Kokoro no soko kara katsudo ga meiji suruApril 28, 2015
It’s a struggle that all of us have wrestle with at times. While we openly and vehemently profess that Jesus is our first love, oftentimes our actions suggest that something else is in the proverbial drivers seat. I know of many professing Christians who attend church regularly and do all of the things that are expected of them……and yet their lives are dictated by the goings on in their family, professional ambitions, an addiction to a fruitless pastime, or any number of other things which can become ones primary focus. (Amos 8:5) I have been asking the Lord Jesus to instill such a love for him that the distractions of this life will lose every shred of influence and every obligation will be kept in a proper perspective. Such a place does exist for one who is born of the Spirit and, even now, most of the things which once held me in continual suspense have lost their hold. But there are the lingering…..seemingly harmless time bandits – some of which may even appear to have spiritual significance…..and yet ultimately, they cause one to squander valuable time that could have been utilized in a way that furthered the kingdom of God.
Colossians 3:2 “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Sometimes the obligations of life seem to have us in a continuous cycle of activity. (we can all relate to this) These are the times in which we must be especially watchful as Satan will always seek to use such seasons to his advantage. Perhaps a three hour block of time wherein we can enter the prayer closet is simply not available, however, we can take advantage of every small space of time to be in the presence of the Lord. Seriously; taking a few minutes, between consuming obligations, to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus, can be the difference between maintaining an eternal perspective throughout the duration of a physical responsibility, or becoming consumed by the agenda of this world. For me, one way of accomplishing this is by walking to work instead of driving. The twenty five minute walk, through quiet neighborhoods late in the evening, (I work third shift) allows for quality time with Jesus without distraction. The walk home is even better because the option to linger is available. I can stop at a park bench for a few minutes and prayerfully consider the deep things of God while the sound of birds chirping fills the early morning air.
And yet, even when such time is available, distractive thoughts can creep in and steal the moment. Those seemingly harmless issues that fly beneath our spiritual radar and then interrupt the line of communication. Every prayerful inquiry regarding this matter has resulted in the same passage of scripture coming to mind; I Corinthians 15:31, which reads I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” The battle against the old nature which dwells in our members will continue for as long as we inhabit a vessel of clay. While we are not to be enslaved by sin or beholden to the things of this world, the fact remains that the flesh will continually pull towards the baser elements. The degree to which we have victory over such things is a reflection of where we are spiritually and areas of struggle indicate a need to seek a deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer, fasting, and dwelling in his word. “Praying through” is a term that’s rarely heard these days, but it is a must if we are to endure that which is manifesting upon the earth.
Hebrews 12:4 “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood in striving against sin.”
Striving against sin is an inherent trademark of one who has truly been born of the Spirit. Not just repeat a sinners prayer and go on living in the same fashion as before, but a true moment of conversion where they recognized their sinful state and the consequences thereof, understood that Jesus paid for their sin with his own innocent blood, repented of their sin, and from that moment on strove to live for their Savior. Striving unto blood is resisting sin with everything that is in us and calling on God to strengthen us during the moments of temptation when we become overwhelmed. James 4:7 frames it perfectly: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But to fully appreciate this, along with the Hebrews 4:12, it’s necessary to return to the beginning of chapter 12. The importance of this cannot be overstated as, in the days before us, we will both witness things, and be tempted in ways, that we never could have anticipated. Our spiritual preparation will be pivotal to maintaining our testimony of Jesus.
It goes without saying that, for many, these are familiar scriptures. Nonetheless, the importance of the issue at hand requires another visiting of them.
Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us.”
The writer of Hebrews (I think that it was Paul, however, some believe otherwise) had just finished telling of several of old testament saints who maintained their testimony in the midst of horrific trials. When everything in the physical realm was flowing in the wrong direction, through faith they “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens.” Many endured persecution, imprisonment, and death at the hands of their oppressors. Many lived outside of the social structure; wandering about in wilderness areas, living in caves and mountains with a minimum of physical assets, but having complete confidence in the Creator of all that is. (Of whom the world was not worthy:) Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to consider the end of these saints, of whom that a cloud of witnesses is comprised (a cloud that has greatly increased in size since the time that the book of Hebrews was written) and to lay aside everything that would hinder us from finishing our course
Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Looking unto Jesus steadfastly; always keeping in remembrance, the price that he paid for our sins. None of us can fully grasp just how incredible our salvation is. We were lost – on our way to hell with no hope and no means whereby we could rid ourselves of sin. Jesus, who is before all things, and by whom all things consist……who has no beginning, no ending, and is unchanging……stepped into the flow of time and into a world that was contrary to his nature in every way possible. He was tempted in every way as we are and when his flesh was at its absolute weakest point, the deceiver sought to derail him. “Make these stones bread……cast thyself from this high place…….all of the kingdoms of this world will I give you – just worship me.” The temptation in the wilderness alone is so profound that we cannot wrap our minds around it. And yet Jesus prevailed; each time using scripture to defeat the ancient foe. He went about during his days in a body of flesh; healing all who were oppressed of the devil, freely sharing the words of this life, and bidding “whosoever will” to follow him.
When the time was at hand when he was to be crucified, he could have called more than twelve legions of angels……at any time, from the moment of his apprehension in the garden until the time that he was taking his final breaths……he could have called out and been delivered. But he remained in the will of the Father until death. The eternal picture was never lost and because of his obedience, we have access to that which we do not deserve. On the cross, the one who had never sinned bore the sin debt of all who had ever, and would ever, walk upon the earth. It is absolutely imperative that we continuously remember the price that he paid for us and how he sought us out when we were altogether lost in trespasses and sins. There was nothing that we could ever offer him; nothing in our power to remedy our situation. We were lost in every sense of the word, until the blood of Jesus washed our sins away.
Hebrews 12:3 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
“Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” While joy unspeakable and peace that defies understanding are promises for to those who abide close to Jesus, there is always the danger of losing sight; even to the point of fainting. If we fail to keep our focus upon Jesus, especially in the times that we’re entering into, we will be deceived. If a person fails to keep their heart with all diligence, something else will become their primary focus. If not repented of, that which caused them to leave their first love will cause them to make decisions that will torment them throughout eternity. Many,if not most, professing Christians (at least in the westernized nations) are going to faint when conditions reach a point of “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and looking after those things which are coming upon the earth:” And then, when the false Christs and false prophets begin to “shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” those who are not in a right standing with God will believe a lie….and ultimately wonder after a beast.
The thrust behind this posting is to encourage all who love the Lord Jesus to examine ourselves and prayerfully inquire if we are harboring things which will derail us in the hour of temptation. Peter was fully persuaded that he was ready to lay down his life for Jesus, and yet, when he was identified as a follower, he denied the Lord three times. This incident has served as a reminder to every generation since, to not beware of overconfidence. None of us can face what lies ahead in our own strength or wisdom. examining ourselves now; drawing in ever closer to Jesus and remaining in constant communication with him will enable us to prepare spiritually for anything that we may be confronted with……even if the events prophesied unfold in a manner that unravels our eschatology. Our faith is not in our understanding every single event that is unfolding, but in being close to Jesus, determining to never deny him, and settling it in our hearts to never receive that which will forever separate us from his presence.
I must end this post with a personal report. Earlier today, we attended the funeral of a relative on my wife’s side of the family whom I had never met in life. (at least not that I remember) The man was 92 and had been in church his entire life. Several years ago, however, he met Jesus and was born of the Spirit. As the funeral proceeded, one after another of those who were closest to him, testified of the incredible change that transpired in his life after he was truly saved. The pastor who performed the eulogy included the message of salvation in his dialogue, however, by that time many of the relatives had already done this. It was the most uplifting funeral that I have ever been to…..and yet it brought to the forefront a disturbing reality. How many people have been filling church pews for decades, doing all that is expected of them and being model “Christian citizens” but have never been born of the Spirit.
The funeral tied in perfectly with the theme of this post…..which is probably why all of my efforts over the past two weeks to finish this were derailed. Seriously; every distraction under the sun has manifested; keeping this post in the draft section…..until today.
From the bottom of the heart, actions manifest. Blessings in Jesus name.