I pray this personal note finds your inbox swelling with great Monday morning news. Or by chance, if your week has already begun with less than joyful news, I pray this note be part of Christ’s intended encouragement.
First, please celebrate the faithfulness of your church family. Yesterday, 118 people signed up to participate in a 2015 short-term missions trip! It is grace when one man or woman comes to realize the need for Jesus, and it is an extended grace when that man or woman accepts the call to set down personal comfort and share Christ with the world. Over one hundred new missionaries is a marvelous mercy.
Next, may I take the liberty to request something of you this week? In fact, may I beg something of you, for I know how dramatically it will mean your joy? My request is this: “Look not at the armor of God, but at the God of the armor.”
Satanic wiles are sneaky because they keep our pendulum of hopelessness swinging back and forth, to and fro. The enemy will note the sinful mistake of our old fleshly man and immediately guilt us into obliteration. We utter, “How can I be a Christian and think these things? Wicked man that I am!” Even as those words fade away, mixed with tears, we know it best to turn to Christ.
Yet, in the very moment that we whisper for the saving cross of Calvary, the enemy lurks again, and begins his next subterfuge, beginning to mark us with thoughts of personal accomplishment. And, the soul that was but minutes ago tortured with guilt, begins to takes on a prideful gleam. Internally it begins to boast, “Look what a powerful man that I am! I have improved!”
Back and forth the war wages. The fall. The pride. The fall. The pride.
Why does this pendulum swing? Is there something a Christian does which allows evil to toss him to and fro?
Too many Christians place focus on their external self: As you well know Paul wrote regarding the “Fruits” of the Spirit. Jesus spoke regarding “Fruits” of the Vine. Paul famously wrote of the “Armor” of God. Thus, many Christians have accidently come to initiate their daily focus on the fruit and on the armor. Have I been patient? Have I been kind? Who have I witnessed to? Soon this Christian finds his peace based on the actions, resting well when having performed well, and sweating bullets when having fallen far.
Likewise, too many Christians place focus on their internal self: Some saints have recently connected Christianity with various forms of psychological self-diagnosis, determining to, “Know themselves.” They pretend to analyze their motives trusting that a good motive is a sign of good things. Yet, Jeremiah was clear that, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” (Jeremiah 17:9). Thus, even the best intentions have no inherent evidence as to their appropriate beginnings.
Fruit and armor and motives aren’t perfected. Every man will sometime preach a sermon of rotting lemons or lose his cool in the argument tempest. Every man will have at one time clutched the helmet of salvation but haphazardly forgotten his belt of truth. Even the most selfless act will have some retroactive benefit.
Fruit and armor and motives are not to be the focus of the Christian life, they are to be the outcome of the Christian life. The focus of the Christian life is to be relationship with Christ. We are not to focus on the fruits of the Spirit, but the Spirit who will manifest the fruits. We are not to focus on the armor of God, but on the God of the armor, who will insure we are encased from head to toe, ready to refute every flaming arrow of the enemy.
This is why Jesus spoke of denying self to focus on and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). This is why Paul wrote of knowing Christ and His sufferings (Philippians 3:10-11). This is why Paul wrote of carrying a daily mentality of dead to self and alive in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:10). This is why Paul even wrote that although his conscience was clear, he was still God’s to judge (1 Corinthians 4:4). The focus of a joyful Christian will never be on the fruits or the armor. His focus will always be on Christ from which those blessings come.
Dear friend, focus less on the fruit of yesterday and passionately on Christ today. Do not use your prayerful energy to beg for the armor of God, instead come to know the God of the armor, trusting that He will outfit you appropriately. Ephesians 6:11 states, “Put on the full armor of God” in the Greek aorist tense, indicating a one-time act, whereby faith in the Father clothed you in all needed battle supply. You do not need to buy it nor find it, just place on what’s been freely supplied.
Every morning as you prayerfully pour over your Word and every evening as you prayerfully walk your neighborhood, learn to speak aloud regarding His wondrous creations and learn to align your desires with His. In John 15 Jesus was clear, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Nothing. Do you see it? With Christ comes much fruit. Apart from Christ is none.
“The workmanship of heaven and earth gave God the name of Creator. Providence gave Him the name of Preserver. But His triumph over Satan gave Him a name above every other – that of Savior. As Savior He both preserves rescued man from destruction and creates a new creature in him – a child of grace. Then the Savior nestles this babe in His bosom and carries him safely past all the commotions of Satan, until at last he reaches heaven.” – Gurnall
Please dear family, walk faithful as His sons and daughters!