Folks love to quote Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the Angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
I propose to you that just a few verses later the Bible states exactly when Jesus is coming again:
“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44 ESV)
When is it that no one really expects Him? NOW
I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t think he has at least one more Planck, or yoctosecond, or whatever, before Jesus returns.
The first part of the verse says we must be ready – we must be trusting in the Blood of Christ alone as the atonement for our sins, that sets us free from slavery to sin. We should be expectant as well, like the five wise virgins in Matthew 25. As Christians we are always looking ahead to Jesus’ return:
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20 ESV)
Yes, I am speaking a bit tongue-in-cheek…
But you should still be ready. For Jesus to come.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:21 ESV)
Sometimes I look back over my posts and I think, “There’s some good advice scattered here. I should be doing this stuff!”
Someday, by the grace of God, I hope to come close to being what I espouse.
Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?
I have. Plenty of times.
On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.
On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”
That version doesn’t really fit scripture.
Have you ever really read the Great Commission?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)
Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.
Earlier, Jesus said:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’” (John 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)
God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.
THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!
Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.
Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)
God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”
I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.
The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)
and in John:
“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’” (John 14:16-17,26 ESV)
He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)
So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.
You have to decide.
The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!
I read a Facebook post today which prompted me to write a response. I don’t often respond, and not at great length, but this post pushed a button.
The post was sharing one person’s viewpoint on why courtship doesn’t work, and why dating is much better: Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed
“The problem, in my opinion (just opinion, mind you) is not with courtship or dating, but in the modern view (both within and outside of Christian circles) of what marriage is for and about. Almost all of our society seems to view marriage’s purpose to be happiness and self-fulfillment. “Finding the right person…to love me for life.”
The bible describes marriage as the picture of Christ and his Church. It is all about self-sacrifice and glorifying God. Yes, you can find someone through courtship, or dating, or arranged marriage, or whatever. However, the relationships don’t succeed or fail based upon how you meet, but on how each person pursues God and His plan for marriage rather than their own happiness and their own plans for marriage.
I’ll get off my soap box now :-)”
So, you’ve become a Christian…walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, spoken in tongues, experienced miraculous healing, received Jesus into your heart – whatever your starting point might be. The point is, you are a Christian, and now you’re wondering why you are not automatically walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Why do I keep sinning? Why doesn’t God do something to stop me?” I know – I have had the same thoughts, the prayers of, “God, please help me!”
I don’t want to give the impression that God doesn’t give us power and strength to resist sin, but for a long time I didn’t really latch onto God’s answer to my cry: “I already did help you. My Son already died and rose again to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again – it’s all in there. You don’t have to sin. You’re free from slavery to sin!”
I didn’t want to hear God’s answer. I wanted Him to give me brokenness – to force me to obey. I didn’t want to have to choose not to sin, to discipline myself “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5)
Let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just because the Holy Spirit is living in me does not mean that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to control me, to guide me, to shape the way I think and act. There is a constant battle between the flesh (the lustful desires and actions laid out in 5:19-20) and the Spirit. God does not force us to obey Him – he leaves it up to us to decide to love Him and serve him and to choose to walk in the Spirit. It is all our choice. God lays out the gift before us, and gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us when we become Christians, but we still have to choose to obey. He won’t force it.
If we keep feeding the flesh, keep choosing to give in to temptation instead of choosing to humble ourselves and accept the Holy Spirit’s help, we won’t live godly lives. If we continuously choose to disobey God, then we have to wonder whether we were ever saved to begin with, since a true Christian is not characterized by the continuous choice to rebel against God (as opposed to desiring to obey, and failing because I am not accepting the help God is holding out to me).
It can be confusing, and lead to despair if we let it. Satan wants to convince us that we can never really follow God, and that he doesn’t really love us because he doesn’t make us obey. We need to be like Paul, who perseveres even though he sounds discouraged and frustrated with his own ability to follow God: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25
Paul does not give up the fight, and neither can we! We must be determined to follow God, and focus our hearts and minds on the Spirit rather than the flesh, fighting hard with every weapon we have; prayer, scripture, fellowship, etc. That is why openness is so key: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9
Note how John ties together openness (walking in the light) with fellowship with the verse we have all probably memorized about being forgiven when we confess our sins. It all goes together. Without openness, no brokenness. No brokenness, no confession. No confession, no forgiveness and cleansing.
So, all that is to say, just because I am a Christian does not mean that somehow I will automatically walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and be devoid of sin. Instead, it means that my greatest desire will be to love God and obey him, and that even though I still sin I keep bringing it to light, keep confessing, keep changing into the man he wants me to be. Everyone seems to know Romans 8:28, but 8:29 gives the purpose: “For to those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.”
I hope that helps, somehow.
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