Pondering Truth In Christ
Looking for “spiritual experiences”? Before heading off to the next church or religion on the “quest”, on the “journey”, on the “path” in the pursuit of what you think someone or some organization or institution might have to give to you, where you don’t think you’re being “fed”, how about a look at what’s right in front of you, and has been there all along? Try this one, if you’re looking for a “spiritual practice”.
"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure - pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Luke 6:38 (NASB)
Jesus doesn’t even remotely give the impression that the answer lies in complaining about your church, what it doesn’t give you, or how others don’t treat you right. Nor does He suggest switching religions the way people do today - like changing your socks. What He does teach us, by both His own example and His words, is that the Kingdom is here and now, right around us, in front of us. He shows us that by a switch in how we think (renewal of the mind) and turning away from the blame game (repentance), and moving toward complicity with His Way of going about life (putting on the mind / attitude of Christ and surrender of our will to the Father), we can begin to be the catalyst for a transformed life full of answers, instead of questions and struggle and strife.
The above passage of Luke is at first a command followed by a promise. When the Lord makes such a statement, He is revealing a principle of the Kingdom of Heaven - where the experience of blessing flows from obedience to what He is telling us to do, on a consistent basis, as a habit. This is “spiritual practice” at its finest. We’re expected to comply so that we can receive the blessed result! And it comes to fruition rather speedily, since He also promises us, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11. If He has given a principle followed by a promise, in other words, it will happen as advertised, we might say.
This is what might be perceived as a key to the kingdom. It unbinds us from the cycle of want or debt, in which so many people find themselves today. Even if someone is not necessarily on hard times, and may just wish to be a blessing, then see what will happen with a little practice of generosity.
And there’s one more point where this is concerned - that it’s done quietly without fanfare or bragging on oneself on social media about all the good we do. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:2-4.
When we give or practice generosity, it’s important to do so very, very quietly. This is a spiritual practice that can be done any time, any day. We do not need to belong to the “right” church. It’s up to us to be as Jesus Christ in this life and world, to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, both by prayer and the action that springs from the obedience of faith.
PS: Maybe the quietness and anonymity that goes with being generous keeps the ego, which wants notoriety and fanfare, out of it.
Matthew 5:44,45. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
1Timothy 2:1-4. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Luke 23:34. “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’…”
This is the last thing our fallen flesh nature wants to do, to pray as Jesus prayed, and to pray as He commands us to pray. But picture for a moment the spectacle, the miracle - a multitude being led forth out of a very dark dungeon, a multitude who were once sworn enemies of our Lord and of His Church.
Yet He desires to save them because He knows their souls have been ensnared by the father of lies. The adversary common to them - which they serve - is also the common enemy to us who no longer serve him. Therefore, Christ commands us to pray for them, because the adversary of those we regard as our enemy is the adversary to us both!
This view can shed an entirely different light on our human foes, who are not actually - at least as far as our Lord is concerned - enemies, but human beings like ourselves in need of the Gospel and the experience of their Redemption, just as we are. They are people whose minds and bodies may yet be in abject servitude to the uttermost darkness.
Seldom is it easy to love and pray for those whom we see as the adversary because we comprehend them according to the flesh, rather than perceiving them as our Father in Heaven sees them - as His children for whom His Son died, still in a terrible captivity, awaiting the dawning that awakens them and calls them forth from “the grave” of spiritual death into the glorious liberty and Light of Christ.
Jesus went to the cross for them, just as He did for you and for me. What magnificent and perfect Love it was that looked down from that cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
When we begin - by faith that ignores feelings and opinions - to pray as Jesus prayed, pretty soon we realize that it is difficult to hate anyone for whom we are praying. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see them with the eyes of Jesus! Our heart opens up to the horrible bondage they are in. They may have never known anything else! So to hate them is like hating someone who is dying of a terminal disease they were born with, for that it what it is spiritually.
Pretty soon our Father’s love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit as we pray for those with whom we are at odds. We simply yearn for our brothers and sisters to also come home, with the all consuming love of the Father Who waits for them, just as He waited for the rest of us prodigals!
Thus we cannot allow disdain for anyone to stand in the way of our praying for them, whether personal or political. Prayer on their behalf is a way of resisting the devil who holds them in his prison, and that dark one desires to arouse feelings in us about the lost ones - feelings which we should reserve toward him who is our common foe!
In praying for our enemies and those who hate us, it is a way of extending our Father’s grace and forgiveness in Christ Jesus to them, as the body of Christ. We cannot afford not to do this… “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:26)
Praying for such as these is a co-participation in the work of Christ Himself, Who came to destroy the works of the evil one! (1John 3:8)
May the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified now and forever! Amen.
References for your consideration on Luke 23:34
It's being reported that numerous faithful Christians find themselves in a space where they don't feel like they amount to much, as if they have come to the end of themselves.
That may be a good thing.
Having been through this more than once, I would offer the following, only by way of what I learned from it. For what it's worth to you, here goes.
Sometimes, believe it or not, that sense of futility can be a normal part of the Lord doing His work in us, where the perception is more that He seems absent than present. He can be asking us to move on with Him more by sheer faith than by feelings. We may find that it's not so much about our will, or our efforts, but being brought by the Holy Spirit to a point of surrendering that will-fullness. We may need to have our eyes opened to the fact that we've been striving under our own power of will and ego to "serve" the Lord. What we thought was serving Him may actually be self effort and self reliance. Flesh effort, not led of the Holy Spirit.
This can come along with a sense of exhaustion, and even the onset of physical health issues. Been there, done that.
It can be unnerving - this sense of futility - and it may last a long time - until we can see and understand this. It is not fun. It's kind of like sailing along, then being becalmed in the middle of the sea. However, what we may find out is that we thought we were sailing, when in truth we were rowing under our own efforts. And someone has stolen the oars!
What's somewhat unfortunate is that the overall tone of present day (American - Western in particular) Christianity is to always be doing and doing and doing. Ministers have little to offer in the way of advice, since the prevailing thought is frequently about what we should do, to be "active" for God, rather than what He wants to do for us and or within us. Thus - when we come to the point of being becalmed, and send out a distress call, and it's advised by a pastor or friend or spiritual advisor to just go and do some more "good works," or get more active - that counsel may actually be counter productive to what the Lord Himself is trying to get across to us.
He may want us sitting still for His own reasons! "Hey, you, now that I have your attention...."
At that point, it might be good to consider being as Mary of Bethany, sitting at the feet of Jesus and quietly taking in what He may want to let us know, Bible in hand, in prayer. Might it be time to let Him minimize Martha and magnify Mary?
We may discover that He's calling us up from being a servant to being His friend. Consider John 15:14-16. "You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you."
Fruit emerges due to the branch abiding in the vine. The branch does nothing of its own efforts.
Remember, His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. But I do think that at times He likes to let us in on what He's doing every now and again... when we have a need to know.
May Christ's peace, blessing, and understanding be bestowed upon you, dear reader.
I'm not obligated to you to hold the same grudges or judgment against said acquaintance as someone else does. I have only one Master to whose directive I'm bound, Who commands me to relate to that person just as He does, with a steady and consistent outflow of unconditional love, as well as forgiveness to the tune of "70 X 7". That's all I need to know. And I'm certainly not very good at it on my own! But it is His standard. So I need a mind that's conformed to Christ's, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to even begin to grow into that. Therefore what I do not need is the excess baggage of someone else's former difficulties with said mutual acquaintance, trying to get me to take sides against them. I'm trying to get into the mode of relating to that soul as Christ does, and that is not always an easy thing to do, something a human may not be able to generate without divine help. But lately I'm becoming aware of the deep flaws in my own thinking on this matter... (Don't worry. There will be no mutual luncheons to which warring parties are invited in near future. ) But what a joyous world it would be if all let bygones be bygones and put on the Mind of Christ in all matters. We live in perilous times where sincere bonds may need to be forged to survive, where we cannot afford to indulge the chipping away at what God builds (Christ love) within by the fatal flaw of un-forgiveness.