Friday, January 18, 2013

The Goal of Abiding

The goal of abiding is to know God and make Him known, not do a work for God.  When we say things like “I’m doing this for God,” or “I’m doing this ministry for God,” we are thinking that God is outside of us and we are going to do something for Him, to hand something to Him.  Believer, there is nothing you can do that is pure enough for God to want from you. He wants nothing that originates from us. Our righteousness is filthy rags to God. He only accepts His work through us.  This is why abiding is essential to the Christian life.  I might take it even farther and say that abiding is the Christian life.
We cannot work for God, but we can work with God, knowing that it’s His doing through us that is acceptable to Him. Most religious people want to work for God, not know God.  Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”[1] In knowing God, we love God. In loving God, we obey God, knowing His will is the only will that matters.  

Someone once said, “Love God and do whatever you want.” What do you think this phrase means for a person abiding in Christ?

This question can best be answered by the vantage point of your identity. If you truly love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will want only what He wants. This is why Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”[2] What do you want? The answer depends upon who you are.
Who are you? If you are a new creation in Christ, a righteous being, you want what He wants. You have His desires. You delight in His law. You have His mind, the mind of Christ. You hunger for Him and His righteousness. This is who you are. 
You are made to love Him and abide in Him. You want to listen to Him, spend time with Him, and bring Him pleasure. This is who you are. You delight to do what He says because you want to know Him, and you know that He always knows what is best for you. So you trust Him and depend upon Him, even when He brings you through difficult times that hurt or challenge you, forcing you to grow.  God often uncovers areas within your soul that are clinging to lies, and He challenges those areas, inflicting “pain” on your soul to reveal the lie.  As He reveals the lie, He leads you to truth and, as you believe the truth in that situation, you are set free from the lie that held you captive to do its will. 
Emotions are a part of life.  They often indicate whether we are abiding or not.  We look to our goal to help us see what we really desire:  Do we want God glorified, or self? When we feel unrighteous anger, it comes from having one of our goals blocked. People who abide are not known as angry people, because they don’t have goals that really can be blocked. Their goal is to honour God. This goal cannot be accomplished by the anger of man, but by the love of God through man. The anger of man does not fulfill the righteousness of God.
We see that Jesus always abided with the Father, yet He become angry, four times. What if the person who is abiding has a right to anger? Each time we see Jesus’ anger, it is when people do not want the Father glorified. They want self-glorification. Jesus exposes that heart and deals with the issues until His Father becomes glorified, as we see when He cleaned out the temple with a whip and when He mended a man’s crippled hand.
People who abide accomplish a lot effortlessly. Others see it and wonder, “How do you get so much done?” It’s much like wheat falling to the ground. When the wheat dies, with the seed breaking apart in the soil, it produces life, some 30, 60, 100-fold. God decides how effective we will be. As we abide in Him, we are pleased with whatever that is. We are not trying to become rich or famous or powerful, though we may become rich or famous or powerful. Our motive is obedience, love, joy, building up the body of Christ with no thought of return.
Abiders are powerful people, but not forceful. They are powerful because they are resting in the finished work of Christ, fully confident that He will perfect the good work in and through them. The power is from God, working through His people according to His perfect will. God sets the agenda and the schedule, and it fluctuates one day to the next.  One day it will seem like abiders are not doing very much. The next day they will get a year’s work done. Consider the story of the man who had an employee with his feet up on the desk. The other employees came and told the boss that the man was slacking at his work. The boss said, “The last time Joe put his feet on the desk he saved a million and a half dollars. Joe can keep his feet up for as long as he wants.” That’s an abiding person. 
The hardest work of person is thinking, not doing. So abiders think.  “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”[3]  Abiders think and meditate on words, thoughts, and ideas — without action.  They seek the mind of Christ to show them what true Reality is, from God’s vantage point, not the earth’s. This is how abiders live. Then an opportunity is presented to them by faith, and the abider is ready. He or she says the right words and does the right things effortlessly and may not even know the impact their words and actions are having on others. People will say, “The Lord has spoken through you.” Or “The Lord really helped me through you.”
People will talk about the abider, without him or her even knowing the impact they have had, because it’s not really about the abider, it’s about the Lord working through the abider to bring glory to Himself and His Name. Jesus said, “They will see your good works and glorify the Father.”[4] God uses the lives of those who wait on the Lord, rest on the Lord, fully abandon any thought but the Lord’s;  He uses those who think the thoughts of God, those who have no agenda but glorification of God. “They will mount up with wings like eagles.”[5] They will do things that take a great effort, without seeming to give much effort.  They soar. They run and do not get weary.  They walk on water, for this is where God walks. This is normal Christianity.  Abiding is supernatural, not natural.  Flesh is natural, not supernatural.  Maturity is growing up into the supernatural, being the supernatural being you are in Christ.  
If Christianity is too hard for you, you are trying to do too much — trying to be a Christian, trying to behave right, trying to do the will of God. Stop. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”[6]
The hardest thing to teach people is to abide, because we want to be human doings rather than human beings. People want to produce with their hands instead of their hearts. They want to see the production instead of knowing the production has been dealt with by God. They want the praise and rewards.  Jesus said that if people praise you on earth, you have received your reward.  If your Father praises you, even for work unseen by others, you have a reward that remains in heaven, because you allowed the Father to work through you as a vessel of His glory and grace. 

Abiders always work, but never work. Always do, but never do. Jesus said this: “My Father is always working,” yet Jesus seemed to have time to talk to sinners and the lost, to feed the poor, and to heal the sick, with little stress and lots of love.  At the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus said He did nothing.  It was the Father doing through Him.  All glory went to the Father and the Father gave glory to the Son.  Jesus glorified the Father by walking in perfect faith, perfect trust, perfect obedience and perfect love.  He was the perfect Abider, and we are being conformed to His image, to be abiders in God, spiritual beings born from God, who live in a body made for earth, that God might reconcile the world back to Himself through His saints.
Remember, God did not save you for you.  He is not transforming you for you.  He is not fixing your life for you.  He is working out His will on earth and you get to be a part of that.  Don’t try to do. Just love and you will do greater things than you ever imagined, and you will know it is not your doing, but His in and through you. You will not touch His glory, but you will give Him all praise and all glory, pointing to Him alone as the author of your faith and your salvation. 
The experience of abiding is found when we abide in the Word of God, reading the Scriptures, but not for the sake of being wise or to do something, but really just to enjoy God and know Him. Sadly, intimacy with God can seem too slow for us. We want God to do something instead of be Someone. So our prayers become prayers to do. An abider’s prayers becomes the prayers of a child to a Father — prayer to enjoy, to honour, to experience life with, to work with, not to give orders to a great God or make God a servant of man.
This is the main difference between non-abiders and abiders. Non-abiders want God to be the servant, while the abiders are happy with God being God and themselves being servants. As a matter of fact, abiders can see it no other way. They are repulsed at any other conclusion. They desire the God of love, mercy, and kindness. They desire Him to be their counsellor, teacher, lover and friend, and they don’t rise up saying they are those things. They willingly yield all of their life, knowing that God is at the top and they dependent upon Him.  And they love it this dependence.

[1] John 17:3
[2] John 15:7
[3] Colossians 3:2,3
[4] Matthew 5:16
[5] Isaiah 40:31
[6] Matthew 11:30

Experiencing Abiding in Christ.

God’s Unlimited Resource

If God is getting ready to do something, do you think He is concerned about whether it’s in your budget or if you have enough money to accomplish what He wants to do?  Is God somehow limited by your lack of resources or budget?  Questions about money often reveal the immaturity of the person asking the question.  What the world views as being financially responsible, God says is lack of faith, lack of reliance on the One who owns all things.  Our questions often reveal the independence of the soul trying to find a way to be in control and be safe, to not really walk in the will of God. 
Our soul wants an excuse to not walk by faith.  We must deny our soul its comfort and force it to push through its fear to faith. Walking by faith means we walk in the spirit, and, as we do, we will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  The desire of the flesh does not change. It just doesn’t have to control us.  The Holy Spirit and the word of God control us in Christ.  When Jesus asked Philip how they were going to feed 5000 people, do you think He needed Philip’s input?  Jesus already knew what He was going to do, but He seemed to be taking the opportunity to challenge Philip to walk by faith.  He was testing to see if His disciples could handle things beyond the budget. Most churches would view responsibility as holding people to budgets and responsibility.  God says faith is responsible living, even if the process appears irresponsible to non-faith people. 
A clear acknowledgement of the acceptance of God’s sovereignty is central to experiencing the actuality of abiding.  We must agree with the sovereignty of God over our lives.  This is His sovereign will, God’s reign in our lives.  As Kingdom disciples, we accept the reign of God in and through their lives.
Job and his wife give show us someone who is abiding and someone who is not.  Job understood God; his wife didn’t.  How do we know?  When pressed with immense suffering and loss, Job’s response was to worship God, proclaiming the amazing words, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”[1]   Job was an abider.  Abiders see circumstances as God’s will and God working things out for good. There is an assurance and trust in God that is unshakeable even in the midst of pain which God allows in our lives.  All events are considered good, whether seemingly good or seemingly bad, because God is in charge, working all things together for our good according to the counsel of His will. That Job could lose his possessions, his children and his health, and still bless the Name of the Lord, reveals where Job’s faith is resting.
Job’s wife, on the other hand, told Job to curse God and die. Non-abiders see events as bad because they do not turn out the way they expect or want. They conclude that God must be bad because He allowed a bad event to happen.  Abiders know God is working things out for good.  As we abide in Christ, accepting the sovereign will of God, we accept the circumstances around us, knowing they are just events, which we assume are good because God is in control and God is good.  He always acts in love. He cannot act outside of His character. It is Who He is. 
How we choose to respond to those events is our responsibility. This is the moral will of God.  We can fight against God, grumble and complain, or we can be thankful and accept the experience, seeking the greater good for all.  Difficult events or conflict do not give us permission to sin or respond without faith.  We look to Jesus, listening to the Spirit of God, learning from Him as He teaches us through this experience, training us up in righteousness so we mature and become more and more like Christ in our behaviour.
Within the circumstances of our lives, we will find the personal will of God, what we are designed to do.  God brings us through various events and circumstances that shape us into the people He designed us to be for His specific purpose for our lives on this planet, according to His sovereign will.  As we walk with God, the Spirit of God speaks to our spirit that we are children of God. Our job as His children is to get our soul to believe as we walk out the moral and personal will of God within His sovereign will.
As you abide, you will realize it just is what it is. You are at peace. You walk by faith in God. The struggle is gone. You live to the will of God alone. You know He will provide for you. You know He will lead you. You know He will work out all events, whether good or bad, for your good. This is who you really are as His creation. Your life is completely abandoned to God. You are no longer your own. The old you is gone, and the new you is now hidden with God in Christ.
You experience peace because you believe He knows better than you where you are going, and that everything He allows is for your good because He loves you. As events happen, you accept the event in complete trust, knowing God is allowing it for His purposes and His will. What He allows is always best. You must experience the next event, no matter what it is. God is growing you.  It may seem “good” or “bad” but it is a necessary event or situation. In fact, you assume that the event is ultimately good because God is working it together for good no matter what it is.
The absence of worry or anxiousness is also the sign of an abider. Peace and joy are normal emotions. Thankfulness will flow from your life as you abide in Christ. When we accept that our spirit is holy and righteous, full of love, desiring to be expressed in every situation because of the finished work on the cross, there is peace and struggle ceases. When a storm comes, we rest in God who is in charge of all events in the universe, causing nations to rise and fall, and we experience His peace which is beyond our own understanding. As we pray, talking to God about our struggles and life, peace flows like a river and we say, along with Horatio, “It is well with my soul.”
People see abiders as “different.” As we abide, we do not seem “normal” to the others around us  because we do not get thrown off course by the events of life.  The world does not know how to abide in Christ. The world attempts to work out its own will, the will of its own god.  The flesh does not abide in Christ. The flesh also seeks its own will, so we deny that will and accept the will of God as the only will for us. 
 When we abide, people wonder how we can remain calm in difficult situations, like Jesus did when He was standing before Pilate. As you recall, Pilate was the one person who could release Jesus from death on a cross, yet Jesus made no attempt to get free. Instead, He told Pilate he had no power to release Him because God’s sovereign will was being carried out.  Pilate was on a course chosen by the Father and no matter what he did he could not change that course.  Jesus did not resist His Father’s will. He willingly laid down His life, fully trusting, fully abiding because He knew and loved His Father perfectly.

Getting off the Mark in Abiding

As we abide in Christ, we can still get off the mark in the experience of abiding. We get off track when we let thoughts drift. The drift moves us to begin to make our decisions from the unregenerate part of our soul, the flesh.  These decisions will be fleshly. They will be decisions to protect the body, or attain something for self like fame, power, money or any other earthly value. These values are an abomination to God. The answer is to refocus our mind into truth. 
At first, this process takes conscious effort, taking every thought captive into obedience to Christ.  As we grow, true thoughts begin to govern our decisions and actions, and abiding comes more and more naturally. As we get used to experiencing abiding, we learn to catch ourselves more and more quickly when something doesn’t feel right to our spirit. We sense or know something is wrong. We can tell we are not abiding because we begin to feel stress or life begins to seem hard. These feeling indicate that we are beginning to walk according to the flesh. Christianity is starting to seem hard to carry out, like a work to do rather than a relationship with our Father. Our love for God seems to grow cold, and our way seems difficult. Our love for others is challenged also and we become irritated easily.  The actuality of abiding has never changed, our position in Christ, but the experience of that abiding is affected by what we choose to believe.
The feeling of abiding will return when we quickly go back to where we stopped trusting the Father. We look at what we were told to do, but feared to go there or resisted the order. The soul’s thoughts had reigned. To return to abiding, we confess or admit to the Father that we let the soul reign, and we take up the fellowship again at this starting point, knowing that our behaviour does not separate us from our relationship with God, but the experience of fellowship with God felt disconnected because we walked in the flesh, obeying the soul rather than His Spirit.

[1] Job 1:21

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Coming into Alignment

God has works prepared for you to walk into, but He must grow you up and provide experiences for you along the way to prepare you for these works. He is maturing you, getting you to the level where He wants you to be in faith.  The Holy Spirit gets you ready for what God wants to do through you.  The Holy Spirit is like a friend who comes alongside of you to teach you the ways of God. Not that you don’t know it in the spirit, but you are not mature enough to access that information. To prepare you, He wants to talk to you about areas where your soul is still reigning, areas where your spirit is not mature enough to bring your soul and body in line. 
The abider walks in the spirit, giving the soul no rein. We can tell if a person is not abiding by the fruit of their lives. Their behaviour reveals what they really believe. 

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”(Galatians 5:19-21)  

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
When a person is abiding in Christ, fruit of godliness will be revealed through them without even trying. There will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.”[1] When we are out of alignment with abiding, we see works of flesh.  The works tell the truth: the attitudes, the reactions, the way we respond to people and circumstances in our lives.  Our responses reveal either immature faith, or mature faith.  Mature faith abides and rests in full confidence in God and gives no room for self.  Mature faith denies self, picks up its cross and follows Him wherever He leads, knowing that He is right and He is always good.
If we struggle to abide, the problem is faith, not trying harder to abide. We cannot try to abide. We either abide or we do not. We live exactly what we believe, and the fruit of our beliefs will either be fleshly, or it will be with fruit from the spirit based in love.  As a Christian, we abide in Christ -- actually, but we must also abide in Christ experientially.  Both are necessary.  Our abiding position in Christ, is realized by faith.  We must believe that we actually do abide in Him, because scripture says we do, and that sovereign God is able to lead us, able to work out His will, able to do all He promised, and that whatever He chooses for our lives is the best choice.
Abiding is being who you are in Christ, and abiding is also doing.  The doing flows from the being, but the doing is not your doing. It’s the Father’s doing in and through you. Abiding is being who you are as a righteous being who has been made new by God, and moving with Him to do all He prepared in advance for you to do, all the while knowing it is impossible for you to do what He asks.  He asks you to love enemies, to rejoice in persecution, perhaps even to die for your faith. He calls you to walk above circumstances, to raise the dead, and see the lame walk. He calls you to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in His Name, teaching them to do all He commanded. All that He calls you to do is impossible to do apart from Him. But as you abide in Him, fully believing that you are who He says you are, and that you can do what He says you can do, He will do amazing things in and through you and He will receive glory, because it’s His work through you, not your own work.  You cannot touch the work or take any credit.
A person who is abiding in Christ moves in the flow of God. The flow of God is complete acceptance that whatever is ... is. You are a vessel for the life of God flowing through you, accomplishing His will on earth as it is in the spiritual realm. So at the end of your life on this planet, you can say, along with Jesus, “I have done nothing.” This is the goal of abiding, doing the will of God for His glory.
How do we get into alignment if we struggle with abiding? The key to alignment is recognizing we are out of line. First, watch your emotions to see what is going on in your spirit and your soul. Your emotions are great indicators and warning systems to keep you in tune.  If you feel bold and courageous and you want God honoured, you sense power; you know you are weak, yet you sense you are very secure.  This is an indication you are abiding.
If you are frustrated and scared, angry and depressed, you are not abiding. You are trying to get something you want, and your goal is being blocked by a circumstance, a person or by God Himself.  Check yourself, focus on the glory of God and His will, and determine to die to any desire that is not for His glory.  Deny fleshly impulses to rule you. The flesh is crucified and is not your master.  You must not let sin reign.
To help understand abiding, we can look at heroes of the faith, like Daniel. While he was in the lion’s den, he had danger all around him, yet he was very confident. He knew he was weak. He knew he was nothing more than lion food. Yet, his confidence was not in himself.  Daniel’s full confidence was in God alone. Only God could deliver him. Daniel knew abiding.
When you get out of alignment, you want to seek God’s face and heart, not His hand, not what He can give you or do for you.  Don’t seek Him just so He will rescue you, or give you what you think you want. Seek Him and believe Him, no matter what He chooses to do. Even if He waits a while.  Even if He allows harm to come.  Seek Him to know Him, to love Him and to live for His will alone.
In the book of Daniel, there is a familiar story of three men who defied a king.  For their rebellion, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace. Before they were cast into the fire, these men boldly cried out, “ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.””[2] These men knew abiding. They placed their full confidence in the sovereignty of God in the face of certain death. 
Abiders in God do not force God to do. They do not try to take over and pilot their own lives. They are happy to just be with God, whatever happens, even if God doesn’t produce the outcome they think they want. 
Abiders get their assurance from God. They know Him. They do not get assurance from the outside world or systems. This is why it’s so important to understand clear biblical doctrine and why we wrote this book.  We know, if you understand what God did in Christ to set you free, and you know who you are in Him, and actually believe these truths, you will abide in Him, and God will work through your live in powerful and fun ways. 
The Christian life is fun. It’s an adventure with God, with twists and turns and a whole range of experiences.  As you abide in Him, you flow with Him, with unlimited power and unlimited wisdom which all flows into you from God, not the other way around, for His purposes. You will live out the will of God, and in the end, you will hear Him say, “Well done!” As you abide in Him, you will be confident, yet humble, knowing He is in control, but you are content and safe in that control.  You won’t try to get God on your agenda, what you think He should do.  You will walk with Him in His and it will be the ride of your life! And you will see people come to faith through your life and walk with them, discipling them as they grow to love God more and more deeply.

[1] Galatians 5:22
[2] Daniel 3:16-18

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Becoming Healthy

 20 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. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Gal. 2:20

24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Gal. 5:24

All we have known and believed in before we knew Jesus must be evaluated by the Word of God, by Christ alone. Our best thinking in the world is not even close to the most foolish thought God might have. Our natural mind cannot comprehend the things of God. God calls our best thinking foolishness. Health begins when we admit how foolish we really are. We admit that we really don’t know what we thought we knew. It’s humbling to admit this, especially if we have taught bible classes and been in church for a long time. James says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you. He will lift you up.”[1]
Jesus said unless we die, we will not truly live. We must die to our understanding, die to any false doctrine that is contrary to the gospel, die to our own skills and abilities, die to everything we thought we were and all we thought we knew – everything that does not line up with Truth of God’s word. When we die, we will live.
In order to die, do we need to crucify ourselves over and over again? Jesus did say to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Him.  We deny the earthly tendencies, and cling to the spiritual reality of who we now are in His kingdom.  We do not need to crucify ourselves. If we had to crucify ourselves it would be a work of ours. The work has been done by Him. We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Past tense. The old is gone and the new has come. Our job is to believe that this work has actually been done.  We are not trying to overcome the flesh.  The flesh is crucified and our work is to believe the truth that the flesh is overcome. You have overcome the flesh in Christ, because of Christ’s work on the cross. It’s finished. The flesh is crucified and you reign with God forever. You are free. Now don’t use your freedom to indulge the flesh. Yield your body to God for Him to use for righteousness and renew your mind (the mind of the soul) with the truth of God’s word. Be who you are in Him, a righteous, holy being, set apart for the will of Father God. As you do this, you will experience the freedom you have in Christ.

[1] James 4:10