Thursdays With Oswald—Becoming Carefully Careless

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Becoming Carefully Careless

     Faith is our personal confidence in a Being Whose character we know, but Whose ways we cannot trace by common sense. … Common sense is mathematical; faith is not mathematical, faith works on illogical lines. …  

     To have faith tests a man for all he is worth, he has to stand in the common-cents universe in the midst of things which conflict with his faith, and place his confidence in the God Whose character is revealed in Jesus Christ. …  

     Most of us are pagans in a crisis; we think and act like pagans, only one out of a hundred is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God. …  

     Jesus does not say, “Blessed is the man who does not think about anything”; that man is a fool; He says, “Be carefully careless about everything saving one thing—your relationship to God.” … Many people are careless about what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they put on, and they look as they have no right to look; they are careless over property, and God holds them responsible for it. Jesus is saying that the great care of the life is to put the relationship to God first and everything else second. Our Lord teaches a complete reversal of all our practical sensible reasonings. Do not make the ruling factor of your life what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, but make zealous concentration on God the one point of your life. … Jesus Christ says, “Reverse the order, get rightly related to Me first, see that you maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concentration of your care on the other things.”

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

It does seem illogical from our human perspective to not think about the basics of life first and foremost, but Jesus is clear and consistent in His message to us that God should be THE priority. Seek Him first and all the other things fall into place. Be “carefully careless” about everything except your relationship with Jesus! 

Don’t be a pagan atheist in a time of trial. Don’t be that 99 out of a hundred that abandons God when times are tough. Instead, be that “one out of a hundred [that] is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God” no matter what the circumstances are! 

Thursdays With Oswald—What Is Mammon?

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

What Is Mammon?

     You cannot serve God and Mammon [Matthew 6:24]. A man of the world says we can; with a little subtlety and wisdom and compromise (it is called diplomacy or tact), we can serve both. The devil’s temptation to our Lord to fall down and worship him, i.e., to compromise, is repeated over and over again in Christian experience. We have to realize that there is a division as high as heaven and as deep as hell between the Christian and the world. ‘Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ [James 4:4]. … 

     Never compromise with the spirit of Mammon. When you are right with God, you become contemptible in the eyes of the world. Put into practice any of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and you will be treated with amusement at first; then if you persist, the world will get annoyed and will detest you. … What is Mammon? The system of civilized life which organizes itself without considering God. … 

     When we become mature in godliness God trusts His own honor to us by placing us where the world, the flesh, and the devil may try us, knowing that ‘greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world’ [1 John 4:4].

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Mammon wants to get what it wants to get, without considering God and without regard to the long-term consequences. Mammon wants satisfaction right now! 

Mammon is the system of the world. People are constantly driven by what they can get for themselves right now, with little—if any—thought to what God thinks or to what the inevitable outcome is going to be. 

A Christian is different. 

A Christian is focused on something which cannot be seen right now. But just because the rewards cannot be seen doesn’t make them any less real. In fact, Jesus teaches that the rewards He gives are Reality itself. 

When a Christian insists on doing things God’s way, the devil will sneer and people will laugh. But God’s Spirit in you is greater than all of that, and He will help you to stand firm in Him, not compromising with the lure of Mammon. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Philanthropy, Prayer, And Penance

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Philanthropy, Prayer, And Penance 

     In chapter Matthew 5, our Lord demands that our disposition be right with Him in our ordinary natural life lived to men; in chapter 6, He deals with the domain of our life lived to God before men. The main idea in the region of religion is: Your eyes on God, not on men. …  

     Briefly summed up these verses [6:1-4] mean: Have no other motive in giving than to please God. In modern philanthropy we are ‘egged on’ with other motives—It will do them good; they need the help; they deserve it. Jesus Christ never brings out that aspect in His teaching; He allows no other motive in the giving than to please God. … It is a very penetrating thing to ask ourselves this question—“What was my motive in doing that kind act?” … 

     But when you give it to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” That means do good until it is an unconscious habit of the life and you do not know you are doing it…. 

     Have no other motive in prayer than to know Him [6:5-15]. … Call a halt one moment and ask yourself—“Why do I pray? What is my motive? Is it because I have a personal secret relationship to God known to no one but myself?” … 

     It is impossible to live the life of a disciple without definite times of secret prayer. You will find that the place to enter in is in your business, as you walk along the streets, in the ordinary ways of life, when no one dreams you are praying, and the reward comes openly, a revival here, a blessing there. …  

     In verse 8 Jesus goes to the root of all prayer—“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Common sense says, “Then why ask Him?” Prayer is not getting things from God, that is a most initial stage; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God; I tell him what I know He knows in order that I may get to know it as He does. …  

     Penance [6:16-18] means putting ourselves into a straitjacket for the sake of disciplining our spiritual character. Physical sloth will upset spiritual devotion quicker than anything else. If the devil cannot get at us by enticing to sin, he will get at us by sleeping-sickness spiritually…. Penance means doing a hardship to the body for the sake of developing the spiritual life. … Jeremy Taylor said that men hang out the sign of the devil; to prove there is an angel within; that is, they wear sad countenances and look tremendously severe in order to prove they are holy. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Good questions from Oswald Chambers:

  • Philanthropy—What was my motive in doing that kind act?
  • Prayer—Why do I pray? What is my motive? Is it because I have a personal secret relationship to God known to no one but myself?
  • Penance—Am I “hanging out a sign” just to let other people know that I’m discipling myself? 

Thursdays With Oswald—Where Does Christian Character Come From?

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Where Does Christian Character Come From?

     Christian character is not expressed by doing good, but by God-likeness. It is not sufficient to do good, to do the right thing, we must have our goodness stamped by the image and superscription of God, it is supernatural all through. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural is made natural by the grace of God. The way it is worked out in expression is not in having times of communion with God, but in the practical details of life. The proof that we have been regenerated is that when we come in contact with the things that create a buzz, we find to our astonishment that we have a power to keep wonderfully poised in the center of it all, a power we did not have before, a power that is only explained by the Cross of Jesus Christ. … 

     “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matthew 5:48], not in a future state, but—“You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect if you let Me work that perfection in you.” If the Holy Spirit has transformed us within, we will not exhibit good human characteristics, but divine characteristics in our human nature. … 

     It is not a question of putting the statements of our Lord in front of us and trying to live up to them, but of receiving His Spirit and finding that we can live up to them as He brings them to our remembrance and applies them to our circumstances.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Jesus said one of the roles of the Holy Spirit was to remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit will constantly be working to bring the principles in the Bible to be applied in the real-life circumstances we are in—this is how Christian character is formed in us. 

God’s Word + the Holy Spirit’s application + our obedience = Christian character perfected in us

Are you reading God’s Word? Are you letting the Holy Spirit apply the Word to your life? Are you obeying what He’s showing you? These are the steps to exhibiting our heavenly Father’s divine characteristics in our human nature. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Getting The Order Right

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Getting The Order Right

     Beware of walking in the spiritual life according to your natural affinities. We all have natural affinities—some people we like and others we do not; some people we get on well with and others we do not. Never let those likes and dislikes be the rule of your Christian life. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” [1 John 1:7], i.e., God gives us fellowship with people for whom we have no natural affinity. …  

     Our example is not a good man, not even a Christian man, but God Himself. We do not allow the big surprise of this to lay hold of us sufficiently. Jesus nowhere says, “Follow your Father which is in heaven—that you may be good men? that you may be lovable to all men?” No, “that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 5:44-45], and that implies a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ. …  

     It takes a long time to get the full force of our Lord’s statements. “I say unto you, love your enemies”—an easy thing to do when you have no enemies; an impossible thing when you have. “Bless them that curse you”—easy when no one is cursing you, but impossible when someone is. “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.” It seems easy to do all this when we have no enemies, when no one is cursing or persecuting us; but if we have an enemy who slanders and annoys and systematically vexes us, and we read Jesus Christ’s statement “I say to you, Love your enemies”—how are we going to do it? Unless Jesus Christ can remake us within, His teaching is the biggest mockery human ears ever listened to. …

     “I say unto you, love your enemies.” Jesus does not say, “Love every one.” The Bible never speaks vaguely, it always speaks definitely. People speak about loving “mankind,” and loving “the heathen”; Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Our Lord does not say, “Bless your enemies,” He says, “Love your enemies.” He does not say, “Love them that curse you”; He says, “Bless them that curse you.” “Do good to them that hate you”—not bless them. He does not say, “Do good to them that despitefully use you”; He says, “Pray for them that despitefully use you.” Each one of these commands is stamped with sheer impossibility to the natural man. If we reverse the order Jesus has given it can be done with strain, but in His order I defy any man on earth to be able to do it unless he has been regenerated by God the Holy Ghost. When a man does love his enemies, he knows that God has done a tremendous work in him, and everyone else knows it too. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

It’s impossible to do what Jesus commands if we’re trying to do it solely in our own strength. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to remake us from within, we can do what Jesus says:

  • If someone is your enemy—love them.
  • If someone persecutes you—pray for them. 
  • If someone curses you—bless them.
  • If someone hates you—do good to them. 

When we operate this way, we know that God has made this possible in us—and everyone else knows it too!

Thursdays With Oswald—Dealing With Persecution

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Dealing With Persecution

     If a disciple is going to follow Jesus Christ, he must lay his account not only with purity and with practice, but also with persecution [Matthew 5:38-42]. … 

     When we are on Jesus Christ’s errands, no time is to be taken in standing up for ourselves. Personal insult will be an occasion in the saint for revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus. … Naturally, if a man does not hit back it is because he is a coward; supernaturally, it is the manifestation of the Son of God in him: both have the same appearance outwardly. … 

     Our strength has to be the strength of the Son of God, and “He was crucified through weakness.” Do the impossible, and immediately you do, you know that God alone has made it possible. … 

     The miracle of regeneration is necessary before we can live the Sermon on the Mount. The Son of God alone can live it, and if God can form in us the life of the Son of God as He introduced Him into human history, then we can see how we can live it too. …  

     The Sermon on the Mount is not, “Do your duty”; but, “Do what is not your duty.” … You will go the second mile, not for their sakes, but for Jesus Christ’s sake. … The first thing God requires of a man is to be born from above, then when he goes the second mile for men it is the Son of God in him Who does it. …  

     We always say we do not know what Jesus Christ means when we know perfectly well He means something which is a blunt impossibility unless He can remake us and make it possible. … We can always find a hundred and one reasons for not obeying our Lord’s commands, because we will trust our reasoning rather than His reason, and our reason does not take God into calculation. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount 

If the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount sound humanly impossible, that’s because they are! 

I cannot turn the other cheek, give to everyone who asks me, or go the second mile; but Jesus in me CAN. I have to allow the Holy Spirit to transform me, to mold the character of Jesus into me. When this happens, it is no longer I who are trying to do these things, but the Spirit of Christ in me that is actually doing these things.

Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

Oswald ChambersThis 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.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

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