The great god of our age is ‘THINGS’. Our fallen nature covets THINGS at the expense of God. God gave us THINGS to use and enjoy but instead we use God to obtain and worship THINGS. THINGS are anything other than God himself. THINGS aren’t bad, they are just not God and they can’t satisfy the craving of the human heart for God. God made us for himself alone and our hearts are restless until we come to a place of self-surrender and rest in God. The Self-Life is what gets in the way of our pursuit of God. Anything to do with life that emanates from self = self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-admiration and self-pity, to name a few, will make the pursuit of self the holy grail rather than Jesus. What is the cure for such a malady? The cross. Denying self and allowing the cross of Jesus to kill off in us a desire for THINGS will redeem our affections for God and his glory alone. After the cross comes resurrection. The new creation in us will rise again to a place where God becomes our everything. We may have many THINGS or few THINGS but no THING possesses us except our love and devotion to Christ alone!
I’m fascinated with God! I love the fact that my full-time life on planet earth is pre-occupied with my relationship with God. Could there be a better use of time than living each moment in the presence of God?
One of the privileges God has extended to us is CHOICES! God has given us free will to exercise our power of choice. We can steward this gift or abuse it. The choices we make in life determine how we spend our moments. It seems like there are an infinite number of potential wrong choices to make in life but living with God at the epicentre of your existence empowers you to make choices that promote light instead of darkness.
Whenever I read Jesus in the Gospels, I’m fascinated by his rhythm of life. I could spend the rest of my life telling you all that he did, and yet, he carried himself and his waking moments with such grace and purpose that who he was really marked what he did. How did he do it?
Jesus was led by the Spirit! Jesus had a relationship with his Father that made all the difference in how he approached his life. He only did three fundamental things that was routine (Synagogue on the Sabbath, early morning prayer and observe Jewish feasts) in his life but everything else was led by the Spirit of God. Jesus didn’t even speak on his own authority. He said, “What I say, I say as the Father has told me.” (Jn 12:50) Every moment was informed by the Father, not as a robotic event but as a fluid movement of synergistic relationship. The Father started the sentence and Jesus would finish the sentence. Jesus would pray the prayer and Father would answer the prayer. There was such love, unity and honour in the God-head that God’s purposes could be fulfilled through Jesus’ words, actions and relationships.
I believe this is the pattern we are to observe in our own lives today. I’ve experienced the benefits of approaching life in this way and I want to encourage you to do the same. If your life feels more self-led than Spirit-led than reflect on how you view your relationship with God. How you view God will determine how you live your life. There is a relationship with God where what’s in Gods heart becomes so intertwined with what’s in your heart that you don’t know where one begins and the other ends. All great relationships function in this way.
How does transformation actually occur? Many of us long for it but do we actually know how it happens. After years of discipling and counselling people through the process of transformation, I believe it happens best in 3 spheres.
Call to Personal Obedience – Often we are quick to try and resolve external circumstances rather than dealing with root causes. This is merely a band-aid attempt to deal with symptoms rather than the underlying issue in our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, ‘Guard your heart, for out of it flow the springs of life.’ Change is more than a white-knuckled attempt to take responsibility for external circumstances. A complete change of heart is required. One of the first steps to a change of heart is answering the call to obey the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our personal relationship with God.
Call to living in a community of grace and truth – This is where the church comes in. A healthy church isn’t just marked by acceptance and affirmation but accountability. Jesus came not just in grace but in truth (Jn 1:14). Grace only isn’t complete without truth. We must speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). It’s only when we confront the truth about ourselves in a grace filled environment that change is made possible.
Call to a lifestyle of reflection – This third sphere is characterised by daily spiritual disciplines. These include prayer, fasting, solitude, worship, bible study, reading, silence and journalling. Guard against compartmentalising your spiritual life from the rest of your life. A Grecian mechanistic worldview isolates reflection to a ‘quiet time’ but God is central to everything in life, not peripheral to the busyness of our lives. Do you have a prayer time or a life of prayer? There’s a big difference.
All 3 of these transformation spheres need to be held in tension with each other for deep personal change to occur. To the degree we are personally transformed will be the degree to which those we serve are transformed.
Too many of us are caught up with ourselves always on our mind. When you are pre-occupied with yourself, you have no room to be interested in others. The bible exhorts us to, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). When you are always on your mind, you only ever see life from your limited perspective. Your world becomes bigger when you start to seek first to understand rather than trying to always be understood. God has plans for you that are about your well-being and success (Jer 29:11) but as long as you are always on your mind, you will never understand or embrace the plans that he longs to reveal and outwork in your life.
If we want to follow Christ we must deny ourselves – Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself…” This is a hard saying because it is difficult in our day and age to swim upstream and not be on about your agenda. Everything we are taught at school, in the media and in the culture around us promotes the idea that we are the centre of the universe. But Jesus calls us to live with the spirit of the kingdom of God in our minds and hearts, not the spirit of the world = self! You’ve got to leave yourself behind.
Leaving yourself behind looks like Sacrificing yourself for the Call – Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” You can’t follow Jesus and follow yourself at the same time. You have to choose. No one can serve 2 masters, you either follow one or follow the other. When Jesus took up his cross he sacrificed himself for others. Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master.” If Jesus is our master and he is our ultimate example, then who are we to think we can follow Jesus and excuse ourselves out of the cost of discipleship. Everyday we have a choice – live for ourselves or live for Christ. Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done” and he has been exalted to the right hand of the Father. Satan said, “I will be like God” and the bible says, “He fell like lightning from heaven.” Who you sacrifice for will determine your ultimate destiny.
The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom – The spirit of the world says, “Live for yourself and you will have true life.” but Jesus says, “Die to yourself and you will have true life.” We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds to think like Jesus thinks and order our lives after the pattern of the kingdom of God. One of the reasons why the world looks at the church and thinks that we’re weird is because we operate by a different law. The law of the Spirit of God is now in effect and what people perceive as normal, God perceives as weird and what the world perceives as weird, God perceives as normal. Living for God and others will be seen as weird but go ahead and live with others on your mind anyway.
It’s dangerous to live for yourself and achieve your goal – Jesus said, “What will it profit you, if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” The answer = nothing. You could live completely for yourself and even achieve your goal but be completely miserable because you are the only in your small little world. A Day is coming called the Day of Judgment when your work will be tested by fire and if it survives the test, you will be rewarded but if it is burned up, you will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:13-14). What profit are living for – Temporary or Eternal?
Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself.”
I encourage you to see the movie ‘Despicable Me’. Truth is, the only reason I watched it, is because I have three darling kids who wanted to see it. I expected a typical kids movie but what I got was an encounter with Jesus teaching played out on a movie reel.
The story line of the movie is about a man who grows up enjoying being very despicable. He’s a criminal mastermind whose ultimate dream is to steal the moon. For him to do so would mean he’s reached the pinnacle of significance. However, he encounters some stiff competition from someone keen to outdo him and so Mr Despicable encounters three orphans and decides to use them to gain advantage over his competition. Along the journey these three little orphans steal his heart and he starts to soften and prioritize them over his dream of stealing the moon. In fact Mr Despicable gets more than he ever dreamed, he gets a life where he can share love and receive love and his life is never the same. See the movie to fill in the rest of the details.
I think this is a great metaphor for life and ministry. It’s great to have a dream but too easily do we make the pursuit of that dream, call, ministry or life (however you define it) about US. The dream or call may be honorable in and of itself but the subtle shift in our hearts towards ourselves (our success, our image, our reputation, our desires, our needs) can actually be fatal both for us and the dream, let alone others.
As long as your call is about you, you’ve missed the point. In fact, no matter how much energy you expend into making your call happen, the reverse can take effect and it actually starts slipping away from you because you’re misusing the call for the purpose it was given to you in the first place, others.
If you will direct the focus of your call away from you and onto others, your desires and dreams will most probably take care of themselves, or in the case of “Mr Despicable”, your desires will be replaced with God’s desires that are far better for you anyway. Let go, and let God take control of your life. Whether you do or not is a matter of trust. Do you actually trust that God, who called you in the first place, is more than capable of holding your call for you, as well as your dreams and desires?
I encourage you to get on with the business of living for God and living for others without worrying about yourself. Pour yourself out for others and God’s blessing will follow you all the days of your life. The Spirit of the Lord was on Jesus for his ministry to others, not on him ‘just because’. There was a purpose and reason for the anointing being given to him = to heal the broken-hearted, preach good news to the poor, open eyes that are blind and proclaim the year of God’s favor.
The sad truth is you could achieve your dream and ‘steal the moon’ and feel very significant… for a moment… but deep in your heart feel the gnawing ache of emptiness because you have actually forfeited your soul, making your life all about you. Do something weird for a change, actually take Jesus’ words seriously and live by them. I’m trying to and its making all the difference.