I spent a little while this afternoon during Silas' nap time (that wonderful gift from God time of day)in prayer and reading my Bible. This is something I thoroughly enjoy doing and see fruit and growth every time it is a consistent part of my life. Unfortunately it is often too easy to do something else and just not make time for it. I admit I'm often guilty of this...so many distractions, so much to do...too tired. I have a long list of excuses I can tell myself however spiritual growth requires , on our part, some spiritual discipline. Just like physical strenth and fitness requires some work , daily discipline and training.
The fact that God loves us has nothing to do with what we do or don't do, its completely unconditional. Our Salvation is a gift, we can't accomplish it on our own. There is nothing we can do to deserve or earn it all we need to do is accept it. Sanctification, becoming more of a reflection of Christ, does however have an element of effort involved. The work is done by the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can not in our own strength make ourselves that person we desire to be (even though a world full of self help books and pseudo spirituality would have us believe otherwise.). For the Holy Spirit of God to doing that work in our lives require us surrendering the dark corners of our hearts, letting go of the things we cling so tightly to, and time spent nurturing that relationship . Knowing about God and really knowing God are two completely different things. You can have accepted Christ's gift of salvation but never really move past that place into a mature relationship with your creator and the one who loves you most. Or you can know all about God but never take that step of trusting him with your life.
Anyway, my reading today brought me to Hebrews 3. It was hard hitting and of course the first thing I do when I have things rattling around in my head is go to my computer and sort them out on my blog journal.
(verse 7 )
"So, as the Holy Spirit says:
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
Where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation,
and I said.
"Their hearts are always going astray.
and they have not known my ways."
So I declared on oath in my anger
"They shall never enter my rest."
This is a message to the Israelites, God's people, who's ancestors followed Moses out of Egypt into the promised land. They constantly hardened their hearts, refused to remember the God of their fathers, and went their own ways instead. A result of this was them wandering for 40 years in the dessert instead of entering the promised land. It wasn't until that generation died off that they finally entered. We still have a promised land awaiting us, eternity with God.
" See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
wow again. I have seen believers hearts turn cold, I have witnessed the light of faith slowly die, one decision at a time, until it is nothing but a memory. It can happen. Its a slow fade. Just like in a marriage , love can grow cold if not nurtured, if love is not rekindled, if a lover is not enjoyed and treasured. Our relationship with Christ can grow cold just the same way. We become so spiritually dehydrated that we barely remember what it was like to drink from the Living Water. It can happen so easily if our professions of faith are never actually lived out in the reality of our lives. Are you spiritually dehydrated today? Is your flame of faith a dying ember?
Hearts can so easily become hardened. Life has a way of making you hard if you are not careful to guard that relationship. Sin has a way of inticing us, deceiving us , causing us to settle for a lie and compromise the truth. The harder our hearts become the less we are able to hear the voice of God, the Holy Spirit, in our lives.
The part that really stuck out to me was the charge to encourage one another as believers. Every day, all day. We need encouragment, accountability and friends to come along side us and spur us on. I thank God for friends like that in my life.
" We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. AS has just been said:
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden you hearts as you did in the rebellion." Hebrew 3:14-15
Chapter 4 goes on to say:
"Therefore since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. ""
"For the word of God is living 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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
If we are going through life with hard unbelieving hearts, if we think we can fool God somehow by our "good deeds", our occasional church attendance or the perfect Christian image we put on we are fooling ourselves. God sees our hearts, he sees our motives, our attitudes, those dark places we hide and think no one sees.
We cannot cover them ourselves, we cannot simply say "I'm a good person so I'm going to heaven", our deeply rooted sinfulness is so far from Gods holiness that we can do nothing but cry out in brokenness for his mercy. That's why we need Christ. He covers us with his perfection and holiness making us perfect and holy before God. We are restored. We are redeemed. We are free from the sin that entangles and separates us from the God who loves us enough to come to earth ..to take that sin from us and hang it on a cross. We are free from guilt, we are free from shame, we are free from striving to be good enough, we are free from our own legalistic pride. We are now free to grow , mature and to enjoy the peace and joy that only comes from him. We are free to enjoy an intimate relationship.
" Therefore since we have a great high priest (Christ) who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Hebrews 5: 14-16
I LOVE that last verse. The thought of little old me, full of bad attitudes, mistakes, insecurities and imperfections is able to approach the throne of grace with confidence brings tears to my eyes. Just imagine that day. To confidently stand before the creator of the universe the prince of peace, the king of kings and to have him smile at me with love in his eyes and welcome me home is something that baffles me. I desire that day. I don't have to wait until the day I meet God face to face though to be able to commune with him and approach him with my qustions, my anxieties, my petitions, and my worship. That is the privaledge of my position as a beloved child of God, I can approach him with confidence no mediater but Jesus Christ needed. I dont need a self help book to do it, I don't need a liscenced prayer practitioner, I don't need to reach a certain state of enlightenment and I don't need a book of incantations to have him hear me.
One day we will all stand before that judgment throne whether we chose to believe it now or not. My sincere desire is that each one of you reading this will be able to stand before him forgiven, covered and confident.
Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.