Friday, November 7, 2014

Abide. Know. Live.

I've come to the conclusion that I will probably never be one of those bloggers... You know, the ones with regularly scheduled posts filled with fun crafts, inspiring devotionals, and perfect snapshots.  I confess, that's not likely for me.

When I first started this blog years ago, I thought I had something to offer the world. I would inspire women to love God and love their husbands with my bloggy words. But the older I get, the more I grow in the Lord, the more I realize I have nothing.

And that's okay with me.

I am finding, seeing, truly coming into the realization that words are just words without the power of the Spirit behind them.  Even good words, lofty theological statements, encouraging advice, wonderful poetry... it's all for nothing if God's power, His immense love, isn't speaking them through me.

So I have come to a point where I see that I have nothing to write or say unless God gives me the words.  I have witnessed God speak a thousand sentences through one word. Yet I have often spoken a thousand sentences without a single word from Him. He does not need me to be crafty and witty and convincing. He does not require me to be a wordsmith.  His power goes beyond my ability to write well... or even write at all.

Sometimes I feel tempted to go through my blog and delete posts that, I feel, were inspired by legalism, not the Lord. Mine has been a journey where the Lord frees me over and over again from all sorts and flavors of legalism. I love it yet I hate it.

The voice of the Lord cries out to me, "Know Me!" and, in my past, I have often turned to the things that look like God rather than God Himself.  I am reminded of "The Love Chapter," 1 Corinthians 13:

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Speaking in tongues. Prophecy. Spiritual knowledge and understanding. Faith. All things pertaining to the Christian life, but still... nothing, absolutely nothing, without Love.

And what is this love? This love that is patient, kind? This love that does not envy or boast and is not prideful?  This love that honors? This love that is not selfish and self-seeking?  This love that is not easily angered, but is long-suffering and forgiving?  This love that keeps no record of wrongs?  What is this love that takes absolutely no delight in anything even slightly evil, and always rejoices in truth?  What is this love that protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres continually without fail?

It is not a thing. It is not an emotion. It is a Person.

Love is a relational Being.

Love is Christ.

This love certainly isn't that which we humans call love.  Our human love isn't consistently any of those things.  Our human love is always self-centered, even when we believe it not to be, because it is always seeking to love from our own power, for our own good, for our own purpose. Our fleshly love deceives even ourselves. That thing we call love, it always boils down to one thing. Me.

Just as legalism always boils down to one thing. Me.

Who I am. What I do. What I think you should do. How I look. How I think you should look. What I think the bible says on any given subject. My theology.

That's where Jesus invades, in that place of me and my and I, and breaks it all down.

There Christ is, on the mountain with his disciples (Matt. 7), teaching those around him, and he says something that we often misinterpret.

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. 
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

Christ is the vine, we are the branches. He is the tree of life, we are the limbs that stretch forth from it. He is the good tree.  Branches don't really do anything in and of themselves.  The very nature of a branch is to grow and produce fruit, but not apart from the life of the tree.  The point is, the branches are connected to the tree.  They are in direct relationship with the tree. Cut off a branch and the life will quickly drain from it. It cannot sprout leaves apart from it's source of life, just as we cannot produce anything apart from our Source of Life— Christ.

It's about relationship.  Yet, in the past, I often read that and thought, "I must go forth and do good works!"

Jesus makes actually makes the opposite point in the second paragraph.  If we look at this from our mindset of "doing", it can seem like a contradiction.  There will be many who come to Christ on that day and say, "I did Your will! I did many good things for you, God! Look at my Christian works, Lord!"

How many times have I tried to stamp God's name on my works? My striving.  My good deeds.

But Christ says, No. Those weren't my works.  That was not fruit produced from the will of My Father. Who are you? You don't have a relationship with me! I don't know you!

How many times has God had to pluck off my taped-on fruit.  No Mandy. This not real. This is not life. This is not what I'm calling you to do.  Come to Me. Come follow Me. Come know Me.

When Jesus called to each of the men who would become His disciples, He wasn't just calling them to trail behind him and copy Him. He was calling them into an intimate relationship with Him.  Come get to know Me.  He was inviting them into His life.

So often I read Jesus's words, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven," and thought His will was made up of my good, Christian deeds.

But now, I believe that His Will is found in John 15 (AMP)

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. 
If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned. 
If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 
When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine.
I believe that all of Scripture, even the Old Testament, points us to a relationship with Christ, not the following of a law.  Even the law was meant to point it's followers to a relationship with God.

It seems that Jesus is saying to those people who did all the good Christian works in His name, "You don't abide in me. I don't know You. You are not part of Me. You are not vitally united to Me."

The Will of the Father is that we would abide in Christ, and by our abiding—by our life being swallowed up in His—fruit would be produced for the glory and honor of God.

I think I shared this before, but it's worth sharing again. My friend Lauren has told me, on more than one occasion, that I am just a hose.  We are just hoses for Christ. A hose is simply a conduit for running water. It cannot produce water in and of itself. It must be connected to the water source for it to be of any real purpose.

Likewise, we cannot produce anything without being connected to our Source.  That goes far beyond checking the box of "going to church" and participating in fellowship gatherings.  It means, moment by moment, second by second, being connected to the Lord and living from His strength.

There's always a temptation to live from our own strength.  There's a battle, our flesh wars against us to use it's own power, rather than live empty and open and needy.  But God doesn't work through our own "can do".  We see, in the bible, that He used men and women who were small.  The unlikely.  The runt of the litter. The man who stuttered. The needy women.

And the people who thought they were powerful and mighty?  He humbled them. Their pride often led to their own demise.  Their fullness of self was their own poison.

So it brings me back to the point of having nothing to offer.  And being okay with that.  Because where I am weak, God is strong.  The reality is we are all weak.  But it is only where we acknowledge our weakness and lay it down before God— no excuses, no more, "I think I can,"—that God swoops in with His power and strength for His glory.


Kaylene haase said...

Thanks I like this

Christine Tan-Eng said...

Dear Mandy,
I first read your post when I was a struggling new mother who took comfort in and drew inspiration from your words. I loved your candidness, loved the way you bare your heart, loved your desire to know God, loved the lovely things you did with your kids. I almost wished I was you!
It has been a span of seven years and two more kids and a while since I visited your blog. I thought of you just now and found this post...
And I want to say that I still like you, Mandy. In a different way now. I no longer want to be like you but I am delighted that I am growing with you. We have an amazing God who holds us so dearly in His embrace, even though we are two very different ewes, continents apart.
Indeed we are nothing without Christ and what a relief! We don't have to try to be anything but to sink deep in His LOVE and REST secure, knowing He will bear fruits through us, effortlessly. All of Him and none of us...
Dear Mandy, praying that the crashing unceasing waves of His grace upon grace engulf you every moment of your life. Praying blessings upon you and yours.

💗 Christine

Mandy Mom said...

Thanks for your wonderful comment And prayer!

Mandy Mom said...

Thanks for your wonderful comment And prayer!

Countrylivingmama said...

Hey Mandy,

I would love to hear more from you about your experience of breaking free from legalism.

I have such a "boxy" brain. Meaning I like "rules". I like knowing what to do and what not to do.

This gives me the propensity to gravitate towards Religion rather than Jesus.

Yes, I am a sinner saved by Grace. But for more than half my Christian life, I've been taught that you had to do this or that. Had to wear this or that, etc to please God.

I want to please God by loving Him and believing that He is who He says he is And He loves me. Right where I'm at.

Janet.... Countrylivingmama

Sarah D. said...

Hey girl! This is Sarah from @messylittlesmilesorganics
I loooove your blog. I so look forward to reading it! I shared it on my personal fb today, hope you don't mind ;)