11 Sep 2012
Recently I have become acutely aware that many of us quote familiar scriptures, assuming we strongly believe these scriptures but yet our actions are rather consistently inconsistent with the beliefs we presuppose.
Before we presume that this issue is something that only affects others, let us kindly apply a magnifying instrument to the examination of this issue. Major magnification should allow us to move from the general to the specific while we endeavor to keep this matter in sharp focus. For example let’s consider this well known and widely accepted scripture passage. For proper inspection it is essential that you read this passage in the Amplified version carefully and meditatively.
John 15:4-8 (AMP)
4 Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.
5 I am the Vine; you are the branches.Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
6 If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
8 When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine. (emphasis added)
This passage is pregnant with promises, the promise to be able to bear much fruit, the promise that whatever we ask it shall be done for us, the promise that we can honor and bring glory to God our Father and the promise that we can prove that we are true followers of Jesus!
However as is the case with many of the promises found in the Word of God, God has very specific conditions. God’s required conditions are not negotiable; He is God! His conditions are not foggy or fuzzy or flexible. We nevertheless hang on to our personally hazy, blurred definitions of His conditions while mentally desiring to hold God to the exact promise that He has given. While we know in our minds that God does not bend his requirements to meet our undersized and feeble efforts to meet His specific conditions, yet somehow it seems we hope to receive special dispensation from God for less than fully fulfilling His conditions. Could this be due to our focus being centered on ourselves and not on God?
It seems that at the very heart of the passage above is the model of abiding in Christ. Whatever the complete meaning of abiding in Christ may be, it definitely does not mean asking Christ to help us do those things we have planned. How is it that we consistently seem to believe, frequently demonstrated by our actions, that God is in our hearts similar to a supernatural butler? Why do we consistently indulge and imbibe in the idea that the Vine does not know how to produce fruit? And why do we think that the Vine desperately needs a plan of action carefully developed by a feeble branch?
Perhaps a place to embark on our abiding is to acknowledge that the Vine possesses the plan. If we could consistently live every moment with this conviction imprinted in our awareness, we may have then taken a significant step in the direction of learning to abide in Christ.
The idea of abiding has roots in relationship. Perhaps a bit like Facebook, we want the rewards of relationship without paying the price related to the development thereof. In their excellent book Experiencing The Spirit, Henry and Melvin Blackaby speak to the divergence between the promises of God and the daily experience of most Christians.
“There are probably several reasons,[for this divergence] but a major one is that Christians are seeking gifts of the Holy Spirit and not the Holy Spirit Himself. They want power but not a relationship with the One whose presence gives power. They want to do great things for God, but they haven’t understood that the greatness in the kingdom of God comes out of a relationship with Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit. They are so enamored with self that they have no idea what’s on the heart of God, and they miss out on what He has purposed for their lives.
If we seek the gifts of the Spirit and not the Holy Spirit Himself, we’ll always focus on self. We must learn that there are no gifts apart from an intimate relationship with the Spirit.”
Jesus taught His disciples concerning the Holy Spirit:
John 14:16-17 (NASB95)
16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
Jesus sometimes told His disciples that they knew things when they did not know that they knew them. In this case Jesus’ words are also informative to us regarding the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. The disciples knew the Holy Spirit because He was in Jesus and Jesus was with them. Therefore Jesus taught that they knew the Holy Spirit because He was with them when this was spoken and that the Holy Spirit would be in them [ on the day of Pentecost]. This is enlightening to us if we realize that without an intimate relationship with Jesus , without spending time in His presence and seeking His face as His disciples did, we will not realize the promised power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Another text would also bear evidence of this thought concerning the preparation for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. God chose to reveal the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles using Peter as His instrument to confirm that His work in the home of Cornelius was the same work that He had performed at Pentecost for the Jews. Let’s focus our magnifying instrument for a moment on Cornelius, a Roman soldier.
Acts 10:1-2 (NASB95)
1 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort,
2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. ( emphasis added)
Moses provides an excellent example in our dispute between planning and listening. Moses is arguably the greatest leader in the history of God’s interaction with mankind. Moses did not plan the work of God. He listened. His primary activity seemed to be to seek the face of God, listen carefully and trust in God’s plan. He did challenge God’s plan on one occasion based on his God centered focus on God’s reputation and His glory. But God decided when they were to move out and how long they were to stay. God decided the route they were to take. It was God Who told Moses how to get water for the thirsty Hebrews and it was God who instructed Moses in the means to solve the problem of bitter water. Have you seen any bitter water lately?
When we become mentally absorbed in planning and in our plans, we tend to become blind to the imperative step of seeking the face of God. We rather usually pray for God to bless our plans. Planning tends toward a self –focus, whereas listening for the voice of God is by definition God focused. Are there areas in your life where you can supplant your planning with listening for the plan of God?
Listening to the voice of God also brings us to the place where we can have absolute assurance that our prayers will be answered. Jesus promised that if we ask anything according to God’s will, we will have affirmative answers to our prayers [if we abide in Him and His words abide in us]. When we hear what is on the heart of God and lift up these things as petitions to Him in prayer we are praying prayers that are in heaven already answered! Not necessarily immediately, or in our time frame, but in reality, the reality that the promises of God cannot be broken. God gave us clear direction in 2 Chronicles 7:14. He said if we would humble ourselves, and pray and seek the face of God and turn from our wicked ways then He would hear from heaven and forgive our sins and heal our land.
Oh what precious power and wisdom and peace reside in the presence of God, the rightful preparation for the work of God’s Holy Spirit in our walk and through our prayers!