We are so undeserving, but yet so grateful that we can come to You with our fears, our frustrations, our doubts, our anxieties and our hesitations–our anger, even. Sometimes we are even angry with You, and we pour out our anger on You. And yet, as our Father who intimately loves His children, You pick us up, and you speak to us and reassure us of Your heart–which is unchanging for us. Your love, which is unending. Even if we don’t see the end, You assure us that You see us, You care, You are working all things out for our good, and for Your glory. You show us that You love us and You want the best for us – even if that means we have to learn through trials in the moment. Through everything that You do, You assure us, and reassure us, that You love us.
And as children before our Heavenly Father, that’s all that we really need. Knowing that we are loved and seen and cared about beyond all measure–for Your love is immeasurable and unfathomable. Our hearts are once again filled and we find strength welling up within our hearts to go and tackle the day / current struggle / situation before us. And even though we don’t have the answers, even though we don’t know how it’s going to end, we are able to go back where we left off and know that You are with us and in us and You will fight that battle for us. We don’t have to do anything in our own power, and that in and of itself is freeing.
Oh, how many times I am repeatedly amazed by You!! After trying for weeks to fight and struggle through on my own, I finally relent, letting You have full control in my life. After spending time again in Your Word, I am continually amazed at the grace that later in the day, at seemingly random times, pours forth for others in my responses to them. Realizing what is going on, I am for a brief moment in shock, because inside–I, in my flesh–feel like the justified reaction would have been (and regrettably, before this humble submission process, was) impatience, rudeness, and even arrogance. And yet, the words that flow out of my mouth and the love and grace with which they pour forth are an utter shock to me. I know in that moment that it is not me speaking. It is not me being gracious and loving–even and especially toward those I would consider my enemies. It is purely and entirely You!!
I’m amazed after weeks of being unsubmitted to my gracious and holy Father, but after having submitted my heart back to Jesus, and having felt His cleansing power come over me, washing me from ever particle of faithless dirt and muck that I had gotten myself into, and submitting my mind and my heart to be once again renewed in the Word, I feel so light and free. I also feel a deep sense of conviction at how many times I have responded in my flesh, and not the power of and controlled by Holy Spirit. In that moment that the gracious response is given, I am completely caught off guard, but I also see their reaction–and it’s priceless. I see that they too are taken aback by the grace that was just poured out to them. I could tell that (*gulp*) they expected me to sigh, to hesitate, to offer some rebuttal and defiant stance as to what they just said. Instead, they were shown grace and love – by NOT me, mind you, but by God Himself working through me by His Holy Spirit.
That brings me to the point which I set out to write this: Why don’t people see Jesus working in and through us more often? How come when people think of Christians, they don’t always have the greatest responsiveness? If we say we believe in some One bigger than ourselves–a Holy and Infinite God who is Creator of everything as we know it–how do they not see Him when they look at us? They think we are no different than the rest of the world, because they don’t see a difference in how we live.
Ah, but Christian, we are no different.
Before you take offense, remember that you and I are no better than they. We once too were caught in our own selves, hostile toward God and angry and confused about life, and in love with ourselves. The difference comes in whether we have submitted our lives to the control and Lordship of Jesus Christ Himself, or not. Because without Jesus, we are just sinners trying to do good in this world, and always coming up short.
I think we need to ask ourselves, as Christians who have indeed been reborn of the Spirit of God: Just who or what are we submitting ourselves to? Jesus? Or ourselves? If living in surrender to Jesus, we can be assured that He is shining brightly in our lives, whether we realize it or not. However, when we live in opposition to the Spirit’s work in us, we are living out of our flesh, which is contrary to God and controlled by Satan. When we live in submission to the trials/temptations/struggles around us, we show no difference between us and the unsaved world as to where our trust lies.
In our flesh, if we aren’t continuing to put to death the ways of the world and put off our old selves, we are still living as enemies of the cross of Christ. Why did Paul shed tears over those that professed to believe, and yet, lived as enemies to God? Because in this state, Jesus is not visible to anyone that is outside of Christ.
The unsaved world around us cannot see or find Jesus by looking at us when we live in opposition to God, in whom we say we place our trust. We are to be in the world, but we are to not let the world get a hold of us so that we become part of the world again.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Too many times we are concerned about what others think of us (well, I do). This is a very dangerous road, as it leads us to leave the life of submission to Christ, and instead live according to our flesh. We end up living in a cave of darkness, instead of being set free in the Spirit to live a life unfiltered and wide open, shining for all to see. From that dark cave that we crawl into, spiritually and emotionally, those on the outside cannot see (nor can they desire) the things of the Spirit.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” Matthew 5:13
However, as hopeless as you feel sometimes, remember all is not lost. Jesus will not lose any that the Father has given Him. And Jesus has already prayed for you, that your faith would not fail. Remember Peter?
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
I tend to gravitate back to my cave on too many occasions. Maybe some of you that are in your cave right now. I have finally listened to the voice of Jesus, standing outside my cave, and I have finally obeyed and come to the door. Now, it’s time to take that step out there into the sunlight again.
For those that struggle along with me, in and out of our caves throughout life, just know this: You don’t belong there. You belong out in the open, in the fresh air and sunlight, letting Jesus shine through you to reach others. You are called to be light and salt in a dark world.
I know it’s hard when the last thing you want to do is be visible. But remember, God chose you specifically to do this. He has a special mission for You and He has given you the particular place, situation, and circumstance that you are in, in order to reach someone else who may otherwise be lost entirely to this dark world. But, Jesus chose and delivered You. You were bought with a price. You are not your own. You belong to Jesus and He belongs to you. Go, make a difference, and love others like He first loved you, giving His life as a ransom for many, including you. And including those that He has called you to witness to.
So, just what is the Remedy? James gives us the answer:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:7-10
Come into a right agreement with God. Agree with Him that you have been living in a cave of darkness and you have not been submitted to Him. Agree with Him that you have been rebellious, prideful. And ask Him to align your heart with His. Pour out your heart to Him, whatever that looks like for you. He is sure to meet you there, to lift you up, to strengthen you in your humbled state before Him. He will empower you to change. The first step is to recognize your utter, total dependence on Him to make you into the person that He has created you to be.
Praise Him for all that He is, and for purchasing you, for knowing you even before the foundations of the world, and for purchasing you from the punishment of our sins by sending His Son to die for us.
Relax. You can’t change the situation. You can’t change any other person. Let’s face it, you can’t even change yourself very successfully! We cannot produce fruit of the Spirit on our own, so why do we even try? It’s futile. Relax, it’s not you who is doing the work.
Submit. Surrender. Let Jesus take it from there! Remember how surprised I was when these words of grace started flowing from my lips when responding to someone that I normally bristle up at? It’s happened so many times to me, but it always gets me. It shocked me, it shocked them–and as sad at that is, I know that God can use even my worst messes and mistakes of the past, bring them to light, and let them help someone else to break free of the oppression that they are living in currently.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34
Repetition. Continue to have your mind renewed in the Word, daily. Continue to cast all your cares upon Jesus. Continue to let Him fight your battles for you. Continue to submit yourself to His absolute power and authority. Yes, even on days that you don’t feel like it.
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these thingsput on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Be Renewed. Let God continue to renew your mind with His Word as you relax in Him. Let Him renew your attitudes and actions and reactions. Allow Him to seep through ever pore of your being and change you, from the inside out.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
I’ll leave you with these words from Paul to the church at Thessalonica.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
I know that I am a sinner in desperate need of Your Grace that only You can provide. I know that I have lived in rebellion against You, and Your Word, and I am torn over my sinful, prideful heart. Please help me as I turn toward You in repentance and faith. I ask You to remove my sins as far as the east is from the west, to cleanse me in my innermost parts. Scrub me, Lord! I don’t want a speck of dirt left in my heart. I want to turn toward You in full hearted faithfulness and live for Your Glory for the rest of the days of my life. I know it is one step, one day, at a time. I ask that You would walk with me and guide me throughout the next few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years ahead, Lord. Let others see You shining in me, through me. I know that I have not what it takes on my own to make any difference in this world. I ask that You would be powerfully present in my life and turn all the mistakes I have made and even the periods of rebellious pride into Your Glory–as only You can. Forgive me for my unfaithfulness, and help me to be and remain faithful to you for the rest of my life.
In Your Name, Lord Jesus, I pray, Amen.