By John Jones Christianity.org.nz
True humility is not about what you are, (even in terms of humbleness), but what you aren’t. Even the pursuit of righteousness and humility can be a selfish pursuit of ones own development of closeness to God. What the Lord really wants to do in us is to turn around our self-obsession so that we become truly, deeply ‘others’ focused. God first in our hearts, then those he has created – faith is about leaving our needs to God. This becomes unconscious humility where pride and ambition do not enter because self is never the issue, Christlike in a way ambitious service can never be. Often people of this spirit will not be promoted, but the last shall be first and the first last.
Every aspect of the Christian life is 180 ° from our natural inclination. Breaking our own will, putting ourselves in subjection, being last, being willing to be considered a fool, being subject to all, accepting loss, taking no interest in our own abilities. Not one of our natural thoughts is the right way up. For this reason Christianity, beyond the lightweight and facile, is seldom apprehended.
It was a momentary vision, just a fraction of a second followed by a mental caption. The spirit of my own coveting, a Golem type figure, hunched, grasping, pulling in towards itself. ‘It’s mine, it’s all mine’. Nasty, greedy spirit; though my inner spin presents even to myself its face as rational, just meeting a need. Is this the spirit that is given such free course even amongst Christians? How can it be that in my most revolting covetous moments I feel most ‘normal’?
I don’t know about you but I love true stories. True stories are hugely meaningful to me because these fascinating events really happened. That’s why I loathe the way movies always say ‘based on a true story’. Does that mean it’s all true and they are just covering themselves, or does it mean they made up half of it and it’s only loosely based on a true story? It annoys me watching something where I am never quite sure what is real and what has been added. What about modern Christianity? That too is based on a true story. But which parts are real and which parts are added? Which parts are hot and which parts are cold? Certainly the end results are as lukewarm as they were predicted to be.
The wrong question
It seems on reflection that I am passing through life asking the wrong question. Deep in my psyche I think I am always asking ‘what do I want to do now?’ My whole generation is probably asking the same question. We may consciously do other than the answer to that question in order to meet others expectations, to earn money or do something that consciously we know is important, however we can experience tension and frustration and in our actions because they conflict with the answers to this inner question. What I realized is that I need to work on the inner question. The inner question needs to be ‘What do you want me to do Lord?’ ‘What can I do to help someone else today?’ These are the questions of peace and happiness. What a hard, near impossible thing it is to change though – only by Jesus dwelling in me.
Shortcuts to victory
Why do we look for shortcuts to spiritual victory? Because we love rest. Being in a fight is irksome to us. Therefore we picture a victory where we can be at rest, doing what we want, but with perfectly new desires. Victorious, but not in a struggle. Unfortunately it does not work like that, we have to be on a war footing daily. When we say to ourselves ‘I just want some peace, some rest’ we might as well raise the white flag. We enter into our rest at the physical death of the flesh. In as much as the bible speaks of us entering into our rest at that time it is clear that we are not to expect it now. Still, the joy and peace that often comes to the diligent soldier is a beautiful foretaste of the fullness of that rest.
There is no ‘absolute victory’ that will come in a single battle. Yes you will fall at times, but don’t give up, get up and counterattack – get back in the fight! In this way, though gaining ground at times and losing ground at others, overall you will move forward in your spiritual life and victory of sin. Did Israel ever conquer the whole territory that God promised to them? No, and neither will we conquer the whole promised territory, as with Israel that remains a work to be fulfilled by God.
I need to live the Christian life with the acute awareness that I am always on the brink of turning back, no matter how spiritual I feel or how powerful the work of God is in me. Mans heart is so weak! We are ever tempted to rest and turn back.
We need to examine our own motives carefully. Sometimes we can think that we want to serve God more fully when in fact our true motive is escaping our daily trials. In some cases God’s will is that we patiently work towards victory in our ordinary life. There are times when God may well want to change the circumstances of our life but let these times come from God. More often I believe he is more interested in changing who we are than our circumstances. When we are challenged deeply we should fully receive the challenge, yet remain anchored by any understanding we have of what our particular calling is. Again though, balance is needed, we shouldn’t have too fixed an idea about our calling – we shouldn’t be unwilling to be called away from it if the voice really is God’s.
It is tempting to try and leap from over genuine Christian growth by dedicating ourselves to some “great Christian work” without necessarily yielding everything of self to God. It is harder for the flesh to accept true death to self, loss of status and submission to Christ than it is for the flesh to leap frog this process and become a recognised and dedicated servant (though perhaps partly to ambition and self). The institutional nature of the church tends to encourage this.
So many problems and sins start with “I feel”. I feel like a drink, I feel like catching a movie, or deeper passions and desires. Surely Satan is even more active in our feelings than our thoughts since we are often in a dichotomy between the two. If we are to know Christian victory and joy we must use harsh discipline on ourselves and not allow feelings to prevail over sound thought. I’m not saying this is easy, it comes back to counting the cost.
We can’t revive a nation or church, only ourselves, which happens to be the area we prefer to avoid. True revival is ground up not top down.
Ambition is the antithesis of contentment. Eve lost her contentment when Satan offered her his own ambition to be as God. If we reflect deeply on our own ambition we will often find that it stems from the desire to be more autonomous, or to have something more, or to feel more important or powerful. All of these things are aspects of being more like gods. Ironic that much of this world forgoes the opportunity to become sons of God because they are tempted to be more like gods. Mans highest destiny is pretty much what Satan promises in order to de-rail man from reaching it.
When we allow ourselves to be given over to seeking the things, amusements or pleasures of the world it is as though we become lost in a person that is not really us. Coming out of it we can be distinctly amazed at that sad dry creature we were so short a time before.
It is really worth looking up at the night sky as often as possible. We get so used to our ‘relationship’ with God that our familiarity reduces him in size. But when I look up at the universe stretching across the night sky, then I am afraid and say ‘Lord, you are too great for me’. Then I reflect that if God made this entire Universe he can do anything at all.
A young Christian planning for retirement is a sure sign they have already retired from the front line, if indeed they are even aware of its existence. Better to plan only for eternity even if that results in loss in this life.
In a rut
You are only in as much of a rut as you think you are. Freedom of spirit and joy are attainable in God regardless of circumstances. If you can’t prove this for yourself, how can you teach it to others, and if you can’t teach it to others your ministry is little use to the majority of Christians.
There is a kind of temptation that comes with such strength that it feels as though one is taken captive by its power and cannot muster up the will to resist. We should especially fight this kind of temptation because this feeling is an indicator that the devil has strong footholds in our mind in whatever these areas may be for you – anything from coffee to alcohol to pornography. The only way to fight this kind of temptation is to work out a strategy in advance, some way of turning our attention or situation. With sin in general we must see it as the front line of a war zone. As soon as we conquer one foxhole or stronghold we need to start scouting the next target. We must have an attitude of always being on the offensive, moving forward to conquer more territory. If we have this state of mind, even though we fall back at times, the overall progress will be forwards. If at any stage we think we have overcome sin we will certainly be pushed back by the enemy, whether we realise it or not. And this raises another point; blind spots to sin in our lives give the enemy ample opportunity to trample us underfoot without us even being aware of it. Our modern way of life offers many seemingly innocent opportunities that are nevertheless capturing corners of our heart for the enemy. All of this warfare is tiresome at times, but the rewards of waging it are spiritual freedom, joy and fruitfulness, and that is only naming the rewards in this life.
- Fifty Plus Bible Verses to Hide In Your Heart – Will Change your walk with Jesus! (raymondjclements.wordpress.com)
- Is There a Buddha In Your House? (raymondjclements.wordpress.com)
- The Dynamics of Renewing the Mind (raymondjclements.wordpress.com)