You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

 

This is a true statement about everyone who knows God; for a relationship with the Creator involves a total change in all of our core forms of identity and expands our connections and affinities by an unimaginably large factor. As we are in Christ, we are also included in this very select but substantial family that occupies God’s household; thus, we are among a group of people that God has committed to love and to protect despite our lack of worth or our unloveliness.

 

When the Lord possesses a person, He doesn’t just grab us and hold us captive. Rather, He wins us over by showing us that He has a love for us that penetrates to the depths of our need and that His love is the only truly unconditional and unchanging one that exists. As we allow the Lord to possess our hearts and our minds, His Spirit works on them to transform us into people who also understand God’s will and who act out of righteous love. It is a part of our human nature to fight back against God’s possession, to hold on to parts of our old ways of viewing life and of living it, but darkness tends to fill these areas where we hold back.

 

One of the best things that we can do to eliminate these dark corners from our hearts is to express our praise for the Lord. This praiseful practice can to become a daily part of how we live until it is an important part of who we are. Just consider the goodness that Christ brings into your life, read of God’s mercy and grace in His Word, thank Him for the ways that He has touched the lives of those around you, and develop your own thoughts of the ways that God’s presence infuses your world. Then, start to talk with Him about it. As you let God know how much you notice and value who and what He is to you, He will speak these same truths back to your heart in ways that will make them even clearer and more understandable. The best way to fill your day with light is to continually speak praise for God from your heart. As you do this, He will shine the warming light of peace, joy, and freedom onto every step of your path.

 

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him.

Deuteronomy 30: 19, 20a

 

God made an agreement, a covenant, with people. He promised that there was a way to enter into a relationship with Him in this life and that this same course would lead to an eternal existence in the presence of God. In this passage Moses is reminding us of God’s side of that agreement, and he does this by indicating that all of Creation stands as witness to it. In other words, Moses is saying that we can try to escape the reality and the truth of where and of how life is gained, but we will be going against the testimony of God’s mighty and universal great cloud of witnesses. Like all contracts, God’s covenant of life is not unilateral. The Lord gives to us; yet, His granting of this gift is in answer to our response to Him. God gives us all, and He desires that we would surrender all to Him.

 

Still, this surrender and acceptance is ours to choose. God lays before all people the opportunity to select life. He makes the knowledge of Him and of His righteous way known to us all. Then the Lord allows people to make the decision to follow Him or to reject Him. There is no middle ground; no alternate path that leads to real life in this world and to that thing that we call eternal life. That is, an existence that has no end which is carried forth in the presence of all that is life, God Himself. I do believe that once we have made the decision to surrender to God by accepting all that He is, which means accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord, that there is no possibility of living and of thinking our way out of this relationship with God. It is also true that only God is the judge of our lives and of the status of that eternal relationship.

 

The other part of this contract that God has entered into with us, in reality it is functionally the first part of it, involves the way that we live every day of our earthly lives. True life is found in and by our journey through our days with Christ. He makes love, peace, understanding, wisdom, and mercy real to us. These are qualities and characteristics that are intrinsically part of who God is, and they are among the most important aspects of life that we all desire. Love does not mean that we are surrounded by the adoration of people; it is a deep-seated feeling and belief that we are valued and cared about by God. The absence of conflict is not peace; rather, it settles inside of our hearts and minds and allows us to be whole, calm, and rational in the face of the most intense times of struggle and strife. Understanding and wisdom go together, and these are conditions of our minds and of our spirits that come directly from God through His Word, the fellowship of His Body, and by the revelation of Christ’s Spirit. Finally, mercy is that other-focused quality that takes us out of our natural, human bent to self protection and grants to us the blessing of touching people who have been injured and damaged by life on this harsh, alien planet with the same love and grace of Christ that we have received. This is life!

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

John 7: 38

 

Jesus is speaking to an audience that understands water. They know just how much it can do for them, and they are very aware of what a lack of it looks like and how that impacts every aspect of life. These people understand water because they live with dryness. Their physical world is semi-arid, their ancestors have told them the story about the years of living in the desert while God provided their food and drink, and the rabbis share with them the rich symbol of spiritual life that water conveys. Now, in these days of foreign rule and after generations of living under the control of man’s interpretation of the Law, life is very dry. The drought has set in and relief seems like nothing more than a dim hope. So here is this man, this carpenter named Jesus, and He is saying mystical things that somehow penetrate through the outer shell of cynicism to reach the hearts of some of those who hear Him.

 

What Christ is talking about here is truly miraculous. He tells us that God desires to meet the most fundamental of all human needs by means of entering into relationship with each of us so that we will be changed from being water consumers into being providers of it to our world. This idea creates a monumental shift in the way that the world functions. In the old economy, water equaled power and control. It was something that was purchased and sold, defended by armies, and handed out by holy men. As John explains, “This He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.” The Spirit of Christ is the transformative agent in the hearts and the minds of people who believe in Christ. The Spirit works in us to change us into people who operate in a manner that is contrary to the laws of nature. Instead of being a well whose resources are depleted over time and with use, we are continually filled with a supply of spiritual life that absolutely defies exhaustion.

 

So, although I believe that all of this is true, the dust clouds still swirl about me and its gritty presence chokes my lungs. Where is all of this miraculous change? Life can seem to be so far disconnected from the promise that Christ brings to us that reality makes accounts such as this one into practical fable. It’s a great story that has nothing to do with where I live. These are times when faith is about all that there is to rely upon. I know that Christ has been faithfully engaged with me throughout my life. It is also true that He desires for His promise of an abundantly changed life to be my experience. So, in times when life feels like the desert has taken up residency in my heart, Christ calls me to Him. He says that he wants me to settle in and to rest with Him for a time. His Spirit speaks as my heart drinks in liquid truth. He breaks away the shell of doubt, fear, and discouragement that I have foolishly built around myself. Now, the new, true self that is filled with Christ’s Spirit can begin to overflow His love into this drought ravaged land.