Life is Hard!

I am a strong believer that God uses everything that happens in life to teach us something about Himself if we will just listen to His Spirit and allow Him to instruct us. Then I search God’s Word to see what God has specifically said regarding what the Spirit has impressed upon my mind.

I am a pen turner and I love to work at my lathe. I have learned many things about life as I work at my lathe. Each step of the process in turning a piece of wood or antler into a pen is painful to the material with which I am working. The process includes cutting, drilling, shaping, sanding, polishing, friction, and pressure. But when the process is complete the material has been transformed; it has new beauty, value, and purpose. Something of little value now has greater value, all because it endured a painful process! Life is full of difficulties and it easy to become overwhelmed. But there is a purpose behind each hardship; they are all part of a process to shape and mold us into some of greater value and purpose. My desire in writing this blog is to encourage and maybe stir up some conversation with the lessons that God has been teaching me through the painful process of life. Life is hard, but God is good. May He continue working His process in my life.

If you are going to read any of my posts be sure to ready "Introduction to Lessons from the Lathe". In that post I lay out the basis for all the other blogs.

Friday, May 11, 2012

God can do what we can't do and won't do what we can

Lately God has really been challenging me in some very basic theology and Biblical doctrine. It seems the more that I learn about God through studying His Word; the more I realize how little I know about God. The more I learn about His opinion of sin the more I realize how sinful I am! The more I learn about my inability to do anything to gain favor with God the more thankful I am that He has done all that needs to be done so that I can be restored to the position to which He created me. The more I study God’s Word, the more I learn about Him; the deeper my hunger grows for Him.

Where has this been all my life? There have been times when I look back at my life and wonder, “When did I truly come to know God? When did Christianity stop being a religion that I practice and become a way of life?”  Recently as I taught Sunday school I have lamented, “I am so tire of ‘Christianity’ as we know it!” There is so much more that God has for us than what we have been fed by the modern American church. Please hear me correctly; I love the “Church of God, the Body of Christ.” We need the Church! The Church is Christ Bride; He loves it and gave His life for it. But it is time for Christians to start being more like the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) The church is where we go to be edified and equipped so that we can go out and put to practice the things that we have learned. It is not a restaurant where we go to get our nourishment; we should be getting our nourishment daily as we chew on the Bread of life and abide in the Vine. The church has a role to play in our walk with Christ but church is not our walk with Christ.  

Whoa, I am starting to get a little wound up here and this is not even what I intended to share! Let me get to the issue that God laid on my heart this morning. Here is the opening paragraph from yesterday’s My Utmost for His Highest (I was a day behind in my reading…)

“. . . add to your faith virtue . . . .” 2 Peter 1:5

Add means that we have to do something. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves—God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must “work out” our “own salvation” which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12). Add means that we must get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages that is difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning—to instruct yourself in the way you must go.(Emphasis added)
Chambers, Oswald (2010-10-22). My Utmost for His Highest, Updated Edition (p. 131). Discovery House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There are so many directions that I can take this devotional; God pointed me to a number of topics to meditate on. The most obvious is in what I choose to do with my life. This was my post from Face Book this morning: “I wonder; what am I waiting on God to do for me that He is waiting on me to do myself? There are many times when God tells us to be still and watch Him work; there are also many times God tells us to get busy! ‘Father, grant me your wisdom to know when to wait and when to work.’" My deepest meditation may surprise you though; it is a direction that is not so obvious.
As I said earlier in this post, God has been challenging me in basic theology and doctrine. One of the most basic doctrines is the teaching on salvation. How does a sinner truly become a child of God? Sovereignty of God, free will of man, predestination, election, choice; there is so much confusion.

I can’t say that I even begin to understand how, in the gospel of John, Jesus seems to contradict himself. In John 3:16, he makes salvation sound like it is our choice, “…Whosoever believes…shall have everlasting life.”  Does my choice to believe make me a “whosoever”? If so; it is my choice, my decision, my work; that brings me eternal life. Yet in John 6:44, Jesus says, “…no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me.” God draws them doesn’t sound like a choice to me; it sounds like something that God does. Verse 47 again says, “…anyone who believes has eternal life;” sounds like man’s choice.  And Jesus sums up this sermon in verse 63 saying, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.” It is God’s work, not mine, that gives eternal life.
Getting a head ache yet? I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all that Scripture says on this one subject and it is the most foundational issue of our Christian life! Churches have argued for years over the controversy of election, predestination, and free will. So what is an average Christian, a “layperson” as they say, supposed to do if the “experts” can’t even agree?

This gets to the heart of what I believe that God has been chipping away at in my life; trying desperately to get me to understand. I believe He desires that I stop resting on what the church says, what Christian authors write, what my parents tell me, what my friends say, and the “we have always done it this way mentality;” and begin to go to Him and base my faith on what He tells me. God wants to personally speak to me, instruct me, teach me and train me. Why else has He indwelt me with His Spirit and given me His word? He has invited me to a personal relationship with Him.
 The church is the meeting of people who have a personal relationship with Christ, where they gather for encouragement and edification to deepen their personal walk with Christ. The church, its activities, its teaching, and even its fellowship cannot replace the personal walk without becoming simple “religion”.

Again as I said earlier, I am tired of “Christianity” as I have always known it. I am tired of trying to figure it all out. I tired of trying to get it just right. Pray this prayer, believe these facts, do these things, the list goes on. I’m tired of churches arguing with each other, sometimes over the silliest things. I’m tired of denominations and sects. I’m tired of militant Christians who are no more Christ like than militant Muslims, militant feminists, militant homosexual, and militant anyone I’ve missed. Christ has not called us to be militant but to be Christ like! “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:4-8. Read the passage, and for the matter the context, and it may surprise you what having the “mind of Christ” truly looks like!
So in childlike faith I choose to accept what God’s Word teaches, even though I don’t completely understand it. God says, “All have sinned;” I believe that. God says that “No one seeks after God,” I believe it. God says, “By faith you are save through grace;” I believe that. God says, “Whosoever believes shall have everlasting life;” I believe that as well. I can’t answer or explain the election, predestination, freewill argument; but I don’t get hung up on it anymore either. I have come to the place that I just accept there are some things that only God can do and has done for me and there are things that I can and must do that He won’t do for me. Salvation, Justification, Sanctification, Glorification those are all things that I can leave up to God because I can’t do anything about them. Choosing to believe when the Spirit cries within me “Abba Father,” is up to me. Choosing to believe the Spirit when He “bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God” is my part. It is God’s role to conform me to the image of His Son; it is my role to put off the old man and put on the new! Christ is the vine which supplies all I need for life and fruit bearing.  My job is to abide in Him and allow Him to flow through me to produce the fruit He desires. I have spent too much of my life arguing, trying to figure it out, and working to make it real. I am ready to admit that I don’t know but God does. I accept that God has made me His child and I accept that I am responsible to live like it.

We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do.”  I accept by faith God’s gift of Grace. I am thankful that He has made me His “Masterpiece” and I humbly submit to do the good things He planned for me long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10)