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22 September, 2013

My God Is Worthy Of The Risk!

Hebrews 4: 12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 5: 13-14 “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 6:11-12 “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Hebrews 10:38-39 “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

Hebrews 10:29 “ How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The book of Hebrews is one of my favourite books of the Bible. I have acquired this tenderness for this particular book because God used it to open my eyes and helped me understand two major things in my walk with Him. The first one is that the way we live what we claim to believe, truly matters to Him. The second thing I learned right at the onset of going through the wilderness process with God, is that there is no such thing as living the true Christian life while sitting on the fence spiritually speaking. I remember this vividly, because when God got hold of me and turned my life upside down He taught me that we could sit on the fence at a spiritual level. I was surprised because the people, who were the pillars of the Church I used to attend to, a few years back, told me that I was sitting on the fence based on the Church’s activities I was willing to take on. In order to rectify the situation I obeyed them to the point where I took on more work than I could chew.  

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Later on, when God took my hand like a child even though He did not say a word, I knew I was leaving the people that I learned to love like a true family, behind. It was painful to me. Because I did not know God, so even though He took me by the hand, His hand could not take away the pain of leaving my family behind. (Like a child leaving behind mom and dad) He knew I was in pain.  He then went on explaining how this stage of my walk with Him was important. He showed me how all that I have been doing so far was just “dead works”. Sadly, it was not only me. The whole Church looked like a bunch of rebellious lost sheep that would not follow Him, His way. It was dead works all over. It was sad because this is such a big and busy Church. Then He said “where I am leading you, none of them can take you there.” Then all of the sudden, the pain that I felt changed and I realized it was an honour that He chose me and I should join Him willingly, with gladness in my heart.

In Christianity there is no room to just live a life where we “sample” and we cannot stand at the door not being sure whether we want to go in or remain out. (Spiritually speaking) In fact, if you are truly walking with God, you will find at one point, not only He needs you to move forward with Him, but He will also destroy the bridge behind you. Like the Israelites, once they crossed the red sea it was a place of no return and they had no idea where God was leading.

In my case, while I did not have a red sea, but He showed me a bridge that led in and out of the world I used to know and this bridge was destroyed behind me. I vividly remember the time, because I looked back in my spirit, and He saw what I did. For a few seconds I felt, the Christianity God sets out to show me was too hard and I said to myself, I can’t take more of this thing. Even when I was experiencing Him left right and centre, the pain became too great in the practical life.  Another thing, I felt for a moment, because of His love, it would be okay even if I do not continue with Him.  My life was painful, lonely, I was jobless, the shame was overwhelming, and I could tell there were more storms that looked more like a spiritual typhoon coming my way.  I was about to lose every single thing I ever possessed and I was on my way of becoming homeless. I looked back because in my mind I felt, if I took the situation in my own hands, I might have a chance to stop the landslide that became my life.  It is an amazing to see how in my spirit, I looked back, like lot’s wife looking back at what was lost and like the Israelites holding onto Egypt like a dog with a bone. 

When I turned back, even though I have done it in the spirit, but I knew it was a desire of the flesh. I could see the contrast between the spirit and the flesh. In a fraction of a second, God showed me the bridge was no longer there and it felt as if He left me by myself to reassess. By then, I was a Christian for about seven years. As I reassessed and took all what I knew of God into consideration, I chose Him. Not because I knew Him well, but because I knew by then He was real. I remember after I chose Him, while I was in pain, in my heart I knew it was all dung that I had to leave behind. My only concerned then was to ask Him “where am I going to sleep God?” Even that, I needed to let go and trusted Him to take care of things for me one step at the time. This looking back I referred to, is not just for me. It is a universal truth about our relationship with Him. It is a test of faith in the worst moment of our lives. It is a test to see if we would trust Him and choose Him over again even though the road ahead is rough and plain nasty.

Strangely, even though God showed me there was no way back but I still had a decision to make within me. Am I going to continue with Him or not? I remember saying to myself “I know too much now to accept the natural life as my life, then the only logical step was to continue with Him.” The funny thing is, when I look back today, I realize I knew nothing compare to the learning, the spiritual growth and the transforming life that God has for us on this path that lead to the narrow gate. Yet, it was enough for me to trust and obey.
In the book of Hebrews the writer is sharing with us how important it is to continue because Christ is worth the risk, He is worth the pain and He is worth our trust. The writer also spelled out for us how sitting on the fence has its consequences. The warnings are all there for us and we are free to provoke Him with our presumptuous faith. The writer also shared with us in 6:9 “…., We are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.”

The greatest things that accompany salvation as far as my heart is concerned, is about finding God through Christ. The very covenant God made with us is “Him being ours” as we walk with Him. It is strange to see how we hang on to some verses of the Bible as if we want to keep God in line with His promises, yet some of the greatest verses in the Bible that lead us right in His arms of love, we are not finding delight in them. Like Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” Another verse is: James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  (3 different colors 3 main themes)

I have hundreds of those verses that bring delight to my soul. When you think of James 4:8 this is a verse that evoke pain beyond measure. The only way we would know that is if we go with Him in a practical way living out the last part of this verse which is: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Incidentally, He showed me this verse is closely related to Hebrews 10:22-23 in the way He works them out in our lives.  He breaks us until we feel shattered in millions of pieces. He also humbles us in order to prepare our hearts for the intimate and holy life He is about to share with us as He draws near. So this little in James 4:8 has three components, the first one is that we draw near. The second one is that He comes closer too, but this closeness before we can enjoy it and find the delight that He brings to the soul we ought to let Him apply the third part of the verse which is: Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. This is where your will is important because you have a role to play too in this deal. We are given a command to draw near, but it is His job to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Then, once He starts the process of purifying us to prepare us to receive His holiness, we ought to remain put and let Him do the work. Through this work of cleansing our hands and hearts, we find that our double mindedness is no longer something we delight in anymore. Only then you are ready inwardly to share in His holiness.

The same principle applies to the verse Amos 3:3. How can you walk with God with a heart plagued with double mindedness? How can you walk with God with a heart filled with hypocrisy? A spirit of rebellion?  The verse itself tells you that there has to be an agreement. This agreement involved us agreeing with Him. Not us forcing our idea of salvation on Him. The similarity of our inclinations, what brings joy to our walk, the intimacy we share, the love, our habits, what brings pleasure to each other, etc. are things that we have to agree on and find delight in them as we share this love and intimate walk together.

Often times I read from the puritan writings that if we do not learn to share these things with God right now, if we cannot find delight in Him right here and right now, then, for those Christians, heaven would be hell and I have to agree with them. Well, if you do not delight in Him now, what makes you think this is going to happen to you after you are dead?

Yes, the blood of Jesus Christ washes us from all filth, but if it is true and this happened to you, why is it you are still living as if salvation has not touched you? Why living in your self-righteousness? Why the presumptuous faith that somehow cannot be changed into real faith? Why are you full of hypocrisy? Lust, sin, wickedness, harden heart etc? Where is the work of Salvation within? Where is the Cross of Christ? I am getting so excited with this post that I will make one more point and try very hard to stop myself.

In the book of Hebrews we have a passage that causes great controversy in 6:4. There are in reality four groups: one believes this passage does not relate to Christian because we have been sealed with the Spirit and God cannot lie so eternal security is ours while we live life, our way. Another group feels that this is just a hypothetical example and has nothing to do with those who confess their belief in Christ. The third group goes wild in explaining this verse in conjunction with their idea of salvation (this one is a gut’ wrenching) because you can see you are dealing with people who just want what God has to offer and they want Him to leave them alone. The fourth group believes like John Calvin, that this verse, Hebrews 6:4 is pertaining to those who never fully became Christian.

Here is how John Calvin explains those falling away: “experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith…”

Needless to say that I am with Calvin here, not that this mean I am a Calvinist because my true religion is the Holy Spirit. However, today’s church more than ever is filled to capacity with the kind of Christians that are in the category of those referred to by the writer of Hebrews as those “falling away.” Sadly, these people are found from the pulpits to the pews and it goes deeper than that, because we find them right in the leadership of the Church as Church elders.