note of my habits.

My daily routine was that, after working hard, I would come home tired, wanting only rest and peace. I habitually turned on the TV while I made myself something to eat. Then I would sit in front of the tube to eat. But I stayed there, switching channels until bedtime. On weekends, I watched sports or old movies.

After approximating the time I spent being entertained, I saw that I had averaged about 30 or more hours weekly. When I realized it, I sensed the Lord saying, That’s three-quarters of a full-time job, and you say you don’t have time to write.

I was stunned to see entertainment from that perspective. I was wasting my life! How many years had I wasted? Too many! Suddenly I saw TV – which was my most prominent distraction – as my enemy, and turned it off. I began writing, instead. Since I had no computer at that time, I wrote in thick spiral notebooks, and after a few months of working hard, I had the first draft of a novel.

I say this, because I was blind to the fact that I actually had plenty of time to do what I believed the Lord had called me to do. And I know He has put in every person giftings that He wants to benefit the kingdom of God.

Like the people of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), we can either use His gifts for His glory or bury them under distraction such as entertainment, which can manifest as video games, cable TV, social media, movies, Internet surfing and the like.

When the things of the world distract us from time with God, they become idols that feed our flesh until we become captives, reviving the old self that was crucified with Christ. Entertainment is a huge idol in first-world countries. I suspect many believers have let entertainment steal their gifts from God, and justified it by the need for peace and rest – which He freely offers in His presence.

The question each Christian ought to ask is: Has entertainment – or some other distraction – become idolatry in my life?

If so, the good thing you are seeking through it in small measure, your Father offers abundantly through the fruit of the Spirit in His presence.

Turn to Him for your needs, instead of to distractions.