February 16, 2013

What Tool Divides, Breaks, and Burns?



Would you like a few minutes to consider the riddle: What tool divides, breaks, and burns?

When I think about it, one tool accomplishing all three jobs seems somewhat implausible. What I need to divide, I usually don’t intend to burn after I divide it, and what I need to break I typically won’t burn. So, what tool would divide, break, AND burn?

Those are three serious jobs and when you need any one of them done, nothing else will suffice. Some things are soft and can be divided with a simple tool like a knife. You can cut the fat away from your steak. Some things are harder and you need to break them off like a dentist chips tartar from your teeth. And some things, well there’s just no good left in some things and they are better off being burned up completely, like clearing the land of a dilapidated house so you can rebuild on fresh soil. In those cases, you must light a fire and burn away the refuse.

Our conversion from sinners into saints is a process which requires different strategies, sometimes dividing, sometimes breaking, sometimes burning. God has provided the one tool which accomplishes all three.

Are there things in your life that need a little reshaping, like a potter taking a scalpel to a mound of clay?

Are there other things in your life where there is a sharp line between the harmful and the helpful which should be completely broken off?

Or is your life a pile of rubble, where a clean slate is the only solution, a total renovation?

Turn to the tool which divides, breaks, and burns.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

God’s Word, the Bible, is living and powerful. It has an agenda of its own. Just pick it up, read, and follow. You will find its instruction serves to help you divide out the thoughts and motives which are harmful to you. Which ones should stay and which ones should go? Could a new concept you have never considered be the breath of fresh air you are missing? How else will you discover where personal progress is needed unless wisdom shines its spotlight into your heart and mind? The Word of God divides like a sword.

"Is not my word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” – Jeremiah 23:29

As you practice what you learn in the Bible, it will help you break free from strongholds which have had a hold on you. You may have never recognized these strongholds before, but the Word of God will bring them to light. If dividing thoughts and emotions doesn’t satisfy what is needed, God’s Word is equipped to empower a clean break.

Breaking can be painful but it is only a transition phase, so persevere. Freedom like you have never experienced is just beyond the breaking. God must free you from the old self and the old life. Your new skin will feel sensitive at first, but it will grow strong. Cling to the Truth of the Word of God. It breaks like a hammer.

And should you find your back against a wall, where the breaking phase has not accomplished a full revolutionary work in you, then deepen your commitment. Lift higher the Word of God, honor it with your whole heart, and God’s holiness will burn away any unrighteousness remaining in you. The Refiner’s fire has laser focus on purification. Hold fast to the Word. It burns like a fire.

The Word of God was not provided to point out aspirations which cannot be achieved. God made His Word living and powerful, able to wage and win wars within you. Let the Word do its job of dividing, breaking, and burning. You will immerge as pure as gold. The Word of God has a power and purpose of its own. It never comes back void.

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:11




February 1, 2013

God Defines Life by the Day


17 “I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”


Sometimes Death works extra hard to make its presence known. Four fathers, three brothers, one husband, and one child of people I know have left this world in the last eight weeks, most without warning. So many precious people are left behind to rebuild their worlds in the absence of a loved one they never imagined having to exist without. I have been where they are, forced to redefine my universe after tragedy. Oh, the unstable footing! The confusion. The oppressive fog of despair! It is a most bitter sentence. My heart is heavy.

19 “I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.”


I am 37 years old, five months, and four days. Why do my days keep climbing when some are called home at six years old, some 16, some 30? How long will my days keep counting or the days of my parents, my siblings and friends, the support I cannot imagine living without?

When will the roster cycle through again and I return to bat to swing blindly at redefining my universe after loss?   How can I prepare?   How can I reach out to steady the arm of my neighbor currently under fire of the merciless pitcher, Death?

21 “Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:17-23


When you are deprived of peace (v.17), when all remembrance of prosperity has fled, (v.17), when splendor has vanished (v.18) and hope has shriveled and died (v. 18) – this one shining sliver can be called to mind (v.21), “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.” (v. 22)

You are not consumed! You are not! You may feel utterly crushed. It may look as if your life is in shambles. The voice in your head may tell you that all is lost. But you are not consumed. You are still breathing.

Maybe you are not doing much more than breathing, but that is okay. You have permission to do nothing but breathe. Sleep. Wake. Continue breathing. Do it again tomorrow. When rational thought returns to you, take your first swing at living armed with this encouragement,


“ . . . His compassions never fail.
They are new  every  morning. . .”
Lamentations 3:22-23


Motivated by compassion, God redefines your life daily as if He were starting creation from scratch just for you. God does not define life by what is not, but by what is.


“He is not the God of the dead,
but of the living,
for to Him all are alive.”
Luke 20:38 

Those who no longer live among us on earth, live alongside the Lord in Heaven (or stand apart from Him in Hell). Death has been overpowered by life. Our present benefit is limited only by our belief in that triumph. God’s compassion will swallow the stench of death which hovers over the earth if we allow it into our lives through faith.  

Redefining a personal universe after loss is a shapeless pursuit because we can’t create structure around an absence no matter how hard we try. We want to preserve a hole in our new world shaped like the departed loved one but God says,

         “No. I am not the God of the dead. Your loved one lives, I have simply relocated him. My compassions do not accommodate death. Today’s definition of life for you is new. Then when you lay your head down tonight, let that definition go. I will wake you to new compassions and introduce you to a different life tomorrow.”

God selectively redefines your life each day. The changes are often subtle, but not so subtle that you cannot discover them. Desire to see. What is today’s new compassion? How has God defined your life differently today from yesterday? These are not difficult questions.

Here is my attempt.

This morning, life is defined as sunny but cold outside. There are no clouds in the sky. I am the grateful owner of two dogs and one fish. God created them and entrusted their little lives to my care. In a few more weeks, the now naked trees in my yard will start sprouting leaves and flowering buds. Life at my house will look much different then.

I am employed and navigate the same sea of faces most days. Yet, one with a 40-year tenure at the company retired yesterday. Another is leaving at the end of next month. The definition of life even in the workplace recycles if you pause to notice.

Outside of work I interface with a small circle of people I frequently have the opportunity to bless and be blessed by. Today I will serve two of them and schedule a visit with a third. I have no children, nieces, or nephews, but God’s compassions are new every morning. Check with me next week, I may have one dog less (hope not!) or one bird more (hope so!). Check with me next month, I may have a nephew. Check with me next year, I may have a husband.

God does not distribute His compassions in universes for us to clutch, but in days for us to spend. He doesn’t allow us to construct our own universes either; no wonder that effort is so futile and fleeting. Life is not defined by what is not, but by what is the substance of today’s mercies. Tomorrow with the sunrise, His compassions will be new, and therefore, the definition of your life will also be new.

Dwell on your fresh dose of life as God has prescribed you for today. Then wake up to a new life tomorrow. It is a challenging mindset to embrace, but the secret to coping, surviving and thriving as an eager recipient of God’s compassion.




January 22, 2013

If You Loved Me You Would

 


"If you loved me you would," were words I heard frequently growing up from the mouth of that little baby spoken to his big sister.

Usually the statement followed some request for service he wanted her to do; bringing him something when he was already comfortably tucked into bed, one of his blankies, a glass of water, or the pinnacle of all brotherly requests, a 'prepared' toothbrush. Yes, he managed to sweet talk that little girl into bringing him a toothbrush pre-coated with toothpaste and a cup to spit into so he could brush his teeth in bed.  It was downright comical what he could get away with where his sister was concerned.

In high school he got her to agree to trade him her black, V6 Chevrolet Beretta with red-interior for his boring, white V4 Chevrolet Cavalier with sagging roof liner. I wonder if the phrase, "If you loved me you would," was uttered during that negotiation. I suspect so.

He had her wrapped around his finger in a way only a little brother could. She loved to spoil him. She still loves to spoil him and "If you loved me you would," always does the trick.  His plea works like a charm because at the bottom of things, it is an absolutely true statement.  When someone loves you, it is reasonable to expect certain behaviors from them.

Words can be honest or dishonest, misinterpreted or misunderstood, but actions never lie. They reveal true motives and uncover priorities.  It is dreadfully painful to face the truth of another person's feelings for you through what their actions testify.  Talk all you want, apologize, beg, or flatter, but nothing said can carry the weight of a single act of betrayal.  Actions preach.

Try to persuade away revelations like these:

"If you loved me, you would not leave me alone, defenseless.  If I were as valuable as you say, then you would keep close to protect me."

"If you loved us, you would not have chosen a new man over staying home with daddy and us."

"If you loved me, you would reciprocate my expressions of love for you."

"If you loved me, you would honor our marriage commitment."


All true statements!

How can we help but entertain these haunting one-sided conversations in the sanctuary of our inner thoughts?  The most damaging aspect of it all is that these conclusions do not stop at defining the terms of the two-person relationship, but penetrate deeper to define the self-worth of the wounded; "If he/she doesn't love me, then I must not be worth loving." 

And it's all downhill from there. 

I say, "I Love You," frequently because I realize that I may not get another opportunity. I realize that the significance of the moment may be lost if I don't ping the ear of my friend that he or she is a treasure to me.  Because I say it often does not mean I say it flippantly.  It always means one consistent thing which is,


"I will sacrifice for you." 
 

How can love mean anything else?  This is why the heart-wrenching realization of love denied pelts self-esteem like a hailstorm.  There is suffocating pain in recognizing that someone you love refuses to sacrifice for you.

John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends."

Sacrificing your life for another person is the greatest display of love possible, as was accomplished by Jesus our Lord.  But all variations of love, each stage, and gradation is paralleled by a twin degree of sacrifice. 

Do you think you love and yet you withhold sacrifice, putting yourself first?  Does someone tell you they love you but no evidence of sacrifice can be found?  Where there is no love there is no sacrifice and where there is no sacrifice there is no love.  Love and sacrifice can not be separated. I caution you not to misinterpret anything devoid of sacrifice as love.  It is a lie.

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

  • Keeping Jesus' commandments requires costly sacrifice.  He measures our love for Him by the payments we make.

And to Simon Peter, Jesus said, "He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep."  (John 21:17)

  • Having knowledge of Peter's love for Jesus was not enough; He required that sacrifice confirm Peter's profession. 

And to us, His disciples, Jesus departed this world saying, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
  • Loving one another as Jesus loved us is the epitome of sacrifice.  The requirement to love sacrificially rests on our shoulders.

Can you hear His sweet voice?  The soft, gentle request saying simply,  

"If you loved me you would."






January 10, 2013

Resolving Divisions Within a Christian's Heart


Quotations are from Oswald Chambers’ devotional My Utmost for His Highest by date indicated


This blog began brewing back in April 2012, when the residents of North Carolina, the U.S. state in which I live, were clawing at each other’s eyes over a proposed amendment to the state constitution to exclude homosexual unions or non-married, cohabitating couples from being legally recognized as marriages by the state.

It was a heated battle. Opinions couldn’t have been stronger. It seemed as if every other lawn hoisted a yard sign stating ‘VOTE FOR’ or ‘VOTE AGAINST’ Amendment One. I wondered why money was wasted on advertising; the subject was much too personal for anyone to be indifferent. I doubt that any laminated poster ever swayed a voter on the issue.

Facebook status updates scrolled opinion after conflicting opinion. Defenses and fiery retorts cluttered my newsfeed like a thousand points of light. It made me uncomfortable reading the heated emotion behind the posts. I knew that each person had only one vote to cast. Fanaticism from either position was not swaying votes; it was only raising blood pressures and arousing offense. The cyber fumes were obnoxious even from behind the shield of a computer screen. 


I knew that there was no way to debate enough for everyone to reach a civil compromise. I knew this because the indecision was not only a public divide but a personal one. My logic conceded with one side and my conviction with the other. Advocates of both platforms felt justified and I agreed with both of them. And yet I knew when I stepped up to the ballot box, that I would make the hard vote the same way I make hard decisions when my wants and my will are at odds. I didn’t expect most voters to share my tactical approach to making the decision and so I kept my deliberations mostly to myself. Now that the vote is long past, I thought it might be timely to discuss resolving the internal divide.

The most convincing argument to vote against Amendment One was that the matter was a “human rights issue not a religious issue”. Human rights, per the Declaration of Independence, specify the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every person has a different interpretation of his pursuit of happiness. If one’s lifestyle is condemned by the government then their liberty and happiness is infringed upon as well. I do not condone government having the authority to impose limitations on a citizen’s pursuit of happiness as long as that pursuit is not harmful to anyone else.

This is the voice of my logic, but I am a child of the fall. I have a wayward instincts and I know it.

Independent of a divine authority, human rights ARE preeminent in our society. But if there is a God, then the freedom to negotiate human rights is gone. As a child of the cross, I have lost my rights to human rights. The day that I encountered a holy God and asked Him to cover my sins with His blood, the pardon was granted in exchange for my absolute surrender. My body, time, talents, money, and decisions are no longer my own. I cannot expend anything according to my natural instincts and remain obedient to the divine authority whose pardon determines my eternal destination.

“Any fool can insist on his rights, and any devil will see that he gets them; but the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew chapters 5-7] means that the only right the saint will insist on is the right to give up his rights.” ~ May 24

My rights are gone because I surrendered them, willingly.

Yes, that was a choice I made. You may not have made that choice. I understand if your logic requires that human rights still reign supreme. You are not unwise, you are just unsaved. I was once too and the shadow of that self is not so long gone that I cannot easily remember her.

My rights remain gone because I surrender them, continually.

“Jesus never insists on having authority; He never says - Thou shalt. He leaves us perfectly free – so free that we can spit in His face, as men did; so free that we can put Him to death, as men did; and He will never say a word [Matthew 27:13-14]. But when His life has been created in me by His Redemption, I instantly recognize His right to absolute authority over me. It is a moral domination.” ~ July 19

I am morally dominated. Do I enjoy it? Not always. Would it be more gratifying to shirk discipline, dismiss conviction, and indulge in every human right the American way promotes?   Of course it would; I am still woefully human and easily tempted. The catcalls of pleasure never remain silent for long. But to renounce Jesus’ authority would cost me so much more than a lifetime of forsaken pleasures.

“According to the Bible, sin in its final analysis is not a defect but defiance, a defiance that means death to the life of God in us. Sin is seen not only in selfishness, but in what men call unselfishness. It is possible to have such sympathy with our fellow-men as to be guilty of red-handed rebellion against God.” ~ May 22

Promoting homosexuality because I am sympathetic toward their pursuit of happiness would be red-handed rebellion against God. Consoling a lover with sex when we are not married because love should be generous would be red-handed rebellion against God.   Stealing from the rich to give to the poor because I am sympathetic to their unmet needs would be red-handed rebellion against God. I am not at liberty to exercise certain forms of sympathy, although I am gravely sympathetic!  Do not think I deem myself incapable of such red-handed rebellion. The internal divide exists.  The choice of allegiance is made daily.

Do not be deceived, you too practice a hierarchy of allegiance. The liberties you exercise or don’t exercise reveal which authorities you honor.

“Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
it is not for them to direct their steps.”
 ~ Jeremiah 10:23


Previously written blogs about Christian allegiance can be found at:

December 31, 2012

Where 2012 Has Brought Me


I spent some time tonight rereading 2011’s blogs reflecting on how inspired I was at the prospects of 2012.   It was slated to be “The Year of More” and a “Time to Get Uncomfortable”.  In retrospect, both themes came to pass in ways not as I expected or hoped.  This is the first year-end I find myself without the emotional reserves to fantasize about what the new year will hold, and yet in this state of reluctance, I suspect I may be doing myself the biggest favor ever.

The reason I spontaneously sat down behind the computer tonight is because I just stumbled upon  the most eloquent excerpt, it is the July 28th devotion from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, which puts into words exactly where 2012 has brought me and where 2013 begins for me.  Many of my closest friends have exhausted themselves this year laboring their way to this place as well. I hope my friends on this journey find solace in this teaching as I did.   

After Obedience – What?
by Oswald Chambers

We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success.  We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite.  We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not.  The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident.  What we call the process, God calls the end.

What is my dream of God’s purpose?  His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power – now.  If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God.

God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea.  It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.

His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future.  We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get it wrong when we think of the afterwards.  What men call training and preparation, God calls the end.

God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now.  If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present:  if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.

 

December 30, 2012

Grace Repellant


This may surprise a few of you, but I can be an irritable person.   Moody frequently, and many know this, but I save my irritable side mostly for my family.  They can’t escape me, and I am privileged to enjoy their irritabilities as well, so it’s a fair trade. 

As a psychology/communications double major in college I took my fair share of family and interpersonal communications classes.  A statement by one of my professors, Lawrence Rosenfeld, stuck with me.  He said, “The reason your family is so good at pushing your buttons is because they are the ones who put them there.”  It is in the early communal environment of the home and your initial intimate relationships with family that we develop our frustration triggers.  It makes perfect sense, but learning this in the 1990’s did not cure my short-fuse tendencies.

I was in my thirties before I grew up enough to learn how selfish it was exploding and ruining family gatherings for everyone.  After one too many early exits in tears, I decided my zero to 10 outbursts, which my sister coined “hitting a 10”, wasn’t fun for me either.  I had become the go-to person to blame if conflict broke out because I was chronically the one responsible. So I developed the bottle method; when I felt offenses accumulating, I bottled them up, choosing to endure over react. If I wasn’t in the equation, then others could discover their own portion of responsibility.

Good strategy right?  I can be a decent actress.  They didn’t have to know how much I wanted to explode.

This strategy worked for a few years.  I stopped being the instigator. My family enjoyed time together more.  Unfortunately, the bottle method had side effects.  I would return to home and nurse my wounds alone, replaying all the offenses in my mind.  Eventually, the bite would lose it’s sting and I would let the offense go.

The final time this happened my mental replay of hurt went go on for almost a week.  It wouldn’t fade.  So, I placed a phone call to my parents and asked them both to stay on the line.  I went through the list of infractions from our last visit.  They listened calmly, empathetically, and apologetically.  They helped me to a place of healing.  But before the call came to an end, they shared lists of their own where they had exercised grace toward me and harbored no hurt.  Because I had blocked giving them grace, I had no perception of receiving their grace which I highly desired!

There is such a thing as Grace Repellant.  It resides silently in the heart.  When you refuse to grant grace, you will never perceive the receipt of any.   But as soon as you choose, “I will give out grace”, the next thing you know, perception awakens to grace falling from all directions. It is a marvel which has forever changed my vision of family dynamics, but it pertains to other relationships as well.

It is the same with Love.  There is such a thing as Love Repellant.  If you protectively guard your heart out of pain prevention, retaliation, or any other justification, you cannot perceive where love is already flowing into your life.  But in choosing to give love, the lid must come off.  When the lid is off, you are open to receive and your tank fills.

Jesus said, “ . . . Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? . . . ”  (Mark 8:17-18)

It’s as if you are naturally deaf until you decide to sing.  But when you sing, the outgoing opens the pathway for the incoming and hearing becomes possible.  Oh, to receive hearing simply because you chose to sing!

Are you repelling grace or love by refusing to grant grace or love?  Do not permit grace repellant or love repellant to prevent your receipt of blessing.  Pour forth grace and love for your own sake!

 

November 17, 2012

Are You a Living Martyr?


What is the agenda of a dead man? Does he feel pain? Can he be wronged and if he can, does he care? Where are his complaints? Or is he free? Freer than any of us. Free to be and abide where God puts him. 

This is not a conversation about life after death; this is a conversation about living a surrendered life to the point of death and the earthly experience of those who practice it.  

Many of us have asked the question, “Would I be willing to die for my faith?” For many years the fear of martyrdom was number one on my list. I didn't trust my resolve to endure torture without recanting. I accomplished the victory once in a dream. 

I dreamt that I was in a crowd of people where the mass genocide of Christians was occurring. Falling behind in the running crowd fleeing the scene, knowing that the enemy was hot on my heels, I fell to the ground faking dead. Through closed eyelids I saw an attacker straddle my limp body and lower his face near mine, studying it for signs of life. I was not sure if I had deceived him but soon felt the warm pressure of blood loss as a dagger penetrated my skull between my eyes. There was no pain, just numbness which started in my feet and inched its way up my body until I slipped out of consciousness. As darkness descended, full knowledge of my departure from this world arose. My distinct thought was, “I did it! I was successfully martyred! I did not recant!” and I was overjoyed that I had died faithfully only to wake from the dream.

If you have also played out these scenarios in your mind and come to the conclusion that you would die for your faith, take a moment to exchange the hypothetical for the practical. Examine your life for evidence that you are living out your faith. If not, then what makes you think you would die for a faith that you are not willing to live for? 

Dying is but a moment. Living is laced with opportunities to display faithfulness in this hour, tomorrow, and next year. Proof of the kind of devotion that endures martyrdom is apparent in the now. 

What does that kind of devotion look like?  

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” ~ Romans 8:16-17

A living martyr looks like the life of Christ. His sufferings were not limited to the days between His arrest and crucifixion. Because He was obedient daily, He suffered daily. 

Do you think it was easy for Jesus to be holy?   If the only requirement for a Savior was that He be born of flesh and die a sinless life, then God could have accomplished that goal and saved Jesus a lot of pain by allowing Herod to kill Him as an infant along with all the children age two and younger that Herod murdered in the regions surrounding Bethlehem after news of Jesus’ birth. 

Jesus was targeted, protected, and survived, saved so that He should suffer. Jesus wasn’t our perfect sacrifice without first suffering; obedience in the midst of suffering made Him perfect. Why do we hope for a different portion and grieve a similar refinement? 

Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him . . .”

He was the Son of God. He was God’s heir. He had departed Heaven for this mission (John 6:38), but none of this exempted Him from suffering.

Jesus “learned” to be obedient. It didn’t come naturally to Him any more than it does to us. Obedience was painful to Him and will be painful for us His followers.

Jesus was “made perfect” through suffering. We come closer to reflecting the image of Christ as we endure our own version of the cross. “Take up your cross daily and follow me”, He requires us in Luke 9:23. A voluntary cross marks the birth of a living martyr. 

“He became” the source of our salvation. He wasn’t born qualified to save us, He earned His qualification through suffering. Jesus paid an extremely high price to save us from our sins.

He fasted, prayed, and was tempted (Matthew chapter 4). He owned no personal property (Matthew 8:20). He served the ungrateful (Luke 17:12-17). He was abandoned by His followers and He questioned the loyalty of His closest friends (John 6:66-67). He was humiliated, betrayed, falsely accused, imprisoned, beaten, and killed (Hebrews 12:2). He persevered in holiness, love, dignity, and composure no matter the offense (Matthew 27:13-14). 

If we share in His sufferings, we will share in His glory.  

If we bear His banner, we inherit His kingdom. 

Living out a faith that you are willing to die for is outwardly visible. Check your life for these signs, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Yes, these fruits are by-products of a life-force churning within a man, implanted in him by God. They cannot be falsely manufactured; however, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit is a matter of paying a high price of our own, complete surrender of our lives to God. It is a voluntary death. 

George Whitefield wrote,
 
“Very few Christians are willing to endure the suffering through which complete gentleness is obtained. We must die to ourselves before we are turned into gentleness, and our crucifixion involves suffering. It will mean experiencing genuine brokenness and crushing of self, which will be used to afflict the heart and conquer the mind. Today many people are attempting to use their mental capacity and logical thinking to obtain sanctification, yet this is nothing but a religious fabrication. . . Yet the heartstrings of their old nature have not been broken, and their unyielding character, which they inherited from Adam, has not been ground to powder. Their soul has not throbbed with the lonely, gushing groans of Gethsemane. Having no scars from their death on Calvary, they will exhibit nothing of the soft, sweet, gentle, restful, victorious, overflowing, and triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb.”  (from Streams in the Desert, June 11 entry)

Triumph is the empty tomb. We celebrate the resurrection only if we first endure the sting of death.

Does your life story include the tale of your voluntary death?   Have you paid the high price of obedience, sharing in Christ sufferings, now walking this earth a living martyr? 

If we will share in His glory, we must taste our share of the pain of obedience. Jesus learned obedience through suffering and it made Him perfect. So it shall be for us. There is no other pathway, but glory waits.