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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Selfish or Selfless Living

          There are two ultimate things I see that keep a person from living for Christ, not going to the mountain in prayer and not returning from the mountain. It is so easy for us to say we must continue to work for Jesus; we do not have time to do that right now, to read our Bibles or to study them or to pray. I stand accused of these myself; I have been too busy or I will do it later. What turns out to be later, when I am not busy is the time when my body needs rest and soon my eyes close and slumber arrives. I also have found myself so entranced by being in the presence of God that I do not want to leave the mountain but wish only to stay in worship of Him. 

Neither of these is wrong but must be done in respect of service for Him. We see the first will burn us out and make us walk in our own strength and our own wisdom. The second makes us of no use to Christ here on earth. Before Christ ascended, he gave His disciples a command which continues to ring for each of His disciples through the ages,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 New America Standard Bible)
 Maybe the question we should put before ourselves is this, are we allowing ourselves to be fed by the Holy Spirit each day through prayer, Bible reading and Bible study? The next question we should put to ourselves, then, is this, are we allowing ourselves to be used by God for His service in this world, in the place in which we live? If the answer is no to either of these questions, the question we should ask is why not? Are you really a believer in Jesus Christ? Are you growing in your belief and in your relationship with God? Do you need to ask someone to show you how to become a believer or how to grow as a disciple of Christ? These are not hard things to do; make that step and become a growing believer. God created us in His image so He could be in a relationship with Him. If we have not accepted that truth and His gift of salvation then we cannot have a relationship with Him. If we have accepted it but are not growing in our relationship with Him, we are still drinking milk as infants and are not accepting God’s gift of life in Him. 
Assuming we are talking as Christians who want growth, who seek purpose, God’s purpose, for our lives, we must come back to the question again, are you spending quality time with God each day? Notice I did not say are you spending every second of your time with God. That is not to say you are not supposed to be in a continual relationship with Him but your relationship should not continually be on the mountaintop. Peter, James, and John often accompanied Jesus when He went to the mountain to pray. In one instance, Peter confronted Jesus and wanted to build tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses so they could spend their days on the mountain in communion with God. Jesus did not allow them to do that, but, instead, took them down the mountain to face unbelief and physical pain and spiritual need (Mark 9:1-29). Notice Jesus told the disciples this work for God requires prayer and fasting. Nothing can be done for God (in His name) without prayer. Our relationship with God should take us from the mountaintop to the valleys.  He should enlighten our path as we descend to where people live. It should embolden us to speak His name, share His love, touch the people, and live His life among them. 
When Jesus came down from the mountaintop, He found disbelief, disbelief from the father and in His remaining nine disciples. This is why the son of the man could not be healed. The father had heard of Jesus’ healing of many people and came with the hopes his son would be healed. This hope of the father did not show belief but just hope. The father came to be with only nine of the disciples and they were not “prayed up.” They had not been on the mountaintop with Jesus that day. Because of these factors and because of the strength of the spirit within the boy, the son remained possessed. When Jesus came down from the mountain, the father confronted the Son of God, was aware of His holiness, which shone from His countenance, and could not disbelieve His power to heal his son. He even went so far as to ask Jesus to give him faith. The father became a believer. When we come down from the mountain after our time with God, God will show on our faces and in our words and actions. People will believe because of the power of God in our lives.
We must consider then, why do we choose not to grow in our relationship with God? Moreover, why, if we do have a relationship with God, do we not want to go back into the valley of life and share God’s presence and love with other people? It is because we are selfish; we do not want to give up the right to ourselves. In other words, we are selfish. We want to be independent, of God and of others, of obligations. We want to direct our own lives instead of giving up the four score and ten years we have on this earth living with God and sharing His love. Paul and the other disciples of Jesus’ time, as well as disciples through the years, have shown what living His life on earth really is. Sometimes life is easy and we sail through life without problems, but most often, disciples encounter problems, trials, not unlike to other men and women. The distinction is the way believers confront life’s problems. Believers know God has a purpose for them in the midst of the problem and choose to continue to follow Christ through the storm. Unbelievers most often choose to complain and hope they make it through while not having the strength that comes from God. They want to get to the end goal. Believers know the learning is in the midst of the problem; that is what is important. This learning is what they show the watching world. They show the grace and peace of and from God that envelops them as they go through it knowing they are growing through the trial. They are growing to be more Christ-like. 
We could continue regarding trials for Christians and non-Christians but the point of this thought is not that. The point is about our relationship with God. Do we wish to keep on working in this world and not take time to be with God? Or, do we spend so much time on the mountaintop with God we are of no use in the valley because we do not descend to the everyday people and issues? Both of these are hindrances to God being exalted and His love being proclaimed. The first makes you tired and walking in your own strength. The second keeps you from being useful to God. We cannot spend every moment of our time on the mountain nor can we spend each minute working. As humans with created bodies, we need rest with God. We need, as followers of Christ, time of revival in the presence of God, too. Physical refreshment and spiritual revival are what we need. Without either of these, we will be of limited use to and for God. Without out this balance, our desires become selfish, either spending all our time serving and not giving it to the Father or spending all our time in His presence and none for His service to His created people. We need a balance. To be our utmost for His highest, service and relationally, we must each day be growing more like Him in worship and service. Paul said,
This is in keeping with my own eager desire and persistent expectation and hope, that I shall not disgrace myself nor be put to shame in anything; but that with the utmost freedom of speech and unfailing courage, now as always heretofore, Christ (the Messiah) will be magnified and get glory and praise in this body of mine and be boldly exalted in my person, whether through (by) life or through (by) death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is to gain the glory of eternity. If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference.  Philippians 1:20-22 (AMP) 

What part of your life are you not giving your utmost to Him for His service and glory?