Greetings in Jesus name!
AW Tozer writes that Christians ought to be the happiest people in the world. So why aren't they? Indeed, we understand that living in a hostile world and broken body has a dampening effect on our happiness and joy, but as we'll discuss in this issue, the joy, peace, and rest Christians ought to have is independent of life's trials and circumstances. If our peace, joy, and rest is dependent upon life's circumstances or on how we are treated, there is something missing in our relationship with our Father. What's really lacking in our lives is an intimate knowledge of who God is, and ALL that He is to us who have set our hope in Him. And that lack can be directly attributed to the lack of real, biblical, intentional discipleship.
Read and be blessed and challenged!
Incentive Number Two for Intentional Discipleship: a general lack of peace, joy, and rest in God's holy people.
In this article we will begin to address all the areas I have faced and experienced myself, or seen in brethren over the years.
The causes for lack of peace rest, and joy are quite varied, but we will narrow them down to 6 general causes:
1. No victory over habitual sins, 2. Wrong concept of what Christian life is. 3. Seeking for fulfillment in worldly things, stuff, entertainment, 4. Haven't effectively dealt with past, unhealed wounds, etc., 5. Wanting to be in control of circumstances, others, outcomes. 6. Seeking the praise of men, rather than the praise of God.
Some of these may overlap in our discussions, and we wouldn’t be able adequately address all six in this issue. However, I humbly ask all readers to consider carefully this month’s incentive for discipleship, as it gets quite loaded, personal, and perhaps offensive. My heart is not to offend, but to illuminate! We Christians can get so used to a certain “status quo” we just accept the reality as is, completely missing God’s plan for us, thus effectively “limiting” the Holy One of Israel! Ps. 78. However, when it comes to God’s eternal word, we would do well not to “explain away” what it teaches, or relegate Jesus’ words to another age or people. If we ARE the people of God, we ARE SONS of God, thus making us possible recipients of ALL God says we can be through Christ, and full PARTAKERS of the DIVINE NATURE! If, for example, we design an engine to output 600 hp, and build it to specs, we expect it to put out 600 hp! However, we must feed it the required fuel mixture or it will not operate to it’s capacity. Moreover, we would not build an engine like that only to power a lawnmower!
Likewise, we are created in the IMAGE of God, with incredible faculties and potential, and to make excuses for living defeated lives in the age of grace is a disservice to the Captain of our salvation! For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind. 2Tim. 1:7 Imagine the people of eternal kingdom, having the power of the universe within their grasp, and the capacity of becoming like their Master, but waste their lives looking more like orphans than princes! I know there are godly people who have discovered Jesus, experienced salvation, are victorious in key areas of their lives, we praise God for each one! However, living in victory over sin is only the first 2 or 3 stages of Christianity! The Christian's goal is not to reach heaven one day, that is our inheritance! Rather, the goal is to become like Jesus Christ in ALL that He is and represents! Rom. 8:29; 2Cor. 3:18 And how far are we from that?
Sadly, much of Christianity is more concerned with fire insurance than “become like their Master” Luke 6:40
Overcoming the Devil, sin, and self was the first stage of Jesus’ ministry! Heb. 5:8. He then came out of the wilderness in the “power of the SPIRIT” and in 3 short years made an impact on the world that literally changed the course of history. Imagine what 50,000 of us could accomplish? But, being sinful creatures, we never get much further than the overcoming of sin, if that, and even less the overcoming of “self.” We have no shortage of “adopted” children of God, but a real dearth of soldiers who are trained and equipped to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
So cause number one for no peace, joy and rest in our Heavenly Father: no victory over habitual sins,
Having hidden, known, and undealt with sin in our lives makes it impossible to enjoy God’s presence, or live joyful, spirit-filled lives, and unwilling to share the hope of Jesus with the lost! Sure, we can put on that “Sunday morning” image of happiness and peace, but deep down we’re miserable, defeated, angry, selfish, and insecure. Sin always make us restless, always grieves the Holy Spirit, always hinders our prayers, always robs us of peace and joy, always diminishes our testimony, and always breaks our communion with God. Sin in our lives exalts Satan’s power over God. These include any addiction; pornography, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sports, entertainment, etc. No Christian can walk freely if one or any of these still cripple them. Neither can they experience joy, peace and rest if there is deep anger, lust, covetousness, resentment, unforgiveness, pride or bitterness in their hearts. These can be more toxic than drugs. Countless believers are shackled with these sins for years, even decades! They keep trying, trying, trying to overcome, gain victory, but keep repeating the same cycle over and over and over. They are too ashamed to confess them, too humiliated to share, and too far up the ladder of reputation to humble themselves. Pride, social and other pressures keep them trapped in the endless cycle of failure, repentance, forgiveness, only to fail again. They live 2 lives, one in public and one in private. They want out, but don’t know how.
I know a friend who keeps insisting the cause of His failure and depression is because he doesn’t spend enough time in the word and in prayer. My response is simple: "Why don’t you?" You see, we can never fall in love with God’s word, dedicate time in prayer and studying if there are undealt with sins in our lives. This brother had serious issues with unforgiveness and deep anger in his life and he felt more time in the word, more time in prayer would change that. I told him its impossible! You cannot be filled with God’s love, peace and rest until those holes in your life are plugged. You are trying to pour fuel into a tank that has several gaping ruptures in it. You are trying to walk the Christian life, but both your legs are broken. No matter how much ointment, bandages, you will put on that break, it will not get better! You need to set the bone first! You need to forgive, you need to make restitution, you need to release every person and situation in your life that has a hold on you! Then you have effectively plugged the hole, set the bone, and fueling or healing can begin. Problem is, many Christians have no idea how to do this, that is where discipleship comes in! Through discipleship and fellowship, Christians come face to face with their own hearts, thus becoming equipped to break free from habitual sins, controlling heart conditions and attitudes that can fester for years.
Cause #2; wrong concept of Christianity.
Modern western Christianity has been obsessed with prosperity --- getting the most out of God! "God wants to bless you, give you nice things, solve all your problems, heal all sicknesses, etc." there is very little teaching on holiness and authentic Christian living. Churches are more concerned with numbers and $$$ than they are with having their members live lives of victory over sin. Cheap grace is everything, and pursuing self-denial and godliness is considered legalism. That has resulted in superficial Christianity that has accepted the reality of sin, especially heart sins. While I agree that legalism is a trap many well-meaning believers have fallen into, those reacting to legalism are trapped as well --- only in the opposite ditch! The saints need to be taught to walk on the “Narrow Way, that leads to Life” where grace, truth, faith and obedience are counterparts that complement each other, rather than compete with each other. Again, discipleship and fellowship are both an indispensable vehicle to get the saints to that place.
Then we have the conservative world, the Anabaptists and numerous other groups whose focus is on non-conformity and strict adherence to rules and standards. It seems God’s people are in either one or the other of these two camps. While outward conformity has value, and it does maintain stability and order, it fails in transforming our hearts and minds to be conformed to the image of Christ. We certainly have many blessings and solid doctrines coming through the Anabaptist world, but we have not been very successful in developing spirit-filled, victorious, disciples of Jesus. The rules and standards, when imposed from above is a heavy yoke upon the neck of the disciples, and leads to judgmental attitudes and lovelessness among our people. Most of those I know can’t see past their standards, and judge everyone else by them. This sad fallout has divided the Anabaptist world into many factions that all claim to own the truth, and all others need to see things our way to be Christians. Again, through discipleship these micro-mindsets are demolished and God’s people can truly rise above religious pride to be as loving of others as God was of them.
Cause #3: Seeking fulfillment in worldliness, stuff, things, entertainment.
This one may even sound “religious, or outdated” but scripture is not outdated. God’s word tells us, “love not the world, neither the things in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1John 2:15-17 You don’t need to be a child of God very long to come to the realization that things of this world don’t satisfy. The entertainment industry is thriving---filling a hole in people that will just never be filled! When will God’s people understand? A.W. Tozer writes that Christians ought to be the happiest people in the whole world. Why aren’t they? “We depend on the world—that little hazelnut—to make us happy, rather than God. We try to find pleasure in things that are too small, which only leaves us unsatisfied. Then, after cluttering our lives with things, we want to add God to the mix. We try to have God with a plus sign—God plus this, or God plus that—which can never work: You’re made in the image of God, and nothing short of God will satisfy you.” Until God’s people are persuaded of this, they will waste their lives chasing after an ever shifting target. It may be a better job, more money, the next vehicle, clothing, gadgets, house, or RV, and once we’ve obtained them, the hole becomes even bigger. Long weekends, vacations, and entertainment do NOTHING to fill our emptiness. None of these are wrong in themselves, God gives us richly all things to enjoy! Our problems arise from “seeking those things as source of satisfaction” first, rather than God.
Is God against us having a nice home, technology, or time out? NO! God created us to enjoy His creation, and with the ability to innovate and experience pleasure. Sin comes from seeking the pleasures over the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. God is concerned with our “desperately wicked,” hearts that can deceive us so easily into prioritizing this world, things, stuff, and pleasure over Himself! This is where the battle needs to take place! Isolating ourselves, living like hermits, rejecting everything and anything that could lead to sin, (not sinful in itself) is not the answer. That only leads to “false humility,” and a critical “looking down” on all those “other” poor folk trapped in “worldliness.” True Biblical discipleship helps the Christian face the world head on and overcome, rather than being sucked into its excess and vanity, or conversely, being terrified of technology and pleasure. Both, in their places well below the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in importance, are good for man, and especially good for the Christian who sees them as "gifts" from the ultimate Giver.
I could expand on this topic alone for several more issues, but we don't wish to get carried away. We are making a case for intentional, intensive Biblical discipleship for the purpose of transforming our "vile" bodies to be fashioned like unto His glorious body. Phil. 3:21. Highlighting these 3 causes for lack of peace, joy, and rest in God's people is intended to motivate us to come to the realization that we are NOT poor sinners, but rather "More that Conquerers....!