Lincoln Forlong

Willing

A willing Christian spirit is one that is compliant and anticipates surrender with a measure of enthusiasm before any request or expectation is made of God. Just as a willing spirit enriches human relationships, so it is the quality of willingness that infuses vitality into our spiritual relationship with the Lord. Willingness must be mutually active to produce the glory and the blessing that both God and believer desire.

In John 10:18, we read of Jesus saying that no one would take His life from Him, “but I lay it down of my own accord.” Jesus’ willingness to obey His Father and sacrificially serve sinful humanity on the cross is our template for right attitude. Such an expensive, self-sacrificing attitude by Christ, displays the richness of Jesus’ holy, loving, and merciful character.

Therefore, it should not surprise us to see a reflection of this willingness in the lives of those who follow the Lord. When David turned back to the Lord from his disastrous backsliding, he recorded the words of his repentance in Psalm 51. Central to his repentance was understanding his dependence upon the Lord to change every level of his heart attitude. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you (Psalm 51:12-13).

When a child of God discovers they have been swept down a path of sin, it is only the restoring work of the Lord which brings recovery. Only the Lord can rejuvenate the joy of salvation within a person who has been hijacked by sin. Joy is the expected fruit within the sinner when our Saviour does His work of regeneration. Consequentially, joy authored by the Lord, overshadows the pains and struggles of repentance with peace.

However, David also recognised he needed more than forgiveness to prevent him reverting to sin. He needed God to make a foundational and preventative change within His spirit/heart. David asked God to strengthen his walk of obedience with a willing spirit. A heart that desires to comply by default. A heart that considers the choices of life and chooses obedience without negotiation, and without complaint. This is the level of willingness we see in Christ, and we seek for the Holy Spirit to generate within us. An unnatural and unworldly compliance authored by Yahweh that gives evidence of His supernatural work within us.

As David continues, he understands the outworking of such a shift in attitude. Willingness should desire to teach transgressors your ways. A God authored transformation will cause the repentant sinner to look for others who need to be save, as they have been. Again, only God the Spirit can germinate a willing desire to share Christ with others. Similarly, David realised that telling others is not sufficient in and of itself. David’s newly shaped willing spirit expected sinners will return to you. It is Christlike character, generated by the Holy Spirit, that desires to be actively used by the Lord in the process of sinners turning away from a life of sin to a life under the Lordship of Christ. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Whether we are outgoing by nature or not, quiet or loud, find conversation easy or not, should not interfere with our desire of willingness to serve God. Personality and abilities are not in David’s or Jesus’ thinking here. I encourage you to seek a willing spirit/heart for the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is but one God

There is but one God and heavenly Father, creator of everything, and we know Him by His name, YAHWEH (Exo 20:2). YAHWEH has but one Son, Jesus Christ, sent to humanity by His Father (Jn 5:37). Father and Son share their essence equally with one Holy Spirit who indwells and seals all who believe in the Son (2Co 1:21-22).

We have access to the Father through the Son by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. In all things, the Father, and the Holy Spirit desire for believers to exalt the Son. For it was God the Father who delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Jesus Christ), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). As redeemed and cleansed sinners who now have their identity in Christ, we discover a growing appetite to know and walk with the Son of God because He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

Therefore, it is Christ we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). Assisting the unsaved in coming to Christ for salvation is just the beginning of our ministry with one another. In Christ, we have an ongoing mutual service together, proactively helping one another to grow towards mature Christlikeness. Abandoning this God-appointed mission should be unthinkable. Therefore, like Paul, we toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within us (Colossians 1:29). This is the ministry of disciple making (Mat 28:19-20), entrusted to us by Jesus for the glory of God and the salvation of lost sinners.

Growing faithful followers of Christ is challenging work. The success of our mission is dependent upon the spiritual working of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through believers committed to one another as they are committed to Christ. From our tool kit of spiritual resources, we take the sanctifying truth of God’s Word (Jn 17:17) and implant it within one another. We then surround that truth with earthly Christian fellowship, support, and faithfulness, as we walk the life-long path of interdependence. In this way, we together grow in beholding the glory of the Lord. Together, with all our inconsistencies and struggles, we recognise that we are being transformed into the same image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Not surprizing, our arch enemy’s tool kit is packed with resources to counter God’s work. Worldliness, fleshly appetites, futile thinking, unfaithfulness to the Lord and His people, disunity, with possibly the most seductive being isolation from the body of Christ, the church. Satan does not hesitate to invisibly unleash as many flaming darts (Eph 6:16) as required to damage and hinder God’s mission through God’s people.

Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13-18). Walking in obedience to God’s Word, under the controlling Holy Spirit, we are able to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Today, may we join with the apostle Paul in saying, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

The God who forgives

Forgiveness is a wonderful blessing to enjoy. But, when forgiveness is not available, or withheld, life can become bitter and dark. Humans have always struggled with the issues surrounding forgiveness and the lack of it from others. Some claim that forgiving yourself is all that is required, but this can only lead to self-delusion. The human heart, whether it knows it or not, craves to experience forgiveness in the highest court that exists, in God’s court.

While the Bible records many examples of forgiveness, there is a particularly beautiful expression of it found in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus, having accepted an invitation from a Pharisee to an evening meal with his friends, finds Himself reclining on His side, next to the low dinner table. Without notice, or invitation, there appears a woman who was known for her sinful lifestyle. She came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him (Jesus) at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them (Lk 7:37-38).

Obviously, this lady knew who Jesus was. She was conflicted in her heart by her sinful living and faith that caused her to desire forgiveness. As you can imagine, the legalistic pharisee host, Simon, objected to Jesus allowing this to happen. So, momentarily Jesus turns His attention to correct the wrong attitude of Simon towards Jesus, and towards fellow sinners. So, Jesus tells a short story; two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more? (Lk 7:41-42). To which the Pharisee rightly replied, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven (Lk 7:43).

Jesus then makes application to both the Pharisee and the lady at His feet. Simon, you did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgivenas her great love has shown… (Luke 7:44-47).

No matter how repeated you are in life’s sin and failures, Jesus’ offers forgiveness and restoration. If your heart, your conscience, and your faith feel drained of life from the relentless assaults of sin, Jesus’ offers a declaration of innocence which carries authority from the Courtroom of heaven. Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, your faith has saved you; go in peace (Luke 7:48-50).

As the hymn by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell declares, “Our sins they are many, His mercy is more.” If you are crushed by the weight of sin, Jesus offers forgiveness in response to your faith in Him. It’s forgiveness that delivers peace into your heart and the assurance of never being reversed or undone. No matter what others say, Jesus has the authority to forgive because He carried our sins in his body on the cross… (1 Peter 2:24). The grace of Jesus’ repeated forgiveness for our repeated sin cannot help but grow our love for Him even more.

The God who indwells

The world is quick to judge God by its own experiences. Then they deny His existence because He fails to be the god they want Him to be. The contradiction is astounding! Because Yahweh will never be the God of mankind’s imagination or wishful thinking, the world concludes He is not worthy of their belief, so they deny His existence.

Thousands of years ago, David pondered this perplexing trait of humanity also, and recorded God’s observation of the matter. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God (Psalm 14:2). The conclusion of His worldwide search through the ages, was that they have all turned away… (Psalm 14:3). David concluded that the fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Equally, it is the foolish person who says “No” to God in conclusion to their own one sided and self-centred evaluation of life and the existence of God.

By contrast, Christians give preference to God’s witness on the matter. And in Isaiah 57:15 we again read the Lord’s testimony of Himself. For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” What a breathtaking difference from mankind’s conclusion. A few quick observations will speak for themselves.

The Lord is not like us. He is separate from mankind in purity. He is the One and only supreme being who lives and reigns outside of the materialistic and time trapped universe. He is above all that the world perceives in the universe, and He inhabits eternity, meaning, He lives in and fills the totality of all that exists outside of our known sphere of time and existence. As the only sovereign over everything and everyone, He reveals Himself as the One whose name is Holy. From our human perspective, every facet of God’s existence; His character, His motives, His thoughts, His speech, His actions, and His reactions, are best summarised by His intrinsic holiness. He is incapable of anything other than pure perfection. Therefore, His heavenly existence and governance is, and shall always remain, HOLY!

Yet, we also see that Holy God has a second preferred place in which to dwell; with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit. What staggering extremes! From the indescribable greatness and beauty of His heavenly home to the corrupted mortality of a human host. The simple human invitation required for the Almighty to respond, is humility towards Him. To the person who does an honest self-evaluation, and concludes that they are lowly, and poor in spirit before God (Mat 5:3), the Almighty performs that which is impossible for us. The Lord moves to dwell with them.

But how you ask? By reviving the spiritual heart of the one who is broken in humility before God. Jesus explained this transition to Nicodemus, that it is the Spirit of God who causes a person to be born again spiritually (Jn 3:1-15). The Holy Spirit creates new life within the spiritually dead person. Jesus promised that the Spirit would dwell with you and will be in you (John 14:17). So, if anyone loves me (Jesus), he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).

The God Who Smiles

Although we may not think of it often, if at all, God experiences pleasure just as He does all other emotions. Although God is spirit, He never-the-less smiles through His Son Jesus Christ. Jehovah experiences pleasure, and we, along with all creation, have our existence in the purpose of His glorious pleasure.

The world likes to present God in the extremes of either consuming wrath, or jelly-like emotion. Yet, Scripture consistently presents God as glorious in His holiness, His grace, His purpose, His justice, and His salvation offered to rebellious humanity. Therefore, it is right that the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:11). When humanity bows in awe of Yahweh as being the God He reveals Himself to be, God is glorified and glad.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of Enoch, whose faith in God had observable effects. Hebrews 11:5-6, by faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Apart from Enoch’s unique rapture-like transfer to heaven, he is remembered as a man of God pleasing faith. So it is for us, authentic, real life faith that seeks after God brings God great pleasure.

In the flurry of life, we can easily forget the passionate heart of God who predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5 NIV). At the time of spiritual rebirth, you became an expression of the Almighty’s wilful pleasure. The unbreakable relationship which Christ established on your behalf, was sealed, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). The actioning of your obedient faith in Christ is how God works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Not only do you experience pleasure from your faithful obedience, but God experiences pleasure from it also. Paul repeats the theme in Ephesians chapter 1 three times, that the working out of God’s gracious will in our lives for His pleasure, results in us being the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). In Christ, redeemed sinners achieve that which was previously impossible, to glorify God.

I don’t think there is any human privilege greater than God considering us His friend. James 2:23 tells us that  Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness – and he was called a friend of God. It was not Abrahams religious works, but his belief in God, although faltering, that initiated God’s transfer of righteousness to him.

Once Abraham had graciously received that which he could not manufacture himself, which was righteousness, God considered him to be a friend. Romans 14:18 assures us that whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God. God testifies of Himself, that I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18). Believers are loved, valued, and secured in Christ for God’s glorifying pleasure.

When embattled in life’s struggles, it is assuring to remind ourselves from God’s Word, that in Christ we bring a smile to God. Through the dark times, God’s presence secures us and affirms the pleasure He experiences from our steadfast belief in Him.

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