Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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God & Me Like Oil & Water?

For a large part of my spiritual life, God and I were like this container of oil and water.  I found myself going to church and we would get mixed together.  God would be in me and I would be in God.  It felt great.  It felt right.

But, then Monday or Tuesday would come along and I would notice that we were no longer mixed up.  I wasn’t in God and God didn’t seem to be in me.

  John 17:21 -- that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  

So, I would try harder.  I would go to church and let God flow into me all the more.  God and I would be mixed up even better.

But, the results would be the same.

Then, I would go to a retreat or revival.  I would make new commitments.  God and I would get tremendously mixed together.

 But, in a few days there we would be separated out.

 This went on for years.  I really wanted to have that Sunday experience every day.  I longed for that intimacy with God, but just couldn’t achieve it on a sustained basis.

 If this is your situation, there is good news.  The solution is simple and it is found in scripture.  Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

 I we wanted to understand why the oil and water don’t mix, we would have to understand the nature of the chemicals involved.  To understand why we don’t easily mix with God we have to understand some things about the nature of God and us.

 God’s nature: God wants to have a deep relationship with us.  He is so crazy about us that He sent His son to die, just to make it possible for us to have that relationship.  His Holy Scripture is His love-letter to us, describing in detail the deep relationship He desires with us.  If we separate out from God, he is not the reason why.

 Our nature:  Before we came to know Christ, Self was in charge of our lives and he liked it that way.  In order to make room for Christ in our lives, we have to demote Self.  Self does not go without putting up a good fight.  If he sees any kind of an opening, he will jump back up onto his old throne.

 When we find that we have separated out from God, God hasn’t left us, Self just saw his chance and grabbed control while we were distracted by our day-to-day routines.

 So, let’s return to what Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself…”  We need to recognize that Self is trying hard to gain control of our lives and we must deny Self that opportunity.  We can’t exactly post armed guards around the throne to keep Self out, but we can keep the throne occupied so that Self has nowhere to sit.  That throne needs to be occupied by Christ Jesus.

 Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross…”  In the days of Jesus, a cross was not a piece of gold jewelry or even a symbol of Christianity.  It was a cruel, horrible tool of execution.  The only time that anybody would ‘take up their cross’ is when they are on the way to die.  We know the story of how Christ carried His cross through the streets of Jerusalem, but He was doing the same thing that countless others had done before Him and would do after Him.  When Christ suggests that to His listener take up their cross, this was a serious attention-getter.  His suggestion was almost absurd to that first century listener. 

 In the Roman execution, a person would only take up their cross when all the trials are over.  That person is committed.  There is no appeal process from that point.  The person can’t go back.  Jesus is requiring that to follow Him we must make a life-and-death no-turning-back commitment to Him.

Continuing with the scripture, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Jesus says that we have to do this daily.

 Just as we can’t live off of only one big feast once a week, we can’t keep full of Jesus with a Sunday morning filling only.  We absolutely have to get our Jesus-tank filled up every day.  Without daily time spent with God, it is virtually impossible to sustain that relationship amid all the distractions of this world.

 Now, it is easy to say “have daily time with God,” but for anybody that isn’t in the habit, it is terribly hard to do.  I would hate to think of how many times I started a program of regular prayer or Bible study only to see it fall by the wayside.  In many cases, good intentions are no match for all the distractions that want to pull you away from your time with God.

 It is important that you think and pray about a time-slot in your day that you can dedicate to God.  It doesn’t even need to be a very long span of time, 5 or 10 minutes might be a good starting commitment, just so it is daily. 

 Choosing the right time and place is important.  For me, attempting to give God the time right before bed was disastrous, sleep always seemed to win out.  Furthermore, when I was at home, there was always something that needed my attention.  The solution that I found was to arrive at my work early and park in a quiet place about a block from my work and have my quiet time in my car.  I was fresh.  There were no distractions and I went to work every day, so this time slot was there every day.

 God has a time and place for you to spend daily time with Him.  It IS God’s will that you spend time with Him.  He will help you.  Have you ever prayed about it?

 The other tough issue is what should you do during this private time with God?  There are devotion books, there are books by Christian authors, you may have “homework” from some Bible study you are involved in which could come into this time.  However, I would suggest that you simply spend time with God.  If you had an opportunity to spend time with a special friend, you wouldn’t spend that time reading a book about having friends, yet many Christians would rather read somebody’s book on having a relationship with God, instead of just having that relationship.  So approach this time with God as relationship building.  Just you and God, spending time together, growing closer.

 Simply talk to God.  He wants to hear from you.  He wants to hear about your worries and concerns.  He want to hear about the good things that happen to you.  He loves you and He loves to hear what is on your mind.  When talking to God, it is sometimes helpful if we can pray out loud, this helps block many of the distractions that jump up from within our own minds.

 In addition, God wants to talk to you.  Rarely does anybody hear an audible voice from God, but He does speak to us and we will hear Him if we are listening.  When in prayer, ask God to speak to you and listen for His message.

 The other way that we can listen to God is by reading His Word.  When we seek God’s personal message for us and open His Word, we are in a position of listening.  It is in this position that it is to easiest to hear God speak.  Many times, what He has to say has nothing to do with the words printed on the page, but the important part is that you are seeking Him and are open to what He wants to say to you.

I am not a strong advocate of Bible-in-a-year or 6-chapters-a-day type Bible goals.  While it is immensely valuable to have absorbed a lot of scripture, it is more important to set relationship-building as a goal.  There are times that I read many chapters during my quiet time with God and there are times that a tiny passage grabs my attention and I never make it any further.  There shouldn’t be much distinction between your prayer and your Bible time, the goal for both is to build your relationship and be open to God word for you.

 Pray the Word and make it personal.

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Lexington, Ky