Thursday, June 27, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 6

(For parts 1-5 see previous posts)

“The whole principle of the Christian life is that we go beyond what is “right” to do that which is well pleasing to Him.” – Watchman Nee

“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” -Charles Spurgeon

When I first read the last quote above, sometime in the last 2 years, I began praying for this. The Lord is so patient, so gentle to lead us in the way we should go. It’s strange the ways the Lord leads us, the ways that He directs us or allows us to go in order to teach us what we need to learn. But He is utterly faithful to complete His work in us, to bring good out of all things… from the blessings and the trials.

The Lord gives many good gifts, but sometimes you can only keep them for a season, and then you have to give them up. There was a season of ministry I entered into 2 ½ years ago. At that time I had to make a decision whether or not to submit to the advice of a few respected leaders in my life or reject it and walk in the path that I thought God had for me. The Lord used this time to bring me to a place of full surrender, of laying down my dreams and desires and trusting that He knew what was best. This, I believe, is a crucial process. Our surrender to the Lord needs to be tested through fire. Often He will take from us, but although He may, it is for our good and His glory.

“If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!” - Elisabeth Elliot

In this particular case though, instead of keeping my sacrifice, the Lord graciously gave it back to me and confirmed my calling to serve with this ministry through my parents and a few others. In the next few years, the Lord has tested my surrender over and over. I am still learning to discern between spiritual warfare and the Spirit’s conviction. I have had to wrestle over concern I had of man’s opinion and approval of me, feelings of uncertainty and doubt and learn to seek HIM and trust that He would be faithful to lead and direct me.

“You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He’s doing.” – Oswald Chambers

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know the One who does, and He is faithful, O so faithful to carry it on to completion! My life verse is John 3:30: “He must increase, I must decrease.” Let it be dear Lord, let it be!

This has been my favorite quote ever since I first found it. For years now it has been my prayer and deepest desire:

Perhaps some future day Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to a place where I must stand
Utterly alone.
Alone, O gracious Love
But for Thee;
I shall be satisfied if I can see – Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plans for years to come
My spirit finds its perfect home sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now
Lead on, no matter where, no matter what – I trust in Thee.
-Elisabeth Elliot

P.S. This is the end of this series. I hope you were blessed by hearing my spiritual journey and I pray that the Lord will in His own time and in His own way grow and sanctify you in the truth! God does His work in everyone differently and yet He has the same end in mind. Your experiences may be different than mine, but His goal is still the same. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”  - 1 Thes 5:23-24 (NKJV)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confessions of a Sinner turned Saint – part 5

(For parts 1-4 see previous posts)

Here is the whole final message of the New Testament: through the atonement in Jesus’ blood sinful men may now become one with God. Deity indwelling men! That is Christianity in its fullest effectuation…” - A.W. Tozer

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…  - Eph 2:4-6 (NKJV)

“Everything you entrust to Christ you will never regret.” – Eric Ludy

Over the next year, the Lord centered me more and more on Himself and taught me what it was to truly seek Him. In the spring of 2010 I met Eric & Leslie Ludy at our state Homeschool convention. I had read most of their books and had been very impacted by them so I volunteered (or rather demanded!) to be in charge of their book table and so also got to talk to them a bit. Little did I know what God was doing and what this first meeting would lead to! Over the next month my parents and I prayed about me attending their newly founded discipleship school in Colorado and that October I flew out for 10 weeks. I had a sense going that the Lord was going to do a work in my life through this time and prayed for His wisdom and enabling grace to be obedient to His leading. There were things I knew I needed to surrender, a depth of relationship with God that I was being called to pursue. Over the past few years I had had brief thoughts that maybe I should be baptized again, knowing that I didn’t understand the meaning of it when I was 11, but shrugged it off. Part of it was that I still a bit confused about when I had gotten saved, and the other part was that there was a depth in regard to the meaning of baptism that I still didn’t quite understand. I knew I needed to understand, believe and surrender more.

 “In walking with God, a man will go just as far as he believes, and no further. His life will always be proportional to his faith.”        -J.C. Ryle

One morning as we were in class, one of the staff members began to talk about baptism and the truth that it symbolized. Like a light bulb turning on I finally grasped the truth that I really (really!) had died with Christ to sin and been raised to new life in Him – I didn’t just belong to Christ, He wasn’t just in me, I was IN HIM! Here was a depth and a reality that I just hadn’t really grasped before. The truths in Romans 6 that I had read over and over finally were made real and practical to me…

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. - Romans 6:4-6, NKJV

I knew right away that I should be baptized. I knew needed to testify of what Christ had done, that I was in Him and He was in me, and I knew that I hadn’t understood that when I was baptized the first time. The first time it was something I did, and this time I was testifying of what God had done in me! It was a beautiful fall day, but quite cold and very windy out on that little lake in northern Colorado; it was a sacred time, one that I praise the Lord for!

There’s a lie going around in modern Christianity that you can have the benefits of Christianity, but without the sacrifices, without giving up the things in the world that you don’t want to be without. Then there are many it seems who are surrendered to walk in holiness – but only up to a certain point. After all, we’re free as Christians… aren’t we? We aren’t bound by the law to not do certain things.  True, but we also are not our own, we are bought with a great price! God has not called us to walk the fence between the Christ-life and the world, He has called us out to be separate from the world and set-apart to His service. The Bible warns us to “work-out” our salvation, although in the next verse we are reminded that it is God who works in us according to His will (Phil 2:12-13 – there’s that 100% sovereignty and 100% responsibility again!). The Christian life is not to be taken lightly, we are called to live for Christ and die to ourselves!

Then (Jesus) said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. - Luke 9:23, NKJV

It’s those who persevere to the end that are saved. It’s those who run the race and finish! Living out the truth of the Gospel is not easy. And it doesn’t necessarily get “easier”. With the revelation of truth comes greater responsibility, greater warfare, and greater struggle against the flesh that still lingers. The world, the flesh and the Devil will not give up their fight to rule my life. Over and over I am learning that. I still struggle. I confess I sometimes still give in to my “old man” desires. There are more confessions to be made; daily repentance of sins, God is not done with me yet. I am not perfect and will not be this side of heaven, but I have Christ. In Him, before God, I am perfect, and He is faithful to keep building me more and more into the likeness of Christ. Amen, dear Lord, let it be!

(still to be continued)