The other day my friend told me about an incident she had with her cat who has asthma. That morning she happened to glance out the window while doing some chores and saw him lying under the bushes. The form of his body sent her running outside to see if he was okay. She picked him up limp and lifeless . . . running back into the house she got the inhaler and saved his life.
As she reiterated this heart breaking story on the phone, she said, “What I would give if for just 10 minutes I could communicate with him as he understands and tell him he needs to come to me when he feels this coming on so I can help him!”
Instantly I thought this is what God did for us in Jesus. In a way that we could understand, He showed us His care and love. He saw how much we suffered on our own and told us the way to an abundant life here on earth. He told us to come to Him because He is there to help us, He is the way to life and without Him we will die.
Though my friend wanted to become like a cat to clearly communicate to him, she wanted him to know that she was much greater and more powerful than any cat friend he might have to help, provide and care for him.
The human image of Jesus helps us to connect to God. The book, The Shack, did a great job of conveying God’s desire to be close and personal with us. God wants to dwell with us in a bond of love and intimacy and this image helps us to relate.
But . . . we have to be careful about this perspective. The problem with focusing on the man Jesus is we think of Him too much in terms of a human. When we are flippant in Christ being our Lord, lackadaisical in our approach to His Word, careless in our relationship with Him, or lack a fear of God, I think it is in part because we are humanizing Him too much in our lives. When we do our mind automatically puts limits on Him and therefore His power and all that He diminishes in our lives.
Christ came to earth in the flesh as a man, but that is no longer how He is or how we are to know and relate to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:16 He came as a human to die as one of us carrying all our sin so He could take our place in judgment, and He also came to communicate a message. Like my friend, His desire was to tell and show us that His presence in our lives changes everything. He is the way to life. God is our caretaker, teacher, deliverer, provider, protector, lover of our souls, comforter, healer, and so on not ourselves and not others. If we trust Him we will have a life far beyond what we are capable of on our own. Another cat can’t give a cat an inhaler, not to mention everything else we cat lovers do and give our furry friends. No human can do what God can do for us. He came to tell and show us in a way we could understand, but He isn’t a superior version of us. (None of us would say this that He is, but we all often act like it.) We need to get to know, live and worship Him as He is, God Almighty. Romans 1:25
Obedience for a believer who is growing in the knowledge and grace of God is more of a desire than obedience. If you are born of God and abiding in His Word, your desire to do His will is strengthening because you are growing in love with Him.
It is important to recognize the ones maturing are the ones who experience this desire and not the burden of obedience. Many Christians aren’t growing and still think and act like carnal men. Therefore deep down they don’t desire the ways of God. They may act certain ways because they feel they have to but it is out of pure obedience and not love. Romans 8:7 What they have is a religion of rules and not a relationship of love. They lack a strong inner spirit to walk as a free spiritual being who isn’t rule bound but love bound. 1 John 2:5 Unfortunately, those rule bound people who think they are mature can be quite destructive and misleading to others about what the Christian faith is all about.
Kids are given the rule, don’t run into the street, because they can’t yet grasp the deeper truth that running into the street means you might get killed. It is the same with an immature spirit – all they can grasp are rules so they cling to them. But staying in this condition isn’t what God intended when He sent Christ to us. God desires a bride in love with Him and following Him because of love not a maidservant following the rules because that is what you should do.
This is why in the verse above love comes first. Obedience as God desires, with our hearts not just our actions, has to come from love not brute discipline. When we love Him, we want to follow Him.
Because Christ stands in our place, we have completely fulfilled the law now and always as He did. Covered in grace, we could go about sinning – however if you are truly born of God that isn’t your desire. Romans 6:14-16 You desire what God does because now you are a part of Him. God took care of our sin at the cross. Being free from the judgment of sin, the lessons of our lives are about walking in God’s will because that fosters intimacy and love with Him. He teaches and leads us down paths to accomplish that closeness; paths that instruct us what is His way and what isn’t. When He reveals a path we are walking that is counter to His, it isn’t to condemn us we have already been judged in Christ – it is to lead us closer to Him because sin distances us from being united to Him in truth, love and will.
And at its core, His will is about love, loving Him and loving others. Every command of God is what it is because that is the most loving thing to do. As a maturing believer you desire to grow in love – not a love of this world but a love beyond what we as flesh humans are capable of. John said that by our love others would know we are His – that means it is a love that mere men aren’t capable of giving – otherwise why would it set us apart? John 13:35
God’s love is much greater than ours. Most of us assume we know what love is, but what we know is a tainted version of His. We have to seek what is true love and what isn’t. And from what I am learning it is beyond what I ever considered as loving. The extent of His love – just the purity and selflessness alone and what that looks like in my day to day – is amazing. As you grow in love you begin to understand the depth and the reasons behind His commands and you desire to walk in them.
If you love God you want to do His commands of love therefore they aren’t burdensome. 1 John 5:3 If you want to do something it isn’t a burden but a joy. This is the experience for those spiritually maturing. It isn’t about following the law, trying to be perfect, or following some rules. It is about seeking God’s heart in each situation with a desire to love others with the power of His love flowing through you. You aren’t focused on following rules. You understand that Christ is your righteousness so you cease from trying to earn your own. You do what you do because you want to. And the closer we draw near to God the more this desire grows.
Since I started seeking God, I have seen this transformation in myself. It doesn’t happen over night it is a process of growing in love with Him by spending time with Him. From that time comes a true desire to follow Him. I want to do His will. It isn’t that I’m not tempted. I am. We all get blindsided by our Mr. Hyde personas – but the Spirit waves a flag shows me how that isn’t the most loving thing to do and I think oh, yeah, I don’t want to do that.
If we love God then we will obey Him because we desire to abide in His love. John 15:10
Friday morning during my quite time, the slight hum of a lawnmower drifted into my window followed by the smell of fresh cut grass riding the Santa Ana breeze. As the sounds and smell resurrected memories that took me back to my childhood, my flight came to a screeching alt. The sound of scurrying little feet stumbling over toys whipped my head around only to see Sophie’s tail disappearing behind the corner. The unidentified sounds enhanced by a gardener passing by the window carrying a huge garbage can were a little too much.
Her response reminded me of us. Fear consumes us and we run and hide when in reality we are in our Father’s presence safe and protected. Though it is irrational, it feels very real and propels us into a reactive flight or fight mode. Here was Sophie in this well built solid house with me protecting and watching over her and she acted like she had no protection at all. She had absolutely nothing to fear, but that wasn’t her view of the situation.
Often fear grips us when in reality we have nothing to fear because God is by our side as our shield, protector, and defense. Most of the time our fear is just as irrational as Sophie’s. We are in our Father’s presence. One who is powerful and mighty and for whom nothing is impossible and we are acting like He isn’t there at all or He has no power (at least in our lives).
We respond according to our beliefs. Sophie believed she was in danger so she ran, hid, and cowered. But her belief was wrong. Often when we experience fear it is because lies are taking over. We believe God can’t or won’t provide, protect, deliver, protect, or redeem. But, the truth is we have God and all He is by our side every moment of every day. And if you have God Almighty by your side what could you possibly fear?
Those of the world are at the whim of the world and their fear is more justified. Walking without God, they lack the safety we have. But we are no longer mere men but God’s children, and now most of our fears are unrealistic. We are under the shield of Almighty God. So why are we cowering? Running? Hiding? Do we believe God is who He says? Do we believe He truly cares for us? If we give that fear creditability then like Sophie that is what we will experience and not His peace, comfort, mercy, and love that is there for us.
‘Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
It is true the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And we should fear it because the unnecessary havoc and anxiety it creates in our lives. Fear leads us further away from where we want to be. It is debilitating. It leads us to the wrong actions, it shuts down opportunities we would have had, and it puts unnecessary angst on us and others. It is a powerful emotion in our lives and when it is misplaced it takes us exactly where we don’t want to go. Our beliefs and thoughts are very powerful. God created them that way so that our beliefs in Him would be powerful. This is why God so adamantly tells us to trust and believe His truth and not someone else’s. His brings life and all others bring death.
Fear counters trusting God. You can’t trust God and be consume with fear. When I tried to pick up Sophie and assure her all was safe she leaped out of my arms. When we fear we jump out of our Father’s embrace. Though He is still there and wants to comfort and assure us, we are too consumed with fear to experience His comfort. We mistakenly think He doesn’t care or isn’t there. He is always there for His children; but we aren’t trusting in what He is giving us – Him.
I have wasted huge chucks of my life on unnecessary fears. And though irrational fear still grips me in moments of doubt, I am finding it is happening less and less as I draw near to God. Drawing near and knowing Him leads to trust and trust dispels fear.
What fear has you in a death grip? Consider God’s promises and mediate on His Word, is it rational in light of His truth or are you acting like Sophie?
People fascinate me. I enjoy learning why people do what they do and that is why I got a masters degree in Psychology. Psychology, the study of human behavior, offers many interesting theories and paradigms to people’s behavior so they can predict behavior as well as alter it. However, where it fails is to truly change people.
The world pushes us to become our own gods. We create our destinies, shape our futures, determine the outcomes, overcome our weaknesses, fix our problems, and are in control. We are who we are because of our decisions, our choices, our strengths, and so on. Therefore, become better, stronger, and smarter is the message of today. And with this philosophy, psychological frameworks have become a major force in helping us get there.
However, this philosophy is a lie. It is an endless run on the hamster wheel going no where. Having studied it in depth, psychology with all its answers and solutions is not the answer. It can tell us something is wrong, it can help us understand why we did what we did as mere men 1 Corinthians 3:3, but it is not the solution.
We are the problem. The problem can’t fix itself. All psychology and worldly wisdom can offer is band aids to the problems which weary us. They offer temporary moments of hope followed by despair.
The only answer is God, our Creator.
For the first 30 years of my life I acted like the creator taking on the philosophy of the world trying to shape myself into who I wanted to be. My goal was to move as far away as possible from the weak, pathetic, and broken person who caused so much pain and destruction. And these psychological philosophies promised the change I was looking for. But all they did was lead me further down a path of bondage and spiritual death. Sure there were moments I thought I was going somewhere, but when I stepped back, the things that really mattered got worse because I got worse.
A mind not taken captive by God’s word is a mind captive to death. 1 John 5:19
After all my efforts, nothing changed for the better. I was broken and need of someone much bigger to recreate me. In addition, I carried a tremendous burden because the repair work was all up to me, someone who in the stillness of my mind I knew didn’t have the power or strength to make me who I wanted to be.
If you are a self-help junky you will always be. Like a drug, you constantly need more books, tapes, and seminars to keep the high going and to convince yourself that you have found the answer. We hang on to the hope that the next page, book, or insight will be the final fix.
The day I threw away every self-help book and self-improvement tape and put my life completely in the hands of God trusting His work in me and the power of His Word was the day my life truly started to change because the new spirit in me started to grow. I will be honest, it was very difficult. I wanted to hold on to at least some books. They had been my hope for so long, even if they were an empty hope, it was hope.
Trusting God alone is completely counter to this world’s philosophies but it is the only true solution as I have discovered. Throwing out those false securities and trusting only in God and the power of His Word was one of the best decisions I ever made. I let go of the flesh and embraced the new life born of Him in me. And that life lives by faith, trust in His Word alone, and has no confidence in the flesh. This new life holds the characterstics that we all desire. Before I was running in circles, but since the Word became my source of truth, wisdom and life I have done nothing but moved forward. And it is a great feeling. Finally!
But these improvement offerings are so enticing for what they promise, a better life, a better you and all you have to is step 1, 2, 3. Its so easy!! But it doesn’t work. Not really. Not in the way we are seeking. It doesn’t bring what we all desire in life – unshakable value, meaning, purpose, satisfaction, peace, love, happiness and joy.
But the pull on us is like a tractor trailer. This past week a friend asked if I wanted to go to a class basically about being a better you. As I was getting lured in, I felt a hesitation in my spirit. Why are you going down that road again? You have travelled both paths and you know the only path to life is to completely trust God in this area. It was leaving that all behind when you started to find what you truly desired. What are you thinking?
You are right! What was I thinking? The wisdom of the world is foolishness. Many of the things this class promised were things that I strove to achieve and create in my life for years – purpose, meaning, right thoughts, and a better life. For the first time, these past couple of years all these have become a part of me and it is because all I did was abide in your Word and trust your work in me, not me. When I finally found the right path why would I want to stop and change direction? Thanks from keeping me from walking down that path again.
With this new year upon us, as we set high aspirations to become better and stronger all for God’s glory of course – let’s not forget how we are called to walk – in His wisdom not the world’s. And His wisdom says trust His work in you, abide in His Word, His truth sets you free, He works in your weaknesses, He is your healer, deliverer, power, and strength. He is the answer not the world’s psychology and wisdom. And the best part is He produces real lasting results and because it is His works and not yours He carries the burden. Our part; trust, rest and abide.
Here is the choice; work, strive and push for no true results, or trust, rest and abide for real lasting results?
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.