It’s just a fact: a man’s calendar and bank account paints the most accurate picture of his true affections. (See Luke 12:34)
Today, I found myself looking in a mirror: my check register; in it, I asked God, “am I obsessed with my own comfort?” You decide what He had to say…
- Oil change – Cost: $24.95.
Reason – not “because it was overdue”, but because I was uncomfortable with how my wife looks at the “next oil change” sticker on the windshield. (Avoid discomfort.)
- Box of 72 Pizza Bagel Bites – Cost: $7.49.
Reason – not “because it was a killer deal after my coupon”, but because I wanted something quick and easy that they wouldn’t complain about. (Avoid discomfort.)
- Pair of fluffy, winter socks for my wife – Cost: $6.99.
Reason – she loves them and it makes me feel comfortable when her love tank is full and discomfort when it’s not. (Comfort/Avoid Discomfort.)
“So what?” you say, right? “Regardless of your selfish, comfort laden motives, things that needed to get done got done, Aarron. Quit being so picky.” But, was God’s agenda accomplished or merely mine? Or, did I spend money and time trying to walk around my discomfort rather than through it?
What if the point of those tasks wasn’t my comfort (or avoidance of discomfort)? What if God was out to forge and strengthen my character via discomfort? What if my sanctification – growth into Christ-likeness – was what God was after, rather than mere stewardship of van, household food shopping, and husbanding my wife?
Paul David Tripp took a quick look under the hood of our hearts in his excellent (short read) article with a brief (5-6 min) video clip. I hope it challenges you to walk through, not around, the divine discomfort. >>> Uncomfortable Grace
Longing to be Set Free?
We’ve all heard the story of the Golden Calf, haven’t we? Exodus 32, Moses goes up the mountain, the people begin to doubt he’ll return and in their wicked need for a tangible representation of God, melt down all their personal “bling” to form a golden calf. They sing and dance around it… Moses comes down and loses it, and the Levites slaughtered 3,000 of the offenders that day. God alters the game plan – no longer will He lead the nation, but an angel will be taking lead because if God were to go with them personally, He might have to kill them for their stubbornness. He’d set them free from 400 years of slavery under the wicked rule of idol worshippers. You’d think they’d have had enough of that, not to mention a little more practical devotion to the God who parted the Red Sea for them… But, when we’re used to living as a slave, it’s very possible to be “set free, but not living free.”
Idols enslave. That’s what they do. Sin is sticky and familiar. Sometimes, it’s hard to shake and easy to shift back into even when you’re liberated from it. So, what’s stuck to you right now? And, how do you get it off and keep it off?
God didn’t give the nation of Israel the 10 Commandments until after He’d already set them free – His rules were established after their relationship was established. The famous maxim – “rules without relationship lead to rebellion” is typified here. But, Moses somehow sees the big picture here. Thank God.
“If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? (Ex. 33:15-16)”
Moses understood God wasn’t on some power-tripping mission to make the Israelites follow a bunch of baseless rules and play Simon Says: Desert Edition at His beck and call. Moses had a relationship with God. Moses understood early in the game that the only reason God would have them as His people, further ever have a people – Israel, the Church, etc. – is for distinguishing Himself and His holy name. Holy people reflect a holy God more clearly. For this reason it seems Moses refuses the angelic point man and returns to first principles: if it’s not You, Lord, in the lead – anyone in our path will miss Your point. Moses pleads for more of God.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation… If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed… In Christ, we’re no longer obligated to answer to our inner teenager who wants what they want, when they want it, the way they want it. But, don’t we all have a “pet sin” that stirs up godly sorrow every time we commit it? Aren’t there seasons of your sanctification you wish you could fast forward beyond? Feeling… stuck? Feeling… like the Israelites a bit? But, you’re free!!! Shouldn’t this be easy? As Moses understood – it’s simple, but not easy.
Had Enough? How about More?
If you’ve had enough of slavery to sin or a sin in particular, you don’t need “wisdom and discernment” (#1 prayer request of the decade). You need deliverance. You need to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So, let me ask you: when is the last time you found yourself on your face before the throne with that kind of attitude? Refusing to move forward without His presence? Your greatest need isn’t wisdom or even courage – you know what you’re doing is offensive to God, you’ve just pushed God away thinking He can’t or won’t see what you’re doing in “secret”. I’ve been there, too. If there’s a sin or groups of sin in your life that you keep finding yourself stuck to, even though you are set free, perhaps it’s not an end to the sin you seek. Perhaps it’s just more of the presence of God. How about a little “on-your-Facetime” with God this week? Got a half hour you can carve out in your schedule to just lay prostrate, call out to God, and listen for His reply… wait on His presence?
Hope it’s the best 30 minutes you’ve spent all week…
in it with you,
Mark 3:2 reads:
“Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.”
Some people are just never satisfied.
But, should we be surprised by the actions of the Pharisees? Their eyes, being so trained on the law that they gave up worshipping the law-Giver to worship the law, how could we expect them to recognize the God of grace standing before them performing deeds of true righteousness? He didn’t match the headline they expected in the Jerusalem Times:
“Warrior King Liberates Israel from Roman Oppression”
How often do we get into that match with God – the Comparison Game? Have you been disappointed by how things have turned out? Have you ever found yourself, like me, wrapped around the axel of “God owes me” when He never promised you what you were expecting in the first place?
The two most powerful words in the entire bible are not “Jesus wept.” In my opinion, (as was mentioned last week) they “but ” and “God”, as used in “but… God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. (Eph 2:4-5)” When we look at what we have in light of what we deserve [judgment], it is all blessing. The danger for us is taking the gospel for granted and falling back into “but, God didn’t”___. Fill in the blank – “save my grandmother from cancer”, “deliver my dad from addiction”, “give me the job I wanted and was qualified for…”
When did God promise you those things? What does He really owe you?
Every one of us has something coming our way in the form of blessing. For all of us in Christ, it is transformation. For all of us in Christ, it is perfection. For all of us in Christ, it is a glorified body and eternal inheritance. For many of us in Christ, it includes crowns in heaven that we will lay at His feet. The only thing that can truly set us free from the comparison game is knowing that God is not constrained by our profile, our headlines, our expectation.
Thank God for that.
He is so much greater than the box we’ve put Him in. He is the “author and perfecter of our faith” and is capable and caring. Sometimes, He says no. Sometimes, He says “no” for a lonnnng time. But, He’s got His reasons, His plan, His headline which will blow us all away when we see it face to face:
“Glory to God”
Don’t You Want “Next Level” Faith?
Recently, I saw footage of a very popular pastor telling his congregation about “taking their relationship with Jesus to the next level.” When I first heard him talk about “some very practical ways” to do this, my ears perked up. Hey, I’m a planner. I’m a big picture, progress guy – I like to see the ball move down the field. I like to see points go up on my side of the board. How about you?
With a little evaluation, though, the Galatian heresy (see Gal 3:1-6) appears to rear its head… “You’re in charge. The Gospel just needs YOUR steps of action to work its full magic.” Uh-oh… How do you come back from that? Yes, obedience matters, but does obedience begin with us? “Faith without works is dead.” But, does obedience begin with your 5 step, 3 bullet-point, 90 day action plan? Or, does it begin with what’s already been done on your behalf?
It’s easy to point to guys like Abraham and say – “Abraham put his faith into action…”all the while forgetting that there was nothing outstanding about Abram that made God choose him in the first place. Abram “stepped out in faith”, but did his faith really “activate God’s blessing in his life”? No. God does not need our help. He requires our obedience. To those who would believe that Abraham activated God’s blessing, I must humbly ask – what if Abram didn’t step out in faith? Would God’s plan to create a covenant people have failed? Clearly, God would have had a covenant people with or without Abraham.
Yes, Abraham was obedient to God. Yes, Abraham received great blessings that changed him from “exalted father” to “father of a multitude” – but this blessing was already available. The question we must ask is “what do we miss out on when we run from God and fail to step out in obedience. For some both in the Old and New Testaments – it meant death on the spot. For others, it means loss of blessings that will go do someone else.
Regardless, we must keep in mind what we bring to the table in our salvation – “need for a Savior”. This does not change once we have a Savior. Obedience is rewarded, but God is never manipulated and is no respecter of men. There is nothing we can do to take our faith to the next level – that is God’s job and He will carry on this work until the day of Christ Jesus – see Phil 1:6. Our faith does not fail to grow because of a “step” we missed in the algorithm of “success”, but when we take matters into our own hands to “help” God. 1 Thess 4:3 tells us that God is already in the business of conforming us to the image of Christ. Best advice? Get out of His way and join in the work already in progress!
If you have been chosen by God to receive sonship and adoption – you have done nothing to warrant it, so be grateful. We get to walk in obedience because we worship a God who loves us enough to call us to obedience. Experience in prayer today that God uniquely loves you and has called you according to His purposes. Now, experience it when He gives you another breath and another… and yet another.