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Posts Tagged with “worldliness”

When Emptying Means Filling

The closing salutation of Hebrews leaves us with this request:

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.1

Two phrases in particular should be highlighted here: “make you complete… to do his will,” and, “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight.” For clarity, replace the words, “what is” with “whatever is.” The prayer of the writer then is this: That we be made complete to do whatever the will of God is pleased with doing through us.

How are we made complete? Our emptiness of self is directly related to our completion in Jesus Christ. The more we empty us of our self, the more God is able to use us for himself. My goal, and the front lines of a lifelong battle, is to be completely emptied of self. Every work I do should be done for him, directed by his will. It means complete openness to the promptings of the Spirit, surrender of anything self-centered, and confession of sins that would hinder his communion with me. It means being frequently in God’s Word to us and frequently in thoughts and prayers toward God.

This struggle against self would be impossible without the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who also emptied himself to the will of the Father. In this great act, he sealed the New Covenant of grace with his own blood, paid the penalty for our sins, clothed us in his righteousness, and sent his Spirit to indwell all who believe in faith. In doing so, he has equipped us to fight this battle. May we be his treasure in earthen vessels, vessels of gold and silver, vessels of honor.


  1. Hebrews 13:20-21 []

Prayer, Action, and Broken Plates

Last night Christina and I were talking in the back of the house while our two children were finishing supper in the dining room. Our conversation centered around goals that we desired to meet and our frustration in not being able to meet them. After the discussion, we prayed together, asking the Lord to help us meet our desires and expectations. As we prayed, my wife jokingly said, “Lord, don’t let Samuel (our 20 month old) throw his plate from the high chair and break it while we’re back here.” I thought to myself, “I should get up and go get that from him.” As we continued to pray, I heard his fork hit the floor. I thought, “At the very least I should shout out to him not to throw his plate down.” About thirty seconds later, I heard the plate shatter.

The Holy Spirit immediately brought to mind that this was an example of how I often pray. I ask God to help me accomplish a certain goal, then wait in hopes that it will come to pass. The Spirit prompts me to act, but I remain still. I knew exactly how to stop that plate from being broken the moment we realized that it was a possibility, but I was too distracted and comfortable to get up and take action.

Distraction and comfort. These are the enemies of the Believer. Whether it be other desires, less important but higher prioritized, or the simple pull of relaxation, our prayers will be for naught if we refuse to take action when the Spirit commands. Peter knocked at the door while the supplicants inside ignored the summons and continued to pray. Likewise, the Spirit often calls us to act on our own holy desires and we instead continue to ask, hoping some other force will act for us.

Put aside spiritual laziness and temporal comfort. Act when the Spirit answers!

The Liberty of Restraint

I was struck the familiarity of the following complaint, recorded by Philip Hone, New York City, 1837:

We have become the most careless, reckless, headlong people on the face of the earth. ‘Go ahead’ is our maxim and pass-word, and we do go ahead with a vengeance, regardless of consequences and indifferent to the value of human life.1

If there is one characteristic that most wholly encompasses the definition of worldliness, it is lack of restraint. Mankind has always strived to push past boundaries. Eve, in the garden of Eden, defied the sole restrain in the universe because she “saw that it was good to the eyes,”2 and the scoffers of the last days will “walk according to their own lusts.”3 We built towers up to heaven when God said to “fill the earth,” and we crucified the Holy One who came down from heaven, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”4 Even as infants, we break rules merely because they restrict.

The world defies restrictions. They must be systematically and methodically eliminated, regardless of the ultimate cost. This is why those who live according to the example of Christ will be hated by the world. Life in Christ consists of servitude and restraint – the bending of our will away from ourselves and toward the will of God – anathema to a world enslaved to self.

A. T. Pierson, the famous 19th century abolitionists and urban preacher, wrote the following:

True freedom is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow, only between banks: without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets, uncontrolled by law, would only bring wreck to themselves and to the universe. The same law which fences us in, fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also insure and protect it.5

So it is with followers of Christ. May we embrace the restraint of Christ and resist the prideful anarchy of the world, so that we can share in the life of true liberty from sin and self.6

 


  1. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848, by Daniel Walker Howe, p. 214 []
  2. Genesis 3:6 []
  3. 2 Peter 3:3 []
  4. Luke 19:14 []
  5. Taken from William MacDonald’s Believer’s Bible Commentary, excerpt from commentary on Galatians 5:2-15 []
  6. Weird footnote: I got the idea for this blog post while reading What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848, by Daniel Walker Howe. He quotes the “famous Christian businessmen and philanthropists Arthur and Lewis Tappan.” The quote led me to the Philip Hone passage, written in 1837. Then, in reading various other passages, I came across the last quote by A. T. Pierson, as recorded by William MacDonald. I looked up A. T. Pierson, and to my amazement, he was born in 1837 and was named after Arthur Tappan. Such a strange set of coincidences! []

Stripped

One of our biggest failures is the fallacy of self-sufficiency. When we are confident in our own strength, we tend to leave God out of the process. But God is a master at stripping us to the point where we are forced to call out to him. This isn’t capricious or selfish; it’s relational. He wants us to talk to him, to include him in our being.

Thief on crossConsider the thieves on the cross. They were stripped of their property, their wealth, their families, their liberty, their dignity, their health, and their future. They literally had nothing left except the company of a man so badly beaten that he could not be recognized as one. He suffered under a sign: The King of the Jews. In any other circumstance, this man being crucified with them would have been mocked or ignored. He claimed to be the Messiah, but he was on a cross!  At first they did revile him. But the words and attitude of that man witnessed to who he was. It must have seemed a slim hope for the thieves, so slim that it would have at any other time been passed over without thought. But the thieves were stripped. No matter how slight a chance that he was who he said, he was the only thing left. Still, one thief continued to mock him. It was not enough. But the second thief responded. “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The thief acknowledged his sins and recognized the sinless character of the God Man. He called him Lord and accepted that he had the power of death and life and was heir to the kingdom of God. Jesus responded, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Not just restored to, but with: a statement of relationship. The stripping became a blessing.

God the Father spoke through the prophet Zephaniah:

I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction,’ so that her dwelling would not be cut off, despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds. (Zeph 3:7)

His heartfelt cry for a relationship with His people is still felt today. May we have receptive hearts to the stripping when the hand of God moves against our self-sufficiency, so that we can experience it as a blessing and not a curse.