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By J. Brent Bland
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 J. Brent Bland
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Chapter OneDo all things work together for good?
ROMANS 8:28 IS probably one of the most dynamic verses in the Bible, but one of the most misused or misapplied. As with most scriptures, we cannot always take it at face value, but dig deeply to mine out the deep core truths that the Author, our Creator, wants us to find.
The prevalent misconception about living and life itself is: If you are serving God, you will be spared from sadness, despair, failure, and losses. Far from reality! On the contrary, the most dedicated children of God can go through the most difficult trials.
The scripture verse we are focusing on in this chapter says "All things work together for good." This is our spiritual good. So many "things", and even legitimate duties of our span on earth, can so rob us of a deeper relationship we could have with God. The time here is so temporary—much of it so unimportant—compared to what our Lord desires for us here and for eternity. Whatever we are called or allowed to experience in life, by relying completely on the Divine, everything imaginable, or unimaginable, can be a stepping stone and can advance us spiritually.
"To them that love God." This next portion of verse places us in an exceptional but also precarious standing. It is exceptional, in that loving God you can encounter Him in ways you never knew existed; but precarious in that you may feel you are the only one standing. Those very close to you may even demean you; but they may never understand the precious, heavenly communion that is a product of loving, really loving God. What the world understands as risks, God's people interpret as privileges and blessings.
"To them who are the called according to His purpose." As redeemed individuals, we are all "called." God's purpose can be very intricate, complex, and manifold in its reachings. God desires that all of humanity be reconciled to Him. We that are called, occasionally are appointed to deeper than mere valleys to trudge through. The most surrendered Christian will grow faint of heart without the embrace of the perfect comfort of the Holy Spirit. Realizing, accepting, and releasing to the whole will and purpose of God will enlighten, enlarge, and renew us and our mission for the Master.
Therefore, all things "work" together for the culmination of mankind's spiritual good now and for eternity!
We are required to let go and sacrifice, to God's grand plan sometimes at a moment's notice, and sometimes at an enormous price.
SEPTEMBER 2, LABOR Day, 1989, a precious boy entered our home. I sensed then, and know full well now, he was only lent to us for a short time. It seemed that from his birth it wasn't allowable to hold him too close or tight. From infancy, to just over seventeen, his life unfolded like a crisp new novel.
Dustin's aspirations in his life were limitless. He never could ask enough questions or explore enough new ideas. His mind and heart were filled with endless possibilities. His approach to new-found knowledge exceeded beyond just a pioneering pursuit. In retrospect, he wouldn't close the book on a new plateau of learning, but was always reaching, and in his reaching he would branch out to newer heights and deeper depths.
Dustin scarcely needed correction or discipline. He had a generally quiet demeanor, was kind, and considerate. You were drawn to him, more than just your son, but a kind of lad-like servant of God.
Sports, music, art, and countless other pursuits appeared boring to him. He was a helper, available to all; and the night God called him home, he was helping.
In this chapter, Dustin's testimony you will find enlightening. His approach and response to God and man was extraordinary.
For a young man, He had a mature respect for authority civilly, physically, and spiritually. As Dustin's Dad, I learned a lot in seventeen years. I feel Jennifer and I are the most blessed parents ever. The questions we have in life are justifiable, but only for a time. The God of all Creation who gave us this precious boy is the same God who saves our souls through His Son Jesus. Can we not entrust this God with our lives, our souls, our children's lives and ultimately all of our earthly interests.
As you read Dustin's testimony, profound as it is, (naturally a Dad would think so), he found Jesus not by a mere chance meeting, but by purposely encountering Him. He knew Jesus was genuine and would satisfy every need. He knew Jesus would fill that void in his life that no aspiration or pursuit of this earthly life could fill.
Further in retrospect, as we couldn't hold Dustin too close or tight, the frail bond or string of this world and its system weren't permitted to restrict him either.
Reminiscing sentimental memories doesn't bring a loved one back and can become a dreary journey, but viewing a life brimming with the tutor and gifts of God, we see nothing but bright days ahead.
Dustin gave us more in his life than we could have gleaned from the wealth of a million worlds, and he left us more than we can ever pay back.
The following is Dustin's testimony. It was read at his funeral service December 20, 2006.
Psalm 51:10—Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. May this be the heart cry of mankind today. Every day, every moment stay we must in intimate communion with a Holy God.
Remembering, reflecting on the life of this chapter's focus, his accountability to the Supreme Creator, was utmost. Dustin approached God fully aware that a clean heart was possible. With the depth of passion and conviction he had, he knew a right spirit was parallel. If a lad of fifteen or sixteen could grasp the dynamic truth and the reality of living in holy agreement with God, how can the rest of humanity be oblivious to it? Exploring fully the vast possibilities of life brings us full circle back to God, our Creator, our Divine Authority. As recorded in the creation account, we know and admit we were created in God's image and likeness. Therefore, all of our faculties derive from Divine design. Denying God's existence in life, nature, and the soul is virtually impossible. The work is already accomplished.
Just as God has set everything in order, the human soul is prepared to receive His ultimate provisions. Arriving at the decision of acknowledging our soul's plea for help, what a rest to rely totally on God's providences. As we read the testimony in this chapter, we observe a humble childlike approach, hand-in-hand with mature accountability. What our Savior initiates in salvation, He finishes in our glorification as we enter the portals of heaven. A valuable lesson can be learned from this chapter. Encountering God on His conditions sets the spiritual tone for earth and for eternity.
Dustin was a man after God's own heart. The irony of death is indescribable. God's perfect will can be perfectly fulfilled in the death of his saints. This earthly sojourn is but a stage for eternity. "Dustin, we know you are in heaven. Our heartstrings yearn for you. We are looking from earthly standards. We can't yet see and understand fully from heavenly standards as you do. We can't call you back, and we wouldn't if we could. Son, you are safe with Jesus. We'll see you soon!"
Chapter ThreeA Vision
A TRIP TO the optometrist is always an interesting appointment. Naturally we keep this appointment to evaluate and improve our ability to see. The fine-tuned procedures and professional applications that are used prove the fact that knowledge, expertise, and proper treatment improves our vision and enhances wholeness of life.
Spiritually speaking, Christians as a whole need some vision improvements. We are living in a world, a society, and a culture that is not in agreement with the holy requirements of our Maker.
Scripture tells us that in the last days mankind will experience perilous times. The greatest peril we are experiencing as Christians is our obscured vision. We have lost sight of reality, especially spiritual reality. Eternity is in sight. Hell and heaven are the options; yet we dare not talk about, pray about, or see them with clear vision.
We are warned of the dangers of the world and the fallacy of loving it too much. Allowing God to "take us entirely" enables us to clearly focus on Him and His will for us; then our vision will clear. We all need to re-experience our Holy Lord's encounters with us.
Physically, we can't go to Bethlehem, Calvary, the empty tomb, or the throne of heaven yet. Spiritually, we can be reborn, renewed, and refitted visually, and can know without reserve that we would have no hope without Bethlehem, Calvary, and the empty tomb.
As our life is placed, purposely placed, in sync with the total control of God, we are enabled to see clear as crystal and the throne of Heaven. You see, when we spiritually consent to a vision-exam by our Lord, we are directed to look into various spiritual lenses and naturally advance to a right focus. As we submit to His will, we see as He wants us to see and we concur with His spiritual prescription.
Ultimately, as our spiritual vision is enhanced, we see life in a new light and with a fresh keenness of mind and heart. This gives us new fervor and passion to carry the saving gospel to a lost world.
Finally, full release of self to Divine authority results in a whole new field of vision. Full surrender of heart, soul, mind, and strength is not an option. It's mandatory; it's scriptural! The next chapter addresses the subject of holiness (all of God in all of us.)
LIVING OUTSIDE OF our frail human limitations is more than possible through God's divine working in hearts and lives. The mindset of so many Christians is to have the Lord as another "part" of living, rather than He being the force or master-hub of living. Holiness, or all of God in us, is a term or way of life ... the so-called most dedicated of Christians tend to shy away from. Any hesitation or withdrawal from God's fullness is at the least rebellion, and can soon evolve into the sin of unbelief.
So many of God's children live just below the threshold of perpetual blessing.
In initial salvation we pursue nothing but totality to Him, but as the newness wears away we are content to settle in a challenge-free state of spirituality.
Romans 12:1-2 is one of the most plain, yet deep formulas in God's Word for holy living. Not that we can ever be Jesus, or exercise His depth of passion and Godliness, but if you follow the formula in Romans 12, it's amazing what transpires in our lives as we earnestly seek and desire "all of God in all of us."
This chapter begins with an invitation, but yet more a divine pleading to give willingly, voluntarily, unreservedly our entire lives to God. Yes, as a sacrifice, not as a form that will be consumed by fire as we know but an active organism, a being embodied with the very motions and spiritual heartbeat of God. A living sacrifice is active, valuable, and alive with purpose and irreversible passion.
Sacrifice customarily, of course, involves fire. The mode of fire alluded to in this scripture in Romans denotes the cleansing, radical purging fire of the divine Holy Spirit. Presenting freely our bodies, our lives in essence entirely to the purging of a Holy God, initiates His power to develop an inner-working from the depths, the very core of our soul. Not to be redundant, but we constantly need to be reminded that we are solely created by Divine power, and our souls inherently clamor helplessly for His touch until our rebellious hearts and minds surrender to His full control. As our will gives in to God's, we start to see the pre-dawn stage of a complete Spirit-filled life. Only our Creator can provide this. By the mercies of God, He allows, nudges, and instills obedience as we ready self for sacrifice. This sacrifice naturally is holy because "of God" well defines holy. Arriving at the point in life of wanting our life to be accepted by God is a major breakthrough. As self breaks down, as the pure truths and entreaties of God takes residence in our hearts, we start to understand the requirement and necessity of a whole life, wholly surrendered to God.
I remember the night that I surrendered, gave in totally to God. It's not necessarily the bulk that we have to surrender, but the principle of being willing and obedient. Sometimes the man with "nothing" has a harder time of giving up than the man with the wealth of a million worlds at his fingertips. It's the principle that counts. The substance of self is the deep-seat of our intentions and affections. That substance must be handed over without reserve to the Creator ... it's His anyway. As that principle awakens in our soul, we know beyond doubt that this is our reasonable service.
We can't be unconformed to the world until we have permitted the holy fire to completely transform our minds and hearts. Self or self-will is the hardest thing to let go of, but it's the only thing to let go of to have all of God.
We cannot test or prove to the maximum what is God's will for us until the purging, cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit does His complete work.
The word acceptable in Romans 12:2, humanly, we would lean to the persuasion that God accepts or approves us on our terms or conditions. However, the nearer we draw to His complete perfected will in our individual lives, we see acceptable is based on His desires for us.
As our will and self-centeredness shatters at the feet of Jesus and our wants are given to the Creator and redirected to the "needs" we have ordained by Him, we see spiritually with a new horizon in vision.
So many followers of Christ live just below the full privileges of grace because of not yielding to the full control of God. Holiness is practical, necessary, and scripturally required. Its application to the totality of our life gives objectively spiritually based on God's holy authority, and not man's rules and instructions.
If holiness of heart was received, implemented, and practically lived as instructed in scripture, the world would be a better place because the builders of the Kingdom of God would be in harmony and have lives set to the rule and dictation of the throne of heaven.
Holiness of life, or the fully-surrendered life, will hold you steady in the darkest periods of your earthly life. This experience will enable you to view these down times as just earthly, shallow inconveniences on our journey to beautiful eternal heaven.
At times, we have to find out the hard way how full grace truly works. The agony, shock, and the manifold aspects of grief can test even the greatest, the most seasoned saints. What Christ provides for us in redeeming our souls from hell, He also has available for us in enhancement, enrichment, and empowerment with a full spiritual cure until we arrive at the portals of Glory. Jesus didn't stop short. There is a full embodiment of Him to live in us, but we have to, more importantly want to, yield completely, unreservedly to Him.
Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not of this world." His Kingdom lives in the hearts, souls, minds, and consciences of the redeemed blood-bought saints. So how can we deny, disprove, and abandon the absolute holy necessity of all of God in all of us? The various barriers of self that we all have erected, usually are so weak that a slight breeze could topple them. Letting God remove the very roots of self barriers opens and provides the entrance to the highway that we all as His disciples must travel—the Highway of Holiness.
Excerpted from Spiritually Speaking by J. Brent Bland Copyright © 2011 by J. Brent Bland. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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