Friday, January 18, 2013

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

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