We all have idiosyncrasies. That is, we all have a way of thinking, acting, living that is unique to us. One of my idiosyncrasies is my inherent need for routine, yet I also need variety within my routine. I thrive within set boundaries on my sleep schedule, my work schedule, physical activity, my family time, and my time with the Lord. However, within those scheduled times I must have some freedom and liberty for variety. I must plan for time to read, but I get to choose what to read.
Why share this? Simply stated, we have an enemy that vigorously works to keep us from thriving in God. In John 10:10, Jesus says that He has come to give us life to its fullest, but Satan has come to STEAL, KILL, and DESTROY. If you think about it, Satan works to choke our life, while God works to make us thrive in Him!
Satan doesn’t need to tempt us to commit murder, curse God, or persecute the church in order kill us; rather, all he has to do is slyly offer something to us that is less than what God offers to us and we will immediately begin withering or “de-thriving” (I know this is not a real word… but I like it). Through numerous defeats and failures, I’ve learned that my routine is an absolute necessary for my walk with the Lord. Something as simple as sleeping in, going to bed late, starting work early, or not resting properly has drastic implications on my walk with the Lord. How? Why?
I have a schedule for only one reason—I must plan and guard my time with the Lord. If I do not do this, I lack the necessary discipline, focus, and energy to engage the Lord later in the day. While this may not be true for you, it is a hard-truth for me. I either spend quality time with Lord in the morning, or I will just go through the motions later on. I am weak and nothing in my flesh desires the Lord. Consequently, I’ve learned through several hard-knocks that I must have discipline and structure to thrive in the Lord.
Bearing this in mind, I have two questions for you to help you discover where our enemy tempts you to depart from the Lord:
These two questions will help you diagnose how Satan tempts us to refuse to engage God (for example: you don’t read the Bible because you get distracted by social media) and what Satan wants to keep us from (for example: prayer causes me to enjoy God—so he will work to keep us from prayer).
Allow me to answer these two questions:
Now, with this in view, here is our next step… LOOK FOR WHERE YOU ARE TEMPTED TO DEPART FROM THE LORD AND WHERE YOU ARE PREVENTED FROM GOING TO THE LORD!
In my experience, the temptations I face serve to create frustration within me, while—simultaneously—keeping me from praising God. When paired like this (frustration + lack of praise), I’ll complain and separate myself from God!
So… how does Satan lure you from God and keep you from returning to God? Don’t put it off--GO ENJOY YOUR GOD NOW!!!
What does the grace of God look like?
Think about it. How would you respond if a person that is completely unfamiliar with Christianity were to ask you to define and prove God’s grace in your life? What would you say? I think most of us would struggle answering this question.
Our initial response might be that God has given me a great family, an awesome group of friends, a great home, a job that pays my bills, and the ability to enjoy life. But is this a satisfactory answer? Isn’t true that non-Christians experience and possess these same things as Christians? Consequently, we must conclude that our earthly possessions, our various occupations, and… even our relationships do not prove God’s grace upon our life. After all, if such things did in fact prove God’s grace, we must conclude that God hates those who live in third world countries! Why? Because those who reside in third world countries do not have great possessions, often die premature deaths (thus tearing apart families); and are very often homeless or malnourished. In short, we cannot prove God’s grace by what we own, who we know, or how we domicile upon this earth.
So… how do we prove God’s grace upon our life? Let’s take a look at Acts 11:21-24.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned (REPENTANCE) to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful (Obedience in pursuing God) to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit (The Fruit of the Spirit) and of faith (Trust in God). And a great many people were added to the Lord.
From this passage we observe two things:
We prove the fact that God’s grace is upon our life through our desire for God, our pursuit of God, and God’s sanctifying work within us. Consequently, if we lack a desire for God and fail to actively pursue God, then we are not under God’s grace but His wrath. Think of it like this, before God saved us (His greatest gift of grace), we had no desire for God; in fact, 1st John 4:19 tells us that our love for God is the direct result of God loving us first. That is, God gives us the ability and desire to love Him! Our love for God is the proof that God’s grace is upon us. When we were strangers and enemies of God, God reconciled us to Himself (Rom. 5:10). God gave us His Spirit to enable us to cry out to Him as Father (Gal. 4:6). God’s Spirit within us gives us the ability to speak to God and intercedes on our behalf (Rom. 8:26). Succinctly stated, if we desire God and interact with Him, it is God’s grace upon us that enables us to do so—God’s gift of grace to us results in us drawing near to God.
With this foundation in place, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
In answering these questions, we attempt to discover and remind ourselves of how God works within us and the benefits of such work. It is easy for us to forget that the point of our salvation is to bring us into a right and active relationship with God. I hope this reminds you of God’s gracious work of allowing us to enjoy and crave His presence.
As Christians, we feel an overwhelming discouragement that the rest of humanity does not feel. Most people (including Christians) feel discouragement when facing difficulties within their work places, their marriages, their health, their relationships, and in their finances. However, Christians have an additional level of discouragement when they fail God. You see, those who are opposed to God, be it passively or outright—do not concern themselves with the realization that their thoughts, actions, and desires dishonor God. On the other hand… when those who love Christ realize that our thoughts, passions, and actions dishonor God we feel overwhelmingly discouraged!
The prompt for such discouragement is not our sins—for we have ALWAYS sinned against God--rather, the prompt for discouragement within us is our awareness that we still expect God to pour out His wrath upon us for sinning! This lingering expectation of wrath within us is dangerous for two reasons: 1) it demonstrates a lack of knowledge of and faith in God; 2) it steals ALL hope of joy and pleasure in Christ from us. As Christians, when we experience discouragement, we must understand that this is an attack from Satan intended to keep us from enjoying and glorifying our God. With this in mind, let’s use the word of God to combat this lingering and deceptive discouragement.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God.”
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
These three verses show us three major thoughts:
We face discouragement whenever we think that we are responsible for doing the work that only God can do. It is God who saves us. It is God who leads us. It is God who transforms us. Our responsibility is simply to place our faith in God and RUN into His presence. Instead of beating yourself up for sinning against God, return to His presence. When we realize that we are entangled in sin, let us cease from that sin and boldly run back to enjoying our God. We have ZERO ability to stop sinning (Rom. 7:18), but our God has the ability to give us life and sanctify us throughout life (Rom. 8:10-11).
So… what do we do with this? Here are three questions for self-examination:
It’s easy for us to beat ourselves up over how frequently we sin, the perversity in our sin, and our imperfections. However, it is equally easy for us to look at our God and rejoice in His work, nature, and love. Our work is that we must choose only one of these options two. We can either look at ourselves or God. Repentance is turning from ourselves and to God. Repentance is turning from our choice to dwell on sin, our failures, and our shortcomings in order to turn to the wondrous grace and mercy of our God. Our Lord invites us into His fellowship, Spirit-guided repentance brings us into His fellowship. We either trust God and approach Him, or we trust in ourselves and run from God.
Which one will you choose?
I love you!