Is Your Will a Liability to You?

“My mind is made up!” An often heard declaration, these words can be the source of joy or grief depending on whose they are. From the one who struggles to make and hold on to decisions, they bring relief to the hearers. But from one who takes pride in his or her iron will, they elicit sighs and exasperation. I know a thing or two about the latter because during my childhood and teen years, I developed a strong will as a defense against manipulation. Once my mind was made up on certain issues, that was it!

Having a strong will is in itself not bad. In fact, some of the people whom God has used to drive significant changes in His kingdom and in the world have been people of rock-solid wills; for example, Paul the apostle. Firmness of will is also a necessary virtue for Christians, if we must walk the narrow path to which we are called in a world where most choose the broad and easy way[1].

But — and this is an important one — a strong will must be enlightened by God if it is to be of use to Him and to His kingdom.

An enlightened will

I describe an enlightened will as one that is bathed in God’s light and whose raison d’être (reason for being) is to please Him. An enlightened will submits fully to the Lord and, by extension, adapts to others, within the confines of His will.

A will that is too strong to yield to God or to others at His command is a liability. And when one with such a will enters into relationship with the Lord and expresses a desire to love and serve Him, He — in His love and wisdom — breaks the unruliness of that will. His dealings in this regard are necessary, for He says in His Word that He will only look to and have regard for the one who is of a humble and broken spirit, and who trembles at His word.[2]

A person who takes pride in her ability to make up her mind and not change it no matter what will not tremble at God’s word because her untamed will will override God’s will and the gentle promptings of His Spirit in her heart. She is accustomed to being her own boss and will bow to no other once the boss (herself) has made a decision. A person with this heart disposition cannot serve God effectively.

Sometimes, unknown to us, our wills may be broken in some areas of life but not in others. There may still be pockets of our lives where we rule and have the final say. When this is the case, the Lord passes us through dealings that dethrone self and bring our wills into full yieldedness to Him.

A yielded will in a wicked world

The risk of manipulation still exists in our world today and, I dare say, is more prevalent than when I was a child. I still dislike being manipulated. But I have learned to pass the responsibility for my protection to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in me. This has allowed me to relate more freely with others.

As we exchange our iron wills (or weak wills) for wills that are fully submitted to God, we find that His Spirit shields us from potential manipulators. He does this  by granting us discernment, revelation, and wisdom, just as He did for our Lord Jesus Christ:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. (John 6:63–64; italics mine)

The Holy Spirit also teaches us how to navigate our interactions with such persons:

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).

His ministry, when fully received, releases us to be like our heavenly Father, firm and determined yet entreatable and considerate.

A yielded will in relation to God and an adaptable will in relation to others are essentials for living a life that pleases the Father and can be used effectively by Him. May the Lord bathe our wills in His light and work in us humility, brokenness of spirit and unconditional reverence for His word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

[1] Matthew 7:13–14

[2] Isaiah 66:1–2

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This Grace In Which I Stand

“Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

These words, quoted from Romans 5:2, describe a monumental principle that many, including me, have skimmed over when reading this chapter of the Bible. But before we get to that principle, let me say that the first two verses of Romans 5 show the default position of everyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and Lord. We learn from these verses that such persons are justified by faith and have peace with God. Having received these salvation blessings, they are held up by grace and the hope of their salvation (the hope of the glory of God in us and through us) is progressively revealed to them.

Held up by grace

I have read the first two verses of Romans 5 numerous times, but I’ve never really had reason to think twice about the phrase “this grace in which we stand,” not until recently when through some dealings of the Lord, I’ve realized that the grace in which we stand is a big deal.

As believers, many of us know that we have been brought into relationship with God by His grace. We were sinners who were alienated from Him by our rebellion and deserved nothing but death (for the wages of sin is death[i]). But God extended His goodwill, lovingkindness, and favour to us by sending His Son to take on the penalty for our sins. Through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf, our sins were written off and rather than receive the death we deserved, we received justification (i.e. we were declared just and righteous).

But what eluded me — at least to the degree that I’ve learned lately — is that no matter how deep we go in God, we are held up within His righteous kingdom by grace. The soil in which we are planted and from which we sprout as fruitful trees is GRACE. If His grace were withdrawn, no matter how beautiful we have been as plantings of the Lord, we would wilt, crumble, and fall like dying plants.

seedling in soil

We stand in the soil of grace. God’s saving grace is the substance that holds us up. We are able to rise each day with the desire to pray, to love and to serve the Lord because of His grace at work in us.

Sustaining the flow of grace

But the story of grace does not end there. Grace does so much more. God’s grace teaches us how to remain in His righteous kingdom and how to please Him therein.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.

—Titus 2:11–12

It inspires us to good works and makes it easy to live lives that are pleasing to Him.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 

—Philippians 2:12b–13

But in every instance of its occurrence, grace is a gift. In other words, it can either be accepted or be rejected. This means that we have a part to play in sustaining the flow of grace in our lives. When grace flows freely, we become fruitful — prayer is easy, worship is easy, fellowshipping with like-minded believers is easy, obeying God’s commandments is easy — and our lives bring pleasure to God.

So what should we do to sustain the free flow of God’s grace in us? Perhaps you are expecting a long and complicated answer to this question. Actually, the answer is simple: Be open. All God needs is our openness to Him. With that, He can make us everything His Word says we should be.

No Controversy

If there is one thing that every child of God who aspires to please Him and grow into full maturity should do, it is to have a “no-controversy” attitude toward the Lord. Having a no-controversy attitude toward the Lord means making a resolve to never contend with the Him, or murmur against Him, or be offended at Him. A no-controversy attitude implies that you will follow Him wherever He leads, trusting in His infinite wisdom. As the songwriter puts it, “Where you go, I’ll go; where you stay, I’ll stay; when you move, I’ll move; I will follow.”[ii]

Of course, we should not take this position because we think God is incapable of handling contention or offense — He is not fazed by such — but rather because contention, complaining, and offense against God closes us off to Him. When we entertain these, our hearts harden toward Him and the flow of grace is gradually cut off.

For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

—Isaiah 57:17   

Finally

The grace in which we stand is priceless. Without it, we would have no fruitfulness in things divine. Let’s be mindful to sustain this flow of grace. Trials and challenges will come, but through it all, let’s maintain a no-controversy attitude toward our Lord. With this in place, we will overcome all things and inherit all things[iii] by His grace.

[i]Romans 6:23

[ii] “I will follow” by Chris Tomlin

[iii] Revelation 21:7

The perfect author of your faith.

This encouraging piece is a refreshing reminder to hope in the Lord even when our faith feels weak. I trust it will be a blessing to you.

Finding the beauty in your flaws.

Because even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. [2 Timothy 2:13]. I’ve learned through my journey, that my faith is based on His grace and not my feelings. He’s the anchor that never lets go even when we do. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. [2 Corinthians 12:9].

The Bible calls us to unwavering faith, in knowing & believing that He who has promised is faithful. [Hebrews 10:23]. Faith is truly an important and actually the most vital part of our walk because without faith, it is impossible to please God. [Hebrews 11:6]. But what about the moments of hopelessness? What about the moments of unbelief? What about the moments of weakness? Does this mean we suddenly become unlovable? Does this mean we become unworthy? Definitely not! What this means is that we keep on going. Those feelings don’t and shouldn’t give you any reason to give…

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The Church: Pillar and Ground of Truth


During a recent trip, I bumped into a friend whom I last saw over twenty years ago. As we chatted about life, our families and our present passions, I mentioned my involvement in ministry. He immediately became cynical and asked if I had made my fortunes yet. My efforts to tell him that I was not of that stock fell on deaf ears for a while. Finally I was able to convince him that I am part of the company of believers who strive to live and conduct ministry according to the standards laid out in Scripture. My friend went on to express his frustration about the materialism and corruption in the churches he knew. Unfortunately, I could not defend those churches because I knew that what he said was true. I, however, pointed him to God and affirmed that there are still believers who worship Him in truth.

pillars

Paul, in Scripture, described the church as the “pillar and ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:14–15). In other words, she is the ground upon which truth is planted and the prop from which it is displayed to the world. The Gentile churches to whom Paul ministered had come out of pagan cultures, cultures that stood in stark contrast to God’s ways. They were young congregations, new plants that needed to grow spiritually and numerically in order to transform the cultures from which they had been drawn. Although Paul desired to see them grow, he did not lower God’s standards to facilitate or accommodate such growth. On the contrary, he insisted that the church, wherever she was found, needed to be the custodian and model of God’s truth. She needed to model righteousness, holiness, wisdom, love, and more.

Another gospel

Today, a “gospel” contrary to what Paul preached has taken root in Christendom. While some — thank God — still hold the view that the gatherings of God’s people should not be morally compromised for the sake of church expansion, many make the excuse that churches should be morally accommodating because they attract and comprise imperfect people.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost. Yes, He reaches for us in our filth and draws us to Himself. But He never leaves us the way we are. In fact, the purpose of coming to Him is to be transformed into His likeness. When we come into relationship with Him, He cleanses us by His blood and progressively changes our character. Our gatherings become increasingly pure because of His cleansing work in our individual lives, as is expressed in 1 John 1:6–7:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

People who join the church should get to see both the love and righteous standards of God lived out in our midst and realize that to be a part of His kingdom, they, too, must learn His ways. This is what the Lord instructed when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . . ” (Matthew 28:19–20; emphasis added).

bible study

The ideology that everything is permissible in church because we’re sinners saved by grace is unscriptural. The Bible acknowledges that we do fall into sin but instructs us to own up to our sins, confess them, and allow the cleansing work of Christ to be done in our lives (1 John 1:8–10). The church of the living God should not be a breeding ground for iniquity — not among children, teens, young adults, or adults. Rather, as God has declared throughout Scripture right from the days of the nation of Israel to the days of the seven churches in Asia Minor, the church should be a model of holiness and truth.

The True Church

In the world today, there are a myriad churches going by different names and descriptions. But in Scripture, only one church is recognized and it is called “the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22–24). Membership in this church is handled by the Holy Spirit, and He registers only those whom He has translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (John 3:5–6) — so there can no faking one’s way in. Remaining in this church is contingent on holding fast to the tenets of the faith and living uprightly.

There are no big names in this church (James 2:1–4); those recognized as leaders are actually servants, and they are known by their simplicity and humility (Luke 22:25–27). These messengers never take God’s glory for themselves; they do not claim ownership of His church, for they know that although they’ve been given oversight of His flock, they do not own them. They love the people of God but never point them to themselves; they remember that the One who died for them is their Husband and must remain their first love (Revelation 2:4–5). In fact, they refuse to be idolized by God’s people (Revelation 22:8–9). Their greatest desire in service is to see God’s children in strong and intimate relationship with their Father, and as such they refuse to get in the way. They teach these believers to approach and relate to God rather than position themselves as the go-betweens. These persons live simple lives so that they don’t have to plunder God’s people financially. They do not live large off the labours of God’s flock. When they can, they support them with their own resources (Acts 20:33–35). And last but not least, they live pure and holy lives (Ephesians 5:1–7). They are aware that their lifestyles, not just their messages, need to be exemplary (Philippians 3:17), so they live according to God’s commands in Scripture.

The true church is a body of believers, and it is the temple where God will set His glory in these last days. Many speak of His glory in this endtime, but before we lay claim to that, let’s remember that He only sets His glory in pure vessels:

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. (Psalm 24:3–4)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:7).

So if we want to be enlisted in the company described as the true church, which is the pillar and ground of truth, we must set our houses in order, both in terms of our individual lives and our assemblies.

Satan is working hard to infest the true church with sin. Like Herod who killed all the young boys in Israel to get at Jesus, the devil attacks every Christian assembly in the hopes of destroying the ones whose hearts are set right before God. Unfortunately, many assemblies have fallen prey, which is why we hear of so many scandals. Rather than be safe places for those who join them, these churches have become places where children are defiled, homes are destroyed, and persons who have a sincere desire to serve God are polluted.

hands lifted

But the Scripture says that “the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His . . . ” (2 Timothy 2:19). The Lord has reserved for Himself people whose hearts bow to Him and Him alone. And He leads them to gather in simplicity and purity, according to His due order. In their midst, Christ rules as Lord and the Holy Spirit’s leading is sought and held supreme.

The Call

As with the seven churches in Asia Minor, the Lord will test all Christian congregations that lay claim to His name in these last days, and those whose claims are false will be shown for what they truly are. More scandals will be heard, sadly. The Lord will not place His covering over groups who insist on rebelling against Him and bringing His name into disrepute. As He took His protective covering off Israel and Jerusalem, giving them up to Assyrian and Babylonian captivity respectively, He will withdraw His covering from rebellious churches:

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. (Revelation 11:1–2)

The call to true believers whose hearts yearn for a sincere relationship with God and a transformed life, therefore, is to deliver themselves from places where Christ is not permitted to rule in truth. This is no time to make excuses for one’s church, nor stand for the lowering of God’s standards. This is a time to deliver one’s soul from defilement and from the firm hand of God’s discipline that will be brought upon those who continue to take His name in vain. This is a time to ask the Lord to lead one to a place of worship where His name is honoured; it is a time to actively insist on righteous standards and submission to the Holy Spirit in those God-honouring places of worship.

I pray that the Lord will speak to your heart as you read these words, enable you to evaluate your life in light of them, and lead you according to His will.