But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. - Proverbs 4:18
It’s out there. There’s something more. The Apostle Paul knew it: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own (Philippians 3:12 ESV).
There is more to the Christian life than what you are experiencing. You know it in your heart. You have seen the light of dawn. You long for the brightness of full day - more knowledge of Christ, more joy through service, more peace. But when will you experience it? Where do you start?
Start here: Christ Jesus has made me his own. That touches you in the depths of your soul. You, a flawed sinner, have been chosen by Christ. He claims you. You do not deserve it. You cannot earn it. But you are his. Let that glorious thought resonate in your heart.
Christ dying on the cross to make you his own should humble you and bring you to tears, right? What if it doesn’t? What’s the problem?
Self-estimation. If you are so full of yourself, so confident that Christ is lucky to have you, then spiritually there is no motivation to press on. In your mind, unlike the Apostle Paul, you have attained it. You’re perfect.
My hope is that you want a deeper, richer relationship with Christ. You want to have his Spirit flow through you as you joyfully follow him down paths of service. You want to hear him speak to you through his Word. You want to be comforted by his promises.
Press on. Press on in the knowledge that you are his own. Press on for the best is yet to come. Let Christ fill your heart.
“...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...without grumbling or disputing...holding fast to the word of life…”
In English, “hold fast” was originally a nautical term, referring to the importance of gripping the ship’s rigging. Like the picture of a first century Roman grain ship in a storm, if you were on the deck, you would hang on to the rigging to keep from being swept overboard.
The Bible is like a ship’s rigging in the midst of the storms of life. The Apostle Paul wrote that you live “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” It is here that you “work out your own salvation.” You are to do it joyfully, “without grumbling,” and you are to “hold fast to the word of life.” A sure sign that you are not giving attention to the Bible is “grumbling” or complaining, which leads to “disputing.”
I have met negative, depressed people in the church, and so have you. What have they had in common? I cannot think of one who held fast to the Word of God. They held fast to a) the way they were raised or b) the way they were taught. But they did not hold fast to loving and reading and studying the Bible as food for their souls.
You want to be a disciple who is fascinated, absorbed, and captivated by the Word of God, don’t you? The only way you can “work out your own salvation” is by spending time in Bible study. I suggest you literally hold fast to your Bible. Carry it with you. Take it with you everywhere. Let it be your constant companion. You will be more inclined to read it. When the storm begins to rage, grab the rigging.
The Apostle Paul included in his letter to the church in Philippi what some scholars think is a hymn. In the second stanza, it closes with these words:
...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
These words come from Isaiah 45:23 -- Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. The Apostle Paul repeats this again (Romans 14:10-12): For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
One day every person will admit that Jesus is Lord. Some who have submitted and confessed him as Lord on this earth will do so with joy. Rebels who did not submit to his authority on earth will begrudgingly submit before him at the Judgment Seat of heaven and admit they were wrong. Yes, even rebels, for all their posturing and rationalizing, will bow before Jesus. They will condemn themselves. The Bible solemnly states: “If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15).
Brothers and sisters in Christ (former rebels saved by grace through faith), we need to reach rebels before they reach heaven.
“When you were weary and worn out, they [Amalek] met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God.”
Attacked in a moment of weakness and where you are most vulnerable. That’s the story of Amalek (Exodus 17;8-13; Deut. 25:17,18), a marauding tribe that attacked the Israelites shortly after leaving Egypt. Moses told Joshua to lead the battle in the valley while he climbed a hill to pray. Amalek attacked the weakest in the caravan - the elderly, families with children, all who walked at a slower pace. And what did God think of Amalek? “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” (Deut. 25:19)
You have your Amalek too. Your selfish desires combined with satanic oppression attack you when you are weak and where you are vulnerable. What does Exodus 17 teach us about Amalek?
1. Your Amalek must be faced. God could have sent fire from heaven and destroyed Amalek, but he didn’t. General Joshua had to lead the army into the valley to fight Amalek. Amalek was scary. This is the first battle on the journey to the promised land: no plagues destroying the enemy, no Red Sea drowning them.
2. You cannot defeat Amalek in your own power. Yes, you must go into the valley to fight. But remember, Moses was on the hill praying to God for victory. Where was the battle won? On the hill or in the valley? I don’t think it was an either/or but both. It took Moses on the hill and Joshua in the valley.
Will you make the changes necessary for victory? Growing Christians are always changing; dead Christians don’t have to.
Will you face your “Amalek”?
No. The Bible is clear that God filters out some prayers. He will not hear them.
Now I know that sounds mean or unfair. But a lot of time is wasted by a lot of people because their prayers never make it through God’s filter. So what prayers get filtered out by God? Here are a few examples -
What can a person do who cherishes sin in his or her heart, has unforgiven sin, has no compassion for those less fortunate, or ignores God’s law? I see at least four options:
Are you praying for family or for critical issues in your own life? It is not the words you pray but the life you live that determines whether your prayer gets through God’s filter. God will hear your prayer. Is there anything in your life that will get your prayer stuck in the filter?