Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Call a Spade a Spade March 27, 2014

If I sound like a broken record, I am. Yet in my search to discover the mysteries of God, including the promised rest in Hebrews 4, I am continually led to the same subject: death to self. An insight I recently gleaned from Andrew Murray’s writings brought some clarity to the issue that has perhaps baffled Christians for centuries. Murray, the Christian icon from South Africa, clearly believed that self is Satan’s representative within each of us.

 

If this is true, then I must ask: “Why would I yield to Satan’s representative rather than Christ’s representative, the Holy Spirit?” I doubt that I intentionally do so, yet I find myself doing it all the time. However, with this revelation, it should be easier to identify just who it is that I am supposed to be denying.

 

Consider this thought: Satan does his work in me through his representative in me—self. Light-bulb flash here! That concept is difficult for Americans to accept because of the mindset that we are entitled to the American dream. If self wants something, especially something good and wholesome, we believe that we have a right to have it, do it, or say it.

 

While that could be true in this kingdom we call America, it is NOT true in the Kingdom of God. When we were born again by the Spirit, we changed kingdoms. We are no longer members of any earthly kingdom.

 

Jesus tried to explain what the Kingdom of God is like, and according to His teachings, God’s Kingdom and America are not the same thing. America, with its many freedoms, may be the closest thing on earth to the Kingdom of God, but it is far from being the same.

 

Being born into God’s Kingdom changes everything—it changes who we are, how we act, what we say, and most importantly, what we think! Kingdom-thinkers see things the world cannot see, and therefore, we have a new mindset about everything. As we grow in Christ, this difference will surface time and time again.

 

The biggest battle we face is that of changing our way of thinking to God’s way of thinking. Who is going to influence us from this time forward, now that we are members of the heavenly kingdom? Will Satan’s representative be the dominate influence, or will the Holy Spirit be the dominate influence? Andrew Murray encourages us to “Let every Christian make this his one great plea and aim: to have the mind that was in Christ Jesus.”1

 

Author Chris Tiegreen wrote: “We are not allowed to fit God’s mission in around our higher priorities….We may pursue the American dream or the Kingdom of God, but not both. We may give up everything or not give up everything, but not both. Christ compels us to choose.”2

 

We all love choices. America was built on the freedom to choose, most particularly religious freedom. We can choose to be a disciple of Christ, take up our cross and follow Him, or we can choose to follow after the things of the world. What we cannot do is both—or one could say, we cannot have our cake and eat it too!

 

Our problem is that we are confused about what following Christ actually means. The world has sold us a bill of goods that resembles the things of God, such as patriotism, prosperity, pleasure, health consciousness, and such, while in reality these are a mirage. Christ’s kingdom is not made up of such things. After a long discourse about the things of life that we tend to worry about, Jesus said, “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things….but seek his kingdom….”3

 

Step Number 1 to entering the rest of God is quite simple: Ask God to help us see ourselves in the light of His Word. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”4 Are we actually denying self anything?

 

Denying Satan’s representative in us is not optional if we want to enter God’s rest. I didn’t say it, Jesus did. And He will help us do it as soon as we get honest with God, and call a spade a spade. For no one will be allowed to enter that rest who tries to bring Satan’s representative along with them. Once we make the connection, rest is not far ahead. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Andrew Murray, The Believer’s Secret to the Abiding Presence, Pg. 120. 2Chris Tiegreen, One Year at His Feet Devotional, March 23; 3Luke 12:29-31; 4Matthew 16:24

 

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Oh God, I Need Some Rest! March 20, 2014

I’ve read it a thousand times—Hebrews Chapter 4. I’ve chased its interpretation for more years than I care to count. Still today, verse 11 perplexes me: “Let us therefore labor to enter that rest…” It doesn’t make sense to labor at resting. Why not just lie down and rest? To top that, the word labor in this scripture actually means to “make haste.”  So now I’m supposed to hurry at resting? I want to label this an oxymoron, but I know God doesn’t make mistakes.

 

Oh God, I need some rest! How I long for rest! I can only hope to find it someday!

 

I’m smack-dab in the middle of accounting season, near drowning in sheer circumstances. For an accountant, that means deadline upon deadline to meet with little recourse. Even a good night’s rest for the body is scarce. I told a friend the other day that it felt as if I were submerged in water and all that remained on the surface is one hand slowly sinking down through the bubbles from my last breath of air as I mumbled a final cry for help.

 

While it was intended to be funny, I wonder how many of us feel just like that about life. We’ve tried to keep afloat, made every effort to hold things together, did our best to swim against the current of never-ending demands on our lives, but somehow we feel that we might not make it. Does life grab you that way—hold you under until you’re not sure the next breath will come?

 

And what about our spiritual lives—ever felt that you’re just not getting the hang of it? You do all the right things, you work and give and help and support. You struggle with thoughts like, “Oh God, I’ve given and given and it never seems to work for me like Joel Osteen said it would!” And what about the strength we’ve been promised—you know from lofty verses like, “your strength shall be renewed, mounting up with wings like eagles?”1 Somehow that seems to have slip right past me. Yep, this eagle is merely hopping along on the ground trying to dodge the muck and mire of life.

 

If any of this sounds like you—I have good news. I’m not sure why its meaning has eluded me for so long, but Hebrews Chapter 4 is our answer. It is the very substance of what God knew we would need and what He provided for us in advance. Remember, God doesn’t make mistakes.

 

So what does it mean—this laboring to rest business? Newer translations say, “Let us be diligent to enter that rest.” It means: Let us hurry diligently at finding the rest provided by God and then enter into that rest. I suspect that we don’t hurry diligently because we do not know what that rest is or where it is. If we just knew what it was or where it was, we would!

 

While there are many clues to unfold in this chapter, let’s take a closer look at Verses 9 and 10: “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His (God’s) rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”

 

Did you see that—ceased from his works? Let that soak in. Amy Carmichael said, “Perhaps what demands most will power is the resolution to cease from our own works, our own busyness, and to stay our minds upon our God.”

 

We know that earning salvation by good works is included here, for only the works of Christ at Calvary can save us. But don’t stop there. Look for more. Could this also be the key to living the Spirit-empowered life?

 

God has plan and a place for us to rest. God wants us to find and enter into it. Moses’ generation didn’t enter in because of unbelief. In other words, they heard about it, “but the word which they heard did not benefit them because it was not mixed with faith.”

 

We must first believe this rest of God is available to us. Once we believe it is there, we must hurry diligently to find it. Look up and look forward as we unpack the secrets to finding and entering that rest! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Isaiah 40:31; All other scriptures Hebrews Chapter 4.

 

 

 

Has God Gotten a Bad Rap? March 11, 2014

I think God has gotten a bad rap. Many people have the wrong view of God because of His arch-enemy, Satan, who from the get-go has tried to convinced mankind that God is something other than what He is.

 

As a deceiver condemned to eternal damnation, Satan’s goal is to convince God’s masterpiece creation to turn away from Him. He attempts to do this by skewing our view of God. Paraphrasing Satan’s words to Eve, he said: “You won’t surely die if you eat of this tree. It’s just that God doesn’t want you to be as smart as he is.”1 Right there he planted the thought that God is not trustworthy.

 

Our opinions about God are formed in early childhood based on what we were told by our parents. We basically see God the same way our parents did. Another factor that influences our view of our Heavenly Father is what type of earthly father we had:  kind and gentle, or not-so-kind and not-so-gentle. Lastly, our view of God is formed by what our religious teachers taught us about Him.

 

When asked: “When you think about God, where does your mind go first?” we would have different answers based on those factors. Our answers might be: Righteous judge; Condemning critic; Tender heart; or something esle.2

 

But whatever our answer is, it is a mindset—an attitude, belief, conviction, frame of mind about something. A mindset is just that: set! It is with us for life unless something or someone comes along and shows us a better way.

 

Mindsets are hard to change. Expert James Clear says, “There are many reasons why it can be hard to stick to good habits or develop new skills. But more often than not, the biggest challenge is sitting between your two ears. Your mind is a powerful thing.”

 

The old saying, “If you always think what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” is true. There is tremendous power in a mindset.

 

Be it good or bad, we all have a mindset of who God is and what His character is like. Christians believe He is an eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God that loves mankind. Those are good mindsets. But what about our mindset of how this eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God relates to us—members of a fallen race who are anything but perfect?

 

Thousands of religions around the world teach different ideas about God, and many are what I call “performance-based religions.” They teach that if people are good, God is pleased with them; and if people are bad, God is not pleased with them. Requirements for followers of performance-based religions range from extremists who tell their converts to kill people for eternal brownie points to those who define how women should wear their hair.

 

Even God’s chosen people added 600+ commandments to the Ten Commandments.  In so doing, they created a “performance-based theology.” In New Testament times, Jewish Christians tried to put new converts back under the law of circumcision. The Apostle Paul challenged them with the message: grace is enough!3

 

Salvation-by-grace denominations also encourage believers to keep track of their performance. How many of us made check marks on our Sunday school envelopes for being at church, bringing a Bible, giving an offering, studying the lesson, and inviting a visitor? If we did those things, we got a perfect score. If we didn’t, we got something less.

 

Throughout most of our lives, we have struggled with the something less that we fear doesn’t please God.

 

So what is wrong with performance-based practices? That is simply not how God relates to us! Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.4 He provided a way for us to be holy and acceptable to God by His works at Calvary. In short—Jesus plus nothing!

 

The truth is that God wants to have a love relationship with us and not be the judge of our good and bad performance. But only when we change our mindset about this truth will we be able to experience intimacy with the Almighty God.

 

An exciting journey awaits those who are willing to change their set mind. ~Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Genesis 3:4-5; 2Angela Thomas, Beautiful Offering; 3Galatians 5:1-6; 4Romans 5:8