Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

A Message for Rock-Bottom Disciples April 11, 2014

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 2:27 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ever wonder why God lets us struggle? I certainly do. Maybe you think God has nothing to do with the struggle you’re in. Think again.

 

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

 

Yep, there it is—it is God’s doing. He lets us suffer or struggle on purpose. Why, sometimes He even lets us go all the way to the bottom. Yet, I believe He is up to something when He allows sharpening circumstances to impact our lives. Iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Isn’t that always the case? When life gets hard, we gain strength and resilience, and what once seemed hard no longer is. What is it about hitting bottom that does something in us?

 

The bottom—what does that mean in spiritual terms? Does it mean: we’ve tried all efforts and nothing has worked? We’ve exhausted all resources, and the problem remains unfixed? We’ve turned to every expert we know, yet we’re more perplexed than ever? How about—we’ve tried to find God, but He hasn’t shown up?

 

You might have said “yes” to all of those. I want to point you to a story in Luke Chapter 24 about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Perhaps they had tried all efforts to understand the crucifixion of Jesus. They had exhausted everything they had learned in the past three years. They had looked to others for answers, and I’m sure they had tried to get God’s attention. Yet, they remained perplexed, confused, and afraid. We might say they were at the bottom.

 

Then a stranger came along beside them as they traveled, and they poured out their sad story to him. “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Does that mean they had lost their hope? All hope? They continued with a hear-say story of some out-of-this-world notion that included visions and angels, but there was no proof for any of it. After all, they had watched Jesus die with their own eyes.

 

I can only imagine our Savior as he listened to their bewildering story. I can see a slight grin on Jesus’ face as He held His composure. Can’t you just hear Jesus ask, “Really?” And then He says to those two rock-bottom disciples: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

 

Can you see what they were missing? Can you feel their grief and at the same time sense Jesus’ excitement knowing He would soon open their eyes to who He is? Why, He isn’t in the grave—He is right here talking to them!

 

This amazing story brightens my day today, as I think about all the times I have been a rock- bottom disciple. All the times I’ve looked, and longed, and searched for real answers, the right outcome, and the victory message behind my struggles. I think of all the years I have searched for the mysteries of God in His Word, the keys to the kingdom to unlock what I don’t understand. And all the while Jesus has been right here in my company, with the slight grin on His face, thinking “If only she knew what I know. If only she could see what I see. If only!”

 

Have you and I suffered a little while in our darkness, our perplexity, our out-of-this world stories that we can’t understand? Are we wondering when Jesus Himself is going to show up like He promised, to restore us, make us strong, firm and steadfast?

 

Just when is that going to happen? When we get to the bottom of our resources, our efforts, our attempts—that’s the very time Jesus has been waiting for! That’s the very position He longs for us to reach so He can tell us what was best described by Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story!”

 

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” Are we ready for Jesus, who is right here with us in our perplexing situations, to open our eyes and let us see Him? Are we ready to have Jesus explain from the beginning what’s been happening just as he did to those disciples who had reached the bottom of human explanation and human hope.

 

That’s what Jesus wants to do for us today. He wants to show us the meaning behind the struggle—the waiting before the Lord, the purpose of it all. He has some BIG NEWS for you and me. Are we ready to trust Him and believe His explanation? Are our hearts burning within us while He’s speaking and opening our eyes even now?

 

Don’t miss next week’s post “Seeing is Everything.” In the meantime, start looking up from your rock-bottom stance. Jesus has been right here all the time. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

What No One Told You about YourSelf August 20, 2013

I don’t think it is a big surprise to anyone that life is hard. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you either haven’t lived long enough or you’ve been really lucky. There is no escaping the difficulties of life—relationships, careers, finances, death—just life in general.  These struggles occur on the physical side of life.

 

The spiritual side of life is no different. Oblivious to many people, there is an enormous struggle going on in the hearts of men. The truth is we are subject to a mighty force called Self from the day we are born. Like the physical side of life, there is no escaping this struggle.

 

I fear that many of us have been misled about our Self. I have chosen to capitalize this word to give it the proper emphasis, acknowledging its power and position. We seems to have the idea that Self is the real me—the “I’ve gotta be me” mentality. It is considered to be something akin to personality, to be cultivated and protected, or else it might go away and the real me lost.

 

Strong individuality is part of the American culture. We have been taught that “rugged individualism” is linked to patriotism, courage, and success. We are proud when we can hold our heads high and declare, “I did this.” Even greater honor is given to one who says, “I did this by myself.”

 

It has taken years of grappling with this issue for me to see Self for what it is. It may come as a shock to you, as it did to me when this was clearly spelled out. As long as my idea of Self was merely a concept, I considered it in the gray area—the things I don’t have to take a stand on. But once I know the truth, I become accountable for what I do with that truth. (Read that again.)

 

J. Oswald Sanders, an internationally-known theologian, wrote this about Self: “In the heart of the believer, Self occupies the same relation to Satan as does the Holy Spirit to Christ, it is Satan’s representative in the heart. Even after many gross forms of evil have been evicted, Self remains to contest and usurp the claim of Christ to the throne of the redeemed life. It is guilty of high treason against the King of Kings, and is therefore worthy of death.”1

 

I believe we must wake up to the fact that our spiritual lives are being attacked, overrun, and controlled by this force known as Self. Like his father, Satan, Self is an all-out liar. He is also Selfish, Self-centered, Self-indulgent, Self-confident, Self-conscious, Self-willed, Self-assured, Self-exalting, and Self-justifying. In America, we even have what is known as the Self-made man. While we sometimes boast or jest about these qualities, in reality, they are the marks of Satan reigning in a life.

 

Do any of these describe you? They certainly describe me! Even in subtle ways that are difficult to detect and believed to be part of my personality, yet so totally unlike my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Unless we recognize what is going on in our personal world, we will not be able to do anything about our predicament. Our muddled interpretation of Self will keep us paralyzed, and we will continue losing the battles, yielding to its power, and remain defeated Christians. Furthermore, our progress to be transformed into the image of Christ is on hold.2

 

The first step to freedom is the acknowledgment of bondage. The person who claims he or she has no bondage is simply not a candidate for freedom.

 

Until we acknowledge Self for what it is and admit that Self is reigning in our hearts rather than Jesus, we have no hope of being set free from its dominion over us. A mental ascent to the idea that we are legally set free from Self is not enough. Yes, we are legally free because of faith in the sacrificed blood of Jesus, but unless we appropriate that truth and apply it to our own personal lives, we will remain in bondage. After our eyes are opened to this truth and we knowingly allow this to continue, we are participating in “high treason against the King of Kings.”

 

Now I know and now I am accountable. I have never in my entire life been so motivated to oust the culprit of Self from the throne of my heart. I denounce this Self-led rebellion against my God, and by the mercy and grace of God I will find His provision for ridding my life of its control. Does anyone out there care to come along with me? ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1J. Oswald Sanders, Christ Indwelling and Enthroned, CCWM, Santa Ana, CA, 1949, pg. 46

22 Corinthians 3:18

 

For other related posts see poem “Since Self Is On the Throne,” Treasure in Earthen Vessels, March 6, 2013 (In Poetry Category)