And then this week, I read this- about discipleship, and doing the real, day-in, day-out practices of faith that lead to spiritual growth & maturity in Christ. It's from Dallas Willard:
"But, someone will say, can I not be 'saved'-- that is, get into heaven when I die-- without any of this? Perhaps you can. God's goodness is so great, I am sure that He will let you in if He can find any basis at all to do so. But you might wish to think about what your life amounts to before you did, about what kind of person you are becoming, and about whether you really would be comfortable for eternity in the presence of One whose company you have not found especially desirable for the few hours and days of your earthly existence. And He is, after all, One who says to you now, 'Follow me!' "
It is such a huge call, to follow Christ. It is no small thing. Not a decision made once, in response to an altar call at church camp... not a fire insurance policy. No, following Christ is a daily thing.
Sometimes so painful, but in that pain, there is growth, and it is good. Like those old growing pains... oh I remember when I was about 9 or 10 and my legs would have these shooting pains-- they were not pleasant, but they were for my good. I needed to grow taller; God was stretching out my body so that I might grow into womanhood and have a frame that would support the weight and demands it would need to carry.
Recently, God allowed me to see the extent of my sin-- specifically, He has graciously placed pressures in my life that have revealed my anger. For many years, this sin lay dormant in my life, and then it slowly crept out as pressures mounted... but in the last year in particular, it has become clear: I have allowed myself to be mastered, enslaved, by anger... and the realization of this has brought me lower than I think I have ever been.
But IT IS FOR MY GOOD that God has brought me low. He allows these momentary pressures so that He can refine and shape my life. Just like that orange, He is simply squeezing out of me what is already there. He is revealing what exists in me.
I am trying to willingly put myself under His hand... to submit to this refining process. To work with Him, instead of kicking against Him. This whole week has been a process of looking to Him daily, even moment-by-moment, depending on Him and greatly desiring His guidance (through the Spirit and the Word).
"Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..." ~Hebrews 12:1-2
Re-reading this book online-- free!-- that I read in college, has proven instructive and fruitful for giving me a biblical foundation for seeking a breakthrough in the fight against the hold of this sin in my life. Rightly calling it what it is & confessing it with true contrition to those who have been hurt by it has brought it into the light. And the light is where I long to live. I want to have my life and heart be on the inside what it is on the outside, and what it is on the outside on the inside. I want anyone who looks at any thread in my life to see what is in every other thread... a true desire to be like Christ. To be a person who loves as I am loved, who roots out and fights against the hold of sin, who continually submits myself to this process of being shaped and refined by my Maker, who fights for justice, and encourages everyone to be free in Christ. To be -truly- free in Christ myself.
Getting real about discipleship means that I have to do the real work of it, daily. I can not sit back and "let go and let God". I will welcome this squeezing, and will be real about what pours out of my heart. Prayerfully, I will refill those squeezed-out places with Christ... with His Word, with His ways, with His Spirit. With His strength, I will not allow those places to be reclaimed by the stronghold of sin. By His help, I will work with all my might to be more like Jesus.
I am writing this in a continued effort to be transparent here, and this blog would not be a full picture of my life if I did not deal with my ugly sin in a straightforward way. This is who I am, but I want to be more like Jesus. I'm so thankful that He doesn't let me stay ugly, but that He keeps squeezing that ugly right out of me. And in the process, He makes beautiful things out of us.
Please pray for me. And please feel free to share what God is doing to refine you. The longer I live, the more I am convinced that He wants to make beautiful things of all of us, and I want to work with Him to that end.
Poppy- Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Squeeze- Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net