Mar 24, 2009

A Short Devotion

Living the Christian life is perplexing sometimes, and so is zeal for the Lord. Scripture teaches us that the Spirit is like the wind, it blows where it will (John 3:8). We cannot make it blow one direction or the other, nor can we generate the wind at any point. Further, we cannot determine whether it will be a whisper, a gale-force storm, or nothing at all. We are completely dependent upon God to send His Holy Spirit according to his purposes, for His glory. Living and moving in the spirit is like being a sail-boat in the midst of a great ocean. We are dependent upon the wind for movement. We cannot generate our own wind and we could never row long enough to get to safety. We can try all we want, but we will tire and fail if we attempt it. Instead, we must learn to move with the wind, to ride the current. This means being prepared for the wind’s movement and being committed to move the way the wind moves, to go left when the wind goes left and right when the wind goes right. We must let it guide us in the ebb and flow of life, gently caressing and comforting us while moving us swiftly along the ordained path.

Our job, our responsibility, is to prepare for the moving of the Spirit… the end. God’s prerogative, right, and decision is to move according to his purposes and will. Through the disciplines, such as prayer and Bible reading, we prepare ourselves for the movement of the Spirit just like a ship’s sails being properly in place, prepare it for the wind. Yet, as with a ship, having sails up in the air does not mean we will be able to move, it simply means that we are prepared to move when the wind blows and in the manner the wind wills.

There are many spectrums in the spiritual life and this is no exception. At one end of the spectrum is being slack in the disciplines. Slack disciplines are like slack sails, they spill the wind and handle it poorly, causing the ship to move poorly or erratically. When we are slack in the disciplines, we are unable to move with the full power of the Spirit. Though the Lord is willing to move us and sends His Spirit, we are poor vessels, leaking and spilling the precious gift of the Spirit and failing to move in the power thereof. We become erratic and disheartened. Sometimes we even begin to wonder if the wind is insufficient to move us, but in truth it is we who are insufficient. In those times we should recognize it is our insufficiency causing the problem. Yet, at the same time, we need to remember that Christ is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). It is not that Christ is weak, not at all. Instead, it is that His strength is demonstrated most perfectly when we are at our weakest, when we acknowledge our weakness. It is when we are in a posture or position of being totally submitted, totally open and naked before our creator, that he is able to demonstrate His strength in amazing and perfect ways. It is then that He can pick us up in the warmth of His strong arms, holding us close to His bosom, quieting us long enough to listen to the beat of His heart.

At the other end of the spectrum is holding the sails too tightly. When the wind does blow, we are to hold the sails, but if we hold them too tightly we might believe ourselves to be the master of them, foolishly thinking we can go where we will. If the sails are held too tightly, the wind will push against the sails with tremendous force. If the sails continue to be held too tightly, then you end up in a tugging match with the wind vs you. You will not win! In the same way, if we try to use the disciplines to gain favor with God or to earn His approval, we totally miss the point. If we approach them as if they are a means to get where we want to go, we will end up going no where and even find ourselves opposing the Lord. The disciplines must be used in the way they were designed. They were designed to help us grasp the movement of the Spirit, not control it; we cannot control the wind, nor can we decide our own destination. Remember the disciplines do not make us holy; Christ’s atoning blood has already accomplished that on our behalves. Instead of trying to earn your own holiness (as if that were even possible), you must use the disciplines as tools to learn the way the Spirit moves and then set your sails accordingly.

If the wind is blowing toward the west (from the east, toward the west), you will not get anywhere setting the sails toward the east, or if you do, you’ll only end up going the opposite direction you wish to go. Further, if you stubbornly and rebelliously decide on your own course and face against the wind (toward the north or south), you will have a very hard time keeping the boat from capsizing and will eventually tire out, ruin the boat, or both. A ship in the midst of a storm must use the wind to move and be carried by it where it will, it cannot survive taking the wind broad-side. If we put up our sails the wrong way, we will likely break our mast, rip our sails, or capsize the boat. Thus, when our devotionals are on the wrong things (such as worshipping TV or the latest Christian author - ouch), we are facing the wrong way (to one degree or the other). Further, if we simply refuse to put up the sails (not doing any devotionals), we won’t move at all, but will only bob to and fro, tossed about and destined for destruction.

Yet if we do put up the sails, even if we put up the correct sails in the correct manner, we still cannot believe that this will guarantee movement, we must still wait upon the wind for movement. If performing the disciplines by themselves guaranteed movement, then we would be source of movement, providing our own salvation. God did not create us as motorboats and we cannot save ourselves. Instead, He created us as sailboats, completely dependent upon Him for all, and in all. God desires for us to grow in a deep, intimate relationship with Him. It is only when we are willing to completely submit ourselves to Him, standing naked before Him without pretense, qualification, or ideals of earning our own salvation that we are in the correct posture to be fully moved by the Spirit.

When you pray, how do you pray? What is your posture? Are you commanding the Spirit? Are you begging in disbelief, hoping somehow to get God do to your bidding? Are you praying as a means to gain favor? My friends, prayer is about posture. It’s about saying, here am I Lord! Prayer is about Christ’s kingdom and beseeching the Father to make us what He desires therein. It’s about sitting in the midst of a vast, endless ocean, totally unarmed and helpless, with sails drawn, waiting patiently and properly for the moving of His Spirit. My brother, my sister, this is freedom in Christ. If the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed!

Read Psalm 23 in a paraphrase version and pay attention to the sense of meaning it brings out as compared to a more literal version.

(note: I am usually the one telling people to avoid paraphrase versions... this time I thought it fitting :)

• List the ways you are waiting on the Lord (the key here is passive, like putting sails up and getting them ready for the wind to blow whenever it comes)

• List the things that you are powerless to do (like create the wind or determine the direction it will blow in)

• Find scriptural promises where God has already fulfilled the means to the things listed above. He has already provided, so list how he has already promised to do so.

Take a break from sin! Don’t focus on it or think about it this week. Do I have your attention? Good. Now, I’m not saying that you should use this as an excuse for sin or that you should ignore sin, not at all. Instead, I am saying not to let the accuser of the brethren, Satan, tell you how bad you are this week. This week, work on confessing your sin with an earnest heart and leaving it there. All too often, even after you have sought forgiveness and confessed your sins, even in the midst of a prayer of repentance he loves to come along and tell you that you aren’t praying right, that you aren’t doing what you should, that you didn’t get the formula right (ouch), and that the prayer is thus invalid. Listening to these types of lies just buries you further in a pit of despair for which there is no way out. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection paid the price that we could not pay, delivering us out of this very trap. Do not let the evil one trick you into thinking you are still there, this week is about freedom! Do not let that old devil twist what should be a devotional relationship with our Lord, an intimate communion, into another way to point out our failure. Instead, confess your sins to Christ and ignore the devil. That’s right, ignore him, block him out, rebuke him in the name of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You see, “doing” and “not doing” are not the point. Christ has promised his children forgiveness when they ask, so confess your sins and think of how Christ bore your sin on Calvary, taking it upon himself. Let him take it for a week and don’t let it enter your mind. If you find yourself thinking of sin, write it below and next to that, describe what the Bible says about that accusation (Psalm 103:12 would be a great place to start).