‘Kicking up our heels’

Selwyn writes the following in today’s study.

” … God wants us to move with Him day by day and discover fresh revelation as He opens up to us new insights and understandings of His precious Word.

Every Christian can meet the day with as much joy as a sheep that is being led into new pasture. Spiritually, we can kick up our heels and leap with delight at the prospect of finding fresh new food.

Expect Jesus to show you new insight day by day. Faith is expectancy – according to your expectancy be it unto you.”

These are thought provoking words, don’t you think? Especially, if you have been following Jesus for more than a few years. Do you still, have the joy – of expecting God to unfold some new understanding of His Word – as you walk with Him, each day? Because, there’s never a time when we will be able to say, ‘I know, all there is to know, about the Word of God’.

The process of being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Jesus – is continuous – never ending – right up to the point, when we leave this world – we are still wearing ‘L’ plates.

I agree with Selwyn, this verse from Psalm 23 (underlined below), holds so much meaning; and, is a good example of just how much nourishment can be found in so few words. To remind ourselves of the context, here are the first four verses: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. … “

It’s a great verse to carry with us – the very thought that our loving God is actively guiding us, along the right paths – takes a lot of the uncertainty and fear out of our journey.  It’s an act of faith – to believe this truth – and the fruit of such a faith is abundant joy.

‘Only one way’

I agree with Selwyn when he says (I’ve rearranged some of his words): “The willingness to totally put all aspects of our life into the hands of Jesus, without any reservations, is a real challenge. I believe Jesus is referring to this, in part, when He talks about taking up the cross daily. It means being prepared day by day; to put self-interest to death and to say, ‘No longer my will, but yours be done.’ “

In John 14:5-7 (NIV), we read: ‘ “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” ‘

Consequently, there is only one way; and, that way is to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Not just for a few hours on a Sunday – but, for every second of our ‘day’.

 

A way which is not the Way

I don’t have much to say about today’s study.

Selwyn’s point is fairly obvious: “We are seeing that when we try to follow our way instead of the Way into which the divine Shepherd wants to lead us, we often finish up self-defeated and self-disrupted.”

I thought, the following might be good for meditation. It’s taken from Paul’s letter to the Romans – here we see, that there are only two ways to live, there are no other paths to follow; you, are either on the track, which the crowd follows; or, you are a child of God, and, on the way to eternal life!

Romans 8: 5-17 (NIV):Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

It’s a very clear picture, don’t you agree – and, there can be no doubt in your heart about which path you are on; because, if you follow Jesus, the Spirit will confirm with your spirit, that you are truly a child of God – totally loved by Jesus. Amazing!

Having your own way

Selwyn continues his discussion on the fact that we have a tendency to want to do things – our way.

He writes: “This is an issue that we must come to grips with right now, for unless we learn (with God’s help) how to give up our self-centredness, we will fall into serious trouble. …

This is a difficult issue for Christians, for society, reinforced by media, teaches us self-interest as the primary motivating force in life. … Those who are self-centred are making themselves god(s), and they are not God, so the universe won’t back their way of life. They are the ones we referred to yesterday – ‘ … so lonely, lonely like a wild patch within a garden’.”

Paul captures this conflict within us, so well, In Romans 7:21-24 (NIV): “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature  a slave to the law of sin.”

We can hold onto the truth that God has delivered us from the consequences of our sinful nature, through Jesus Christ. We can overcome our sinful nature by surrendering our will to Jesus; and He will guide us away from the path – we had chosen, driven by our self-centredness, which takes us into a desert of lonely despair – a place, where we are dead, in our sin.

Now, as we follow the path – marked out by Jesus’ footprints; we are alive, with a wreath of love placed on our heads.

‘All we like sheep … ‘

Selwyn starts by writing: “We focus now on the next phrase in David’s Psalm 23: ‘He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.’

I liked Selwyn’s language, especially these bits: “We, too at times are stubborn and self-willed creatures – we prefer to go our own way and do our own thing. … ‘Our behaviour patterns and life habits are so much like sheep that it is well-nigh embarrassing.’ … This desire that we have for self-determination, however, has got to be checked or else the results will be disastrous. … When we obey ourselves, rather than God, then we are a wild patch of disorderliness within that garden of orderliness.”

Most of all, I think this following thought, from today’s study is well worth our meditation (I’ve re-arranged Selwyn’s words, but I think I’ve maintained the theme.): “Jesus is well aware of our tendency to stray off the path, and He offsets this tendency by going ahead of us and He makes Himself visible –  so that we may – more easily follow Him.” 

The more I think about what Jesus has done for us, and is doing for us – the more overwhelmed by His actions of love – I become, what about you?

Run-down souls

Selwyn, now turns his attention to a third view of the phrase: ‘He restores my soul.’ (Psalm 23)

It’s a view, that looks at how God restores us when we become spiritually debilitated. As Selwyn says: “Life has a tendency to run down, to get jaded and ragged at the edges, tires and lacking in zest.”

In the Old Testament, we read in many different area about the great desire of God to restore His people – many of the prophets spoke about the restoration of Israel, if they turned from their evil ways and followed the commandments – given to them by God.

In Psalm 80, we read: “Restore us, O God;  make your face shine on us,  that we may be saved.” And, in Isaiah 49:7-8 (NIV): “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances,to say to the captives,‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness,‘Be free!’ ”

Our God, is a God who desires to restore our relationship with Him; and, to restore us when we are run-down, so that we may be able to serve Him with all the strength our heart, mind and spirit can deliver. In 1 Peter 5:9-11; we see our God’s nature has not changed: ” … Resist the devil, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus loves you, He will restore you when you are tired and lacking in strength.

‘Little islands of wordliness’

Selwyn starts by saying: ‘ … we continue to meditate on how the divine Shepherd ‘restores us when wandering and brings us back into His way’.

He then looks at the issue of when we get too enmeshed with people who are seeking the pleasures of this world or when we chase after and consume those things, which satisfy our greed or sense of power.

He writes: “We go with the crowd … (and) soon temptation becomes too great for us, our defences crumble, and we rationalise the issues until the sin, which before we considered unthinkable, becomes first bearable, then inviting, then desirable.

How easy it is to find ourselves ‘going in the wrong direction’, not because of deliberate intention, but through a series of in-attentions. … The little islands of worldliness that lure us on will, unless we are careful, leave us lost and forlorn.”

In Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV), we read: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Everyone should be aware that the devil is constantly scheming to take the Word of life away from each one of us – he does not come to us as some dark, frightening monster but as a charming, delightful and entertaining citizen of this world. His main aim is to convince you that you can have what you want – right now; and, you don’t need to have a relationship with Jesus to possess what you desire or to exercise the freedom to do anything that pleases you.

If, we did not have the good Shepherd watching over us – all of us would dance to the devil’s tune. It’s only through the action of God’s amazing love, mercy and compassion that we can stand against the devil’s schemes.