“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land. (Isaiah 6:9-10,13)
The first verse here, from Isaiah 6, describes those who walk blindly through the darkness of this world. They have access to the holiness of God but refuse to let it penetrate their heart and cause changes that lead to sanctification. They miss the fullness they have access to in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. The biggest hindrance is people’s refusal to submit to God bigger purpose for His people. They can’t imagine that they are not the center of His movements in this world. The thought of suffering or becoming a servant leave them seeking gratification in their own way. The constant struggle against the pull of their hearts toward their Father cause them to become calloused so that the desire for God becomes dull. They fall into the trap of putting their desires over those of God. God desires that submission to Him and a deep relationship rooted ion love would lead our desires to become His desires.
The voice of God becomes drown out in the business associated with self-servitude and self-gratification. The calloused heart isn’t the pliable vessel where the Holy Spirit is meant to thrive and shine forth the light of God through His children. When a person wrapped in the cords of the enemy comes to the end of themselves, they are then in a position to receive the greater gifts of God. Their eyes can then see, ears can then hear, and hearts can then receive the power found in Jesus Christ through their weakness. They can then turn to the faithful Father who stands patiently waiting for His children so that none may parish.
The second verse above talks about the holy seed of God. In this case it refers to the remnant that God uses to carry His glory through time even as the people turn away with callused hearts. I think of this as the holy seed found in every person that we refer to as a conscience. God speaks into our spirit and writes His moral code upon mankind made in His image. Even in a calloused condition the draw toward God, the empty place we look to fill with lesser things, still causes us hardship and struggle. Acknowledge the holy seed that pulls at you when God isn’t first place in your life. Never let your heart become so calloused that the Holy Spirit cannot shine through your life. Refuse to let yourself be ruled by your fleshly desires. Be restored to, submitted to and led by your Heavenly Father so that your life finds the purpose and joy for which it was created.
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matthew 8:14-15)
In the passage that inspired this message we see Jesus heal Peter’s mother-in-law from her illness. Taken in a larger and God revealing context we see our Lord healing her from the effects of her illness in the same we Jesus, as our Savior, heals us from the effects of our sin. He takes away her fever in the same way He takes away our death from sin. In the same way she was raised, we are also raised to eternal life through Jesus.
When she was raised her first reaction was to serve her healer. This is a message to believers that we are called into servanthood when we accept that Jesus gave His life to redeem ours. We are not called to serve out of obligation but out of love. When we can truly understand what we have been saved from, and experience the life that we have access to, we should look to serve the purpose God created us for. We should seek the purpose that Christ’s sacrifice has called us to.
God’s grace has called us out of the darkness of this world, not because we deserve it, but because His love and mercy have been bestowed upon us. Only through God’s grace and the sacrifice of His Son have you been called to Him and redeemed from your sin. You have been called for a purpose. That purpose is found in submission to your Heavenly Father. As we submit to God we are called to serve His kingdom. We are called to serve others.
Develop a spirit of gratitude as you seek true appreciation of what you have been given from a gracious and faithful God. Let your love grow along with your relationship to the Father. Share the love God has for you with others through selfless servanthood.
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
O LORD, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds (Psalm 116:16)
As Christians we are called to live our life in obedience to Christ our Savior. A life lived in submission to Jesus produces spiritual fruit in the believer. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Many believers know that a genuine walk with the Lord shows through in that person’s life. They’ve seen people who know the Lord and know what that looks like as it contrasts with the fallen world.
Many people fall into a cycle of trying to rid themselves of the fallenness in their hearts hoping that cleaning up their life will produce Christian maturity. The problem is they are using their flesh to control their flesh. That is contradictory to God’s design. Trying to control a spiritual process leads to self-reliance and pride. We must remember that the acceptance of Christ comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling gives us the ability to mature in the truth given by God’s Word and displayed in Jesus Christ. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26) Indwelling of God’s Spirit creates an inward change in our hearts which develops into an outward manifestation in our lives. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
What we must be sure to understand is: simply trying to correct sin in our lives is futile. What good is there in attacking our sinful nature with a flesh that is also sinful? We must allow the sinfulness in our hearts to be replaced by the Holy Spirit of God. We must allow the darkness of sin to be forced out by the light of God. Just like cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light; sin is the absence of submission to God’s presence in us. The only way to drive air out of a cup is to fill it with water. In this case it is the living water found through Jesus Christ. Focus in being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting. This will give you the ability to live a life where sin and its penalty (death) have no hold over you.
The verse below talks about sin returning to a heart it has been removed from. When that heart isn’t filled with the good of God the sin has a place to return to. Think of addictions. When good habits aren’t developed the bad ones have a foothold to reoccur. The same is true with sin in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart and leave no room for the deceiver to pull you away from the Father.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)
Many people come to Christ and dive into trying to be good. They imitate what they think a Christian should do and end up disappointed and exhausted in their effort. The yoke of Christ is light. He bore the burden of our sin and sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper to continue our growth and maturity. When we try to walk in our own strength we end up burned out and wondering where the peace and joy is. It is impossible to control your flesh with your flesh. Even if it were possible you would not be walking with God, you would still be alone. God didn’t send His Son to reconcile you to Him and then allow you to walk alone.
Our job is to deny our flesh, turn from our sin and allow the Holy Spirit to create genuine and lasting change in us. God looks to break down our flesh and let His Spirit guide us in our walk. If we try to imitate godly attributes by ‘being good Christians’ God still has to break down those human imitations so that His Spirit can instill the eternal ones. Man-made attributes are motivated by man’s will and not the Spirit. Even at their best, which is broken, they build up man instead of glorifying God. God will not let His children settle for lesser gifts, He knows His Spirit is necessary for the relationship He desires. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.
Spend time daily with God in submission to His will and the correction of His Holy Spirit. Be led by the Spirit to lasting, eternal change in your spirit. It takes longer because it’s genuine. After experiencing the process, you will see changes to your heart that you were not even aware needed attention. Then you will experience the lasting changes of God that are accompanied by the peace and joy promised in Jesus Christ.
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:5-6)
It is rare that we are exposed to preaching and writings that focus on the schemes of the deceiver. I agree that the love of God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the most important message by far; but the enemy of God’s love must be acknowledged. Thinking about an entity and his army trying to draw you away from God can be terrifying. As with all things, perspective makes all the difference. It is inevitable that a walk with the Lord will be met with equal opposition. If you don’t feel the opposition of the devil you might be walking in the direction he wants for you. If you don’t feel his opposition you may not pose a threat to his plan to destroy God’s reconciliation with His creation.
The closer you get to God the more the deceiver looks for a way to hinder your progress. You could get discouraged by this, or be prepared and wear his attacks as a badge of honor. You can know ahead of time that the deceiver wants you to fail and use the power you have in your Savior to walk in victory. Better than that, you can use satan’s prideful attempts to trip you to grow!
The deceiver will use earthly desires and pride to tempt you to settle for something far less than what God has for you. When he shoots the flaming arrows of Ephesians 6, use your shield to defend yourself and acknowledge where the devil was trying to hurt you.
Let his attempts to hurt you reveal the weakness he perceives in you. When you are attacked stand secure in what God has promised you and let the deceiver point out the weak points in your armor. If he continues to aim at a certain place, he is just showing you wear your armor might be weak. Let your walk with God strengthen that part of your armor. Most of the time the deceiver will use your pride to draw you away. Not a chest pounding pride but the pride that makes you feel that you can do anything without God, the pride of self-sufficiency or self-focus.
When you feel drawn away or beat down in your walk with the Lord, identify what weakness the deceiver is looking to exploit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that weakness. Ask God to give you His power to grow in that area, closer to His grace and love. After having God’s view of the deceiver’s feeble attempts to hurt you, you will gain experience and get better at seeing the new ways he comes against you. Each new angle gives you another chance to grow closer to God and stronger in His Spirit.
As satan’s pride causes him to battle in vain to win a battle we know He loses in the end, use his pride to destroy yours. As the devil’s pride attacks, yours will fall away when you draw closer to God. Your self-reliance will fall to pieces and God’s indwelling Spirit will shine through in your maturity. Use the devil as a stepping stone. Each new stone lets you raise higher. As long as the hatred of the devil comes against us, we have another way to perceive our weaknesses. Now we can let the Holy Spirit work in us so that we are stronger in battle and closer to our Father.
It’s amazing how many parallels can be drawn for the discipline of heath and that of faith. Even non-believers can identify with the struggles of dieting. I was confronted with a comparison I wanted to share that uses this relatable metaphor. We have a choice when dieting: do the easy things that don’t allow our lives or health to change or make changes that come with work and temporary discomfort but lead to amazing changes.
Most people fall off the diet wagon as they struggle to break out of an easy routine. The excuses grow just like their blood pressure and waistline. The easy thing to do is to grab fast food and relax after a long day. It’s easier to avoid the effort of cooking real food. Sure, all of the chemicals in the food leave you feeling satisfied as your body panics and can’t decide what to do with them. The result is disease, sluggishness, and a suffering physical appearance. If by some chance a few changes are made, consistency and patience suffer as the results don’t come fast enough. We should be able to erase decades of damage in a month right? This is a representation of a suffering spiritual life. The easy thing to do is ignore God in order to keep the illusion of control over your life. We grab worldly comforts that sooth us as we fall deeper into the darkness of an unhealthy spirit. We spend free time filling our minds with garbage from TV, internet and social media. With the lack of good things going into our minds it’s no wonder only garbage is available to come out. Then in a moment of desperation in the darkness someone prays for relief but will quickly fall away into self-reliance when the pain is past. They aren’t willing to take the step required for real change. That would involve giving up control and relying on the Creator of the universe.
In contrast we have people who are devoted to their health. They maintain a healthy diet they prepare in advance and have a plan on how their path will proceed. The result is a metabolism that is ready to use the good input to rebuild in the best way. This metabolism causes a hunger that requires for healthy input for continued improvement. The good input creates a good inside where the best output is attained. The result is a healthy heart, more energy and a better external appearance that draws less healthy people to your example. This as a representation of our spiritual life is a hunger for God’s Word that grows with the fruit it produces in your life. The plan to study the Word of God and to let what it says change how you let the Spirit work in your heart is the most important step. As the believer continues to grow in the Word and the Holy Spirit they are changed for the inside as their spiritual health improves. The outward manifestation is obvious to people who continue to be lost in their effortless walk.
We should choose to be spiritually healthy and let that stand as an example to the lost of this world. It’s not a single prayer in desperation (healthy meal) that changes things. It’s a life devoted to God and what He has for us. It requires patience for gradual change to manifest. Just like a month of effort won’t undo years of neglect, don’t shortcut the process of God to grow a spirit inside you that will change your life and motivate those around you to follow your lead and that of your Savior.
Dear Heavenly Father,
How mighty, infinite and holy is Your name. I humble myself in the idea that You are above all things and beyond what I could ever comprehend. Never let me put You in a box. Allow me to see You at work in all things. Please reveal more of You to me every day. Let me rest in this thirst that can only be quenched by You. May it never be quenched until the day I join You in eternity. Please give me the wisdom to see things from Your vantage, the discernment to see Your work and determine Your will from anything else. Guide my steps as I hold Your right hand. Make me strong in my weakness, wise in my ignorance, joyful in my struggles, and faithful in my doubt. Be the only provision I need and the foundation on which I stand. Let me seek You first always so that it is always You that I fall upon. Allow me to be closer to You every day as I sit at Your feet, growing in faith and righteousness. Draw close to me as I draw close to You so that I may be filled with Your love and grace. Let Your praise always be the first on my lips. I submit to your will and ask that you shape me like clay so that I may be fit for the purpose I was created for. Thank You for calling me out of the darkness and choosing me to be a child of the living God as I walk in the salvation and sanctification available only through my Savior Jesus Christ. It’s in His precious and holy name I pray.
Amen, Amen and Amen