I ran across something over the internets a couple of weeks ago that produced an initial response in my gut of, quite honestly, sadness. I thought of all of the people who would read what I had just read and think
“that’s my way out, that is how I will overcome my trial, that is how I will be able to survive, that is how I will be able to prosper.” That is how I
That is how I
That is how I
Being a Marine, this has me thinking about that poor recruit at boot camp who couldn’t get the whole “referring to self in third person” order down pat from the Drill Instructor. I, me, my, our, us, we, was never allowed to come from your “filthy face.” Only “this recruit, the recruit or these recruits” would be acceptable…
All this I and “self” stuff…What about Jesus? What about His finished work? What about sufficiency in Him? What about His grace being sufficient? That is how I? What about that is WHAT Jesus did?
What about deny self?
What about Follow Christ?
What about No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?
I immediately thought about everyone who would read what I had just read; to perform a specific spiritual discipline in order to obtain “increase” and assume that this is a call to fast and pray in order to receive increase from God. There was a reference to this year as “the year of increase.”
I thought about all of the people who would be placing their faith into something that they are physically doing (spiritual discipline, works) in order to receive something that they believe that they need or believe that they should have already and are fretting over their lack of favor/increase.
DISCLAIMER: CALM DOWN
I am not anti-favor, anti-increase or anti-spiritual disciplines.
In NO WAY is this a slap against spiritual disciplines or anti-bringing requests to God. The Bible says to bring your requests to God WITH THANKSGIVING AND SUPPLICATION (Philippians 4:6-7).
Also, make note that we are to pray for God’s will to be done…this means that we are stating that if our requests are running in a different direction than what God would will, what His plan and His character would desire for us, then we are effectively asking for anything that is outside of the will, character and plan that God has for our life to NOT come to pass…
Yet we get mad when we don’t get our way…or don’t have our prayer answered the way we like.
We much rather our plans,
our will come to pass and it will make us feel righteous, all high, mighty and anointed if God were to give it the green light/blessing.
We do not desire God’s will; we desire our will with the righteous comfort of God’s stamp of approval…so that we are still righteous, amirite? C’mon…surely I can’t be the only one who has done this in the past…
If you desire to utilize a spiritual discipline as a form of worship rather than a form of magic, then by all means, do not let me or anyone other than God tell you to be silent. It pleases God and magnifies His glory when we make Him the source of everything in our life (as if He isn’t already). When we seek His provision we are showing our dependency on God and not on anything or anyone else.
Side Note: A spiritual discipline that is produced naturally by your new nature in Christ should be what is valued not a bare branch which is what only the old nature of you all by yourself could ever produce.
Good works and spiritual disciplines are good things but not things that WE can fulfill. Only Jesus can do that…which is why we need Him and when we do works it is out of a nature that we already have in Christ and not a nature that we wish we had (unless we are not in Christ).
In Christ alone will we find complete fulfillment of all the righteousness that we NEED.
Without Christ we have nothing.
Jesus + Something=Nothing | Jesus + Nothing=Everything
But I have good news for those who may use spiritual disciplines as a magic spell mistakenly thinking that it will conjure up a desire that you have…
Well, first the bad news. Good news is only good news when you know the bad news.
- The desires of your human flesh-heart are not desires for God but for sin, more specifically for self. To desire “self” more than God is sin.
- This nature will lead to a desire that leads to a choice that you will make. The choice that you make comes from the desire of your heart which will be according to your nature. Does that make sense?
- The nature of self, the sin nature of self will desire things that are not of God…this nature cannot desire the things that are of God because it is spiritually dead…dead is dead and cannot act…
- If you are in Christ, you have a new nature that will give you new desires that will influence new choices.
- If you are in Christ, you already have all the increase that you will ever need. God’s grace supplies that in the reality that you are in Christ and that He lives through you.
- If you are in Christ, every time you choose to follow the desires of the nature of self, God’s grace is and was enough to cover that sin, that mistake. It is finished means “it is finished (John 19:30).”
- If you are in Christ, there is enough grace to cover you even when you try to use spiritual disciplines like magic. Yup, there is enough grace for that too (GLAWRY BE!)
- If you are in Christ, resting in Christ is far greater than the anxiety, exhaustion and guilt that the Law gives. The Law gives the desire for you to feel that you NEED to do something in order to receive the Favor of God.
- If you are in Christ, you do not “need” to do anything for God. He has already taken care of everything in Christ. It is done. A done deal. It’s over. It is really over…
I believe it was Tullian Tchividjian who I read saying something similar to: Now that you realize that there is nothing that you “have” to do for God, What do you want to do?
If it is a spiritual discipline then PRAISE GOD for it will be Him alone that gets the glory.
Becoming a Christian, being saved by Jesus is not a means to an end, it IS the end. A prayer for increase from Christ may appear as a conundrum when in reality there is nothing greater to increase into from Christ.
What happens when your expectations of worldly increase do not come to fruition? Or worse, what happens when they do? I can only imagine the damage that prosperity has done to an individual…leaving them to feel without a need for Christ…
Do you want Christ more, relax in Him more, rest in Him more, worship Him more for “increase?” Has your faith now been placed in something else other than Christ? Doing that will leave you anxious, guilty, burned out, exhausted and worrisome…I promise!
I know, I’ve seen me do it!
Do you not realize that when given God’s grace you already have everything? You already have increase? It is already yours?
In Christ you ALREADY are favored by God. You already have favor, you already have strength, you already have joy, you already have love… all because you have Christ! Christ is love!
Have you ever (like me) prayed that God would give you strength?
What if I told you that God IS your strength through Jesus…
There is a difference in praying for God’s portion and praising Him because you know that He IS your portion.
Everything that the Law and every end goal of every spiritual discipline that the Old Covenant hoped to obtain is impossible for anyone to fulfill (apart from Christ) and it was given freely as a gift of grace to sinners in the New Covenant! Whenever this truth hits me I can’t help but think of the beginning of that old song “Shout”
As I was typing this all out and finding my self-righteousness flame I praise God for His grace on me the sinner and then for giving me the thought see and ask;
“How do you know that anyone is thinking what you are thinking? Maybe you are the only one who is assuming the motive behind what you read. Make sure that you are not doing anything in order to receive anything that your “self” may want to receive….which surely left unchecked, will desire something more than/different than Christ. Make sure that your desire to write this blog is a desire to glorify God and to share the message of God’s grace through Jesus with others for God’s glory not yours.
What is your motive Zack; to point to Jesus or to point to you?”
I am fearful of that thought for I know the nature of my “self” and I do not trust it’s/my motives. All I do know is that the message of the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed my life and has given me so much peace, rest, love and joy. I truly want and desire for others to experience Jesus in a way that sets them free, which is exactly why He came in the first place (Luke 4:18).
Stop right there…
While looking up that verse
As I am typing this, praise God, look at the verse after 18:
“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19).”
That was Jesus quoting the book of Isaiah……the year of the Lord’s favor….the year of increase IS referring to Jesus. The year of the Lord’s favor is referring to when Jesus came to earth.
The Lord’s favor IS Jesus.
Therefore we can stop looking for the Lord’s “favor” because WE ALREADY HAVE it if Christ has us.
And then like a flood God’s grace swept over me even more and the tension in my shoulders gave way
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” 2 Peter 1:3
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
It is like fasting and praying for increase when increase was already poured out and dumped all over you…you are covered in favor for you are covered by the blood of Jesus…
When is the year of the Lord’s favor?
Correction…When was the year of the Lord’s favor?
Answer: The time when Jesus came to Earth to save Sinners…
THANK YOU JESUS.
I’ve got nothing after that…I don’t need any more I don’t think…sometimes all we can do is stand in awe and praise God…come to think of it…there is nothing else I’d rather do…