“Consider how you, as a brother in humble circumstances, have been singled out from the beginning of time to belong to God and as you throw your lot in with Jesus, you have all of Christ’s inheritance. Your stature indeed is quite high.” ~ Ed Welch
This season has been of learning (As they all are, which is the blessing of sanctification on this side of eternity). I confess that my affections are daily misplaced and that I desire the stage in my own life. My heart yearns for idealization and false truths to be true as I gaze into my future and decide what I want to see. Yet gazing forward fearing failure with my entire being to meet my very own standards of achievement. My heart longs fleetingly for the bride to be the center, not the bridegroom amidst groaning pains of life apart from our heavenly home. Yet how can we get to a point in which we fully grasp and understand that we are not ultimately waiting for our groom to come, but he is waiting for us? In our inner-workings we have what we have encompassed as the ultimate life we long to live, yet it has been shaped by our flesh derived desires. While we build our vision for our future, our Father is waiting to establish his plans perfectly in our lives. He is waiting for us to respond to his effectual call, he is waiting for us to seek wisdom, to incline our ears to his word and to hear him above all else. We must truthfully and authentically consider the paradigms of our feeble minds.
I have been resting on the truth that our sanctification is slow, yet vital in his ultimate plan for redemption. As we look at our circumstances and the time of our lives, the past and the present, we tend to see solely in human terms. We glimpse through our human lens to see everything in light of our own personal expectations. Doing so is what fuels our bitterness, coveting and envy. Failing to count every second of life, whether abundant or little, sorrowful or joyful, frustrating or fulfilling, perplexing or clear of high value in our sanctification is crippling. This reveals the misplaced affections we have in our motives, thoughts, desires and actions. While we insert our own feeble human selfishness into all things, God is actively working each second in our lives in order to progressively sanctify us as his elect children. What we may not like, he is using in accordance with his perfect will in which he prepared beforehand. He is using each day, each moment, each interaction for your sanctification.
I have recently been introduced to considering my own thought continuum, which was introduced to me by Jerry Bridges in his book The Discipline of Grace,
“We must constantly turn our minds to the Word of God, pondering the meaning and application of its truths to our lives… Thinking is our most constant activity. Our thoughts are our constant occupation. We are never without them. But we can choose the direction and content of those thoughts.”
I have been confronted with the truth that there is no neutrality. We are either under full influence of society and materialism or under the full influence of the word of God. Our continuum cannot know any form of neutrality, but only darkness or transforming scripture. What does your thought continuum look like? I have found that in deeply considering my thoughts from day to day, mine are more of unbelief. More of fear of failure, anxious anticipation for the future, pining for affirmation and replaying all of my anxious moments. Yet, the truth is that all of these thoughts must be transformed by the renewal of my mind(Romans 12:2). Only the power of the word of God can stir such a wrecking and realignment of my thoughts that I may walk in the allegiance that my lips claim.
My thought continuum each moment directly influences my view of my circumstances, my anxieties, my fears, yet these are not in adherence. Instead of looking at the overall circumstance, we must pull back and look at each day. Consider each moment, every conversation and each word you speak in light of eternal significance. It was formed before you were breathed into existence. While we feebly sit in our own pity of our overall worldly vision of our lives, God is waiting for us to complete his plan before he returns. He does not have to, but he chooses to mark our lives with moments. He lovingly marks our lives with moments of joy, moments of sorrow, moments of affliction and trial and of abundance or little. He does so graciously, that we may be conformed to the image of his son. Our growth on this side of eternity does not end as long as there is breath in our lungs. That is how patient he is. We are in desperate need of a complete mindset change. We have our own personal expectations and plan causing us to proceed with this vision in mind. We proceed in fear of failure, captivated by our own agenda instead of walking by faith in the freedom to fail.
This is our exile. Yet we desire everything we could ever want and more on earth. We long to be successful with the work of our hands, we long to be well liked by others and to make a name for ourselves. We daily pine our of fear in ways that look different for everyone. We are so quick to forget that we already have a name. Chosen. Son. Daughter. Beloved. Yet our Father watches patiently day by day, watching us run fast after wind and seek the dust with all of our human might. He watches our hearts dwell as covetous, bitter and resentful when we believe we should have or achieve something outside of his design for us. It is vital for us to realize that our personal plan is not our ultimate plan here. There is a relieving freedom in this truth. You are doing exactly what he intends for you if you are in Christ. If you are in Christ, you have arrived. There is no long, grueling ladder you have to toil up to get where you think will ultimately be enough. You are enough right now. You have arrived. His grace is immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. You can walk in freedom without fear.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” ~ Romans 8:18-24
We must leave our world-informed self-perceptions. If we continue to return to our misplaced affections and secular desires, we are just as a dog returning to his vomit. If we believe we are on a journey of stepping stones we will never be satisfied. If we continue to pine to what we believe to be our desires, we will never find rest in the completed work of Christ. In his enduring patience toward us we must respond knowing that our faithfulness each day is what we are called to. We will never climb enough steps up the ladder or arrive at that farthest stepping stone, for his ways are not are ways. Until our souls grasp the truth of the gospel, we will continue to pine for vain toil because we do not believe in the sufficiency of the gospel. We must step forward in allegiance to be faithful and respond in gratitude, for He is patiently waiting for our hearts.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ~Galatians 1:10
I have spent extensive time thinking on what this looks like practically in our day to day. I have learned the importance of identifying what we believe to be right for us. Then, laying it down in comparison to the rock-solid truth of His word that we determine our plans in our minds, but only he establishes our steps in accordance with his will. Our calling is sure. We are called to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with full allegiance and with all of our affections. As His disciple we are called to count everyone more significant than ourselves and to serve one another in love. As we are progressively sanctified in our growth, we begin to change our lens in which we view God, ourselves and the world. Everything begins to hold their rightful place in proper, biblical perspective. In Christ, we have a role in God’s ultimate plan of redemption and his patience is what holds us fast until we are called home.
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; you word is truth. As you send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake, “I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” ~ John 17: 16-18
I have recently been blessed to study the book of John with wonderful women. Reading John so carefully revealed Jesus’ posture and attitude towards those that God had given him. His posture was on of completing the task at hand in order to glorify the Father, fulfill the prophecy and ensure that those chosen by God would be guarded and secure for their time in exile and in eternity. He intercedes on our behalf in John 17 before he goes to the cross that we might be sanctified in truth through the Holy Spirit. This was the posture of our Christ before he was preparing to die on our behalf. Before the most tortuous death, His determination and concern was the protection and sanctification for our souls through the Holy Spirit. How can this not affect our daily posture? If Christ’s main concern before He would be rejected, tortured, and killed was the outcome of our souls, how can we not work to be transformed by the renewal of our minds?
Taking this powerful truth into consideration, thinking on this and God’s patience can provoke deep reflections and inner-workings, but it is more difficult to grasp how it should affect our daily lives. The truth is we live inside our own idealized, secular-crafted formulas. We create these formulas from our direct influences around us and unfortunately, not as prominently from the word (Julie Lowe, CCEF). Releasing ourselves form our formulas feels painful because we do not want to leave our formulas. Our formulas provide us comfort in leading us to feel tangibly affirmed in what we dream to achieve. Yet, God is waiting for us to leave our formulas. He is sanctifying each day to strive less in our formulas and more in freedom through His son. Everyone’s formula looks different, but for me, my formula is built on the fear of failure. Paralyzing isn’t it? What does your formula look like that shapes your thought continuum, your to-do list and your aspirations?
The truth is that we must transform our formula from fear of failure to freedom to fail. As a result of the work completed by Christ, we do not have to achieve our own expectations or be affirmed at our standards because our worth, identity, status and failure is FREE in the gospel. His grace is sufficient. (Welch, CCEF)
James 1:9-10 ~ “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
You are not living in an endless staircase needing to make the next step. You are not waiting for your sufficiency, your accomplishment or your arrival. God is patiently awaiting us to break our formulas of self-sufficiency and fear of failing and enter into faithfulness in each small task each day. Faithfulness in the little, that we may be faithful in much. Who is more important to you? Who is your heart’s deepest desire? Walk in faithfulness in the freedom we have as a result of Him who was pierced for you.
“The freedom we have in Christ has a few different facets. One is that we are not judged by the world’s standards of success and failure. Instead, we have the freedom to be human, which means that when we fail, and we will every day, we know that Jesus is the head of this new world order, not us, and we hope to one day realize that there are more important matters, such as boasting in what Jesus has done.” ~ Ed Welch