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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Living victorious lives

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias last week and he was talking about a time shortly after his converstion to Christianity when he was talking to two friends in their dorm room. One friend had converted to Christianity around the same time as Ravi and the other friend was still an unbeliever. They debated the finer points of the Christian worldview with this unbelieving friend and after they had talked for several hours this friend said, (and I'm paraphrasing) - "Let's say you are right in that the Judeo/Christian worldview is in fact the one true way and you can convince me of my need for Christ. I still have one question. Why is it that if it is a work of the Holy Spirit and not due to man's efforts that people are saved - that I see such little transforming work done in the lives of Christians today." Ravi said this was a question that has haunted him for decades.

I would say many times in the past I have had to repent for not being more joyful or peaceful on a Sunday morning. We get to church usually flustered from getting ready, feeding and dressing Chloe, walking Webster, eating breakfast, etc. No matter what time we get up we always seem to run late. I hate being late and arguing about who's fault it was this week doesn't help either.

During the service I try to take my mind off the morning or off the week and put it onto God - to worship Him as He deserves to be worshipped. Instead, my mind is all over the place. Maybe it's wrong but I refuse to act one way outwardly when I'm feeling something else on the inside.

Apparently I'm not alone.

I look around when we're singing and I think, gosh - so many in our congregation seem unhappy, down or tired. I know some are suffering from long-term health issues while others are dealing with marital problems or with lifestyles they are unwilling to yield to God. Some don't trust God will provide for them and question whether life will get any better. Others are trying for babies, are newly pregnant or are just about to give birth which is a whole other set of stresses. Some have been Christians for years and still don't know Gods plan for their lives while others are new Christians and are struggling with the usual questions new Christians ask like, "why doesn't God heal my family member or friend when I have prayed and have faith they will be healed?" And these are just some of the ones I know about. There are lots more I know nothing about.

So why is the joy of the Lord not our strength? Why do we not come to Him when we're tired and heavy-laden so He can give us rest? Why are our hearts troubled when God says He gives us peace? Do we believe we'll find Him when we seek him with all our heart? Are we truly saved? Are we truly filled with the Holy Spirit? If so, shouldn't we always live victorious lives? Lives that are TRULY transformed that the world can see and be attracted to?

Why don't we believe the Bible at face value or if we do, why do we forget so quickly what it says? I am guilty of asking myself these questions often - too often. I think other christians might say, "well you just need to read the bible and pray more often" and that is undoubtedly true. I've often felt one quiet time a day (like one meal a day) is not enough. Maybe I struggle because I see so many others struggling. I've wondered that. If I were the only one I would think it were merely something God was trying to teach me or that I was in the valley so to speak and just need to keep plodding along but this is something more - something more pervasive across the church in Europe it seems and America is clearly next.

So what is it?

Yes, this world is not our home. Yes we are at war. Yes Jesus said we would face trouble in this world. James says we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. I Peter says we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials and these have come to prove the genuiness of our faith. Still... there has to be something more. Something we're missing. Some reason we're not more victorious, joyful, peaceful, trusting, loving, kind, good.

This is my thinking and many may completely disagree with me. My fear is that for a time, and maybe for this time in which we live, God has turned His back on Europe and the Holy Spirit simply does not move here the way He once did because of the stubbornness of mens hearts. Decade after decade of secularism and man setting himself up as His own god. Romans talks about Gods wrath on unrighteouness.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,7 in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

So could God turn His back on Europe to display his wrath on unrighteousness without the Christians living in the continent being affected in some way? I don't think so and I believe that is why we in large numbers struggle the way we do. My conclusion? We need more of the Holy Spirit - more and more and more. Like the old hymm says:

I need thee every hour
Most gracious Lord
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford

I need thee, oh, I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, my Saviour
I come to thee

I need thee every hour
In joy or pain
Come quickly and abide
Or life is in vain

I need thee, oh, I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now, my Saviour
I come to thee

I need thee every hour - not every year, not every month, not once a week on Sundays, not even every day but every hour. "Come quickly and abide or life is in vain." How true are these lyrics.

May the Holy Spirit return to Europe and may we all be filled again to overflowing so that we can live victorious lives and win souls for Christ.

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