Hard Lessons

Well, this has been an excruciatingly sobering and humbling week for me.  I cannot go into all the details here, but suffice it to say my post last Sunday, “This Is War,” has taken on a whole new significance for me.  Interestingly, the Lord led me to publish that after reading the things I shared by E. M. Bounds.  However, prior to reading that chapter, I read another one and it was a toss up as to which one to write about.  But this week, the Lord has made me painfully aware of the importance of the other chapter as well.  In short, I have seen with more clarity than I ever have before, the correlation between my disobedience and the resulting lack of power in my prayers.  A few weeks ago, I “compromised” in something that I justified.  But since, the Lord has clearly opened my eyes to how serious He is about even the “smallest” compromises.  Not because He is a “meany” who wants to take away all our fun.  But because He realizes that making those choices leads to a diminishing of His power and Spirit in us and, if continued over time, will ultimately (by our own choice in so doing) separate us from Him forever.  Again, God tells us not to sin, not because He is withholding something from us (as the enemy duped us into believing in the garden), but because He knows the resulting consequences of our sin.  If you put your hand on a hot stove, you will get burned – it’s as simple as that.  Some of the biggest lies the enemy would have us believe are: “did God really say…?,” “it’s not really wrong,” “it’s a small thing,” “it doesn’t really matter,” “there won’t be consequences,” “He will forgive you,” etc. etc.  Let’s be clear here, folks – sin ALWAYS has consequences.  Whether we see them immediately or not.  God warned Adam and Eve if they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would die.  They did not die immediately, but eventually they did – and in the meantime they suffered a whole other host of consequences from that seemingly “small” transgression, not to mention the whole rest of humanity along with them!  I mean, after all, how could eating that one piece of fruit be so bad for you, right?  But God knew what was in that fruit (I personally believe it was parasites, but that opens a whole other can of worms – pun intended)  and what the results would be from eating it.  Just as children have to trust and obey that their parents know when they tell them not to do something, about consequences the children do not understand, we have to know and trust that God’s directives toward us are from a good Father who knows what will bring life and not death to us.

Last week I cheered what I reread on this subject by Mr. Bounds (which had already been highlighted and “Amened” by me.)  Now, as the light of realization of my lack of obedience and its results has slowly dawned on me this week, I am soberly aware of the truth of these statements (it was honestly hard not to put the whole chapter in here, but I knew you wouldn’t read that much):

Unquestionably obedience is a high virtue, a soldier quality.  To obey belongs, preeminently, to the soldier.  It is his first and last lesson and he must learn how to practice it all the time, without question, uncomplainingly.  Obedience, moreover, is faith in action and is the outflow as it is the very test of love.  “He that has my commandments and keeps them, it is he that loves me.”  The gift of the Holy Spirit in full measure and richer experience, depends upon loving obedience.

God’s commands are issued neither in severity nor tyranny.  They are always issued in love and in our interests, and so it behooves us to heed and obey them…Thank God, it is possible for every child of God to please his heavenly Father!  It is really much easier to please him than to please men. 

God’s commandments are righteous and founded in justice and wisdom…God’s commandments, then, can be obeyed by all who seek supplies of grace which enable them to obey.  These commandments must be obeyed.  God’s government is at stake…The spirit of rebellion is the very essence of sin.  It is repudiation of God’s authority, which God cannot tolerate.

If any should complain that humanity, under the fall, is too weak and helpless to obey these high commands of God, the reply is in order that, through the atonement of Christ, man is enabled to obey.  The atonement is God’s enabling act.  That which God works in us, in regeneration and through the agency of the Holy Spirit, bestows enabling grace sufficient for all that is required of us under the atonement.  This grace is furnished without measure, in answer to prayer.  So that, while God commands, he at the same time stands pledged to give us all necessary strength of will and grace of soul to meet His demands. 

There is one important consideration those who declare it to be impossible to keep God’s commandments strangely overlook, and that is the vital truth, which declares that through prayer and faith, man’s nature is changed, and made partaker of the divine nature; that there is taken out of him all reluctance to obey God, and that his natural inability to keep God’s commandments, growing out of his fallen and helpless state, is gloriously removed.  By this radical change which is wrought in his moral nature, a man receives power to obey God in every way, and to yield full and glad allegiance.  Then he can say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.”  Not only is the rebellion incident to the natural man removed, but a heart which gladly obeys God’s Word, blessedly received.

If it be claimed that the unrenewed man, with all the disabilities of the fall upon him, cannot obey God, there will be no denial.  But to declare that, after one is renewed by the Holy Spirit, has received a new nature, and become a child of the king, he cannot obey God, is to assume a ridiculous attitude and to display, moreover, a lamentable ignorance of the work and implications of the atonement.  (I would add here 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?“)

An obedient life is not simply a reformed life.  It is not the old life primed and painted anew nor a churchgoing life, nor a good veneering of activities.  Neither is it an external conformation to the dictates of public morality.  Far more than all this is combined in a truly obedient Christian, God-fearing life.  A life of full obedience; a life settled on the most intimate terms with God; where the will is in full conformity to God’s will; where the outward life shows the fruit of righteousness – such a life offers no bar to the inner chamber…

Loving obedience puts us where we can “ask anything in his name,” with the assurance, that “He will do it.”  Loving obedience brings us into the prayer realm, and makes us beneficiaries of the wealth of Christ, and of the riches of his grace, through the coming of the Holy Spirit who will abide with us, and be in us.  Cheerful obedience to God, qualifies us to pray effectually.

Faith, in its highest form, is the attitude as well as the act of a soul surrendered to God, in whom His Word and His Spirit dwells…The will must be surrendered to God as a primary condition of all successful praying…There can be no praying in its richest implication and truest sense, where the will is not wholly and fully surrendered to God.  This unswerving loyalty to God is an utterly indispensable condition of the best, the truest, the most effectual praying.  We have “simply got to trust and obey; there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus – but to trust and obey!”

There is no question I’m “renewed.”  I have a choice – I am no longer a “slave” to sin.  I do not see God’s grace as some giant eraser coming along behind my habitual mistakes.  I believe and have experienced the power of the blood of Christ to remove sin from my life.  But I momentarily listened to the “siren song,” chose to believe the lies and compromised my faith.  This life journey really is a battle – 1 Corinthians 10:12 says: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  When we are battling for something in prayer, the enemy will pull out all stops to weaken us so that we will either quit praying, or cause us to compromise so our prayers will lose their power.  I’m thankful of God’s gift, through David, of Psalm 51.  It has been my prayer and comfort over the past few days as I’ve come to full conviction of my sin and realization of its consequences.  I know, as with David, I will “suffer loss” because of my sin.  But I am grateful for the truth of 1 John 2:1 – “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”  And for this, I now have an even higher level of gratitude and appreciation.

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