"You[Timothy], however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose , faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings . . . ."(2 Timothy 3:10, italics mine)
Have you lifted up your eyes from your day to day rut and noticed just how stressed and tense "our world" has become? Distress is everywhere. More and more people are doing stupid things. People are hurting themselves and other people because there is no rest Ė day or night. Every minute is crammed full with something. Our brains are overstimulated and our senses overloaded. The whole world seems to be going crazy. Road rage and excessive speeding tells me that people in America are frustrated. But wait! This problem is appearing in national politics as well!
The leaders of the United States government are also showing signs of frustration and distress. The Senate has reached a place where it can barely function. The rancor between the two parties is truly horrible. Political interviews are full of bitter disagreement at a time when the U.S. is confronted with problems that threaten its very existence! Ironically, the problems are getting larger and the nationís ability to work together is getting weaker. The leaders cannot agree on a solution to stop hordes of illegal immigrants from entering the country, porous borders, a stalled economy, the out-sourcing of millions of jobs to China and India, the costly war in Iraq, a crisis in Social Security entitlements, and the escalating energy prices. I do not think we will ever return to the peaceful and genteel time we remember from the past. Human nature will not allow it. Our inability to control ourselves or the technologies God has given us is leading to our own destruction. For many reasons and excuses, we convince ourselves we cannot take time to rest and recuperate. We go - go - go, buy - buy - buy, sell - sell - sell, work - work - work and play - play - play. There is no interest or time to rest - rest - rest. We have become like little gerbils who run their tiny legs off on a spinning wheel that goes nowhere. No matter how hard we keep running, there is no end in sight. Isnít it time to begin asking, "Why are we killing ourselves?"
Carnal Religion Is Not Helping
"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."(2 Timothy 4:3,4) It is paradoxical that religion, for the most part, is not helping. One would think that advanced knowledge of God would produce a better world! Actually, religion is magnifying the problems we face. Religious differences have caused tensions between Islam and Christianity that have become very strong. Even though the world has seven great religions and an infinite number of deviations within each of them, there are only two kinds of religious experiences: internal and external. I define the external experience as a carnal commitment to defend, to the death if necessary, our love and knowledge of God. A good example of the external experience is Peterís statement:". . . Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death. Jesus answered, ĎI tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.í "(Luke 22:33,34) Under the right circumstances, Peter would have been willing to die for Jesus because Peter loved Jesus as he loved himself. The problem is that Peter could not love Jesus more than he loved himself because he had not surrendered himself to Godís will. We know that it was Godís will that Jesus die on the cross and Peter was not willing to allow it! This is why he drew his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priestís servant. Words are cheap. Only a test will reveal the true motives of the heart and Peterís first test came in the form of humiliation. Peter denied that he knew Jesus because he did not want to share in the shame and insults that Jesus received. The external experience is so human Ė so universal.
I define the internal experience as a miraculous transformation that enables us to fulfill the purpose for which God has called us. Here are two examples:"During the days of Jesusí life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission . Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."(Hebrews 5:7-9, italics mine) Jesus was submissive to His Father and because of this character trait, He was willing to die on the cross if that was the Fatherís will! (Luke 22:42) Similarly, Paul became submissive to Jesus and this is why he wrote,"You[Timothy], however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings Ė what kinds of things happened to me. . . ." (2 Timonthy 3:10,11) Paul wrote that a total submission to Godís will must occur before the internal experience of transformation can take place!
As a young man, Paul loved the external religious experience. He wrote about his external religion saying,". . . If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless."(Phillippians 3:4-6) Later in the same chapter, Paul reflected on the days after he met Jesus and wrote that his religious achievements meant nothing. You know how it happened. One day, while zealously persecuting Christians, Jesus Himself confronted Saul on the road to Damascus. That meeting shattered Paulís arrogance. Blinded by the glory of Christ, Paul soon discovered that he was truly blind about the ways of God. Then and there, Paul surrendered to Jesus and was inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit. As a result of this experience, Paul became a champion for the cause of Christ. In fact, no human being has influenced the development of Christianity more than Apostle Paul.
Jesus invites us to enter into a deep and abiding relationship with Him. The terms and conditions of His invitation are simple. Jesus says, "Come unto me and I will give you rest. . . Walk with Me, spend time with Me, learn from Me, obey My commands, study My Word, submit to My wisdom, allow Me to work out a great plan for your life, for no one loves you more or has your best interest at heart!" We respond, "But Lord, I have too many things to do! In fact, I have so many things to do that I canít sit still!" The problem with this response is the issue of submission. We are really saying, "Lord, I cannot say Ďnoí to all the things that I want to do. I like going here and there, I like doing this and that, even though subconsciously, I know they are killing me."
Jesus does not propose to come down to our level, He proposes to lift us up to His. Jesus requires total submission every moment of every day. (John 15:14) Hispurposefor our life can only be fulfilled if we consistently submit to His authority! True, no one but Jesus has been able to live in perfect submission to the will of God every moment of every day , but Paul makes it very clear that through the power offered by Jesus, we can grow into the character of Jesus. (Ephesians 4:11-32)
So What Is Godís Purpose for Your Life?
Perhaps you have heard about the book by Pastor Rick Warren titled, "The Purpose Driven Life." His book has sold more copies than any other religious book ever written Ė except for the Bible. I think the book is so successful because Pastor Warren has been gifted by the Holy Spirit with the ability to explain the Christian experience in a way that has changed thousands of lives. Although I cannot agree with everything that Pastor Warren has written in the book, I believe he is a godly man and I have found a marvelous blessing in his book.
During April 2005, I was in Round Rock, Texas visiting with the Kincaid family. As you may recall, Letty has been conducting Daniel and Revelation seminars on behalf of Wake Up America for a few years, and she has also conducted three or four seminars on "The Purpose Driven Life." I asked Letty to present a summary seminar on the book and she agreed. We audio taped our discussion and it is available on audio tapes and audio CDs. If you have access to the internet, you can also listen to the whole seminar forfree. Our discussion took place over a few days and the recorded portion is seven and a half hours in length.
Letty put the salient points together, describing how God works out His purposes within us. It is a tremendous presentation. I was truly blessed. I went away realizing that God has many things to teach me. As we progressed through the discussion, I was impressed that I need to surrender to the will of God in ways that I had not thought about. I am sharing my experience with you because I hope you will be able to listen to Lettyís presentation. Let me repeat this statement again. Jesus says, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest. Walk with Me, spend time with Me, learn from Me, obey My commands, study My Word, submit to My wisdom, allow Me to work out a great plan for your life for no one loves you more or has your best interest at heart!" So take heart. Jesus said of Pharaohís rebellion,"But I have raised you up for this very purpose , that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the Earth."(Exodus 9:6, italics mine) Now, think about this. If Jesus had a purpose for hardheaded and hardhearted Pharaoh, donít you think He has an even higher purpose for every person who surrenders to Him?