Monday, September 17, 2012

Raising Cain

Many of us are "Cains."  Fallen human nature raises Cain.  Our flesh tends to follow the attitude that Cain displayed toward God.  In Genesis 4, Cain offers to God what he wants to give.  In contrast, Abel offers to God what God really wants.  As "Cains," we do things for others and for God, but it is only what we want to give, not necessarily what the other really wants.

Man-made religion performs various rituals and practices in order to gain God's favor. However, the truth is God has already chosen us and given us His infinite favor. This revealed love, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), is not earned, just given. All God seeks is for man to receive what Jesus has done and come into a loving relationship with Him.   Our only honest and humble response is to honor Him by choosing to do what He wants.  In one word, obey.

We would rather do things for God than obey from the heart.  Yet, Samuel reminds us, "Obedience is better than sacrifice."  Even when describing Jesus in Hebrews 10, the Word  states that "sacrifices and offerings You did not desire," but rather, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." 
Obviously coming to do God's will is what God desires. 

Our challenge is simple.  Rather than adopting the "give only what I want" attitude of Cain, find out what God really wants and simply do it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do What? Be What? Impossible!

Have you ever noticed how God almost casually states things that seem utterly impossible to man?  He told Adam to name all the animals.  He told Noah to build an ark (450 ft. by 75 ft.) when it had never been done before and it had never rained.  He told Joshua to march around Jericho and shout to defeat an impenetratable fortress!  He told Moses to speak to Pharaoh to let all his slaves go.  Likewise Jesus often told His apostles to do "impossible" things: fear not in the storm, feed the crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish, even to heal the sick and raise the dead.  He told believers to "Be holy."  Throughout history God has instructed man to do seemingly impossible things.
However nothing compares with God's command,  "Be holy, for I am holy."   What could be more impossible than being holy like God?  Furthermore, Hebrews 12:14 states that we should "Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord."  So not only does God command holiness, He declares that it is a necessity to see Him.
"Holy" is the essential character of God Himself.   All created beings will cry "Holy, holy, holy" for eternity in God's presence.    The word can be partially defined as "set apart, consecrated, pure, transcendent."  The point is that clearly reaching this state or characteristic is impossible for man and his abilities.  So the answer must be God.  He has to do it. "With God all things are possible."
In the beatitiudes, or the declaration of the principles of God's Kingdom, Jesus stated, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  Matthew 5:8  These simple statements accentuate the qualities God wants us to desire and value as eternally important.  Those "set apart, consecrated, pure in heart" ones will see God.
One of the principles of God's Kingdom is the working of our participation and God's power.  When we seek Him with our whole heart, He will be found.  When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.  When we forgive others He forgives us.  So in the case of the qualities of the beatitudes and holiness, when we choose and seek these responses, we allow Him to do that work in us. 
Jesus said in a little differently in John 12, "believe in the light that you may become sons of light."  That belief or faith is further explained in Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."  The point isn't God's holiness, or man's impossibility of attaining it by himself; but rather it is knowing and trusting that God will reward or come through for those who seek Him. 
God calls us to be holy, we desire and choose to seek it, He does it in us.  "He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thess 5:24  Be holy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Will and to Work for His Good Pleasure

We serve an amazing God!  He puts the desire in us to do something and then as we embrace that choice and stand in faith, He does it (through us).  And to top it off, it pleases Him.  Philippians 2:13 states "for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

What work do we have to do?  Clearly the Word of God in James points out that faith without works is dead.  Likewise, Ephesians 2:10 declares "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  He intends for us to work as a result of our faith, and He has prepared things for us to do.

Does He do it or do we do it? Yes.  Let me ask you a question.  Did you believe to get saved or did God give you the grace to believe and you simply received it?  The answer is "yes."

Perhaps Galatians 2:20 can shed light on our dilemma. "I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."  In other words, when I accept that Jesus gave Himself for me and realize by faith that I, my old man, died with Him, then, also by faith, I now live in His resurrected life.  My new life is hidden in the living risen Lord and He is in all I do.  We are eternally joined.  So everything I now do is by His strength and power through faith.  Instead of complaining about having to work, we now understand that God enables me to do all things as a way to partner with Him.  My working together with Him gives Him pleasure.

What a great perspective--we can please the Creator of the Universe simply by doing the things set before as an act of cheerful worship.  Faith makes it happen.  Jesus said the work of God is to believe in the One whom He sent.  When we believe in Jesus and His life in us, everything we do comes from God and is by God's strength.

God's desire from the beginning was to have fellowship with us. He is pleased to accomplish work together with us.  He gives us the desire and provides the power and we get the joy of accomplishing the work.