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I'd like to start by sharing a story about when the prayer-school leadership core decided to get together and go fishing.
The boat left very early in the morning and all of us brought our thermos full of coffee. The boat pulled about 300 feet from shore and anchored so that we could fish. They had a great time fellowshipping and fishing. But as the morning wore on, the coffee began to work it's way through our systems. The captain of the boat came out to announce that the restroom on the boat was out of commission.
After a while, the coffee had worked through Elvi Glass's system. So she said, "Excuse me, brethren", put down her fishing pole, climbed over the rail and walked on the water to shore. She went behind a bush, did her business and came out looking very relieved. Then she walked back across the water to the boat, climbed over the rail, picked up her pole and continued fishing.
I stood there with her mouth hanging open for a few minutes and then turned to Paul Gaskin and said, "Did you see that!! Elvi walked on water, just like Jesus did!"
Paul shrugged his shoulders as if that were no big deal and we all concentrated on fishing for a while. Pretty soon the coffee worked it's way through Paul's system. He said "Excuse me brethren", laid down his pole, climbed over the rail, walked on the water to the shore. He disappeared behind a different bush but came out looking just as relieved. Then he walked back on the water to the boat, climbed over the rail, picked up his pole and resumed fishing.
My mouth fell open again. I muttered something about Jesus walking on water and Peter walking on water and now Elvi and Paul were walking on water. I asked Rodney Hogue if he'd seen that. "Yes," he replied, as if it was no big deal.
After a while, the coffee had so worked through my system that I simply could not wait any longer. "Well," I said to myself, "Elvi did it and Paul did it. I guess I can do it too."
So I said, "Excuse me, brethren", put down my pole and climbed over the rail. My feet hit the water, but instead of being able to walk on it, I sank rapidly to the bottom. As I was going under, I heard Rodney turn to Elvi and say, "Next time, do you suppose we should tell her where the stepping stones are?"
Ok, I confess -- this is a joke, not a true story. But I bet you can relate with the experience. From time to time we all notice a discrepancy between what we see in the Bible and what we see in our own lives. Yet when we try to step out in faith, we seem to sink.
For some of us, that discrepancy comes from lack of victory over besetting sins. We read in the Bible about how Jesus overcame sin and death and has given us power and victory. We see how people in the Bible are transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit to be holy and victorious. Yet we struggle with that same besetting sin over and over again. Each time we fall, we feel truly sorry and sincerely repent, promising to never do that sin again. But we seem powerless to keep that promise and keep falling into it over and over again, feeling worse about it each time.
For others of us, the discrepancy between what we see in the Bible and what we see in our own lives comes in the area of the Fruit of the Spirit. We read about how we are to be filled with love, joy, peace. We even see it happening in some other Christian's lives. But this does not seem to happen in our own life. We find ourselves constantly worrying about the various stresses and problems of day-to-day life. Or we find ourselves feeling depressed or struggling with rejection. We see the blatant discrepancy between how the Bible says we should live (full of faith and hope and joy and patience and love) and how our lives are actually turning out. We desire so much to have the fruit of the Spirit manifest in our lives and pray for it and hope for it, but it just does not seem to be happening. Or if it is happening, it is happening much too slowly for us.
Some of us read the Scripture where it says "My sheep hear My voice and they know Me" and they wonder how come they don't know how to recognize the Lord's voice. We see folks in the body operating in prophecy and word of knowledge and such -- clear evidence that it really is possible to hear His voice. Then we wonder why we can't hear it like they do. Is it that God does not care to speak to us, or is it that we're simply no good at hearing Him or is it something else? Surely it must be possible to hear His voice like the Scripture says. How come it is so hard?
And there are many other areas where we may notice a discrepancy between what the Bible says we should be like and what our lives are really like.
Why is this? What is missing?
I believe that the root of the problem comes from the fact that many of us never gave Jesus Christ full and unchallenged Lordship in our lives.
Many Christians learn to accept Jesus as their Savior with no clue about His Lordship. They truly believe in Jesus and are grateful that He has redeemed them. But they go about their day-to-day lives in pretty much the same manner they did before. Oh, they make some adjustments here and there to attempt to honor God. They come to Church faithfully on Sundays and they have a 20 minute or so quiet time each day for Bible-study, devotions and prayer. But they continue being the boss of their own lives; they continue to live for themselves.
In many cases its simply because no one told them that Jesus wants to be in control of their life. No one told them that our goals and motivations are to change, and that we are to be doing what the Father is doing instead of doing our own thing.
Jesus is not satisfied to be merely our Savior. Yes He gives us eternal life, He saves us from the consequences of sin. But in return, He demands that we give our lives fully and unreservedly to Him. He wants Lordship in our day-to-day lives. He calls for a radical commitment to Him, including total obedience.
In my own case, I had considered myself a "committed Christian" for 18 years. I did daily devotions and prayer and I even memorized a lot of scriptures. I watched my language and tried to behave in a "Christian manner" including appropriate behavior and strong morals. I shared my faith from time to time and occasionally led people to the Lord. I was doing everything I knew to do to be a "good Christian." But, despite all my efforts, it was a very frustrating time for me.
I read about the fruits of the spirit, but did not see them manifesting in my own life. I read about the victory that He has given us over sin and over all the power of the enemy; yet I keep falling over and over in besetting sins and could never seem to gain the victory. I read about the peace that passes all understanding, but rarely experienced it. I read how His sheep know His voice but had no clue what His voice sounded like.
Then one day I found this tiny little verse hidden in one of the gospels. When I grasped what it really meant, that tiny verse revolutionized my entire life. That little verse is tucked away between some incredible promises of victory, power and answered prayers.
Look at John 14:12-18:
12 "Most assuredly I say to you, He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
15 If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
Incredible promises, eh? Yet tucked away in this passage is the key to all of this -- the key to victory and power and abundance in our walk with the Lord. It is stated so simply that it took me 18 years before I realized it was there.
Did you happen to find it as we read the passage? Which verse was it?
The answer is verse 15, which says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Another translation puts it this way: "If you love Me, then obey Me."
And obedience was the missing ingredient in my life. I was not intentionally disobedient, I just did not know any better. They had told me to receive Jesus as my Savior. No one told me He had to be Lord and boss of my life. No one had told me that if I wanted to see His power and His victory in my life, I had to be committed to obey Him and to do all things His way.
Once I discovered that and began to give Him Lordship in my life, things began to change. Besetting sins stopped besetting me. I started seeing the fruit of the spirit manifest in my life and I began learning to with some clarity and accuracy. The missing ingredient in my life, the thing that held me back from being successful in Him, was a lack of commitment to His Lordship.
What about you? Has your experience been similar to mine? Have you done your best to live a godly life but find yourself failing? Do you find the power and victory and joy missing from your day-to-day walk? Perhaps you need to deepen your commitment to His lordship as well. I will talk about that in the next lesson.