Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday--How well-off is your spirit?

I have a lot of thoughts flying around in my head today. This is one of them.

Miracle of miracles, I feel like I'm having a spiritual growth spurt. God is causing me to grow spiritually. But, it's not in ways you or I would expect. I'm not necessarily spending more time on Bible study or prayer, I haven't 'saved' anyone lately, and I'm not sinning less...

The only difference is that I'm a little more aware of who God is and a little more aware of who I am.

Recently, I listened to Paul Washer (surprise) talk about conformity to Christ.
He made the point (very strongly) that there is nothing, Nothing, NOTHING! more important than our conforming to Christ's image.
That means becoming poor in spirit.

I never knew quite what this meant, even though I've heard the phrase many times. Without really thinking about it, I had developed the idea that someone who was poor in spirit was someone who was sad and downtrodden, with low self-esteem. But if I had thought it through when I read the verse:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 5:3
I would've realized it wasn't about that at all.

What it is about is acknowledging one's utter dependence on God.

All humankind is indebted to God for at least one reason: He made us.
For those of us who have become His children, we are doubly indebted to Him for the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.

Of ourselves, we have nothing, we own nothing, we are nothing. There is nothing within us that we can lean on, depend on. We may think we are self-sufficient and can trust our gut, but only until something totally out of our control happens.
A loved one is injured or dies, a spouse walks out on us, a child rejects us, our income is cut off, or we get a bad report from the Doctor.

When any of these things happen, do you turn to yourself? Do you find strength within yourself to make it through? Let me ask a tougher question: If you control your own destiny, turning to your gut for decisions, you inner strength for hardships, why does God so often get that blame for the 'bad things' that happen?

I haven't experienced the caliber of hardships or trauma that some have, but I have had pain and loss in my life. And when the crises have come, the thing that got me through was not inner strength. It was an overwhelming sense of God's presence. Like a cloud of peace settling around me. The pain didn't stop, but His presence, upholding me, kept me from despair.

Being poor in spirit is depending on the Heavenly Father for anything and everything. The smallest thing, which you think is totally controlled by you, would cease if only He willed it.

I just heard Paul Washer (again) in person last week at a conference here in town. He shared a terrifying thought with us:

God is good.

'Why is that terrifying?', you may ask.
It is terrifying because God has commanded us to "be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48

Are you perfect? I know I'm not. Just by being human, we are hopelessly un-perfect. We may look inside ourselves for inner strength, but instead, what we find is evil. Don't you feel it? Deep down you know you aren't perfect.

So, if God is good and just and righteous, He can't ignore wickedness. He must punish it and do away with it.

We would call a man a criminal if he just stood by while someone was threatening his wife or child.
Good cannot abide evil.

So because this evil abides within us, God's wrath was set against us. We had no hope
It was like a dam had burst and all the water was rushing at us. We were going to be swept away, we were bracing for the impact. But the ground opened before us and swallowed the flood.

God's Son took the wrath meant for us.

He traded places with us, in a sense. Jesus stood in the place of sinful man so that we could be seen as righteous.

"For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5 :21