2. control/building self-sufficiency
I have worked hard to avoid dealing with things when they got too painful. I used to escape into a book, TV, internet surfing/playing games on FB. I used to also log several hours a week playing Sims on the computer.
When I wasn’t avoiding or escaping- I was trying to control my life- to plan for every contingency- to have a routine that avoided any bumps in the road.
I took great pride in my own self-sufficiency and knowledge. I felt like I could handle the problems in my life pretty well on my own.
I didn’t live like I needed God’s help day to day, moment to moment.
I was only giving what was comfortable to give; only if it didn’t require me to change too much.
I couldn’t remember the last time I spent time with God simply because I recognized my need for Him- and I wanted to be with Him. I always wanted something from Him-I had an agenda.
Until about 6 months ago. A flood gate opened- and desire for the Lord and passion for knowing Him surged in me.
My eyes were opened- I saw how selfish I was- how little I was truly surrendering to God- every time the road got a little rough- I was so quick to question why- couldn’t He make things easier?
The conviction of my sin weighs heavy on me.
Don’t misunderstand- I know I have been forgiven- but I feel the regret of the time I have wasted- pursuing pleasure in the moment- seeking sin instead of my Savior.
It isn’t enough to just seek Him now and then- that’s what I am realizing. Being a Christian means acknowledging daily- DAILY- my need for God.
It means a life filled with prayer- because my own self-sufficiency in the moment isn’t enough- I want to invite Him into everything I do. Playing with my children, doing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, preparing a meal, talking to a friend or neighbor, going on a run…
There isn’t supposed to be any time in my day when I turn to God and say, Ok- see you later- I have things to do- or I just want to check out for a while and do my own thing.
God has called us to walk moment by moment through life with Him. To remain in Him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you.No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, talks about cheap grace versus costly grace.
Cheap grace requires little sacrifice- we accept that we are justified by grace alone and we go on living our lives basically the same way we did before- there is no distinction between ourselves and the world. Costly grace involves daily sacrifice and a surrender of our lives daily in obedience to God (pruning).
This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our own spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience. Perhaps we had once heard the gracious call to follow him, and had at this command even taken the first few steps along the path of discipleship in the discipline of obedience, only to find ourselves confronted by the word of cheap grace.
Was that not merciless and hard? The only effect that such a word could have on us was to bar our way to progress, and seduce us to the mediocre level of the world, quenching the joy of discipleship by telling us that we were following a way of our own choosing, that we were spending our strength and disciplining ourselves in vain- all of which was not merely useless, but extremely dangerous. After all, we were told, our salvation had already been accomplished by the grace of God. The smoking flax was mercilessly extinguished. It was unkind to speak to men like this, for such a cheap offer could only leave them bewildered and tempt them from the way to which they had been called by Christ.
Having laid hold on cheap grace, they were barred forever from the knowledge of costly grace. Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace-whereas they had in fact lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience. The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.
I have started asking myself- what does it mean to daily be a disciple of Christ?
Am I living moment to moment like I am dependent on God- that I don’t want to be separated from Him for one instant? Do I hear the voice of His Holy Spirit and obey?
Am I willing to be uncomfortable for God? To sacrifice our time, finances, and other resources to serve Him?
What would you say defines you? Your job, your house, your economic standing, who your friends and family are? Or is it your relationship with God- who you are in Him?
Do people around you see fruit in your life? Do you talk about God- not b/c you feel obligated to- but b/c you are overflowing with joy for all that He has done and you want to share it?
My need for God defines me now.
I want more.
If I separate myself from God I can’t expect to bear fruit- apart from Him I can do nothing. My own efforts are not good enough.
Part of me rejoices in that- God is the one working and doing through the willing vessel- me. I have to humble myself and say- God, I can’t do this on my own. I need you.
As soon as I seek to take back control- make a move based on my own self-confidence and what I think is best- I have stepped away from God.
To remain in Him means to seek Him in all things. To not move unless He moves me.
It is relearning how to live. And to begin to do this requires thoughtfulness, lots of prayer- a willing spirit – malleable for the change God wants to do in us.
Are you willing to surrender your life to the Potter’s hand? To let Him mold you and change you into the person He created you to be?
Will you allow Him to strip away some of the things you hold dear? Do you believe He knows best?
Lord, I pray that today we would seek you and ask forgiveness for putting other things in our life before you. We have idols that we need to tear down, safety nets that need to be removed. Today we confess our sins of self-sufficiency, pride, and avoidance. As we seek you, teach us the discipline of humbly walking with you. Remove any hindrances- give us the courage to say no to sin, to transform and renew our minds through your Word. To see those things that are road blocks to deeper intimacy with You and let them go-to cling to you alone. Sin only leads to destruction and regret. Oh Lord, give us eyes to see those things where we seek pleasure and escape- instead of turning to you. Take us captive, God- may we be enslaved to You and You alone. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, and the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.