Yoke And Burden

“Come to Me, all those toiling and being burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I want to point out something about this passage that God brought to my attention the other day. Quite often, I find myself whining to God about various things. The other day, during one of my marathon whining sessions, I told God, “You said Your yoke would be easy and the burden would be light.” I knew better than to say such a thing, which is why I was quickly reminded of the original context of His statement, which was intended as a reproach upon the system of works that the Pharisees laid upon the backs of those who sought God. That is what Jesus is speaking about when He says later on in Matthew, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4).

Jesus’ life and ministry was at the crossroads of the Old and New Covenant. Two thousand years of Old Covenant Israel was about to collide head-on with two thousand years of New Covenant Christendom. Therefore, when He said that His yoke would be easy and burden light, there were dual implications to what He was saying. He spoke not only to those under the Old Covenant of Mosaic Law, but also to those who would be under the New Covenant of His Lordship and grace.

The thing that God brought to my attention, was that although Jesus promised “I will give you rest”, He never said that He would remove our yoke and take away our burdens. Jesus was bringing about a new paradigm for men to relate to God, He was abolishing the Old Covenant and replacing it with a New. Therefore He could have easily said “Come to Me, all those toiling and being burdened, and I will give you rest. I will remove your yoke and your burdens and you will find rest for your souls.” But He didn’t say that, He said that we were to stay under a yoke and continue to carry a burden. However, He replaced the old yoke with a new one.

When Jesus said, “I will give you rest”, He was speaking one thing to Israel and another thing to the Gentile nations who would be part of the New Covenant. For Israel, He was giving them rest from Mosaic Law. But the Gentile nations were not under Mosaic Law, so what would He be giving them rest from? He would be giving them rest from their sin (Jeremiah 31:34; Rom 6:2,6,7,14). For those under the Old Covenant, their yoke was the Law. For those under the New Covenant, their yoke would be faith (Gal 5:6; John 6:28,29; Rom 4:5; 1 John 3:23). For those under both Covenants, the burden was, is, and has always been, obedience.

We are “yoked” to Christ in faith and the “burden” (or responsibility) of that faith, is obedience (Matt 10:38; John 10:27; John 12:26; John 14:15,21,23; John 15:10; Heb 5:8,9; 1 John 2:3-6; 1 John 5:2,3; Rev 12:17; Rev 14:12, 13). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt 16:24)

“…come after me” = yoke of faith

“…deny himself and take up his cross” = burden of obedience

What many in the church today fail to realize, is that our faith means nothing if it is not paired with obedience. By Jesus’ own instructions, our faith in Him must be validated by our obedience. James tells us, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough.  Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…O foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is worthless? Was not our father Abraham justified by what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith was working with his actions, and his faith was perfected by what he did.” (James 2:17-22). A faith that is not evidenced by obedience, is not faith. It is simply a belief based on affirmation, rather than a belief of trustful surrender.  Obedience to Christ in a person’s life, is evidence of their faithful surrender to Him as Lord. Our faith in Christ must be a faith in Who He is, and Christ can only and ever be Lord. To believe in Jesus and be saved (John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47), we must believe that He is Lord (Rom 10:8,9), and in so doing, the only proper reaction to such a belief is surrender.

We are not saved by good deeds, we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8).   However, genuine faith and genuine salvation are evidenced by our actions of obedience.  Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after Me…”  How do we come after, or pursue Christ?  By faith.  But then what does Christ tell us to do with that faith?  “…deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”  That’s an action of obedience.

The reason Jesus didn’t remove our yoke and take away our burdens, is because it is the yoke of faith that saves us. And as long as we are on this side of heaven, our faith will at many times seem like a burden. Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble, I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Paul and Barnabas told those in the early church, We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22), as they strengthened the souls of those early believers by encouraging them to continue in the faith (Acts 14:21). Our salvation in Christ truly gives us “rest for your souls“, but that doesn’t mean that we will be completely without burden. Today, should you feel the weight and burden of your yoke of faith, spend some time sitting at the feet of Christ, Who gently reminds us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

 

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

“And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Paradox Mine

I live a paradox. I have an irresistible compulsion to speak the truth of God’s word and nothing else gives me greater fulfillment in the depths of my soul, however nothing else causes me greater distress and social chastisement. Believe me when I tell you that I have no grand delusions of self-righteousness, I am acutely aware of my own sinfulness and shortcomings. However, sometimes the narrow path of truth can be lonely. When you preach grace you fill a church, but when you start preaching righteousness people lose their minds. I’ve estranged family members and lost friends because of my relentless pursuit of God and His call upon my life. I have counted the cost to follow and serve God, He will always be first in my life, regardless of the consequences, because that is the kind of radical devotion Jesus actually demands from all of those who call upon His name as Savior and Lord.

A few weeks ago during a conversation with the interim pastor for our church, he said, “I preach sin and hell.”  Like, he wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t be surprised by such a thing.  I can honestly say that the only thing that bothered me by his statement was that he felt it was necessary to make us aware that he preached the full counsel of God. I felt great compassion for him because I wondered, was there a time somewhere along his tenure as a pastor that he was given grief for his dedication to the full Gospel of Christ? His question only made me love him more because that is something that I can totally identify with. His question only made me even more thankful that it was him who God has sent to pastor our church during this time of our loss.

When we claim Jesus Christ as our Savior, what do we think He is saving us from? Jesus didn’t die to forgive us for our sin, He died to save us from it. Scripture tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim 3:12). How many of us are being persecuted for our desire to live Godly lives in obedience to scripture? The stark reality of Western Christianity is that most of the persecution comes from those within our own faith.

As I pondered these things in my heart today, as I wrestled with God– on the one hand, compelled by His Spirit to preach righteousness; on the other hand, compelled by my flesh and my own reasoning to make my case for compromise– I felt Him lay on my heart: “You need to be preaching righteousness like I’m coming back tomorrow.”

Indeed. We should all be preaching righteousness in eager anticipation to stand before the great and terrible judge.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. Therefore, since we know what it means to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is clear to God, and I hope it is clear to your conscience as well.” (2 Cor 5:10,11)

“Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:28,29)

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” (1 Tim 4:1-3)

“Then I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse. And its rider is called Faithful and True. With righteousness He judges and wages war. He has eyes like blazing fire, and many royal crowns on His head… He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is The Word of God… And from His mouth proceeds a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Rev 19:11-15)

A Spoonful Of Toilet Water

As I was making my 18 month-old’s bottle this morning, I wondered, “How much turd-laden dirty toilet water would be okay to put in here? A teaspoon? A half-teaspoon? A quarter-teaspoon? Five drops?” How much dirty toilet water would you say is okay to put in my baby’s bottle? Most sane people would recoil in horror and say, “Absolutely none!” For you to understand why I thought this, let me give you the context of what I was thinking about prior to my musings about how much dirty toilet water would be okay for my child to consume.

As Christians, our faith demands that we, “‘Come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'” (2 Cor 6:17). Notice that verse doesn’t say, “…says Kalli” or “…says the Baptists” or “…says the Catholics” or “….says the Pentecostals”. That verse says, “…says the Lord.”  Yet for a vast majority of contemporary Christians, we have no problem being double-minded or having a divided-heart when it comes to walking out our faith. We have no problem allowing the dirty toilet water of the world into our lives.

How much of the world is it okay to bring into our new life in Christ? Five rated-R movies? One pornographic image? Three afternoons of gossip? Two drunken weekends? Ten secular songs glorifying the things of the world? How many times must I hear, “That’s legalistic….I’m only human….it’s only a t.v. show….we’re going to make mistakes…”? No, a mistake is something you do by accident or because of overwhelming weakness. God gives us grace for our mistakes and weaknesses.  God gives us grace for our ignorance as we are growing in spiritual maturity.  Rebellion, on the other hand, is something you do with full knowledge and understanding that what you are doing goes against the basic tenets of your faith. God may give grace toward rebellion for a time, solely at His discretion. But for the most part, rebellion forfeits God’s grace and brings a person into judgment, saved or not. In all circumstances, rebellion requires repentance, confession and forgiveness:

-“If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume all adversaries.” (Heb 10:26,27)

-“Anyone born of God refuses to practice sin, because God’s seed abides in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil can be distinguished: Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:9,10)

-“Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.” (1 Cor 15:34)

What do we do with verses like that? Where do they fit in our comfortable, excuse-laden version of Christianity? How do they reconcile with our buddy-version of God, Who winks at our sin and is utterly devoid of fearsome wrath? Here’s the deal: We can claim the Christian faith all we want, we can make excuses, we can continue our lame attempts to justify our behavior, but after it’s all said and done, the Lord we claim to worship and serve said that it is our faith which manifests itself in obedience that makes us His:

-“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
“Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” (John 14:21)
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)
“If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” (John 15:10)
“By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3)
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 1:6)

Wow Jesus, You’re so legalistic.

Our obedience doesn’t save us, but it is our obedience that distinguishes the authenticity of our faith and sets us apart from the world as belonging to Christ. Our obedience does draw us closer to God, our obedience does serve to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy, our obedience does help us to hear God’s voice more clearly, our obedience does make us a sanctified vessel fit for use in God’s kingdom to bear Him fruit, “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from iniquity’… Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the Master of the house, ready for every good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim 2:19-22).

Do you belong to Christ? Then live a lifestyle of repentance, daily turning away from iniquity, daily bearing your cross to your own death, daily seeking God’s presence and asking Him to fill you with a hunger for obedience and a thirst for righteousness. We must daily surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to pull us out of this world, because even a little leaven (or toilet water) works through the whole batch of dough, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?.. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Gal 5:7,9). Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, because that is what it truly means to be a Christian.

“But just as He Who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written:  ‘Be holy because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father Who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth.” (1 Peter 1:15-17)

“Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the very start. This is why the Son of God was revealed, to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:7,8)

“But you know that Christ appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who remains in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:5,6)

“We know that anyone born of God does not keep on sinning; the One who was born of God protects him, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18)

“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you once were slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom 6:14-18)

Spiritual Flower Bed

When we first bought our house, it had been sitting vacant for almost a year and a half. The flower beds in the front were a hot mess. There was an overgrowth of vines that crawled across the sidewalk leading up to the door. The weeds had taken over any ornamental plantings and were 2 to 3 feet high. The neglect of any type of maintenance was obvious. It was apparent to anyone with eyes that there was a lot of work that needed to be done.

When I started working on clearing it all away, I started with the big stuff first. As I worked my way down to the smaller weeds, the work began to get more and more tedious. There were times in which all the little green shoots seemed overwhelming, like there was no end to them and I would never get done. But I finally got them all cleared out and the surface was nice, rich, dark compost.

About a week later, I saw some shoots coming up from a place where I cleared away one of the big bushes. The shoots were coming up because I didn’t dig the plant up by the root. So, I commenced to dig it out. It was hard work, but I finally managed to get it all. A few weeks later, I noticed a few green shoots here and there, randomly dispersed on the surface of the soil. I didn’t have time to weed the bed, so I left them, intending to get them later. As the weeks passed, I walked past the bed at least two times a day, noticing the increase in the green shoots, each day telling myself I would work on it tomorrow. What started out as a few green shoots, were now taking back over my flower beds. Besides that, there were several vines that had begun to grow again that I thought I had removed the first time I cleaned the bed out.

So once again, I worked on the seemingly endless little green shoots that had turned into significant sized weeds. And once again, I pulled up the vines. After a few weeks, the vines and the green shoots reared their ugly heads again. This time I cleared them away as soon as I saw them and it was a lot less labor intensive than the other two times. I also added more mulch to the beds. Because of the mulch, it took a lot longer for any of the green shoots and vines to appear again, but eventually they reappeared. No matter what I do, the vines and green shoots will eventually reappear. The only way to keep them out, is to do regular maintenance.

The spiritual applications of my flower bed are the same for any of us. Whenever we go for a significant amount of time without Bible study and seeking God’s presence, we get an overgrowth of the thorns and thistles of the world. The neglect of any type of maintenance is obvious, and it is apparent with anyone with eyes that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. If we go long enough, the roots grow large enough and deep enough to where they are difficult to remove: roots of bitterness, rebellion, resentment, lust, worldliness, addiction and pride, to name a few. Cutting off these types of issues at the surface will only cause them to shoot back up later. They must be taken out by the root.

Likewise, once we get to the point in our spiritual maturity to where we have overcome the big stuff, but are now working on all the little flaws within our own character, it can seem overwhelming and tedious. It can seem like there is no end to our own imperfections. But eventually, you get to a point to where you can see more of the rich, dark soil of a fruitful, obedient heart. But just like my flower beds, the vines of our fallen nature and the little green shoots from the weeds of our flawed perspective will appear again. And if we neglect the personal maintenance of Bible study and seeking God’s presence, they will eventually begin to grow deeper roots and spread, and we will find ourselves starting all over again. Until Christ returns, no matter what we do, the vines and shoots will eventually reappear. And just like my flower beds, the only way to keep them out, is to do regular maintenance.

“The seeds that fell among the thorns are those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life, and their fruit does not mature. But the seeds on good soil are those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, cling to it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:14,15)

“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is tended, receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless, and its curse is imminent. In the end it will be burned.” (Heb 6:8)

“The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:8,9)

The Shield Of Obedience

What you sow in disobedience, you will reap in spiritual warfare. When we live lives of disobedience to God and His word, we make ourselves more vulnerable to the schemes of the enemy. We expose areas of our lives that he would not have been given access to, under normal circumstances. God says, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.” (Jer 7:23). Which means when we walk in disobedience, it will not go well with us because we step out from underneath the spiritual covering God gives to those who are obedient and make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy. Scripture says, “For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12). To step out in disobedience, is to step out from behind God’s protective shield.

Often times, it our own choices that bring us into the trenches of spiritual warfare. Often times, it is our own choices of disobedience that pull us further away from God and make our ears deaf to His voice. Then, when the bottom starts to fall out in our circumstances and chaos and sorrow ensues in our lives, we cry out, “Why is this happening to me? God, why did you let this happen?” Unbeknownst to us, it is our own disobedient choices that have allowed an entire host of demonic activity to enter into our circumstances and wreak havoc in our lives. God told Cain, “if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7). They crouch in the dark corners of rebellion, stubbornness and disobedience, waiting for us to give them a foothold into our lives.

What you sow in obedience, you will reap in peace and truth. The more you pray and study God’s word, the more obedient you will become. And the more obedient you are to the Holy Spirit, the more understanding you will have of God’s word. The more clearly you will hear God’s voice and the more sensitive you will become to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says, “Yet if you devote your heart to Him and stretch out your hands to Him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. (Job 11:14,15). For the most part, those who consistently hold on to their peace in the midst of fiery trials, are those who have established an intimate relationship with God through prayer and consistent study of His word.

Spiritual warfare is real and it is happening all around us, all the time, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12). Our enemy uses people and circumstances in an unceasing effort to get us off-track of our spiritual maturity and development, and to generally make our lives more complicated and disorderly.  And when we walk in disobedience, we foster an environment that allows the enemy to invade our lives.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph 4:26,27)

“Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16)

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)

“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love Him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (Psalm 145:18-20)

Little Bad Girl

Through my teens and twenties, I embraced rebellion. In my ignorance, I imagined people perceived my strength as a person, through the degree of my rebellion. In my mind, the testament to my strength was the courage I had to stand against the status quo, to stand opposed to any hand that tried to steer my will. Rebellion says, “No one is master over me, I am my own master.” Ultimately, rebellion says, “I submit to no one because I am my own god.”

The devil is the personification of rebellion and pride. That is why scripture says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6,7). There is no humility in rebellion. Rebellion is the opposite of submission and surrender, both of which are required to be a true disciple of Christ. Scripture says, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (1 Sam 15:23). God compares the sin of rebellion with the sin of witchcraft because its core principle is to manipulate and control people and circumstances to your own desired end. Rebellion says I am my own god and witchcraft says I am god, either way is blasphemy.

Television, music and peers tell us to mix in some “bad girl” with our femininity, to embrace that rough edge and to make YOLO (you only live once) our battle-cry. But we don’t only live once, we live for eternity. And how we live this life here on earth, determines how we will live in eternity. I grew up in a culture that told me, “Blessed are those who are wealthy, happy, proud, arrogant, self-indulgent, pretty, sexy, promiscuous, talented and demanding.” But God’s standards of how we are to think and live our lives are usually the total opposite of what media and culture tell us are desirable. God says blessed are the poor in spirit, sorrowful, humble, merciful, pure, peaceable, persecuted and those who hunger for righteousness (Matt 5:1-12).

It took me a long time and a lot of hard work to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit to let go of the value I placed in an attitude of rebellion. Truly, it is the Holy Spirit that changes a person, but that person must cooperate in submission and obedience, and that my friends, is tenacious work. Work that is carried out with the help of God’s grace, but work that requires persistence nonetheless. It was so hard for me to acknowledge that the “bad girl” image I had tried so hard to live up to had become an idol in my life.  It was so hard for me to let go of my own reasoning and to truly and completely allow Christ to clothe me with Him (Gal 3:27), rather than me continuing to clothe myself with the world and the desires of the world.  No where in my testimony will I ever tell you that picking up my cross and dying to myself was easy for me.  I will always be up-front in telling people that following Christ is simple, but it is not easy.  Jesus Himself said we must “count the cost” (Luke 14:27-33).

As a woman, scripture says that I am to be respectable and modest (1 Tim 2:9) and that my beauty should not come from how I dress or how I do my makeup or hair, but from “the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:4). Neither should my value come from my education or my career or my talents, but rather from who I am in Christ which is to be walked out in a pure, chaste and reverent demeanor (1 Pet 3:2). Today, I no longer turn away from and resist submission, but rather I embrace it. Because it is through genuine and consistent daily surrender that I find my true strength in the woman that God created me to be– the woman I was created to be according to His standards, rather than the world’s.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:27)

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Prov 31:30)

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:5-10)

Unqualified

Sometimes I wrestle with God over some of the things He leads me to write about because I don’t feel qualified to speak on such matters. My argument is, “Who am I to point a finger?  Who am I to call out sin, when I am a sinner myself?”  As I was mowing the grass the other day, feeling sorry for myself and fretting and wrestling with God over some of my own spiritual shortcomings, He spoke into my spirit, “I didn’t call you because you are qualified, I called you because you are obedient.”

The Bible never tells us what we must do to be “qualified” to serve God because we are all flawed and we are all sinners, so, in essence, we are all unqualified.  The Bible only tells us what makes us disqualified from serving Him in certain capacities.  As I continued to mow that day, God began to bring to my mind examples of various people in the Bible who He called to serve Him. And there were two things that they all shared:  they were unqualified and they were obedient.  Jacob, Moses, David, Gideon, Jonah, Peter– all were unqualified, but all were obedient.

The simple fact of the matter, is that I am indeed unqualified. I disciple under my Pastor and I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, but I have no degrees behind my name, I have no formal training.  No mantle of spiritual authority has been handed down to me.  The only claim I can make is Christ, and that is enough.  I am not qualified, but the Holy Spirit that works within me, is.  Every morning I tell God that I am His to use, for whatever purpose.  I ask Him to search my heart and show me any wicked way within me.  I ask Him to open my eyes to truth and to make me well-equipped for service unto Him.  I ask Him to correct any wrong thinking or understanding and to help me rightly divide His word of truth.  I say with my mouth, “Father I submit to You in obedience, You are Lord of my life.”  I ask that my humility be genuine and my motives and intentions be pure. I ask Him to make me clean, to pluck a burning coal from His holy altar and place it upon my lips, that I may only speak His truth and nothing else.   I pray all these things, and I mean them.

I am not sharing these candid, intimate details of my life to make it seem like I am some spectacularly faithful person, because I’m not. There is nothing exceptional about me, I am just like everyone else.  I am simply obedient.  I have counted the cost to follow Christ and I am willing to die to whatever is necessary for me to glorify God with my life and bear Him fruit (Luke 14:28).  Which means that any person who is saved in Christ can be used in a mighty way and can experience the spiritual riches of an intimate relationship with God and hear His voice clearly, as long as they are obedient.  It is equally available to all of us, none of us being of any greater value to God than the other.

I am sharing these personal details of my life, because I want people to know and understand that God will always answer these kinds of prayers. God answers these kinds of prayers because they are His will for us.  He desires that we know Him intimately.  He desires that we submit to Him so we can bear Him fruit with our lives.  He desires us to understand His word and to hear His voice clearly.  These are all prayers that are in line with His will.

No human being could ever possibly be “qualified” to serve God because God is perfect and we are not. However, scripture tells us that we can be well-equipped for such service through study and application of His word, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17).

God is without failure, without fault, and without flaw and we, in our humanity, are intimately acquainted with all three. Therefore, if it were necessary that God call only those who were qualified, zero would be a very short list to choose from.  For all intents and purposes, it is only our obedience to the Holy Spirit that works within us that qualifies us for service unto a perfect and holy God and it is a thorough knowledge and application of His word that makes us well-equipped for such service.

“It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. And He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:5,6)

“But thank God! … Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume….. And who is adequate for these things? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” (2 Cor 2:14-17)

“If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” (2 Tim 2:21)

“Now the God of peace… even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20,21)