Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Philippians 3: 8, 9

 

Most people are hoarders. We usually call it something else. We are collectors, frugal, prepared for any situation, stocking up, blessed by possessions, or fearful for where the next meal might come from. Storing up and holding on tightly to what we have seems to be ingrained deeply into our make-up. That is why the act of moving, of needing to pack it all and physically pick it up and put it some place else is often so healthy. This act usually causes us to consider carefully each thing that we have and consider why an item that hasn’t seen the light of day in over ten years is still essential. In a way, this is the challenge that Paul is throwing down for us here.

 

It is not my intention to be frivolous about the profound and the extraordinary change that takes place in people as we accept God’s invitation to enter into a relationship with Him by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. However, this is a bit like the idea of packing up and moving. Our lives are filled with all that we have collected throughout our years on earth. We also bring with us a large assortment of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, and responses to life that came from our parents and from others who have influenced our development. Regardless of our age, the dwelling place of our soul contains a lot of stuff. Some of it is very useful for living a full life in response to God’s calling for us. Yet, other aspects of who we are will continue to weight us down and to inhibit our ability to respond to Christ fully and absolutely. Paul shows us a truly ruthless attitude toward it all. He says that we should consider all of the self-satisfying and God-denying aspects of our former lives as noting better than the trash.

 

Rather than wrapping them carefully to protect them, we should toss them out. This sort of spring cleaning isn’t so easy to do. Yet, it is vitally important for us. If we wish to leave behind the old life of living under the authority of the law with its rigid demands and its utter futility, then we need to trust Christ fully so that His Spirit can guide us into and through the necessary process of purging our hearts and minds of old ways of thinking about who we are, how we see others, and the way that God wants us to respond to His calling for us. This sort of deep and personal house cleaning can be painful and it is often rather frustrating as the items that we toss out today seem to find their way back in tomorrow. So, we need to do it all over again. Still, God is faithful, and He will remove the old, death-bringing aspects of ourselves from us. As we trust Christ and have faith in His great purpose for our lives, He will move us in and settle us into dwelling in the kingdom of His righteousness.

Jesus said to the apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.”

Mark 6: 31

 

Jesus and His small band of close followers, the apostles, were living very hectic lives. There was much to do, and they were continually in motion. The demands of life were such that it seems that they weren’t finding the time for such basic activities as eating. This bone-wearying pace was theirs, and the world that they lived in didn’t even have instant news. In our times Jesus and His followers would have had an even harder time in finding some peace and quiet away from the demands of the crowds. All of this is a rather long way around to the thought that it seems clear to me that God truly understands our real need for times of escape and for the inner calm that comes in times of God-seeking isolation.

 

The same words that Jesus spoke to the apostles are ones that I hear Him speaking into my over-extended life. Christ wants me to leave all of the commitments and the responsibilities behind. In jealousy He desires my full attention, for Christ knows that a divided heart and mind, as we often are in our modern multi-tasking approach to living, will not be very attentive to His voice. My Lord wants me to allow Him to be exactly that, the Lord of my entire being. He calls upon me to go out to a place where there are no distractions and where there is no possibility that life’s urgencies will be able to grab me. Even if it is only for a short time, Christ wants me to be able to openly and honestly speak the deepest desires and needs of my heart. He leads me to find a place where silence permits my ears an opportunity to truly hear His voice.

 

We are not usually called by God to leave this world permanently or even for extended periods of time; rather, He typically asks that we take regular, short breaks away from the noise, the clutter, and the commitments of life in order to focus our complete attention on Him. In the story as told in Mark, the apostles had only a short amount of time as they traveled across the lake in a boat. The crowds rapidly found them again on the other side. It seems to be a universal truth that life and its urgency has a way of always finding the people who God has chosen and equipped to bring His answers to its situations. In fact, this is the reason why we need to purpose and to plan to take these breaks from life, to go alone to a desolate place where Christ’s voice is all that we can hear. For in these times and in this place, Christ brings His will into clearer focus and He grants the weary spirit rest.

 

 

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Hebrews 4: 9, 10

 

These are not restful times, and most people are not very comfortable in entering into rest, either. The days in which we live are filled with activity and with agitation. These forces operate somewhat like the various streams of high velocity water that crash together from many directions to form the turbulence of a section of white water rapids. This sort of multi-vector swirling violence can overwhelm and drown anyone who gets caught in it. Even skilled boaters can be overcome in a singular careless moment. The forces that are at work in our world can do the same. On top of that, many people, even people who know God, have become hyper-vigilant due to the concerns and the fears that are surrounding our hearts and minds.

 

However, Christ seems to desire for His people to live differently from all of this. He calls to us to enter into a form of rest that is a gift from God to the people of this war torn land. The vacation from the conflict that Christ directs us toward is different from the sort of hiatus from combat that soldiers sometimes enjoy, for Christ’s rest is not found in disengagement or in temporary insulation from the stressors of this world. Instead, it is achieved through the realization of the ultimate and final truth of the cross of Jesus. The ability of this world to bring about true harm to people was nailed to that cross, and nothing that Satan and his forces of evil can bring to bear upon Christ’s people can actually damage the part of us that has eternal significance.

 

The rest that we can accept from Christ’s sacrifice is His gift to us. Entering fully into that rest is a form of service that we can render in return. Herein lies the difference from the sort of vacations that people usually plan for themselves and the form that resting in Christ takes for His people. Our vacations are generally times during which we seek to escape from engagement with our world. They are filled with activities that take our minds off of what occupies them during the rest of our days. The Sabbath rest that Christ gives to us is fully scheduled with engagement in our world. It provides the sort of peace that frees our hearts and our minds to engage in fierce and fearless love for others and that establishes worship as the rhythm of our days.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.

1 Peter 5: 6

 

Humility is a tough concept to grasp. Worldly wisdom says that if you have too much of it, no one will listen to you. Its voice continually directs us to be wise and to exhibit strength so that others will respect and follow us. So there is established a daily challenge for people who know Christ. For during the course of every day of my life there is more than enough wisdom and way more strength available to me than I ever realize and than I ever utilize. This is particularly true on the days when I am most stretched by trying to just keep up with the stresses and the demands that life has covered me with. These are the times when I am most likely to go deep into myself to try to find the resources that my ego tells me are always going to get me through.

 

My mind tells me that I have it all under control, that I always have the answers, and that I am the captain of my own ship’s destiny. Yet, my relationship with Christ is slowly teaching me that everything that actually works comes from Him. So, I am placed into a quandary of decision, for in the most demanding and stressful of times in my life, I need to become the most submitted to the love, wisdom, and grace of God. In other words, at the moment that my experience, training, and practice drive me toward independence and personal strength, Christ asks me to let all of that go and trust Him first, and this is counter to my well trained, deeply-held and intuitive response.

 

Still, the truth is that God’s hand is mighty. His loving heart is huge beyond description, and His desire is for me to prosper in ways that matter at the eternal level. When I take the time to pray my way into and through the hard conversations, interactions, and decisions of my day, the Lord never fails to give me wisdom, understanding, and the peace that I need to proceed. As I let God’s Word provide me with guidance and His Spirit mentor my decisions, things become clearer, and my responses take on a loving attitude that is not naturally mine.

 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6: 19, 20

 

Why is there any distance between God and people? Did one of us get tired or bored with the relationship and decide to leave, or was there some sort of mutual blame for the breaking up of the relationship? If we choose to believe what the Bible says on this subject, it is clear that all of the blame for what is amiss in humanity’s connection to Creator comes about as a result of people’s willful desire to hold the upper hand and to plot our path through life exactly as we want to go and with our own sense of pleasure and security as our primary guide. We walked away and sought out the divorce, but God answered our foolish desire for absolute independence with His promise of unending love, total grace, and willingness to pay any price to grant us a way back into the relationship.

 

For a time God provided for the order in our world through the granting of His law and vested the maintenance of it with a chosen group of people who were to both follow that law and teach its principles to the rest of the world. God knew that this approach was nothing more than temporary and also that it was invested with the futility of human endeavor. We would not be able to resist the urge to take control of the law, and the chosen servants of the Lord could not restrain themselves from seeking after personal gain and power. So, from the beginning, God had a better way for the relationship between Himself and humanity to be restored.

 

Jesus is that answer, and His sacrifice is the way that the brokenness of this world is made whole and that we can enter into the holy presence of God without fear or regret. That veil of separation that was literally present in the temple in Jerusalem and that existed in the reality of all people’s lives was permanently torn and rendered useless by the sacrifice of self that Jesus entered into on the cross. We no longer require that people go before us to prepare the way to God’s presence. Christ has done that and now He serves as the only priest that is necessary for anyone to stand before God and to enter into the fullness of relationship with our Creator.

As for me, I am poor and needy;

but the Lord takes thought of me.

You are my help and my deliverer;

Do not delay, O my God!

Psalm 40: 17

 

These are the words of a person who appreciates exactly what it is that he brings to God by way of contribution to their relationship. As he was setting out these words, it seems that David was more than aware that his personal bank account of strength, wisdom, righteousness, and holiness was more than empty. He needed the Lord to provide even the most basic of life’s requirements. This was true in the area of physical provision, and it was powerfully true in the area of spiritual matters. David was dependent upon God for all in this life.

 

This sort of utter emptiness and weakness is very uncomfortable for most people. We want to have our own answers and provide for ourselves. This is how our world works. However, this is not the way that God’s kingdom operates. The wisdom, understanding, and strength that we bring to the process of living life are all tainted by the presence of sin in them and in our utilization of them. We see dimly and function darkly because the cloud of self-importance that swirls about our heads obscures our vision, and thoughts and actions are influenced by our desire for pleasure, comfort, and power. So, God often allows us to try it all on our own. He steps back and grants us the right to operate out of our own supply of resources until they run dry and until the strength that seemed so mighty has evaporated as dew in the mid-day sun.

 

Then, we are like David, poor and needy. Also, like it was for David, God does take thought of us. In fact, we are never out of His thoughts, for even in those times of living for self and operating as if God’s way were trivial, He has been present. The Lord is absolutely faithful in His relational engagement with each of His people. When we are at our weakest, He upholds our spirits. As we are desperately hungry, He sustains our hearts with His Word of truth and comfort. At the hour when our resources have all been depleted, we are most ready to surrender to the love that gave all to save each of us from ourselves. I am poor and needy, Christ come and fill my need with Your grace, mercy, love, and truth!

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10: 5

 

Our minds are amazing things, for they are capable of solving complex problems, of grasping difficult concepts, and of creating great beauty. Yet, they are also very easily led down destructive and harmful paths. This is often the way that Satan goes after us. For he slips a bit of slightly wrong thinking into the rational patterns of our minds, and he works his way into the smallest point of weakness that we allow to form in our spiritual lives. Then, those toe holds of deception start to grow and to develop into serious areas in our lives where God’s truth and His gracious love are overshadowed by deception.

 

Yet, there is real hope in all of this; since, Christ wants to join us in the fight against this very sort of wrong thinking, and He has already provided the answers that we need and the source for finding all of the wisdom that we will require to face life’s challenges. God wants us to take everything that we are thinking about, all actions that we are considering, and each aspect of our days and check our reason and logic against His Word. That means that we need to stay consistently engaged with the Lord through prayer, reading of His Word, and by listening to His responses to us.

 

There is nothing that is too small or insignificant, there is nothing that is too large or complex, and there is no issue that is too contemporary for the Lord to be interested in and capable of responding to. All that we do and every thought that we have fit into God’s design for righteous living. However, we do need to plan and to purpose to surrender our will and to seek God’s wisdom regularly, continually, and in all circumstances. Every thought that crosses my mind needs to be surrounded by the perfect circle of truth and love that is the protective boundary of Christ’s relationship with me.