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Archive for the ‘Dependence on God’ Category

Given the pervasive nature of fear, it seems wise for us to consider more of what the Bible would teach us about fear and fighting fear.

On the nature of fear . . . 

  • There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  1John 4:18
  • The love of God for us is perfect love.  When we walk in the love of God, in fellowship with Him, abiding in His word and living by His Spirit, we can experience a life free of fear.  In fellowship with God, the torment must flee and the Spirit of God brings peace, the peace that passes understanding.
On why we shouldn’t fear . . .
  • Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  Matthew 10:26
  • Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Luke 12:32 (Jesus speaking)
Without fear, it is possible to have peace
  • You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.  Isaiah 26:3
With God, we have a remedy for our fear.  Look to Jesus, author and finisher of our faith.  Focus on what God has done, is doing and will do.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . . look full in His wonder face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

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Continuing in this series of posts on Knowing God and specifically knowing of His great love for us, we look today at another picture from the Old Testament that give us further insight into the great love of God.

In Exodus 13:21-22, we’re told, ” the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night and  He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.”

In Numbers 9:17-22   we read the following more specific discussion of the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire:   “Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents.  At the command of the LORD the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped.  Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not journey.  So it was, when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days: according to the command of the LORD they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the LORD they would journey.  So it was, when the cloud remained only from evening until morning: when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they would journey; whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they would journey. 22 Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey. “

The following can be see about the amazing love of God from these passages of scripture:

  • God is a light to dispel the darkness around us. The Israelites were in the middle of the wilderness.  No street lights cut through the darkness of night.  No lights from far off buildings or roads could be seen.  BUT GOD provided a light for His children, so they would not be left in the dark.  This light could be seen from all over the camp.  It was God’s presence with them, pushing back the darkness.
  • God is a cloud to protect us from the heat. The pillar of cloud provided relief from the scorching desert sun.  The Israelites were in the wilderness in Israel with desert terrain, rocks, few trees and limited relief from the relentless sun for 12-15 hours a day.  Under the cloud, close to God’s presence, the people would have been able to find some relief.  God was the protection from burning, a cool respite, a comfort.  He is that for us as well.
  • God is a guide for us on the path that He has chosen for us. The fool in his rebellion and self-reliance resists the guidance of an almighty and all-knowing God.  God by the picture of the pillar of fire/pillar of cloud shows that He is our guide.  If we will but look up and keep our eyes on Him, He will lead us in the way we should go.
  • God desires to teach us dependence on Him alone. The great love of God is that He desires close and living relationship with us.  The desire for relationship is what caused Jesus to go to the cross, “for the joy set before Him.”  That joy was us, the idea of relationship with us, something never possible without the perfect blood sacrifice to satisfy the law’s requirement for sin.  The pillar of cloud and fire is a picture of the dependence and relationship God is looking for with us, a daily relationship of dependence.  The Israelites didn’t know what they were doing or where they were going each day until they looked up to the presence of God in the camp.  Did the cloud move?  Were they traveling today?  So too with us.  We must have a daily dependence, daily relationship with God.  We must check with Him each day to know how to proceed.

Amazing love . . . that causes a God, who is totally sufficient in Himself, to seek to do for us  what we cannot do for ourselves.  Look to Him!  Rely on Him!  He is faithful.

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It may seem a strange question, but I am sure to those who don’t know God, the idea of prayer must seem very strange.  I am not ashamed to tell you that I pray to God because I am totally insufficient to solve my problems without God.

I was not always so insufficient to the task.  I spent a good 15 years in charge of my own life with no sovereign over me.  I had turned my back on the God who saved me because I felt “I could handle my life myself.”  I think you can imagine how that turned out.  I ruined my health, I ruined my relationships, and I was left depressed and hopeless most of the time despite having a successful career, my own business, a child and a house.  My sufficiency was woefully inadequate.  Turns out, I could not control myself or others, and I was exhausted from trying to keep everything together.

I was fortunate in that my God did not leave me to my own sufficiency, but rather He came looking for me.  Like the shepherd who lost one sheep and left the 99 others to go find the one that was lost, my God came to find me where I had wandered.  He found me lost, alone, dirty and caked with the mud of the world.  He carried me back to the flock, and He cleaned me up and set me feet on the rock and gave me a new song.   I would never go back by the grace of God.

I pray to God because He alone is able.

I pray to God because He is willing.

I pray to God because He loves me and wants what is best for me.

It is because of God’s goodness that He answers my prayers.

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LIFE COMES FROM DEPENDENCE, NOT INDEPENDENCE

You probably hear the same things I hear.  The young woman says of her marriage, “I want to work.  I don’t want to be dependent on my husband.”   The grandmother confides in her friends, “I don’t want to ever be dependent on my children.”  The newlyweds concur, “We don’t want to be dependent on our parents.”   The non-believer says, “I’ll never be a Christian; I don’t want to have a crutch or have to rely on someone else.”  My question for all of them is, “Why not?”

How is it that we have gotten so isolationist in our thinking that we want to disentangle ourselves from the very web of support God places around us to care for, support and nurture us?  It is clearly a lie from the pit of hell.

God is a God of relationship.  Relationship is always about dependence, not independence.  For example, if you are dating someone and his or her greatest desire is to be independent of you and receive nothing from you, I put it to you that the relationship will not be very fulfilling and is not likely to last very long.

Independence is a euphemism for isolation.  If one is independent of everyone, he or she is alone and thus isolated – an island unto him or herself.  Islands are nice places to visit, but an island has difficulty sustaining abundant life for very long.  So too spiritually.  In my own example, my independence from God brought gradual creeping death to my soul.  I appeared on the outside to have apparent worldly success, an education, a career, my own business, financial stability, a house, a baby . . .   Inside, I was lost, confused, empty and longing for something – I didn’t know what.

Even after I came back to the Lord and began to build my fellowship with God by going to church and attaching some outward signs of faith to my life, I still felt times of great death in my soul.  Darkness could easily creep in and spread.  Without the callouses and vices of the world to medicate against the pain, it was worse than before.  It was one such episode of darkness and depression which hit me so hard and so unexpectedly I was unable to pull myself up by my boot straps.  I turned to blame the only one I knew . . . God.

“God,” I cried.  “Why are you allowing this? (At least my theology was good – God is sovereign over all things.)  I’m going to church.  I’m reading in my Bible.  I’m singing songs to you and crying with true love and emotion to you, so why did you let this darkness descend on me again?”  I knew not long after asking the question God’s answer.  He gently showed me, with no condemnation or anger, that I had allowed the darkness.  I had invited it in, and while he had held it at bay for a time, it was now time for me to deal with the darkness.  Time to fish or cut bait.  The darkness, He showed me, was able to reach me because I had a divided heart.  I still had parts of my life which I had not given over to His lordship.  I still had great areas of independence from Him.  His desire was for my entire life to come under His lordship.  I needed to surrender all.  He promised me that if I surrendered all, this darkness, caused by separation from God by my own sin, would never come back in the same way.  And so it was.

I said, “No” to the sin that I was engaged in.  I threw myself at His feet and begged Him not to ever allow me to get separated from Him again.  I didn’t have all the doctrine and theology to point to at the time.  I wasn’t very well schooled in my Bible, but I knew God had pointed to the compromise in my life and said, “Choose.”  It was an easy choice.  The walking out of the choice was more difficult.  Saying “no” to sin in your own life is often much easier than telling your partner or partners in sin of your choice.  They are not always at the same point your are spiritually and may resist putting aside the sin.  However, God is able to bring to completion the work in you and the work in me.

Each day since that time, I have grown in my dependence on God.  I have gradually changed my mind about independence.  I no longer view it as a positive attribute for anyone. I have learned that in marriage, there is no room for independence.  In the family of God, there is no room for independence.  In my walk with Jesus, there is no room or desire for independence.  I want to wholly rely on Jesus.  I want no glimmer of my own righteousness to show through (it is as filthy rags).  I only want God to view me in the righteousness of Christ.  That requires my total dependence on Christ.  In total dependence on Christ, I am able to be restored to that relationship with God that Adam and Eve had before the fall, a relationship based on close fellowship where all decisions are made based on the fellowship and dependence on a loving and nurturing Father who is almighty, all-knowing and all powerful.

May the God of all mercy show you how to be totally dependent on Him.  May you rejoice daily in the wonder of an all-sufficient God who loves you.

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THE LIE OF INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY

Independence from God is never equivalent to freedom.  It is in total dependence on God that we have freedom – freedom from sin, freedom from fear, freedom from worry and anxiety and most-importantly, freedom from judgment – the judgment of a holy God due sinful man.  All men are sinful.  The Bible teaches that none are righteous and that the wages of sin is death.  The only true freedom is that which comes from God.  Only He can promise a genuine and lasting freedom.

When I was sixteen, I obtained the first key to my “independence” from my parents.  I started working at the Jacksonville Pharmacy in Jacksonville, Maryland.  You might have a hard time understanding what a coup that really was.  Practically everyone in our loosely-defined town went into that Pharmacy at least once a week.  Some came in every day or evening on their way home from work.  It was a hub of activity and community news.

It was that $3.35 per hour that gave me my first real “independence” (so called).  From that point forward, I purchased my car, my gas, my insurance, my incidentals, etc.  I thought of myself as independent even though I was only 16 and still living at home.  I thought I was independent, but looking back now, I can see I really wasn’t totally free of dependence on my parents for the roof over my head, health insurance, food and other expenses of everyday life.

I can draw a parallel to my spiritual life.  During my college years, I turned from my relationship with God to assert my independence from His restrictions.  (I now see them as cords of love.)  I took on sin and tried to be its master.  I think you can guess how that ended.  It mastered me.  I sinned well and with frequency and depravity and thought little of God.  I had become “independent”, a place I would never recommend.  It was a place filled with emptiness and despair and darkness so heavy it can push all the air out of your lungs.  Independence from God was a place of slow death of my soul – a death that would have gone on for eternity, a death that would have separated me from God forever.  It is a law of nature that independence brings death.  What happens to the flower cut from the stem?  The branch cut from the tree?    Death.  Life is found and sustained only with connection to the vine.

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jesus speaking)

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Putting aside self-sufficiency for good

According to C. Hummel in Tyranny of the Urgent, “The root of all sin is self-sufficiency,  independence from the rule of God.  When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions, if not with our words, that we do not need Him.”

DEPENDENCE

According to 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  The message is clearly, “Be as weak as possible, and I will make known my strength through you.”

We (mankind), were designed to depend.  If you go back to the garden, God’s design was that mankind should live his life forever (remember they were not prohibited from the Tree of Life) in fellowship with God.  He desired not that man rely on his own wisdom or knowledge of good and evil, but that man would make his decisions based on his close fellowship with God.  Several possible explanations for God’s design come to mind:

  • It could be that God knew that a moral standard of good and evil, right and wrong, would not be sufficient for us.  We, apart from fellowship with God, would choose evil over good.  It could be that God, for His sheer delight, desired to impart His wisdom and guidance to us, one by one and day by day.  The picture is one of a loving and involved father teaching and guiding a beloved son or daughter.
  • It could also be that God knew that we cannot keep very many rules or guidelines on our own without encouragement and reminder.
  • It could be He knew that our greatest need is the constant unconditional love of our Father.  It is the fuel for our human souls.  It is what keeps us healthy and able to move forward.
  • It could be that these reasons and purposes are only known to the Almighty.  In any event, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Father was God’s first choice for us.
It was a grasp at self-dependence that severed that fellowship in the garden of Eden more than 6,000 years ago.  You know the story.  Eve was deceived by the serpent.  She fell prey to two of his well-worn strategies:
  1. First, she was not clear on what God had said, so she was easily deceived by the serpent’s misrepresentation of God’s word.
  2. Second, she was lured into believing the lies of the serpent because of her desire to be independent of God (to be like a god herself).
  3. THE BAD NEWS . . . The root of all independence is that same desire in each of us. The consequence of Eve’s grab for independence was separation from God for herself and her family.

    THE GOOD NEWS . . . The cross is the provision for restored fellowship and dependence on God.  God has made a way to restore what was lost in the garden.  Hallelujah!

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