The Christian life is all about transformation…redemption that frees captive souls. The Cross is the dividing line. Jesus completed the Work and says, “It is finished.” Our choice is this:
Do we live on the earthly side..choosing to take responsibility for making ‘it’ happen
Do we live on the eternal side…choosing to live in Christ knowing it is done?
The steps will often look the same. We walk out faith in the earthly realm…but the substance of life is actually unseen. The experience will be amazingly different…and the results worlds apart. That sounds like you are about to read a simple 1,2,3 process, doesn’t it. I wish.
Do you know the old saying: Those who can do and those who can’t, teach?
Folks often tell me that God designed me to be a teacher…and in light of the above phrase, I agree. I’d rather teach this than live it. I believe it is Truth straight from the Word of God…and I will show you that. The earthly Truth is that taking this from Head to Feet involves struggle, muscle building–possibly some muscle tears and real tears. The choices that lead to change are hard work. I don’t do it perfectly; knowing it is easier than living it. Faith is what pleases our awesome God, so let’s press in!
BUT FIRST: This is much longer than I typically post. If there is too much as you begin to read through and you would like to receive this in PDF, comment below before you leave the page :).
GOALS & OBJECTIVES
Unless you are grant writer, you probably think goals and objectives are synonymous. Let’s split them up, though. Think of Goals as the BIG THINGS and Objectives as the map to arrive at the goal. As a Christian, the GOALS our lives are orchestrated to accomplish are the GOALS GOD sets. We often set objectives and confuse them with goals. That is one source of great unrest and clouds of confusion. God’s goals aim at connecting us to Him and giving us abundant life. When we live amiss from His goals, He lets the consequences of our choices drive us back to Him.
When we accept Christ as our Redeemer, we also accept Him as Lord–even though we don’t understand all that that means. God knows and guides us through life to achieve understanding and know Him more. He will design our circumstances to accomplish His will (often in spite of us). God has designed each of us in a unique way and prepared good works for us to do in Christ (Ephesians 2:10), and those purposes will be accomplished wherever we are and whatever we do as WE CHOOSE to do them in Christ. When we don’t choose well, He will hem us in with the consequences until we do.
A myriad of books exist that guide us on how to live in Christ. We know many of the verses that point us to this goal.
‘The old is passed, the new is come…’
‘Such were some of you…but I say live by the Spirit…’
My church uses a saying that pierces my heart: “Dead men don’t feel the knife.” I still feel the knife sometimes…there are places in my life that I still live in the flesh. Praise God, He will not leave me there. He will bring me to a point of choice…and He will love me through to making the right choice.
Recently, God led me to an old-fashioned filter for my choices that I will share with you. You already know it: the 10 Commandments. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the pure, living embodiment of the commandments. To live IN CHRIST, I must make choices based on the Law. So here’s what that looks like in my mind.
Worship God. Seek to see and slay all competitors. Honor the character of God: His loving authority & power. THEN, in the earthly realm: Honor life and the family heritage you received and build AND the heritage of others. Speak truth (with words & actions). Contentedly rejoice in His presence.
The challenge with that filter is that we can easily rationalize our choices to fit…but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Rationalizations are in the head. Faith is evidenced in our feet and in our heart. If the sweet fruit of the Spirit is not filling our heart, the journey from head to heart is still underway. Do you remember the fruit?
CHOOSING GOD’S GOALS
When I allow the LAW — or Jesus Christ — to filter my choices, I move toward God’s GOALS. 1 Peter Chapter 1 outlines the awesome inheritance we have received but 2 Peter Chapter 1 helps us grow into that inheritance:
Fruitful Growth in the Faith
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
The fruitful growth of our faith IS God’s goal. Digging into this passage unveils the journey our right choices take us upon. Diligence is doing. Faith is a free gift but there is work to be done on earth. We must act upon our faith. Understanding does not come until we act in faith. Do you recall the priests who carried the Ark into the Promised Land? They had to cross the river Jordan when it was at flood stage. Fruitful faith requires us to step into the waters that exceed our ability–and threaten what we love.
That type of active faith requires that our mind be under the control of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us we have the Mind of Christ…but we must surrender to it. Our ‘self’ must be under control and not driving our life. That takes us back to the ‘dead men don’t feel the knife’ truth. We often believe we have given God control…life reveals where we have been deceived!
Allowing the Spirit to control our lives demands patience. The definition of the Greek Word for patience reveals why we all struggle with it: willingness to suffer long. The demand for immediate gratification is the hallmark of immaturity. Patience is a fruit of the spirit; we don’t drum it up or push out the fruit from our natural self. It is a by-product of God’s nature within us.
And then we reach the beautiful awareness of God Himself. God is the goal of our lives…knowing Him IS life. Only then do we move onto phileo love–caring about the concerns of others. We often think we care about others naturally…but our love is impure until it flows from the love of God Himself. The pinnacle of our faith is true unity with the Father in agape love. It is not an easy journey. Jesus opens the door but walking out faith in the dusty roads of life isn’t reclining on a beach or having everything go your way. The life of Christ readily reveals that view was not His reality…and it is not ours.
This beautiful progression of fruitful growth has a distorted mirror image. There is a chilling truth spoken by those who worship Satan. The phrase ‘As above, so below’ is part of their belief. Romans 1 shows the horrific reflection created by choosing against Christ.
|CHOICES FOR GOD (2 Peter 1)||CHOICES AGAINST GOD (Romans 1)|
|Doing – God’s way w/diligence that leads to freedom||Doing – my way w/diligence that leads to captivity|
|Understanding what God is aiming to achieve||Refusing to think on what God wants|
|Self under control||Self-controlled|
|Patience – willing to endure suffering||Prideful darkened heart pushing for self|
|Life giving knowledge of God||Life sucking demands of idols|
|Phileo love – concern for others||Consumed by lust of flesh|
|Agape love – union with God||Wrath of God – separation from life; death|
Satan is a deceptive angel. He is powerful. Each step away from Choosing God creates greater captivity. The work of walking in faith increases…but Jesus overcame the world. He offers victory. No one is separated from the love of God without hope. Change is possible.
TOOLS FOR CHANGE
The opening verses of the 2 Peter passage give the hope that is needed:
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
Jesus provides all we need but we have to work out what He has put within. Part of being designed by God as a teacher is being designed as a learner. I love to learn and have identified some things I need to truly grab hold of new concepts and allow them to become part of my very being. Before I share these with you, one of the most powerful truths I know about transformational change comes from Romans 13:14: “…make no provision for the flesh…” Knowing our weaknesses and acting accordingly is wise. Beyond that some of the things I need for change are:
I need a reason, a motivation to move beyond where I am at.
I need a vision of where God is going or what He is desiring to accomplish.
I need role models who show me what that vision looks like in this world.
I need focus that exceeds the distractions sure to come and that requires discipline.
I need time … to see, understand and practice.
I need lots of practice!
I need encouragement and tools to help me until my strength develops into the change.
I need to share with others because that is the greatest tool for growing stronger.