We Should Expect a Spiritual Adventure of Faith 3

Not Humanistic Invention, Myth, or Folklore

The issue that is contrasted here in this story of the Exodus, is the difference between play-it-safe security versus step-out-in-faith significance (Mt. 14:29).  It is the difference between a risk-free life that accomplishes little of eternal value, and a bold life that purchases faith and trust in the living God that is worth more than gold.

Either the God of the Bible is real or He isn’t.  Either God can be counted upon in a crisis, or He cannot.  Either the Bible is true or it is a collection of fables.

Unlike walking out of a theater after watching a fictional motion- picture for two hours, every Christian can choose to follow Jesus through a real, actual life of faith, and discover and prove for ourselves whether or not our God is the same God we read about in the Bible.

A true journey of faith with the God of the Bible is a testable proposition, with the real possibility of success or failure through situations large and small.

The Israelites could have continued living in Egypt, scratching out an existence with no purpose or meaning, or they could step out in faith and follow God.  But in this defining moment in the separation of belief from unbelief, in the dividing of trust in the living God from self-sufficient existence in Egypt, there was a real cost to following God.

God led them to the edge of the Red Sea.

It was God Himself who set up this life-and-death situation for the Israelites.

In this make-or-break test, there was not enough time for any self-generated options for the Israelites.  They could not set up an adequate defense, purchase weapons of warfare from surrounding nations, or send emissaries to hire foreign armies to come and help fight the Egyptians.  At any moment, either they would be killed by the Egyptians, or God would somehow deliver them.  Faith, trust, and reliance upon God were at the heart of this crisis.

We see from this example that it was the intention of God to initiate this final confrontation with the Egyptian army, so that God could demonstrate once again to Moses and to the Israelites His deliverance power and unfailing love.

God knew that He could and would open up the Red Sea, and it appears that Moses also knew this from God sometime before it actually happened.

It was the Israelites who needed to discover the depth of God’s love for them, and He did this through a spectacular display of His power over nature, in the midst of this seemingly unsolvable dilemma.  This was intended to provide the Israelites with hope and assurance to see them through the difficult days ahead and to provide us with a powerful example of hope we can apply today as well.

If we as Christians today have experienced through salvation that God is real…believe that the Bible is true…and that these events actually occurred… then we should not be surprised when God maneuvers us into similar situations and circumstances, albeit on a less dramatic scale, that enable God to reveal to us His deliverance power and caring love as well.

This is how we grow.  This is how we get spiritually strong.  This is how we each individually get to know God better.  This is how we become able to stand up spiritually on our own two feet and proclaim boldly what God has done for us.

God has not changed.  He has an infinite variation of scenarios and life-scripts at His fingertips.  We don’t all have to play lead roles like Robin Hood, Sidney Carton, or Luke Skywalker, but God has a carefully chosen and well-intentioned role for each of us to play as mature and savvy Christians to make an impact for good in our world.

Some great novels are so captivating, that the reader dreads the book coming to an end.  But as the pages turn one after another on a quiet Saturday afternoon, the last page is finally reached, the story ends, and the back cover of the book is closed.

Some movies are so entertaining we wish they would go on and on.  But these movies also end, the lights in the theatre come on, and people head for the exit doors.

After Jesus and the two thieves were taken down from their crosses, these blood-stained crosses presumably stood empty for awhile on Calvary Hill.  Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father had accomplished their plan for Jesus to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sin, slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

The time of the actual crucifixion came and went, with Jesus then going on to rise the third day (Lk. 22:37).  Like an empty stadium after a championship game, or like an empty theater after an award-winning play or a virtuosic music recital is over…the time for the grand event comes and goes.

All of the upcoming end-times events are scheduled to occur in the near future.  Jesus Himself talks about them in the gospels.  They must happen.  They are part of mankind’s destiny.  They were set in motion when Adam and Eve each took a bite of the forbidden fruit long ago.  The story of good versus evil has been playing out ever since.  Each of us has a part to play in that story.

We worship a real God who is both all-powerful and all-good, and who happens to also be a master screenwriter and director.  We can surrender the course of our lives (Romans 12:1) into His hands with confidence, discovering first-hand His goodness and trustworthiness through our own individual experience of a walk of faith.

An old proverb aptly applies here: “a ship in a harbor is safe, but ships were not made for harbors.”

We were created for an adventure of faith, out upon the wide-open seas of life, following the life-script that the true and living God of the Bible has written for us.

We Should Expect a Spiritual Adventure of Faith 2

The Most Qualified Talent-Scout in the Universe                

One of the themes that is hidden just below the surface of the lives of the people of faith in the Bible, which is clearly apparent once you see it, is that God wants to write the scripts and screenplays of our lives (Phil. 2:13).  People like Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David in the Old Testament, and Peter and Paul in the New Testament, put all of their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and even their lives on the line to follow the plans of God for them.

God is able to write and direct real-world life-scripts that are in most cases above and beyond fictional motion picture screenplays.  God wants to write the scripts for our lives because He is simply better at it than we are, and He has an overall message He wants to get across.  He wants the entire universe and all of creation to know that He is a trustworthy, capable, and loving God.

The reading of the Bible and our own present-day Christian lives become more understandable once we grasp and embrace this concept.

All of us want our lives here on earth to count for something positive.  Like our interest in a good adventure movie, we want the events and circumstances of our lives to be channeled toward some good conclusion.

But like motion picture actors who are not screenwriters, we are incapable of coming up with plot-lines that also include trust, reliance, and faith in a supernatural God.  To add these elements to our life-script, we need the great Screenwriter, the God of the Bible, to compose imaginative lives for us like those of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments.

This is one reason why God inspired the writing of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:15-17).  The Bible gives us an accurate pattern and template of what He accomplished in other people’s lives so that we can also release our faith and have confidence in what He can do in our own lives.

Only God has the divinely creative imagination to compose life-scripts for us that contain eternal purpose, meaning, and truth.

When people plan and manage their lives while pushing God away, they opt for the default screenplay for life.  This default screenplay calls for the typical need for security, material possessions, the approval of friends and family, conformity to the conventional worldly pleasures of life, and usually putting as much distance as possible between ourselves and anything unpleasant in terms of character building.

The problem with this approach is that the typical 60, 70, or 80 year old life here on earth is like a vapor of smoke (Jas 4:14) that is gone in what seems like no time at all.  Before we know it, we can regretfully look back upon a life lived without purpose, meaning, or eternally beneficial impact upon others.

Sometimes a few exceptional people do manage to pursue exciting lives that have the outward appearance of challenge and adventure, but it is nonetheless on their terms and within the limits they set for themselves.

Because we cannot live two parallel lives at the same time, the self-led and self-directed life, no matter how attractive according to outward appearances, is by definition a God-less life.

There can only be a single plot-line for our character in the movie script of our lives.  If self-absorption and self-centeredness is the storyline of our lives, then God’s plan for us is pushed off the pages.

We choose who writes our life-script…ourselves or God.

To have eternal satisfaction, purpose, and meaning…our lives must include God.

A much higher purpose for life exists, which is described and recorded for us through the examples of the people of faith in the Bible.  That purpose is to live-out the fulfilling role that God has individually pre-written just for us in the great screenplay of human experience.  If we do not allow God full participation in our lives to lead us into that divinely inspired role, because of timidity, fear, unbelief, self-centeredness, being too worldly busy, or thinking we know better than God…in the end we will be the person most disappointed.

After the ten plagues in Egypt forced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage as slaves, it was God, through Moses, who led the Israelites to set up temporary camp on the shore of the Red Sea.  When Pharaoh and the Egyptians changed their minds, and pursued the Israelites with their chariot army, the Israelites were trapped by the Red Sea.

This was God’s doing.  Moses had not made a mistake.  He was listening correctly in the Spirit to God’s voice.

When the Israelites saw the Egyptian army, they panicked.  The Egyptian chariot army was not going to pull up to the crowd of Israelites and calmly discuss the terms of their return to Egypt as slaves.  The Egyptians were going to massacre a large number of Israelites, in retaliation for what had recently occurred in Egypt, and then force the survivors back to Egypt.

Although their lives were hard and bitter in Egypt, they still had had wives, children, enough food to eat, and a roof over their heads.

At that moment the Israelites were wondering why they had given up their hard but secure existence in Egypt for the promise of freedom through faith and hope in a leader named Moses and in a God they barely knew.  The circumstances were real, immediate, and they did not look good.  The Egyptian soldiers had spears and swords they would soon thrust through the Israelite men, women, and children, without a second thought.  Yet they were trapped by the Red Sea.

Unlike the fictional stories of Robin Hood, A Tale of Two Cities, or Star Wars, this author believes that God actually did place a real pillar of fire to temporarily block the Egyptian chariot army, and that God did open up an actual dry land passage through the Red Sea.

I was not there.  I did not see it happen.  But I believe these were actual historical events.

If God can create the physical universe out of nothing through the Big Bang…bringing into existence all of the material particles and fields of energy in just the right quantities and proportions…along with all of the accompanying laws of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and the dimensions of time…it should be relatively easy for Him to supernaturally open up the Red Sea and hold back the waters long enough for people to pass safely through.

I know from the transformation that happened inside me when I accepted Jesus Christ into my life, and through several supernatural experiences of God’s faithfulness in my life since then, that this is just the type of thing that God would do with the Israelites at the beginning of their history-making exodus from Egypt (Isa. 14:24).

If Christians have experienced being spiritually reborn (Jn 3:3), then they personally know that God can supernaturally intervene in the affairs of mankind.

Something extraordinary like the parting the Red Sea for the Israelites simply falls somewhere along the sliding scale of the differing magnitudes of the various works of God.

We Should Expect a Spiritual Adventure of Faith 1

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”      (2 Tim. 2:4)

In the 1938 movie The Adventures of Robin Hood, Errol Flynn plays a dashing and courageous hero whose band of men hiding in the forest prevents the treacherous Prince John from taking control over England in the absence of good King Richard the Lionheart.  Robin Hood steals from the rich Normans and gives to the poor and oppressed Saxons, wins the love of the beautiful Lady Marion, played by Olivia DeHavilland, and in the end kills the evil Sir Guy of Gisborne, played by Basil Rathbone, in a thrilling swordfight.

In the movie, King Richard returns from fighting in a Crusade, joins forces with Robin Hood, and together they win the day and banish Prince John and his supporters to France.  The movie ends with a large wooden door closing behind Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland as they triumphantly leave the castle together arm in arm.

What is it about this type of story that captivates audiences from the day it first played on the movie screen down to our present day?

The answer is that people simply love an exciting action story that pits good against evil, has a courageous hero who lives on the edge of defeat and death throughout the movie, and that resolves itself into a happy ending.

Even Errol Flynn probably envied privately the fictional life of Robin Hood somewhat as he played it, with all of its daring escapes, courageous stands against injustice, unselfish sacrifice to help others in need, and most of all Robin Hood’s fearless character that wins the admiration and love of the beautiful Lady Marion.

As the common saying goes, “it could only happen in a movie.”

But there is something else about this movie that tells us something important about ourselves.

Few people, if any, want to know (other than idle curiosity) what happens in the lives of Robin Hood and the Lady Marion after the castle door closes behind them.  Robin Hood vanquishes all of his evil foes, saves the day, wins the fair lady and that is the end of the movie and the end of our interest in the story.

No movie producer in his or her right mind would do a sequel to The Adventures of Robin Hood in the aftermath of this movie, unless some screenwriter could come up with an equally thrilling tale having Robin Hood and the Lady Marion again battling evil conspirators threatening England.

An adventure-less movie that had Robin Hood dealing with the everyday life problems of managing the Nottingham Castle estates, like repairing the north gate, or checking on the water level of the castle moat, or planting enough barley in the south fields, would have people quickly yawning and heading for the theater exits in ten or fifteen minutes.

In the 1935 movie A Tale of Two Cities, staring Ronald Colman, based on the classic book by Charles Dickens, again no one cares what takes place in the loving home of Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette after their friend Sidney Carton sacrifices his life on the guillotine, during the French Revolution, to secure their future happiness.

Sydney Carton uses a daring scheme to switch places inside the prison with the unjustly condemned man Charles Darnay, the husband of the woman Carton loves, and thus redeems his ill-spent life with a sacrifice so noble that it approximates on a smaller scale the death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Yet as the horse-drawn coach carrying the saved family speeds away from Paris and towards England and safety, and Sidney Carton looks peacefully upward toward heaven as he climbs the steps to the guillotine, the movie comes to an end and so does our interest.  The drama of the story with all of its interwoven themes and characters is resolved.

After this we do not care that much about the everyday life of Lucie Manette and her family.  As an audience we are not interested in the “they lived happily ever after” details of the story.

Coming up to a more recent time, the immensely popular movie Star Wars tells us the same thing.

At the end of the final movie in the six-movie series, the fallen but reformed Darth Vader is burned on a funeral pyre, balance in the cosmic “force” is restored, Luke Skywalker and the Jedi are victorious, and Hans Solo and Princess Leia are finally together.  The epic and adventurous parts of the story come to an end.  Presumably all of these people then pursue a normal life after this, without having to battle the “dark side of the force.”

What does this tell us about ourselves?  If we could live our lives in the middle of a motion picture, what movie would it be and who would write the script?  If we knew the story had a happy ending for us, would we really care how many adventures and narrow escapes we experienced to reach the conclusion?

Would we want a boring script, or would we want the script writer to come up with something that was meaningful, inspiring, and even had some measure of risk and adventure?  Would we be excited about even a small speaking role in an all-time great movie, as long as our character was well written and we knew we were part of something special and extraordinary?

As Christians, these are questions we should be asking ourselves as we look at our own lives in relation to the lives of the people of faith in the Bible.

Errol Flynn was a great adventure actor, but he was not at the same time renowned as a screenwriter.  The two men who wrote the screenplay for The Adventures of Robin Hood, Norman Raine and Seton Miller, were expert screenwriters but not famous actors.

Ronald Colman was a great leading actor, but was not a good enough writer to come up with a story as great as A Tale of Two Cities.  The screenplay for this movie was written by W. P. Lipscomb and S. N. Behrman, based upon the book written by the famous author Charles Dickens.

In all great motion pictures, the actors rely upon scripts and stories that are written by other people.

I am not aware of any great movie where the main actor also wrote the screenplay.  An exception in recent times is the movie Good Will Hunting, co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, in which both have leading roles.  At any rate, without screenplays, great actors would have no movies in which to act.

How to Begin the Second Half of the Cross in Our Lives 3

In this world it is difficult to bring people to salvation.  As in the first century, when Jesus walked the earth, not that many people today want God in their lives.  And those people who do accept Jesus Christ, often only want Him in their lives on their terms.

The second half of the cross as outlined in this book is not advanced Christianity.  The second half of the cross is not radical Christianity.  Surrendering and yielding our self-wills to God so that He has the space to begin to work in our lives for our benefit, is basic Christianity.  No lasting transformation and deliverance can take place without it.

Forgiveness and cleansing of sin, and the removal of self-reliance from the thrones of our hearts, are two sides of the same gold coin-of-the-realm in the kingdom of God.  The Christian always maintains freedom of choice, but defers to the higher and better judgment of God as to how to best go about living this current life.

When the Christian elevates the participation of Jesus Christ into our lives above our own self-reliance and self-direction, we allow the supernatural part of the relationship to begin to improve how we think about our moral choices, the quality of the effort that we put into life, the standards that we expect of ourselves, and our desire to please and glorify God in all things.

This transformation also creates within us an unselfish attitude toward other people.  We will not only discover the mind of Christ in us, but also the heart of Christ in us.  We will discover within us a desire to share with others this same salvation that liberated us from sin, and that transformed us into new people as well.

And most importantly, because of the knowledge of the second half of the cross, and the death of self-powered and self-initiated efforts, we will discover that the words of life that we speak, and the examples of God’s love through works of kindness to others, come through the power of the Holy Spirit within us and not our own self-propelled energy.

When we ourselves are genuinely transformed into new creatures in Christ, the motivation to share the gospel will come from unselfish love from the heart, rather than through some program fueled by compulsion or a sense of duty.

The second half of the cross therefore not only includes the plan of God to get us engaged in a direction according to the will of God for our lives, but also provides the Holy Spirit power within us to transform us into the quality of people who can effectively reach out to others and share what God has and is doing in our lives.

The key is to first get self-will and self-in-charge out of the way, according to the second half of the cross, so that God can begin to interject His love, power, and grace into our lives.  This process begins the moment we become new Spirit-born Christians.

But the advanced Christianity part of a journey of faith does eventually require a complete change in our thinking.  A God-composed and guided journey of faith adds purpose, direction, and structure to our lives that displaces the otherwise conventionally normal mode of simply reacting to random chance events as they arise.

A God-composed journey of faith inserted into our lives displaces “living by our wits” in an improvisational, at-the-last-minute, reactive mode , with a new game-plan crafted out of the mind of God that has the proactive, preventive elements of a transformed character and elevated morality in operation.

God’s unshakable promise is that if we will seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him.  This is where picking up our cross seamlessly blends with seeking God with all of our heart, which produces a bond with Holy Spirit power that cannot be broken by any force in existence.  This is the advanced part of a journey of faith involving the free-will decision-making of people to surrender our all to God, which extends all the way back to the beginning of the Bible.

The higher ways of God as portrayed in the biblical journeys of faith displaces worldly conventional normalcy, with all of its self-absorbed self-focused problems…with new life-script plots having purposeful suspense and drama that shifts our focus to following God and helping others.  This ingenious paradigm shift changes people from the defensive, reactive mode to the positive, offensive mode.  Part of our eternal salvation, part of our new covenant personal relationship with God, actualizes within this insertion of a God-composed life-script into the plan of our lives.

Christian today need to step into their own biblical journeys of faith like never before, in preparation for the challenges of the upcoming end-times.  The depth of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the solid-rock foundation that will withstand the spiritual and cultural storms of deception and unbelief that will prevail on the earth in the last days.

When Abraham received his calling from God to leave Haran and to go to Canaan, Abraham left behind all of his normal Haran-based life plans and schemes.  When Paul met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul left behind his old life as a Pharisee in Jerusalem.  Both men stepped down off the thrones of their lives to make room for God at the top.  This is the simplicity of the second half of the cross as illustrated in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  Its timeless application is relevant for Christians today as much as ever.

God wants to do something radical, something extraordinary in our lives.  He wants to change us, to completely transform us from the inside out into becoming the light of the world and the glory of Jesus Christ.

The first miracle in the ministry of Jesus was to change water into wine at the marriage at Cana, in Galilee (Jn. 2:1-11).  Jesus has been changing people from water into wine ever since.  Without stretching the analogy and typology of this miracle in Cana too far, the scripture reads that when the governor of the feast had tasted the water changed to wine, he said that the bridegroom had kept the best wine until the end (Jn. 2:10).  At the end of the ages, in these last days, the true and faithful witness of Jesus Christ as seen in His followers may turn out to be the most important event in all of human redemptive history (Joel 2:28-29).

Whether it is parting the Red Sea to deliver the Israelites, or being our Savior at Calvary, or bringing back to life the dry bones of Ezekiel 37 in 1948 in the creation of the re-gathered nation of Israel, God is trying to make a point.  He created us, He loves us, and He has our best interests at heart.  The only way we can discover this with rock-solid assurance is to enter into a journey of faith following Jesus Christ through a God-composed life-script of events and circumstances uniquely tailored to us as individuals, with our self-in-charge natures safely buried through repentance and spiritual rebirth.

This is The Second Half of the Cross.

The hard work has already been done by Jesus on the cross.

When Jesus the Son surrendered His will to the will of God the Father, at Gethsemane and at Calvary, Jesus went through the process ahead of us.

This is why Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Our part is to be willing to take His hand and follow, and to not look back or count the cost.

How to Begin the Second Half of the Cross in Our Lives 2

We cannot get outside of ourselves far enough to see, much less assume, the role of God in this particular area of composing and leading an adventure of faith.

Certainly no one today will be called by God to build an ark to save mankind, or be the father of faith, or part the Red Sea, or receive the Ten Commandments, or resist the prophets of Baal.

All of those tasks have already been completed by others.  The works that we are called to perform as modern Christians may not be as spectacular yet, but they start at the second half of the cross just the same as for the people of faith in the Bible.

It is not the magnitude of the events that occur in our lives that matters, but the quality of our ability to hear His voice in the Spirit, and our willingness to follow His leading through faith and trust like the examples of the people of faith in the Bible.  The scope and impact of what God calls us to do is in His hands.

People in our modern culture are conditioned to expect concepts like a biblical adventure of faith to be broken down for them into easy-to-follow 3-step or 5-step plans.  But a personal journey of faith with the God who created the universe is not that simplistic.  I am not capable of composing and orchestrating my own journey of faith, much less suggesting life-script callings for other people through a simplified 5-step plan.

This is one of the underlying messages of this book.

A biblical journey of faith is not an imaginary thing, invented out of our own minds and then projected on to a god that we create.  The narrative stories of the people of faith in the Bible are above human invention.

If we play throw-and-catch with a baseball with the one true living God, He will catch the ball and throw it back.  The God of the Bible exists in reality.  Jesus Christ is risen and alive today.  Jesus is perfectly capable of leading and guiding us through an unimaginably inventive and fulfilling adventure of faith because He created us.

The reader at this point might ask: “To have a journey of faith do I have to go somewhere?  Do I need to sell my house and move my family to Tibet, or to Africa, or to the Amazon rainforest?  Should I purchase a megaphone and stand on a city street corner and preach the message of repentance like the prophet Jonah or John the Baptist?”

The answer is that we do not have to physically go anywhere.  We are already “there.”  God already has this fallen world perfectly engineered to produce sons and daughters of light with transformed characters capable of possessing a “knowledge of good and evil” while freely choosing righteousness over rebellious self-autonomy.

If we are in Haran and God wants us to go to Canaan, He will tell us.  If we are in Canaan and God wants to craft us into becoming the governor of Egypt during a great famine like Joseph, God will engineer the circumstances to accomplish this.

How then do we as Christians yield and surrender our self-in-charge nature to the Lordship of Christ where it rightfully belongs, and begin living according to the second half of the cross?

This starts by praying to God to accept our self-will and begin revealing to us His will for our lives.  To honestly and genuinely ask God to crucify our self-wills in favor of His plan for our lives takes commitment and courage.  God hears our prayers.  God knows our hearts.  God knows whether or not we are serious.  He knows whether we have the patience, faith, and trust to see it through to the end like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul.

God knows whether we will accept by faith His power to energize our walk with Him through life.

If we are Spirit-born Christians, we are already on the positive side of the pre-destination issue.  The mystery of how God specifically speaks to and calls each person is beyond the scope of this book.

We can draw our own conclusions as to the mechanics of God’s enlisting of the people of faith from the narrative stories of the people of faith recorded in the Bible.

But it is no small or casual thing to genuinely pray this simple prayer of surrendering ourselves to God.  God will hear us, recognize our sincerity, begin to reveal His will to us, and our self-will at some point in time has to fall away in part or in whole to make room for His plan to proceed.  This is part of what it means to pick up our cross and to follow Jesus.

The greatest compliment that a Christian can give God is out of a still and quiet spirit to yield the direction and care of our lives in faith into His hands.  When we do this, we are acknowledging that God is capable, trustworthy, and has our best interests at heart.  We are acknowledging that instead of being rebels in charge of the affairs of our lives, that Jesus Christ should take His rightful place as our Lord and King.

The “I did it my way” approach to life does not mix with the second half of the cross approach of making Jesus Christ the Lord and Master of our lives.  The first step in beginning the second half of the cross in our lives, therefore, is recognizing this fundamental difference.

How to Begin the Second Half of the Cross in Our lives 1

“That ye put off concerning the former manner of life the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”                                                               (Eph. 4:22-24)

The second half of the cross is not that foreign to everyday life experiences.  We were created with the innate capacity to experience the second half of the cross, and we see this demonstrated across the spectrum of normal life activities.

New parents that bring home their firstborn child learn quickly that their self-will is now secondary to the needs of the baby.  The new father, who must still get up for work at 5 o’clock in the morning, must also now take his turns rocking the baby back to sleep every few hours in the middle of the night.  Older people at work may knowingly smile in sympathy at the bloodshot eyes of the new father, but no one feels seriously sorry for the plight of the new parents because everyone accepts caring for the baby at all hours of the night as part of the experience of becoming new parents.

The “soccer mom” who sacrifices many hours each day shuttling various children back-and-forth to school and to after-school activities, has for this time-period in her life, her self-will crucified for the development and growth of her children.

The young man who goes to a military boot camp gives up all rights to his self-direction and self-management for the time period that he is in basic training, with the goal that after completing this training he will be broken down and remolded into a “lean and mean” fighting soldier.

The young man or woman who decides to become a medical doctor, for the period of years from their late teens to their middle twenties, sacrifices most of their social life to studying hard in college and medical school in order to realize this career choice.

All of these examples are normal, common occurrences of people making personal sacrifices for clearly defined future goals.

These types of experiences everyone can relate to, and are not that far away from the second half of the cross.  They demonstrate our created capacity for self-in-charge to give way to higher and more important priorities.

God is not unprepared for or surprised by the everyday circumstances of life we find ourselves in.

It is not some big mistake that is contrary to God’s will that we go to work, buy groceries, pay bills, get married, and raise families.  Common everyday events do not prevent us from becoming more holy than we otherwise might become if we did not have all of these seeming distractions.  For the Christian believer who has all of their heart, mind, and self-will surrendered to God, and is walking with God through life, God is able to fashion and orchestrate all of life’s events into a cohesive and purposeful direction.

For example, a young Christian wife today who is raising three children, while managing a home and maintaining a marriage, through the daily lessons of the Holy Spirit…can learn just as much about love, human nature, and life as the Apostle Paul himself.

A young man or women that feels that God has given them the ability and desire to become a college professor in a particular subject, but does not have the financial means in their family to realize this dream, can discover through faith that God can make a way through college and graduate school where there seems to be no way, just like the experience of God opening up the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites.

Through God and the Holy Spirit we have access to the same faith and trust in God that led to the spectacular life stories in the Bible.

Surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ is not a cop-out on our part.  It is not choosing the easy way out of our troubles, or taking a detour around life’s problems by pushing these problems off on God.

Surrendering our lives to God and casting our cares upon Him actually allows us to honestly face-up to the issues and challenges of life head-on, with a positive and elevated attitude that eventually achieves victory.

A Holy Spirit led adventure of faith through life can only begin after we have stepped down off the throne of our lives and stopped trying to be our own god.  This is not a cop-out, but the most sensible and clear-headed realization of the reality of our spiritual condition.

Only the Creator God can compose and orchestrate a genuine walk of faith that entails all of life’s situations and circumstances leading toward a man or woman “in Christ” obtaining a mature, godly character.

People, who say that Christians are weak because they rely upon God as a crutch, could not be more misinformed.  A genuine journey of faith by definition cannot be “using God as a crutch,” because we are incapable of writing our own long-range, biblical quality life-script containing precisely coordinated and focused lessons of faith.

That Not of Yourselves 3

One critical aspect of a walk of faith elevated above worldly conventional thinking is the absolute certainty that along the narrow way, God’s life-script calling for me will produce profound questions regarding truth, love, self-sacrifice, and the need to pay my dues in purchasing some measure of divine character…at the outer boundary of my capacity to be Christ-like (Lk. 22:42; 23:34).

Jesus purchased us with His own blood on the cross.  The seal of the Holy Spirit through being born-again is the legal evidence…the proof of purchase of ownership.  We start out as “fixer-uppers” with a lot of repair and renovation work needed in our characters.  But the security of eternal salvation liberates us from falling back under the law and into condemnation once again (Heb. 9:12).

The substitute of no less than the life of Jesus the Son of God on the cross as payment for the penalty of our sin removes the believer from under the curse of the law…and places us under grace.  We are therefore dead to the law.  For the saved person to become lost would require him to come once again under the law.  But we cannot undo or reverse the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  No human has the capacity to nullify the salvation that comes from being redeemed, regardless of past, present, or even future shortcomings and failures (Jn. 10:28).

Once we are in the palm of God’s hand, we are saved for evermore.  We do not possess the power to independently jump out of the palm of God’s hand.  This doctrine and teaching is essential to a journey of faith, and is one of the most important biblical truths of our times.

It is irrelevant and inconsequential in terms of evaluating another person’s salvation, if in our limited judgment some saved Christians appear to become “back-slidden” in unbelief.  Discerning whether or not a person is living a Christian life is entirely different from judging whether that person is saved or not.  Scripture says that man looks at the outer appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 1:7).

Man’s judgment regarding another person’s salvation is inadequate and unqualified, and should never be the basis for the teaching of a doctrine that says saved people can become lost.

The high value of a voluntary journey of faith according to a God-composed life-script is so important to us that not only did Jesus die on the cross to procure this perfect redemption for us, but encompasses also the forbearance and patience of God in crafting the bare minimum life-lessons for those saved people who, for whatever reason, do not appear to us to enter into the fullness of a biblical walk of faith.

When we are spiritually “born again” through repentance and faith in Christ, we take on the nature of God.  An animal that is newly born takes on the nature and character of its parents.  A baby whale stays close to its mother, copying the mother’s every move.  The young elephant takes on the nature of an elephant, observing and learning from every member of the elephant herd.

A journey of faith is the relational vehicle that God created for us to begin to relate to and become more like Him.  Picking up our cross daily is the effective means created by God to remove the stubborn, rebel-nature we inherited through our fall into sin.  Being born-again is the first step in beginning a new life taking on and exhibiting our new natures “in Christ.”  The Holy Spirit is the seal that we are born-again because he lives within us to help us grow daily toward becoming more like God.

My greatest desire in my own journey of faith is that God will prove Himself to be brilliant and insightful beyond my imagination.  That God can set up a program and capably manage it toward an eternally beneficial outcome fulfills the deepest in-built need we have for purpose and meaning in this short life.

Once a new Spirit-born Christian realizes that Jesus Christ is alive today and that He is Savior and King, the next step is to get to know Jesus personally and to discover what God is really like.  This requires a God-composed journey of faith life-script, and like salvation, this requires a work of God.

This is what separates Christianity from all other religions and philosophies.  By God’s design and intention, this is one element of our Christian experience that validates and authenticates the God of the Bible, because it cannot be duplicated or counterfeited through horizontally conventional, worldly thinking.

“As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (Jn. 1:12).  God gives the Spirit-born Christian the power to become a son of God.  Becoming a son of God occurs after Spirit-born salvation, and is energized by God.  This is why a God-composed and orchestrated, biblical-quality journey of faith erases merit and self-generated works from the spiritual equation.

A journey of faith through the second half of the cross, as described in this book, should never be confused with the notion of salvation by works.  Earning or maintaining our salvation through works has no place in biblical Christianity (Jn. 5:24).

“It is of faith that it might be by grace” permeates the true Christian experience from beginning to end.  The outcome of discovering God’s nature and true motivations drives the entire experience.  God is love, and He wants to get us rightly connected to Him so He can share His love with us in a positive relationship for all eternity.  This is the biblical record from beginning to end.

Salvation through a Messiah who dies on a Roman cross as the penalty paid in full for the shortfall and deficit of our sins, a scenario that we could never invent and that was missed ahead of time by absolutely everyone living in first-century Israel, validates and authenticates the God of the Bible as the one true living God for our eternal benefit.

A new-covenant journey of faith following Jesus Christ in our own lives as Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians, in life-scripts we could not possibly imagine or orchestrate on our own, is in complete harmony with the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.

“That not of yourselves” is the well-intentioned, love-filled theme that runs throughout the Bible from beginning to end both in our salvation and in our journeys of faith.  It defines the second half of the cross in the highest moral and spiritual way.  It is a vital and key ingredient in the preparation of end-times Christians for the challenging times ahead (Mt. 24:44).