Tag Archives: surrender

How Can I See God’s Glory?

How many times have you argued with God about events in your life, those things that God seemed to do wrong? Perhaps things at work did not go as you wanted; the promotion did not come through as expected; or you served on a committee and the committee just would not see it your way?

Remember Jonah when God told him to go to Nineveh? He did not want Nineveh to repent. Jonah wanted God to do it his way.

Or, how about Cain? He made an offering of the fruit he had grown and he thought God should accept, but God did not accept it because it was not what God required.

Or, the rich young ruler that came to see Jesus about eternal life? He kept the law and lived an upright life but he accumulated wealth that he did not want to share. He went away sad because Jesus wanted him to get rid of his wealth.

Or, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? They wanted to do things their way and not the way God told them. And when they had  sinned and saw they were naked, they covered their nakedness with leaves but God covered it with the skin of a sacrificed animal.

Human nature wants us to be in control of everything. Society pushed the idea of controlling our future; we should have whatever makes us happy or famous. But God wants us to develop self-control. In other words, God wants us to control our behavior and not the behavior of other people or circumstances.

John 11:32-44  is an illustration of what was going to happen in the life of Jesus. Jesus was going to die, then be raised again from the dead. Jesus wanted to show his glory to Mary.

Jesus could have kept Lazarus from dying, just as God could have kept Jesus from dying. However, because of God’s love for us, Jesus had to die. The penalty for sin has always been death.

Can we identify with Mary in this text? Mary was upset with Jesus for not coming sooner. If Jesus had been there, he could have kept her brother from dying. She wanted it her own way.

Even the mourners that were with Mary commented that Jesus was able to heal people, surely he could prevent death. They wanted it their way.

Jesus however, wanted to show Mary the Glory of God, but Mary was reluctant to allow Jesus to show her. Jesus wanted to show Mary that God had a plan for eternal life, a life after our earthly body dies. Mary said: “..by this time there is a bad odor…” Mary was more concerned about Jesus not being there in time to save Lazarus, than she was about seeing God’s glory.

Sometimes we are more concerned about what God did not do for us than we are in seeing what He is doing for us.

How can we see God’s glory in our life? For us to see God’s glory, we need to do what Mary had to do. We need to see it God’s way rather than our own way.

John tells us about a time when Lazarus died. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus and was the brother of Mary. When he passed away, word was sent to Jesus about his death. However, Jesus waited four days before going to Bethany where Mary and Lazarus lived.

When Jesus did go to Bethany, Mary was very upset with him for waiting so long to come. Jesus wanted to show Mary the “glory of God”, but Mary was more concerned about having her own way.

The story goes like this:

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:32-44(NIV)

In this passage, there are seven statements that Jesus made that helped Mary see God’s glory. These seven statements can also help us see God’s glory.

  1. “Where have you laid him?” (v 34) Jesus wanted to know where Lazarus was buried. He wanted to know where Mary had placed her anxiety regarding Lazarus. Likewise, Jesus wants to know where we have placed those things that bother us or hinder our Christian walk. He wants to take our anxiety away. He wants to know where our anxiety is because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.)
  2.  “Take away the stone” (v 39) For Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead,  needed to have access to Lazarus. Jesus needed access to Mary’s anxiety. For us to see the glory of God, we also need to give Jesus access to our anxiety. He will not force us to give our anxiety to him. He will not force us to go against our will because He loves us and has given us the ability to make decisions. God does not want to control us like a person would control a puppet.
  3. “…if you believe…” (v.40). Jesus tells Mary that if she believed, she would see the Glory of God. Jesus also wants us to believe in him and the power that God has given him. We can have all the knowledge of God and His word, but unless we believe, we will not see God’s glory.
  4. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (v 41) Jesus was talking to God and thanking God for hearing his prayer. Jesus is demonstrating the importance of the communion between Him and His Father. Jesus is recognizing that he can raise Lazarus from the dead only if the Father grants him permission. (You will notice that Lazarus was still dead at this point. Jesus wants us to thank God for what He is going to do and to recognize where his power comes fromeven before he gets the results. We too need to give God the credit for what he is going to do to our anxiety.)
  5. Lazarus, come out” (v.43). Jesus, believing that God answered his prayer and Lazarus was going to live again. Jesus was also illustrating what would happen to him in the near future. He was going to die and be raised again. Just as God took control of Lazarus’s death and resurrection, he was going to take control of Jesus death and resurrection. Likewise, God can take control of our anxiety. We will see God’s glory.
  6. “Take off the grave clothes…” (v.44) When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was still bound by the grave clothes. Unless Lazarus was freed from the grave clothes, he was not free from the consequences of his death.   When God takes our anxiety away, He wants us to rid ourselves of our sinful nature. He does not want us to be controlled by our sinful nature — our grave clothes. He wants us to be controlled by our faith in Him.
  7.  “… and let him go.” (v.43) Jesus wants Lazarus freed from the grave clothes that are binding him. Jesus also wants us to be free from our old nature. Jesus wants us to be freed from our old nature and to live lives filled with the Holy Spirit. He wants us to have an abundant life filled with His glory.

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20(NIV)

God is asking us to look for His glory and not our glory.

In summary, here are the seven steps to help us see God’s glory:

  1. Identify our anxiety – (or anything that prevent us from seeing God’s glory.)
  2. Give it to God
  3. Believe that He will remove it
  4. Thank Him for removing it
  5. Surrender to His Lordship
  6. Crucify the Old Nature
  7. Celebrate God’s glory by being filled with the spirit

 Our anxiety can be anything that prevents us from seeing God’s glory. It can be selfishness, as was the case of Mary. She wanted Jesus to things her way. It could also be anger, control, worry, self-pity, business, or any other situation that make your blood pressure rise. Whatever your situation is, God wants to show you his glory. Following these seven steps will help you see the glory of God.

 

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com.

Who is Controlling the Church?

While reading Dr. Ron Welch’s book: The Controlling Husband, I was reminded of some of the churches I have the opportunity to visit, observe, or read about. Ideally, our churches belong to God.  He is the one who should be in charge of our churches, in the same way that He should be in charge of our marriages.

In Dr. Welch’s book he tells about three major keys to control: Intimidation, Narcissism, and Selfishness. How do these keys play out in the church? Intimidation can take on two different forms: violence and physical actions. In a church, we may hear statements like: “If the preacher don’t stop medaling, I am taking my money to another church.”;  “If they don’t put that little table that my Great great aunt donated 70 years ago, back in the foyer I am taking the table and leaving the church.”; or “I donated a lot of money to this church, I should be able to say what goes on here.”; Etc. These statements are merely intimidation in an effort to control the church. When money or furniture is donated to a church, it should be given to God. Once it is given to God, it is no longer ours to control! If we give to the church with the intent of controlling the church activities, then we really haven’t given the donation to God. We have merely invested it in our own fleshly desire; we have given it so we can be comfortable in church. How can we give gifts to God and not let God run the church?  Malachi 3:8-10(NIV) says:

 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Giving to God should not be taken lightly. When we try to control the church with our money, we are keeping control of how that money is used. This is the very same problem that Ananias and Sapphira had in Acts 5. They promised to give God all the money they received from selling some property. After they sold the property, they decided to keep control of some of the money. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 5:2(NIV). As a result of this action, both Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead! When we fail to surrender our tithe and offerings completely to God, we become dead spiritually. We do not trust God with our donations. We want to control what happens in church. We are following our own fleshly desires. When enough people fail to surrender their tithe and offerings to God, the church will become dead. It will be of no value to God! It is simply a place where people have invested their money in an effort to appease their guilty conscience regarding their giving to God. It becomes a place where, through intimidation you force people to have the exact same beliefs that you have regardless of what God says. Another way of controlling the church is with our voices. We dominate the discussions of the governing body of the church. We raise our voices if someone opposes us; we cut off their comments without hearing what they have to say. In fact, I have seen people send threatening emails to the people who oppose their ideas or actions. Some church members use manipulation to control the church. They befriend the pastor or church leader so they can control the message that the pastor has for them. They threaten to withhold something if the message is not what they want to hear.  They may even try to bring other people into the church to help the control how the church is run. They vote for church leaders based on how they will operate the church. They are not interested in choosing people who are try to do what God wants done in church. In fact in many cases, they don’t want God to control the church. Rather than controlling the church, our emphasis should be on reaching unity and maturity in Christ. We should be building up others rather than ourselves. God made His grace available to everyone, not just us. Listen to what Paul said to the Ephesians in chapter 4 regarding what we should be doing in church:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:2-7,11-13(NIV)

Rather than control the church, we should follow Paul’s advice and work to build up each other so we may have unity in Christ. NOTE: Scripture used in this blog were downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com

The Unpardonable Sin

Frequently as Christians, we try to make a point about someone else’s sin. To do that we frequently say that the person that does … has committed ‘the unpardonable sin’

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32(NIV)

The Bible makes it clear that sin is sin. there are no first degree sins, second degree sins, third degree sins, etc. We can group sins into various categories but the consequences of sin are the same for each category.

Henry Brandt & Kerry L. Skinner in their book: The Heart of the Problem, (page 73) group sin into four categories which are helpful in understanding our sin. Sin can be committed in our mind, our emotions, our mouth, and our behavior.

1 John 3:15(NIV) says:

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

In this verse we see ‘hate’ would take place in our emotions and ‘murder’ would take place in our behavior. You see, both hate and murder are sin but they take place in different parts of our body. The consequence is the same. They are sin.

Going back to the passage in Matthew 12:31, we see that sin of every kind can be forgiven, except blasphemy against the Spirit.. And in verse 32 we find an explanation of ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’. It is when a person speaks against the Holy Spirit. This is a very strong statement! In other words, it is the failure to accept the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the failure to act on the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding our sinful nature. It is our desire to make ourselves out to be God. God will never force us to become Christians against our own wishes.

Often as Christians we attempt to deal with the symptoms of sin rather than the sin itself. Sin is simply living for our own fleshly desires. The symptoms of living for our fleshly desires are found in Galatians 5:19-21:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21(NIV)

 

When we reject the Holy Spirit,  we live our lives according to our fleshly desires. Our fleshly desires will cause us to perform these sinful acts. If we continue doing sinful acts, (continually reject the working of the Holy Spirit) we will not go to heaven.

There is one other qualifier regarding the unpardonable sin. Committing the unpardonable sin is a deliberate rejection of the Holy Spirit. To reject the Holy Spirit, we must be aware of what God did for us when He gave His Son for a sin offering for our sin.  Committing the unpardonable sin doesn’t take place by accident.

17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17(NIV)

We cannot replace our sinful acts in our own strength.  We must surrender these sinful acts to God so that the Holy Spirit can give us the power to replace them with spiritual acts, the acts we will perform if we are surrendered to the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26(NIV)

God illustrates this principle in the lives of Adam and Eve. In Genesis, when God talked about creating the animals, including mankind, He said that man was made in God’s image. From man, he made woman. Then God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

When he placed them in the garden, he also gave them instructions not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. They were obedient to God’s instructions until Satan came into the picture. He convinced them that they could be like God if they ate the fruit. So Eve ate of the fruit and gave some to Adam also. Their desire was to become like God.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-4(NIV)

Immediately they realized they were naked. When God came looking for them, they hid themselves. When God found them, He knew what they had done. He explained the consequence of what they had done, then barred them from the Garden of Eden so they would not eat of the tree that would cause them to live forever.

 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:21-24(NIV)

You see, when man tries to make himself like God by placing his personal desires above those of God, he is banned from experiencing eternal life in heaven. Likewise, Adam and Eve were banned from spending eternity with God in Garden of Eden when they put their desires above God’s.

Every person has two options in life. They can either surrender their lives to God, or they can surrender their lives to self. When they surrender to God, we call them ‘Christians’. When they surrender to their fleshly desires, they commit an unpardonable sin and are call  ‘sinners’.

However, becoming a Christian, does not make us perfect. Christians will have those weaknesses that cause them to perform sinful acts but when the Holy Spirit convicts them of those sinful acts, they will turn from their sinful ways and willingly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.