Friday, August 24, 2012

Locked Out

I was just recalling an experience that I had a few years ago that was a wee bit on the scary side. Well, lets just be honest…it was very scary. It was one of those moments that you never see coming until its staring you square in the eyes. It started simple enough, I was on my way into town when I decided to swing in and drop of some rentals at the local movie store. I had my two little ones in the back seat, safely buckled in their car seats; I had some good old gospel music on the radio, and a cold diet coke in my hand. Again, everything was great, no immediate difficulties in sight. I popped out of the front seat, made a comment to myself about the relentless heat of the summer, and walked into the store to lay the movies on the counter.

I may have been gone 20 seconds.

As I returned to the car, humming the tune I had just been listening to, I was suddenly stopped cold at the car door. My jaw dropped when I saw that Reagen had unbuckled her way out of her car seat (for the first time I might add), climbed into the front seat, and locked the doors up tight. The car was running, the air conditioner was blowing, and she didn’t have a care in the world. There she was jumping up and down in the driver’s seat with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the gearshift. Taylor was screaming, I was frozen with fear, and Reagen was contemplating her first joy ride.

Now, this was no time to panic because the safety of my children was hanging in the balance, my response had to be calculated and effective. I quickly took inventory of the situation and made the only decision a good father could make…I began earnestly pray for the rapture to take place at that very moment. Obviously, God did not agree with my plan of action. So I did the next best thing, I called Pop-a-Lock. With the locksmith on his way, I began attempting to distract Reagen away from the gearshift. She responded by smiling at me as if to say…

“Poor man, do you not realize that this is my moment to shine.”

She then proceeded to show me that she could successfully operate every button and knob located inside an automobile…except the UNLOCK button. The LOCK button was not problem at all…she must have mashed that one about 75 times. But UNLOCK?

“Sorry Dad, I’m just not familiar with that one.”

I was a wreck. That ten-minute moment felt like eternity. I was helpless! All I could do was stand on the outside and watch as my daughter, unknowingly, played games with her life, and the life her brother.

Then, in a blink of an eye, she came to the window, put her knee on the armrest and unlocked the door. I quickly yanked the door open, before she could accidentally lock it again. As she came tumbling out of the car, I caught her and lifted her up. At that moment I didn’t know whether to hug her or ground her for life…I chose the hug. As I breathed a sigh of relief, Reagen looked at me and said...”Daddy, I drive?”

Moments like these cause us to age years in mere moments. Actually, I’m still recovering. Today as I sit and remember the  “the movie store incident”, God whispers truth to my heart…”David, now you know how I feel when you let sin separate us.”

Honestly, I have never thought of it quite like that before. On several occasions, I have considered how the separating power of sin affects me…but  never have I considered how that separation affects my Heavenly Father. I can see now how it could be much like my experience with Reagen. When my sin causes a break in the fellowship between God and me, I believe two things take place. There’s two sides to every story.

First of all, my access to the benefits of God has become limited. In essence, I have placed myself on the outside. On the outside of what, you ask? On the outside of His protection, His guidance, His blessing. I find myself separated from the very things that I desire most from my creator. Here’s what the Bible says…

Isaiah 59:1-2
Behold, the hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear dull, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Isaiah tells us that our sin does not diminish God; He can still reach and save and hear…BUT…out sin does disconnect the fellowship. When my kids rebel against my rules and expectations for them, they are in essence saying, “I know what you want from me, but I choose to do this my way, even if it hurts you.” This is essentially what we do when we turn against our Heavenly Father and choose the path of sin.

Now let me make one point here; I said the relationship is damaged, but not terminated. When my kids go against my rules and expectations it limits the fellowship that we both desire. Now, in order to restore our relationship the damage must be addressed. This is where confession and forgiveness come in. The relationship may be wounded but it will stand the trial…and it can be mended. At no point do they ever stop being my kids…never.  

So the first point is that I become separated from my God’s hand. Secondly, God becomes limited in His ability offer His protection, His guidance,  and His blessings. He has also, been placed on the outside, and finds Himself separated from His creation. The heart of a father longs to do what is best for his child. How then must it feel when the hands of a father are tied and he can no longer intercede on child’s behalf? I can tell you from my experience with Reagen, it is close to torture.

Can’t you just see Him? You walked away from Him and gave yourself to the world… gave yourself to sin. You locked the door on your Savior and now He stands and watches you through the window. His big heart is touched with sorrow. A few moments feel like an eternity. All He can do is stand on the outside and watch as His child plays games with their life.

Dr. George Sweeting wrote in his book “Special Sermons for Special Days”:

“Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls. It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river. As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls.
I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave. It was engrossed in the carcass of a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings. The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice out of the water, and I thought it would escape. But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice. The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss.”

That ice is much like the sin we carelessly play with, all because we enjoy the free meal it offers. The truth be told, the wages of sin is still death. Sure, we may get by with it for a season. We may even get along pretty good without God’s provision for a short time. We may lock God outside the car and have the time of our lives playing with the buttons and knobs of this world. But don’t deceive yourself; you can only pull on the gearshift so many times before you lose.

Think about it!

Keep Seeking the Truth

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sanctification: the Process of Perfection - The Holy Spirit: How He Does It

Over the last several weeks…months really…we have been looking at the Christian doctrine of Sanctification. I subtitled this study “the process of perfection”. By this point, I hope that you have begun to understand the significance of this idea. Sanctification is both a position granted by God at the point of our Justification…and at the same time, it is the process whereby the Holy Spirit weeds out the effects of sin in our lives. John the Baptist hit the nail on the head when he said “I must decrease that He might increase”.

The last few posts have dealt with getting a more scriptural and true look at the Holy Spirit. He is the power that drives the engine of Sanctification. In other words, He is the Sanctifier. While examining the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we focused our efforts at answering 3 questions: WHO IS HE, WHAT DOES HE DO, and HOW DOES HE DO IT? The question, WHAT DOES HE DO, was answered by developing a basic definition of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Without going back into the teaching, let us just state the definition we arrived at.


That sounds simple enough, but this process requires a life time of effort by the Spirit. In other words, Sanctification will never be completed while we are living here on earth. Yes, we will find ourselves vastly changed and retooled as the process of perfection is manifested in us, but it ultimately takes death to complete the work. Still, you can rest assured that our story will end in grandeur and glory…as our earthly progression finally meets up with our eternal position. The point where our progressive sanctification meets our positional sanctification is a work of grace called Glorification. One day we shall be GLORIFIED.
Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

                                                                                                                                                1 John 3:2
How fabulous is that? One day we shall see him (Jesus) as he is…in that day “we shall be like him.” We cannot begin to imagine how great a change that will be. Physically whole and well….just like God intended from the beginning. Mentally appropriate and stable…just like God intended from the beginning. Emotionally loving and patient…just like Jesus. Spiritually complete and free from sin…just like Jesus. The glory of GLORIFICATION; that will be a site to see, and an experience to behold.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
                                                                                                                                              1 Cor 15: 52-54
Okay, very good then, the end result of the process of Sanctification will be a GLORIFIED YOU!! However, we are not glorified yet. We are still trudging through this process. And we still have one “Holy Spirit” question to answer….HOW DOES HE DO IT? How does the Holy Spirit do the job of expressing Christ Jesus to you and through you? How does He take our sin burdened hearts and lives and systematically change us? How does He direct our paths to those divine appointments that make the big differences? How does He introduce the Bible in such a way that it impresses our mind and our hearts? How does He convince us to look beyond our pride and selfishness and see that God’s way is the only way? How does He teach us to turn from attempting to please God by living the Law? How does He take us from being a baby, feeding on milk, to a discipled mature Christian, feasting on the meat of the Word? HOW DOES HE DO IT????
There, I’ve said it…I don’t know. And the truth is….neither do you. In fact, nobody knows how the Holy Spirit does what the Holy Spirit does. In some ways we know “why” He does it, but we can’t begin to verbalize “how” He does it. Therefore,  I want to make two points that are VASTLY important to your Sanctification process. The sooner you realize and apply these truths, the better off you will be, and the more effective the Holy Spirit will be in your life. Pay close attention here….here goes….

POINT NUMBER ONE – There is a GOD….and you ain’t HIM!! 
It is the height of arrogance to believe that a man can fix the heart of another man…We can’t even change our own hearts. This is why the modern day approach and philosophies of humanistic psychology and psychiatry are so asinine and off base…..THEY DON’T WORK BECAUSE THEY CANT WORK. Let me put it this way, if we could DO anything to fix ourselves….we would not have needed Calvary. Jesus would not have needed to come to earth to be tortured and executed. The reason we need a SAVIOR is because we could not save ourselves. Here’s what the Bible says…

I do not nullify the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, Christ died in vain.
                                                                                                                                Galatians 2:21
It seems silly to have to bear out this point, but in today’s Christian world it is necessary. The Church does a great job in teaching that salvation is a gift from God. We can do nothing to gain this wonderful gift, we can’t earn it, and we sure don’t deserve it. However, when it comes to Sanctification, we somehow determine that we have the ability to perform this act on our own…or at best, we need to
“assist” do our part. For after all, God helps those that help themselves. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t teach these ideas at all. The truth is that we are just as dependent on God to perform our sanctification as we are our salvation. It is a job that the Holy Spirit and ONLY the Holy Spirit can perform. This leads me to point number two.

 POINT NUMBER TWO – You can’t do it…so give up and let GOD!!
Let me ask you a question: Where in the Bible are we commanded to fight against or defeat our sin? Don’t think too hard…it ain’t there. God would never command us to do something that we simply cannot perform. For some of you, this should be a HUGE relief. You can’t beat your sin…you can’t win on your own…so stop trying…give up!
Think about it, isn’t that what Jesus did? Didn’t He come to break the power of the sin nature and atone for the collective sins of the world?

I know your struggling with a sin issue…maybe several issues…we all are.  Addictions, anger, pride, lust, homosexuality, lying, and on and on....we ALL have besetting sins. While it is perfectly acceptable for you to recognize your sin issues, you were never intended to figure out a plan to overcome them. God doesn’t expect that from you. That’s His job.
I love the song that says:
Give up, let Jesus take over
Give up, let Jesus take over
Give up, let Jesus take over
And He’ll make a way for you

Very good then, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to do deal with your sin, to sanctify you and me.  Our job is to get out of His way; quit taking the job out of His hands, and let Him do what only He can do. Now that I’ve repeated myself over and over, I want to clarify one point. It’s not your job to fight sin…but you do have a job to perform…you do have a fight to fight. Paul commanded Timothy…

Fight the good fight of faith – 1 Timothy 6:12

We do have a battle ahead of us, a goal to strive for, and a fight to fight. However, it’s not the warfare we so often find ourselves fighting. Let the Bible explain the Bible…

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;)
                                                                                                                                                2 Cor 10: 3-4
Now, I want to pull out a very familiar passage, but I don’t want you to read it and do what most of us have been trained to do. Don’t read the following words and decide you are supposed to fight against the army of darkness. Read what it says…not what many preachers have tried to make it say. We have got to let the Bible say what the Bible says, not what we want it to say. Remember we are fighting the fight of faith, not like the world fights…it’s a fight that is “of the Spirit”. Now read the following…

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, then stand.
                                                                                                            Ephesians 6: 11-13  
Now, what are we commanded to do here? Put on the Armor of God and then….stand. Stand still and pray (verse 18)…that’s it. You’re not commanded to beat up the devil or to defeat your sin issues or to war against the darkness. There are two reasons for this: Number one, YOU CANT WIN THESE FIGHTS. Number two, JESUS HAS ALREADY WON EVERY FIGHT YOU WILL FACE.
All we are called to do is fight to keep our FAITH centered on the fact that Jesus has already won the fight. Keep your faith centered on Christ. Let me summarize this again…
1.       You’re not God

2.       Give up trying

3.       Jesus has already won your battles on the cross

4.       Fight to keep your faith on His work…not your own

5.       When you do this, the Holy Spirit can work miracles in your life

Walk in the Spirit
It’s impossible to know how the Holy Spirit operates. That’s like asking a person to define God and give 3 examples. We may not be able to know “how He does it”, but we can rest in the fact that “He does it.” What we should be much more interested in is learning how to stay out of His way. Living in such a way that allows the Spirit to maximize His efforts, uninhibited by our meager attempts to fix what we cannot fix.
Kenneth Wuest said the following…
“…just as Jesus never saves a person until that person recognizes Him a Savior and by an act of his own free will puts his trust in Him, so the Holy Spirit is waiting for the Christian to recognize His ministry, and by an act of his free will trust Him to perform it.”

You and I need to pray for the wisdom it takes to surrender to the will of Holy Spirit. We need to learn how to recognize His ministry and allow Him to perform it. We have all heard the old cliché that God is a gentleman. He will not barge His way into our lives and take over. This is true of the Sanctifier also. If we should so choose to assume control of our lives, to war against our sin nature, to fend off the enemy; the Holy Spirit will step aside and allow it. He knows full well what the outcome will be, but He will graciously step aside…if that’s what we want.
The reason He is willing to do this is simple. Sooner or later, we are going to grow weary of struggling to roller skate uphill.  Sooner or later, we will realize we cannot win and we will give up trying, and let Him take over. This submission to His will is exactly what He’s waiting on. And it’s exactly what we need. It is the key to success in the Kingdom of God and the key to victory.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law                                                
                                                                                                   Galatians 5: 16-18

Paul pleads with us, “walk in the Spirit.” This does not mean…be spiritual. This is a command to walk in such a way that the Holy Spirit can be your power, your leader, your defender. Walk within the Holy Spirit. If we do this, an amazing promise is ours…”and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” That’s powerful friend!

How do we “walk in the Spirit”? By fighting the good fight of faith. Keep your focus on Jesus and not on yourself. Give up trying and let God do what only God can do.

In conclusion, I want to share one more verse. Within this verse, we are given a hint on how we might
fight the good fight of faith.”

Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
                                                                                                Romans 6:11

First of all, reckon yourself dead to sin. Reckon means to remember or recall….remind yourselves. At the cross of Calvary, Jesus destroyed the power of sin. You are dead to sin now…it has no power over you. Therefore, you do not have to live as its slave any longer….REMEMBER THIS!!! Secondly remind yourself that you are alive to God. Again, the Cross is the key. Because of the death of Jesus, you are now alive to God. Dead to sin, but alive to God. Dead to sin, but alive to God. If you remind yourselves of this daily, it will keep your faith in the right place…off of yourself, off of the world, and on Jesus Christ. This is how we win the fight of faith! Faith allowed God to save you, and faith will allow God to sanctify you. It is our faith in the finished work of Jesus that opens the flood gates of Grace in our lives.

Keep Seeking the Truth