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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Are We Doing Still On The Mountain Top?

What are we doing still sitting on the mountaintop with our vision of God? We are of no use there. Jesus made each of us a new creation and, yes, we love spending time with God, but we have to work out the salvation Christ has put in us through His Holy Spirit. We must seek out God where He is working and join Him in His work. Times of prayer prepare us for times of working with Him. Mountains prepare us for valleys and should not keep us in the clouds, unwilling to work.

 Paul tells Timothy he must train himself. He says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7b-8, NASB). Even Paul realizes and teaches his students that the Christian must be in the fray of everyday human life. It is not the staying on the mountain that tells your witness for Christ, but how you interact with people and in situations. If you are so keen on staying on the mountain, you must ask yourself, are you trying to stay in the vision you had on the mountain or trying to maintain your relationship with God? If the former, you have lost your connection with God and are putting the vision higher than God, making it an idol in your life. Remember, God is the One who gave you the vision; the vision did not give you God. We must continue to hold our relationship with God more dear than the vision. God wants to have a relationship with you in your everyday life. He wants to present Himself through you to the people you meet. God wants humanity to know Him as you present Him in your person to them, the Holy Spirit in you encountering people and their needs. 

Paul rightly said, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.” (2 Corinthians 5:13, NASB). Paul speaks of being in his “right mind” because his and our conviction and compulsion from the Spirit is that we must tell everyone Christ died for them. We cannot hold onto the vision and not walk in the world. We must walk in the world if for no other reason than the great urgency of conviction that Christ died for everyone and they must be told and given the opportunity to believe and receive salvation. This is life in Christ, communing with God and sharing and showing the love of God to the world. Visions bolster us and energize us, but of what use are we if we do not leave the mountain top?

Heirs: Of Glory and Persecution

16 The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God.  
17 And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. 
18 But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:16-18 AMP)
        As I read these three verses from Romans 8, I see what we understand as believers. We are sons and daughters of God
. Parents and Bible teachers  taught this to us from the point we understood words. (“Where does Jesus live?” our Sunday school teacher asked. We say, “He lives in our heart.”) We are taught God loves us so much that He let His Son, Jesus, come to earth to die a sacrifice we should have died so we can be with the Father in heaven. Abba God adopted us into His family. He knew from the beginning of time, before humans counted time, before He created us, that He wanted us to live with Him forever. He had a plan all the way from before He “knit us in our mothers’ wombs.” 

        In most societies, a child, whether biological or adopted, is an heir of the parent. Why would it be any less with the Father of all creation? Would the Father give less than humans? No, because the Father owns everything and has more to give. He chose to give us life. He chose to give us Himself. You may recall Jesus asked why we worry over clothes, food, or shelter. If He clothed the birds of the air and the fields of the earth so radiantly, how much more will He give to us.
        As I have studied the Bible, I have come to understand with an even greater depth what this means. Christ’s death and resurrection means He had power over death but chose to go through the physical and mental pain of it. He chose this for Himself because He loves us. Upon His ascension, He chose to give us Himself. If we believe in Him, then His Spirit resides in us. Now, get this right, this Spirit is not as our grandmothers and Sunday school teachers taught us.  He does not just “live in my heart,” but He comes to replace the sin-influenced man within each of us with Himself so we can live life as God intended at the beginning of creation. This Spirit He puts within us guides, reminds, and teaches us. We can choose to let Him have a small corner of our hearts with no more influence over us than to say a prayer over a meal. More completely, we can choose to grow and let Him take over a bigger part of who we are so we become more like the person God created us to be. (How else are we to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?) If we do not grow and allow the Spirit to grow us more like Christ, then the amount we love God is miniscule. If we do allow the Spirit to grow us into a larger relationship with God, then we are able to love Him with larger acts of devotion and obedience (for example, teaching Sunday school or visiting home-bound people). As we grow, the part of us the Spirit controls increases and the part we control decreases. As we continue to read our Bible, study the Word, meditate on it, and act in obedience on what God has told us, we decrease and the Holy Spirit in us, Christ in us, increases. (Does this sound familiar?) Is this increase of Christlikeness not what John the Baptist said concerning himself in relation to Jesus? (Read John 3:30.)

        As we become smaller, the external world sees more of what we are made of, Christ living in us. This may create friction with the people around who notice, but the Bible told us many times that people rejected Jesus so they would reject us. There are times people will accept us, rather, Christ will be accepted, the One we proclaim with our actions and words. These are times of glorious joy
 to the Father for His love poured out upon another. More often than not, though, we will be persecuted for living so boldly for God, for allowing the Holy Spirit in us to become our dominant characteristic, our reason for being. Why should this be, we may wonder. Why, when we are becoming more kind, loving, and generous, are we being more thwarted, disliked, and persecuted? Can they not see Jesus, who lives in us and other believers, is not here to take away the world but to offer them Life? Unfortunately, Satan has the world so thoroughly blinded that they misperceive God’s gift of Life as a death sentence. To them, if they accepted God, their fun would be taken away. I guess it could be construed in that manner, but this idea that accepting God’s gift of life removes fun is a ruse Satan perpetuates. The more we give ourselves to the Savior, the more we will experience the victory of His Life now and the greater will His influence be in our lives now. What can be seen as persecution by some people will come to be seen as acquiring the glory of heaven now because of being persecuted for Christ? We are considered so much identified with Christ that we are being persecuted just as our Savior. How can there be any greater identifier in this world besides our growth in Christ, than to be considered worthy to be persecuted for His sake, for the advancement of the Gospel? Is this not what Paul meant when he said to count it all joy? Is this not a taste of the glory of which the Bible told us is to come, there for the hope of glory? Remember glory is being with God, in His presence always. We walk this path with the Spirit of Christ growing in us more each day so Christ  is seen in us. Christ in us is glory in itself, to be so connected and communing with Christ that we are not seen, but Christ in us. Yet, we continue on this path of growth, obedience, and relationship knowing an even greater glory awaits, the hope of glory, the hope of eternity
 with our Savior, with our Abba.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3, NASB). This is living the life of Jesus in the world, going through persecution and trials as He did. We do not count each cost but know that each trial and persecution makes us stronger in our relationship with God. The strengthening of our faith makes us stronger for the next trial which takes us another day closer to glory. These trials are not to death, but to strength, to fuller commune and identification with the Savior, so that we grow more and more into the image of Him (see Romans 8:29). Why should we think we would not have trials and persecution? Did not Jesus tell His disciples that because He had trials they would also? How do we think we could live this life as a Christian and not have trials then? This is sharing Christ’s suffering, carrying the cross as Paul says. (This life is what we modeled when we were baptized, being buried to our old life and being raised to new life.) Is this not a portion of glory we can experience now on earth? This closeness to Jesus is so near that we experience His presence completely because of the suffering. These sufferings grow us to be more like Jesus and draws us closer to Him. The sufferings we go through in this short time called life is nothing compared to the glory that is soon to be “revealed to us, in us, for us, and conferred on us” (Romans 8:18 AMP).

        Suffering and trials are nothing when compared to the glory we will receive when we have run this race and have grown more like Jesus. 
Let us put a positive spin on this: why do we have suffering? So we can grow more in the image of Jesus. What compels us to continue our walk with Him? So we will decrease and He increase. So that the whole world will know of the Father’s saving love, Finally, so we can have the joy of His presence in our lives. Why are we heirs with Christ? Because God loves us so much, He made a plan for us to be with Him forever, now in this life and later in heaven. Is this not the most important part? God loves us so much. What are a few trials and persecutions in light of spending eternity with Jesus? Eternity actually began at the moment of our receiving Christ’s salvation for ourselves? In the face of trials, “count it all joy” that you know the reason; God loves you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mountaintop or Valley, What Does It Matter?

          Some may have heard that we cannot live on the mountaintop with God; that is not living. Being on the mountaintop is the place where we hear and see God’s vision and where we can worship God without limitations. To remain on the mountaintop brings no benefit to God. We must return to the valley for God to make us ripe and squeeze us for His purpose. God did not make us solely for the mountaintop, but also to be His servants on earth. We are to be participators with Christ and be companions of Christ, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:9.

            How can we be participators if we remain on the mountain? How can we be companions if we have not joined God in a relationship by faith
 believing Jesus is the Messiah? None of us can be joined with God without the baptism Jesus gives, the life eternal life He gives. We think we know a better way to get to heaven and we strive for it. Our striving is not what wins us the end reward, but the forgiveness and sanctification, the being made holy, by Jesus
’ death and resurrection. This forgiveness by Jesus brings us the ultimate reward. Striving for ourselves does nothing more than harry and weary us. Our strivings get us nowhere; our acceptance of Christ’s gift gets us a life of forgiveness and a promise of heaven.

             We have decided to join Jesus and be in a relationship with God
, now what? What does this mean for us? First, eternal life is the gift only God can give. He wants to give life to us. God’s desire to be in a relationship with humankind is why His Son, Jesus, died on the cross and rose again to new life. No one else and by no other means is eternal life acquired. This Life is the gift of God to humanity. What does this mean the saying, “It is the gift of God?” Since God gives us this life, it brings new meaning to “being crucified with Christ.” Since it was His life that was crucified for our sins (our wrongdoings) and since we take His life within us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then we are crucified to our own desires. Are we identifying with that sacrifice? This does not mean that we are physically crucified. It does mean that we must use the new life Jesus gave us and live it as if Christ is still walking on this earth through us. We are the embodiment of Christ on earth. We then have the responsibility to let Christ act through us. Through being His arms and mouth here and now, we become the pressed grapes and poured out wine of God. This gives us our bruises and aches, but this walk with the Lord here on earth, obedience to Him, like Jesus’ obedience to His Father, matures us and makes us more Christlike. For us to change and be made more into the image Christ, this relationship, this communing with God, must not only be heard but must elicit a response from each of us. We either respond with obedience, causing a change in our thoughts and actions leading to maturity, or with disobedience, causing stagnation or a wall in our relationship with God. His teaching is meant to be applied to the life, which He has put in each of us, to make us more like Him. This is the working out of our faith, the putting into action what God commands and growing the new self, because of this obedience, within each individual.

The ultimate question is have you believed Jesus is God’s Son who died for us on a cross and rose again to beat death? The next question then is: are you staying on the mountain top or are you in the valley working out the life Jesus has put in you for His purpose, to bring all creation back into communion with Him? If your answer is yes, then you can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). What will it take for you to descend to the valley and begin to work out in obedience what God has put into you, namely the life of Christ? You may be the only source of Light someone ever sees; should you not go to the valley?