VIDEO The Divine Commandment of Life – Be Perfect, Just As Your Father In Heaven Is Perfect

The Divine Commandment of Life

Our Lord’s exhortation to us in Matthew 5:38-48 is to be generous in our behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections— some people we like and others we don’t like. Yet we must never let those likes and dislikes rule our Christian life. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7), even those toward whom we have no affection.

The example our Lord gave us here is not that of a good person, or even of a good Christian, but of God Himself. “…be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” In other words, simply show to the other person what God has shown to you. And God will give you plenty of real life opportunities to prove whether or not you are “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God’s interests in other people. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God. And when we come in contact with things that create confusion and a flurry of activity, we find to our own amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of it all.

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest. Disciples Indeed, 395 L


Be Perfect, Just As Your Father In Heaven Is Perfect

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A.B.I.D.E.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

What can we do without Christ? Nothing. What can we accomplish when we abide in Him? One man said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). What, then, does it mean to abide in Christ?

  • “A” stands for absolute surrender. We have to come to Him just as we are, confessing our sin and saying, “You are the potter and I am the clay.”
  • “B” stands for believe. We have to trust Him completely to do with us, for us, and around us what is very best while we stand on His promises.
  • “I” stands for insight. We have to pour ourselves into His Word each day, learning His ways and gaining His insights for living.
  • “D” stands for dedication. We have to persevere over time, separating ourselves from sinful habits and from people or places that may hinder our purity.
  • “E” stands for enthusiasm. We go about His work in the power and energy He provides.

Nothing takes the place of abiding in Christ, for everything depends on Him.

Let the Word create around you, create within you a holy atmosphere, a holy heavenly light, in which  your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life. Andrew Murray, author of Abide in Christ

The Gift of Disillusionment

Why being disappointed by your church may actually be a good thing.

The other day, one of my pastoral students came to me after class. “A few of us have been talking, and we have a question for you. Are you trying to discourage us?” It is not the first time I’ve heard this question. Discouragement is not my intention. I am aiming for disillusionment. I want to shatter my students’ romanticized notion of church life and replace it with one that is more realistic.

In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns of the damage caused by unrealistic expectations of life in the church. “Certainly, serious Christians who are put in a community for the first time will often bring with them a very definite image of what Christian communal life should be, and they will be anxious to realize it,” Bonhoeffer explains. “But God’s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams. A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves is bound to overwhelm us, as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of Christian community.”

Instead of an ideal community, what we get is the church as it really is.

This gift of disillusionment is not an easy one to accept. We tend to be idealists when it comes to the church. We would rather hold on to our dreams. But instead of an ideal community, what we get is the church as it really is. Not our delicate airbrushed fantasy of those who always act in love and speak kindly to one another, but a loutish, clumsy-tongued, rabble with dirty feet. God allows this, not to make us cynical, but for our own good. Disillusionment with the church and even with ourselves is a gift. Bonhoeffer cautions, “Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.”

The Art of Missing the Point

We are not the first to have trouble accepting this gift. According to John 13:12, at the Last Supper after Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet and put on his clothes, he returned to his place and asked, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” There is really only one honest answer to this question: We don’t. Not really. Oh, we get the point generally. How could we not, when Jesus answers his own question? The lesson is that Jesus sets the example. He washed the disciples’ feet, so we should wash one another’s feet. The servant is no greater than the master. It’s obvious when put that way, and it’s hard not to feel a little impatient with Peter. How could he be so dull? Who doesn’t get the point?

Yet every time I read the Gospel account of this event, I can’t help feeling like a dull student who watches as the teacher solves a complex math problem on the board, blinking in confusion but trying to look aware. It’s so obvious when the teacher does it. Simple. Elegant. Beautiful even. When the teacher is done, I say to myself: “That was so obvious!” Even I could have done that. I should have done that. But somehow, when I when I try to follow the steps by myself, something seems to break down.

What seemed so obvious in the awkward silence of the Upper Room is no longer so clear to me in the noisy tumult of regular life. It completely slips my mind as I stand on the train platform, ready to elbow the woman standing next to me so that I will win the commuters’ lottery and be the one who is standing directly in front of the train car door when it slides open.

A Misplaced Center of Gravity

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” Jesus asks. It turns out he knew the answer before he asked the question. Jesus warned Peter in advance that he would not understand what was about to take place. To our ears, Peter’s refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet sounds like an improvement in the conversation. It seems admirable. Humble even. Only moments ago the disciples had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. But there is an edge to Jesus’ reply. Why does he rebuke Peter instead of praising him? You would think that he would have been happy to see that Peter recognized that there was someone at the table who was greater than them all. Peter was not putting on airs. He was entirely sincere. But he was also arrogant. The arrogant are always sincere. It is this sincerity which makes it so easy to be arrogant. We are convinced—unshakably convinced. And yet we are wrong.

Peter’s problem is not that he can’t see Jesus clearly. His problem is that he can’t see himself. He is too humble to let himself be washed, but too proud to do the washing. He hasn’t washed his own feet. He won’t wash the other disciples’ feet. And despite his conviction that Jesus is greater, he doesn’t even offer to wash Jesus’ feet. Peter’s objection looks like humility. It sounds like devotion. But it is really just narcissism and pride attempting to disguise itself in the rags of false humility. It may be pride in a different form, but it is still pride and just as deadly.

Pride is willing to keep company with any of the Christian virtues, if it can persuade us that we are the cause of those virtues.
“The devilish strategy of pride,” Dorothy Sayers writes, “is that it attacks us not on our weak points, but on our strong. It is preeminently the sin of the noble mind.” That is the way of pride. Pride is just as willing to encourage self-depreciation as it is self-congratulation. Pride will occupy a small space just as happily as a large one. In fact, pride is more than pleased to see us content ourselves with a small space, just so long as it can convince us that we are the center of that space. Pride is willing to keep company with any of the Christian virtues, if it can persuade us that we are the cause of those virtues. “Pride,” Sayers explains, “places man instead of God at the center of gravity.”

Living with Divine Disequilibrium

Disturbing the center of gravity is exactly what Jesus has in mind. Both for Peter and for us. He is creating disequilibrium. Putting everyone off balance. He has been doing it throughout the Last Supper and he’s not finished yet: “‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you’” (John 13:9-10).

Peter tries so hard to say the right thing, yet somehow he keeps getting it wrong. It is hard not to feel sorry for him. Maybe that’s because we identify so easily with Peter’s experience. How many times have we rushed in, firmly convinced that we knew what Jesus was doing, only to come away mystified when we discovered that we had missed the point? We think we know what God is up to and try to help him along. Yet somewhere along the way the wheels come off our little plan. But not God’s plan. God is still acting. But from our point of view, he’s behaving strangely. Like Peter, we just can’t figure out what he’s up to.

The things God does and the things he allows to take place in the church seem wrong. God seems to answer wrong prayers all the time. Or else he seems to answer our prayers in the wrong way (Ps. 10:1; 44:24; 73:3). How many times have we found ourselves as astonished as Peter and saying along with him: “Lord, what are you thinking?” The truth is, when it comes to figuring out what God is doing in our lives, we are almost always wrong. We are wrong at least when it comes to the fine details of God’s plan. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Jesus asks. No, Jesus. We confess that we don’t. Not really. We are just going to have to trust you and wait to see what you’re up to.

A Fellowship of the Unwashed

Still, why doesn’t Peter get the point? It is easy for us to see what Jesus is doing in his case, so what’s Peter’s problem? This is often the way: When it comes to someone else’s life or lesson, I know exactly what God is doing. I can tell them in a minute. It’s my life I’m confused about, not theirs. Peter misses the point because Jesus has layered in multiple levels of interpretation into his metaphor. Jesus had two ideas embedded in this particular lesson. The first was about being washed. The second was about washing. Those who want to have a part in Jesus must first be washed clean by Jesus. But those who have been washed are also called to wash one another.

By forcing us to live in real, messy community, God graciously frustrates our attempt to build elegant ministry structures which need neither his grace nor his power.

This is not an appeal to guilt, it is a statement of permission. It is a kind of liberation. Minutes earlier these disciples had been dreaming of glory. Reclining with unwashed feet and waiting to be served by someone else, they argued with one another about which of them was the greatest. By his actions, Jesus pointed them to a different path. Not to the high road of recognition, where each of us feels we must elbow the other out of the way if we are to make our mark, but to the low road of ordinary service. Few acts were more common in Jesus’ day than to wash the dust from someone’s sandaled foot. If Jesus can stoop, we too can stoop. By serving in such an ordinary manner, Jesus elevates every common act of service.

But if we follow the metaphor, we will find that Jesus is talking about more than the bare fact that we must serve one another. Jesus’ example calls us to a particular kind of service. It is a call to bear with one another. In so doing, Jesus reveals an important fact about life in the community of believers this side of heaven. Jesus reminds us that we who are the washed are also the unwashed. We are a community that has been cleansed by Christ’s word, but we are also a fellowship with dirty feet, and he invites us to be patient with one another’s failures and put up with each other’s shortcomings. In short, Jesus is calling us to forgive.

The Church as It Really Is

Jesus’ command to wash each other’s dirty feet shatters our idealized expectation of the church. Ours is not an inspired vision of the church as it might be. It is a fantasy of the church as it never was. This notion of the church that is free of mess, stain, and sin is as unrealistic as any airbrushed image of a supermodel. It is a view which confuses sanctification with perfectionism. Sanctification is the long process by which the Holy Spirit uses our real circumstances and the collateral damage caused by living in a sin-shattered world to shape us into the image of Christ. Perfection is sanctification’s ultimate goal, but it is one which will only be fully achieved in eternity.

Perfectionism is the opposite. The perfectionist’s version of the Christian life is an unrealistic expectation which hopes to avoid the fits and starts that come with the sanctification process. Perfectionism is an attempt to escape the long obedience of sanctification and smooth out the rough edges of our Christian experience. Perfectionism minimizes the damage that sin has wreaked upon us. The result is a Disneyfied vision of church life which has more in common with the Magic Kingdom than it does with the kingdom of God.

Reality is not a curse. When it is applied under the gracious hand of God, it is a remedy. Doing community in the real church helps cure us of our idealized notions of church, of our self-righteousness, and our judgmentalism. This is a judgmentalism that we often exercise not only toward the community at large but against ourselves. By forcing us to live in real, messy community, God graciously frustrates our attempt to build elegant ministry structures which need neither his grace nor his power. This fellowship among those with unwashed feet is a constant reminder that we are not a people who live by our wits, much less by our accomplishments. We are a people who live by grace and by promise. We are the church.

by John Koessler who serves on the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. His latest book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap (IVP).

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/may-web-only/gift-of-disillusionment.html

What Do You See?

just-because-you-cant- the e-the-way christiangazzette
Caitlin McNeil, a 21-year-old Scottish singer, and her friends couldn’t agree about the color of a dress they saw on the Internet.

Some in their group saw the dress with blue and black horizontal stripes while others saw the stripes as white and gold. To settle the matter, Caitlin posted a picture of the dress to her Tumblr blog asking her readers, “What color is this dress?” Instead of settling the question, a firestorm of debate erupted over social media.

Caitlin posted the picture on February 26 of this year, and within 24 hours it had gone viral: 11 million posts on Twitter and more than 28 million views on BuzzFeed—the site’s most popular post ever. About 69 percent of the people who saw the dress said it was white and gold with 31 percent saying it was black and blue. (As you might expect, asking the online world to agree on anything is a lost cause.)

But then the scientists, at the request of online and mainstream media outlets, got involved. First, they asked the manufacturer of the dress what color the dress was. Finally, a firm answer: The dress is made and marketed as a black and blue dress. So why were the majority of people seeing it as gold and white? If you think the exact world of science had a unified answer, you’d have to think again—it just depends on which scientist you ask.

And, as it turns out, it just depends on what kind of brain you have. The scientific consensus was that the way our brains interpret the light entering our eyes, light reflected off the world around us, is highly variable. In different situations, under different lighting, the same person could see two different color patterns in the same dress.

So there—it’s an optical illusion of some sort. We’ve all seen images and designs that are optical illusions. (In fact, you’ll see a number of them scattered throughout this month’s Turning Points.) Sometimes, when we stare at one of those images for a while, it suddenly changes and we see something slightly different. We are amazed when that happens! It makes us do exactly what the dress phenomenon did—ask a friend, “What do you see when you look at this?”

What should we conclude about the possibility of seeing things that are not really there, about misinterpreting an image or an experience in life? It makes us realize that we need something more solid than our five senses to interpret what we experience in this world. Life is not always as it appears to be!

I’m talking here about things of bigger consequence than the color of clothes or the shape of an optical illusion. Instead, I’m talking about the experiences and circumstances of life and how they might appear to us at first glance. Something happens and we draw a conclusion about God (who is supposed to be in control of all things) or others. And then later, upon reflection, we view the same event or circumstance in a totally different way. How is it possible that we could look at the same event in two different ways? It is possible because of our limited spiritual vision and understanding.

As a quick reminder, remember the words of Isaiah 55:9: God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. That verse reminds us that God is perfect and we are not; God is all-knowing and we are not. If God and I look at the same event, I know He will see what is really there while I may not.

So what do we do? We have to bow before Him in every situation and say, “Father, I submit my understanding to You. Please help me see as You see; let the eyes of my understanding be opened.”

That’s a humbling task, I know. We like to believe we’re right—and we may be. But it is far better to hold our judgments lightly while we wait for God to clear up any spiritual optical illusion we are experiencing. Instead of trusting ourselves, let’s trust the God who sees everything as it really is!

By David Jeremiah

Be ye filled with the Spirit

Ephesians 5:1-21

Ephesians 5:1

followers or imitators

Ephesians 5:2

Here is a model at once so attractive and so perfect that we may love and copy it at the same time. We may not take the conduct of others for our model, and treat them as they treat us; the only pattern for a Christian is Christ.

Ephesians 5:3, 4

Sins of the tongue are fearfully common. Cheerfulness is a virtue, chaste pleasantries are the flowers of conversation, but those unholy allusions and unedifying jests which so often are commended as exceedingly clever should never obtain currency among the followers of the holy Jesus.

Ephesians 5:5

The covetous man is here placed in very disreputable company. This proves that the Holy Spirit judges lust for gold to be as vile a lust as any other; he sets the brand of Cain upon the brow of the greedy. We send missionaries abroad, and yet we do not sorrow over idolaters at home. If a man worships a god of gold, is he not quite as debased as if his idol were made of wood?

Ephesians 5:6-11

Avoid bad company. Choose only those for your friends who are also friends of God. How can we reprove sin if we take those who openly practise it to be our bosom friends?

Ephesians 5:14

Death hides in darkness, life loves light. We, therefore, who have spiritual life should never do anything which we should be ashamed to have published to the whole world. Christ has given us light, let us not hide it, neither let us shut our eyes to it.

Ephesians 5:15

Look all around, and be anxious that your conduct may do harm to no one, from any point of view.

Ephesians 5:19

Men filled with wine call for a song, and when believers are exhilarated by the divine Spirit they also should have their singing, but they must choose the songs of Zion, such as the Lord himself will account to be true melody.

Ephesians 5:20, 21

To make God great and ourselves little is our peculiar occupation; we are to give him glory in all that we do, and seek no honour for ourselves, but willingly take the lowest place among our brethren for the Lord’s sake.

 

Fill thou my life, O Lord my God,

In every part with praise;

That my whole being may proclaim

Thy being and thy ways;

 

Surrendering my fondest will,

In things or great or small,

Seeking the good of others still,

Nor pleasing self at all.

 

So shall each fear, each fret, each care,

Be turnèd into song;

And every winding of the way

The echo shall prolong.

 

Top Side of your Soul

To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. (Acts 26:18)

It is certainly a reality in our day that too few men and women are willing to keep the “top side” of their souls open to God and to His light from heaven.

You may wonder about such expression as the “top side” of the soul, but I do think it is in line with Bible teaching, and certainly in line with all Christian experience.

The heart and soul are open to God in some people’s lives, but certainly not in others.

We should be aware that man’s forgiveness is not always like God’s. When a man makes a mistake and has to be forgiven, the shadow may still hang over him among his fellows.

But when God forgives, He begins the new page right away. Then when the devil runs up and says, “What about his past?” God replies, “What past? He has been forgiven!”

Now, I think that kind of forgiveness and justification and acceptance with God depends upon a person’s willingness to keep the “top side” of the soul open to God and His saving grace!

 

Maintain the Difference

“And I will put a division between my people and thy people: tomorrow shall this sign be.” Exod. 8:23

Pharoah has a people, and the Lord has a people. These may dwell together, and seem to fare alike, but there is a division between them, and the Lord will make it apparent. Not for ever shall one event happen alike to all, but there shall be great difference between the men of the world and the people of Jehovah’s choice.

This may happen in the time of judgments, when the Lord becomes the sanctuary of His saints. It is very conspicuous in the conversion of believers when their sin is put away, while unbelievers remain under condemnation. From that moment they become a distinct race, come under a new discipline, and enjoy new blessings. Their homes, henceforth, are free from the grievous swarms of evils which defile and torment the Egyptians. They are kept from the pollution of lust, the bite of care, the corruption of falsehood, and the cruel torment of hatred, which devour many families.

Rest assured, tried believer, that though you have your troubles you are saved from swarms of worse ones, which infest the homes and hearts of the servants of the world’s Prince. The Lord has put a division; see to it that you keep up the division in spirit, aim, character and company.

 

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