I am on the last day of my sabbatical and I would like to share with you some of the fruit from my extended time alone with the Lord. The Lord refreshed my vision for His call on my life and gave me a framework/life-plan that can be helpful for all who desire to know the Lord and bear fruit for Him. In addition to our regular time in Scripture, prayer and authentic fellowship with believers, I have noted three classic Christian books that I have read and re-read to reinforce timeless truths that guide me and inspire me to stay on path. The general life-plan can be summarized in four points:
- Know the Master – Intimacy with the Lord. The Great Commandment. Mark 12:30-31; Philippians 3:7-10 The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
- Know the Master's Plan – How did Jesus do it? The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 Study the gospels and the life of Christ on a regular basis. In his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism , Robert Coleman discusses in depth the eight principles Jesus used with the Twelve to reach the known world with the gospel. In our modern-day times and methods we have moved further and further away from Christ's powerful plan.
- Knowing Your Plan for the Master – How has God uniquely equipped and called you to serve Him? 1 Peter 4:10 In my career change from business to vocational ministry I read numbers of books and took numerous courses on discovering God's call for my life. I haven't found in one book a match for LifeKeys by Kise, Stark and Hirsh.
- Doing the Master's Plan – Completing the work God has called you to do. Philippians 3:12-14; Matthew 25:13-30. Seek a spiritual mentor/coach to meet with to help you stay on path. More and more of my time is involved with spiritual mentoring and coaching to equip the men the Lord has brought into my life by working with them in this last area, Doing the Master's Plan, to encourage and pray with them in the good work the Lord has called and empowered them to carry out.
So what does all this have to do with the above heading of my letter – WILL THE REAL GOD PLEASE STAND UP? RIGHTLY RESPONDING TO GOD AS HE IS. As the Lord would have it some friends of mine whom I discipled years ago and who are now teaching and discipling men through CLC (a two-year equipping ministry) called me during my sabbatical and asked me to share with their group of men the absolute necessity of doing God's work in the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is replete with teachings and examples of this but I tried to boil it down into some of my thoughts and Scriptures as follows below. Thus all four of the areas I mentioned above are impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. In fact, living the Christian life as the Lord calls us to live it is impossible without God's power working in us. I hope this brief summation will help you and inspire you also to "be filled with the Spirit" and to know, love and serve our great Master and Lover of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ, with all of your heart.
"Be (be being) filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph. 5:18-21)
Some of the many things I can't do (which the Lord commands me to do) without being daily filled, controlled and empowered by the Lord, Holy Spirit:
- Live out the Great Commandment to love God with all my being and love my neighbor as much as I love myself. Mark 12:30-31
- Love my wife as Christ loves us, His bride, and sacrifice all for her. Eph. 5:25
- Love my enemies and do good to them. Luke 6:32-36
- Rejoice in suffering. Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4
- Delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12:7-10
- Glorify God in all I do even in the most mundane things. 1 Cor. 10:31
- Give up everything for Jesus' sake. Luke 14:33
- Be conformed to the image of Jesus – God's plan for my life. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18
Our "currency" with God is need – a conscious awareness of our need for God's power to live the life He died to give us and the life He commands us to live. Our need comes through an awareness of God's right to our lives and/or through trials which show us our inability to make life work doing it our way (versus God's way) or through trying to do God's work in our power; these all drive us to God for the power of the Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 55:1-3; John 6:27) And as we "taste" (experience) that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) and far better than the good life the world promises (Psalm 63:3-5) we begin to hunger and thirst for more and more and more of God which leads us to crying out for the power of the Holy Spirit to satisfy our thirsty souls. (John 7:37; Matt. 5:6; Prov. 16:26)
All of us as saved Christians have the Holy Spirit but the question is does the Holy Spirit have us? He comes into our lives and fills our spirit at salvation but our souls (mind, will and emotions) are progressively transformed (filled) as we surrender more and more of our mind, will and emotions to His Lordship.
Jesus as a Man had to do what Adam (and all who followed) failed to do as a man – totally submit His will to the will of God. Note in Matthew 26:38-44 that Jesus said three times that His will was not God's will; "not My will (Jesus said) but Thine (God the Father) be done." Jesus also grew as a Man (Luke 2:52; Hebrews 5:7-9) and was filled with the Holy Spirit as a Man in order to do God's will in God's power. (See Luke 3:21-22; 4:1; 4:14) In fact, it appears that the more Jesus surrendered to God's will the more power God poured out on Him and the ultimate was the power of the resurrection in which Jesus was transformed into a new form of humanity and received all authority (power) in heaven and earth. (Phil. 2:5-11; Roman 1:1-4).
There are three primary motivations to surrender all to the Lord. 1) A response to His great love. As we experience His perfect, unconditional, sacrificial love (Eph. 3:16-19) we want to love Him in response. Often our lack of experiencing His deep, sacrificial love is due to our false sense of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency and thus a corresponding lack of need for His forgiving, Calvary love and power. This stems from either a general ignorance of Scripture or a low view of Scripture and thus we don't see our deep depravity and rebellion toward God and we treat His commands to us as negotiable. "Lord God, your commands are something I will consider when I have time. Don't call me I'll call You." Only as we "see" our deep sinfulness and God in Christ's costly, suffering love do we begin to love Him as He so deserves. 2) A realization that God alone can satisfy our soul. No one but the Lord can ultimately satisfy our deep desire for security and significance. (Ephesians 1:17-19; Psalm 73:25). And 3) The fear of the Lord. We all will give an account to God and as believers we will suffer loss of reward for not stewarding every gift He has given us for His purpose and glory. (1 Cor. 3:10-15) So the fear of the Lord is both an awareness that everything I do (or fail to do in obedience to Him) has consequences for gain or loss both temporally and eternally. (Gal. 6:7-8) But more than that it is a desire to please the Lord, to not disappoint the One Who loves us so much He would die for us. Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord, in pleasing His Father. "There shall come forth a shoot (Jesus) from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD." (Isaiah 11:1-3)
As we grow in an ever-increasing revelation of the God Who truly is, not the god we have made to fit our needs and expectations, we will respond even as He calls us to respond and, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)
In the book, They Found the Secret, Raymond Edman, a former president of Wheaton College, gives us the testimonies of 20 Christian leaders, (Dwight Moody, Richard Halverson, Oswald Chambers, Charles Finney and more) all of whom came to a point in their Christian walk where they knew they needed more love, more power, more of the Holy Spirit. "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Hebrews 13:7) We can also see this in the various leaders in the Bible, and though their experiences differed, there was a pattern and process as follows:
Awareness of need/desire – "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." As we "see" with spiritual eyes the revelation of the God of glory in Scripture, we grow in our need and our desire for our great and glorious Lord. John 7:37; Matt. 5:6; Prov. 16:26
Abandonment – "offer your bodies as living sacrifices"- repentance of our sin and rebellion to God's commands and a yieldedness to Him to do His will – Romans 12:1; Romans 6
Appropriation of the Holy Spirit's power by faith – "be filled with the Spirit" – Eph. 5:18-21; Luke 11:13
Abiding -"apart from me you can do nothing" -staying connected to Jesus by knowing and obeying His Word by the power of the Spirit. This can only be done by spending much time alone with Him reading, memorizing and meditating on His Word and responding in heartfelt prayer. John 15:5, 10
Abundance – "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." Living water will flow out of us to others – John 7:38; 10:10
Adventure – following Jesus on the risky adventures of faith that will only have its full recompense in eternity. "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." 1 Cor. 15:19
The last stanza of Adelaide Pollard's hymn is a great prayer to pray for our need and desire for God.
Have Thine Own Way Lord
Have Thine Own Way
Hold o'er my being absolute sway
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.
James, our Lord's half-brother, grew up with Jesus, lived with Him, ate with Him and played with Him as a boy. He models for us an attitude of servanthood that comes from knowing God as He is: "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." (James 1:1) Kristen and I have found this statement of our identity in Christ a helpful reminder of our only proper response to our great God and King and yet our deep need for His enabling power to be…..
Servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Len and Kristen
Other recommended books:
RECEIVING THE POWER – ZEB BRADFORD AND DOUG MCMURRY
DESIRING GOD – JOHN PIPER
THE ART OF LISTENING PRAYER – SETH BARNES
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