So I am an introvert (though now this is not as strong in me as it used to be) but I well recognise ‘our’ tendency to have many rooms in our heads that we can visit to stop us getting bored! Projects, ideas, pet theories, ways of looking at things – they are all there and I can go into them at any time especially as I am also a “thinker” rather than a “feeler”. This, like every other way of being has its strengths and weaknesses and can drive people crazy!
My wife is an extrovert and just at the time that she wants to talk things out – I want to think them through! Or she may want me to share something that is troubling me and yet I can’t find a way until I understand it myself. Sometimes my response is – I can’t tell you because I don’t know what it is yet!
Of course, these tendencies also apply to my walk with Jesus. I get distracted easily – I go to the scriptures to look up something and find myself looking at emails, WhatsApp’s, online news etc. Now I know that this isn’t just an introvert’s or “thinker’s” problem. From talking to others, I understand that we can all easily get distracted from our purpose for all sorts of reasons.
Nonetheless the picture that I mentioned last time I wrote a blog about a room full of tables of food and the Lord waiting at one table whilst the Christians browsed everything in the room is very significant for me. The thought that He actually wants us to absorb, experience and use the meal that He is giving us and not browse the latest ideas, the flavour of the month, and what titillates and interests us, is getting deep into my heart. It is making me consider my ways and cry to the Lord because I have not taken in and absorbed what He set before me nor grown properly.
There are other, stronger words in scripture about continually ignoring what the Lord wants to say in pursuit of our own ideas. These verses are from Proverbs 1:30-31, they are again talking about feeding on what we see as attractive and interesting: “They would have none of my counsel, and despised my every rebuke. 31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies”.
There is a saying – “we are what we eat” which is meaningful here. Consider the state of someone over time who eats only cream cakes. Well-fed they may be, but for a whole number of reasons their medium- and long-term health is bound to deteriorate. Not eating what the Lord sets before us has consequences. He sets before us meals that will do us good. Eating whatever we like takes us in other directions even if its “good Christian fare”.
Imagine the consequences if what we allow in to our lives is from another source entirely – eating form tables in another room – we need to look at what we are feeding ourselves on and where it has come from?
For me not finishing the Lord’s meal has meant that I have not been “ready” to be used by the Lord and therefore not useful to the Him on many occasions, nor born the fruit that He would wish, nor had the authority in my Christian life that Jesus had, or certainly at least the authority that He would want me (and I believe all of us) to have.
This corona virus “shutdown” has brought all of this into sharp focus as Linda’s Easter Sunday blog pointed out. We must not decide to move on to another table until we have finished the meal that the Lord has prepared for us. We must not decide that “we’ve had enough” of this particular process while the Lord is still working on our hearts.
Now this might feel like familiar territory to you if you have read our recent blogs. I once heard of a pastor who for several weeks (it may have been longer) preached on the same scripture. Setting aside the members of his congregation who didn’t even notice, he was challenged by alert members of his congregation after a while – why are you preaching effectively the same message over and over? His reply was a challenge – that the Lord hadn’t given him permission to move on yet because those in the fellowship were not being obedient to the word that was being preached.
Philippians 3 v 1 says: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe”. So apparently Paul was conscious of the need to remind people of the same word until it had not only gone in but also been absorbed, and started to bear fruit.
In our fellowship, you may remember we were going to study the Gifts of the Spirit for use in our “ministries” but the Lord effectively told us:
“Don’t study the gifts of the Spirit. If you are serious about this rather learn to abide (dwell, live and remain) in Me, and I will tell you what to do, equip you to do it and you will be fruitful and glorify the Father”. Equipping here includes both the gifts necessary to do what the Lord has prepared for us to do and vitally the authority to do it. I can’t get over the number of times Jesus’s hearers commented on His authority. “He taught them with authority and not as the scribes”. There was no gap between the words that He spoke and the authority in His life. Similarly, in Acts the Lord testified to the words of the disciples with signs and wonders following the preaching of the word. Acts 14 v 3: “Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands”.
This surely is the fruit of knowing the giver and abiding in the vine. So, we are still thinking, sharing, talking and looking at “abiding” and we are still learning how to abide. John 15:5-8 says:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
We have to be fully convinced that without Jesus we can do absolutely nothing. If we are convinced and there is no doubt in our minds, we seek the remedy urgently – to abide in Him.
The other side of the coin is totally the opposite – “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you”. Hallelujah to Jesus – fruitfulness is the result, bringing glory to the Father.
The thing that we are learning afresh is that the abiding comes from repenting and obedience. I had thought that I could make myself “ready” for what the Lord wants me to do. I am finding that it is not me who gets ready but through being in the place of abiding, the Holy Spirit makes me ready. With some folk this seems to be a quicker (and possibly more enjoyable) process. With me it is surrendering myself to the Lord, agreeing to do it His way, agreeing that He can decide what’s right (and not me – I have trouble with that one!) and allowing Him to strip layer after layer off until I am emptied to receive. Don’t get me wrong the journey is amazing in itself and the Lord’s grace and presence wonderful but I have to keep asking “how do I do this next bit Lord”? as I watch others slip with what appears to be blessed ease into the place where God wants them to be.
To finish, it turns out that the Bible presents us with a test of whether we are truly abiding or not: 1 John 2:3-6 says:
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1 John 2 is worth a read and there is more to say about it another time. Basically though, if we say that we are abiding in Him we need to be keeping His (Jesus’s) commandments.
So let us eat the whole meal that the Lord has given us (“greens” and all – some of it may give us indigestion), let’s continue to seek to abide in Him through repentance and obedience, let’s rest in that place until the Lord moves us on, Let us ask the Holy Spirit to get us ready – for today.
Author: Chris Pearson
May God bless and enrich your life
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