Category Archives: Growth/Pursuit

God is our soverign Authority and our greatest Treasure

There is a grounding effect that happens in our lives as we understand our place in the universe before the holy God.  God is not only our sovereign Authority, but also our greatest Treasure; if He is only our sovereign Authority then our faith will be oppressive and marked by duty & obligation.  If you see Him as both, your faith will be marked by delight and joy; the latter is the picture the bible paints of authentic faith.


Posture – We didn’t buy, barter or negotiate our way in to the kingdom of God

How did we become children of the Creator?  We didn’t buy, barter or negotiate our way in to the kingdom of God; we weren’t savvy enough, raised in the right home or more spiritually attuned than others.  We received the kingdom without payment, as a poor child, bankrupt, not as an affluent business man; we brought nothing to the table.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV),
“You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8 ESV),
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”” (Mark 10:15 ESV).

We grow as God’s children the same way, as we depart from this position of absolute surrendered dependance before God and begin to believe that our growth is up to our own efforts, we have departed from biblical Christianity.  We have nothing of any value to offer the King, He is the one that offers us everything.  All of our righteous acts (self disciplined, white knuckled) are like filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6); thank God that our righteousness is found in Jesus, not in ourselves – both before and AFTER salvation.  How do we please God?  We please God by faith – “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).  Faith is trust and it is the only human trait that relies upon something outside of a person.  So we trust in something (or Someone) else to save and to sustain.  The church at Galatia had gotten it backwards as they moved back to morality and behavior modification (law, rules) as the means upon which they depended to change them.  Paul emphatically says, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1–3 ESV).

We obsess on fruit in the church today and point to it as the end goal.  Fruit production is not the end goal.  Fruit is a byproduct of the end goal.  The end goal is believing and knowing Christ (John 6:27-29) and finding Him to be our ultimate treasure (Matthew 13:44).  We spend the vast majority of our time talking about fruit (how beautiful it is, how much impact it has, how counter cultural it is).  The problem is that we make fruit an idol in our hearts and frustrate the vast majority of saints who realize that they aren’t producing the fruit that they are being told that they should be producing.  Why?  Because we are not responsible for the fruit production.  We need to be constantly reminded that the goal is not the fruit; the fruit is produced as we abide (surrender, depend, trust) in Christ (John 15).  This is what we need to be constantly pointed to – depending, trusting, surrendering, knowing, abiding.  Then the fruit will take care of itself and God will get the glory for it, not us because we didn’t produce it.

You will never get traction in your transformation until your feet are firmly planted in the freedom of God’s justifying grace in Christ.

“Like Luther, sometimes we approach the need for personal change as if each step of obedience were one more stair to climb in the attempt to gain peace with God. We pursue holiness for grace, not from grace. But this reverses the order of the gospel. You will never get traction in your transformation until your feet are firmly planted in the freedom of God’s justifying grace in Christ. The purpose of this chapter is to unpack the doctrine of justification by faith and show how embracing the truth of justification counters a performance-based, legalistic approach to the pursuit of transformation.”

Exerted from Christ Formed in You:  The Power of The Gospel for Personal Change by Brian Hedges (Kindle edition location 933)

What is the Goal?

It seems modern evangelicalism has come to a place of encouraging people to pursue life-change as a goal, and that closeness to Jesus would be the fruit.

What I’m learning is that the early church (many of whom actually knew Jesus) was called explicitly to pursue Jesus as the goal, and knowing that any fruit of obedience was from Him, through Him, and to Him.

“Come ye, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.  I always considered that to be only an evangelistic statement.  I think maybe Jesus meant it to be his daily banner over me.  Daily rest in the unmerited grace of Jesus.  How many people are experiencing that?  It’s actually pretty counter-cultural these days.

Jesus is after our Joy

 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:24–26 ESV)

This is a difficult saying for us to hear in modern America.  We don’t like anything that sounds like sacrifice, giving up or dying.  We have heard this passage preached and read through it, but somehow have a difficult time filing it so we tend to do our best to forget about it.  This passage is in the same vein as what Luke records in 14:26-27:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  Why would Jesus say such a thing?  Why all this talk about death, dying, and hating.  We know that hating is a Semitic term to love less, but what is Jesus getting at?  Yes, we must deny, follow, love everything less than Christ and be willing to give it all for Him and His kingdom.  The question is, “Why?”  Is it just our duty?  Is it just what is required?  Is it because Jesus does not want us to enjoy anything in this life?  No!  It is because Jesus is after our greatest joy.  He is calling us to exchange that which is fleeting and temporal for that which is ultimate, eternal joy.

This may be a new concept to many of us, but God is not out to stifle our affections and suppress our feelings, but is rather after our greatest joy.  The problem is that when Adam & Eve sinned (Genesis 3), everything that was good and perfect in Eden was fractured and now true joy evades us.  We now prefer to worship created things more than the Creator (Romans 1:23-24) of all good things.  This is the root of sin, we prefer that which is created over the Creator.  This idolatry of the soul is so pervasive that it is the controlling influence in all of our lives.  We make things, even good things (like family, marriage, children), ultimate things; we make good things, god things.  But nothing in creation is designed to hold the weight of our worship except for God himself.  That weight will crush those good things because they were not designed to hold it.

So when Jesus tells us that we must lose our life to gain real life and hate everything else in comparison to Him, it is because He is after our joy.  You will never have joy when your spouse, children, job, success, image or _________ is that which you look to to provide ultimate meaning, value and significance.  These things will fail you, they weren’t designed to hold the weight of your worship; when these things are our idols, we corrupt them and strain them to the point of breaking.  The ironic thing is that we cannot fully enjoy the good gifts of God (like marriage, children, success or a good name) until we loosen our death grip that we have on them.  Until they are no longer ultimate things, joy will evade us.  Therefore, this saying of our Savior is good, not harsh.  He came to redeem and restore, He is restoring all things and is making all things new (Revelation 21-22, Isaiah 65:17).  We all rejoice in something; these sayings of Jesus are aimed at redeeming our rejoicing.  They are aimed at restoring a proper order in things.  Jesus “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).  “Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.” (ESV Study Bible comment on John 10:10).  Only the one who walks in this truth is free to enjoy God and His gifts.