One of the greatest needs in our lives to be able to understand the words of Jesus is for us to allow God to bring the Gospel message down to our heart and lives. Now this my friend is not an easy thing to do. We in ourselves are full of ourselves and think of ourselves much better than what we really are. Paul encourages us, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”  (Romans 12:3) yet we do.  The world’s system of life has a steady campaign of self-exalting and self-flattering to keep our self puffed up and strong. Sadly many denominational churches have copied the world in this area, trying to look like the world hoping those in world will come to church, well this never works. What really happens is the church becomes like the world enjoying all of its sensual emotional pleasures and ends up falling away from God. I have seen this over the course of my life in churches and know it will only get worse unless we wake up and turn back to a conservative, Bible based, worshipping God in both Spirit and truth approach to God.  And for us to be able to do this we must first see the need and then be willing to lay our life down for something and someone much bigger than ourselves.  Now this is God’s intention for our lives, make no mistake.  We see this all throughout the Bible and we see this approach in the life of Jesus. The height of Christ’s ministry was fulfilled not when He fed crowds of 5,000 and 4,000 people or when He healed the sick and lame, but when He willfully laid down His life for us.  So too this must be the height of our ministry and life. To work this spiritual principle into our lives God uses some strange math principles.  The first is we gain in God by what we can lose.  God’s arithmetic is not the same as man’s. God adds to us while subtracting. The more we can allow God to subtract our selfishness, self-seeking, love for our self-life (oh me!) the more God can add to us His goods. At the same measure we allow God to subtract things from us at that same measure (no more no less) God is able to add to us. You see His subtracting in us makes room in our heart to receive from Him.  There is only so much room in our heart and either it is filled with the things of the world and our self or the things of Christ. I was talking to a friend just the other day who said, “Jesus died for our selfishness” well this is true, only if we come along side God in His yoke and allow Him to work in our lives changing us into the image (icon) of His precious Son Jesus Christ, God’s goal in our lives.  The Bibles says Jesus died for our sin, per say selfishness is not a sin it is like our bad attitudes, wrong motives, and intentions which are a part of our fleshly carnal nature, the nature that is in enmity with God.  Paul tells us, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.   7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-7) I find it amazing to know some Christians think they can serve God in the flesh (as babes) never growing up in God and hope they make it to heaven.  Well, my friend God is the judge (not you or I) on who makes it to heaven, but please know our “entering in” will be based on our heart condition, how and why we did things for Him. I would think God would not reward such a prize as heaven to those who, “are in the flesh cannot please God.” We must allow God to empty us, we must allow the Spirit of God to show us how to mortify the deeds of the flesh, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  (Romans 8:13-14) Only then can we be, “led by the Spirit of God.” The word “mortify” here describes a Roman punishment where one was chained to a dead body and ultimately the dead body killed the prisoner from disease and decay. We must be willing to hear the words of Jesus like the disciples, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”  (Mark 8:34-35) We must do all these things so that we will be able to please Him.

Apparently my friend expects God to get His magic wand out, bonk us on the head, and remove our selfishness without any effort or consequences on our part. Jesus died to restore us back (John 1:29) to fellowship with God, He did not die for our carnal fleshly nature, this is why my friend we must allow God to deal within our heart and lives, but if we do not well I shutter to think what will happen.  If not careful ones salvation can be lost, the Bible is full of such examples.  Now my friend is holding on to the first precepts of truth in regards to salvation (which we must do in faith) while ignoring the requirement to grow up in the Lord and become mature men and women who can handle the responsibility and authority God grants to only His children who have allowed Him to develop them. In everything God creates growth is a part of the creation process and we are no different. God expects us to grow and come to levels of spiritual maturity and perfection or selflessness as when Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect (selfless), even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (selfless).” (Matthew 5:48) And guess what Jesus meant it. Our salvation experience alone will get us into heaven (and for some that is all they want) but to be used like Jesus, Paul, Peter, and others there is price and cost we must pay.  God does not give His power and authority to just anyone.  And the price we must pay is for us to allow God to deal and judge in our lives putting our flesh and our carnal nature to death (subtracting) while He strengthens (adds to) us with glory and might in the inward man.

As I said, God uses arithmetic to teach us things, like 1+ 0 = 1. Now do not think we are the 1 we are the 0.  If we can see our selves as a 0 then we will be able to go far in God. When we can see of ourselves we have no worth apart from God, no ability apart from God, no hope apart from God then we are in a place mentally and spiritually where God can teach us something. One of the greatest hindrances to our spiritual growth and development is an unteachable spirit.  I hear it and I see it all over the world.  When I confront someone who thinks they know it all and cannot be taught I set them aside in my mind and thinking to watch. No one owns the truth, but God alone. Truth is always from God’s perspective and always progressive.  When one person’s light is a little brighter than another because they have a deeper revelation of a certain truth the lesser brother will attack, vilify, and demonize them in hopes to marginalize them from a circle of friends.  I see it all the time; I feel it from acquaintances, friends, and family. To get over such attacks without getting offended we must ignore their words and accusations while knowing we are standing for the truth of God’s word. You know what we know to be true in most cases is true, but there are different degrees and levels of truth. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) what we once held as the truth (which is still the truth) and if we allow God to work in us He will open and expand another dimension, a new wrinkle, a new bit of revelation to our understanding this is how we grow in understanding.  For this to happen we must allow God to create a place in us, out from the loss we experience from laying our life down, to house these new bits of revelation. Only when we experience loss in our inward man will we be able to hold these new treasures.

When I think of this process of us laying down our life my mind always goes to my wife Karen.  After I retired in 2000, either Karen or I had to get a Federal job so that Connie and Joshua could continue at the American High School on base and so we could continue to shop at the Post Exchange, Commissary, receive our US mail, and all of the other basic military benefits we enjoyed. Since I was traveling in ministry, pastoring a church, and already working two part-time jobs Karen for the first time in 20 years got a job outside the home.  One day she was an Officer’s wife and all the prestige that comes with it, the next day she took a very glamorous and highly sought after job working in a dining facility (chow hall) scraping food off of plates, scrubbing (and I mean scrubbing) mountains of pots and pans, floors, and all of the dirty work that comes with working in a chow hall. But God used her there to touch lives. She was known as that kind lady who always said, “have a nice day.”  God used Karen to touch the lives of the other co-workers, people who time and life has forgot and passed them by.  But most of all Karen laid down her life for her family with each pan she scrubbed, with each plate she cleaned off, with each swing of the mop and swish of the broom, Karen laid down her life so that her family could have the life they were accustomed to. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:12-13) With her tired muscles, sore back and feet, with each bout of exhaustion Karen was loving her family, Karen was literally laying her physical life down while God was lifting and exalting her spiritual life up.  You know God has ways of exalting His children, if we endure the qualifying process. No greater love than this Jesus said.  How could I not honor her?  How could I not love her.

We are known by our fruits not by our works.  It is funny how we today in the church work so hard while God wants to work on us.  Paul told us, “For we are his workmanship (beaustella in German), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10) We must become God’s workmanship so we can manifest the fruit of the Spirit.  The only way we can become the work of God is by allowing God to open up our heart and reveal what is really there so we can see our need to become like Him.  Many in the Church today do not see their need for God thus they have no power, revelation, or authority.  God’s best (glorification) comes to us after we have allowed God to work in us. When Jesus was walking into Jerusalem for the last time, He told the disciples, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”  (John 12:23-25)  The more we can fall into the ground and die the more fruitful we can become.  The more we can lose our life, the more we can lay down our lives the more we will be able to keep our life eternal.