Incentive Number Two for Intentional Discipleship: a general lack of peace, joy, and rest in God's holy people (...Continued)
In the previous issue we discussed the first three reasons for lack of love, joy, and peace among God’s people, and they were, 1) No victory over habitual sins, 2) Wrong concept of what Christian life is, and 3), Seeking for fulfillment in worldly things, stuff, entertainment. In this issue we will complete the second incentive for discipleship by discussing the final three. There actually might be more reasons, but in my personal realm of experience these six generally cover most of our experiences.
So the final three reasons are: 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.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly!”John 10:10b “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart and you shall find rest for your souls.” Mat. 11:28-30
These life-giving words are music to a sinner’s ears and hearts, and once fully embraced, there can be no doubt about what the redemptive work of Christ has done to a lost soul. That first love, joy and peace we experience is because we have been reconciled to God, forgiven, and our criminal record erased. The believer however, fails to realize that even though old man is dead, our flesh is still our flesh and needs to be crucified, transformed, and brought under the Holy Spirit’s control. That is a process that takes time, effort, faith, grace, and discipleship.
#4 Not having effectively dealt with our past; unhealed wounds, broken relationships.
Every believer comes to Jesus with a past. It’s filled with rebellion, idolatry, wounds, regrets, and shame. Even though Christ completely wipes away our sin and remembers them no more when we repent and receive Jesus, our flesh retains pretty much the habits and hurts from our past. We are babes in Christ that need to learn how to walk the Christian life and grow up to maturity in our faith. One of the most impeding forces to growth and maturity is our past, our undealt with past and the wounds, those we inflicted on others, and those that were inflicted on us. Christians who live with an undealt with past, unhealed wounds, will hardly ever experience the joy, peace and rest of a loving relationship with the Heavenly Father. They are shackled with unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and wounds; therefore they cannot walk in true freedom to experience God’s love.
Some believers have not made restitutions or reconciliation from a past relationship. Some were abused physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually by those they looked up to, even figures of authority. Others have committed sins against their fellow men (before regeneration) by stealing from them, bullying them, or harming them some other way. All these will cripple a believer, and whether one was the victim or the offender, the result is the same; they will be robbed of the love, joy and peace that was meant to be theirs in Christ. Luke 19:2-10 Discipleship helps the Christian come face to face with their hearts and past, and effectively deal with those shackles to enable them to experience true liberation and freedom.
#5 Wanting to be in control of circumstances, others and outcomes.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7 Anxiety, fear, and worry are indicators of wanting to be in control, and not being able. This condition is a universal calamity on Christianity! From the loftiest leaders to the lowliest layman, in one form or another, people want to be in control. They want to control their circumstances, their spouses, their families, their church, their leaders, their congregation, their future, their neighbors, and all those other areas over which God never gave them jurisdiction. Indeed, there are areas over which God DOES give us responsibility, even commands it, but they’re usually those Christians have least control over. Let me mention some; our thought life, our inner man, our character, our lusts and emotions and desires, our reactions, our finances, our homes, and that’s basically it. However, I have found Christians more concerned over other Christians, other churches, other families, other couples’ children, other church members, their leaders, their managers, or their employees than they are about their own hearts! I have watched people become majorly distressed and critical when another believer stepped over a boundary, but in their own hearts easily justify rebellion, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We've all witnessed Christians worry and trouble themselves sick (myself included) over situations that were out of their control. Others take matters into their own hands by hoarding, lording, suing, taking revenge, even shunning other believers, chiefly because they can't trust that the Lord Jesus Christ is in charge.
Please note, leaders and managers do have the responsibility and mandate of overseeing their operations and those under them, (Acts 20:28; Tit. 1:7) but overseeing and controlling are two entirely different concepts. We don’t have time to discuss their differences in this issue, as we are focusing on making a case for discipleship, but suffice it to say, overseeing helps people grow while controlling keeps them down. In short, much anxiety, worry, fear, and stress results when Christians try to control their circumstances, their future, or other people, and this translates directly into a loss of joy, peace, and rest. Jesus desires us to focus on our own hearts, love others, do what is right, and leave the results up to Him. And again, that takes discipleship and training. 1Tim. 4:7
#6 Seeking the praise and honor from men, rather than God:
If the praises of man are our motivators, we cannot serve Christ out of a joyful heart. Such a believer will rise and fall based on how people see them, perceive them, and compliment them. This is a crippling bondage, and no true child of God should live this way. In the electronic age we live in, young and old can become trapped into doing things only to receive approval from others. The things they say, the lengths they will go to, the stuff they post online…, all to receive a few “likes” or to win approval is a much a bondage as drug addiction. People feed off emojis, likes, and positive reactions, and when they don’t get them they are depressed, and seek attention in other ways. I’m not implying we shouldn’t praise or honor each other. In fact the Bible teaches that we should go out of our way to honor others above ourselves! (Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3) But right here lies the key! We need to see how we can honor others instead of seeking it for ourselves, and discipleship here is the key.
This type of behavior is not limited to social media. It is operating at all levels of society and in the church. People mask their motives, display a false sense of peace, put on a show, and are generally disingenuous about the picture they are painting or wanting others to see. The word “hypocrite” was coined by Jesus to characterize people who do everything for show, and to be seen of men, and people need to be delivered from this frame of mind.
Many pastors, teachers, leaders are also trapped; they want to be recognized, admired, affirmed, and acknowledged for every positive act or accomplishment. They want to be called “Rabbi, Rabbi”, and they want people to submit to them…, Again, we should be honoring those God uses to bring His truths to us, and submit to those God places over us, it's commanded, but for a person to seek it is bondage and will drive them to either try to impress others, or try to manipulate and control them. This will result in an unbalanced ministry, distortion of truth, and lack of real care for the people they are serving. Through discipleship believers are made aware of these pitfalls and equipped to overcome them, allowing them to live only for the glory of God.
These basically sum up the reasons God’s people experience very little peace joy and rest in their lives, and therefore God has to take them through a long, and often painful wilderness journey to bring them face to face with their own hearts, their past, and their wounds. (Deut. 8:2) He needs to teach us that He is in control, He is sovereign, He is omnipotent, He is omniscient, and giving Him His rightful place in our lives needs to become one of life's main objectives. And finally, He needs to teach us to live for the praises of His glory, not ours or others, where we find true rest and peace, and experience fullness of joy. May the Father grant the necessary grace to equip His children in these important areas.
Reuben A Walter