“Emotions must become subservient to the Spirit of God – to His will, His purpose, His agenda, and His direction. The vast majority of us have become enslaved to our own feelings rather than bond servants of Jesus Christ. We should never make decisions based upon what we feel like doing, but on what our Lord is asking of us.”
“Self is a tight lock. I see many decent sinners who are in spiritual prison because their self is on the throne of their hearts, and Jesus is on the cross. What liberation comes when Jesus cleanses their hearts with His blood and comes up to the throne, and self goes on the cross!”
Ten Boom, Corrie (© Each New Day, 1978)
“…and there will I plead with you face to face.” Ezekiel 20:35
This is not impatience, frustration, or anger, this is a father who is desperate for the heart of his child! This is an agony which is unmatched by any other grief known to man: that the Almighty God would plead with mankind, and do so face to face (is unthinkable) and yet, that it is what God promised.
Moses, the meekest man who ever lived, was not permitted to see the face of God. But now, Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of man’s sin, and not only can we look our Savior in the face, but we can be clothed in His very self. Can you look Him in the face and resist? Do you recognize your resistance? God so often pleads with mankind, and is so often missed. Moses could not have missed the presence of God if he had tried, but to us, the very face of God has become just another passing shadow on a dulled and hardened conscience.
This pleading of God is personal, because He wants not just a portion, but our very whole selves. I remember the day I sat my “sixteen-year-old, confused self” down on a swing and in utter frustration and desire to be free, cried out “Okay, I will surrender everything if you will let me keep _________.” God said “No. I want it ALL – everything you’ve got!” He would not let me go. His grip grew tighter until I felt I could not go on any longer in this suffocation. He was pleading with me face to face, and when at last I opened my eyes, there He was, and He was so glorious, I felt ashamed that I had not recognized His worth from the beginning. He was worth so much more than anything I could desire to hang onto.
Dear believer, when God pleads with you, look at His face – do not avoid His gaze – and give in to all that He requires.
“And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And He said, Cast it on the ground…that [Israel] may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.” ~Ex. 4:2-5
The rod: it represented Moses’ livelihood, his protection, his stability, his security, his very life. God said “Cast it on the ground.” It had no power. It was just a rod, but it was everything Moses had – totaled up in one.
Only after Moses chose to cast it down, was it taken up with power.
My life and your life – they are much the same: we cling to what we have because it is all we have, not realizing what we could have if we gave it up, cast it down, released it. The rod was taken up again with the power of God. It was not the rod itself that had power, but the trust of one man, who laid the very thing he held closest, down at the feet of his God as a sacrifice.
Personal sacrifice will reap eternal salvation for other souls
“…that they may believe.” What greater calling? Moses could have clung to the rod, and life would have gone on…the same life he had lived for so many years. There was nothing wrong with shepherding, but there was nothing dynamic about it either. The simple act of surrender – the turn of attention off of self and onto God – it opened up an avenue of belief for those who would have been faithless.
If God is not enough for me, I cannot tell the world that He is enough for them.
When I cling to my “rod”, I hinder God from giving me His power; I hinder myself from being used to bring others to faith in His all-sufficiency.
We must understand that the pain that is felt as the rod slips from our grasp cannot begin to compare to the joy of taking it up again.
The apostle John, known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, so carefully penned these words: “Unless a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Death will always require pain and loneliness. It will leave an empty, aching void…and yet when it is felt, it must be filled with the only thing that can truly satisfy: Jesus Christ. Will you cast your “rod” upon the ground, “…that they may believe…”?
We release our grip upon the rod so that God can secure His grip upon us.
“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.” ~Betty Stam
“…at any cost…” - Lay down your rod!
“Reduce yourself until nothing remains but your conscienceness of yourself, and then cast that consciousness at the feet of Jesus Christ.” O. Chambers
- Obedience will require denial of self – this is what Jesus and His followers embraced (Deny: to have no acquaintance or connection with; to forget and lose sight of oneself and one’s interests).
- Denial of self is replaced by following and bearing of a cross (Follow: to cleave steadfastly to one and cleave wholly to His example in living and if need be, in dying).
- Selfishness dies and is replaced with humility. This death is accompanied by obedient bearing of the cross and trustful following. It’s foundation of strength is faith in the sovereignty of God (Cross: the cheerfully borne persecutions, distresses, and troubles that cause us to recall the sacrifice of Christ and the Spirit in which He encountered it).
“You will not meet any trial that is not common to mankind. God is faithful who will not give you a trial that is too big for you to carry. But with every trial, He will also make a way out for you, so that you will be able to bear it.” Paraphrase, I Cor. 10:13
With faith in this assurance, we can know that the death march of the follower of Christ will end in victory, and we will all be seated with Christ in the heavenlies, see Him as He is, and hear our faithful Shepherd call out, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
“Wherefore, be ye followers of me.” I Cor. 4:16
We are called to follow – but what is this calling? An example of pain and suffering? This is no glamorous triumphal march behind a beloved king; this is a following of death that requires much sacrifice, but ends in life everlasting!
“None of us know the absolute go of abandon to Jesus until we are in unconditional identification with Him.” O.Chambers
Paul wrote: “…I think that God hath set forth us apostles last, as it were, appointed unto death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake…we are weak…we are despised. Even unto this present hour, we both hunger and thirst and are naked and are buffeted and have no certain dwelling place! And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of this world, and are the offscouring of things unto this day.” I Cor. 4:9-13
This is certainly not the calling to a prestigious position! Why all this suffering? We are not even worthy to call Jesus our own Lord if we are not willing to deny ourselves to this degree and carry our cross? Being a follower has one demand that cannot be denied:
“Let this mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus: who…made himself of no reputation and took on Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men;…He humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even the death of the cross” (a despised death). Phil. 2:5-8
We learn obedience through suffering. We learn, as Paul learned, to respond with a Christlike attitude to our enemies and our trials. Selfishness is our human nature. Selfishness demands the leadership position: it is me, me, me – follow ME. Humility dies to self and follows Christ – it takes no thought for its own life, but suffers for the souls of others.
“And he that taketh not up his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mt. 10:38; 16:24.
“God, please don’t send me to Africa…”
It was my greatest fear as a young teenager – that God would ship me off to some third-world country where I’d have to live in a mud hut, eat sticks and bugs, and die of malnutrition. It probably wasn’t a valid fear, but as far as I was concerned, every good Christian was sent to die in a jungle somewhere. Anyone who got left in the United States was mediocre – someone God couldn’t use. But it wasn’t just a fear of being sent to Africa that dominated me. No – the real fear was a fear of my future – and what God would do with it.
I could not trust Jesus Christ not to harm me.
My plea turned to a quiet inner vow: “I will never go…” there were more places than one that made it onto that list. “I will never be…”, “I will never hold the conviction of…” The list got longer and longer until one day, there was nothing left to add…except for things God didn’t want anyways – things His Word said to “flee” from!
We’ve talked about Lordship a little bit throughout this month – how it is choosing to lay down my own will because I love the will of the Father. In our culture, any kind of sacrifice that doesn’t fall under the label of “heroic” is a sign of weakness. But is it really weakness to put yourself under the Lordship of Christ? In John 10:18, Jesus paints a different word picture for Lordship:
“…no man taketh [life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down…”
What if dying to self was a demonstration of power? Jesus understood something very important: living for myself is easy, but dying to myself…that is a whole different story. What do we feel when we strip ourselves of everything and throw ourselves at the mercy of God? Weakness…? But what does the world see? Power. We may be ridiculed or slighted for the sacrificial choices we make, but our chosen weakness is a demonstration of the power within us.
The world knows it doesn’t have this power, but the world wants this power!
Power – it gives us the strength to have faith in the fundamental foundation that allows us to surrender our lives to Christ: Jesus Christ will never harm me. He will only give me His very best.
We forget that we are the sheep: blind, deaf, clumsy – and we mistake ourselves for the shepherd himself.
We need the Shepherd. Without Him, we are at the mercy of the wolves. Yet despite His all-sufficiency, Jesus realized our need for an example, and He gave it through the Shepherd: The Shepherd laid down His life of His own accord, that the sheep might know what it means to follow.
Africa was erased from my list long ago. Many, many things were. I will be learning to fully trust and fully abide under the Lordship of Christ for the rest of my life. But if I am willing to be still for a moment each day, and carefully consider the world around me, I can believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ will never harm me, He will never harm my future…actually, wonderfully, amazingly, He is worthy of my complete trust – and no one else can boast of this!
Put yourself under His Lordship. Discover that when nothing is held back from Him, He will hold nothing back from you. His way is through green pastures and by still waters, and when the valleys come, His way promises companionship, comfort, and protection. There is no other place or person on earth in which you will find these.
“To be a disciple means to be a believer in Jesus – one who has given up his right to himself to the ownership of Christ.” ~Oswald Chambers
A few days ago, I mentioned that I had been in Bolivia. I want to share a little bit more about that time and what I took away from it. A small, remote village in the mountains of South America…how much more of a culture shock could there be? But the short time we spent in the city had an even greater impact on me than the village. There are young people out on the streets, wandering aimlessly, some just sitting. They have nowhere to go, nothing to do. Their eyes are hard – they are used to being “tough” – but if you stop for a moment and look deeper, you can see incredible depths of hurt and fear. Many of them come from broken homes, and some have undergone things that we can only imagine. They live from one meal to the next, with only the bare necessities of life. Even their religion brings them no hope. Is it any wonder that so many of them turn to drugs and crime?
When I really stopped and looked at all these teens, I was struck with the burning desire to show them the way to the only true Love – the Lover of their souls. Of course, this was impossible, since I couldn’t speak Spanish. But later, as I thought about it, I realized that there are people just like that here at home. I am surrounded by hurting, desperate people who are thirsting for a taste of Jesus’ love. I see some of them almost every week… How could I have been so blind to their needs? I had to admit that I was blinding myself to their problems, simply because I was scared to reach out to them. But if I am truly living in full surrender to God’s will, that fear should cease to exist. How can I say – how can any of us say – that we are living the life of absolute surrender, when we aren’t even willing to talk to our neighbor about Jesus? How can I say that I love God when I refuse to tell others about His love? For that matter, how can I claim to love other people if I am more concerned about my own reputation than about their souls? This week, I ask you to remember Christ’s words: the best way to prove our devotion to God is to love and reach out to our fellow men.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
“Do you think Abraham loved his son more before or after God delivered him from being sacrificed?”
This was a question my pastor posed to the congregation one Sunday morning. Now, the sermon was not actually focused on Abraham, but my pastor was using this question to make a point: do we prohibit ourselves from experiencing the joy God wants to give us by refusing to trust Him?
Contrast this with Jonah. Here is a man that God made every effort to use, and in the end Jonah finally acquiesced to God’s will, but Jonah never trusted God. He cared more for a plant that gave him shade than he did for people God loved enough to spare from a judgment they completely deserved. These men were both given difficult tasks to do for God, but only one of them entrusted himself to God and was granted the blessing God wanted to give him.
Sometimes I wonder what blessings I’m missing out on.
I know God has never spoken to me like He did these two Biblical figures, but I still wonder what sort of areas in my life I’ve resisted God’s will and completely missed out on the blessing God wanted to give.
I want to experience the joy that Abraham felt coming down the mountain with his son, not the disappointment Jonah had as he waited for Nineveh to burn.
“For this child I prayed, and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of Him.” I Samuel 1:27
In the midst of pain for what she could not have on her own, Hannah found herself willing and ready to offer back to the Lord what was already His. Her heart and mind had been brought to the knowledge and awareness that it would take a miracle for her to conceive; in such a case, what only God could give to her, she vowed back to Him, realizing that this was not to be her son, but God’s.
We will find that what we desire or ask for [from God] is not ours at all (though we may have the pleasure of being stewards of His welcomed gifts). We will find in prayer, that we will better receive when we give back to God that which we cannot rightly keep anyways.
We are not to consume God’s gifts upon our own desires and lusts, but for His purposes and glory. James 4:3 says: “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it upon your lusts.” Hannah asked with a heart already surrendered and an attitude resolved to give back what she desired so badly. When she died to her dream and found that God was the only one who could raise up this miracle in her womb, she received a heavenly blessing. She was given a son that was dedicated to God.
In prayer we must die to our own requests, our own desires and come to the point of full surrender to God’s will…we must pray His will – not ours – or we will become lost in the moment that ours is not answered. When we have been so molded and conformed to an understanding of what God desires of us, no sacrifice will be too great to give Him. What is mine must become His if I am to expect the blessings of abiding in prayer.