Num. 21:4-9 π Prov. 9:10 π Isa. 55:8-9 π Jer. 17:9 π Jer. 29:11 π Mt. 5:3 π Mt. 18:3 π Mt. 26:47-28:15 π Mk. 14:43-16:13 π Lk. 22:39-24:49 π Lk. 24:32 π Jn. 3:14 π Jn. 3:14-19 π Jn. 5:38-40 π Jn. 10:10 π Jn. 18:1-20:29 π Rom. 3:10-12 π Rom. 5:8 π Rom. 8:18 π Rom. 9:20-21 π Rom. 10:9-10 π Rom. 10:17 π 1 Cor. 1:27-29 π 1 Cor. 10:13 π 1 Cor. 15:1-8 π 2 Cor. 11:23-27 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Eph. 2:8-9 π Eph. 2:8-10 π Phlp. 2:12-13 π Col. 3:8-17 π Tit. 2:11-14; 2nd π Heb. 4:1-3 π Heb. 4:9-11; 2nd; 3rd π Heb. 4:11 π Heb. 4:12-16 π Heb. 10:24 π Heb. 10:25 π Jas. 1:22 π Jas. 1:22-27 π Jas. 4:3 π 2 Pet. 1:3-4 π 1 Jn. 1:9; 2nd π 1 Jn. 5:3 π 1 Jn. 5:4-5 π 1 Jn. 5:11
If you have never truly prayed to God before, the "formula" for being able to do so is found in attitudes of the heart, not in ritualistic actions or pre-printed words. And these attitudes are not based on any man's opinions or on what someone might believe to be the truth. These attitudes and convictions are based on the simple reading and understanding of God's Word, the Bible.
First you must humbly recognize that you are a sinner, that is, you are flawed, imperfect, even downright evil at times, and you have sinned against a holy God. ( Rom. 3:10-12; top )
Second, you must recognize that the holy God you have offended rightly holds the authority to pronounce you guilty and to condemn you to eternal separation from Him because of your wickedness. ( Rom. 9:20-21; top ) But instead of summary judgment against you, He sent His unique Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Man who was also God, to take upon Himself your sentence, suffer your punishment, and die in your place. ( Jn. 3:14-19 , also see Num. 21:4-9 for the prefigure, called a "type," that is referred to in Jn. 3:14 and is a picture of the salvation offered through Christ; and also see Rom. 5:8; top ) To satisfy God's righteous judgment against your sins, Jesus was nailed onto a Roman torture stake outside of Jerusalem circa 32 AD ( Mk. 14:43-16:13 ; Mt. 26:47-28:15 ; Lk. 22:39-24:49 ; Jn. 18:1-20:29 ; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; top )
Third, you must sincerely ask Him to come into your life and be your Lord - resident-boss, owner, and absolute master with complete authority over your life - and Savior - rescuer, redeemer, and the love of your life. ( Jas. 1:22-27 ; Tit. 2:11-14; top )
Fourth, you must believe that He has come to you ( Rom. 10:9-10 ) and that, in His coming into your life, He has granted you eternal life which will be experienced even now ( 1 Jn. 5:11 ) being characterized by such characteristics as abundant life, joy, peace, love, and goodness. ( Jn. 10:10 ; Gal. 5:22-23; top )
And after you have done this, or if you have done this at some previous point in your life, you are now ready to think about what a Christian does to maintain a relationship with God. Paramount is 1 Jn. 1:9; top . The Christian relies on this verse as much as any other. But when it comes down to what to do and what to be concerned about, there are a very blessed few things to do.
First and foremost, the life in God is truly a life of resting in Him, relying on God for love, guidance, strength, comfort, peace, and joy. Consider Hebrews 4:9-11 : "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience."
There is a place of rest for all those who have trusted in the name of Jesus Christ. In this place of rest one ceases from working, from striving, from having to succeed, from having to be a Type A personality, from having to be in complete control of every detail of life. One does not blindly relinquish everything to the "whims of fate" or any such other foolishness. One honestly evaluates the purpose of God in his or her life and then trusts that God will put life and force behind our efforts to trust and obey only Him. (top)
For all Christians the primary purpose of God is to establish simple, biblical faith - a deeper-than-mental trust in God - that is displayed through holiness - moral and ethical separation from the immoral practices of the world - and love - a selfless and often self-sacrificing giving of time, energy and self to meet the true needs of others. This is also referred to as being conformed to the image of Christ. ( Col. 3:8-17; top ) When you know this purpose of God, as well as the more specific manners in which that relates to you as an individual, then you are able to look at what is the Christian's proper sphere of activity - that is, what is he supposed to do?
The answer is simple when you have the attitude of truly seeking to know Jesus as a Person: Read, pray, fellowship, and obey. And never underestimate the difference between simple, as in easy to understand, and easy, which means easy to accomplish. God's ways are almost always simple but rarely easy.
When you read or hear the Word of God you must believe it as well as obey it. ( Rom. 10:17 ) If you do not obey it, you may cause your life to go the route of people like David Koresh or Jim Jones or even supposed "mainstream Christians" who are lost in false religiosity. ( Jas. 1:22 ) And this knowledge that one can spend one's life studying the Bible ( Jn. 5:38-40 ) and yet end up deceived and still be in enmity towards God introduces an element of fear that is also a necessary ingredient to a proper Christian attitude. This fear of God is one of those things that cannot be instructed into you by another human being. I believe that the fear of the Lord - which is the beginning of wisdom and understanding ( Prov. 9:10; top ) - can only be taught through experience by the Spirit of God.
When you pray, you must know the things that God has spoken to you through His Word. If you do not pray according to His will and His Word, your prayers will go unanswered and your requests unfulfilled because you ask so that your own desires, and not God's, will be gratified ( Jas. 4:3 ) God has a purpose and plan that is higher than your thoughts or imaginations can ever reach. ( Isa. 55:8-9 ; Jer. 29:11; top ) As you pray over what He has said, your thoughts and imaginations will come more into harmony with God's purpose for your life.
When you fellowship - hang out with and share your life and self with other believers - and not "if" you fellowship! (see Heb. 10:25 ) When you fellowship, you will be wise to look for two kinds of individuals to draw strength from: first look for an older, wiser servant of the Lord who quietly serves God without flash or flair, and, second, for a peer who has a way of simply refreshing you or encouraging you in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. As you look for someone who will strengthen and encourage you, you also need to look for ways to meet the needs of those around you. ( Heb. 10:24; top ) Look for the lost, isolated sheep and pour out your love on them. Invest yourself in someone's life and be their friend and companion. Maintain these three types of relationships and be prepared to compensate when one or more is missing.
When you obey, you must do so because you love the One who gave the command. If you find the command overly burdensome, it is right to question whether the command truly came from God. ( 1 Jn. 5:3 ) If the command does not come from God, don't do it. If the command does truly come from God, do it - no matter what the weight of the burden, the fear of failure (or success), the fear of rejection or consequence, the normal human inertia against change, or what any friend or counselor might tell you (consider the experiences of Paul as he obeyed God - 2 Cor. 11:23-27 - in contrast to what he writes in Rom. 8:18; top as an example of how God sustains even through disastrous consequences).
If you are uncertain as to the origin of an impulse, make a decision based on your current "level" of spiritual maturity, wisdom and understanding and be prepared to take the consequences of being wrong. God graciously gives Christians much room to fail as well as to succeed: something our society does not often do. Obedience to God ought to always remain this simple. And when obedience breaks down into disobedience, confession and repentance ( 1 Jn. 1:9 ) are there to restore you to an unblemished relationship with God so that you are fresh to try again, and again, and again, ad nauseam, if necessary until you are living the life of an overcomer. ( 1 Jn. 5:4-5; top )
Look back at Hebrews 4:9-11 . You must cease from all your works. Do not seek to please God with any action - that is, any activity, speech, thought, or motive - that does not fall into the above parameters. Any work outside those parameters is a work of the flesh. God has purposed, that is, He has set His will, that no flesh will glory (boast of their accomplishments) in His presence. ( 1 Cor. 1:27-29 ; Eph. 2:8-9; top )
What this does is to free you from the responsibility to change, in the direct sense of the word. That is, you are not required to remold yourself into the image of Christ. You are required to do those things which promote the softening of your heart and mind so that your life can be reshaped in His image, but you are not yourself the agent of change. You will find that if you will devote yourself to the doing of the four things above - read, pray, fellowship and obey - in a biblical manner, truly seeking the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone and not just mechanically doing some list of do's and don't's, you will soon see, if you are capable of gaining an objective perspective on your own life, that the deeper aspects of your life will begin to resemble more and more the characteristics of love and service of the Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, you will see proof of the proverb "you become like the people you hang out with."
If you hang out with worldly "Christians," or even sincere but confused or ineffective Christians, you will become worldly, confused, or ineffective yourself. If you hang out with committed, on-fire Christians, you will be committed and zealous. And this is fine, for a time. But there will come a time when Jesus will tell you ominously, "I need to see you in My office, alone, now." You will be tested and tried and there will be no one around but you and your convictions and Jesus. If you are accustomed to relying on your Christian friends for strength, you will fail the tests when you are required to lean on Him and Him alone. In essence, what I am saying is that, while it is good to have examples and like-minded friends, if you form the habit now of hanging out first-most with Jesus and never form the habit of relying on friends around you for spiritual stability, yours will be the life that is the example and the source of encouragement and strength for others and you will be a step ahead on the road to Glory.
Heb. 4:11 (top) concludes with the exhortation to be diligent in entering that rest. We are to be diligent in the doing of those things that are within our proper sphere of influence. We are to be completely at ease about God's control over those things which are outside of our proper sphere of influence.
This passage is preceded by verses 1-3 (top) in Heb. 4: "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest."' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."
Here again we see the element of fear that is required to keep us from being lax. I do not wish to overemphasize the need for the fear of the Lord and again, I do not believe I can instruct you in exactly what it is or how you can properly exhibit it. If you wish to walk in the fear of God, begin to ask God for it. Two cautions: it is closely akin to asking for patience, and, you will find it hard to bend the knee on a consistent basis. But it is a necessary requirement to know the inner life of tranquility and strength, to be a true member of the people of the Book and of the people of the burning heart. (see Lk. 24:32; top )
But here is also the hope: "we who have believed" (past tense) "do enter that rest" and those who do not believe do not enter that rest even though all of God's creative and redemptive acts were done from the foundation of the world. (Here one must realize that God lives outside of time and space as we know it. In eternity, where God lives, there is no time. To Him it is always "now" no matter what time it is for us. This is a concept that will strain your brain and is good to know. But suffice it to say that God sees all of His work as finished while we are still confined in time and space to work out all that He has already done. My brain hurts just from having to say that, so please don't expect me to go off onto these astronomical, metaphysical tangents which don't always help very much in the practical, day-to-day living anyway.) It is much easier to just accept God's word that the promise is to those who have believed.
Again, this allows us to rest:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it [the grace, the salvation, the faith, the whole package deal] is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His [not our own, but His] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." ( Eph. 2:8-10 , words in brackets mine; top)
"the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." ( Tit. 2:11-14; top )
"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." ( 2 Pet. 1:3-4; top )
"as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." ( Phlp. 2:12-13; top )
In essence, God has presented us with all the ingredients necessary for our life to be conformed to His image. It is our simple (but not always easy) responsibility to surrender those ingredients and our pollutants to His complete control based on simple trust in Him.
And one of the pollutants that is one of our worst enemies is our unrenewed intellect. ( Jer. 17:9 ) Our intellect will often prevent us from enjoying a simple, non-complex relationship with God. Our intellect is too smart to let us have the simple, child-like faith of say a country bumpkin whose thoughts go no further than watering the crops and milking the cows. This is no put down to him, for that country bumpkin may enjoy a deeper, much less complex spiritual relationship with God. But because of the "civilized" sophistication with which we are accustomed to interacting with others, we may find it difficult, by reason of that very cultural sophistication, of entering into simple, child-like faith ( Mt. 18:3; top ) which promotes innocence and absence of worry.
But, if we look again at Heb. 4:9-11 , we find immediately after it the hope. Look at verses 12-16 : "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (top)
The Word of God pierces and penetrates, separating what needs to go from that which needs to stay in our lives. This is one reason why obedience is a requirement. Sin in a person's life can often be compared to peeling an onion. As you are obedient to God in one aspect of putting away your sins, God shows you how you have been motivated by some other source to commit that same sin. And so it goes on. As one layer is dealt with, God soon confronts us with another layer of self, sin, and pride.
And we can rest again because we know that no sin we will ever commit will be a surprise to God. ( 1 Cor. 10:13; top ) We are not going to catch God off guard or napping. It will not happen. If we have entrusted our lives to Him, God has forgiven us of all our sins - past, present, and future - and He will lead us into an ever deepening relationship with Him.
And because our God is so great, we can hold securely to what we have learned from Him. For our God was so great that He not only spoke the worlds, the heavens, the animals, and humans into existence, but He also condescended to taking on our human frailties and subjecting Himself to every human temptation and weakness and even death so that He might buy us back for Himself.
Therefore we can boldly, albeit fearfully, respectfully, lovingly, confidently, and humbly, walk into the throne room - the center of all life - the throne room of grace - that is, all supernatural favor and power coming from the ultimate Source - whenever we perceive that we are in need. The secret of the inner life is to know the poverty of the human condition and not wait for calamity and catastrophe to drive us to our knees to call out to God. The wise person is one who knows that he needs God every minute of every day, not just in the tough spots. Jesus said it this way: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ( Mt. 5:3; top )
Lord, You have been so kind and good to me. I have fought against Your grace too often to contemplate. Now, as You offer me Your rest, help me to see my poverty and my need for You. Cause me to come into Your presence more often. Teach me to pray without ceasing. Teach me to live in Your presence and always walk in Your Spirit for Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. The ones I often carry are heavy and they drain my strength. I need You and Your Spirit to be my strength. Cause me to diligently rest and hide in You and in You alone. Amen.
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