I have been praying and pondering about some pretty heavy stuff. Things like bad behavior in the Children of God, morality, bad choices, sin in the lives of the believer and the damage it does to our testimony, how many non believers are turned off to Christ (the one true hope) because of those of us unwilling to walk the path of righteousness; and then how we don't seem to be heartbroken and moved to change because we cause others to stumble. We make excuses, justifiy and rationalize our actions (Then we "yeah but" it to death).
So I kept asking the Lord about all of this. I believe I am beginning to get a glimpse of His response. One message after another keeps adding to His answer until it all seemed to come together in the last week or so.
I was listening to a message from James McDonald and then again the following day, "The Secret to a Joyful Life". The message was playing in the car and I ended up downloading it and listening to it fully.
I will be referencing some of his message mixed with our Sunday School lesson, and my prayer time while listening through this message.
I began with the question "Lord why do we see so much world in the lives of believers?" The believers of Christ should be going out into the world to affect it positively with the light and love of Jesus. Instead we are going out and being infected by the world. I asked God to open my eyes and my ears so I could see and hear His answer. I believe He poured forth a fountain, and I will attempt to share what I believe He has shown me.
In John 15:1-17, we are told that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. If we REMAIN in Him we will bear much fruit. But that apart from Him we can do NO thing. We are to REMAIN in Him and He will REMAIN in us. WE cannot bear fruit by ourselves. So we must REMAIN in Him. (Remain - abide, lean into, dwell.) We are to FELLOWSHIP with Him. Remain is to abide; to abide is to remain
- to remain, abide
- in reference to place
- to sojourn, tarry
- not to depart 1a
- to continue to be present 1a
- to be held, kept, continually
- in reference to time
- to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure 1b
- of persons, to survive, live
- in reference to state or condition
- to remain as one, not to become another or different
- in reference to place
- to wait for, await one
So I asked Him what does it look like to ABIDE or REMAIN in Him, and he quickly began to show me that it is abiding in His word and in His love. We must rest with Him, live with Him. The last words from Jesus before leaving this earth were this "go, and make disciples of every nation, and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all I have commanded and I will be with you always, until the end of the age." So if we are to go make disciples by immersing them not just in a one time water bath but immersing them in who the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are. This is how we come to KNOW Him. As we do this for ourselves first, and then to the nations, we are motivated by the love that will emerge within us to obey His commands. The obedience will be an expression of fullness, gratitude and devotion. It will spur us on!
As I was listening to the message, James McDonald said the secret to bearing fruit is to abide in Christ (walking and living with Christ)
As he said that, I wrote down "Lord teach me to abide" and the next thing in the message was this:
The secret to living is Joy.
The secret to joy is abiding in Christ
The secret to abiding (fruit bearing) is obeying
We are told in John 15:9 to remain in His love, but vs 10 says that if we obey His commands we will remain in His love.
I asked God why is it so hard to obey? We cannot be good enough by shear determination, concentrating or focusing because it is just too much. According to Romans 7 because of grace should we sin all the more so grace can be displayed even more so. Paul said "heaven forbid". I say of course not. We are incapable of keeping the law, yes. For apart from Christ we cannot do it. But in Christ it is possible. He said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. If I am REMAINING in Him all day, I can obey. His love will compel me to obey. I will want to love my neighbor as myself and my heart will break if I have caused him to stumble.
So here's the thing. Moses said if you will not go with me into the Promised land then I will not go. He also said how will they know you sent me if you will not go with me. This needs to be our cry as well. (Lord I do not need to go into the world to represent YOU unless you go with me.) We need to sit at the feet of Jesus long enough to be filled with His love, which will motivate us to love others, and obey His commands. We will be a true walking testimony not misrepresenting Christ and causing others to turn away from Him.
The world doesn't need me to be obedient for the sake of rules, regulations and legalism. According to McDonald, our passion and desire for obedience will come from love. Obedience is not a to do list. (or a to don't list)
In Jude 24 it says, "to HIM who is able to keep us from falling". It is HE who keeps us from sinning. It is HE who enables us to obey.
McDonald said that if we try to obey without abiding, we will fall short. In order to keep blameless and not stumble, we must learn to lean into Jesus, listen to Him, fellowship with Him, ABIDE in Jesus. Jesus in us is the power to obey and also the will to obey. Jesus is the energy to obey. Obedience without abiding is conformity. Abiding that leads to and motivates obedience will produce transformation.
The secret to obeying is LOVE
McDonald said that there are 3 false reasons we obey:
1. Ball and Chain - I have to obey as if I am in a prison (this is considered the adolescent Christian)
2. Electric Shock- if I don't obey i will suffer (when we choose to sin we choose to suffer) (this is the High School Christian)
3. Boomerang- if I obey I will get blessed
He said the one true reason to obey is in 2Cor 5:14 "the love of Christ compels me" (that is Christ's love for me) McDonald said that all Christian failure is a failure to love, being motivated by self love above love for Christ and others. He said that the secret to loving Christ is knowing Him. The more we know Him the more we love Him. As we get to know Him more, we must guard against allowing this knowledge to puff us up. Instead as we grow in the knowledge of Him, we can grow in our love for Him and for others. As we grow in our love for Him, we will grow in obedience.
Galatians 5:19-21 is a list which is not exhaustive, of what we look like in sin, disobedience and apart from Christ; or at the least we see what flesh is capable of doing. In contrast, we see in the next verses, a list of the FRUIT of the Spirit. Verse 14 "the entire law is summed up in this, Love your neighbor as yourself."
If I see evidence of Galatians vs 19-21 in my life or in the lives of others, I need to not condemn myself or them, but use it as an indicator of the need to abide, lean into, live in Christ. Just go spend time with Him. Concentrate on His greatness. Think on the price He paid for you and for me to have freedom FROM sin, a hope, a future and eternal life with God.
Lets stop trying to do bootstrap obedience where we just try to be good by our own strength. We need obedience motivated by the Love of Christ.
If we see that a brother or sister in Christ is dwelling in the sin list of Galatians 5:19-21, according to Galatians 6:1 we are to restore them gently and warned to watch ourselves so we are not temtped or fall ourselves. Ephesians 4:15 speak the truth in love Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves! "If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.
2 tim 4:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.
To wrap this all up, I read my devotion this morning which was authored by Billy Graham. I have included it below. I was blown away by a NEW word for my vocabulary. You will see ANTINOMIANISM is defined and then a link for you to read further on the matter.The word antinomianism comes from two Greek words,anti, meaning "against"; andnomos, meaning "law."Antinomianismmeans “against the law.” Theologically, antinomianism is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. Antinomianism takes a biblical teaching to an unbiblical conclusion.
Christianity is Serious
Antinomianism - Click on this link for more indepth study of this word
Read 1Jn 2:3-6 This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”