Posts Tagged ‘believer’

The Sign of True Conversion

December 2, 2009

“If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?  He who belongs to God hears what God says.  The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”  John 8:46b, 47.

I don’t know that I could stand hearing that kind of speech either.  I think it would torque my crank just a little too hard and I’d snap in self-defense.

Jesus has an uncanny knack of hitting the nail on the head.  His rhetoric couches truth in interlocking circles, revealing it in wave patterns.

The people arguing with Him were unable to hear what He said because they didn’t belong to God; Jesus said remained a mystery to them because their hearts were closed off to truth or the revelation of it.

“Why is my language not clear to you?  Because you are unable to hear what I say.”

And why were they unable to hear what Jesus said?  They didn’t belong to God, even though they called God their Father, but their actions of closing out Jesus’ words belied their claims and showed their hearts to be full of darkness.  Instead of fixing their eyes on the God they claimed to serve, they fixed their gaze on the forms, the customs, the identity, and their heritage, thinking (or hoping) all the while this is all God required of them.  They prided themselves in their history and proximity with God but not a relationship of any substance.

The language of Christ confused and irritated them because they were unwilling to see His words in the light of God’s presence.  The message remained unclear due to their refusal to accept what their own customs and history taught them about salvation, God and the Messiah.  This inability to hear the language of truth is inherent in all of us, for we prove our preferences over truth by constantly choosing traditional or rebellious views over the simple Word of God.

If  we were to submit to God completely, we would see clearly.  Not at first, of course, for spiritual insight is a matter of growth not miraculous happenstance, but our eyes would grow accustomed to light.  Learning to see truth is not so much a gradual thing as it is a matter of submission.  We who claim to know Christ have a responsibility to submit to His Word without holding back.  Our preferences, preconceptions and understanding all fall under the mighty hand of God.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5, 6.

Total submission to Jesus alone allows us to see what reality is and is not.  The universe was made by Him therefore trying to understand the science or way of it is impossible without acknowledging Him as Creator.  Oh, we might grasp obvious facts about our world and the heavens, but a clear understanding will elude us, which means we will draw faulty conclusions.

Jesus told those who had believed in Him who He was the whole time they followed Him and after they quit.  The reason it never sunk in is their expectations were in the way.  They revealed their motivations when Jesus confronted them with what we all need to do in order to have life.  Jesus’ blood must wash us clean on the inside, which is why He instructed us to spiritually ingest Him.  Our spiritual diet is to consist of Christ’s body and blood.  Paul calls those who believe “the body of Christ” and the Spirit gives life to all who believe.  Unless we accept this and bring it into our innermost being, His words will remain a mystery.

The Jews leaned on their own understanding since they refused to even hear what Jesus had to say.  In the way of addition and subtraction:   Since they leaned on their own understanding, they showed they did not trust God nor acknowledge Him in all their ways.  For any of us to get our paths straight we must acknowledge, trust and lean on God for our understanding.

I believe with all my heart the reason most of us experience switchbacks in our walk is simply because we attempt time and again to combine the truth with our own desires.  In other words, being human we all try to get a little earthly joy in conjunction with spiritual realities.  Many doctrines of recent times such as “name it, claim it” or “by your words you will be commended or condemned” take these things as if they were spells we cast that God has to honor.  In the case of “name it, claim it” or the prosperity doctrine as it’s known in some circles, proponents of this “truth” ignore Paul’s warning in Philippians 4:12 where he demonstrates by his own experience what those who follow Christ will experience; namely plenty and want.  Jesus told us clearly that we will be rejected, lose our property and those who kill or persecute us will do so out of a false believe they are serving God.

So what is the prosperity we gain from knowing Christ and which the Scriptures promise so strongly?  Peace, contentment and a sense of oneness with God.  Until our hearts are given over to this, all other forms of wealth will only be a distraction and snare to us.  1 Timothy 6:10 says,  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

What faith is Paul speaking of except that which is in Christ?  Our wealth is in God not possessions.  For godliness with contentment is great gain.  There’s no other way to interpret those who pervert this truth than that they are combining the search for earthly security with that of God’s.  The inner security of one who lives by faith in the Son of God holds no interest or power over them to the point that they create ways for them to ignore Scripture for the pleasure of toys now.  In this they have the cart before the horse, for God doesn’t begrudge us earthly wealth nor have a problem with stuff, since He made it all as well as every possibility for anything we might invent along the way.  The problem here is in the emphasis not the possession.

All this is to say, the Jews and we lean on our own understanding instead relying on God.  We see a promise that God will prosper us, as did the Jews, and we think by our performance of rites and ceremonies we gain prestige, wealth and security.  In Christ it’s the exact opposite for we must first lose all of our priorities for His.  In other words, we must lay on the alter our grasp of what it means to be wealthy, respected, honored and godly for the sake of His interpretation.  Otherwise we will be rejecting God just as the Jews did.

I am not harping on money here but a way of life.  Lust for earthly wealth can come in insidious forms.  For some of us it is prestige alone which fills our cup, for others it is a nice house, car, friends, etc.  In Christ, our way of life is to be bought by the one who paid the price for our sin.  It is our first step toward the kingdom.  Money is a means to an end, folks, not the end in itself.  Jesus made the heavens and the earth so He owns it all.  This being true, those who enter His rest will share in His wealth, but first He must know He can trust us not to worship the gift over the Giver.

God provides for us everything we will ever need.  The world was made complete before a human foot ever walked on it, therefore we conclude we made to be mere caretakers of His property not owners, for in essence we are property of a sorts as well.  This means we can follow the Master into earthly poverty because we know He owns it all and will provide for us as we need it.  This does not mean we won’t experience earthly insecurity or want, since the best way to teach us dependence on His provision is to place us in situations where our own efforts fall short.  God longs to prosper us in things as well, yet He cannot as long as we cling to things as vital to our well-being.  The only “thing” which matters is sitting at the feet of Jesus, which is the better part, Martha.

The Jews closed the truth out by hardening their hearts to the God of the universe.

The question confronting us now is:  Who is our Father?

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The Work of God

August 19, 2009

Then they asked Him,  “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered them,  “The work of God is this:  to believe in the one He has sent.”  John 6:28, 29.

That’s it?!!!  Just to believe in Jesus is all that’s required?  Wow, that’s easy.

Wait a minute, I detect another play on words here.  Let’s see if I can work this out, so if I believe in Jesus, then that must mean I trust what He says to be true.  If I believe Him to be telling the truth, then that means I must follow what He says to do, be and think. 

Bah!  It’s a trick answer!

Not that I really feel resentful about this being true, but you get the point, I hope, that many people do.  They come to Jesus’ party for the free food and drinks, then come to find out they must wear the robe of His righteousness in order to stay.  It just isn’t fair in their eyes, and it’s something no one in the believers camp can explain to their satisfaction either.  Those who look for a free ride into heaven without anything required of them won’t like the consequences of being with Jesus for His very mission is to change us back into the original design—with a couple of modifications.

The reason this statement by Jesus is important is what He was about to say next would challenge them to their core.  For them to really become His followers (not that many really desired this, I’m just saying it for the sake of the discussion) they would have to accept what He was about to say.  Their beliefs were about to be challenged and they would be required to step up or step off.  I know many today who don’t like this view of Jesus because it excludes them and many others due to their lifestyle choices, but it is part of His message.

Those who object want a softened truth, one which requres very little from them and allows all to be saved—whether they conform or not makes no difference.  Dietrich Bonhoffer calls this type of Christianity “cheap grace” because it doesn’t demand anything of the follower except to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  James refutes this assumption (one reason some would like to elliminate his book from the canon) by exclaiming,  You say you believe in God?  Good!  Even the devils believe and tremble!  Belief isn’t enough for eternal life because one can know God as supreme and still refuse to worship Him as such or submit to His authority.

Notice the answer is in the singular the question is in the plural.  They were willing to do great works for God to earn His favor but to actually have to change…that’s just asking too much.  Ok, we might be willing to change a little, you know, conform to a modified version of love…”as long as I can stay similar to the person I like to be.”  We humans like being Knights in Shining armor.  In fact, I think some of us believe it’s better to be the Black Knight or bad guy than to be an obscure nobody, such is our skewed vision of living.

To be important in the kingdom of God one thing is paramount, ultimate and final in our reach for eternity:  To believe the One God sent into the world.  Just one work to be whole, one person in whom we place our faith, and trusting with all our hearts what He has to say.

The Jews questioning Jesus were looking to be heroes of the kingdom through gallant deeds and quests, they looked for a Messiah who also met those goals.  Jesus disillusioned them quite badly by making it far more simple in choice, though incredibly difficult in scope.  All they had to do was believe in who He was and act on that belief in faith.  It wasn’t what they were looking for, instead they demanded a sign—this right after eating the big dinner on the other side of the lake.

What do we demand of God in order for us to believe and trust Him?  Do we come at Him with conditions, addendums and quid pro quo?  What do we have to offer that’s so special the God of the universe would even consider making a deal with us?

Only ourselves in the shape of a heart willing to serve.