Personally, the majority of my goals have been selfish. Not that they wouldn't benefit others, but that they would benefit me the most and actually serve to decrease my need of God. And yet I wonder why they have remained elusive and unattainable.
I think it's quite possible that our goals gear us towards auto-pilot, cruise control Christianity. We want to figure out the problem, identify the solution, apply it, and never have to return to it. The problem is that the majority of areas in our lives where we desperately want the change are the exact same areas God has blessed us with as weaknesses to magnify our need of Him and His intervention.
Of course the only way to get to this point is that word we all love so much: Surrender. We have to be willing to lay down what we perceive as our rights in order for God to completely circumcise our hearts of the baggage that keeps weighing us down. And it's quite simple to pray a prayer of surrender. And it's even easier to say we believe the words we are sending up to heaven. What's not so easy is to actually do it.
But what if it's not really within our control? (Go figure.) What if it's more about God knowing that we do want things to be different but we don't actually know how to let go? What if instead of just a radical change, He truly is more interested in taking us through the process by which we decrease over time so that He can increase in proportionate amounts at the same time?
There are those who have amazing transformations in Jesus. People cured of addictions that turn into testimonies that are used to reach massive amounts of people for Jesus. But if we can name 2 of them, we can also name the dozens that are different from the time we met them in 5th grade to our 25th high school reunions. That is more the norm whether we like it or not.
The most encouraging (and yet frustrating) Scripture about this is Deuteronomy 30:6: The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendents so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Talk about a blow to our participation. We simply can not circumcise our own hearts. Why? Because like Saul who decided not to annihilate everything even when he was told to, we'll leave remnants of what must be destroyed.
So if surrender is difficult and we can't perform the circumcisions we need on ourselves, what do we do?
Accept that the grace, mercy, and compassion of God really will come our way.
I've been thinking a lot about what this looks/feels like because of what I have been experiencing. It seems to me, that just like desire gives birth to sin, desire can also lead to life. We can actually get to the point where we are so sick of things, that the weight of God's glory and who He is starts to bend our knees for us. And while it might take a little while to be fully humbled, He takes us through this process gently because He wants us to genuinely change, not just modify our actions and thoughts temporarily. Essentially, who God is becomes so clear in our minds that our only optioin is to repsond in worship.
The hardest prayer I've ever prayed was given to me as a challenge a little while ago. It comes from Psalm 139. Verses 23 and 24 are a plea to God to search us, know our hearts, test us, and reveal our anxious thoughts. And then comes the invitation to see if there is anything offensive in us so that we can be led in the way everlasting. While I haven't consciously prayed this every day, I have prayed it on most. And let me tell you, this is a prayer God responds to. Even when the information is hard for us to hear.
However, I am finding that if we're willing to put it on the line like this, He will show us the areas He is trying to access that we keep putting no trespassing signs on. And if we will give God the all access pass He needs to truly redeem and restore us (stupid free-will), I believe we'll finally be able to wrap our heads around Paul's declaration of loss and gain.
Tomorrow we're going to look at what worship really looks like and then be honest with ourselves about whether or not we've really been living a life of worship. My hope is that if we can start to wrap our heads around this now, and then progress through it in 2018, we will see God not only move in radical ways in our own lives, but we'll see how He uses our lives to impact those around us.