The Death Process

The Cross is the central event that makes Christianity relevant and sets it apart from religion. The Cross is not only the means by which we have access and fellowship with God, but it is also symbolic of the struggle in our personal life.

The moment we become a follower of Jesus and tell God that we want to be His servant and do His will, a death process begins in our life. In the midst of the new found joy and love, a struggle ensues. We soon discover that the Christian life is not just about going to heaven when we die. The new struggle is about shedding our self-dependency and self-reliance so we can learn to trust God completely.

As we allow Jesus to control more of our life we discover how our doubt, fear, and unbelief is inconsistent with our new identity in Christ. We begin to realize our effort to measure up in our own strength falls short of God’s requirement for Holiness.

Paul addresses this issue in 2 Corinthians 4. He speaks of us having a “treasure” within ourselves. The treasure is Jesus. God has given us Jesus so that we can manifest His life to our world. In Christ we no longer worry about having to measure up in God’s sight. Our worth, identity and our acceptance by God is all wrapped up in Jesus.

But in order for His life to show through us there must first be a death process. Our self-life must be dealt a death blow. In this passage, Paul gives us a picture of what this death process looks like. He says we are “afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed, but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”. (Verse 9-10)

It seems as if God allows us to come to the brink of disaster and ruin, but then He delivers us and keeps us from fallen off the cliff. But there is more to it than just being rescued and delivered. God’s intention is greater than showing us His ability to rescue and deliver. The overall purpose is to bring our self-life through a death process. This is the process of the Cross that God uses to push us toward abandonment.

“ For we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.” (Verses 11-12 NAS)

For years I’ve heard preachers say, “God’s in the midst of all your trouble”. I would think, ok, I want to believe that, but tell me how and why. I couldn’t connect God with my trouble and difficulty. If He was in the middle of it all, then it seemed like a cruel trick to play on His children.

Years later I discovered what God’s purpose is in our struggles. God, in His mercy and love, allows us to come to the end of ourselves. We experience brokenness through our failures and our troubles. It’s through that death process that God deals with our self-centeredness and self-reliance. He then reveals the power and the beauty of Christ’s work in and through us.

Bottom Line
The next time problems come your way, remember that God is in the middle of it. Even if your trouble is a result of an unwise decision you made, look for God in the process. Remember, He is allowing this to occur because He is engineering a death process in your life. He desires for you to develop a deeper level of trust and dependence upon Him. He will speak through the event and as a result “the life of Jesus will be manifested in you.”

Walking in Christ

How does one know if they are walking in Christ or walking in the flesh? Walking in Christ is not based on a long list of religious activity, but rather it’s really a matter of allowing Jesus to live His life through you. It’s a matter of intentionally laying down self-effort Christianity and being led by the Spirit. It is the daily awareness that you are going to allow your words, actions and thoughts to be directed by the Holy Spirit.

This way of life is not, “I’m just going to wake up every morning and see how I feel” kind of living. It is an intentional act of the will whereby you declare that you are going to allow Christ to be manifested in all that you say and do.

There are some indicators along the way that let you know which way you are walking. Here are a few questions to consider that might be an indicator that you may be walking in the flesh.

We may be walking in the flesh if your conversation with others is inconsistent with how you would like to be treated. Do you have a habit of speaking down to someone as if they were beneath your status? If you are person of authority, how do you speak with those who are under your authority? Do they detect the love of Christ in your actions and your manner of speech? How do you treat others who may live “on the other side of the tracks”?

Walking in Christ is being able to display nothing but grace. How we respond to conflict and people who irritate or offend us is an indication of our Christ likeness.

We may be walking in the flesh if there is a lack of personal transparency? I am not referring to wearing your feelings on your shoulder and sharing all your fears and troubles with every person who will listen. I am referring to having the courage to admit you are wrong and also make mistakes. It is a willingness to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Are you trying to appear more knowledgeable or spiritual than you really are? Do you try harder to hide your weakness, more than you do to be transparent and real?

When people encounter you do they walk away with an opinion that you are humble and approachable, or do they sense you have an emotional wall around you that makes you unapproachable?

I am convinced that the single most important trait that attracts unbelievers to a believer is a transparency that cries out, “I’m approachable, I care for you and you can tell me anything”.

You may be walking in the flesh if you have a judgmental spirit. The world is looking for someone who is real and understands their struggle. Most people know when they are failing at life, and they don’t need someone to remind them of their failure. It’s a refreshing thing for them to encounter someone who understands, cares and loves them just as they are.

I have been around those in the workplace who could quote much of the Bible. They were known as the religious guy or gal. However, their display of knowledge created such a judgmental spirit that they were unapproachable. Their daily walk was inconsistent with their Bible knowledge.

Bottom Line

Walking in Christ treats others like you would like to be treated. It’s displaying love and compassion in your communication, even when you are being disrespected. It’s learning to walk in transparency and humility, helping others understand that they are not alone, you also struggle from time to time. Walking in Christ is developing a listening ear that exudes love and compassion. Those around you care less about how much you know, and more about how much you care.

Walking in Christ is showing the essence of God’s grace in every situation, with everyone we encounter. That’s because every encounter is a God moment. It’s like the British preacher and author Roy Hession would say;

“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O  lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 NLT)

Setting your mind on God’s interest

“…You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”(Matthew 16:23 NIV)

Peter and the disciples were at the peak of their earthly internship with Jesus. They had witnessed the blind see, the lame walk and the dead raised to life. Twice they had seen thousands miraculously fed from a few loaves and fishes. They heard Jesus’ riveting teaching and they watched Him as He dismantled the religious ruler’s arguments and reveal their wicked and conniving schemes.

What a three years it had been. Ordinary blue collar workers thrust into a three year ride with the Creator of the universe. They were changed forever. How could they ever go back to their secular occupations? You can only imagine the boldness and confidence the disciples were feeling. They thought with Jesus as their leader they were going to change the world.

Then everything changed. Jesus began to clearly and distinctly tell them that He must go to Jerusalem where He will be falsely accused by the religious leaders and be killed. Then Peter in all his passion and boldness declared, “God forbid, this will never happen to you.” But Jesus immediately rebuked him and said, “Get behind me Satan; you are a stumbling block to me.” Then Jesus revealed the real problem with Peter and the disciples when He said, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (NIV)

What a revealing and riveting statement. It defined the real condition of not only Peter’s heart but also the disciple’s spiritual condition. They were thinking from a “flesh” perspective and missing the point of why Jesus came. They were loyal servants, committed followers and had a “in this to the end” mentality, but they were not being led by the Holy Spirit.

They were missing the very heart of God. How is it that you can live with Jesus 24/7 for three years, and participate in the ministry as a co-worker and miss the heart of God? How did they miss that Jesus came to redeem a fallen race?

It’s really not hard to understand how they missed the point when we observe our own lives. I believe the statement; “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” is an accurate picture of the typical Christian life. We may be loyal followers, regular givers, Bible readers and even have a large collection of Christian music, but we are missing the heart of God.

The heart of God can only be discerned by living in daily and deliberate submission to the Holy Spirit. The moment we became a follower and believer of Jesus the Holy Spirit took up residence in our life. He is our teacher, our guide, and our revealer of the heart of God. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is being acutely aware of His presence and being keenly sensitive to those areas of our life that offend Him.

Dr. R.T. Kendal, writing about the Holy Spirit, suggested that we often forget that the Holy Spirit is a sensitive person and that we could even say, in a reverent way, that He is even hypersensitive.

The Word of God is to take supreme precedent in our life. We are to read it, memorize and heed its instruction and warnings. But the power to understand, to heed and apply the Word is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is indeed a supernatural book, but it becomes just another book without the Holy Spirit’s personal and direct revelation to us. In other words, without the daily, conscious leadership of the Holy Spirit, practically speaking, we become just another religious person, living out of our own strength.

What’s my point? We must stop and examine our life and determine that we are not going to live our life like those pre-resurrection disciples and miss “God’s interest.” We must put every activity, interest and conversation under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit.

Are you grieving the Spirit by your sharp tongue and your unkind words? Does your impatience quench the Spirit of God when waiting in line at the grocery store? Are we grieving the Spirit by sulking and pouting when we don’t get our way? Do we grieve and quench the Holy Spirit by having an argumentative spirit? Are we too proud to say “I am sorry, forgive me?” Are you grieving the Holy Spirit by holding a grudge?

God desires for us to be a conduit of His love and power but that can only occur if we become sensitive to offending and grieving the Holy Spirit that is within us. Is the Holy Spirit within you grieved or ungrieved? God’s intention for us is to be about “God’s interest” by living a life controlled and filled with the Holy Spirit.

May I challenge you to arise every morning and ask Holy Spirit to make you hypersensitive to those things that offend and grieve Him? And would you ask Him to fill you with His presence and power that you might have “His interest” in you today? You never can tell who is watching you and who God might bring across you path. Be ready for a spiritual encounter by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

“Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. “(Psalm 25:4-5)