Entering His Rest
By R. Thomas Brass
Multitudes of Christians throughout the world today are engaged in a futile and restless striving for personal acceptance and inner fulfillment. As Christians, we could be experiencing the daily contentment of inner peace, joy, and spiritual rest as we recognize God’s acceptance of us through our faith in Christ Jesus. Yet, many Christians are still striving to discover and experience personal significance and purpose of life through performance-bound, works-oriented methodologies. This spiritual blindness is an age-old deception perpetrated by the enemy of our souls as he attempts to hinder us from spiritual transformation and intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This article reveals some of the common misconceptions that prevent us from understanding and experiencing the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit and the daily peace of a faith-rest relationship with Jesus Christ!
One of the greatest gifts available to the born again Christian is the opportunity to be progressively spiritually transformed into the holy likeness of the God of grace as we daily rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. (John 19:30).
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt.11:28-30).
What does resting in the finished work of Christ really mean?
To begin with, let us first look at what resting in the finished work of Christ is not. It does not mean that God has, with salvation, finished his work within us. Nor does it mean that the experience of salvation itself is all that is necessary for us to live a holy Christian life. The power to live a holy life certainly became available to us through salvation. But salvation itself is only the beginning.
Resting in the finished work of Christ means that since Christ has indeed finished His work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, now we may participate fully in His resurrection life by taking advantage of the opportunity to be transformed into His image by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3: 17,18).
Why does it seem as though so few Christians are actually experiencing this rest?
After their salvation, many Christians have suffered disappointment and disillusionment as they have struggled by their own fleshly efforts to live a holy Christian life, having never truly understood that it is the Holy Spirit’s function to produce the fruits of righteousness in their lives (Gal. 5:16-24; Rom. 8:12-14).
Instead, they have believed, having often been taught by leaders in their own churches, that holy Christian living after salvation is simply a matter of the choices and efforts they need to make. Many Christians have suffered exasperation and confusion when they are told that they need only combine biblically-based choices with some serious effort on their part in order to experience victory over repetitive sin patterns in their lives. They find that this combination does not work effectively in their lives, no matter how determined their efforts. This combining of various choices and efforts is represented to struggling Christians as faith, but it is often, in reality, self-reliance.
The continued dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit to develop the character of Christ within us, in order for us to experience victory over strongholds of sinful behavior, is conspicuously absent in these teachings.
This significant oversight, stemming from the performance or works mentality so prevalent in our society and in much of Christianity today, leads to a poverty of inspiration regarding the progressive nature of sanctification.
What is “the progressive nature of sanctification”?
God has made available to every Christian an ongoing process by which he or she may become more Christ-like. This process is referred to as progressive sanctification and it is meant to bring us into the fullness of the experience of rest that is revealed to us throughout the Bible (Lev. 23:26-32; Deut. 6:10-12; Psalm 95:8-11; Isa. 30:1-15; Heb. 3:15-4:11).
In examining sanctification, we see two prominent actions arising: separation from evil and dedication unto God. Progressive sanctification is what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives to bring us into the experiential reality of holy living. It must be viewed at once as past, present, and future; or instantaneous, progressive, and complete. God has always been, is, and will be. This is a mystery. But, in a similar way, we have been sanctified, are being sanctified, and will be entirely sanctified someday as we stand before Him in heaven.
We must choose to cooperate in the process of sanctification by continually making decisions to keep ourselves from evil influence (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). But these decisions in themselves do not sanctify us. It is God who sanctifies us (Phil. 2:13; Ezek. 20:10-12;1 Peter 1:2).
Just like salvation, the progressive work of sanctification is available to all (that are saved), but it is not necessarily deeply and experientially apprehended by all. Just like salvation, it cannot be earned or purchased. And, just like salvation, sanctification is a gift of grace and must be received by faith. Yet, our faith is not in our salvation or our sanctification. Our faith is in the very person and finished work of Christ, and His plan for the transformation of our souls through the present work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13).
How is this transformation begun?
It was by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ that we first began to experience our new life in Christ Jesus, and it is by continuing in the ways of grace through faith that we will experience more fully this new life.
We first experienced spiritual rebirth and the resulting new life by responding to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit within us. We were sorry for our sins, confessed our need to be saved through faith in Christ, and received God’s forgiveness. We were then spiritually reborn by the power of God made available to us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Trusting in Jesus’ work (the crucifixion) and God’s power (the resurrection), our spirits were raised from the dead into new life. By God’s grace through faith, we literally became new creatures in Christ Jesus.
In a similar way, the transformation of the soul begins to take place through our willingness to submit to God combined with a genuine sorrow for our current sins (James 4:7-10). We must confess our need to be sanctified in those areas of our lives in which we still believe ungodly lies and partake of sinful behavior. We can then invite and rely on, by faith, the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to reveal and tear down any ungodly belief systems which have, within us, become rebellious strongholds of godless self-determination. Through this process, we can begin to experience significant transformation of our souls.
Certainly, at salvation, our spirits were born again, but our souls (that is: our mind, our emotions, and our will) still need to be transformed through God’s grace into the image of Christ, so that we might experience God’s promised rest.
What must I do first?
It is only by our recognition that God, through His great power, must do for us what we cannot do for ourselves that we are able to apprehend the grace necessary to experience this transformation of our souls. Though we may have an ardent desire to be surrendered to God’s will, our desire does not sanctify us. Though we may zealously do many great works of service, which bless many people, we are not sanctified by our efforts.
Holy Christian living is not just how much we desire to please God, it is also how much we allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, so that our desires may originate from a truly godly motivation.
It is not only what we must do – though we must certainly make every effort to separate ourselves from evil influences that may lead to temptation and sin. But, even more importantly, we must continue to believe and receive by faith in what Christ has already done for us, the power for godly Christian living!
This seems too simple. I’ve heard so many sermons and taken so many notes on what it takes to live a victorious Christian life, and now you seem to be saying, “Just believe and receive!”
Many of those sermons could be likened to the advice of a father, if he were to give his young son a new puppy and then launch into an elaborately detailed explanation regarding the procedures of puppy care, without ever explaining to the boy the simple fact that the puppy must be given certain food to eat in order to grow into a healthy dog. Many elaborately detailed sermons are being preached on how to do Christianity, but very few are truly focused on accessing the necessary source of power to experience fully our new life in Christ. What is being preached is not, in itself, necessarily incorrect. It is just, as the saying goes, “putting the cart before the horse.”
Let’s stop esteeming the eloquent of speech and begin looking at the fruit in the life of the individual Christian. Is the Holy Spirit transforming your soul? Are the sinful patterns in your life really being overcome or are you just accumulating lots of information about God? The apostle Paul says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5). Our faith – resting on God’s power!
In his book, The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, Charles Stanley describes the impact this simple, but profound, truth had in his own life. “It dawned on me that I had been like a branch straining to produce fruit on its own. No wonder their was so little fruit in my life. Branches were not designed to produce fruit – they were designed to have fruit produced through them! I had been going about the whole thing backward. In Galatians, Paul contrasts the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. My approach had been to try to do deeds of the Spirit. How foolish!
When I finished the section on Hudson Taylor, I dropped to my knees there on that cold concrete floor and began to cry. I was so happy. I kept thinking, That’s it. It’s the vine that does the work. The fruit is a product of the sap that runs from the vine into the branch. I couldn’t get over the fact that the Holy Spirit was willing and able to produce through me the very fruit I had been trying so hard to produce on my own.
I was on my knees for almost three hours just crying and thanking God for opening my eyes to this wonderful truth. When I got up, I was a new man. My whole perspective on the Christian life was different.” 1
God’s power – simple – but profound.
Hmmm, I can see that it is difficult for us to believe that complex problems don’t always require complex answers.
Yes, and this difficulty causes a spiritual blindness to the simplicity of God’s solution. Galatians 3:3 reveals mankind’s propensity for complicating God’s plan of Spirit-based holy living: “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Holy Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Yet, sadly, this is the behavior of much of Christianity today!
Charles Stanley said that he “had been going about the whole thing backward!”
That’s right! But 1 Peter 1:1-2 reveals the proper order and perspective:
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, – To God’s elect, strangers in the world…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” (Italics added).
First, we are sanctified; then, we are able to be truly obedient! Only as we continue to be sanctified will we continue to increase in our sincere obedience to the Lord.
Further enlightenment on both the source and process of sanctification is found in First Thessalonians 5:23-24: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (Italics added).
Philippians 1:6 guarantees us that, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Italics added)
What is the experience of God’s rest like? Is it something I can feel?
Yes, in a very real sense God’s rest is something we can feel. When we stop trying to earn what God has freely given us, God’s rest can be realized each day. We can, then, experience the peace and joy that accompanies the freedom from the burden of striving to overcome sin and trying to earn God’s recognition, acceptance, and love.
I experience unpleasant feelings of anxiety, conviction, and desperation because of the sins I keep committing. Will those feelings go away?
Sin draws us away from God’s rest. When we sin, we will sooner or later feel bad about it. All of us, in this life, will continue to sin, but as we sin less, the unpleasant feelings associated with past sinful activity in our lives will be greatly diminished.
Also, though the Holy Spirit will continue to convict us of our sins, we will become better able to identify the difference between righteous conviction of the Holy Spirit and our own shame-based self-condemnation. This distinction grows more evident as we become more Christ-like and gain confidence in God’s attitude of love and mercy toward us.
What will I have to give up?
I once saw a sign in front of a church, which read, “Jesus built a bridge between heaven and earth using three nails and two pieces of wood.” That bridge between heaven and earth is, of course, the cross of Christ. We might also look at the expanse between heaven and earth as representative of the distance between a personal experience of holy living and the present state of our souls. While in this life, we must cross over the divide between heaven and earth on the cross of Christ. This journey is a process by which our souls are renewed through the surrendering of our old ways of thinking. It is sometimes referred to as “dying to self” (Eph. 4:22-24; Gal. 6:14-16; 2:20, 21; Rom. 8:13,14).
Though we have been given new life in our spirit through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our souls must continually die to self in order to be raised up into new life. This is how we grow up to be healthy Christians. It is how we cross over to the daily experience of God’s rest.
Okay. In order to experience this rest, I need to die to self. But how do I do that?
We begin to experience this dying to self as we, before God, consciously identify and
reject the lies we believe regarding our prideful predisposition toward self-reliance. We have come to believe many lies derived from worldly ideas and based on the prideful concept of godless self-determination, not a reliance upon God, but, instead, on our own strengths and capabilities. 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
Self-reliance is considered a personal strength and an admirable quality by most of society, but it is poison to the soul that would depend on God. The soul that is self-reliant is neither led by God, nor truly submitted to God. The one who trusts in self certainly does not want to die to self! He will not allow God to do this necessary sanctifying work within him. Thus, for the self-reliant, there is no rest (Heb. 3:16-4:11).
But, when we are willing to identify and reject the lies we believe that encourage our self-reliance, the Holy Spirit can begin the inner work which brings rest to the soul. The essence of this work is the progressive, spiritual deconstruction and simultaneous reconstruction of our soul, as it is re-formed into the image of Christ Jesus. It has been said that “Satan builds a man up so that he can tear him down, while the Lord tears a man down so He can build him up!”
The Holy Spirit will respond to our desire for truth and repentance by increasing our awareness of the many strongholds of self-based unbelief in our soul. Then, our soul can find rest in the immediate experiential realization of the very life of Christ through the voluntary surrender of our whole self to God.
We experience the blessing of God’s rest as we continue to die to self by following these steps:
1. Embracing the truth regarding our utter dependency upon God (1 Peter 1:18-21).
2. Identifying the many self-reliant lies we have believed and ungodly behavior that has accompanied them in our lives (James 4:13-17).
3. Confessing and repenting of our fear-based, shame-based, and pride-based striving to be in control of our lives.
4. Forgiving everyone who has offended us, recognizing that not forgiving them is a means by which we try to stay in control of the circumstances of our lives (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35).
5. Inviting the Holy Spirit to circumcise our heart, separating us from the self-centered ways of our old nature (Rom. 2:28,29).
(These steps are presented as a working model in the writing: Overcoming Foundational Root Judgments)
I see that to enter God’s rest, we need to have an attitude of dependence upon God and not be dependent on ourselves. But what about the good works we are to do? Doesn’t James say, “faith without deeds is dead”?
That’s right. We cannot under-emphasize the necessity for godly choices to be made on a daily basis in our lives and the accompanying efforts required to put our faith into action. As James 2:18 declares, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” Faith does require action. If we deny this imperative and still claim to be living a holy, obedient Christian life, we are deceived. There is much we are called to do while God is doing His work within us. In fact, holiness cannot be perfected within us unless we are earnestly trying to do the things we know are righteous and pleasing to the Lord.
Yes, faith without deeds is dead. But, on the other hand, a deed without faith is not pleasing to God! Romans 14:23 tells us that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Since faith in God is neutralized by self-reliance, our faith is only truly active when we are dependent upon God’s plan for our lives. As we become more like Christ through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, we become more dependent upon and obedient to God’s determinations for our individual lives. From this dependence and obedience, we are able to glorify God with ever-greater works!
If we would enter His rest, we cannot deny the essential, life-giving requirement of receiving grace by faith in the finished work of Christ. What this means is that we must, first, trust in the finished work of Christ by choosing to actively believe in the availability of God’s power to change us instead of primarily depending on our own efforts to live a holy life. Secondly, we must actively choose to invite the Holy Spirit to set us free from the roots of our self-reliant unbelief. Then, as we die to self and become more like Christ, we will experience the blessing of His rest. From this rest we may do all that God has called us to from the proper motivation – selfless love.
Trust in the finished work – die to self – become more like Jesus. This is how we enter His rest. Will you respond to His invitation?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened… and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt.11: 28-29)
1. Charles Stanley, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee) 1999, pp. 57-67
Copyright © 2000 by R. Thomas Brass. All rights reserved.
More at http://www.jerichoministry.com
Pride and Shame:
Strongholds of the Self-Centered Soul
By R. Thomas Brass
Strongholds of pride and shame can keep us wandering aimlessly through a desert of unrest leading to confusion, anxiety, depression and despair. This article is a series of prover-bial insights into these strongholds.
Pride is a little god-maker. It is the most effective attribute of character avail-able to us for the fashioning of little gods.
Pride is not patient, it is not kind. It does envy, it does boast; for it is – pride. It is rude, it is self-seeking, it is easily angered, and it keeps records of all wrongs. Pride rejoices in evil and avoids the truth. It protects for selfish reasons, it cannot afford to trust, it is its own hope, and it perseveres only for personal gain. (Compare to love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7)
Man’s first sin was pridefully self-centered. Man’s first reaction to his sin was shame. Shame is also self-centered. Just like pride, its central focus is self.
Pride led religious leaders to want to kill Jesus (Mark 11:18). In order to flourish, pride must conquer what it perceives as competition.
And yet, it was also pride that caused men to want to raise Him up as King of Israel (John 6:15)! But Jesus resisted them. Jesus knew the method by which He must be lifted up in the eyes of men (Jesus predicts His death in John 3:14-15). Scripture tells us that Jesus “would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men” (John 2:24).
Pride caused the Israelites to reject God’s institution of judges in favor of a king to rep-resent them as a nation. God told Samuel, “ …it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you” (1 Samuel 8:7-8).
Pride promotes self. Shame demotes self. But, both are increases to self-centeredness. To demote self is not to decrease self. It is simply a different, though negative, view of self.
Pride encourages a persistent focus on self-gratification. Then, as self becomes gratified, pride is ratified. Thus, pride becomes the cause and the protector of selfishness.
Pride encourages self to believe that personal performance can overcome unpleasant negative feelings of shame.
Shame insinuates to self, “Sure, Jesus died on the cross for you, but don’t you still feel shame?” Then pride exhorts self, “Therefore, you must rely on what you have done, or what you are now doing, or what you are able to do to feel acceptable to yourself.”
Where there is much pridefulness, there is powerful judgment:
“On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:21-23)
But, where there is little pridefulness, there is powerful grace:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:32-33)
Shame often legitimizes its self-centered focus by promoting self’s victim status.
Unrepentant pride and shame are circular allies. When shame is tired of its suffering, it often turns to pride for relief. When pride’s shallowness is exposed, it often turns to shame for absolution. Thus, they perpetuate one another allowing self to avoid true repentance.
Shame is a great impetus for both action and inaction. Shame can bully a person to works requiring tremendous effort or intimidate a soul to virtual impotence.
Shame resides in the relative safety of loneliness. By avoiding honest intimate relation-ship, shame shields self from the possibility of further rejection. But, by avoiding intimate relationship, it also shields self from love.
Shame and pride are like a dog and a cat. They both determinedly desire to be stroked.
Pride and shame are fraternal twins. Though they do not look alike, they were born one right after the other. Pride was the firstborn, then came its inevitable brother, shame.
Shame is sometimes the primary method of establishing and managing religion. When this happens, pride is the governing body of that religion. In the end, shame will be the great equalizer for those that are unrepentantly prideful.
Self is the captain of the ship christened Pride and Shame. “Sink or swim” is its motto. Through stormy seas, it endlessly sails. It has no home port, where it may rest from the winds of selfish determination.
Shame is a thief, stealing the treasure of life from self. Pride selfishly buries the treasure where only he can find it.
The rich may have pride and the poor may have shame, but each is merely vanity. They are both mirrors used to unrelentingly gaze upon self.
An attitude of worldly shame denies the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and is in direct conflict with the proclamation of scripture:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1,2).
Pride looks for who’s watching. Shame watches for who’s looking. Both are in bondage to the opinions of others.
Pride and shame are like merry-go-round horses; one goes up and the other goes down, but they both keep going round and round.
Shame may be deep and pride may be shallow, but both are only holes in the souls of men.
Pride and shame are the bodyguards of unrepentant self. They will do whatever is nec-essary to protect self from healthy change.
Shame is like a tree with many roots underground, but very little trunk and few branches above the surface. Pride is like a great tree with long branches reaching upward from a portly trunk, but very little root structure. The wind comes and blows mightily against the shame tree. Some dead branches are blown off, but the roots remain firmly entrenched. Then the strong wind comes and blows against the pride tree. The whole tree comes crashing down, with its shallow roots exposed for all the world to see.
Which tree is more resistant to the Spirit of God? The one that displays itself boldly to the world or the one that hides itself safely beneath the surface?
Shame for our sins was a choice Jesus once made. Jesus chose to bear our shame by dying on the cross. It is no longer on the menu. It is no longer available to us. Jesus ordered the entire supply for His own use. He’s keeping it all for Himself. He’s not sharing. You can’t have any. If you have some, you’ve stolen it from Jesus. Give it back. It’s not yours.
Pride is a whip in the hands of the arrogant. Shame is a shovel in the hands of a fool. The shameful fool digs an emotional hole, too deep to climb out, then jumps in. The arrogant, prideful one lashes the fool for jumping into the hole. The shameful fool accepts the lashing as appropriate and deserved. The arrogant, prideful one leans back and smiles in satisfaction.
It is easy to see that having much pride is shameful. But what is often hidden from our sight, is that having much shame can be prideful. The person with much shame often believes that harboring a sufficiently large quantity of shame is a necessary self-punishment before God (and others) and a means by which he might earn some degree of personal acceptance. In this way, his shame has become a self-determining, self-dependent, work of atonement, denying the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for his sins. This is pride.
Shame denies light to the dark places within the soul. The soul cannot grow without the light. Shame denies air to the empty places within the soul. The soul can not breathe without the air. Shame denies water to the dry places within the soul. The soul can not live without the water. Shame denies while the soul dies.
Pride is a source of false hope. But Shame is a source of false hopelessness.
Shame is like a flower that grows up out of the ground and then refuses to bloom in the sunlight. But place it in the shade and it will open.
When we are proud of our children, is it because they did something better than some-one else’s children? When we are proud of our jobs, is it because we do our jobs better than someone else? When we are proud of our community, is it because we believe our community is better than someone else’s community? If we need to feel better by comparing ourselves to others, is it because we are better than them?
Worldly shame is an active rejection of God’s forgiveness based on feelings of personal unworthiness. If you have rejected God’s forgiveness, whose worthiness have you really rejected, yours or Christ’s?
It is not easy to stop being prideful and it is not easy to stop being ashamed. The way to stop being prideful is not by being ashamed, and the way to stop being ashamed is not by being prideful. Both are overcome by humility. And humility is perfected by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is sin to believe pride and shame’s definitions of self. It is humility to believe God’s definition of self. If you truly wish to stop believing the lies; repent and God will set you free, unto humility. You must choose to go there, but only God can bring you.
Copyright © 2000 by R. Thomas Brass. All rights reserved.
More at http://www.jerichoministry.com
The End of an Age
The time is growing short.
It is the end of an age and mankind is racing irreversibly into a time of ever-greater chaos and confusion. A time of great commotion and disturbance. A time of pandemonium. A time of stark contrasts. It will be as Ecclesiastes 3:8 reveals, “a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” A time that has been prophesied by men of God and written in the book of God.
As Christians this should not take us by surprise. In a few short days or years the Lord will return for His church. Then the judgments of God will fall with relentless inevitability upon the unbelieving inhabitants of the Earth. And man will, as predicted in scripture, clench his fist and curse the God of Heaven and Earth.
We are living today at the conclusion of an era. An era that is being driven and defined by the commotion and perplexity of unfamiliar “tomorrows.” An era of such convulsive complexities that they seem to transcend the limited capacities of human comprehension. We are living in a time where the destinies of our world, our nation, and our individual lives seem to balance on the uncertain possibilities of what tomorrow may bring.
Peace of mind is a foreign concept amidst the daily tumult of the world we are living in today. The riot and clamor of each new day compels our souls to try to distinguish between that which is reality and that which is deception. Trapped within the confines of their own limited perceptions, humanity strives each day to bring some semblance of order or sensibility to a decaying world.
The times of vast delusion are rapidly approaching.
(2 Th 2:9) “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,
2 Th 2:10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
2 Th 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.
2 Th 2:12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. ”
There will be times of exceptional spiritual opportunity as the Spirit of God is poured out like a mighty flood in various parts of the world. But there will also be intense spiritual antagonism, animosity from the spiritual realms unlike anything the world has ever experienced before. The time is indeed short and the enemy of our souls has an eye on the timetable. Revelation 12:12 declares, “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” The time is short and we are living in increasingly accelerated times. Times of fast food, fast knowledge, and fast money to satisfy our fast paced lives. But there is a great emptiness at the center of the whirlwind of our hurried existence. An emptiness shaped by the disappointment and disillusionment that is the inevitable result of our fast-paced fleshly strivings for temporary inner fulfillment. The great void we are experiencing inwardly is the absence of lasting inner peace and true spiritual joy.
This deficit can never be remedied by the manufacture of man. It is not a device that might be fixed by human ingenuity. Nor is it an ailment that can be healed by temporary circumstances of happiness. Rather, it is a state of being which exists as a product of sin.
Lasting peace and true spiritual joy cannot be found in life’s fast lane. Lasting peace and joy can only be experienced as we allow the great emptiness within to be regenerated and rehabilitated by the power and the presence of the living God.
This is the great deception; that apart from God we can achieve wholeness, contentment and fullness of life. In the coming times of ever greater chaos and disorder, men will embrace this deception like never before in the history of the world.
The words of James reach out over the centuries to bring us a stern admonition. A warning about the decadence and deception of seeking temporary fulfillment through self-centered determinations:
James 5:1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.
James 5:2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.
James 5:3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
James 5:4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
James 5:5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.
If, as Christians, we believe the deception that abundance of life can be found within the framework of this world, we will undoubtedly strive to imitate the people of this world. We will forfeit spiritual freedom and inner contentment for the occasion of temporary happiness.
Abundance of life can only be experienced as we allow the great emptiness within to be regenerated and rehabilitated by our surrender to the life-changing power of the living God. Abundance of life will never be found in the accumulation of things. It can only be discovered through our submission to the transforming power of God’s redeeming grace. Our submission, our unconditional surrender, to the saving and transforming power of God’s grace is the only authentic avenue to lasting inner peace and joy.
When we speak of surrendering our lives to the power of God’s grace, we are not simply speaking of what we must do for God. The unconditional surrendering of our lives to the power of God’s grace requires something of significantly greater substance than self-effort. God has very little substance to work with when we believe that surrender is mostly about what we must do for God. Surrender is, in fact, mostly about what God must do for us. What God must do for us and especially, in us.
The unconditional surrender of our life to God must first be prefaced by an attitude of brokenness within the heart – because surrender has legitimate substance only as it emerges from the ashes of true brokenness.
Biblical brokenness is the consistent attitude of the heart that we need God’s help, while surrender is the active acknowledgment that God must do for us what we can not do for ourselves. Biblical brokenness is the consistent attitude and active acknowledgment that only God can save and sanctify us. That only God can transform our inner being. That only God can make us holy through our faith in the spilt blood of Christ Jesus. Biblical brokenness and surrender is the consistent attitude and active acknowledgment that only God has the power to make us righteous and make it possible for us to act out this righteousness in our daily lives.
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of everlasting peace and joy. As Christians, through our faith in Christ, we have been granted permanent residency within this kingdom. But there is more to the Kingdom than living within the Kingdom.
By the grace of God, we now live in that kingdom – but – are we allowing the kingdom to live in us? Are we, each day, inwardly experiencing the peace and joy of the eternal kingdom or are we being driven along by the distress and worries of the world? Are we resting inwardly in abundance of life through Christ or are we habitually striving to manipulate the people and circumstances of our lives hoping to experience a temporary contentment within?
In whose dominion do we actually live each day? The dominion of the kingdom of the world or the dominion of the Kingdom of God? Have we become subjects of the Kingdom of God by the blood of Christ only to be ruled inwardly by the chaos and confusion of the kingdom of the world? The kingdom that rules us inwardly is the kingdom that has dominion in our lives.
In the increasingly fierce and violent times ahead, we must surrender to the expansion of the Kingdom of God within us if we are truly to experience, daily, the kingdom benefits of God’s supernatural peace and joy.
The expansion of the Kingdom of God within us is accomplished by the character of Christ being perfected within us. It is Christ being perfected in us that separates us from the ongoing stresses and anxieties that arise from the conflict and chaos of this world. It is Christ being perfected in us that provides us with the daily protection of His everlasting peace and joy. It is the character of Christ being perfected within us that empowers us to experience the benefits of scriptures like Phil 4:6…
Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Phil 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
It is the character of Christ being perfected within us by our faith in the power of God that increases the territory of the Kingdom of God within us and brings to us the kingdom benefits of God’s supernatural peace and joy.
Simply put – God’s supernatural peace and joy are the product of the character of Christ being perfected within us.
The time is growing short.
James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
James 4:14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
We do not even know what tomorrow will bring.
True, lasting, inner peace can be experienced if we are willing to surrender our frantic preoccupation with the temporary gratifications of this world and turn and allow our souls to be rehabilitated by the power and the presence of the living God.
We can choose to access the sanctifying power of the cross of Christ that our very lives may become a sign, a symbol and a declaration of the goodness of God and His love for mankind.
The character of Christ developed within the soul of Christian men and women can be a victorious flagship upon an end-times ocean of growing despair and desperation. The soul that has discovered spiritual rest through faith in the finished work of Christ will be a brilliant light in the midst of the ever-increasing darkness of iniquity and depravity. The saint that dwells restfully in true inner peace and spiritual joy will be a beacon to the anxious and striving multitudes of humanity fruitlessly seeking fulfillment of self through worldly design.
These are the privileges of opportunity and possibility that God has blessed us with in these last days. We have been truly blessed in these troubled times with the opportunity of freedom from excessive anxiety and undue worry. We are blessed with the opportunity of immunity from the ravages of fear and distress. We are blessed with exemption from the misery and grief that will afflict a self-centered humanity with ever-increasing intensity as mankind refuses the everlasting peace and joy that are found only in the grace of God.
It is the end of an age and mankind is racing irreversibly into a time of ever-greater chaos and confusion. The time is growing short… and we should not be found muddling about in profitless bewilderment as are so many Christians in this day.
Ours is the opportunity of the blessing of the supernatural peace of God. A peace which transcends all understanding – guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. A peace that transcends the fluctuating situations and circumstances which make up our daily lives. A peace that brings us blessed assurance in a world full of uncertainty – confidence in the midst of a world overflowing with insecurity.
The time is growing short. But the peace and joy of Christ being formed within us is a timeless kingdom – everlasting.
Copyright © 2004 by R. Thomas Brass. All rights reserved.
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