Well, it’s getting cold, the weather is getting wetter and windier…you know what that means…
CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!!! 😀 😀 😀
Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, my friends. Come Thanksgiving, my mom and I will be roasting the turkey to “Christmas Shoes” by Newsong and “We Three Kings,” the Aly & Aj rendition. It’s hard to believe the semester and the month of October is nearly half over.
This morning during my time with God, I was reading through Cynthia Heald’s devotional called A Woman of Excellence. There are often many things the world asks of women: to be strong, to be independent, to be able, to be more competent than her inferiors, to know who her inferiors are. But God, in all His wonder and in light of His deep, intimate understanding of how women work and in what attitude and in which environment they’ll thrive, wants His daughters, His soldiers, to be feminine, tender, kind, excellent, elegant (meaning, carrying herself well, not as with poise, because I would otherwise be excluded from the status of redeemed, since I’m ridiculously clumsy), and loving.
“Hunter, soldiers can’t be feminine and tender and kind and all of those soft, weak things. They have to be tough.”
But see that’s the problem. What’s the bigger fight: filling the role the world has created for women, or going against the world and filling the role God has asked women to play? Soldiers fight…what are women doing should they choose to fill a role aside from what is normally accepted? You do the math.
Anyway, Cynthia Heald talked about the will, the human will, which is interesting because I’ve never really thought about that before and how God sees the human will. Well, with the will comes the discipline of the will. Let me explain.
Human ‘will’ is a few things. It’s 1) customary behavior, or the core of yourself that’s used to indicate the way that something usually happens or the way that somebody usually does something, 2) the power to decide or the determination to do something, and/or 3) the attempt of making or trying to make something happen or somebody do something by the power of the mind.
Now, this might seem like the introduction to a very deep, philosophical dissection of the will and the psyche and all of that wonderful stuff. But no, this is not that. The human will in scripture often brings about words like “discipline,” “self-control,” and “sacrifice.” It’s the desire to grow, to follow, to press onward towards Christ and a deeper knowledge and understanding of who He is. Don’t mistake me: this is not how salvation is acquired.
John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
And John 14:6 says “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
And, finally, Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that I cannot boast.”
So, our eternal salvation has nothing to do with what we do or think we can do to try and merit God’s favor. There is nothing we can do and no amount of good things we can accomplish or pursue to get into heaven. It’s not possible. David, in the Psalms, talks about this extensively, how every man is born a sinner and we’re on a one way road to hell…until we realize that God has intervened, that He’s given us a way out, but not just a get-out-of-jail-free card…no, it’s more than that.
And when Christ calls us to Him, when He enraptures our hearts with His love and majesty and power, He simply says, “Follow me,” like He did with His disciples, asking nothing of us until we make a commitment to give our lives to Him, to follow Him and live for Him with abandon.
Then, as we grow in Christ, as we allow ourselves to be “transformed…from one degree of glory to another,” and we allow the slow renewal of our minds, our will begins to leave our hands and the very core of our being are carefully exchanged for the will of God and for His desires and for the way He sees the world.
But none of this happens, save through the grace of God and the human will.
2 Peter 1:5-7, says “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
To ‘supplement’ can also mean to ‘add’. Oswald Chambers said, “‘Add to your faith virtue…’ (1 Peter 1:5). ‘Add’ means there is something we have to do. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save ourselves nor sanctify ourselves, God does that; but God will not give us good habits, He will not give us character, He will not make us walk aright. We have to do all that ourselves, we have to work out the salvation God has worked in. ‘Add’ means to get into the habit of doing things…”
It’s hard to think about the fact that God, in some respect, does leave us to our own devices, though He never does leave us entirely alone. God, when we’re saved, places in our hearts and minds the desire to trust, to push towards, and to pursue our purpose given to us by Him…He’s given us a “spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and of self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7)…but it takes us acting on this desire, it takes us exercising discipline and constantly asking Him for help in doing so to get into the habits of ‘adding’ virtue to our faith and becoming the men and women God so desires us to be.
Romans 12:2 meets Christians with a charge, a challenge to either accept or decline, and that is “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The life of the disciple is not for the faint of heart. I’ve often wondered at the similarities between the words ‘disciple’ and ‘discipline’. A disciple-woman of excellence and of purpose and of grace and of faith is something that God-fearing women should be consistently working towards, not because their salvation depends on it, but because God loves them and refuses to leave them in the sad, unsure, anxious, hurting state He found them in.
I’ve never thought about this in-depth before. I’ve always thought my emotions were what needed training, but underneath the emotions, the core that God desires the most to be sacrificed unto to Him, is my will, my desire.
“Cease to consider your emotions, for they are only the servants; and regard simply your will, which is the real king in your being. Is that given up to God? Does your will decide to believe? Does your will choose to obey?…And when you have got hold of this secret…that you need not attend to your emotions but simply to the state of your will, all the Scripture commands to yield yourself to God, to present yourself a living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1), to abide in Christ (John 15:5), to walk in the light, to die to self, become possible to you; for you are conscious that in all these your will can act, and can take God’s side; whereas, if it had been your emotions that must do it, you would, knowing them to be utterly uncontrollable, sink down into helpless despair….”
—Hannah Whitall Smith
Wow. So, while our emotions are powerful, both as men and women, even more powerful and more vital to give up is our will. And when it comes right down to it, when we find ourselves, after years of being with Christ, it’s not that we even need more knowledge, but rather the discipline to act on and apply that knowledge. This is why Christians have such a bad rap, I think, because we have so much knowledge of the scriptures and of Christ but refuse to discipline and deny ourselves and really become a servant of God via our physical bodies, our will, and our emotions alike. We’re afraid of being uncomfortable and different.
Now, discipline, though it may seem like it, isn’t rigid. Richard Foster wrote “The disciplined person is a flexible person…The disciplined person is always free to respond to every movement of divine Grace.” Being disciplined helps us be on the ball, always having our “A-game” present and always being immersed in God’s word even if we’re without a Bible. And discipline should never (which is why I laid out the way of salvation at the beginning of this post) become legalistic. What I mean by this is your discipline and self-control should never be morphed into the lie that is legalism, which is, according to Swindoll, “conformity to a standard for the purpose of exalting self.” That is NOT what discipline is meant to be. It’s meant to be a denial of self and an acceptance of Christ.
And people will look at you like you’re a weirdo and they’ll say, believers and unbelievers alike, “you’re taking this Christian thing way too seriously.” It’s happened to me several times while I’ve been here. But God’s purpose is plain and His desires for our lives and our relationships with Him are manifest in His word, and I don’t dare say He’s not serious when He says via Paul to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2), or when He presents us with an example to follow in 2 Corinthians 10, saying “We (believers, children of God) destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (v. 5).
Now, I’m not perfect. Not even close. And I don’t know everything. But I do know that when God says something, He means it, and even when I don’t believe that what He says is true and solid and sure, it doesn’t make it any less valid and absolute, because God’s character and will and word doesn’t changed based on my feelings. God is working on and in me and I have to believe that I’m a change in the making and He, with every day and every moment and every morning and every evening, loves me through each stage I go through, each trial I face. He loves me when I’m afraid and when I forget who He is and who I am. He loves me and works on me when I’m overdramatic and overemotional and oversensitive. He’s given me the spirit and the tools and the will to do what He wants and to become a soldier in His army, to train and discipline and surrender my will, mind, and emotions to Him, and will, with discipline, transform me by His grace, the only factor that makes this change possible. And it’s worth it 🙂
“We should do well to think of the Christian life as the path of disciplined Grace. It is discipline, because there is work for us to do. It is Grace, because the life of God which we enter into is a gift which we can never earn. Lovingly God works his life into us by Grace alone, joyfully we hammer out the reality of this new life on the anvil of discipline. Remember, discipline in and of itself does not make us righteous; it merely places us before God. Having done this, discipline has reached the end of its tether. The transformation…is God’s work.” —Richard Foster