“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be prince and savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
To be a witness means simply to be one who can testify to the truth of something based on their experience with it. Just like the apostles, we are called to be witnesses to Christ. With that responsibility comes a means to do so, the Holy Spirit. We are to be conduits through which He witnesses. If we want to be successful in this we must obey. We are God’s servants and we need to treat Him as such. We are called to be attentive hearers and compliant doers, not begrudgingly acquiescent subjects.
In evaluating the most recent speakings of the Spirit into my life I noticed an unsettling trend. I argue and resist His gentle prodding. I do not relent until whatever He is calling me to becomes a burden or a hindrance. Observing this brings to light my need to adopt the attitude of a servant who loves their master. If my compulsion to obey was born of love I would promptly respond to His direction instead of trying to compromise and make my own solutions. In an attempt to reverse this pattern of resistance and resolution I am going to obey in one of the ways He has called me to be a witness. I am going to message or call my unsaved friend next time I have Internet.
“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Though Jesus Christ was God incarnate He did not employ a divine capacity to be obedient. It was a learned behavior. He took the route that all of mankind must elect if they wish to be mature. The word “obedience” in the Greek signifies attentive hearing, or listening with compliant submission. While on earth this is the manner in which Jesus chose to receive God’s plan for His life. In doing so He cultivated maturity. With each submission to the Father’s will He was brought closer to completion, to perfection. It is the Father’s desire to bring each of His children into the same state of consummate wholeness.
If I know this to be true, why do I continue to resist His guiding hand in my life? Initially my reluctance can be written off as fear; fear that what He is asking of me will be painful, that it won’t work out in the end, that it will yield no benefit in my life or anyone else’s. But pride is the actual reason I feel this way. I am unable to comprehend why He would ask such things of me. My field of vision is too narrow to see and understand the big picture. By this my ego cannot abide so I adopt the lesser conclusion. There must not be a perfect, finished product because I do not see how it could possibly play out. Let’s put the problem in the pot once more, and set it to boil. All that remains is the true heart of my issue, unbelief. Fear, pride, anxiety, all of them masquerade about under the guise of being a rational response to something that asks you to dwell in a realm where surprise is the only guarantee. And perhaps they are a rational response for one who is unacquainted with the wonders of the most high God, but I have experienced His rule in my life. I know it as a thing which only brings freedom.
Unlike me, Jesus walked out God’s will in totality. He had the power to do so because He knew that the plans the Father had for Him were “plans of peace, not of evil, to give [Him] a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I also know these things to be true, but because of my unbelief I shy away from operating in light of them. This needs to change. I need to stop choosing obedience solely in the matters of a painless nature. I need to start choosing obedience even when I don’t understand what will come of it, even when it’s difficult. There is no worth in parading about this life maintaining the illusion of godly living if I am ignoring Him in the most intimate aspects of my being. It is written that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). So before I feign total devotion in an act of worship, I will obey the one command I have been evading. I will separate from my boyfriend the next time I have access to a phone.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
I’m addicted to sugar. I waste money on gobs of supplemental snackage because I am fearful that the provided food will not be enough to satisfy me. Or maybe I have control issues. I’m really not sure what’s going on at this point because I do not eat such copious amounts so frequently at home. Either way it is an issue for myriad reasons.
Chief among them being that it has an effect on my mood. As I scribble this out I realize I truly am caught in the grips of addiction. If I don’t devour something sweet after a meal, before bed, upon waking, while studying, et cetera, I become slightly morose. When I do gratify my cravings it’s never enough. Thus I am never content. This behavior does not glorify God.
If Jesus was coming to stay in my home I would take every care to present a spotless, inviting dwelling. Should I not do likewise with my body, the temple in which the Spirit of God resides? The root of my issue lies in the fact that I am not allowing myself to find all of my contentment in Christ. I am clenched so tightly around the pursuit of comfort and satisfaction that I am suffocating the Spirit who wishes to provide both and more in abundance.
But I want to relent. I want Him to be my all in every moment. I want to cease from this lifestyle of hollow worship that isn’t reflected in my daily life. To find my contentment in Him I will not purchase anymore supplemental sugar for the remainder of February. Once my current stock evaporates I will not replenish it. I will meditate on Philippians 4:11 in place of my extraneous consumption in order to accomplish this. When we go to town I’ll totes get a coffee though.
“Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.'”
As a servant of God I am guilty of being discontented with my wages. I compare my spiritual earnings, my lot with what others have been given. For example, our field assignments; I have wanted to go to Montana from the very first mention of that possibility. And graciously God granted me the desire of my heart! However, as I observed all my teammates’ revelry my insecurities crept forward. I began to suspect inferiority in my character. Why did God choose to send me to Browning? It’s still the U.S. Does He think me ill-equipped to handle the foreign locations?
But then I remembered I have nothing to prove and only one to please. I remembered my worth is not measured by how many exotic countries I travel to or how rugged and adventurous people perceive me to be. My worth is defined by the fact that the Lord of the universe died on the cross for me.
As I began to internalize that notion the foolishness of my panic was made apparent. Quickly my emotions mutated into excitement. But emotions are fickle. I need lasting change. I need contentment that doesn’t depend on circumstance, but on who God is. I will strive for this by asking God to give me a heart for the Blackfeet nation, by asking for His heart.
“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Coming to IGNITE, I had purposed in my heart to do everything to the best of my ability, not to cut corners, not to slack off, to respect authority, to obey, to show diligence in all that I do. I am failing. Class is in session right now and I am sitting in the courtyard, feverishly grasping for an application from this verse. I have become sluggish. I am still trying to catch up with the past weeks’ assignments. I only have three IBS applications posted online.
In an attempt to remedy this problem I began waking an hour earlier so I would have time to put my all into these. I don’t just want to produce fluffy, pious, shallow, impersonal texts. I want to produce relevant, spirit filled writings, but in this I realize my oversight. My writings cannot be spirit filled if I am not filled with the spirit. Beyond that, the next six months of field deployment will be insurmountable in my own strength. I have become so entrenched in the ideal of success that I have put my relationship with God in the background. My priorities are out of alignment. Instead of devoting so much attention to homework, I will devote it to God. I am going to continue rising an hour early next week, but now I will spend my time in prayer and devotion.
“I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
If I set the Lord before me, I will not be shaken. If I keep my eyes on Him, I will not be able to inspect the chaos that surrounds me. I will not have time to look at what everyone else is doing. Consider Peter when he walks on the water in Matthew chapter 14. It was not until “he saw that the wind was boisterous” that he began to sink. He had to take his eyes off of Jesus to notice his surroundings.
Just like Peter, I remove my eyes from Jesus in doubt. During worship, one of the most visceral ways to experience God, I am guilty of this. I can be in that sweet, intimate place of praise when something wells up inside of me that says “open your eyes, you look ridiculous”. So I do. My eyelids flash apart and I scan to see what everyone else is doing. Are they raising their hands? Are they swaying? Who else’s eyes are shut? Am I singing too loudly? Oh man, they look like they are really bathing in the Spirit. I wish I was there.
When all the while I could be. If I would only return my gaze to Jesus, if I would only set the Lord before me always, I too could be worshipping uninhibited. I could be lifting my voice and raising my hands to the God I love, in pure, joyous praise. But I’m not, because my eyes are not on the Father. I want to change that. Next time I worship without my hands and eyes otherwise engaged, I am going to stand in the front row so I can’t watch anyone else. I am going to keep my eyes sealed for the duration of the set. I am going to sing at the top of my voice because I am praising God, not pandering to man, and I will not squelch the impulse to raise my hands if it so arises.
“By your patience possess your souls.”
In the verses preceding Luke 21:19 Jesus gives the disciples a list of signs that will accompany the end times. His tone is almost inappropriately calm considering the content. Amidst all the natural disasters, civil unrest, and persecution expected to occur, Jesus optimistically says in verse 13 “But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.” He goes on to say that they need not prepare a defense for the imminent assault on their faith because He will supply words of which their adversaries will be powerless to combat (Luke 21:14,15. NKJV). With each travesty He foretells comes an encouragement; the final couple follows as such: “…you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost.” Finally, Jesus presents how to operate in the interim period, He says “By your patience possess your souls.” The English Standard Version reads “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”
“Patience” in the Greek is the word makrothumia from makros, “long” and thumos, “temper”. It suggests an attitude of lenience. It means to be long suffering, to have fortitude, and patient endurance. Yarash is the Hebrew for “possess”. It means to seize, inherit, or occupy. For “souls”, the word is psuche , it is considered the seat of affections, will, desire, emotions, mind, reason, or understanding; it also signifies the inner self. Through this passage I heard Jesus saying to the disciples: “You can be certain that a lot of difficult things are coming your way, but I will see you through to the end of them. So while you are waiting for struggle and release to come to fruition, have fortitude in your faith, have a long fuse, and you will seize your emotions, and captivate your desires. This is how you will gain your life.”
Application: I will walk in the truth of Luke 21:19 by writing down 2 Corinthians 10:5 and keeping the notion of taking my thoughts captive in the foreground of my consciousness for as long as it takes to become habit.
In Colossians 1:11, Paul prayed that the church would be “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy.” With joy; what does that look like?
In Acts chapter 5, a handful of apostles had been on trial for preaching the gospel. They were put on trial by the Sanhedrin because they had been commanded to cease from teaching in the name of Jesus. The apostles did not comply. However, as the council could establish no claim against them, they were released. The apostles did not go skulking back to their work full of bitterness at such maltreatment, instead, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
Around this time, Peter, one of the imprisoned apostles, wrote a letter to persecuted Christians around Asia Minor. In it he said, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…”
Peter and the other apostles were able to exit the company of the council joyfully because they understood what Jesus meant when He preached the beatitudes saying, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Not only did the apostles understand what Jesus meant, they believed it, and they were walking in that truth.
I don’t know how many times I’ve shied away from expressing my faith in the midst of non believers for fear of being ostracized. So many opportunities to preach the gospel in word and deed I have bypassed because I was a slave to comfort. I was lazy. I was a coward. To share the truth would have altered the dynamic of a relationship, would have exposed my hypocrisy, would have demanded vulnerability, or would have lead to an investment in someone else’s life that would occupy my precious time. Any of those changes would have made me uncomfortable. So I remained silent. I hid my faith in the workplace, I turned a blind eye when my friends engaged in soul shattering behavior, I quenched the spirit when He urged me to speak out against something — I did this because I wasn’t entirely convinced that God’s plan was the better way.
But as I continued walking with God, getting to know His character and understanding His heart, I realized how worthless my shallow convictions were. The Holy Spirit was urging me to not only profess what I believed but to live by it. The more I relented to His prodding the more proof I had as to His Spirit’s power and validity.
I’m not where I’d like to be in my confidence in Christ, but one practical step I can take to get there is to post a link to my blog on my Facebook the next time I have Internet.
“For John came neither eating nor drinking! And they say ‘He has a demon.’ The son of man came eating and drinking, and they say ‘look a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” -Matthew 11:19
This verse tells me that no matter how well presented your doctrine or how sound your logic, there will be those who reject the gospel. But it’s truth shall be seen in the fruit of your righteous living, and by the works of Godly wisdom.
Application: I will not lose heart when people close to me reject Jesus because I know the Holy Spirit’s evidence in my life will be impossible to ignore. I will do this by continuing to seek God’s guidance in everything I encounter. One practical step will be to observe Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:18, and “be filled with Spirit” continually. Daily upon waking I will empty myself before God, and ask for an indwelling of the Holy Spirt.