“Unstable people let circumstances control how they feel—cheerful in sunshine but depressed in rain. And this is the way of the unsound heart. A few trying situations weaken his spirit and destroy him as a cold winter kills feeble bodies. Afflictions, however, help the Christian grow by uniting him even more closely with Christ. Trouble sends him straight to the arms of the Lord, as the bee flies to her hive in a storm. He is glad who has such a comfortable pillow as the lap of Jesus.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
Christianity In The Actual And Real Life
A man cannot take in anything he has not begun to think about, consequently until a man is born again what Jesus says does not mean anything to him. The Bible is a universe of revelation facts have no meaning for us until we are born from above; when we are born again we see in it what we never saw before. We are lifted into the realm where Jesus lives and we begin to see what He sees (John 3:3).
By “Actual” is meant the things we come in contact with by our senses, and by “Real” that which lies behind, that which we cannot get at by our senses (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18). The fanatic sees the real only and ignores the actual; the materialist looks at the actual only and ignores the real. The only sane Being whoever trod this earth was Jesus Christ, because in Him the actual and the real world one. …
When we are born from above we begin to see the actual things in the light of the real. …
Deliverance from sin is not deliverance from conscious sin only, it is deliverance from sin in God’s sight, and He can see down into a region I know nothing about. By the marvelous Atonement of Jesus Christ applied to me by the Holy Spirit, God can purify the springs of my unconscious life until the temper of my mind is unblameable in His sight. …
Everything Jesus says is impossible unless He can put His Spirit into me and remake me from within…. When a man is born from above, he does not need to pretend to be a saint, he cannot help being one. …
There is only one way in which as a disciple you will know that Jesus has altered your disposition, and that is by trying circumstances. … The proof that God has altered our disposition is not that we persuade ourselves He has, but that we prove He has when circumstances put us to the test.
The truths that the Bible declares are real truths, but they need to be lived out in the actual life of a Christian. Jesus is the only One who has ever done this, but by His Atonement applied to our actual lives by the Holy Spirit, we can begin to live this way as well.
In order to live out real truths in actual life, we have to experience actual life—all of the ups and downs, the victories and defeats, the temptations succumbed to and the temptations overcome—in light of real truth. In every experience, the Holy Spirit can sanctify us. I like to think of that word sanctification like this: saint-ification. If I will allow Him, the Holy Spirit can bring out actual saintly qualities in my life.
The more I allow Him to do this, the more saintliness is seen in my actual life. As Chambers reminds us, then we don’t have to pretend to be a saint, but we cannot help but be an actual one!
But the key question for Christians comes down to this—Do others know that you know that God is for you?
You see, God is for you because God is joyful and happy, and He wants you to not only know this but to radiate this joy and happiness to those around you.
Here’s how it works:
(1) Joy is an inside job. The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great delight caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” When we know by our personal experience with Him how good God is, joy is birthed in our heart as we see Him as All-Good and All-Satisfying.
(2) Joy is regardless of my external circumstances. Some people try to pursue happiness apart from joy. Trying to get happy without having the foundation of joy is like having a flower that has been picked from the plant. Happiness may be pretty for a short while, but it is already fading because it is completely dependent on the environment around it. True happiness isn’t dependent on external circumstances because it is rooted in something far greater.
(3) Knowing God’s favor fuels our joy. There is a Hebrew word for know which means “knowledge through intimate, personal experience.” Psalm 100 describes happy people and their joyful praise. Their joy comes from this: They know that their Lord is God and that He is good. This joy comes from seeing and savoring God’s favor.
(4) Our internal joy should bubble up into external happiness. All throughout the Bible we read how those who are filled with joy as they get to know this exceptionally good, all-satisfying God cannot help but burst out in songs of happy praise (see Psalm 28:7 and Luke 10:21).
(5) Our external happiness becomes our testimony. In Psalm 126 we read that God’s people who were full of God’s joy burst out into happy praise. When they did the people around them recognized that God had done great things for them.
Check this out—
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be unhappy is a sin. An unhappy Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. The happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too!” —Craig T. Owens
So let me ask you again: If you call yourself a Christian, do people know that you know that God is for you? Are you making God look All-Good and All-Satisfying by your deeply fueled joy and your face-brightening happiness?
What a testimony it is when God’s people are happy in Him!
If you have missed any of my other teachings about God’s favor, be sure to check them out:
Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way wrecked me … in a good way! Ann shows us how Jesus steps into our brokenness, and how He then prepared us to take His love into other people’s brokenness. It’s a fantastic book, so you really should check out my book review by clicking here.
“I am not the mistakes I have made; I am the righteousness He has made. I am not the plans I have failed; I am the perfectness He has finished. I am not the wrongs I have done; I am the faultlessness He has been. I am not the sins I have chosen; I am chosen by the Beloved, regardless of my sins. In Christ, I am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home.”
“You’ve got to give your gifts or they may become your idols.”
“The thread of your life becomes a tapestry of abundant colors only if it ties itself to other lives. The only way to strengthen the fabric of society is to let the threads of your life break away to let Christ, who is in us, weave around other threads. … The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.”
“We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.”
“Don’t we all have to unlearn fear before we can truly learn to love?”
“Jesus comes to give you freely through His passion what every other god forces you to try to get through performance.”
“Compassion says there will only be abundance for me when there is abundance for you.”
“Instead of flexing His muscle, Jesus surrendered His muscle to the nail. Instead of leveraging His position, He leveraged Himself out on a Cross. He made sacrifice His default position. Instead of stonewalling people with His authoritative power, He laid down His authority, lay down in a tomb, lay in a suffering death till the stone was rolled away.”
“The focus of God’s people is not to create explanations for suffering, but to create communities around suffering, co-suffering communities to absorb suffering and see it transform into cruciform grace.”
“Suffering is not a problem that needs a solution as much as it’s an experience that needs compassion.”
“Faith is confidence in the kindness of God, no matter the confusion of circumstances.”
In The Seven Laws Of Love, Dave Willis gives us some highly practical, biblically-based counsel for investing in all of our relationships. Normally when I share quotes from books, I share all of them at once, but for this book I felt like it would be good to share these quotes a bit more slowly, to give you time to read them and apply them.
The seven laws Dave identifies are:
From law #4, here are some quotes on how love conquers fear—
“Fear may be something natural, but love represents something supernatural. Love has the power to set a positive course for your life and chase away your fears in the process.”
“We do have the power to shape the future, but unless you actually own a time machine, worrying about the past is a complete waste of your time and energy. If you want to live a life of love and the freedom it brings, you’ve got to make peace with your past. We should learn from our past and build on our past but not ever dwell on our past. Just like the rearview mirror in your car, looking at the past gives us perspective; but if you’re staring at it all the time, you’re going to cause a wreck. We need to embrace the moment we are in. Don’t let regrets from yesterday or worries about tomorrow rob you of the peace and blessings God has for you today!”
“The truth is that your past has helped shape your character, but it has nothing to do with your identity. Your identity comes from God alone, and He loves you unconditionally.”
“Don’t get trapped trying to recreate the good old days when your best days are still to come.”
“There isn’t enough room in your heart for both fear and faith, so each day you must decide which one gets to stay.”
“Your character should always be stronger than your circumstances.”
“Your struggles always lead to strength.”
Check out my review of The Seven Laws Of Love by clicking here.
Watch for more quotes from the other laws of love explained in this book throughout this week.
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
The New Life In Me
Oswald Chambers points out several things which affirms that one has experienced the new birth of salvation.
“If Christ is formed in us, the great characteristic is that we know Him and perceive Him for ourselves. We do not need anyone to tell us about Him now, He is our Lord and Master.”
“Where do we go in a crisis? If we are born from above and Jesus Christ is Lord and Master, we will go direct as a homing pigeon to Him.”
“When Christ is formed in us, we are a satisfaction to our Lord and Master wherever He places us. The point of importance is to know that we are just exactly where He has engineered our circumstances. There is no ‘foreign field’ to our Lord.”
“Another evidence of new birth is that we see the rule of God. We no longer see the haphazard of chance for fate, but by the experience of new birth we are in able to see the rule of God everywhere. … We all see the common occurrences of our daily life, but who amongst us can perceive the arm of the Lord behind them? The saint recognizes in all the ordinary circumstances of his life the hand of God and the rule of God, and Jesus says we cannot do that unless we are born from above. … Nothing happens by chance to a saint, no matter how haphazard it seems. It is the order of God.”
“Do we seek to stop sinning, or have we stopped sinning? We are always inclined to make theoretical what God makes practical. Learned divines and others talk about the sin question, and make it a doctrinal matter of dispute. In the Bible it is never, Should a Christian sin? The Bible puts it emphatically: A Christian must not sin. …
“When we are born into the new realm the life of God is born in us, and the life of God in us cannot sin (1 John 3:9). That does not mean that we cannot sin; it means that if we obey the life of God in us, we need not sin. God never takes away our power to disobey; if He did, our obedience would be of no value, for we should cease to be morally responsible. By regeneration God puts in us the power not to sin.”
From The Psychology Of Redemption
As you read through this list, what do you think? Are you trying to be a Christian, or are you letting this new birth simply do its work in you?
Give thanks that because of God’s care, you can be at peace regardless of the circumstances you face.
I love to pray the Scriptures during my times of prayer. Perhaps today you could pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I am learning not to be anxious about anything, but to turn every stressful situation over to You in prayer, and to be thankful for what You’re going to do. I am also learning to turn everything that bothers me into a prayer request to You. When I do this, Your peace, which transcends my human understanding, guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
I am also learning to be content whatever my circumstances are. I certainly know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have enough. I am learning the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through You, Jesus, because You give me strength. I know that You will meet all my needs according to the riches in Christ Jesus [Philippians 4:6-7, 11-13, 19]. I know that when I pray this in Your name, Jesus, I can say a confident “amen!”
“The natural life is not spiritual, it can only be made spiritual by deliberately casting it out and making it the slave instead of the ruler. … Jesus Christ cannot give me a meek and quiet spirit, I have to take His yoke upon me; that is, I have to deliberately discipline myself. … If we do not resolutely cast out the natural, the supernatural can never become natural in us.”
“Remember, Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac. Some of us are trying to offer spiritual sacrifices before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is to do what He tells us to do, discipline what He tells us to discipline.”
“Common sense is not faith and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of Ishmael and Isaac, of the natural and spiritual, of individuality and personality, of impulse and inspiration. Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism. The life of faith brings the two into right relationship.”
“We have the idea that the body, individuality, and the natural life are altogether of the devil; they are not, they are all of God, designed by God, and it is in the human body and in the natural order of things that we have to exhibit our worship of God. The danger is to mistake the natural for the spiritual, and instead of worshiping God in my natural life to make my natural life God.”
“How am I going to find out what the will of God is? In one way only, by not trying to find out. If you are born again of the Spirit of God, you are the will of God, and your ordinary common sense decisions are God’s will for you unless He gives an inner check. When He does, call a halt immediately and wait on Him. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind that you may make out His will, not in your mind, but in practical living. God’s will in my common sense life is not for me to accept conditions and say—‘Oh well, it is the will of God,’ but to apprehend them for Him, and that means conflict, and it is of God that we conflict. Doing the will of God is an active thing in my common sense life.”
“As Abimelech rebuked Abraham when he was in the wrong (see Genesis 20), and Abraham in his turn rebuked Abimelech, so in the same way the children of men from time to time rebuke the children of God, and the children of God rebuke the politics of natural men. Compromise with each other or unity between them is immoral. Arbitration until He comes Whose right it is to reign is the God-ordained program.”
“The very nature of faith is that it must be tried; faith untried is only ideally real, not actually real. Faith is not rational, therefore it cannot be worked out on the basis of logical reason; it can only be worked out on the implicit line of living obedience.”
“God does not further our spiritual life in spite of our circumstances, but in and by our circumstances.”
“To say ‘Here I am’ when God speaks, is only possible if we are in His presence, in the place where we can obey.”
“God never fits His Word to suit me; He fits me to suit His Word.”
“True faith does not so much take God at His Word as take the Word of God as it is, in the face of all difficulties, and act upon it, with no attempt to explain or expounded.”
“The path to God is never the same as the path of God. When I am going on with God in His path, I do not understand, but God does; therefore I understand God, not His path.”
“Christ died in the stead of me. I, a guilty sinner, can never get right with God, it is impossible. I can only be brought into union with God by identification with the One Who died in my stead. No sinner can get right with God on any other ground than the ground that Christ died in his stead, not instead of him.”
“The maturity of character before God is the personal channel through which He can bless others. If it takes all our lifetime before God can put us right, then others are going to be impoverished.”
“The genius of the Spirit of God is to make us pilgrims, consequently there is the continual un-at-home-ness in this world (cf. Philippians 3:20).”
“It is impossible for a saint, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. In order to keep the mind and heart awake to God’s high ideals you have to keep coming back again and again to the primal source.”
“Bitterness and cynicism are born of broken gods; bitterness is an indication that somewhere in my life I have belittled the true God and made a god of human perfection.”
And my book review of Not Knowing Where is here.
Not Knowing Where is the first Oswald Chambers book I ever read, and I was instantly hooked. I recently re-read this book and found new gems I hadn’t seen before. You can read my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy a few of the many, many quotes I highlighted this time around.
“To debate with God and trust common sense is moral blasphemy against God. … When God calls us He does not tell us along the line of our natural senses what to expect; God’s call is a command that asks us, that means there is always a possibility of refusal on our part. Faith never knows where it is being led, it knows and loves the One Who is leading.”
“The call of God only becomes clear as we obey, never as we weigh the pros and cons and try to reason it out.”
“God will never allow you to hold a spiritual blessing for yourself, it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others. If you hoard it, it will turn to spiritual dry rot.”
“There is a difference between circumstances and environment. We cannot control our circumstances, but we are the deciders of our own environment. … ‘Circumstances over which I have no control’ is a perfectly true phrase, but it must never be made to mean that we cannot control ourselves in those circumstances.”
“At times it appears as if God has not only forsaken His Word, but has deliberately deceived us. We asked Him for a particular thing, or related ourselves to Him along a certain line, and expected that it would mean the fullness of blessing, and actually it has meant the opposite—upset, trouble and difficulty all around, and we are staggered, until we learn that by this very discipline God is bringing us to the place of entire abandonment to Himself.”
“God holds His children responsible for the way in which they interpret His will. We only discern God’s will by being renewed in the spirit of our minds in every circumstance we are in. We must learn to tell ourselves the truth on the basis of God’s Word.”
“In worship I deliberately give back to God the best He is given me that I may be identified with Him in it.”
“The greatest enemy of the life with God is not sin, but the good that is not good enough. … Many of us do not go on in our spiritual life because we prefer to choose what is our right instead of relying upon God to choose for us.”
“Reality is not found in logic; Reality is a Person.”
“Spiritual fatigue comes from the unconscious frittering away of God’s time. When you feel weary or are exhausted, don’t ask for hot milk, but get back to God.”
“To say ‘I have got the victory’ is a selfish testimony; the testimony of the Spirit of God is that the Victor has got me.”
“A saint is not an angel and never will be; a saint is the flesh and blood theater in which the decrees of God are carried to successful issues. All of which means that God demands of us the doing of common things while we abide in Him.”
“Self-pity is satanic.”
“There is nothing more heroic than to have faith in God when you see so many better things in which to have faith.”