30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. (John 12:30)
Many times as we read the gospels, where Jesus is walking among the people, he says something similar to the quote above. Lazarus died so that God could reveal Himself through Jesus to the people. The quote above was when Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross and God audibly confirmed that His name has been glorified through the Son. God speaks out loud as Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan so that people would hear. We can think about the fact that any time Jesus prayed out loud to the Father it was for the sake of those who were witnessing it. He was part of the trinity, He is God, so any audible prayer was said so that you could hear what a perfect heart sounds like in communication with its creator.
Now think about the times that Jesus did things for the people’s sake and they would or could not comprehend it. He was indignant as He went to the tomb of Lazarus to raise him because the people could not understand. They cried because they could not comprehend that ‘the Resurrection’ was walking in their midst. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Now imagine how His heart must have ached knowing that He was going to go to the cross to be crucified for a world that did not understand. Even His followers could not comprehend the way the events were unfolding at that time. Jesus went to the cross for our sins willingly but imagine His hurt when He was unable to help them understand. He did all thing for their sake even though they could not receive the message.
We are called to be the image bearers of Jesus and to be witnesses to His life and message. Do you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the lost? Do you take the extra steps to allow the spiritually immature to draw closer to understanding through you? We are called to live not for ourselves but for the Kingdom. That command sounds very big and might be intimidating since we are saved by a Savior who sacrificed His life literally. We can rest assured that the Spirit of God will make it possible, but also that our obedience to the Kingdom could be as simple as being patient and smiling while we explain the truth of God or being calm and showing the believers who are dependent on milk how to cut their spiritual teeth on the meat of God’s Word. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready (1 Corinthians 3:2) you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12) Take the time to love others for the sake of God’s Kingdom, let that love show even when it’s hard for the sake of the immature or lost, let your heart reflect the light and love of God for your sake as you draw closer to the perfect image of Christ. As you reach out to the world remember the blood poured out for your sake so that you could pour out love for someone else’s.
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)
During a quiet time this verse opened up to me and I’d like to share what I feel this verse is saying. Let’s put ourselves in the position of this woman. She sees Jesus in the flesh professing the truths of God and healing people. She has no doubt He is a great man and great teacher. I hear people that are like minded today believing that a great teacher with a great life philosophy walked around teaching 2000 years ago. They see the truth in His wisdom but can’t move into what He truly brought to earth.
Then there are those who believe in who Jesus was but neglect the relationship with the Father that His death provided. The Bible says that even the demons believe in who Jesus is. In the gospels they refer to Him as the Son of God before He casts them out. Believing that He existed as a great teacher or even believing He was the Son of God doesn’t provide the salvation His blood offers. The woman in the passage above admired and believed in His. She blessed the woman that gave Him life and was grateful for Him. She professed in front of a crowd her admiration for Him.
But let’s look at Jesus’ response. He explains that the true blessing is in the Word He brought to earth. The blessing is in Him as the Word and not a man. Jesus wants us to experience all that is available through Him, not just admire the miracles. Not just who He is, but the fullness of God’s Word manifest through Him. The true blessing comes in walking with the Lord and not just seeing Him walk by. The greatness of God is seen when we follow His lead, submitted to Him, instead of walking ahead and asking Him to catch up when we need Him. While His existence as God in the flesh is important to believe, it’s in the grace and love showed to us through His death that must be experienced to see God’s blessing. Hear God’s word spoken through the lips of the Savior. Follow His example of love and compassion for the lost. Submit to the Father just as the Son did and be filled with the same Spirit that brought Christ out of the grave.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
I was listening to a sermon about spiritual warfare and had a thought about what kind of motive and opportunity the deceiver has to try and derail the walk of God’s children as they sojourn in a world where they are not made to walk. Our dependence on God, to lead us in this foreign place, leaves us vulnerable and leaves the enemy salivating as he prowls looking to devour. As believers we can accept that our Father loves us. He made that clear through His son, our savior, on the cross. He makes it clear again with His grace and mercy. I see the patience of my Heavenly Father as I stumble through this journey. At the same time, we have to recognize that the enemy opposes God in all things. He hates us because we are loved by our Creator. When God blesses us, the deceiver grows frustrated. When we turn our voice and heart to God in prayer, the deceiver is angry in his helplessness against the name of Jesus. A name that will force the devil to flee as we resist his attacks on us because of who we are in Christ.
Have you ever met a person that opposes instruction or advice just because of who said it? They want to cause trouble and make the person giving instruction seem ignorant or wrong. We can benefit when we see this motive in the deceiver, God’s adversary. We have to remember that he is our adversary too, because we are children of God. He doesn’t want to see God’s plan prosper in this family, His kingdom. The devil wants to steal God’s word when He gives it to us. If it can’t be stolen, he wants to manipulate it in order to make us struggle. If the word finds its place, the deceiver will manipulate the things around us to reduce the effectiveness of the word in us. When the Lord is working in us and through us, we will get the attention of the opposition. Count your alliance with God as joy along with the trials that will come in the process.
When we see the method and intent of satan, we can become more effective at receiving God’s word through the bible and through His Spirit. We can develop discernment and become tuned to God’s voice over the deceiver and even over our own. Not only do we need to get better at receiving the word but also more effective at walking in that word. We have to walk in trust with God, growing our faith. We have to rely on God as our refuge and strength. Walking with God creates opposition in our lives. If the deceiver is not against us, we haven’t gotten his attention with our walk and its effectiveness in the kingdom. When we wake each morning with new mercy to face the battle with the devil, find comfort in your certain victory in Christ and in the alliance that brings the adversary of your Father against you His child, His prized possession.
“‘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.
As we grow closer to God we not only grow away from the things of this world we also create a distance from other believers who’s walk is different from ours. It might be that God’s timing or direction for them differs from ours. It is important to support those around us while still seeking our own growth in God through His Spirit. There will be times where people will be unable to support your steps and upward calling. That can be to your advantage in many cases. God guides your steps, lights your path, and is the source of your calling. Your first resource for growth in your spiritual walk should always be the Spirit God has sent to dwell in you. The Holy Spirit should always be the source of your conviction and truth. Allowing the Spirit to be your filter as you seek God through His Word and through Spirit driven sermons means you can receive what the Lord has for you specifically. The living Word of God can speak to you a different way each time you seek guidance through its pages. Allowing the Holy Spirit, which dictated every word, to speak to you with scripture means you can get exactly what you need in your time with the Lord.
There are times when we look around and realize that our walk with God has brought us to a place of unique experience with Him. He speaks to us and grows us in ways that are specific to how He made us. There will not always be someone to share that moment with. It is those times we can take our love and gratitude directly to God, our Source. We can use those moments of revelation to worship and praise Him.
Seeking fellow believers to walk with is God’s desire, but we cannot rely on human counsel as our primary source of revelation and growth. People are fallible where God is not. He designed you and seeks to mature you in His way at His pace. Your growth will drive the right people closer to you and some people away from you. Some of the people who were closest to you in your worldly life will be the furthest from you as your spirit matures. Let God bring people into your life that will develop you through His Spirit. Seek God first and let the Spirit be your counsel.
We are each uniquely design as part of the body of Christ (the Church). He created us and now grows us in different ways to strengthen His Church. Allow God to grow gifts in you that you can bring to grow His Kingdom here on earth. Don’t let people pull you from God’s unique design for you. Make God first and let His light shine forth from you to serve Him and His purpose for your life.
The relationship God desires with His children calls us into the deep and of the metaphorical swimming pool. You can never feel the power of God fully manifesting in your life until you can’t touch the bottom anymore. Your Father is calling you into the deep water where He is your Sustainer and your own provision is exhausted. You either admitted your best attempts are worthless or they have left you empty.
The deep water is where we find spiritual connection with God. We have a heart-felt connection with His love and His Spirit fills us. Our trust and faith have lead us to follow Him into the deep water where our reliance on His will and bigger plan matures our faith and grows us. God has plans for us that exceed our wildest dreams. Those plans are found in the deep waters where He grows our character to receive something we could not handle otherwise. It is through growing closer to Him that we can see His bigger plan and walk in a way that glorifies Him in His provision.
The shallow end of the pool, where most people are too afraid to leave, reflects self-reliance. We feel ok as long as our feet are touching bottom and we perceive that we have any control over what is going to happen. We have a mental connection to God but our reliance on our flesh makes us too heavy to tread water. We find security in our own abilities and the things that the world can provide. We are in danger of missing the plans that God has to grow us. There is also the inevitability that God’s full power will never be able to fully manifest in our lives.
I pray that each of us will seek God in the deep waters. We will allow our water treading muscles to grow. As we rest in God our weight becomes irreverent as we find rest in Him. Our best efforts in life will never compare to what the Lord has for us. Our best will always be incomplete because God is not there with us. If we rely on God and walk the path He has, we will find rest and we can always be sure that His plan is one of completion. Our daily battle to maintain stability will fade away and His peace and joy will fill our hearts as His Spirit overflows from us. Follow God into the deep water and see His glory manifest in and through you.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:17-19)
You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. (Psalm 18:39-40)
Take a moment and read the scriptures above. Think of God as your Deliverer in the first. He rescues you because He delights in you, not because you turned to Him. He brings you into a spacious place where you are no longer bombarded by your present trouble. Now think of God as your Provider and Vindicator in the second. He gives you what you need to battle the darkness of this world and walks before you in battle.
Now read the scriptures again knowing the character of God but this time see that the “foes” and “adversaries” represent your sin and your flesh. Many times, you are your own enemy as your flesh battles the spirit that is put inside you when you accept Christ as your Savior. Many times, God has to rescue you from yourself and give you weapons to battle the sin left in your soul.
We tend to think of our enemies as outward influences but many times we are at odds with ourselves. Our humanity founded in worldly things fights our spirit founded in eternal things. It is when we submit to God and the character shown in His Word above that we have the ability to fight the residual sin found in our flesh. It is when we crucify our flesh daily that the Spirit of God in us can shine forth and lead us to deeper relationship with Him. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God…. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:6-9)