For some of us we wonder why on earth did God make human beings? After all if it wasn’t for human beings then much of the world would still be perfect.
That is because we haven’t fully understood God’s purpose in creating human beings.
Genesis 2:7 ‘Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being ’niv.
When you look at the ground do you consider your beginning? Do you consider that from the dust you were made by a Holy God? What power; what wonder; that God could make such a complex being out of what lay on the ground, the most basic component of creation. But did you notice that this human being not only was created from dust or ground (Hebrew word idamah) but God himself breathed his own breath into the lungs of this new person.
This is truly the wonder of humanity, that to give life God actually breathed into the nostrils of this new human, the very breath of God brought life to man.
But the wonders don’t stop there v 8’ Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed’ niv. Here we see the provision of God for the man he had created. As we continue to read, we see that this provision wasn’t just to be tended by the man but was to be for the benefit of the man.
There was one stipulation v 16 ‘And the LORD God commanded the man ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ niv.
Oh there is much that could be said and has been said about this moment in human history but before we move on to that we notice that after the stipulation God goes into more detail about Adam’s role and responsibility, the naming of the animals. What a beautiful picture of a God who cares, God himself brought the animals before Adam for him to name. God was officially placing the care and responsibility of the animals into Adam hands, Adam was officially the human leader of the garden of Eden.
However, for this man there was something missing v20 ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found’ niv.
There was a longing in Adam to share this responsibility with someone suitable, someone like him. Unknown to Adam God had already planned the perfect partner and this partner was so perfect that Adam sang a song of praise and thanks to God, the world’s first love song;
‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’ (esv)
Adam is so grateful to God for giving him the perfect partner, the very person he needed to help him fulfil the responsibilities God had placed in his hands.
Here we see the beauty of the marriage relationship, a partnership orchestrated by a loving, caring and providing God, to live out and serve His purposes so that all creation will be cared for.
Last time we considered how God made humanity in his image through a decision made with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Much has been said over the years particularly over recent years, as we all grapple with personal or wider community identity issues, and I am certainly not trained in this area of ministry however I do want us to explore together Genesis 1. I encourage you to ask God to shape your identity as you are made aware, by the Holy Spirit, of who you are and why you were made.
Genesis 1:27 ‘So God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’. niv
What a relief and a blessing to know that when we were created God had a specific purpose and plan in mind. It isn’t something we have to figure out ourselves, if God truly has created us then we can turn to our Creator and ask why.
Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number…’ (niv)
Another blessing that cries out to us here is that God only creates for a planned purpose. He is not creating out of a whim, like we read of in Greek mythology, but he creates calmly and purposefully.
Genesis 1:29 goes onto say …’fill the earth and subdue it’ Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground’.
Here we see the purpose of all humanity to continue to fill the earth that God has already prepared for us and rule over it, to ensure order and beauty continues. Here we see the heart of God to care for all that has been created. For many of us the word ‘subdue’ fills us with dread and for some it can make our stomachs churn with disgust. We see in God’s perfect kingdon subdue isn’t to force obedience but to bring under control so that all God’s creation works together in unity, for this to happen well God’s kingdom needs a good leader.
God’s purpose in creating mankind is to be in relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and to take care of all that God has created. Incredible, God would entrust, to his created mankind, the care of his created kingdom. What an honour and privilege. Both humanity and creation at this point are perfect. As we read last time God declared ‘it was very good’.
Even in it’s perfection creation was not left to its own devices to grow in any way it wanted but to be managed and cared for so that it would grow and flourish in the way God designed it to do. Creation needed to be cared for, so here we begin to understand that, the created man’s purpose is to do the perfect will of God as this is God’s provision for his kingdom.
God’s completed work
Genesis 2: 1 ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array’. niv
What a joy this statement shouts out to us, in the ‘vast array’ this declares the abundance of God’s creation, there was nothing missing, everything was made with purpose, there is a sense of completion.
However, there was still one more day, there was still one more thing God wanted to give his creation. There was one more separation that needed to take place.
Genesis 2:3 ‘Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation’. esv
God rested not because he needed to escape the busyness of creating but because he wanted to enjoy his creation.
Amazing that the God of creation takes joy in his creation.
The blessing of this holy day is a gift to God’s created humanity a day to reflect and rest in the one who has created. What about us, are willing to rest in the assurance that all our Creator God has created, is for us to be both enjoyed and to bring joy as we share it with others. Shouldn’t that turn our hearts towards our God in thankfulness and praise?
What brings more joy than anything we can imagine, is for us to enjoy being in God’s presence and have a desire to see God fulfil all his plans and purposes in our lives and in the world around us.
Being willing to enjoy and give thanks to God for his provision will give us a glimpse into how we reflect the image of God to a needy world but today all isn’t perfect; there still feels like there is something missing……..doesn’t it?
The title of today’s blog comes from a children’s worship song many of us sing in our churches and homes. It speaks of ‘our’ God who is mighty and strong. In this child’s song we get a hint that God has a relationship with the people he created, but before we jump ahead and consider our relationship with God, we need to go back to our investigation from our blog a few weeks ago.
How did God create the heavens and earth?
God’s creative power
Genesis 1 v 3 ‘God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light’. NIV
This is how God created, did you notice? It seems quite quiet doesn’t it? This incredible life-giving moment seems to happen without much fuss. The key to understanding how God did this incredible miracle of life is through the word ‘LET’. This simple word tells us that all God had to do to bring forth all that we would require for life is He spoke.
Throughout this chapter, at each stage of creation, we see the simple but powerful word of LET at the beginning of each instruction.
This is the power our God in heaven has, He speaks, and the heavens and earth respond in obedience. The sky, stars, planets, land and water all do exactly what God commands them to do. As he speaks commands of separation and filling, the heavens and earth obediently do what they were created to do.
Genesis 1:25 ‘And God saw that it was good’.
God made this declaration about all he had created, day and night, land and sea, plants and vegetation, stars and planets, creatures of the air and sea all created in the kinds that God defined them to be.
In this small sentence we are seeing that God is not only creator but is also the judge of all he has created. He creates and He decides its contribution to his kingdom. God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) declares that all he has created is ‘good’.
In that goodness we see a completedness, a place in time that all God had created was complete and needed nothing else. We also see a reflection of God within His creation, creation was declared good because God himself is good. All goodness comes from Him and Him alone.
Our bodies obediently formed into the intricate complex bodies that we have been blessed with, that without God’s power to create would not exist. So why can’t we as humanity obediently put our lives into the hands of our Creator God who without his care and attention to how he creates, we would have no life.
If only humanity could have done what creation did, obediently do what they were created to do.
God created us differently to the rest of creation as he created us in His image (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) which brings additional blessing but also additional responsibility. In Genesis 1:31 there is a sense of humanity completing creation as God’s declaration is now ‘it is very good’. However, there is another factor at work too and in future blogs we will consider why we have a natural unwillingness to trust the God who created us.
But for today read through Genesis 1 and wonder at what God created and how he created all that we see around us.
Psalm 19: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands’.
I left you with the thought a few weeks ago ‘How did God create the heavens and the earth’?
Since then we have all had to face some difficult decisions of how best to help and protect our families, friends and our communities.
More than ever we need to get to know the God of the heavens and earth; to truly consider who He is and what he has to say to us.
Now is the time to open our hearts to the God who created us; we are all learning of the vulnerability and weaknesses of the human race.
God of all creation
When considering how God made the heavens and earth maybe your mind turns to Creationism v Evolutionism or maybe New Earth v Old Earth or maybe it’s something you’ve not really considered, or you may have even rejected the notion all together.
But before we consider ‘how’ God created we need to understand ‘Who’ created.
What do you mean ‘who’ created?
In verse 1 the original Hebrew used for God is Elohim. This word is a plural word with a singular meaning. Our English language doesn’t reflect multiple complexities in the same word however in Hebrew we see the balance between Elohim having both a singular and plural meaning.
Throughout scripture (the bible) we see this truth unfold as God declares himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the book of Isaiah Chapter 9: verse 6 says ‘he (Jesus) will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.
The first plural reference in English we see is in Genesis 1:26 ‘Let us make mankind in our image’. What an incredible moment we witness here as God (Father, Son and Spirit) makes a declaration together to create mankind.
We can have confidence when we declare that there is only One True God who has three Persons working in relationship as Trinity.
As we share this journey together, I pray our hearts, minds and eyes will be opened to the incredible truths that await us as we prepare to listen and learn from the God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) of all creation.
Psalm 118 ‘This is the day that the LORD has made we will rejoice and be glad in it’.(NKJV)
As we all consider this morning whether we should be self isolating for the better of the wider community, our dear precious Church family, the weak and the vulnerable particularly our little babes and our older folk.
Can we really depend on the above verse or do we purely consider it a nice Christian platitude to attempt to bring some hope into a hopeless situation?
When Israel sang this song it was often sung when they were rebuilding the temple or when they were heading into a particular difficult battle. It was a reminder that they were not their own, that they belonged to the living God, it was also a picture into the future of a one who would come and take the place of the sinful, proud people who could do no right on their own.
So as we consider this verse this morning, in the reality that many feel battle scarred and without hope, let us take on the armour of this verse to ready us for the battle ahead, bringing certain hope to a lost and broken world.
A world that needs to know that our confidence in self will always destroy but our confidence in Christ will always build up and join us together in the very kingdom of God.
So let our battle cry of ‘ This IS(without God there would be no day) the day that the LORD has made (there is much for us to learn about ourselves and God through the experiences/trials we have to face this day). We WILL(a mindset and heart attitude) rejoice(worship God)and be glad(grateful) in it (the battle of the day).
After all in Christ it is sin that is defeated not us.
Did you do it? Did you find time to read Genesis 1 to discover who God says he is?
No? Never mind let us all take a moment and have a look together now.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God made the heavens and earth.
This one sentence, which starts the whole bible, holds the key to how we relate to God. In the very first sentence of the very first chapter of the very first book of the bible where God declares he was there in the beginning, before anything was made, God was there ready to go to work.
This is one of the most challenging verses in the bible, we find here God is making a declaration of himself and what he did. He declares it but he challenges us to believe it. Within this first sentence lies a challenge to our sinful heart.
Are we willing to see beyond the small mini universe that we have created ourselves, this mini universe where we decide who enters, how and what we think, how we live. This mini universe where we decide how others should live too? But at the same time we are determined that no-one is going to tell us how to live.
Or are we willing to consider God’s challenge to us all, look to Him the one who created not only you but all that you see around you, all that you experience, the air you breathe, the seasons that happen around you, even the sky that is beyond your control?
God is God not because we believe he is, God is God because He declares it.
This sentence will be the one sentence that you will always need to come back to regardless of where along the journey of life you are.
Do I believe there is a creator? Do I believe I am created? Do I believe all I see around me was created too?
Is this too much to accept? Lots of questions but where can I find the answers?
Well if God is God and God did what God said he did don’t we owe it to ourselves to explore God’s world and God’s word? After all isn’t that what our niggling doubts need?
There has to be more to life than this.
My mini kingdom is falling apart, what can I do next?
Why are all my relationships messy?
Why do I have this unsettled feeling that I’m missing out on something?
No matter where I go nothing seems to keep my attention for long, why am I always looking for the next thing?
If only I had more stuff, if only I had more money.
No problem, this is it there is nothing to worry about beyond this, I get one life I just need to make the most of it….don’t I?
As we take the step of being willing to consider that God is God and He did what He did, where does that takes us?
Well before us is the living word of God that helps us to engage with questions like these, if we have a willingness to put aside our doubts, put aside our own assurances and embark on an exciting journey of discovery.
For many of us we know we are sinful, we have hidden guilt and shame that hides away under years and years of damaged conversations. Whether we know Jesus or not we seem to be on an endless cycle of sin which is becoming more and more hopeless.
What we don’t realise, if we know Jesus, is that we are half-way to being able to walk in victory from the slavery to sin. We already know we are sinners! We already know we are broken. The hopelessness of our situation shines a light on the lie that sin is good and is for our benefit.
That’s all very well and good I hear you say but how does that help me, how does facing up to my sin really transform my life, I know I’m hopeless and weak but I feel helpless to do anything about it.
Well maybe we need a different approach; a different focus. Maybe we should start at the beginning and consider who we think our Saviour is or who do we think our Saviour should be.
Just maybe our stumbling block isn’t our sinful behaviour but that we don’t really know who God is, maybe it’s our perception of God that needs to change.
Have you ever considered who God is or considered where your ideas of who God is came from?
How can any of us know who God is or if he really exists?
Our biased viewpoint
For many it is the experiences of life that draws us to make a conclusion about God. Maybe you believe he is a tyrant waiting to catch you out or maybe he is indifferent to your issues here on earth or some may consider God in light of how your own earthly Father treated you. There are dangers considering God purely from our own biased viewpoint.
We are in danger of relating to God without knowing him and if we don’t know him then how can we understand the plans and purposes He has for his creation.
The only way to truly get to know God is to allow Him to introduce himself.
Who does God say He is?
God has given us the bible so that we can get to know who He truly is, He wants to explain why we are here, He wants to tell us about the plans he has for each and everyone of us, he wants to share his creation with us, He wants to share his love with us, in essence God wants to be in relationship with his created children.
If we want to get to know God, then we need to read the bible for ourselves. The bible can seem a really daunting place, or seem stuffy and boring however it is our perspective that needs to change not the bible. In fact unknown to many of us, the bible is a love story which needs to be explored and uncovered.
When I first went on this journey of discovery a wise friend said ‘don’t worry about what you don’t understand but do something about the things that you do’.
Where to start?
From the words of a famous film…..Lets start at the beginning a very good place to start.
For many of us we know Jesus from the Gospels which is fantastic because these are the real live accounts of life with Jesus when he was on the earth. This is were we get to know the person of Jesus and are drawn into a personal relationship with Him.
However, to get a fuller picture of God the book of Genesis is a perfect place to consider who God is, who we are and the plans God has put in place for the benefit of His creation.
Genesis means beginnings, here we discover beginnings of all creation, in particular it is the beginning of relationships. God with us, us with God, us together with God, spoiler alert it is also the beginning of death and destruction.
In Genesis God introduces us to a relationship, a relationship of three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:26 ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ As we read through the bible we get to see that God is Jesus and Jesus is God. We also learn that the Holy Spirit is God, the invisible outworking of our God and Saviour.
As human beings it is a really hard step for us to grasp the concept of the Holy Spirit and that is why God says it takes faith to decide to trust him. We cannot get to know him purely through logic but equally he doesn’t want us to throw logic out of the window, he wants us to consider all things and be willing to learn.
The amazing miracle of this journey is God can be known in the first place, if we are willing to put our trust in Jesus to show us the way to the Father, he will also show us ‘Who’ he is and all that he has planned for us.
The question is, are we willing to make that step? Mmm where’s my bible….
How many of us are trapped by our sin? How many of us just accept we are sinful and hold onto the hope that in eternity we will be free? Is this truly the abundant life that Jesus has promised us?
What if there was much more to this life than we realise? What if there is a solution to our hard, deceitful hearts?
Why are we willing to suffer in silence rather than fight for our freedom?
Good girl Bad girl syndrome
For most of us who had good parents who were willing to discipline us, we quickly learnt that to get good things we needed to be good and if we were naughty then we would miss out. Depending on our personalities and the circumstances we faced growing up, for some of us we interpreted this as if I am good then I will be loved and if I am bad then no one will love me.
As an adult I have suffered from this syndrome of earning love or of qualifying to be loved. It wasn’t something I have been aware of until recently when Jesus shined his light into this area of my life. I have always known that I am a naughty girl, whether this was from a Catholic school of education or just my own high moral standard of justice but deep down I knew I wasn’t a good girl. On the outside I behaved like an angel, whenever anyone was looking but on the inside I felt rotten to the core.
My Dad and I used to have a joke I would say ‘Angel by name, angel by nature’ and my Dad would say ‘with black wings’. Even though this was our little joke, he was absolutely right. Unfortunately for me my moral compass was skewed, and I didn’t really care that I did the wrong thing I was more bothered about whether I would get caught or not. My whole focus was to get away with whatever wrong choices I made. If I did something wrong and was afraid of getting caught I would cross myself with Father, Son and Holy Spirit and sure enough I would be let off ‘scott free’! God became my lucky charm, my get out of jail free card! However this wasn’t enough to take away the guilt.
‘Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’.
‘Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows’.
For many years I lived under the condemnation of these two verses. I knew I was unworthy of Gods love because of my sin and I knew that I would be judged for everything I did wrong and believe me there was a lot to be judged.
Rule makers, rule breakers
Many of us live in light of our inadequacies for one reason or another. We feel trapped with no escape, even as a Christian I felt God’s liberty evade me, where was the freedom He had promised. However, it wasn’t God’s promises that were lacking; I had become trapped by my own law setting. God’s purposes for his word wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it. My guilt was false guilt set by my own standards and expectations.
John 3:17 ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him’.
I failed to understand God’s true character, I failed to understand why God says what he says and I failed to understand how much God loves me.
As parents we make rules for our children to follow to bring peace and harmony into the home. We want our children to have a moral compass so they know the difference from right and wrong. We want our children to learn responsibility so that they can be effective in the world.
However, because we are broken people then our rules don’t always make sense, they often don’t have effective consequences and we often break our own rules which sends mixed messages to our children.
If we’re honest as parents our rules can be there for our own benefit, to get 10 minutes break or to get some peace and quiet. Which becomes confusing to our children because if we are in a good mood then our rules become a little lax and when we are in a bad mood they become excessively strict. Or sometimes our rules stem from fear, fear of them being in danger, or fear they will become sick or fear of what other people think of us if our children aren’t well behaved.
God’s rules are different, because God is different. God’s rules/commands are holy because he is holy. God’s commands are written out of love because God is love. God’s commands are for his children’s protection because he created them and wants what’s best for them.
When we realise that God alone is the rule maker then we will put our trust in Him to show us how to live.
When we realise that God alone has plans and purposes for us that surpass any dreams we could have for ourselves then we will choose to give him everything we have and let go of the control we try and exert over our own lives and the lives of others.
When we realise that God alone is a God of love and we are created out of love then we will choose to love him back by wanting to do what is right.
Galatians 5:1 ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’.
Don’t allow your sin to define who you are or how you behave. Trust Jesus when he says he came to set you free from your sin, if we have fully given our whole life, body, mind and spirit to Him then we can learn to say no to sin and yes to the freedom Jesus has already provided.
We don’t need to earn His freedom, we don’t need to justify our behaviour, we just need to bring our sin out of the shadows and into His marvellous light.
Choose not to be ashamed of your past or allow your present to limit who you are but be willing to turn to Christ and ask him to expose what needs to be confessed, what needs to be forgiven, what needs to be healed. Then you will see the shackles being loosed and with a shout of victory you can share in the words of the apostle Paul;
Romans 7:25 ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord’.
Last time we were considering the impact of sin and the devil in our lives. We were considering the need to submit by daily taking up our cross. However, what does this look like in everyday life, is true submission possible, and what is the cross we are to take up, hasn’t Jesus already dealt with that through his death and resurrection?
As Christian women we like to think that we have completely submitted our hearts to Jesus and have given him control of our lives. Is this true or does the outworking of our daily living contradict this belief?
The core root of sin for every woman is the desire to be in control.
This is the place of curse for every woman because of the sin committed by Eve ‘your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’.
I believe this is the place of pride for us woman a desire to be in control.
At face value to have desire for our husbands sounds a positive thing, a oneness, a coming together however when we look to the original language the meaning becomes much clearer, this desire wasn’t one of love it was a desire to control. God’s perfect plan for mankind was for their relationship to be one of co-operation and support however after the curse it became the source of conflict; a power struggle.
The woman would demand her right to control however God has given the man His authority to care and provide for the woman.
We can see the truth of this played out, not only in our own lives but throughout history. As woman we tend to focus on the sin of the man for his desire to dominate and his misuse of his God given authority (which God will judge him for). However, we are reluctant to consider our part in this battle of the will.
What we first have to accept is that this battle wasn’t God’s original plan for marriage or for mankind. The next thing we need to accept is that God has a perfect plan for the redemption of his creation. When Jesus comes back His creation will be restored to the perfection that God first planned and He will be our perfect Bridegroom but in the meantime, we have to learn to live in the truth of the fallen nature.
We need to have an honest look at our own lives to see this fallen nature being played out on a daily basis.
Take a minute to consider your life and ask the Holy Spirit to show you ways in which you try and take control of your own life or even worse the lives of others.
As a Christian Mum I have the responsibility of managing the home and directing the lives of my children. However, as a Christian Wife I apply this same principle to my Husband. I try to manage the home and direct my Husband’s choices.
For many years my only way of managing my responsibilities was to take control of the people in my life, if they did what I needed them to do then everything would get done that needed to be done; everything would be in all the right places. However, if no-one followed my exacting plan then chaos would ensue.
As you can imagine, from the perspective of my Husband and children, this didn’t make for a happy household. It became a place of conflict and fear. It was a place of appeasing a tired, grumpy Mum/Wife or an attempt to stay in favour to keep the peace.
In my sin I had no idea that it wasn’t a directing of lives that I was doing but a dictating. I have no right to do this to others, there is no place in God’s kingdom that says I’m in charge in fact God showed me through his word that I was standing in place of my Husband’s God given authority and attempting to override God’s plans and purposes.
I took on an aspect of responsibility that wasn’t mine. As God took me and my family through the healing process (over a number of years) I have come to the conclusion that the source of all the sin and conflict in my life is that I haven’t fully submitted my heart to Christ, I am trying to hold onto the responsibility that isn’t mine to have, I am claiming my right to rule.
This is true for us all whether we are married, single, parents or not we demand the right to rule our own lives and our own hearts unfortunately for us this is out of our control.
The gift of submission
As a Christian we have already demonstrated an act of submission, a recognition that without Christ we will always be separated from God therefore we put our trust in Jesus to rescue us from our sin which brings us into relationship with the Father. This first act of submission teaches us that to submit to Jesus is to recognise our need to face up to our sin, seek God’s forgiveness and learn to live in the freedom that His forgiveness brings. This is the moment of new birth, a new beginning.
At the moment of salvation, we are given the assurance of new birth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit however the new birth process hasn’t finished it has only begun. It’s a bit like a pregnancy, the expectant mother knows her baby is to be born and the process of birth has begun but she isn’t in the presence of her baby yet.
In the same way we are promised new birth but we are in the process of growing into Christ before we meet him in person. The added complication for us is that we have already been born into flesh but this new birth is one of spirit. Therefore, we now have the conflict between flesh demanding its own way against the work of the Holy Spirit.
When I speak about submission to other women it can get the hairs on the back of their neck on edge and a war ensues within. As women we can hate the idea of submission and see it as a loss of our rights. Women’s lib stems from this inbuilt repulsion against submission. This is a sign that we demand the right to control unfortunately for us that puts us at odds with our Father in Heaven. Even if we have received Christ as our Lord and Saviour deep within the recesses of our hearts is the desire to stay in control.
This conflict highlights a life changing truth, that we are not only sinful but are the source of our sin.
This is a big ask isn’t it? To believe that we are the source of our sin!
It’s a matter of the heart
This is the reason Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily. Jesus knows that the source of our sin is within our own hearts, that it is only by being willing to say no to the sin within that we will engage with the process of change, of the transformation Jesus wants to do in our lives. This is the process of sinner to saint. Jesus knows this will take a daily, minute by minute act of submission. To recognise our sin, confess it to God, repent (a desire to move away from the sin) and receive God’s forgiveness.
For some of us this statement will confirm what we have always known but have no way of dealing with. Sin just seems to overcome us, and we are not able to do anything about it, so we swing from one extreme to the other of self-pity to self-determination. For others it horrifies us that anyone could even think such a thing, it’s not our fault we have a disposition to these difficulties in life; you don’t understand what I’ve been through!
In Luke 10:27 Jesus brings us to the root of the matter. As a true disciple of Christ, we are commanded to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbour as yourself’.
Notice in the scripture the word ‘all’.
We know we fall short of this however this scripture isn’t to add to your guilt it is an opportunity to face up to reality. The reality that even as a believer we haven’t given over our everything to our Father God. This is the process of sanctification, a process we need to have a willingness to take part in rather than resist.
Jesus is the source of the power of change however we need to have a willingness to engage in the process.
The next aspect to consider is the areas in which this scripture highlights our need to change ‘heart, soul, strength and mind’.
The bible is filled with scriptures that highlight our need to bring our hearts and minds in line with who God is instead of who we are.
For those of us who are obsessed with getting to the perfect size; to getting rid of the excess pounds; to feeling acceptable to others; to fitting into nice clothes; our focus is always on the physical however until we move our eyes to the core problem then we will constantly struggle with our weight.
This is a problem with the heart and mind. If we think it we will believe it; if we believe it then we will act on it.
We see this played out repeatedly in our struggle with weight gain.
I am fat therefore I will never lose weight, so I might as well carry on eating what I want to eat to make myself feel better about being fat.
Other people rob me of my time, so I need to keep them away if I eat then no one will disturb me.
No one really loves me, so I need to love myself instead and I will treat myself with lots of goodies which will make me feel better about not being loved.
Consider what your sentence would be; what truth do you believe in your head that you see being reinforced in your heart and acted out in your behaviour.
Mind + heart = behaviour.
Christ has set us free
In the world we judge one another by our own set of standards and we use the behaviour of others to decide if they are acceptable to society or not. Society says it is your behaviour that is letting you down what you must do is stop your negative behaviour and then you will be acceptable.
However, as a society we have got it wrong, we are not capable of changing our behaviour without addressing our mindset and heart attitude.
No matter how much we try we cannot change our behaviour, no matter how much we think we are in control of what we do, as we grow closer to God the more this belief unravels.
Isn’t it strange that the more we want Jesus to step in and change us the more our lives seem to become messy. So we panic and try to take back the control however instead of our lives falling apart Jesus is actually stepping in to teach us the heart of the problem. At the moment of change we need to let go of the control and ask Jesus to take over, allow him to take the reins and be willing to go where he leads.
Jesus does this by using his word to expose our sin, he then uses the Holy Spirit to pinpoint areas of change and he encourages us to turn our mind and heart over to him so that these changes can become evident in how we live out our lives.
Galatians 5:1 tells us ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yolk of slavery’. Seems strange that Paul would tell the church that Jesus has set us free so that we can live in freedom this seems obvious! Is it? How many of us do not live in the freedom Jesus has provided? How many of us allows our sin to dictate who we are instead of the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has given?
The freedom Jesus has provided is not just for us in eternity it is for us to live out in the here and now.
We have the choice to submit to the truth that Christ came to set us free or fight in our strength to change our behaviour. No Christian wants to stay in their sin however it will all depend on whether we are willing to submit or try to stay in control.
Mind over matter
So where do we start? How is it possible for a control freak like me to be able to submit to Jesus?
The bible tells us ‘Set your minds on things above not on earthly things’. What things matter to God? What areas of life does God want you to address? Is your focus purely on the physical and not on your spiritual life?
Maybe for so long our focus has been on wanting or demanding to lose weight when all along we have been the saboteur because our weight gain makes us feel safe or we feel a failure, so we might as well live like one.
These beliefs begin in the mind and the bible tells us that the solution is to think about the things of God rather than the things of self. For one minute take your mind away from your troubles and focus on how God wants you to live out your life. What wonders has he got waiting for you to do? How can you draw others to Jesus if your focus is always on self?
We are reluctant to serve Jesus because the devil is using our sin to get us going round in circles instead!
For most of us it is our heart that drives us to make our decisions, how we feel transposes to how we think. As always, the bibles solution is always the opposite of how we behave.
In Romans 8 : 5-6 Paul teaches that ‘Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’.
Here is the key to change; that our mind is to be focused on Jesus and his word so that our hearts can be programmed by our minds instead of the other way around.
This is because our hearts are aligned to the flesh, our hearts are deceitful and corrupt but with minds convinced of the truths of Christ we will be able to teach our hearts how to submit to Jesus.
Rest in Him
So, we have considered the mechanics of what happens to us when we choose to submit or when we choose to stay in control.
It feels like all of this is beyond our ability and it would be so much easier just keep doing what we’re doing.
The solution for all of this is to rest in Jesus.
Matthew 11:28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’.
The amazing truth is that we don’t have to figure it all out, we don’t have to drag ourselves out of the mess. The solution is to take all our burdens, all our fears, all our responsibilities and bring them to the foot of Jesus. When we hand over the control of our lives to Jesus then we begin to see the light, then we begin to see how we fit into his plan rather than trying to squeeze him into our tiny little plans.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35 NIV
The rest Jesus provides isn’t a break from responsibility it is the opportunity we need to be equipped for the journey towards eternity. The moment of the completion of our new birth. If we are not daily minute by minute turning our hearts and minds over to Jesus and bringing them under the judgement and direction of His word, then we will not be able to live in the freedom Jesus has provided. We will continue to flounder on our own; to the outside world we may seem in control, our lives may look like it is ordered however our hearts will declare to God who we truly are.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
When we truly give Him all we are we gain all He is.
This statement just stopped me in my tracks!!
Let us spend the next week considering how to give Jesus all we are; sin and all!
When we responded to Christ’s call on our lives the Holy Spirit entered our life and made us aware of the sin within. He is growing a desire within us to change from sinner to saint unfortunately for us the sin within declares war against the Holy Spirit.
This is the part of our lives that is described in the bible as ‘the flesh’ the part of us that doesn’t want to change, or is convinced that it is impossible to change or that we just want things to stay the same until we get to heaven then we will be happy to be completely perfect but for the time being we fight not to change.
For many Christian’s this has been the level of their hope, the hope that Jesus light will bring an end to our darkness once we leave this earth. However, the bible teaches us a different version of the journey. A hope that we can know now.
The war is won
For many of us who can’t seem to shake habitual sin, it seems that we will never know true freedom. We may even convince ourselves that maybe we need to put up with it, like the thorn in Paul’s flesh, a reminder of his humanity so we excuse our sin or we go all out to change it. The truth is Paul’s thorn was a place of suffering not of sin, we can not excuse habitual sin but we can’t seem to be able to anything about it either. Is there really any hope for us this side of heaven?
In despair we resolve to do something about the sin within, we resolve to change and become a better person. This is the moment we lose the battle. In that moment of resolve we pick up our own sword and try to battle through. Unfortunately our success is often short lived; for some of us we can make it to a couple of years before the sin within rears its ugly head again, but for most of us it can often be just a few short weeks or even days when we are back to the same old habits that only bring chaos and destruction.
That’s because we have failed to understand that we are engaged in a battle.
The war has already been played out between God and the devil. The devil has lost and will at the end of time be banished to hell forever. During our lifetime, even though he knows he lost the war, he challenges God’s people to a battle. Usually this is a battle of wills, that’s because the devil knows his will is stronger than ours. There is no denying it the devil is powerful and seems to be able to control us through the sin we refuse to let go of.
Our own personal battle becomes a constant place of defeat, our resolve weakens and we doubt whether we are truly a Christian; we doubt whether this journey is worth it; sometimes we see non-Christians become successful at anything they put their minds to so we are tempted to go back to the place we were before we met Christ.
The battle belongs to the Lord
Where we have gone wrong is that we focus on the power of sin and forget about the power of God. We stop reading our bibles so we don’t see God’s power in the pages, his power to love, his power to heal, his power to judge, his power to transform.
If we do read our bibles we allow the devil to convince us that God didn’t know what he was doing, or that God can’t be trusted because the things he did was horrid. He persuades us that God’s power is limited or used against others. He tries to convince us that God is against us not for us. That we are more advanced now because of our ability to create and manipulate technology so have no need of God’s input.
The horrendous thing about all of this is that we believe him and when this happens our lives reflect the power of sin rather than the power of God.
The devil uses life’s circumstances to distract us from the fact he has already lost the war, that we as Christian’s are actually on the winning side. He persuades us to enjoy the pleasures of today so we are distracted from the need to be transformed into Christ’s image.
We become defeated people so that we are ineffective in demonstrating to others God’s power against sin, the world and the devil,
We stop caring about a fallen world who are in need of God’s love and forgiveness and we focus on our own inability to achieve or our own determination to be better.
We’re not alone
I was watching a film the other night and the tag line throughout was ‘Use the weapon’. This reminded me of Hebrews 4:12 ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’
This is the weapon God has given to all his warriors. His word. The bible. The most underused resource ever given.
Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a framework of living as a warrior; it sets out who has the authority and power; it sets out the equipment; it sets out the battleground and who the antagonists/enemies are; it shows us the purpose of being equipped; it demonstrates how we are equipped and how to use the equipment provided but most importantly it declares who has already won the war.
We maybe in a battle but we are not alone and God’s power is sufficient for all our needs.
Freedom is possible
We may be in a battle but it is a battle where the war has already been won. It is a futile battle by the devil because he has already lost but he still wants to stop as many people as possible from living in the light of Christ and finding freedom from sin.
In John Chapter 10 verse 9-10 Jesus describes himself as ‘the gate whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’.
This isn’t just speaking of eternal life but a life of freedom that we may come and go, we may travel this life with confidence that we are not alone, that Christ our Saviour has provided a pasture for the journey as well as the final destination.
However, it is only possible to find this place of safety when we lay down our own life at the foot of Christ’s cross.
Jesus demonstrates to us throughout the bible that the beginning of transformation from sinner to saint begins by us laying down our arms. By submitting our whole being into his hands recognising that He has already won the war.
Freedom from sin isn’t a result of our right choices; our right choices are a result of Jesus provision of freedom from sin.
Christ has done it there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves. We need to learn to live in the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has provided. What we can be certain of is if the Holy Spirit convicts us of a sin within that needs to change then the Holy Spirit will continue to use God’s word to transform us.
Our greatest temptation is we think we can do it on our own, we are unwilling to let go of our pride, we are unwilling to trust God to come through for us. We are only willing to trust if life is good; we are only willing to trust if we lose the weight or become happier; we are only willing to trust if there is no pain or disease.
From here to eternity
Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9 that whoever wanted to be his disciple then they would need to take up their cross daily. Being a disciple costs us something, often it’s something we’re not willing to pay.
For many of us we say I would give my right hand if……but would we do anything to get what we want or need?
Would we be willingly to stop eating chocolate forever?
Would we willingly do exercise regularly?
Would we stop looking to self and look to Jesus to rescue?
Would we willingly lay down our own plans and dreams and trust God with his?
There is much we wouldn’t do, so we should stop promising to change when we don’t even have the power to try. We need to learn how to trust Jesus with his power, trust Jesus loves us enough that he won’t leave us where he found us.
Over these last 25 years of seeking the perfect body, seeking the praise of others and failing miserably Jesus has been transforming me:-
From jealousy to submission
From bitterness to forgiveness
From greed to unconditional giving
From laziness to unconditional serving
From chaos to self-control
From pride to humility
From offense to love
From demand to unconditional love
These have not been perfected yet but I am loving the journey, I love it when I respond differently to how I did in the past. I love it when I notice someone in need and have a willingness to meet that need, I love it when someone tries to hurt me and I offer love, I love it when I am tempted to overeat and walk away.
I love learning what it is to walk in the freedom that Christ has provided.
Something to ponder
What if God’s plans and purposes were far greater than our own?
What if our weight wasn’t God’s top priority?
What if you are exactly where God wants you to be so that he can begin to transform you from sinner to saint?
What if the desire for weight loss is stopping you from receiving God’s blessings?
What if trying to lose weight is limiting what you can achieve?
Do you measure success by what the scales say?
Do you measure a good day by what the scales say?
Do you measure your relationship with God by what the scales say?
Is the scales voice louder than God’s?
If you put weight on does that make it a bad day?
If you lose weight does that make it a good day?
Do you measure God’s relationship with you by how much you weigh?
Do you measure God’s love for you by how much you weigh?
Is it time to deal with the core issues rather than the symptoms?
Maybe now is the time to lay down your arms and take up God’s weapon!
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.