Saturday, August 29, 2015

Misfit



In this dream I was trying to help a Native American woman escape from a commune. I had asked her to bring only her most important belongings when I came to get her, but I was shocked to find that she had a full-length, rigid “mummy” style sleeping bag and frame stuffed full of clothing, blankets, and other items she said she couldn’t live without.

Between the two of us, we could barely lift it, and I knew we would not be able to sneak away from the commune carrying it without being noticed and apprehended because we didn’t fit in.

In another scene in the dream I was in a large convention center, where I realized a reunion was taking place with school friends. I sat down at a table with one of my classmates, her daughter, and her daughter’s fiancĂ©, who had already started eating.

They greeted me pleasantly but I felt as if I were intruding on their family gathering. High tea was being served, and plates of delectable-looking sandwiches and pastries were being passed over my head to the various guests. I didn’t know whether or not I had prepaid for the meal, so I excused myself.

When I got up from my seat, I realized to my dismay that I was wearing three blouses, one on top of the other, all in mismatched colors. Even worse, I was wearing one worn-out black sneaker and one elegant white high heel! And, as it turned out, I was supposed to give a talk at one of the breakout groups at the meeting!

As I half scurried, half limped down the hall, a woman confronted me. “Do you know your shoes don’t match?” she asked.

“Yes, I must have been in too much of a rush to get here, and now I have to give a presentation dressed like this,” I replied.

“Well, it should be entertaining, and maybe your talk will be as unconventional as your outfit,” she said. “Maybe I’ll come and listen.”

As I awoke, I wondered about the symbolism of the dream and was struck by the common theme of not fitting in, whether I was in a rural commune or a modern convention center. It reminded me that we should not get too caught up in the cares of this world, for we are just strangers passing through a foreign country (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) on the all-too-brief journey (James 4:14) before we reach Heaven.

I am thankful that I am saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). His Word warns us to lay aside the burdens and weights (Hebrews 12:1) that would slow us down in the race He has set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24), just as the heavy, cumbersome sleeping bag full of worldly goods hindered escape from the commune and beginning on a new path.

The rigid “mummy” style of the sleeping bag was almost like a casket, reminding me that our weights can bury us alive, keeping us from the abundant, eternal life we have in Christ (John 3:16; 10:10). These weights are distinguished from sins, so they are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. But accumulation of excessive possessions, even if a few are needed for daily existence, can be a form of idolatry, just as the love of money (not money itself) is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Jesus told His disciples not to carry extra clothes on their journey (Luke 9:3; 10:4; 22:35), in part because it would ease their journey, and in part to strengthen their faith in His unfailing, daily provision (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3).

In the convention center part of the dream, it appeared at first glance that I had totally disobeyed Jesus’s instruction, for I was wearing three different blouses at the same time! But thinking about it further, the three blouses may symbolize the three coverings born-again Christians should wear: the garment of salvation (Isaiah 61:10), the cloak of His righteousness (Job 29:14), and the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).

In the dream I didn’t fit in, either in a fashion sense or in the family gathering of my old friend. But God has commanded us to be set apart from the world (Psalm 4:3; Romans 1:1), holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), and decently different, not conforming to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2) as it is washed in the Word (Ephesians 5:26).

At the school reunion, I had joined others without being invited and ended up regretting it. Jesus warned His followers not to take the best seats at gatherings, but to sit in the most lowly seat to avoid embarrassment (Luke 14:8-10). Far better to be invited to move up to the head table than to be asked to return to the cheap seats!

In this part of the dream, I didn’t know if my meal had been prepaid, which reminds me that we are faced with uncertainty every day about what expenses we will face and what the world will or won’t offer us. But praise God, His Son Jesus Christ has prepaid my sin debt in full! (Hebrews 10:10) He was the perfect, holy sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21; John 1:29) and ransom (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6) to purchase me from the slave market of sin (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), freeing me to live in abundant, eternal life with Him!

The two different shoes in the dream may represent the two natures that every child of God must deal with daily. The “old man” (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9) or sin nature in our flesh, drags us down, but the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our walk differs depending on which of these we follow.

When we walk in the flesh, following our carnal nature, we will sin and fall out of fellowship with God. But when we walk in the Spirit, we please and obey God and cannot sin (Romans 8:1-14), for He has elevated us to heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3,2:6) and washed us white as snow (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18). The daily battle (1 Corinthians 15:31) between these two opposing natures can be much more of a struggle than trying to walk fast wearing two very different shoes!

All the mismatched apparel in the dream also brought to mind the Apostle Paul’s desire to be all things to all people, so that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). We may not please the fashion police if we have on a variety of clothes, but each person who sees us might see something that draws them to us and makes them more likely to listen to our witness. In the dream, it was the oddity of my attire that piqued the other woman’s curiosity and made her want to hear what I had to say.

Without compromising His faith, beliefs, or Christian walk, Paul always sought common ground with those he witnessed to about the Gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). At Mars Hill, Paul told the superstitious Romans that He knew the true God Whom they unwittingly called “the unknown God” (Acts 17:22-23).

When Paul was invited to a meal, he did not question whether the food had been offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25-27), and yet he tried never to be a stumbling block to a brother or sister weaker in the faith, who might feel that they had to adhere to certain dietary laws (1 Corinthians 8).
 
Praise God that He has preserved a remnant of believers and called out His church to be set apart and consecrated to His service! I don’t mind feeling like a misfit in this old sinful world, for one day I shall see my Lord and Savior face to face! Then I shall be as He is, in glorious fellowship with Him and with brothers and sisters in Christ throughout all time! 


© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Where is God When You Walk Away?



As we have seen in the preceding posts, the born-again child of God (John 3:3-8) who has trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) cannot lose his salvation and is eternally secure (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39). Jesus promised that He would never cast out any who have come to Him, for it is His Father’s will that He should lose none of His children and that all of them have eternal life (John 6:37-40).

In His prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for every one of us who have trusted Him, for He kept secure every one whom the Father had given Him. Notably, that did not include Judas Iscariot, the “son of perdition,” who outwardly appeared to follow Him but who never had placed his faith in Him (John 17:9-24).

Once we are God’s children (Romans 8:14), He exhorts us to leave evil and wickedness behind (2 Timothy 2:19). But even Paul said he had to "die daily" to his flesh and yield to the Spirit to avoid sinning, a battle he did not always win, for none of us can (Romans 7:14-23). When we do sin (Romans 3:10,23; 1 John 1:8-10), it is our old sin nature winning out, not the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot sin (1 John 1:4-7).

If God were to throw us out of His family whenever we sin, or whenever we sin "enough," how could He then chasten us (Hebrews 12:5-11) as a Father chastens His children? What would sinning "enough" to merit expulsion from God’s family even mean? Holy God does not differentiate levels of sin, and cannot tolerate in His presence any sin or any sinner who has not been washed clean in the blood of Christ (Romans 3:25; Revelation 1:5) and taken on His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

If a believer were expelled from God’s family whenever he sinned, even if the sin is so grievous that he tries to convince others of lies and false teachings, it would leave no room for the chastening hand of God to correct and perfect him, leading him back to the truth and to the right path (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Why would any child of God “walk away” from the faith? Reasons could include loss of mental faculties or psychiatric illness, or severe life circumstances causing one to doubt God or to be angry with Him. Or, perhaps most commonly, falling in with the wrong crowd and being influenced by them (2 Peter 3:16-17), or listening to and believing the lies Satan is blasting over the airwaves (Colossians 2:8; 2 Timothy 3:13; 4:3) through his wicked people in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

We should stand firm in our faith (1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 6:11-14), but pride or unbelief may cause us to fall from stedfastness into reproach, temptations, lust or condemnation, meaning disapproval but not damnation (1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 4:11; 2 Peter 3:17; James 5:12)

Knowing that his time is limited, the devil is working overtime to spread false teachings, to keep people from being saved by the truth and to ruin the fruitfulness and testimony of those who are saved. For this reason, we must constantly be on guard not to believe his lies (1 Peter 5:8-10), by studying God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16), knowing and standing for what we believe (Colossians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58), and putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

But what if we do drift away by turning our path, attention, and affection to the world and away from Him? As the saying goes, if we find ourselves separated from God, it is we who have moved, and not Him. He cannot change or lie (Hebrews 13:8; Titus 1:2), for He is faithful (Psalm 89:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13) and true (James 1:17), and He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

So what does God do with His child who has “walked away” and may even be encouraging others to do the same? First, He speaks with His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), perhaps convicting them of their error through a Bible verse they see or hear (2 Timothy 3:16), or a word from a Godly friend (Proverbs 27:17). If it is not too late and their conscience has not yet been seared (1 Timothy 4:2), He speaks to them through His Spirit.

Then it may take harsher measures, just as a loving earthly father resorts to when his child still disobeys in response to “the look” that means “Don’t even think about doing that again;” the verbal correction, and the “time out.” Then the earthly father may take away the child’s privileges, and God may allow Satan to remove what is important in the life of His child – health, wealth, job, and even family.

We see God allowing Satan this power in the life of Job (Job 1:8-22) even though God considered Job to be His faithful servant, to perfect Job and to glorify God when He restored all to Job (Job 42:10-17).

But what if God allows trials into the life of His child to correct him and to increase his faith, and yet the child still rebels? As our late pastor at our former church used to say, “Sometimes God gets more glory from His child’s death than from his life.” Even within the church, or called-out body of believers, there are vessels which honor the Father and are suitable for His use, and those which dishonor Him (2 Timothy 2:19-21).

If we are dishonoring God by ruining our own testimony and discouraging or deceiving others, God may not only prune us as He would unfruitful branches (John 15:1-2), but He may allow Satan to take our life and destroy our flesh (Ezekiel 18:24-26) before we can do more damage.

Even then, however, our loving Father takes us home to be with Him throughout eternity. We cannot lose our salvation or our relationship to God as His born-again children, even though we can lose the joy of our salvation while on earth (Psalm 51:12), our fellowship with God (1 John 1:3-6), our earthly life itself (Matthew 10:28; Romans 6:23), and the eternal rewards we could have had by fulfilling God’s perfect plan for our lives (2 John 1:8-9).

All of the above applies only to the person who has truly realized that they are a sinner in need of a Savior; that Jesus Christ paid in full for all of their sins (Romans 3:23-26); that He is the Son of God (1 John 5:20) Who rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4); and who has asked Him to be his Lord and Savior (Luke 23:42-43). When we are saved, we become a new creation in Christ, and there should be evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17). As Jesus said, “by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:15-20).

No doubt there are many who have said the “sinner's prayer” without truly repenting or placing their faith in Christ, and without asking Him into their heart (Matthew 7:21-23). They may have done it only to please someone else, to fit in with their peer group, or even to try to go to Heaven without having a relationship with Christ.

These people are still unsaved, and they may subsequently "walk away" or “fall away” from the faith they never really had. But only God knows the hearts (Psalm 44:21; 139:23) and knows whether they have accepted or rejected His Son.

Therefore, I believe that a better way to state "Once Saved, Always Saved" is "Once TRULY Saved, always saved." May we remain stedfast, unmoveable, and continuing in the work He has so graciously appointed to us (1 Corinthians 15:58), always setting Him before us and at our right hand, so that we shall not be moved (Psalm 16:8). Once we are truly saved and born again as a new creation in Christ, may we stand fast and walk with Him in the light, yield to His Holy Spirit guiding us into truth, and may we do all to His glory!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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