Having to admit you got it wrong is always a challenge. Readers of this blog will note that I have had to make such confessions on a fairly regular basis. The main reason for this is that I generally think that I know best. As a rule of thumb. However, once I am bathing in the glorious sunshine of hindsight, it is easy to see my mistakes.
During a previous post (The Tale of Two Tents), I had to make such a confession. On that particular occasion, it wasn’t so much that we did the wrong thing, but more that we did the right thing but without being told. In other words, we were premature. Pre-mature. Interesting word, isn’t it? Before maturity. We had displayed a lack of maturity in our decision making, which led to a wealth of other issues. But, one of the greatest things about trying to lead a life pleasing to God, is that if you are open to His correction, He will make the best out of the situation that you have just stuffed up. If you are open to correction. If you are not open to His correction (or anyone else’s for that matter) then life is going to continue as a series of frustrations and unfulfilled plans.
The ever-so famous (and often misquoted or misunderstood) Romans 8:28 says this of those whom God has called:
“Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose;” [Romans 8:28 CJB]
Interesting isn’t it? How often have you heard teaching on this verse that makes it soon like a blank cheque? Don’t worry about it if you stuff up, God will clear up your mess. Sorry, it doesn’t quite say that. To paraphrase it a little, it says that providing you love God – that is, you have devoted your life to Him, and are prepared to be obedient to His Word, then (and only then)He will turn around any bad situation to make it good.
Hang on though. You will have noticed that I haven’t provided much context to this particular verse. I’ve kind of plucked it out of thin air to make a point. That is never a good idea. So, to set the context to what Paul was saying to the church in Rome that he hadn’t then met, we have to understand that he had already explained the struggle between the flesh and the spirit. Through the proceeding chapters of Romans, Paul had described his own battle with his flesh and how he sometimes did the things he didn’t want to do, even though he knew them to be wrong. Then, he proceeds to explain that we don’t have to live that way any longer because Y’shua (Jesus) has made it possible for us to have a new life through His Spirit. We no longer have to be slaves to the way the world says we should behalves but, instead, we can lead lives according to how Y’shua said we should. Then, we come to chapter 8, in which Paul explains that we are no longer condemned by our actions and thoughts but instead we have this new life in the spirit. He tells us that in our weaknesses, the Spirit of Y’shua Himself, will help us by pleading on our behalf for God’s will to be done in our lives, because He can see the state of our hearts. And if our hearts are turned to face God, then whatever happens, God is there ready to help us by turning bad into good.
But, there is more…note the semi colon at the end of verse 28.
“because those whom He knew in advance, He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers;” [Romans 8:29 CJB]
Right there, in that single verse, we learn what God’s will is for all of those He has chosen – to be made like His Son Y’shua. That is His will for you, and that is His will for me.
And, that leaves the question of how does He conform us to be like His Son Y’shua?
Well, regardless of what many flaky preachers teach today, Y’shua was made perfect through suffering. So, it follows that God will use the same process on us. After all, we are told to follow Y’shua.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” [Hebrews 10:2 NIV]
Read the entire letter to the Hebrews. It is essential for anyone whom God has called to be made into the image of His Son, Y’shua. But this verse tells us that the process of bringing many people into the kingdom and His glory, will follow the example set by His Son Y’shua, who is the author and designer of our deliverance.
And, if you don’t accept that God chooses this method to refine and prefect us, then you should really study God’s Word carefully. Don’t be drawn in by what spews out of your TV or laptop from the so-called God channels. If anyone is teaching that God wants to make you rich and give you everything you have ever wanted then they are lying to you. If your preacher or pastor is teaching anything of this so-called prosperity gospel then be careful that you are not deceived. None of the things they promise (usually in exchange for a small donation) are solid biblical teaching. They teach it only for their own ends and not to help you to be more Christ-like. The truth is, only God can make you more Christ-like. Nothing you can do under your own strength will be able to transform your life like the way God can.
The reality of following Y’shua is far removed from what these people are teaching. God isn’t going to make you rich, no matter how much you donate to whatever cause they masquerade behind. It is true, that occasionally, God blesses people with wealth in order for them to give it away. He will never bless people just to make them rich because that is contradictory to His word, and God cannot contradict Himself. It is impossible.
Each of us have a responsibility to make sure that our walk with God is right. You can’t rely on anyone else to tell you what to do. God wants a personal relationship with you, with all of us. The New Testament is littered with verse after verse that warn us not to be deceived by false teaching. The only way to find out if we are being deceived to is check with God. We each have the responsibility to hold whatever teaching we are hearing up to the light of what Y’shua said. If it doesn’t match up then we are being deceived.
However, if you are still unconvinced that God uses suffering to perfect us then please read carefully the following scriptures:
Deuteronomy Chapter 8 – Here God explains that he lead the Hebrews to places of hardship in order for them to learn to rely upon Him.
Jeremiah Chapter 29 – The Letter to the Exiles in which God tells the Hebrews that He has allowed them to be taken into captivity so that they will understand just how much He loves them.
The Book of Job – Here God uses suffering in order to show Job his errors and make him perfected in the process. Look particularly at the section where God allows Satan to put Job through his troubles.
The Old Testament is packed full of accounts of God using difficult situations to make the people He has chosen into better people. And, of course, all of the Old Testament is pointing directly to Y’shua, the suffering servant. God’s Word made flesh. Leading the way. Setting the standard for us all to follow.
The past year, for us, has been a genuine struggle. We knew that there was something wrong, but we couldn’t put our finger on it. We asked God what was wrong and we got silence. This continued from January 2015 until late December, when I finally decided to stop struggling along with stuff the way I thought it should be done, and started to let God do it His way. And something broke. I’m not even sure how to describe what I am trying to tell you, but it felt like something snapped. I am not sure if I heard a sound or just understood that something had broken, but I knew it had. I think it was my will. And, when I finally yielded to God, who knows best in everything, something changed. It was as if I was actually ready to listen to what was wrong. Until that point, even if He had told me I wouldn’t have listened, or even been prepared to hear it. Once you surrender, He talks.
It would be easy to see it as a year wasted. But it is not wasted. All the way through He has been teaching both of us a great many things. Some simple and obvious, others have been tougher and not so obvious. Even so, He has maintained His promise to work all things to the good.
So, we started to get back to where we should have been – a blank canvass at Cornerstone, waiting on His every word for direction. Back to a one-step-at-a-time situation. Trusting Him in everything. I am sure that we will make many more mistakes but, providing we are ready to be corrected by Him, He will never leave us nor forsake us. His Word says so.
And it is His Word that brings me to the silver part of this posting. You see, without His Word I would never have believed in the first place. Without His Word, I would never know when I am wrong. His Word is the standard by which we know and understand His will for our lives. Psalm 12 says that ‘the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times‘. When God speaks into our lives we need to listen because His words to us are pure and refined, like silver. His words bring life to us. They sustain us. Y’shua taught us that what we need to survive is every word that comes forth from God.
Today, there isn’t much empathises on God’s Word. It is a hard message to sell to non and new believers that they must study the word of God. But Y’shua told us that we must. He said that if we continued in His word that we would be His disciples (John 8:31). What does that all mean?
Well, I can tell you, only from my own perspective, that we often overlook a very simple fact about Y’shua. I think it is because we fail to understand it. I suspect our pastors and teachers don’t understand it either, so that they don’t teach it. I read a book this week (I Was A Flaky Preacher by Ted Brooks) that made me see differently the notion of God’s Word and why we need to continue in it. Everything in the Old Testament is God’s written Word. All of it points to Christ. Christ was God’s Word made flesh. In other words, in Christ, as a man, was the fulfillment and completion of everything that God had already said to the world. The confirmation that what He had said was true. Y’shua was the Word at the beginning. He was the Word made into human flesh. And He will always be the Word.
We will never be able to get enough of Y’shua in our lives. But the more of Him we consume by reading and understanding what He said and did, the more alike to Him we will become. Refined like silver. He is the Word of God in human form. He set the example for us to follow. And on our journey, he told us to take nothing. We just need Him. Nothing else. To continue in His Word is to be made to be more like Him. There is nothing more that God is going to add to that Word. He is the Alpha and the Omega – the A and the Z of all of God’s Word. Nothing can be added, and nothing can be taken away. The perfectly refined Word. And God’s will is for us to be conformed to be like Him. We can’t do this ourselves. We can try to behave like Him, but we will fail. That is nothing more than religion. It is only by God’s Word that we change. He does the work…but only when we let Him.
It takes the surrender of our will before God will speak change into our lives. God only wants permanent change. Not temporary change.
I can’t really say this enough, but we have to get back to really getting to know God’s Word. We need to read it; study it; meditate upon it; be taught it; teach it. That is the only way that we can truly get to know the real nature of God. The disciples of Y’shua had the benefit of knowing Him personally, but we can too. The Holy Spirit is there for us to fully express everything about Y’shua. That is why we need to learn fully how to live lives led entirely by the Spirit of God, and stop living our lives stuck in the mud of the flesh. It is only through a deeper knowledge of the Word of God along with the Holy Spirit’s help can we experience the same relationship with Y’shua that the disciples did. I believe that in that closeness with Y’shua lies all that we need. I also believe that without a solid foundation of Christ’s teaching we will not ever experience all that God has in store for us.
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders points entirely to this. Take your time to read the words carefully and ask the Holy Spirit to help open your heart to its truth.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [Matthew 7:24-27 NIV]
Not only do we need to take in God’s Word, this parable tells us that if we put into practice what we read and hear, we will be able to stand up against anything that life can throw at us.
If your church isn’t teaching enough of God’s Word; if you are hungry for more, then find somewhere else that is teaching enough. If your church has fallen into the deception that suffering is not the tool that God uses to sharpen us, then leave and find a church where the truth matters more than bums on seats. It is all about your personal relationship with Y’shua. Nothing else matters. And you will be the only one responsible for making sure that you are right with God.
Tonight we start our Bible study again. We’re starting over. We have called it Red Bricks. Red, because we are only teaching the red letter stuff from the gospels, and bricks because it will be upon the rock that is Christ we build.
Now, whilst we are on the subject of good foundations and solid biblical teaching, I want to talk about gold.
However you view the Book of Revelation, you can never really study it enough. I’m no longer interested in who thinks they have the right understanding or interpretation. One thing I am certain of is that God will reveal all in the fullness of time, and not a single moment earlier. If He had wanted us to understand it fully now, He would have given us a less mysterious rendering of the vision. There is, however, a very pertinent section that fits nicely into what I have already discussed. In chapters 2 and 3 we have Y’shua speaking to the seven churches that were in Asia Minor. These churches have all long gone – a sad testament on its own. But, they all also seen as types of churches. The last church which Y’shua addresses is often seen as a type of today’s church. It matters not to me whether this is the right assessment or not, but it does has similar attributes to many of the churches we see in the world today. Here’s what Y’shua had to say to that church:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” [Revelation 3:14-18 NIV]
Now, you will have heard much on the springs of warm volcanic water that exist in Laodicea and them being lukewarm, and that it was a place that was famous for making eye salve. All of this is bluff – tools used by preachers to deflect you from looking at the real message. You need to look at it differently. I have been in churches and heard a message on the problems of Laodicea as if it wasn’t what that very same church was guilty of as well. Y’shua was addressing the state of their spiritual condition and not their fleshy one. That they believed they were rich shows that they were grounded entirely in the flesh and not in the teaching of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. But, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is help at hand. Y’shua tells them, in fact counsels them, to buy from Him gold that has been refined in the fire. He tells them that the gold He has will make them spiritually rich. And not only that, it comes with new spiritual clothes, and salve to take away their spiritual blindness.
So, what is this gold Y’shua talks of? It is the gold of self-sacrifice and surrender. It is the gold of a right relationship with Christ, built upon His rock. It is the gold of a life devoted entirely to the Living Word of God. Nothing the world offers can do any of that which Y’shua’s gold can do. The world can only offer riches that appeal to our flesh. His gold is refined, like the silver of His Word, in the fires of heaven itself.
The world offers silver and gold, but none of what the world offers will stand the fire of Y’shua. His silver and gold has already stood the fire.
Embrace whatever you suffer today. Know that God is in the refining business. Turn your back on all that appeals to the flesh and only pursue that which makes you spiritually rich.
It is worth noting that Y’shua’s last command to His church is to be earnest and repent (Revelation 3:19). We should take note. I think it is time to get back to the real basics of the gospel and start building upon the rock, the cornerstone, that is the Word made flesh.
Never trust the silver and gold of the world. Always trust in Y’shua alone – His silver and gold may cost more than the world’s, but it is purer and will last for all eternity.