Feeling Convicted

When I don’t feel like doing something, I am strongly tempted to just not do it.  Sometimes, I play basketball in the evening and afterwards I come home super tired.  I know I should shower before I sleep because my body has been covered in my own sweat and others’ sweat.  I’m sure there’s a lot of germs and dirt mixed in there too.  Sometimes I make myself shower, but other times I dry myself up, just change my clothes, and pass out on my bed without showering.  Pretty grimy, I know.

We like to do things we feel like doing and we don’t like to do things we don’t feel like doing.  Pretty simple.  Unfortunately, I see this pattern play itself out in the lives of plenty of Christians.  If I feel convicted of this particular sin, I will repent and obey.  If I don’t feel convicted, I will think about it and pray that I’ll feel convicted one day and for now I’ll keep on sinning.  But I’ll think about it!

This is troubling.  It is even more troubling when the particular sins are stated in the Bible as sins, as clear as day.  I know it is wrong and is a sin, but I don’t feel convicted, I say!  I need to think and pray about it.  Insert ‘ORLY?!’

Putting our faith in God and bearing good fruit occurs when we act in obedience.  And just as a reminder, delayed obedience is still disobedience.  This should trouble a whole lot of us.  Not feeling convicted is never a good enough excuse to continue sinning.  When confronted with sin, let’s see our rebellious hearts, then look to Christ’s work on the cross, humbly repent, and quickly obey.  Let’s stop fooling around, trying to be slick.  He wants to rid us of our filthy, sweat-drenched clothes, cleanse us by His blood, clothe us in His righteousness, and have us resting in perfect peace in His presence.

Let’s hit the shower.

 

Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

No, Because He Knows

Growing up, I don’t remember my father saying No to me very often whenever I asked him for things. I think I ended up receiving most of the toys I asked for. I got my state-of-the-art Super Soaker in elementary school, my boombox in middle school, my turntable and mixer in high school, and plenty of expensive Nike and Jordan brand shoes throughout. That obviously made me happy.  The few times he did say No, I’m pretty sure I just whined a bit and ended up getting whatever it was a few days after.  I understand that this was my father’s expression of love for me, even if it was a bit misguided.  Consequently, that pattern of fathering certainly fueled my already sinful and selfish heart.  I wanted things and I wanted them immediately.  If I didn’t get it, I’d be upset, bothered, unhappy, angry, confused, and rejecting.

As Christians, we know that our prayers are answered by God in three different ways: Yes, No, or Not Now.  As you may have guessed, I have issues with the No and Not Now answers.  They both contain ‘No’ in them so they are both No for all I know and I’m not cool with that.  God, you’re supposed to answer prayers by always saying Yes!  I’m not sure if that’s in the Bible, but based upon my attitude, I often want to believe it is really in there somewhere.

Even as I’m getting deep in my 20s now (wow, I’m an adult for real, huh?), I still struggle with the No’s.  It’s no longer toys, but I’m still asking and wanting.  God, I want this opportunity.  God, I want to go this direction.  God, I want this to happen.  No?  Why, God?  I’m disappointed in You (wow, the nerve I have, right?).

In these past months, God’s been gracious to open my eyes a little.  Maybe it’s wisdom that comes with age or maybe it’s just God teaching me some needed lessons.  Probably both.  I’ve been reflecting on the past few years.  Certain No’s had me confused and disappointed.  I kept saying in mind, God I trust you, but I recognize now how my heart’s attitude wasn’t exactly that.  But I’m beginning to see how those No’s were so full of love and grace.  He had my best interest in mind.  Protecting me and guiding me.  Loving me.  A negative response so full of holy love that it really is a positive response.  I just didn’t see it at those times.  I thought I was ready for the things I wanted.  I thought they were best for me.  But how often I forget that my Father is good and sovereign.  Never changing.  I’m thankful for those No’s, because he knew better.

People say God is interested in our holiness and not our happiness.  I think that is true for the most part but I’m not sure I can agree with it fully.  He’s interested in our holiness because He is a holy God and we are His people.  The amazing thing is that He is the greatest joy.  He’d rather give us the deepest, most satisfying, eternal joy in Christ, rather than fleeting happiness we find on this Earth that leaves us empty.  Yeah, He’s that good.

Interested in our holiness?  Yup.  Interested in our happiness? Even better.  He’s interested in our joy by drawing us to Christ.

Real Fears

A constant fear of mine is that I am self-deceived when it comes to my sin.  I fear that I’m not really serious about killing sin but just allowing it to easily express itself in other ways.  I fear that I don’t care too much about holiness.  I always try really hard to know my heart and its motives.  When it comes to this activity, the problem I come across is that I find this activity incomplete and at times futile if I never involve godly people who I trust and who are willing to love me faithfully by speaking truth to me.  And you know what?, it’s pretty hard to find people like this. But more and more I realize how incredibly important it is for me to have these kinds of people around me.

Another fear of mine is that I will look back when I’m old and realize I’ve been a talker and not a doer.  If I’m honest, I’ve been a talker for most of my Christian life now.  I’ve done plenty of nice, church-y things but that’s not it.  Jesus isn’t cool with that and I’m not either.  I want to actually follow Jesus.  Whatever it takes.

Fears paralyze me when that’s all I’m looking at.  But thankfully God’s showing me more of the cross and what Christ has done and who I am in Him.  Whatever it takes, I want my heart pure and my feet moving towards Christ.

 

Thoughts on Healing and Suffering

My Bible Study/Book Club group is reading through J. I. Packer’s Knowing God (excellent book/highly recommended) and some of the reading caused me to think a bit more about healing and suffering.

I am a continuationist so I do believe the spiritual gift of healing is still in operation today.  It’s often described as one of the ‘spectacular gifts’ and deservedly so.  I pray for people to be healed regularly.  I’ve witnessed some miraculous healings with my own eyes and have heard and read about many other accounts from all around the world.   Spectacular sounds about right.

On the other hand, I do disagree with those who subscribe to the idea that it is God’s will to heal everybody.  The Bible talks a lot about suffering and gives us clear warning to expect it so we might be prepared.  Heck, God sent Jesus to suffer on this Earth by taking up the cross to the point of death.  Jesus then tells us to follow Him and do likewise.  Not quite sure how you ignore that.  But that’s not the point.

What I’m getting to is that we see suffering all around us.  If you don’t, you might be too caught up in your own world (just saying).  It really blows my mind when I see someone who is going through hardship and suffering, but puts his or her trust in God and praises Him still.  It blows my mind.  Spectacular. It’s amazing.

Miraculous healing and faithfulness in suffering are both in the Bible and in this present age.  Both are spectacular.  But when I think about it, I personally think of faithfulness in suffering as more amazing between the two.  Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t about one being good and one being bad.  Both are clearly good.  But there’s something so amazing and life-changing and life-giving about knowing and trusting in God so deeply that one has this eternal joy that cannot be shaken nor destroyed in spite of everything crashing down and the world and one’s flesh fiercely clawing to snatch that joy away.  There’s something incredibly pure about it.  I think it’s the fact that in suffering, everything is stripped away.  You’re only left with what you truly believe in and treasure.  You find out whether you are standing on sinking sand or on solid rock.  I love miracles but I sometimes do wonder if people are treasuring the gift or the giver.  I pray and hope for the latter.  We will all have to give an account on the last day.

This doesn’t mean, I want suffering for myself or for others.  The Bible tells us to expect it so I just want to be ready for it.  I still want to have much compassion for others as Jesus did.  I will certainly continue to pray for healing for the sick and hurting out of love and compassion and in faith.

This does mean, I appreciate that much more what my Savior did.  How GREAT and AMAZING is my Savior who came to this Earth in complete humility to endure such humiliation and suffering to the point of death upon a cross while completely innocent, all because he desired to obey the Father in worship?  And in his resurrection, the curse of sin was broken and now there is a way back to the Father?  That’s the most amazing gift.

Unveiling the Heart

If we are to be serious about spiritual growth, it’s imperative for us to dig through and uncover the many layers of our hearts so we might know what is truly within.

Ed Welch writes, “One of the problems with the heart is that it is hard to know it. We can quickly list the circumstances of life that shape who we are, such as family, friends, and teachers, but the heart tends to hide, both from ourselves and others. Knowing about it and knowing it are two different things. ”

Jared Wilson blogged David Powlison’s 11 Questions to ask ourselves to help identify our idols. I’d recommend everyone take time to honestly answer these questions.  Not just once, but again and again and again throughout your life.

1. What do I worry about most?
2. What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live?
3. What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
4. What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
5. What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
6. What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
7. What do I lead with in conversations?
8. Early on what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
9. What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
10. What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
11. What is my hope for the future?

“The human heart is a factory of idols. Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”
-John Calvin

God’s Will = Your Glory?

I have observed many Christians who struggle with knowing God’s will for their lives (including myself). What college should I go to?  What should I major?  What career should I pursue?  Who should I marry?  Should I go into ministry?  There are plenty of other questions and I’m sure you have your own.  I certainly have had mine.

Seeking God’s counsel and wisdom to make important decisions that involve what one does with his or her life is commendable and should be encouraged.  Of course.

The problem, I witness, for many is that what is made of one’s life becomes the main thing. Let me say that again.  For many, what is made of one’s life becomes…the main thing.

“But…but…I want to live for God and what he has planned for me!”

Yes, that is a good desire.  But what about God’s will of sanctification in your life?

“I know but that’s the small stuff. I just need to know what God wants me to do with my life.  It’s important.”

But what about God’s will, which leads you to holiness, which deals with your heart, character, and spiritual growth through the practice of repentance and obedience?

“But what about what God wants me to do?”

You get the idea.

Let me say it again: Seeking God’s counsel and wisdom to make important decisions that involve what one does with his or her life is commendable and should be encouraged.  God in fact does make something of our lives for His glory.  Key phrase = “for His glory”.

When one seeks God’s will for his or her life’s future but has little to no interest in a life of humility, obedience, and repentance in the present, that shows a major misunderstanding of God and what He communicates to us through the Scriptures.  That may very well be a red flag which says the main thing has become your life and your glory and not Christ and His glory.  When the Bible talks about God’s will for our lives, it’s almost always about our holiness, sanctification, and obedience for today.

Does knowing God’s will = making much of you?

Let us be wise in asking ourselves time and time again: Have I made it about my life, my success, and my glory?  Is that the main thing?  What pet sins do I so often overlook and ignore?  What areas of my heart have I not surrendered?  What convictions have I let go of because it is hard and demands my life, my pride, my comfort?

Let us look to the Cross once again and may the Gospel lead us to a life and heart of repentance and obedience.  For His glory, may our hearts be refined, and from there, may our good works flow.