Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
From: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1989 Wesley Press
"Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us." -- Ephesians 3:20
We started this book off with a focus on "walking in the light." We outlined the ways God seems to help Christians change, by first giving them "light" on something in their lives that needs changed... put off or put on. Following this "dawning awareness" comes the Holy Spirit's work in producing a "growing conviction" that we must change. We said that when we make a "crisis decision" to change, relying on God's power, He grants "changing grace" to us and then it is our job to keep walking obediently by "disciplined obedience." This is how we "walk in the light."
But what happens when your light is brighter than your life. What are you to do when you clearly see areas in your life out of God's will? What should you do when you know of several qualities and practices clearly missing from your life which a good Christian ought to be and do? What do you do when you've got more light than you can walk in? What do you do when you can't seem to keep up with the light? Like Paul on the Damascus road, do you feel blinded and incapacitated by the light? Is it overwhelming?
Perhaps this book hasn't helped. Chapter after chapter we have examined biblical disciplines of holy living. You may have winced as you read. Perhaps you would read a chapter then sigh and admit you weren't living up to it. When you hurried to the next you only discovered one more area where you fell short. Maybe by now you are ready to give up? If so, this chapter is for you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the light, these eight thoughts may be just what you need to hear:
1. Don't Forget
The devil hangs around Christian folk a lot. He is always looking for a way to keep you from stepping forward in the new light God grants to you. His first ploy is to get you to forget the light. If Satan can divert our attention from the truth for a few days, or maybe a week or two... like the birds in the parable of the sower, Satan snatches away the truth before it finds root and conviction begins to grow (Matthew 13).
We are the Devil's greatest ally this strategy. We are so busy, scurrying here and there, trying to keep all the loose ends of our lives from falling apart, that we give truth little time to root and grow. Most Christians spend most of their lives at the "dawning awareness" stage of spiritual growth, hearing truth they should obey then quickly forgetting it only to hear another truth which is also soon forgotten.
Sunday school classes don't help in this matter. We study a spiritual discipline, attitude or Christian behavior this week, then rapidly move on to another the next week with little attention given to actually implementing change. Light piles up week after week with little opportunity to change. And we preachers don't help either. We seldom stick with a topic long enough to allow listeners to assimilate permanent change in their lives. Week by week we approach new topics, recommending new attributes or habits listeners "ought" to have. Then before there is a chance to change, we scurry on to the next topic.
Many Christians simply get into the forgetting habit. Week after week new light comes our way. It pricks our consciences a bit when we first hear it. But taking little time to ponder it, and even less time for prayer or introspection it soon dims and disappears. By Tuesday Satan has snatched Sunday's truth away.
Forgetting may seem like a solution to the bright-light problem. Simply forget the light and it will gradually fade. But this dangerous route produces an infantile faith. The light-conviction-obedience-change-light cycle is your only hope of spiritual maturity. Short-circuiting this process by quickly forgetting light produces a Christian life "stuck" in its progress. Millions of Christians have become hardened to truth. They forget the light soon after leaving their local church, or finishing a new book. Some whole churches are like this. They gather every week to take a "light shower," but the light is really not considered seriously. These become hearers only and not doers of the word.
So if your light is brighter than your life, don't run from the light -- it is your hope for growth. Don't dismiss the light in the hustle of life -- it is your stability. And by all means don't forget the light -- it is your route to spiritual growth.
2. Don't Give Up
If Satan can't get you to forget the light, he turns to his back-up plan -- using it to discourage you. He is constantly searching for a way to turn good into evil. When he watches you gaining great new insights and reading and hearing more about God's standards of holiness, he plots a way to twist the good toward evil. His most useful scheme is to suggest to you that this light simply shows what a horrible Christian you really are. Just as the Holy Spirit has access to our minds, Satan can also introduce ideas into our thoughts. "See... if you were a real Christian you'd be doing all these things" he says. Except he seldom speaks in a third person voice: i.e. if you... you'd be doing. That would be too easy to spot. Rather Satan introduces thoughts to our minds in the first person singular tense: "If I were a real Christian I'd be doing all these things." It's as if we're talking to ourselves.
Soon we are entertaining Satan's thoughts. They come first as an idea, but as we ponder the concept we receive them... we take possession of them: "True, I am a pretty poor Christian... and I've never been able to really live it like I should... perhaps I should throw in the towel." As we ponder these thoughts we gradually adopt the Enemy's proposal and begin to accept failure as a Christian.
Ironic, isn't it? The glorious light God sends your way... which comes with health, cheer, and hope, is twisted by Satan to produce discouragement, fear, and despair. The light God intended to prompt anticipation and a positive expectation, now yields apprehension and doubt. These are the ways of the Evil one. In his first temptation he twisted God's words to Eve. Now he twists God's light to you.
So what should you do? Refuse to entertain Satan's thoughts. Develop the skill of recognizing this ploy of the devil. When these thoughts come to you which suggest giving up, ask yourself... "Now, can this be from God?" When the answer is "no" then attribute resignation thoughts to Satan.
So if your light is brighter than your life, and you're tempted to give up, don't let your knees buckle. Stand firm. Keep on keeping on. Hang in there. Refuse to succumb to Satan's tricks. Reject the Devil's suggestion to capitulate. Don't give up!
3. Don't pretend
If the devil fails to get you to forget the truth, then fails at getting you to give up, he has a reserve maneuver in his bag of tricks -- inducing you to pretend obedience. Of all the Devil's devices this is his most devastating. Rather than go through all this tedious growth process, simply pretend you already obey this light. It took demonic genius to invent this idea! It's the busy person's ultimate answer to spiritual growth. Simply act like these truths are something you long ago came to practice. Discuss these disciplines in a Sunday School class like you've practiced them for ages. Nod knowingly as the pastor preaches on things you've never even tried. Wag your head sternly when some sin is being discussed -- as if you've never even been tempted in this area.
Presto! You have instant spirituality. Or at least others think so. And, after all, isn't that what's most important -- what others think? You get all this by simply pretending that your life is already way up there with all this light.
Whole congregations of Christians have opted for pretend holiness. No one ever admits to any sin or even temptation. All the testimonies report victory and triumph. Everybody seems perfect here. What a wonderful congregation! Pretend holiness. What a brilliant solution!
Or is it? What does it produce? It makes you a hypocrite. You have to live with yourself -- and you know you're holiness is counterfeit. And the people closest to you know, too. Whole generations of children have been lost to the Kingdom because they saw through their parent's phony holiness. You might be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Sooner of later they'll see your spiritual fraud. And you can seldom fool yourself. You know down deep inside what you really are, and you'll despise yourself for this deception. And you can never fool God. He sees your heart. He knows the real you. His son spent hours condemning the Pharisees for this very sin-- spiritual hypocrisy.
So if your light is brighter than your life, don't pretend holiness as a solution. Don't masquerade as an obedient person if you're not. God despised the prayer of the man who gave thanks for his great spiritual victories in comparison to others. But he welcomed the man who prayed "God be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Reject the temptation to pretend obedience. You can become the person God intended you to be. But pretending won't get you there.
4. Look Back/Ahead
One of Satan's devices is to get you to look only at your present state and then gleefully suggest, "Look what a poor Christian you are." If you keep focusing on the present alone, you'll feel continually defeated. The best way to beat this attack is to spend more time looking back and ahead. Look back at what you were in the past. Compare that with what you are now. As you praise God for how much He's done to change you already, your faith begins to grow for the future. Simply assume God will continue to change you in the future at the rate He has in the past! Then focus again on the present with renewed confidence.
You may not be everything you should be, but you're a lot different than you were! And you can be assured that you will keep becoming more like Jesus if you submit to God's changing grace, for that is God's will for your life.
So if your light is brighter than your life, and you are discouraged by your spiritual progress, look back at how far you've come, then project ahead at how far you could go. That will supply you with the nerve to look at your present state with confidence that God can change you even now.
5. Make sure your light is from God
It is possible to get under a "human conviction." Sometimes you can fall under the shadow of some other person who impresses their own "convictions" on you. It could be a teacher, a pastor, a mature saint in the church, or the author of this book! You begin to think that you should stop or start doing something just because someone else has. This "human light" condemns you because you do not measure up to someone else's standards. This condemnation is not from the Holy Spirit. Your job is to obey God, not someone else's light.
The problem is telling the difference between God's conviction and human conviction. If you are not regularly looking into God's Word, it's easy to start getting your light from other people. "This person says Christians ought to..." Or "I heard on a Christian radio program the other day that Christians shouldn't..." Or maybe "I read this book and the author thinks that every Christian ought to..."
If you start down the road of listening to human conviction you will pile up a mountainous burden of "false guilt" because it is impossible to live up to every one else's convictions.
Instead, spend time directly listening to the Lord. How? First through reading His Word. That is why this book includes an extensive Bible study section with each chapter -- so you can see what the Bible says about these things. Perhaps you even skipped those sections as you read? What does this say about you? Do you really think the words of an author are more important that the word of God? If you did skip the Bible study sections of each chapter, perhaps you should return to them now and see what God says?
Second you spend time alone with God -- in prayer and listening. How does God speak? Through His word and directly to our hearts, by the Holy Spirit's inner "quiet small voice." But how can you hear this inner voice if you do not quiet yourself and "tune in?" If you are uncertain exactly where God wants you to grow next, how much time have your spent quietly listening to His quiet inner voice? Take some time alone with God and listen. He will sort out all this light and zero in on one area where He wants you to obey.
So if your light is brighter than your life, spend time in the Bible and in prayerful listening to the Holy Spirit's voice. He will direct your steps. He really will!
6. Quit Trying/Start Trusting
The only way you can become more Christlike is through trusting in Christ's atonement. You and I have no power to change ourselves to become like Christ. Christlikeness is not a result of "trying harder." It comes only through God's miraculous intervention in your life, changing you inside, that you can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. So quit trying to change on your own power. And start trusting God to change you through His power.
But there's a hitch. God does not change you automatically. He's not in the business of manipulating spiritual marionettes. You play a role too. The greatest factor in your changing is your own will to change. God changes you as you cooperate with Him. What do you really want? If you decide with God, then He works in your life to change you. If you resist His changing grace you are left in your present state -- or perhaps you'll slip back to a former state.
So, the real issue is your will. Concerning that particular conviction... that thing you are trying to stop or start, if you say, "I will obey," and you mean it with all your heart, God will perform His part -- changing you (or beginning to change you). You can't change yourself. But if you decide to change -- God will change you.
7. Don't Resist Him
The reason God brings light to you -- urging you to stop something or start another thing -- is because he really expects you to obey Him. Be careful to avoid delayed obedience. This kind of foot-dragging will sooner or later turn into disobedience.
Both of my sons have chores. One of them is to feed the cat each day. When he gets home from school, his mother sometimes reminds him "Son, don't forget to feed the cat." He generally agrees to do it right away. Occasionally he continues playing and says "I'll do it in a minute."
As his mother is getting supper ready, she might again say "Did you feed the cat yet?" His response... "I'm on the way now." But there are so many delights scattered about the floor on the way to the cat -- games, toys, interesting tools... so he gets sidetracked playing. After one or two other reminders, he occasionally comes to the supper table, still having not fed the cat. Dad asks, "Son, have you fed the cat?" He responds, "Not yet, Dad, but I'll get to it right after supper."
Now I don't know what your family is like. But after three or four of these kind of delaying tactics his earthly father will act with warm discipline -- that is, warm to certain parts of his anatomy!
There is an invisible line between delay and disobedience. At some point, continual foot-dragging becomes outright disobedience.
Likewise, the Lord has such a line each of us can cross. Our foot-dragging can become outright disobedience at some point. Delayed obedience leads to outright resistance. I am convinced that there are churchfuls of Christians who have crossed this line in their Christian walk. God has been gentle and tender in His conviction. He has prodded, urged, inspired, persuaded and convicted. But these Christians have got in the delaying habit. They now find themselves in a tug-of-war with God, resisting His leadings. They are what the Bible calls, "carnal Christians."
Have you come to the point of resisting God's convicting work, until he cannot get you to respond freely with a "Change me" prayer? If so, can outright rebellion be far away? If you are stubbornly refusing to obey Him, will this not lead to a spirit of rebellion? Won't you eventually mentally shake your fist in God's face shouting under your breath "I won't change!" Will not this spirit of rebellion eventually lead to your ruin?
So if your light is brighter than your life, and it is because you are dragging your feet, or even because you have been resisting God's prodding, beware! Your resistance could lead to eventual rebellion and your demise. Take heed! Repent of your heavy-handed stubbornness and submit yourself to God's gentle hand.
After all, He isn't planning to make your life miserable! God sends light your way so you will head in a new direction (or stop heading another direction). By obedience you will have the happiest, most fulfilling life. God doesn't want to bludgeon you into a painful path of following Him. Rather, He is a loving Father who wants to bring to your life great meaning and fulfillment.
Have you become like Jeremiah's hardened jar (Jeremiah 18-19)? Do you find yourself on the opposite end of the rope from Jesus Christ? If so, then go on over to his side. Join Him in this epic adventure of walking in the light. Allow His hands to reshape you. Allow His grace to soften your hardened spirit of resistance. Submit to Him. Say "Have Thy own way, Lord." Let Him be the potter -- you become the malleable clay. Let Him melt you... mold you... after His will. He will make something beautiful out of your life... if you'll let Him.
8. Be Filled With the Spirit.
It would be a mistake to end this book without direct reference to the greatest secret leading to holy living -- becoming filled with the Holy Spirit. I call it a secret because so few Christians seem to be aware of the Holy Spirit's filling and even fewer seem to take advantage of it. It's really not a secret at all; it is plain to see throughout Scripture.
Sure, there is sometimes a confusing chorus insisting variously on what this second crisis is all about. And while there are admitted differences in how various church groups interpret this experience, the Bible simply cuts through the whole discussion with the call, "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).
What does the filling of the Spirit have to do with a Christian's spiritual growth? In this spiritual event God performs two mighty transactions in the believer's life -- and both have to do with walking in obedience. These two transactions: empowering and cleansing.
All Christians have the Holy Spirit -- you received this Spirit of God when you became a Christian. But all Christians are not filled with the Spirit. When the Spirit fills a believer he or she receives power (Acts 1:8). What is the power for? It is to activate the believer... to energize the Christian to do God's work in this present world. The filling with the Spirit may come with certain emotions and outward experiences, but its purpose is not to tickle our emotions and delight our sensations. The Spirit's filling comes with power to be directed outward toward others.
There is another side to the Holy Spirit's filling. The Spirit not only empowers, but cleanses too. When a believer is filled with the Spirit, his or her rebellious spirit can be corrected. That resistant attitude towards God's work in our lives can be straightened out. The Holy Spirit will both fill you with power for service and free you from the bondage of a rebellious spirit... if you'll let Him.
How? How can you be filled with the spirit? Three simple steps: (1) Abandon all known sin -- decide to walk away from any thought, word or deed of disobedience. (2) Surrender your all to Christ -- in one transaction consecrate your total being, past, present, and future, to Jesus Christ alone. (3) Receive the filling of the Holy Spirit by faith -- just like you were saved by faith, so now receive the fullness of the Spirit by faith.
That's it. Simple steps to discover this great secret of spiritual growth. If you follow these steps today, you could be filled with the Spirit yet today. Not that they are some sort of ritual or something like that. You must really mean what you are doing -- truly abandoning sin, really surrendering your all to Jesus, and actually receiving by faith this second work of God's grace.
If you take these steps, be prepared for a mighty change in your life. Some have imagined that a person filled with the Spirit is a "finished product" and no more growth would ever occur. Wrong! The Spirit-filled believer will grow more in his or her walk of holiness. Why? Because the single greatest barrier to a carnal Christian's growth is a rebellious will... a resistant spirit. In the Holy Spirit's cleansing work, this crooked spirit is somehow brought into alignment. God creates a new heart in the believer... and grants him or her a "willing spirit" (Psalm 51:10-12).
Perhaps you are turned off by this talk of holiness, cleansing, power, and becoming Spirit-filled. Maybe some person claiming to be Spirit-filled tried to coerce you into having an experience like theirs, or to prove you are filled by showing off one particular gift or behavior. Perhaps you have even said to yourself "I'll never try that."
Now what about you, my friend?
This book would not attempt to persuade you to receive something from God you cannot believe and do not desire. But if you do admit to a spirit of resistance to God's work in your life, please give God a fair chance to convince you. Perhaps He is able to do much more than you could even ask Him to do... maybe even more than you could even imagine? Could he do all this through the Holy Spirit's power which is already at work within you (Ephesians 3:20)?
Why not look into His word? Listen to His quiet inner voice. See if He is calling you to this work of his grace. Perhaps there is power you don't have? Is there cleansing you haven't received? If so, see what He calls you to. The God who calls you is faithful... He will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). He really will!
1. Matthew 13:1-23.
This is a parable Jesus Himself explained. If you considered the "seed" in this parable as truth we need to obey (what we have called "light').. how would you apply each of the following elements:
-- Pathway hearer:
-- Rocky places hearer:
-- Thorny ground hearer:
-- Thirty times producer:
-- Sixty times producer:
-- Hundred times producer:
-- Can you list conviction or changes you have had in the past which fit into one or another of the above areas?
2. Galatians 3:3.
Rewrite this verse in your own words using the words "try" and "trust."
3. Acts 7:51.
-- These are some of Stephen's last words. It was a speech to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body, given immediately before he was stoned to death. In what ways did these leaders along with their fathers "resist the Holy Spirit?"
-- What was the result of their resistance?
4. Acts 1:8.
In the last words of Jesus, what does He promise His followers will receive after the Holy Spirit comes upon them?
5. Acts 2-8
For each of the scripture quotes below, list what happened and its result.
-- Acts 2 1-4; 41.
-- Acts 4:31-35.
-- Acts 5:12-14.
-- Acts 5:28.
-- Acts 5:42.
-- Acts 6:7.
-- Acts 8:4.
-- Key Question: What does any of this have to do with being filled with the Spirit?
6. Ephesians 5:18.
What are we called to experience here?
7. Romans 15:16.
Why did Paul feel that God called him to minister to the gentiles. How might they become an acceptable offering to God?
8. Personal Reflection.
What could and should I do in response the truths I have discovered in this chapter?
-- An action to take:
-- A promise to make:
From: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1989 Wesley Press
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