Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quest For More Part 5--God Helps us in Trouble

(Saturday morning session 3--Last Sesssion)

Main point: Our personal holiness, that is accomplished through hardships, is God's purpose for us. Because it is God's purpose, He will not abandon us in His purpose, but will help the trial actually produce the fruit of the spirit in our lives.

Left to ourselves, life's hardships would not produce any holiness in us, but bitterness towards God--an angry fist shaken toward heaven.

The key to allowing each moment in life to produce holiness in us, is understanding who we are in Christ, and reminding ourselves of this in the little moments of life.

No one has as much influence over you--as you do. This means the things that you say to yourself in your head, the things that you believe, are what really control your life, not other people.

As humans, we are constantly measuring our potential, and this can lead to discouragement and a failure to try. If we're measuring our potential by our track record and the size of the problem we're facing, that means we've forgotten who we are.

Galatians 2:17-21
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

The effectiveness of Jesus' work on the cross means that my potential is Christ. For any given trouble I am facing today, be it large or small, I have the ability to allow Christ to live at that moment.

This is where we "influence ourselves." This is where what we believe and understand about our salvation takes over. We don't have the willpower or the strength or the goodness in ourselves to overcome all temptations to vent or to pout or to yell or to give the cold shoulder or to scowl or to roll our eyes or to swear or to stew or do whatever the combination of our sinful personality bent and the particular annoying or obnoxious person or circumstance would usually make.

But with Christ living in me, with me facing something hard and saying to myself: "Wait--it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..." the hardship I am facing suddenly transforms me a little. It suddenly purifies my faith a little, make it a little more sparkly and bright. Realizing that my potential to overcome sinful habits and ruts is Christ Himself, I see that the sky is limitless in how I can change.

But why can't I just hear this message once and never sin again?

Because the refining process is slow. I can say I believe this truth, but living it moment by moment is different. This Tripp can promise us, we will fail in our trials. We will not, from this conference on, always rely on the infinite power of Christ to overcome any temptation.

But the question is: are we slowly, day by day, moment by moment, learning a little more what it means to tap into Christ's power to overcome temptation?

Slow progress may be hard to notice from week to week, but are we less prickly than we were a year ago? Are we less likely to fly off the handle and have a meltdown because of some small circumstance? Are we quicker to repent in our relationships, quicker to see our own faults, than we used to be?

2 Peter 1:8 tells us that it is possible to be a Christian but be unfruitful, unproductive, carnal.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If Peter is instructing us on avoiding unfruitfulness, we can assume that it is possible to be a true Christian, but to not be experiencing new levels of conquering sin.

But if the virtues Peter mentions in verses 6 and 7 are what rules our hearts:
and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

than our responses will be fruitful. We will no longer be thorn bushes, prickly and harsh. We will show love and joy and peace even when things are tough.

Whenever the scriptures speak of God's people being fruitful, it is always referring to the condition of our heart which produces a lovely response. I used to think of fruitful in a more one-dimensional sense. I thought it was synonymous with the word productive, so that a fruitful person would have many outward triumphs to show for his faith. He would be able to point to programs at church, people he had led to Christ, mission boards founded, and other "spiritual accomplishments." But now I understand that the scriptures have a much bigger conquest in mind when they talk of making a person fruitful. You see, a person could do all of those things, and yet still have a wayward heart. The most difficult thing for anyone to change is not his habits and his outward behavior, but his heart.

This is where a willpower religion leads to defeat. Only Christ's power can change the heart. We needed a drastic rescue.

God delivered that rescue. God's greatest gift to me is Himself. By giving me Himself, He is saving me from myself.

Only Christ can change the heart. A changed heart leads to the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Vs. 9 tells us: don't have identity amnesia, it's keeps you from having a mature faith:

9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
It is possible to be a true believer, but to forget in the small moments of life, who you really are, and that your potential to overcome sin, is to have Christ live through you.

And verse 3 tells us what our identity is:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence

"Has granted" is in the past perfect tense, meaning it has continuing significance. This is the "now-ism" of the gospel. Right now, His divine power has granted us all we need to live godly lives. We don't need to look to our past failures to measure our potential. We don't get our identity from sins passed down, any longer. We don't live under psychology diagnoses: passive-aggressive, alcoholic, manic-depressive, obsessive-compulsive, pathological liar, neurotic. We are not bound to more subtle sins either. It is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us.

Our Christian life is a life of repenting of the ways we continue to live by our willpower. It is a life of asking God each day to show us how to allow Christ to live in us. It is telling ourselves constantly that His divine power is always available to us in any trial we face.

The hardships of life are helping us to realize why we feel the ache to be on a quest for more. We ache for more because we long to see God and were created for Him. Nothing in this earth can satisfy us but Him. He gives us trials so that we will have "the holiness without which, no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14)

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

Wow, Leslie, this is so very true and the real substance of what it means to be growing in our faith. It always has to start with allowing God to change our hearts, bit by bit. Thank you, dear one.