Responding to God: Just Keep It Simple

Mick Turner

I think one of the most comforting and encouraging truths of the gospel message is that, in spite of past screw ups, Jesus loves and accepts us as we are. Not only that, but through the actions of the blessed Holy Spirit, he is willing to help us change. And even more mind boggling, he is planning on making us a full partner in his father’s business. Author and teacher Billy Joe Daugherty speaks to these themes in a clear manner:

This is the good news of Jesus: He loves you just the way you are, yet He sees you for what you can become…..He sees you sharing the living water with others who are dry on the inside….God has big plans for you. It may seem like you have wasted your life, but with Jesus you can make up for lost years in a short time. He will not reject you for your past failures. He welcomes you to come to him and receive living water.

As I said, I find this aspect of the Lord to be most comforting because I have certainly messed up things many times. Further, I can truly relate to that feeling of having wasted my life. Yet Jesus is willing to put that behind us now and turn both His eyes and mine toward a more positive, successful future, one where I can have a positive, beneficial impact on the world in general and my family in particular.

More amazing is the fact that I never have to go it alone. Instead, the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit is walking next to me and living inside me in a miraculous way I can never understand but can fully appropriate through the simple act of faith. I don’t know about you, but when I truly take time and reflect on all this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. The only thing required of me to receive the healing water of Christ is faith. It really is that simple. Unfortunately, many Christians fail to understand what if means to have faith. Jesus plainly told us that he has overcome the world and all that we have to do to have a life of spiritual fulfillment is to accept what He has told us in faith. As I was sitting here writing these words I was reminded of the following words, again from Daugherty:

Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. It is our faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross. In His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan and took the keys of authority from him. Now Jesus Christ reigns forever.

Jesus reigns forever and scripture assures me that I am co-heir with Him, as are you if you have accepted his gift of grace with faith. This acceptance I am speaking of here involves more than the forgiveness of sin, although it certainly involves that. By His blood the Lord purchased our forgiveness and justified our being before the Father, but the cross also accomplished something equally significant, not to mention precious. Through Christ’s cross, his death, and his resurrection, we are empowered to live as he says we should live. Just as we could never do enough to attain forgiveness and justification before God, we can never live the full Christian life under our own power. We need something more and Christ has provided that power for us in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Further, we have on the inside of us the same resurrection power that brought Jesus back to life. The ultimate nature of that power is far too profound and mysterious for me to ever get my mind completely around but, on faith, I am fully convinced that it is mine.

So what stops us from simply accepting what Christ is freely offering us? There are a number of reasons I suspect, but one I encounter with more than a few sincere believers is one you might not immediately think of. Christians seem to have an uncanny knack for taking simple truths and complicating them through debate, dogma, and doctrine. I don’t mean to imply that these issues are not important. Certainly doctrine and dogma have their place. But I often wonder if Christ smiles in approval when he hears us debating his simple truths to the point that we divide ourselves into countless denominations and sects and tear asunder the Body that he meant to live in love and unity. On the contrary, I suspect this endless hairsplitting and theological nitpicking brings tears to his eyes.

During the early 1980’s I enrolled in several Religion courses at a small university near my home in north Alabama. I recall one course in particular that centered on the life of Jesus. My fellow classmates were an interesting group. Some were undergraduate students pursuing coursework in Religion and Philosophy in preparation for seminary. Others were ordained pastors of small local churches who, after preaching for a number of years, felt the need to further their education. Others, like myself, were there seeking a deeper understanding of the Christian faith as well as its history and traditions. Then there was Henry.

No one knew exactly why Henry was enrolled. He rarely spoke and when he did, it was with a soft, slow voice with a pronounced rural southern brogue. Considering the diverse make up of the class, it was natural that heated discussions would often break out. The professor often encouraged this in fact. The class argued about many issues. The nature of the Trinity, immersion versus sprinkling, the permanency of salvation, the list is endless.

I admit I often enjoyed these ballyhoos as they lent a degree of excitement to the proceedings and made the class time pass more quickly. One night the class was engaged in a verbal free for all centering on the Virgin Birth. I remember clearly hearing a wide range of viewpoints on this, mostly in support of the indisputable validity of the doctrine of virgin birth. I for one remained on the periphery of this dispute mostly out of ignorance. The doctrine of Virgin Birth was not for me an issue of central importance to my daily experience of the Christian path. In fact, unless it was brought up for discussion, I rarely consider it. It was one of those issues that I had placed on the theological back burner.

After a lengthy discussion, the professor looked to the back of the room and said, “Well Henry, you’ve been mighty quiet in this discussion. Why don’t you share your thoughts on the Virgin Birth with us?”

After a long pause Henry folded his hands on the desk, looked cautiously around the room and said:

“Well, I’ve been a settin’ here for over an hour listenin’ to you gents discussing this here thing about the Virgin Birth of Christ. I guess ya’ll know a heck of a lot more about all this than I do. You must or else you couldn’t talk about it for so long. All I know is this. Jesus loves me and I love him and try to do what he says. I reckon it don’t matter much to me what his momma done.”

Point taken Henry, end of discussion.

Instead of simply taking Christ at his word and freely receiving his gift of both salvation and sanctification, we often enter into arcane debates over issues that are not fundamental to the issue at hand. At the end of the day, we complicate a simple offer and this confuses believers inside the church and turns away many on the outside. I could give countless examples of this because I used to do this very thing. We all too often major in the minors and minor in the majors.

One issue that I have often heard brothers and sisters discussing, often in heated tones, is the order of salvation. Some say that we repent, and then we are saved. Others say that we repent because we are saved. I imagine one could make a case for either side of this issue by citing various passages of scripture but in terms of our response to God’s grace I don’t see that it matters much on a practical level. The fact is God makes His offer and we respond. The mere act of responding is in itself an act of repentance. We accept that we are accepted, complete with our cuts and bruises, our shortcomings and short-fallings. This is the meaning of grace, pure and simple.

Our role in this process is not to analyze, dissect, or debate. Our job is to respond. We either accept the offer or we refuse it. God has so arranged this process that it is really up to us.

Grace is not something we can earn. We can’t work our way into God’s grace because, in spite of our best intentions, nothing would ever, ever be enough. We can’t even pray our way into God’s grace. We can’t plea-bargain and attempt to get a lighter sentence for our sins. No, all we can do is get it through our heads, however thick, that grace flows from God to us. Our task is to accept it fully and get on with the task of letting the Holy Spirit flow into us and do His work to make us more like Christ.

The “Doctrine of Grace” is one thing; the reality of God’s grace is quite another. It is freely offered to all who would humble themselves enough to receive it. I suspect that each of us has his or her own way of resisting God’s grace. Some of us, as mentioned above, feel we don’t deserve it; some of us are too prideful, feeling that we can fix ourselves on our own; others think the concept of grace is just too simplistic. Whatever our reasons for struggling with this basic Christian principle, until we resolve our conflict, we will not advance very far on the spiritual journey.

As I have previously shared on this website, I can attest to this fact from my own experience. Paul says that the idea of “Christ crucified” as the means of salvation would be foolishness to the Greeks. Well, for many years it was foolishness to me. I much preferred the complexity of Buddhism and Hinduism, or the sanity of New Thought. Still, somewhere down in the pit of my being, the Hound of Heaven was chewing on me. God was unrelenting in his pursuit of me and I, like Jonah, headed for the hills more than once. Still, God’s grace kept surrounding me and I could not escape. In fact, I came to treasure the comforting feeling of being surrounded by God. Finally, I accepted that I was accepted.

Once I stopped running; once my struggles with God came to a halt, it was like a whole panorama of spiritual reality opened before my eyes, including a deep sense of optimism and hope. As a result, I began to view the world, including its problems and pain, with a greater degree of compassion and a genuine desire for healing involvement.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, I came to understand at a deeper level that I was in fact accepted. Accepted in my weakness because this is where the strength of Christ is seen. Accepted in my brokenness because this is where the healing of Christ is seen. Accepted in my faithlessness because this is where the fidelity of Christ is seen. Accepted in my wandering in the wilderness because this is where Christ’s true and stable mansions are eventually discovered.

What we can do is express our gratitude by being thankful, expressing our heart-felt appreciation for what God has done for us. Our gratitude must further be translated into positive action and a repentant lifestyle, which expresses itself in obedience, faithfulness, humility, faith, trust and, above all, a selfless love. In other words, we accept God’s gift of grace, forgiveness and adoption into his family, then get on with the work of growing in Christ-Character. Again, get this down and get it deep. Grace comes from God, not from anything you have done or will ever do in the future. Listen to Gary Collins:

Grace is not a loan from the past. It is a gift that extends through all eternity. It is a gift that helps mold our lives so that our spirituality is God-centered, Christ-honoring, Spirit-guided, life-influencing, and ultimately, fulfilling.

Don’t you just love that? God-centered, Spirit-guided, and life-influencing. Once we accept God’s gift, and importantly, once we accept that we are accepted by God, our duty is to live a life that is focused on God and makes Him the fulcrum of our thoughts, words and deeds. The amazing thing here is that God’s grace extends even to the point that we are aided in making him the focal point of life. The Holy Spirit comes along side of us, in fact, comes to reside in us and guides us as we seek to open our ears so that we can hear Him speak. As this happens, we increasingly become equipped to do Christ’s work on earth, to be his hands, his feet and his heart in a broken, dysfunctional world. Our life is influenced so we can influence other lives. In essence, once we accept God’s gracious gift, we are empowered to become God-centered, Spirit-guided servants that can make a positive difference in the world.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

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Called and Set Apart (Part One)

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.
Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

If you are a Christian, chances are you might feel a little uncomfortable with the concept of “holiness.” Depending on your denominational background, the issue of holiness may conjure up images of harsh, rigid, puritanical believers who condemn just about any behavior that might bring about an iota of pleasure. For many, the idea of holiness bring to mind images of Puritans dressed in black garb and sporting a countenance that gives the impression that they were baptized in pickle brine as opposed to water. Years ago, someone once described holiness theology as based on the fear that somewhere, someone might be having a little fun. The result of this misplaced zeal was the evolution of a harsh, somber, legalistic brand of Christianity that was the antithesis of what Jesus had in mind.

At the other end of the spectrum, many of the traditional “Mainline” denominations, rather than drifting into the morass of legalism described in the preceding paragraph, became enamored with the process of synthesizing Christian teachings with the latest psychological fad. This blend of religion and psychology offered great promise, especially in the realm of spiritual formation and in many cases, it delivered on these promises. There was, however, a price to be paid. Increasingly, those churches following this line of endeavor saw issues like sin, repentance, and morality as outdated teachings. Over a relatively short period of time, it became a rarity to hear a sermon preached on holiness or related theological relics.

Yet as Christians we are obliged to take the issue of holiness seriously. Throughout scripture it is clear that we are called to live holy lives, based on the reality that our Creator is holy. The term “holy” has traditionally been defined as “pure – set apart.” As we shall see, if we are decidedly obedient to the Master, we will indeed be set apart from the value system of this world.

Research by several groups, including the Barna group and Gallup, reveal that those who identify themselves as Christians, including Evangelical “Born Again” Christians, hold values and views that are not much different than the culture at large. In many ways, this is not surprising when one considers the general “morality drift” that has held sway over the past half-century. The church has been impacted just as much as the so-called “secular world.”

These facts should be a slap in the face to the church, a wakeup call of the first degree. We are called to be “holy,” which means “set apart.” Obedience to biblical teachings should produce a Christian community that is easily recognized as somewhat different than the culture at large. The fact that we are not all that different from the non-Christian culture around us should be a major cause for alarm and much self-reflection on the part of the church. Instead, it has largely gone unnoticed. One can assume, given this state of affairs, that Christians are either not serious about their faith or they, to put it bluntly, are not Christians at all. David Platt, in his recent book Follow Me, pulls no punches when he assesses this phenomenon:

…….I feel like I’m on pretty safe ground in assuming that once people truly come face-to-face with Jesus, the God of the universe in the flesh, and Jesus reaches down into the depths of their hearts, saves their souls from the clutches of sin, and transforms their lives to follow him, they are going to look different. Very different. People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians.

Platt is on safe ground, indeed. As mentioned earlier, study after study reveals that the attitudes and behaviors of those describing themselves as born-again Christians are not all that different from the population at large. If we are to take the words of Jesus seriously, especially his message at the end of Matthew 7 about how everyone who calls him Lord will not be saved or his words a little earlier in the same chapter about the “narrow gate,” then it should be easy to see that something is seriously amiss within the ranks of the Body of Christ. At every turn it appears that Christians today have settled for far less than what Jesus had in mind when he talked about “life more abundantly” (see John 10:10).

to be continued….

(c) L.D. Turner 2013/ All Rights Reserved

The Blessings of Today: A Declarative Prayer

The 1596 Book of Common Prayer
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For most of us, life in contemporary society is a hectic affair. Myriad responsibilities send us on our way each day as we scamper here and scamper there just trying to keep up with our daily duties. It is easy to see how we can become spiritually desensitized in a situation such as this. We lose our connection with the divine and, in doing so, we often miss the blessings of the day, both great and small.

Below is a declarative prayer I penned a few years back. I noticed that when I prayed this prayer consistently over a period of thiry days, very positive things began to happen. I began to notice things I didn’t notice before, my mood lightened considerably, and most significant of all, I once again felt a vital connection with the Holy Spirit as he walked beside me each and every day. The prayer is entitled “The Blessings of Today” and it goes something like this:

Today is indeed the first day of the rest of my life –

Today is a day of resurrection, renewal, and restoration and I greet this day with enthusiasm, confidence, and passion.

This confident passion arises from my acceptance that in Christ I am a new creation and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Today I know that the old indeed is passing away and that the new has been born. I am a being of light and love, committed to my spiritual growth, service to others, and becoming the optimal version of myself.

Today I declare, along with the Great Apostle, that with the power of the Holy Spirit, I am forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press forward into the future toward the goal and the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In Christ most blessed name,

Amen

Forgetting About God’s Will Long Enough To Do It

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...
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Mick Turner

 “If only I could really discover God’s will for my life, it would make all the difference in the world.” How many times have you heard sincere Christians make statements like this? I’ll wager that you have heard it quite a few times. I know I have. And if the truth be known, I can recall making that same statement myself, especially during times of spiritual floundering.

I mention this because I have come to understand that this sort of statement reveals a misunderstanding of the nature of God’s purpose for our lives and how he goes about communicating that purpose so we can grasp it. Granted, I believe that God has a unique, overriding purpose for each of us, has gifted us with certain talents and abilities that help us to become successful in carrying out that purpose, and has empowered us, through the Holy Spirit, to bring that mission to a successful conclusion. I have also come to believe, however, that God also given each of us daily tasks to perform – tasks normally associated with the environment we have been planted in. It is his will that we identify and carry out these daily callings with dedication and consistency.

Unfortunately, many of us are so busy trying to figure out that one great calling God has placed on our lives that we miss his will for us in the divine present, in the holy moment that exists right under our noses. He communicates those callings in ways we can all recognize – sudden insights, little hunches, or sudden feelings or memories that may come over us. I know in my own experience, I frequently have these sorts of impulses to take certain actions when I am reflecting on passages of scripture. All too often we fail to pay sufficient attention to these callings and, as a result, frequently miss discovering God’s will for us for that one divine moment. If we do this over a long period of time, we run the risk of losing vital contact with the Holy Spirit. A.W. Tozer tells us:

…….to expose our hearts to truth and consistently refuse or neglect to obey the impulses it arouses is to stymie the motions of life within us and, if persisted in, to grieve the Holy Spirit into silence.

Don’t keep reading as if the profundity of Tozer’s statement somehow escaped your attention. Pause and reflect for a few moments of what he just said. If we repeatedly ignore of disobey those nudging from the Holy Spirit he may just stop communicating with us.

It is understandable, really.

If you had a close friend, a person you care for deeply, consistently ignore or refuse to listen to your suggestions for how he might improve his life or solve a particular problem, would you continue to make those suggestions indefinitely? No, I doubt you would. I know I would eventually reach a point where I would just keep quiet.

Although I firmly believe that God has a unique mission for each of us, all too often I have seen deeply committed, sincere Christians get so distracted in the search for this calling that they consistently overlook clear service opportunities right in front of their noses. More often than not, the will of God can be found in those small, seemingly mundane task that cross our paths each day. Perhaps it is something as simple as opening a door for someone, picking up a bit of litter on the ground, or helping someone carry their groceries to the car. Perhaps it is something as routine visiting a sick friend in the hospital, giving a person a ride to the pharmacy or a medical appointment, or simply providing a listening ear to a friend who needs to unload what is on his or her heart.

It is in these everyday situations where we find the true epicenter of God’s activity and where we find consistent fulfillment of God’s will for our lives. Yes, it is also true that each of us has a unique and important calling and for some of us, that mission may be a great one. For all of us, however, these little everyday encounters are where we most often can give flesh to grace by answering the call of the moment.

It is precisely that consistent practice of paying attention to the small duties of our daily round that makes a life of excellence possible. Moreover, no one ever slouched his or her way to greatness. Let’s listen to the wisdom of James Allen:

The great man has become such by the scrupulous and unselfish attention which he has given to small duties. He has become wise and powerful by sacrificing ambition and pride in the doing of those necessary things which evoke no applause and promise no reward. He never sought greatness; he sought faithfulness, unselfishness, integrity, truth; and in finding these in the common round of small tasks and duties he unconsciously ascended to the level of greatness.

Let me share a brief story from my childhood that points out how attention to the small can lead to the unfolding of God’s greater will. The story also illustrates how attending to the small and mundane can have unforeseen, far-reaching impact.  I recall a conversation a middle-aged man had with my parents in a picnic area just across the road from Casey Key Beach in Nokomis, Florida, where I grew up. I was about 11 years old at the time and my hand was in a cast (I had broken it a few weeks before playing baseball).

 I vividly remember the gentlemen telling my parents that he was walking off the beach, heading to his car when he saw a pair of empty trash bags blowing down the beach near the water. He related that he started to leave, but felt that he should go and retrieve those bags and put them in a trash receptacle. “I think all of us who live down here should take responsibility to keep our beaches clean,” I recall him saying. Rather than leaving, he returned to the water’s edge to retrieve the garbage bags.

The man went on to relate than as he was reaching for the garbage bags he heard a distant cry for help. He looked up but did not initially see anything but then heard the cry again. Scanning the water he spotted an empty beach float and saw two arms frantically waving above the water’s surface. Racing into the surf the man swam out just beyond the float and found a small boy going under the water. He grabbed the boy and brought him back to shore. Panic-stricken, the boy took the man to his parents, who were just across the road from the beach.

If you haven’t guessed by now, that small boy was me. I was leisurely floating on my rubber raft when a wave knocked me off. The water was about two feet over my head and, with my hand in a heavy cast, swimming was impossible. I had gone under for the third time when the man reached me.

I tell this story because I am personally aware of how fortunate I am to be alive. Had that man not taken the time to return to the water’s edge and pick up the garbage bags, I would in all likelihood have drowned. I would not be writing this blog, which is part of God’s will for my life, nor would you be reading it right now. Yes, my friends, this gentleman’s decision to take responsibility for a small thing, litter on the beach, has had far-reaching effects, indeed.

Attention to the small is really God’s will for our lives. And in so many ways, the small is no different from the great in God’s eyes. James Allen continues:

Neglect of the small is confusion of the great. The snowflake is as perfect as the star; the dew drop is as symmetrical as the planet; the microbe is not less mathematically proportioned than the man. By laying stone upon stone, plumbing and fitting each with perfect adjustment, the temple at last stands forth in all its architectural beauty. The small precedes the great. The small is not merely the apologetic attendant of the great, it is its master and informing genius.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to do great things. Yet this calling should never become an obsession that causes us to miss the opportunities that are presented to us in each “divine moment.” It is in the context of these moments that we discover God’s will for us in the here and now. It is also in the fabric of these sublime moments, the “holy present,” where we connect with the “Holy Presence,” the unshakable power that enables us to carry out that calling with confidence and compassion.

© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Jigsaw Puzzle software version 1.0.1 for Mac O...
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It’s time to commit. What are you going to do about it? In the end God works in our world one person at a time. The hungry are fed, the thirsty are refreshed, the naked are clothed, the sick are treated, the illiterate are educated, and the grieving are comforted, just one person at a time. You have the opportunity to be that one person to someone who needs what you have to offer. And what you have to offer is never small and insignificant. Again, the great picture of what God is doing in our world is incomplete without your unique puzzle piece – the one that only you possess. But you must choose to place your piece in the puzzle.

Richard Stearns

(from The Hole in Our Gospel)

Living as a New Creation (Part Two)

Cover of "The Naked Gospel: The Truth You...
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Mick Turner

When we encounter our consistent difficulties in living out the Christian life as Christ intended, one of the reasons is our lack of understanding of who and what we are “in Christ.” It often saddens me to the core to hear genuinely sincere followers of the Christ speak of themselves as “miserable sinners” or “totally depraved humans.” We speak of humanity as if we were some sort of low-grade pond scum without merit or moral fiber. What’s worse is the reality that this stilted, sinful (yes, I said sinful) view of our station as human beings has been foisted upon the church not by its enemies or other faith systems, but instead, by many of its own leaders and teachers. I find this especially shameful.

As redeemed and spiritually reborn persons, our humanity is our crowning glory. Born from above, we have been restored to the pristine glory that God originally intended for us. God has done this for us through the being, the mission, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Christ. Further, he has provided everything we need in order to lead a godly life (see 2 Peter 1:3) and for us to not claim this renewed life and all that it implies is sacrilege in its most rebellious form. In essence, through Christ God has restored us to righteousness and this gift of right standing with the Father is eternal. What we have to grasp is the fact that we are right now, at this very moment, as pure and as righteous as we are ever going to be. We have to be because the Father’s unfathomable holiness could not tolerate our presence at his right hand, where scripture tells us we now reside with Christ. Andrew Farley, in his great little book entitled The Naked Gospel tells us:

We find it difficult to grasp the idea that God calls us righteous because we actually are righteous. It feels more humble to believe we’re filthy worms awaiting a future change into beautiful butterflies…………..Jesus stated it best. He said that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom (Matthew 5:20). So if we Christians don’t claim to possess perfect righteousness, we are lowering God’s standard. We are watering down the gospel. We insinuate that Jesus can unite himself with sin. And we insult the perfection of God.

The point Farley is driving at is what Paul tells us time and again in Romans: we have to come to a point where we live the reality, not just believe it, that our old self has been crucified with Christ. It is dead and gone. From a spiritual perspective, this is the only possible reality. As Christians, we are now united with God through Christ and further, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within us. On top of all this, we are also filled with Christ (see Ephesians 4:10). As hard as it may be for us to fathom, we are now the “Temple of God.” In the old temple in Jerusalem, God dwelled in the inner most room of the temple, called the Holy of Holies. Nothing impure or imperfect could enter there and even the High Priest only ventured in once each year.

Friends, we are now the Holy of Holies. We may not feel like it. We may not understand it. We may look at other followers of Christ and, knowing their shortcomings, find it hard to believe that they are the Temple of God, the very Holy of Holies. I guess that is one reason we are told that trusting our feelings is a tenuous, risky business. Scripture affirms that we are now the dwelling place of God and if God lives in us, our true being cannot be imperfect. That is why the old self had to die with Christ. Andrew Farley continues:

The risen Christ doesn’t join himself to filthy worms. The Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in dirty sinners. Christ only unites himself with those who are like him in spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t reside in someone who remains even 1 percent flawed by sin. . . . . . . .But we have been perfectly cleansed. We have been made perfectly righteous at our core through spiritual surgery. This is the way we can enjoy even a moment of relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we look at all this, again, some of us may find it hard to believe, especially those of us who struggle with chronic, long-standing strongholds and negative emotions. We need, however, to not only believe it but live it. By that I mean we must base our thoughts, decisions, and actions upon this reality. We must come to view ourselves in precisely the same way God sees us: pure, holy, whole, and righteous.

(c) L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved

Seven Indispensable Principles for Spiritual Success

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (1886-96) by Jame...
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Mick Turner

I vividly remember the confusion I sometimes felt during my first few months living in China. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. I was halfway around the world and suddenly thrust into a culture that was totally alien to me. I quickly realized that if I wanted to have a peaceful, orderly, and successful life, I needed to understand how the various rules and laws of behavior worked in that fascinating culture.

The same principle holds true when it comes to walking out our Christian faith on a daily basis. If we want to be successful, if we want to be all that God intends for us to be, we need to come to a deep understanding of certain spiritual laws and more importantly, how to implement those laws for their maximum benefit.

Dr. I.V. Hilliard, in his landmark book Living the Maximized Life, describes a series of seven spiritual laws that are indispensable in the life of a Christ-follower. According to Dr. Hilliard, if we apply ourselves to the implementation of these laws our efforts will not be in vain. These laws are as follows:

 

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Passion

The Law of Priority

The Law of Petition

The Law of Pattern

The Law of Profession

The Law of Progression

 

Dr. Hilliard asserts that implementation of these laws will enable us to “maximize life situations,” both positive and troublesome. Here at LifeBrook we frequently verbalize our mission statement, which is to:

Provide encouragement that will assist people to become the optimal version of themselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say without reservation that these laws, when diligently applied, will greatly assist any Christian desirous of a rewarding, fulfilling spiritual life. Let us now turn to a brief discussion of each of these principles.

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Perspective is primarily concerned with vision and focus. God has implanted a personal calling, a mission, in the heart of each and every child of the Light. A personal “vision” involves the specific ways in which the Christ-follower will realize that calling. The vision provides perspective, a blueprint, and a matrix which helps the person make effective plans and precise decisions. In the words of Dr. Hilliard:

The Bible has multitudes of scriptures admonishing believers to control their visual focus. Seeing your future from God’s perspective is critical to accurate management of your mind. The term “vision” has the most dynamic and multi-faceted meaning. It means both natural visual perception and spiritual internal vision (or imagination).

God instructed Abram (later called Abraham) in how to look at things from a divine perspective – to get the God-sized big picture. In doing so, this enabled Abram to see more clearly and, at the same time, exercise his faith in God. Dr. Hilliard explains:

Abram is instructed to look from where he is to where he wants to go. This simple principle of focus will transform your life as you immerse yourself in images of the new you in possession of your faith’s desires.

The Law of Passion

 Passion is a sacred fuel that gives us the necessary drive to keep pursuing our desired outcome, even when the going gets rough. When we have passion about something, we give 110 percent, even when we don’t feel like giving 25 percent; passion is that which transforms average into good and good into great.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Dr. Hilliard comments:

You and I will be filled, satisfied at the level of our hunger and thirst for the things of God. Hunger and thirst are synonymous terms for passion. I really like this passage because of the guarantee that is incorporated in the text. If you and I hunger and thirst for righteousness, then we can rest assured that God will empower us to obtain the righteous objectives we are passionate about. Learning how to stir up a hunger and a thirst for something is the key.

When we hunger and thirst we are passionate and when we are passionate and proactive, our chances of spiritual success are multiplied many times over.

The Law of Priority

Let’s face it, life in contemporary America is both fast-paced and complicated. Multi-tasking has become a seeming necessity, just to get by and for most of us, life can easily devolve into a juggling act at a moment’s notice. The fact is, unless we learn to set priorities we can easily find our self in a situation where trivial matters take precedent over critical issues – in essence – we end up majoring in the minors.

Dr. Hilliard stresses the importance of prioritizing, which he defines as making a focused effort on something, by stating:

The law of priority reveals the power of focused effort and discipline, which lead to skill and mastery. Understanding how to see priorities in life is critical if one wants to develop and implement a strategy to maximize life’s opportunities. Things that are highly valued and yield the most desirable results must be given priority.

The Law of Petition

The Law of Petition is intimately connected with the discipline of prayer and its dynamics are straightforward and simple. Dr. Hilliard reminds us that:

The law of petition is founded on the power of prayer and the Godly promises made to believers who will pray. Understanding these simple rules for prayer will equip and empower believers for maximized living. There is no substitute for a commitment to a time of daily prayer and spiritual devotion.

Put simply, if we expect to have success in God’s plan for our lives we have to establish and maintain consistent lines of communication with him.

The Law of Pattern

Although individual creativity, thinking out of the box, and trying out new things are all vitally important in navigating life, there are also times when following an established methodology for achieving success is the best strategy. We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Dr. Hilliard discusses the wisdom of following proven pathways when he says:

The law of pattern mandates that when we follow a proven plan of action or model the traits of other successful people out of a pure heart, we will eventually get similar results. “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). If you work according to a proven pattern, you will achieve the same results others have attained.

The Law of Profession

The Law of Profession has to do with the words we speak and, in secular circles, is often referred to as “affirmation.” The primary difference here is that in “profession” the words we declare in positive prayer are in agreement with the Bible and its promises. There are many scriptural passages that affirm this principle but perhaps the most well-known is Mark 11:23-24:

I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you the truth, you can pray for anything, and if you believe you have received it, it will be yours.

The Law of Progression

The Law of Progression can be summed up this way: Spiritual success is a process, not an event. Dr. Hilliard describes it this way:

The law of progression says the consistent effort of a proven plan of action will eventually produce the desired results on a gradual basis! The law of progression says things change little by little…………Our journey of success was not one giant leap, but a step-by-step process.

Jesus, as was often the case, turned to the natural world for examples that clearly describe the principle he is teaching. In Mark 4:26-28 the Master states:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast a seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

An ear of corn is a process, not an event. The miracle of growth unfolds over a period of time and the same principle applies to matters of the spirit. We grow into Christ-character one small step at a time.

Taken as a whole, these seven principles operate together to help us achieve success in whatever our area of endeavor. The primary arena, however, where these principles may prove their effectiveness is in matters of spiritual formation. These spiritual laws have proven their beneficial nature time and time again and they will do so in our lives if we diligently apply them. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can honor God and glorify the Master by becoming the very best that we can be – the optimal version of who and what we are.

© L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved