THIS WEEK’S THEME:
You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
(NOTE: Write out the BIBLE KEY at least once this week, perhaps in your personal journal. Then, before you begin to read the devotional thoughts for each day, read the BIBLE KEY for that week. Become familiar with it and, perhaps, even memorize it.)
BIBLE KEY: (Luke 14:33, NIV) [Jesus speaking] “Anyone of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
Don’t forget to read the Bible Key each day.
(Isaiah 55:9, NIV) “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Have you ever wondered why God did some things the way He did? Why does He allow good people to suffer? Why did He allow that baby to die? Why does He allow bad people to do bad things to others?
Let’s face it; we don’t always understand God’s ways. Sometimes, in attempting to explain them, we try to force Him into our logic and that doesn’t work.
Not only are we baffled by God ways, but also we don’t always understand His thoughts. For example, there are passages in the Bible that create much debate between orthodox Bible scholars. If those experts can’t agree, then we might conclude that the exact meanings of those passages aren’t essential for us to know before we get to Heaven.
Certainly, we should stand is awe of God’s great ways in our world. As Apostle Paul observed, (Romans 11:33-34, NIV) 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 ”Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” Of course, no human is capable of knowing God’s mind or giving Him counseling. We aren’t smart enough or wise enough to do it. God is much smarter than the smartest person who ever lived.
So, if God is smarter than we are, we should humble ourselves before Him and try to learn what He can teach us. Instead of trying to force God to operate only within our limits, we should trust what He does and says. Doing this means that we align our thinking and our lives with God. We must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to change so we conform to God’s plan for us.
Not only do humans have trouble understanding God’s ways and thoughts, but also we have trouble following them. The apostle felt the frustration of the situation.
(Romans 7:18-20, NIV) 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Our human nature is rebellious to God and resists the changes we should make in our lives. Though we may accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we often find our human nature imposing itself on our thinking and actions. Yes, we want to follow Jesus, but the flesh tries to hold us back. Sometimes, we revert to our old ways. Then, we must repent and turn back to the Lord.
Apostle Paul tell us in another place, (1 Corinthians 15:50, NIV) …flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. He is saying that our physical bodies must be discarded before we can enter Heaven. Also, he is implying that God’s Kingdom is very different from life as we know it—we cannot live our flesh-and-blood lives in Heaven.
Jesus, also, recognized our need to be transformed. He said, (John 3:6, NIV) “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” So, it’s very important for us to be born of the water and the Spirit, if we want to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Once we are born again, we begin making major changes in our lives, so that we can get as close as possible to our holy, loving Heavenly Father. The closer we get to Him, the more peace and satisfaction we receive from His presence.
Everyday, surrender your life to God’s transforming power. Ask the Father to help you make positive changes in your life so you can walk closely to Him.
(Luke 9:23-25, NIV) Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
Jesus’ call to follow Him is a big challenge. He wants us to deny ourselves, that is, deny our sinful, self-pleasing, human nature. That means making sacrifices. After we do that, He tells us to take up a cross of commitment to God everyday, where we die to our own desires and surrender ourselves to what Jesus wants. Then, we give feet to His plan by following the Spirit’s guidance.
As humans, we think that saving is gaining and losing is losing. Ironically, human logic fails in this case, because God has a different plan. When you at the point where you must decide whether or not to obey God, and you decide to sacrifice yourself to follow Him, you gain a far greater reward than you can see at that time. God will give you something much better than anything you can imagine in this world.
Take a look at the above verses of Scripture again. Then, talk to God about it.
(John 15:5, NIV) [Jesus speaking] “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
(1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV) [Apostle Paul writing] But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
(Galatians 2:20, NIV) [Apostle Paul writing] I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Can you spot the thread that ties these three verses together?
Notice what each of these verses tells us. We cannot bear fruit for God without Jesus. God’s grace works in our lives to make us who we are and enable us to do His work. And, the real life we have as Christians is Jesus living in us.
You see, when we follow Jesus, we don’t do everything by our own power. God’s power can transform us into the person He wants us to be and enable us to do greater works than we could do by ourselves. This is possible when we will allow Him to guide us.
True obedience to the Lord requires our total dependence on Him to work through us. He produces the results, so we give Him the glory for it. Of course, we should recognize that we play an important role in His plan. But, it is His plan and His power at work through us. We are simply His tools.
Some really good news here is that God allows us to share in His joy as we serve Him. Isn’t that great?
So, consider that your life has meaning and purpose when you follow Christ. He will bless you as you allow Him to use you to produce eternal results.
(Matthew 7:7-8, NIV) 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
This is one of my favorite Scriptures about prayer. When I memorized it many years ago, I used the initials “A.S.K.” as a memory jogger. “A.” stands for “Ask.” “S.” stands for “Seek.” And, “K.” stands for _____________. (Fill in the blank.) Perhaps, you can memorize these verses, too.
When you want God to show you what He wants you to do, these verses give you a plan to follow. Ask God for what you need or what you need to know. Continue praying about it frequently until you receive the answer.
While you are praying, start seeking the answer to your prayer. Consider all the possibilities. This doesn’t mean you are getting ahead of God, but rather you are demonstrating that you really want God to answer your prayers.
As you seek, perhaps, you will search the Bible for the answer. Or, you might discuss the matter with a spiritual adviser. Or, you might do some other research to gather information. Just keep asking and seeking until God gives you the answer.
Finally, when God begins to reveal His answer to your prayers, you must take decisive action; you must knock. But, when you start looking for a door to knock on, don’t be surprised if it’s shut. Start knocking on it, anyway. If it doesn’t open soon, then look for another door to knock on. Keep knocking until God opens the right door for you.
Prayer is a very valuable communication tool with God. Utilize it to learn what He plans for you. And, use it to gain access to the resources He puts at your disposal.
["Devotional Guides for the Journey" are written by Philip Walter. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012.]
(Scripture quotes are from the New International Version [NIV] of the Bible, copyright © 1984, International Bible Society.)