Saturday, June 28, 2014

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Searching for Treasure

Searching for Treasure

(It is God who works within you!)

          Some weeks ago, I began to accumulate notes and thoughts for a story that was to be entitled “What Manner of Man Am I.” It is an attempt to understand the difference between the natural man, carnal man, and spirit man. My thoughts at first were more along the generalized study of mankind as a whole.  Yesterday morning I awoke, and for some reason known to my Lord, but unknown to me at that time, He brought two scriptures to my mind.  They were still there this morning enticing me once again to spend time with the Lord to see just what He might have in store for me.  Through them He seems to be leading down a different path than I had expected.  Wherever He leads, is where I long to go.  It’s always a new and exciting adventure each time He comes to me in such a way.  In my minds eye, it’s as if He has just walked into my bedroom and bounces on my bed like a kid full of excitement.  Not wanting to waste one moment of the day or our time together, He urges me; “Get up, get up!  We’ve got places to go and things to see and do!”  Quickly, I get ready to go on another exploratory trip to search for buried treasure.  His excitement is so contagious that it makes me feel as though it must be Christmas morning, and I too can not wait to get started.  In reality, to start on these adventures together, I don’t have to pack a thing, and I don’t have to travel any further than my comfy chair.  The only things I must bring along with me are His Word, my computer, a willing heart, and most importantly, His Holy Spirit.  He is the key that opens the door and makes all of these journeys possible.  I couldn’t ask for a better companion.  He’s always more than willing to go traveling with me, and the truths we find are more precious than silver and gold.  My question to you is; would you like to come along with us?

          Okay, what were those two scriptures that He brought to my mind to ponder upon yesterday and today?  To my surprise, the first was one that I had never really liked.  In fact, when I had read it before, I remembered feeling offended by it.  Therefore, if He really wanted me to look at it, I first had to take my own advice that I have previously given to others.  “If you don’t think something is true or valid in the word, is it not better to at least consider that it is not the word that is in error, but your own ability to discern and understand it?”  If that be true, then why not turn to the one who is the greatest authority.  He will help you open up the package, making sure that you don’t miss any of the smaller and more intricate parts of it. He will help you see and receive the pearl of great price that had been there all along?  You guessed it; He’s your constant companion if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.  You know, the one Jesus said He would send to indwell you and me after His ascension into Heaven?  He is the one who would be our Comforter, who would never leave nor forsake us, for the Holy Spirit can always be depended upon to lead and guide us into all truth. 

          Well, the following is the package that needed to be opened this morning and I really needed His help: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, 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.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13)  I had no problem with the “fear and trembling” part, as I believe that refers to the fear of the Lord.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endureth forever.” (Psalm 111: 10)  Note this does not refer to the knowledge of the world, but rather the godly kind of knowledge imparted through His word.  It’s the part about working out your own salvation that bothered me.  Why in the world would I have taken offense at this?  To my way of thinking, it was giving the appearance that my salvation was something that I had to work for to earn.  I knew from the scriptures that salvation can not be earned for it is a gift freely given of the Lord when we choose to believe upon Christ, the only one who has the right and ability to save us through His shed blood on the cross.  “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (forgiveness of sin)   (Hebrews 9: 22)  Since the Holy Spirit, through His Word, had confirmed that portion of truth concerning salvation, I knew that there must be something else involved in the idea of “working out your own salvation.”  Maybe it was evident to you from the very start, but it wasn’t for me. 

          Since it had been the Lord that brought me along for this treasure hunt this morning, I knew to expect that He would open the eyes of my understanding, that I might, with His help, find the treasure that could be a key to the results of this whole exploratory adventure.  There it was, no longer hidden, but standing in the sunlight for all to see.  What had been the error that had previously hidden its full meaning from me?  I had taken it out of context, thus perverting and distorting its truth.  In order to reveal the fullness of the truth, let us, along with the Holy Spirit, peel back the layers of the onion.  First, we are right in that salvation is a gift from the Lord through faith.  We are born again of the spirit, no longer to exist as a mere “natural man,” for we have become a “spiritual man” born of the Spirit of God through faith in Christ.  If we began our lives after our first birth as a baby, then the same must be true after our second birth.  We all begin our spiritual life as baby Christians, one who must be raised and nurtured under the admonition of the Lord.  Our maturation does not happen over night, but is a life long process.

           So now, what part does this “working out your own salvation” play in the whole maturation process?  To understand that better, let’s look briefly at the process of growing up from a baby for the natural man.  A baby is first fed milk for he’s unable tolerate the whole load of a steak and potatoes meal quite yet. As he grows in stature, he needs the help of others to aid in that growth.  But he also has to do his part to contribute towards his own growth.  He can’t just lay there like a lump on a log if he is ever going to learn to turn over, sit up on his own, crawl, walk, run, think, and so on. 

          Like I said, others can and do help him, but very little is going to take place, other than just getting bigger in size, if he never puts forth effort himself to attain any kind of mastery in these areas of growth.  Therefore, does it not stand to reason that in order for a spiritual man to grow and mature; do we not need to know what God requires of us?  These three scriptures seem to provide a pretty good starting point: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51: 17) “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart: and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34: 18)  “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”(Ezek. 36: 26)   For a spiritual man to grow in maturity, he must first have a humble heart, not one full of pride.  He must have a spirit that is willing to submit itself to that of the will of God.  As long as we persist to live out our lives as if we know better than God, our hope for any growth towards spiritual maturity in Him is next to no hope at all.  A stony heart is one that is hardened and closed off to the Lord and His ways.  It is most often revealed by the attitude of doubt and unbelief in the truth of God’s word, the truth of the deity of Jesus, the saving power of His death on the cross, and proof that He is who He said He was as demonstrated through His resurrection and ascension into Heaven.  The natural man is more apt to be rebellious and unwilling to even recognize sin in his life.  Try to tell him that the word of God is truth and you will probably find it easier to convince him that frogs don’t jump.  He may give the outward appearance of going about “doing good deeds,” but that is all it is - giving the appearance outwardly, yet concealed within is a prideful and rebellious spirit.  The outward semblance of God might be very visible to the eye, but the power of God through faith is lacking within.  To grow in spiritually, one must have a heart that is ever willing to recognize, confess, and repent from sin. 

          Without submission to the will of God there is no hope of becoming the spiritual man we were designed and planned to be by God.  And that is where the very beginning of the original scripture comes into play.  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, 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.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13)

We must be willing to contribute to our own salvation through the act of obedience, or a conscious decision to live out our lives by being doers of His word and not just hearers only.  As human parents, as we teach and raise our children, it is our hope that one day they will grow and mature to the point when they will no longer need our stern hand over them to stay on the straight and narrow path.  We want them to become self disciplined beings ready and equipped for life.  Our Heavenly Father desires that of us also.  If we endeavor to learn of Him and His ways, as we mature, His ways will become what is ‘normal’ to us.  More and more we will be obedient to His will, not because we have to, but because we want to.  Our old ways will be cast aside, for He has put a new spirit within us; one that is led and taught by the Holy Spirit.

          It is only with an attitude of humility, which grants God control in our hearts, minds, and spirits, that enables God to continue the good work He has begun in us, melting and molding us more and more into His image.  God never enters the heart of anyone without first having been invited to do so.  My original concept of “working out your own salvation” seemed to distract from giving all the glory to God; thus, exalting the position of self above God.  However, somehow I had missed out entirely upon the relevance and cohesiveness of the very last part of the scripture that binds it all together to the glory and magnification of God.  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, 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.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13) Ta dahhhh! Do you see that?  Doesn’t it make you want to jump up and shout, “Yahoo and Praise the Lord”?  Yep, I’m a kid again, it’s Christmas morning, and the surprise package has been opened for all of us to see! Yes, I do have to work out my daily salvation by making a willing decision to cooperate with God in His remaking of me.  But, and here is the best part of it for you and me, who is it that is right there with us doing the real work?  Of course, it’s God the Father who has first loved us. Here we are these minute, frail, faulty messed up children of God, and yet, wonder of all wonders, He has loved us first in spite of ourselves.  He knows exactly what we are, but because He knows the beginning from the end, He also knows what we can become in and through Him.  I don’t know about you, but if this working out things was all left up to me and my own ideas and opinions, apart from God, I’d probably make a pretty big mess of it.  But for the moment, let’s give me the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe, in my own wisdom and knowledge, it might seem on the surface that I’ve done a pretty good job of it.  I’ve attained all the outward signs of health, wealth, and prosperity while on the inside, no matter what I gain from the world’s point of view, I never quite feel like anything is enough and there always seems to be something lacking.  In my feeble way, I keep trying to fill that unhappy void with all the things the world has to offer, never realizing that I am missing out on the best part which is what God had planned – that work that He had intended to do in me “both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”   Look at that once again.  First, He’s going to give us the desire or will to be a doer of the word.  Not only that, now that we want to do His will, He goes another step further in that He helps us to do that which His will.  Just think about that for a moment!  God, who knows and wants only that which is best for us is willing to work in us to create in us a heart, mind, and spirit within us that is submitted to doing His will, and then on top of that, it is His pleasure to do that for and in us.  Why, because He loves you and me, and it pleases Him to do so.  Think of your own children, or the ones you may have in the future.  Think of the joy it gives you when you do something special for them, whether they deserved it or not.  And you did it because you found delight and pleasure in doing something for their good.  He has said, “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (I Cor. 2: 9)  Good golly Miss Molly, why would anyone want to pass up a deal like that?  When I think of the magnitude of what He offers to do in and through me and you, not just in the here and now, but for all eternity, like the bible says, “I scarce can take it in.”

          Remember at the beginning of today’s adventure with the Lord, I said he had given me two scriptures to ponder on to seek out their hidden treasures?  The second one is: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.” (I Cor. 13: 12)  When I first began today’s story, I was given a vision in my mind.  It’s rather like playing a video recording in your head, and it was even in Technicolor.  Jesus is with me and we are standing in front of one of those old Victorian style freestanding full length mahogany framed mirrors.  When we first peer into it, we see a scene of a beautiful garden with all manner of beautiful vegetation. There’s a molded cement bench that even has a back support.  Even though it is of cement, it has curves that seem as though they would mold comfortably around your body.  It appears as though we might go in and sit down to visit with one another in it’s peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.  But then I began to think about all of the different pathways, some of them may even have been hidden from our view by the lush vegetation.  As I wondered which pathway He might choose to take me down this morning, this scripture served as a caption, written above the entrance to the garden: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)  The greatest treasure that you and I can ever find on this earth is the Lord and His word.  He beckons to us to come join Him in His garden, and He will show marvelous wonders unto us that are beyond our imagination.  I think God uses this ‘video’ of His garden to speak to my heart because He know that it has a special  significance and meaning in my life, and in the life of my brothers and sisters.  If you have read my previous stories, you will remember that I have spoken of one of our Daddy’s favorite hymns, “I Come to the Garden Alone.”  I can hear him even now.  He starts the song and the rest of us chime in to sing along with him.  And Mama, she’s sitting beside him with a smile on her face and a tap of her foot as she dances to the tune in her heart.  She is relishing the sweet moment of time together.  Though it is truly a sweet and tender moment, and I do enjoy and appreciate having the opportunity to be “looking  into the mirror darkly” seeing “only in part,” yet my heart so yearns for the time when we shall see Jesus face to face and, along with the Father, Holy Spirit, and all the host of angels, we will lift our voices to sing “And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  To God be the Glory!

Thank you Jesus for taking me down this “path” today.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, 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.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13)


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