Hiding In Fig Leaves

“…But all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)

“O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thoughts from a far off” (Psalms 139:1-2)

God knows everything about us. He knows every thought, every action, every motive that we have ever had. All things are naked before His eyes, and yet, we tend to be like Adam and Eve when they sinned. As the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, instead of confessing our faults, and admitting that we have done wrong we tend to try and hide from God. We don’t feel like spending time with Him, we don’t want to read His word or pray, we hide in the busyness of the day. Like Adam and Eve we try to cover our nakedness with fig leaves of self righteousness (I am not as bad as them. Look at all the good I have done) (Genesis 3:7-10).

Yet God does not leave us there. The broken heart of our Creator asks “Where are you, and why are you hiding from me? He comes seeking and searching for us, gently trying to show us that our sinful hearts are most safe with Him, there is no reason to be afraid. While the prying eyes of others may judge and condemn us, when we bring our sinful hearts to God, He first hugs us, then gently works at removing the sin problem from our lives. For we have a compassionate High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities….at His throne we may come boldly and He will give us help in time of need (Hebrew 4:15-16)

Sometimes sin does require major surgery as God will not leave the death causing cancer of sin in our lives but He promises that we will be much happier when it is removed from our hearts and His Spirit lives there (Galations 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…)

There is no safer place than in the light of God’s countenance. He sees all and longs to free you from the bondage of your secret sins “…Our secret sins are in the light of Thy countenance” (Psalms 90:8). Though you hide from all others the condition of your heart, your Heavenly Father knows and longs to heal and make you whole (Matthew 28-30).

Will you allow Him to cleanse you from your secret sins today and enable you to confess, repent and turn away from them today. He is waiting, all you need to do is ask.

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God’s Rest

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:8-11)

As I was contemplating these verses, and how the author of Hebrews is linking the rest of grace with the Sabbath, it made me consider more deeply why God gave us the Sabbath and the message of grace that has been entwined in it throughout history.

Starting in Genesis we find that Sabbath was given as a memorial of the work that God had done.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” (Genesis 2:1-3)

Here God rested from the work He had done and set aside Sabbath as a special day to remind His creatures of the work that He had done in creating them a beautiful world. Adam and Eve had participated in no part of creation besides naming the animals and yet they entered into God’s rest on that first Sabbath day. This is a beautiful message of grace for all of us. Sabbath from the beginning is a day of rest from work to remind us that it is God who has done everything for us. We can do no part ourselves. It is to Him that we should lift our voice in praise.

Just as we did no part of creation yet rested in what God had done, so we have done no part of Salvation and must rest in what God has done for us. We acknowledge that it is God who has redeemed and saved us, there is no part we can do on our own. We must rest from all our ‘works’ and rest in the work that God has done. This does not mean that we no longer do good works, it just means that we are not trying to gain salvation from God for our good works. On Sabbath we are acknowledging that nothing we can do is good enough to recommended us to God (Ephesians 2:8-9). All our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) in comparison to Christ, yet His Spirit works in us to transform us into a new creation a creation that delights to keep His commands (2 Corthians 5:17; Galatians 5:5,16,22; Ephesians 2:10). As Christ rested in the grave over the Sabbath day – resting in the victory He had won for our salvation, so we are to rest in the work that Christ has done for us. Sabbath is a constant reminder that the only part of salvation that we take part in is resting in the grace of God – accepting the work he has done for us.

Finally Sabbath is a reminder that this world is not our home – God has a better place in-store for us. We are not to spend all our time toiling to build mansions here, but to spend time getting to know God and spreading his love to others so that we can join with the angels from one Sabbath to another praising God before his throne (Isaiah 66:22-23).

In keeping Sabbath as God intended, a day to remember His creation, redemption and the restoration of the earth made new, we are allowing God to put a safe guard around us, a hedge to protect us from Idolatry (and evolutionism), legalism, and materialism. We are pledging allegiance to the Lamb – worshipping Him on the day He set aside for us to remember Him.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

How many times have you completed an everyday task and not received any thanks for the work that you have done, or how often do you take for granted the everyday task that someone else has blessed you by doing?  Do you always complement the cook on a good meal, or thank the person who dried the dishes or washed your clothes for you?  Do you thank the person who takes out the trash, or washes the car or mows the lawn?  We are not usually seeking praise when we do these tasks but it is always a pleasure when someone appreciates the mundane tasks we perform.  It makes our work lighter and more pleasurable in doing.

I got to thinking about this yesterday, contemplating on how often I have taken others and the things they do for me for granted, usually neglecting to thank them for what they have done.  I know they were not seeking my thanks, but I know how much it means to me when others show appreciation for what I do, and I really should show how much what they do makes a difference for me.

Then I got to thinking how often do we do this to God.  He does so much for us everyday in giving us life, family, sunshine, love, acceptance and most of all Jesus and His sacrifice for us.  How much do we take for granted and neglect to thank Him.   He does not seek our praise for Himself, but how joyful it must make His heart when we remember the wonderful things He does for us, and He knows that praising Him is also good for us.

This morning I rose a little earlier than usual and wrapped myself up in a warm blanket and ventured into the crisp morning air.  It was such peaceful and beautiful morning as the horizon was just starting to change colour and the birds were starting to sing their dawn song.

I was sitting there soaking in the beauty when I got to thinking back to yesterday’s thoughts on praise.  Every morning the birds rise and the very first thing they do is sing beautiful songs of praise to God for waking them up to a new day.  How much more should we wake with a song in our heart to our King for all He has done for us.

I hope to challenge you today to join me in the coming week to start cultivating an attitude of gratitude with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Not just in praise to God but also thankfulness to our family, friends & work colleagues for the little things they do for us.  Let’s start a wave of thankfulness that will ultimately have the biggest blessing on our own hearts because we cannot share the perfume of joy without some spilling on ourselves.

Faith & Acceptance

As your conscience has been quickened by the Holy Spirit, you have seen something of the evil of sin, of its power, its guilt, its woe; and you look upon it with abhorrence. You feel that sin has separated you from God, that you are in bondage to the power of evil. The more you struggle to escape, the more you realize your helplessness. Your motives are impure; your heart is unclean. You see that your life has been filled with selfishness and sin. You long to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be set free. Harmony with God, likeness to Him–what can you do to obtain it? 

It is peace that you need–Heaven’s forgiveness and peace and love in the soul. Money cannot buy it, intellect cannot procure it, wisdom cannot attain to it; you can never hope, by your own efforts, to secure it. But God offers it to you as a gift, “without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1. It is yours if you will but reach out your hand and grasp it. The Lord says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” Ezekiel 36:26. 

You have confessed your sins, and in heart put them away. You have resolved to give yourself to God. Now go to Him, and ask that He will wash away your sins and give you a new heart. Then believe that He does this because He has promised. This is the lesson which Jesus taught while He was on earth, that the gift which God promises us, we must believe we do receive, and it is ours. Jesus healed the people of their diseases when they had faith in His power; He helped them in the things which they could see, thus inspiring them with confidence in Him concerning things which they could not see–leading them to believe in His power to forgive sins. This He plainly stated in the healing of the man sick with palsy: “That ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” Matthew 9:6. So also John the evangelist says, speaking of the miracles of Christ, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” John 20:31. 

From the simple Bible account of how Jesus healed the sick, we may learn something about how to believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins. Let us turn to the story of the paralytic at Bethesda. The poor sufferer was helpless; he had not used his limbs for thirty-eight years. Yet Jesus bade him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” The sick man might have said, “Lord, if Thou wilt make me whole, I will obey Thy word.” But, no, he believed Christ’s word, believed that he was made whole, and he made the effort at once; he willed to walk, and he did walk. He acted on the word of Christ, and God gave the power. He was made whole. In like manner you are a sinner. You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. You believe that promise. You confess your sins and give yourself to God. You will to serve Him. Just as surely as you do this, God will fulfill His word to you. If you believe the promise,–believe that you are forgiven and cleansed,–God supplies the fact; you are made whole, just as Christ gave the paralytic power to walk when the man believed that he was healed. It is so if you believe it. 

Do not wait to feel that you are made whole, but say, “I believe it; it is so, not because I feel it, but because God has promised.” 

Jesus says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24. There is a condition to this promise–that we pray according to the will of God. But it is the will of God to cleanse us from sin, to make us His children, and to enable us to live a holy life. So we may ask for these blessings, and believe that we receive them, and thank God that we have received them. It is our privilege to go to Jesus and be cleansed, and to stand before the law without shame or remorse. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1. 

Henceforth you are not your own; you are bought with a price. “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold;… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:18, 19. Through this simple act of believing God, the Holy Spirit has begotten a new life in your heart. You are as a child born into the family of God, and He loves you as He loves His Son. 

Now that you have given yourself to Jesus, do not draw back, do not take yourself away from Him, but day by day say, “I am Christ’s; I have given myself to Him;” and ask Him to give you His Spirit and keep you by His grace. As it is by giving yourself to God, and believing Him, that you become His child, so you are to live in Him. The apostle says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” Colossians 2:6. 

Some seem to feel that they must be on probation, and must prove to the Lord that they are reformed, before they can claim His blessing. But they may claim the blessing of God even now. They must have His grace, the Spirit of Christ, to help their infirmities, or they cannot resist evil. Jesus loves to have us come to Him just as we are, sinful, helpless, dependent. We may come with all our weakness, our folly, our sinfulness, and fall at His feet in penitence. It is His glory to encircle us in the arms of His love and to bind up our wounds, to cleanse us from all impurity. 

Here is where thousands fail; they do not believe that Jesus pardons them personally, individually. They do not take God at His word. It is the privilege of all who comply with the conditions to know for themselves that pardon is freely extended for every sin. Put away the suspicion that God’s promises are not meant for you. They are for every repentant transgressor. Strength and grace have been provided through Christ to be brought by ministering angels to every believing soul. None are so sinful that they cannot find strength, purity, and righteousness in Jesus, who died for them. He is waiting to strip them of their garments stained and polluted with sin, and to put upon them the white robes of righteousness; He bids them live and not die. 

God does not deal with us as finite men deal with one another. His thoughts are thoughts of mercy, love, and tenderest compassion. He says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.” Isaiah 55:7; 44:22. 

“I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:32. Satan is ready to steal away the blessed assurances of God. He desires to take every glimmer of hope and every ray of light from the soul; but you must not permit him to do this. Do not give ear to the tempter, but say, “Jesus has died that I might live. He loves me, and wills not that I should perish. I have a compassionate heavenly Father; and although I have abused His love, though the blessings He has given me have been squandered, I will arise, and go to my Father, and say, ‘I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son: make me as one of Thy hired servants.'” The parable tells you how the wanderer will be received: “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Luke 15:18-20. 

But even this parable, tender and touching as it is, comes short of expressing the infinite compassion of the heavenly Father. The Lord declares by His prophet, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3. While the sinner is yet far from the Father’s house, wasting his substance in a strange country, the Father’s heart is yearning over him; and every longing awakened in the soul to return to God is but the tender pleading of His Spirit, wooing, entreating, drawing the wanderer to his Father’s heart of love. 

With the rich promises of the Bible before you, can you give place to doubt? Can you believe that when the poor sinner longs to return, longs to forsake his sins, the Lord sternly withholds him from coming to His feet in repentance? Away with such thoughts! Nothing can hurt your own soul more than to entertain such a conception of our heavenly Father. He hates sin, but He loves the sinner, and He gave Himself in the person of Christ, that all who would might be saved and have eternal blessedness in the kingdom of glory. What stronger or more tender language could have been employed than He has chosen in which to express His love toward us? He declares, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isaiah 49:15. 

Look up, you that are doubting and trembling; for Jesus lives to make intercession for us. Thank God for the gift of His dear Son and pray that He may not have died for you in vain. The Spirit invites you today. Come with your whole heart to Jesus, and you may claim His blessing. 

As you read the promises, remember they are the expression of unutterable love and pity. The great heart of Infinite Love is drawn toward the sinner with boundless compassion. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Ephesians 1:7. Yes, only believe that God is your helper. He wants to restore His moral image in man. As you draw near to Him with confession and repentance, He will draw near to you with mercy and forgiveness (STC p50-55).

Hollow or Full?

Last week I harvested my celery patch. I had 9 bushes – one I had previously harvested & one I left to harvest in a couple of weeks to keep some fresh celery available, and the other seven I cut off just above the ground.

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When I harvested my celery it was evident that over 90% of the celery stalks were hollow. While they are still suitable for adding flavour to soups, they were not really suitable for much else as they lacked the juicy crunch of healthy celery.

As my celery had been growing, I had been very proud of it. It was the first time I had grown anything more than stunted straggly stalks smaller than your average parsley plant.  These plants were tall, bright green and a good diameter crown.  As I watched them grow, I eagerly awaited the day when they would be readyto start harvesting.  What a disappointment harvest day brought.  While we minced up over 1kg of leaves & stalks to freeze for soups, for the size of the celery, this should have been the harvest for just one of the plants, not seven.

As I was contemplating these things, it got me to thinking how someties I can be just like this. To others looking on I seem a healthy vibrant plant, lots of leaves and colour, but if they were to look inside of me, they may sometimes find me just like this celery, hollow & empty inside.

Why is this you might ask?  For the same reason that the celery is hollow.  Celery needs plenty of water on a regular basis in order to grow full thick healthy stems.  My watering habits were very poor at best.  I didn’t have a lot of time to spend watering and often neglected these poor plants, as a result the celery stems were hollow.

In my own life, I often lack the Water Life and the Holy Spirit.  Waking up late, I rush straight into my day with just a quick prayer or having little time to spend in God’s word I surface read and don’t give God the chance to really speak to my heart, or I do not pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me as I read or through my day.  The list could go on, other things often taking priory above the word of God.  The trouble is, I can’t afford to wait till the harvest of the world to find out I am hollow inside.  I need to seek God now, realising my desperate state and asking Him to fill me to over flowing with His Spirit, not just today, but everyday of my life.  I need to take time to really study His Word, to ingest it into my soul, to help me to understand and love God more and for Him to show me my deficiencies that I may ask Him to help me change.

How about you?  How is your soul today?  Are you full of the Holy Spirit, ready o share the beauty of God with others?  I don’t mean a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but a day to day reality of God working in and through your life producing the fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Are you full or are you hollow and empty inside?

My challenge today is for all of us to seek for a deeper relationship with God.  Let’s fiercely guard our time with Him that we may be filled with His Word that it may spring up in our soul as water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).  May His Spirit also fill us teaching us and enabling s to live like Jesus.

Consecration

God’s promise is, “Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. 

The whole heart must be yielded to God, or the change can never be wrought in us by which we are to be restored to His likeness. By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: “Dead in trespasses and sins;” “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;” “no soundness in it.” We are held fast in the snare of Satan, “taken captive by him at his will.” Ephesians 2:1; Isaiah 1:5, 6; 2 Timothy 2:26. God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him. 

The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness. 

The government of God is not, as Satan would make it appear, founded upon a blind submission, an unreasoning control. It appeals to the intellect and the conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together” is the Creator’s invitation to the beings He has made. Isaiah 1:18. God does not force the will of His creatures. He cannot accept an homage that is not willingly and intelligently given. A mere forced submission would prevent all real development of mind or character; it would make man a mere automaton. Such is not the purpose of the Creator. He desires that man, the crowning work of His creative power, shall reach the highest possible development. He sets before us the height of blessing to which He desires to bring us through His grace. He invites us to give ourselves to Him, that He may work His will in us. It remains for us to choose whether we will be set free from the bondage of sin, to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God. 

In giving ourselves to God, we must necessarily give up all that would separate us from Him. Hence the Saviour says, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:33. Whatever shall draw away the heart from God must be given up. Mammon is the idol of many. The love of money, the desire for wealth, is the golden chain that binds them to Satan. Reputation and worldly honor are worshiped by another class. The life of selfish ease and freedom from responsibility is the idol of others. But these slavish bands must be broken. We cannot be half the Lord’s and half the world’s. We are not God’s children unless we are such entirely. 

There are those who profess to serve God, while they rely upon their own efforts to obey His law, to form a right character, and secure salvation. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as that which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. Such religion is worth nothing. When Christ dwells in the heart, the soul will be so filled with His love, with the joy of communion with Him, that it will cleave to Him; and in the contemplation of Him, self will be forgotten. Love to Christ will be the spring of action. Those who feel the constraining love of God, do not ask how little may be given to meet the requirements of God; they do not ask for the lowest standard, but aim at perfect conformity to the will of their Redeemer. With earnest desire they yield all and manifest an interest proportionate to the value of the object which they seek. A profession of Christ without this deep love is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery. 

Do you feel that it is too great a sacrifice to yield all to Christ? Ask yourself the question, “What has Christ given for me?” The Son of God gave all–life and love and suffering–for our redemption. And can it be that we, the unworthy objects of so great love, will withhold our hearts from Him? Every moment of our lives we have been partakers of the blessings of His grace, and for this very reason we cannot fully realize the depths of ignorance and misery from which we have been saved. Can we look upon Him whom our sins have pierced, and yet be willing to do despite to all His love and sacrifice? In view of the infinite humiliation of the Lord of glory, shall we murmur because we can enter into life only through conflict and self-abasement? 

The inquiry of many a proud heart is, “Why need I go in penitence and humiliation before I can have the assurance of my acceptance with God?” I point you to Christ. He was sinless, and, more than this, He was the Prince of heaven; but in man’s behalf He became sin for the race. “He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12. 

But what do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet men think it hard to give up all! I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it. 

God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction. 

It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see His children suffer. All heaven is interested in the happiness of man. Our heavenly Father does not close the avenues of joy to any of His creatures. The divine requirements call upon us to shun those indulgences that would bring suffering and disappointment, that would close to us the door of happiness and heaven. The world’s Redeemer accepts men as they are, with all their wants, imperfections, and weaknesses; and He will not only cleanse from sin and grant redemption through His blood, but will satisfy the heart-longing of all who consent to wear His yoke, to bear His burden. It is His purpose to impart peace and rest to all who come to Him for the bread of life. He requires us to perform only those duties that will lead our steps to heights of bliss to which the disobedient can never attain. The true, joyous life of the soul is to have Christ formed within, the hope of glory. 

Many are inquiring, “How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?” You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. 

Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians. 

Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith (STC p 43-48)