July 6, 2014

Praise Him for His Delivered Promises

Today is a blessed day. I am thanking God for His provision of good in my life. I am living testimony to the fact that the Lord sees and hears us, and that He loves us unconditionally. I shout out His goodness because I have experienced it (and I experience it every day), and I want to give praise to His good name!

As I consider this good day, I cannot but think about my life, and all that has transpired over the past couple years. I am in such a different place today. I am thinking about my life differently, and I am believing that good things are possible. I still struggle with lies, the lies of the enemy, and with feelings of doubt, insecurity, and trust. Yet, God covers me, even in those times when I feel as if my little world is being rocked back and forth. I don't like change, and I resist it whenever it does come upon me. I have learned that change is good, and while it might bring uncertainty for a time, I know that I grow dynamically through each change I experience.

Nothing stays stagnant in life. We are either moving forward or backward. We cannot stand still, no matter how hard we try to keep ourselves fixed in place. We are born and we move toward death (not to be morose or anything). Our days begin and end, and they accumulate over time until we are at our appointed day (Ps. 39:4, Job 14:5-7, Ps. 139). How we choose to live our days, how we choose to view our days is up to us. We can live in sorrow or we can live in joy. The choice is ours.

I was reminded of this fact this morning at church. We had a guest speaker, Lance Rauoff, give a message on living a kingdom focused life. Our church is in crisis, as I have blogged about often, and we currently do not have any teaching Pastors. Pastor Rauoff is the senior pastor at Living Streams church in Arcadia (central Phoenix). He gave a wonderful message, very thought provoking, and challenging spiritually. I have so missed hearing the Word preached this way. I love my church, don't get me wrong. And, I have loved and appreciated each of our pastors. They were all uniquely gifted in ministry, and they each brought their own "style" or flavor to the pulpit. It is just that I miss expository teaching -- teaching line upon line -- something I was used to hearing each Sunday for so many years. Paradise Church has always used a topical approach to messages rather than a teaching through a book of the bible approach. I miss that depth of study, and the exposition of Scripture. Sigh!

Today's message, while not expository in nature, was similar in that it explored one verse in the Bible. Today's message was on Romans 14:17:

ESV: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The bulk of his message was devoted to the second part of this verse (b): [For the Kingdom of God is...] righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

NIV, ESV and NKJV use the would righteousness, which means a legal standing based upon God's reckoning through the provision of Jesus Christ. Scofield says it this way:

Righteousness here [in verse 17], and in the passages which refer to Romans 10:10, means that righteousness of God which is judicially reckoned to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; believers are the righteous.

The message itself focused on three things: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. What was especially good today was that the message suggested, no emphatically stated, that as born-again believers who HAVE the Holy Spirit within already possess everything necessary to live a righteous, peace-filled, and joyful life.

If you are like me, then this is not really news. I have heard it preached so often that the kingdom of God is within us -- meaning that we already have the coming Kingdom here and now because we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside each of use (Luke 17:21). Yes, I agree! I believe this is true!

It was just that today, I needed a good reminder of this fact. I needed to be told, yet once again (Phil. 3:1) that we have everything we need -- we already have the keys to living a good life -- and that it is not a matter of waiting for the right circumstances or a certain person to come into our life for us to experience this power of God.

The subsequent verses used to support Pastor Rauoff's message helped illuminate his point. He referenced the story of Jesus calming the sea (peace), and Jesus sending out the twelve and instructing them to "give their peace" where ever they stayed (and to take it back should they not be welcomed). His point was this: because we have the Holy Spirit of God living within us, we have these three things in our lives. We are wrong to think we have to wait for them to show up -- they are already a part of us -- because He is a part of us. Moreover, if we believe Scripture is true (I do!) then we must agree with what Scripture teaches us about ourselves, our thinking, and our behavior.

In short: if we say we believe God's word, but we listen to lies of the enemy then something is faulty with our belief system. Let me explain...

Pastor Rauoff talked about how often Christian's see themselves post-Christ with a pre-Christ mindset. I do this, and I know better. I grew up in a church that taught that we (all people) were sinners (Rom. 3:23). We all have sinned, and we all have fallen short of the glory of God. Yep, we were lost in our sin, dead in our trespasses, condemned by the penalty of that sin (Rom. 6:23). The truth of this Scripture leads us to the foot of the cross, to redemption, and to salvation. However, once saved, we still (I do at times) see ourselves in that former self, and not as a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). We see ourselves as sinners and not as saints.

I know that our worldview is based on how we identify ourselves with Christ. Often this worldview comes in part from our church's doctrinal teaching (for example, Presbyterians have a different view than say Southern Baptists; likewise, Pentacostals may not see things the same way as Methodists or Lutherans). The church I came to faith in taught both sides: sinner and saint. Yes, saved from sin, sanctified by grace. It was a progressive sanctification - predicated on obedience to God's word. Yes, there was grace, but I had a part to play, and that part included daily reading of my Bible, memorizing Scripture, and refusing to let sin take root. In my church, this teaching on sanctification consisted of three parts: past, progressive, and perfect. Past sanctification occurred when I was saved. Progressive sanctification was the stage of life from post-cross to death. Perfect sanctification was the end result of entering into Glory.

The problem with this teaching, and there are Biblical precedents for it, is that it puts a whole lot of emphasis on me doing work to keep myself sanctified. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect, to not sin, to live a life free from sin. Frankly, I lived this way for a lot of years, and in the end, I gave it up. I couldn't do it. I tried really, really hard, but I always failed and I always felt that God was less than pleased with my poor performance.

Sometime ago, I came to a new understanding of Grace. I studied quite a bit of Reformed theology, and I found the liberation of Grace. I began to see myself in a new way, in a whole way, in a way that said that Christ's death, burial and resurrection freed me completely from everything except the presence of sin (we live, after all in a fallen world). I took the scripture to heart that told me that I was set free, no longer in bondage to sin. I also took the Word that told me that the power within me was greater than the power outside me (1 John 4:4). I embraced a fully powered form of Grace, and I found my life transformed.

After my marriage crumbled, really crumbled, I spent 10 weeks in intensive crisis counseling. I thought I was going to counseling for help with my marriage -- to learn what to do to save it, to keep us from divorce. Instead, the lay counselor spent 10 weeks working with me on my identity. I thought it was odd, and I kept saying to her that I thought we should be talking about my marriage, instruction on what to do to keep it, and how to save our family. She would just smile at me and tell me that her role was to help me with my identity. I would pray about it, ask the Lord why she was so adamant that I focus on my self, my beliefs, and my worldview. The Lord would speak into me and tell me to "let it be." So I did.

It wasn't until 6-months later that I realized what had happened to me. The Lord had this dear woman speak life into my soul, and train my mind to see myself as He saw me. Yes, I was battered, bruised and broken. I was a mess. I was miserable. I was also lost for a time. Yet, my faith was strong, and I believed God would care for me. He did just that. He cared for me, and He showed me that my identity was in Him, and not in anyone else. I was to see myself as He saw me, and through that mind shift, I would come to learn how to live again.

It was during this time that I began reading theology, and I began searching the Scriptures for truth regarding God's grace. I had spent nearly 25 years in legalism, and I knew that I didn't want to live like that anymore. I was free, and I believed I was free. The problem was that this teaching, this mind set that said "sinner saved by grace, but not yet a saint" permeated every aspect of my life. I saw myself as flawed human flesh, unable to do anything worthy or good. Now, granted, I couldn't save myself, but then this wasn't about salvation. I was already saved. I was saved. This was about how I saw myself after the cross. I couldn't come to grips with the fact that I was righteous, that I was holy, and that I was truly set free.

So back to today's message. I listened intently as the Pastor taught about the power of God that lives within us because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I began to think about how often I confess with my mouth the lies of the enemy rather than confessing the truth of Scripture. Pastor Rauoff said it like this:

If we choose to give testimony to the enemy rather than the Spirit of God, what does that say about what we really believe?

Yes! This is truth. If I believe that I am righteous and holy because of His presence in my life, then I am righteous and holy. My mind set should align with this truth.

I realized today that I still hold onto negative thoughts and patterns, shaped from my years of teaching under a certain denomination. As a new creature in Christ Jesus, all things are made new. I have within me the power of God to live a life holy and pleasing to Him. I can live in peace and I can experience joy every day. It is just a matter of choosing to let Him have His way in me, and allowing the Holy Spirit the freedom to empower me to live the life of His choosing.

Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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