Recently I posted this on social media:
We completed our Christmas celebrations yesterday, making it a total of four family Christmases this year. On our hour-long drive home I put the headphones on and made a list of significant happenings in 2017. When finished, I stared at the list and cried. Every January I am hit with a tinge of fear that the coming year won’t rival the one before it. With every bit of passion in me, I crave for each year to embody movement *forward* with God. Last January I could not conceive of how 2017 could rival 2016. What God did in 2016 in my life and ministry work was inconceivable to me—in the best way possible. But here I am, looking back at 2017 and, my goodness, it seems too sacred to even say it… but 2017 indeed did surpass 2016. Not because it contained only good—far from it—but because it contained Jesus. Higher doses of Him than I could have fathomed last January. But let’s be honest, it couldn’t have gone this way without 2016, and all the years before that one. In Christ, the years have great potential and intention to build. And oh they do if we don’t give up our pursuit of Him!! They build and grow, up and into Him. It’s breathtaking and exciting, dangerous and wild. Yet utterly safe and free! He’s the key to life. Jesus. Chase Him—hard, enduringly, passionately—and you’ll land in the center of everything you could never imagine life to be, and more. As we do so, we can know *more* and *greater* will be our destiny in 2018. It won’t not beat 2017. Fear of the future has no place this January. Only seeking, finding, trusting, surrendering, anticipating, expecting, and thrilling concerning the year to come… come what may. Because He’ll be in it… in every detail, moment, feeling, high, low, challenge, trial, tragedy, disappointment, victory, celebration… guiding, loving, teaching, caring, comforting, freeing, strengthening, giving, praying, never leaving us… With this… 2018, welcome! We’re so excited you’re here!
This New Year, the first small series of blog posts I’m going to bring your way will be all about this very thing: seeking Him. And more specifically, all about how to come to a place where you seek God with all your heart, soul, mind, and fiery passion! Because we all know you have passion. I have passion too. I believe we were all created to be wildly passionate (Rom. 12:11). Especially about seeking and finding and knowing God! But as much as this sounds like a nice or high ideal, it doesn’t feel like a possible reality to many of us, I know. I certainly have been there. But somewhere along the way, God radically revolutionized my life. Somehow, on this journey, I’ve come to a place where my deepest passion is Him and knowing Him more. I crave Him, knowing Him, being filled by Him, following Him, believing Him, and being fruitful for Him more than I crave any other thing in my life. And I say this with utter honestly.
So what happened? How did I go from being a content believer in Jesus, who believed He was definitely the Way, Truth, and Life but found it hard to seek Him and even harder to know Him, to being the passionate, intensely curious and driven seeker, finder, and communicator of all things Jesus?
First, I simply kept showing up.
If you know of or know personally someone who is zealously chasing after God, keep showing up. For me there were two key people I witnessed both chasing God with passion. I didn’t know either of them closely, but pursuing God as they were, they were both involved in ministry. I continued to show up to church and Bible study where they were. I continued to witness their chase. And frankly, I wanted what they had. I knew I didn’t have it, but I wanted it. And I couldn’t shake the desire for it that began to grow within me. If you have no one like this in your life, sign up for a Bible study or/and start attending a church where you might find such souls…. and just keep showing up… even when it feels more like duty than delight. The more you’re around those who love and personally know Jesus, the more likely your own yearning for Him will be stirred up.
Second, I began to pray for desire.
As I saw these people passionately chasing Jesus, realizing I didn’t have the same zeal for Him… and as I saw the changed, totally different kind of lives they enjoyed, I began to simply ask God, “Please can you spark this in me too?” Listen, I believe this is a prayer God delights to answer. And chances are, if you’re asking it, you’re well on your way there already! If you’re not yet, start asking God for this today!
Third, I needed a serious revelation of myself.
I needed to see me for who I was and am in my natural flesh. I felt I was doing ok. I felt I was a decently moral and good and spiritual person. I felt I did better than many others. I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I felt I was trying and that was a good thing. But what I needed to see was that it wasn’t about how good or bad I was living. It was about how enslaved or free I was living! How dead or alive I was living! I myself was born a slave to sin, and therefore, as good as my life might have looked, I was not living from the high and glorious Life of Christ Himself. There was a much more beautiful, free, powerful life I was meant to live, yet I, for so long (even after I became a Christian), was living far below all that God had afforded me in Christ Jesus. Partially because I didn’t know/had never heard all that was afforded me at the cross, and partially because I thought I was doing ok.
But how do we really genuinely see the death, the slavery, in ourselves? We can be told of it, read about it, understand it in theory, but until we really recognize it in our own selves—along with the genuine tragedy and horror of it—the idea of it isn’t going to make a difference in our lives one way or the other.
But— we are those who want the Life and freedom and power of Jesus to be present and active in our lives! We don’t want to just settle on the theory of it, without personal revelation of it in ourselves! Amiright? So how do we really see the depth of our slavery? How do we come to truly disdain the slavery we’re all really under?
Well, the Bible has an answer for this question! Our answer is found in what the New Testament Scriptures say about the Old Testament Law. See what Paul says about it in Romans 7:7b-8…
…I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead…
According to Paul, by trying to do what He knew was right (according to the Law he and His people were under), he came to see his slavery (sin). He wouldn’t have known of His slavery unless he tried to live outside of it. Once he tried to live free, he found that all he did was obey slavery even more. He couldn’t do what He wanted to freely do.
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
So, back to our question. How do we come face to face with our personal slavery in such a way that a spark of passionate pursuit ignites in us for God? It may seem off color to some, but if we simply try to live free and perfect on our own (not act perfect, but really live perfect/pure/sinless)… it won’t be long before we get a good look at our slavery…. what we’re really incapable of in our own skin… because of its slavery to the darkness.
I came to a time in my life when living “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) became a very serious desire and pursuit of mine. I believed it was the call of God on all Christians, and so I undertook to fulfill this call! But what I didn’t know at the time is that only Jesus Himself inside of me was capable of this! As I sought to live “perfect” (not simply act perfect) everything literally spiraled out of control in my personal life. The harder I tried to walk the straight and narrow, the worse I did. The horribly, terribly
Not only was it the worst, most on-going (2 years!), and dramatically dark thing to ever happen to me, it was also the best thing to happen to me (though I can only say this in hindsight). I had already been a Christian for many years. I’d already had the Holy Spirit residing in me for many years. Yet seeing myself, my slavery of the flesh was absolutely essential to my capacity to both desire and seek God above all else. Before this grueling journey I thought I needed Jesus mainly to “go to heaven when I die” and for frequent “help”. The fact is, I need Jesus for literally every moment of every day. I don’t mean that I need Him to keep me alive and to bless my life and help me (though I certainly desire these things too). But I need Him to experience Life—freedom from slavery—in the here and now. Divine Life. His Life. Apart from living from Him in me, I have no freedom, no power, no ability to live the Life I long to live. But I couldn’t understand this until I saw what I was as a human being. I wasn’t only enslaved to sin in certain facets of my life. I was a slave in every facet of my entire life.
And friends, in the flesh, you are too.
This is what being human, descended from Adam, means.
If you haven’t had a good confrontation with your natural flesh and blood, pray for it, and then try to really truly live holy. I know it sounds ridiculous and painful and humbling, but it’s the very thing God called Israel in the wilderness to do! That’s part of what the 10 commandments were about. Romans 7:7-13 says that the Law was put in place to “increase sin”. That is, to make people to see their slavery…. Because as long as we don’t see it, we’ll continue to live content with slavery! God loved Israel and us too much to see us settle in this place! There’s so much M O R E available to every single human trodding planet Earth! Taking a good hard look in the mirror is the best thing any of us could do at this time!
I say this gently, but please feel the weight of the truth of it: if you are not currently passionately, intensely chasing after Jesus, if He’s not the best thing and the best news you’ve ever encountered and desire, you probably don’t see your utter need for Him yet, because you haven’t seen the utter slavery you are in in your flesh. You still think you’re doing ok. That you have a good handle on your flesh. Thus, you’re still protecting yourself from Him…
Right this moment, pray for a revelation of yourself as you are in your natural flesh and blood descended from Adam. Then determine to stop sinning (living from slavery to darkness) completely. It might prove to be a painful prayer and undertaking, but if you don’t give up, it’ll be the literal best thing that’s ever happened to you!
Friends, each one of us absolutely is desperately in need of Christ Jesus. God knew this, and that’s why He sent HIm. He loves us so much! But if you’re not “feeling” it yet, show up anyways, pray to “feel” hungry for Him, and ask for a revelation of yourself. Start here. It may seem like a trifle start, but it’s far more of a start than you realize!
Can you think of any better to start this New Year? I can’t!
God’s grace, peace, love, joy, and fiery passion to each and every one of you!