Giving up the good to be closer to what’s better

psalm 73.23-25

If you desire to be a follower of Christ, then go ahead and expect it: you will be put to the test of sacrifice.  You will be forced to choose between your will and God’s will, between your idea of what’s right and what God says is necessary.  In those moments, hear Him ask, “Do you trust me to provide for your needs?  Do you really believe that I want is what is best for you?  Am I really your heart’s only desire?”

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?  Or what shall a man give in return for his life?'”

Matthew 16:24-26

Today we have a skewed vision of what it means to be “blessed” or “fortunate,” so when times of sacrifice come, we don’t always see them as steps in the purification of our desires and discipline of our faith.  Because of God’s word though, I just have to believe that true faith is shown through trusting God no matter what the cost. We must trust Him so much that we are willing to give up even the most precious or promised thing that we believe He’s given to us even for the sake of furthering His kingdom.  For Abraham, it was his son.  For Job, it was all of his possessions and family.  For Jonah, it was going to Ninevah, even after trying to escape that call of God.

In my lifetime I’ve never been faced with imprisonment for the sake of Christ like Paul.  I’ve never been thrown into a lion’s den like Daniel.  I’ve never walked willingly into a fiery furnace like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, saying, “God is able to deliver us from the flames, but even if he doesn’t and we die today, to Him be the glory!” (Daniel 3:16-18).

If God is calling you to make a sacrifice, don’t try to escape Him.  True love of God is shown through obedience to Him and to His Word.  If we truly trust in His goodness, then remember that it’s for our benefit to lay down our lives and all of our earthly desires in order to follow Him.

And in making such a sacrifice of what we call “good”, we will actually preserve what is better: our relationship with God, the creator of every good and perfect thing (James 1:17).

Praying your days is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature

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Obedience & Sacrifice: The Motivation of Love

Jesus praying - gethsemane

The very foundation of Christianity is based on obedience and sacrifice.  In the garden before being arrested, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'” (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus knew that God had placed him on the earth with a specific purpose, and He was obedient, even to the point of death.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed…”

Isaiah 53:5

It’s easy to put Jesus on a pedestal, right?  We can look up to him as our sacrifice, just like the serpent on Moses’s staff in the wilderness and say, “Yes, he is the only way by which I’m saved!” (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-15).  But what next?  It’s necessary to remember that we could never add to the cross… none of our actions will ever make us more worthy of God’s grace.  But here’s a question that those who have looked on Christ as their Savior need to consider:

“What next?”

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

John 15:20

Those are the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples!  Even though they were spoken two thousand years ago, they are just as true for us today.  We are no greater than our Teacher.  If we are to live a life that is hidden in Him, then our lives must also take on that requirement of obedience and sacrifice.  However, sacrifice and obedience must not be used to prove ourselves through the ability to deny the flesh… As we draw closer to Christ and become more and more hidden in Him, we’ll find that obedience and sacrifice come naturally for another reason:

love.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.”

1 John 5:1-3

In other words, once we’ve been saved through Jesus Christ, then we can love God.  When we love God, we will love His children, and when we love God, we will love His word.  When we love His word, we will delight to follow it. When we delight to obey God’s word, we will draw closer to Him, love His children, and–in all of this–become more like Christ.

And when we become more like Christ, we will grow in love for our Father.  We will delight even more in obedience to Him, even when it costs us the most painful sacrifices.  Nothing–not even the loss of worldly success, separation from family and friends, or even death–will keep us from following and serving the One that has already buried us in death and raised us to walk in newness of life to walk with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4).

***

Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?  Have you been raised to walk in newness of life, not for the flesh, but for godliness and to grow closer and closer to God?  Then ask yourself, “What does it look like to obey God’s word, to love His children, and become more and more like Christ?  What must I do in order for this to be true of my life?  What must I sacrifice?”  If you have not yet believed–even if you think you have but your actions do not prove a faith in Jesus that alone saves–what is holding you back?

To God alone be all the glory.  May He abound more and more in your life, and may the motivation of His love that He first gave us fuel your every action, spark your every thought, and determine your decisions today and every day.

Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature

Obedience & Sacrifice

1 John 5.1-3

***

Over the past few months, I’ve learned so much about sacrifice.  While pursuing a Masters degree, teaching classes as a TA, and other responsibilities, I honestly didn’t have much time for hobbies.  Perhaps for the first time in my life, I accepted the new reality in which writing was only “my hobby.”  With the strong temptation to dust off my manuscripts and write another devotional on this site rather than finish my school work, I had to set writing to the side.  Out of sight, yes, but “Compelled”, the manuscripts, the publishing how-to books, etc. could never…ever…ever… be truly nor completely out of mind.

How does this experience of my life relate to yours?  What’s the purpose of writing about it now besides to explain my absence from the blog?

As followers of Christ, we all must wrestle with the topics of obedience and sacrifice.  There will even come times in which we have to wrestle with questions like, “What does it mean to obey the calling of God?” and  “What sacrifices must I make in order to obey Him and fulfill His purpose through my life?

While I certainly don’t have the answers, I long to grow closer to God through asking these types of questions.  It’s my hope and prayer that you will find this as a place where you can come, be challenged to re-evaluate your relationship with God, and receive encouragement to earnestly seek Him!

Now after months of questioning, here’s what was laid on my heart about honoring God through obedience:

Obedience requires...

Over the next few days I’ll break down this statement into three separate posts.  I hope you’ll come back by and join me in this season of learning about obedience and sacrifice as necessary and also rewarding aspects of our relationship with God!

In the Security of His Love

Hello!  It’s sooooo good to be back and writing again 🙂  I’ve missed y’all so much!  Thanks for still checking in here and there during my absence, and I look forward to writing again more…

Over the past many weeks that I have been away, the Lord has been gracious.   The past few weeks, even months, were a time in which I temporarily gave up writing and the blog in order to better pursue my graduate studies and other relationships.  It has been hard, but this just is an affirmation of the truth that obedience to what God calls us to do is not always easy.  Sometimes we may not see a tangible result of our action or “reap what we sow.”  Sometimes, we may even wonder if we are actually hearing the words of God or something/someone else trying to distract us from Him.  Every time though, obedience to God requires sacrifice…

In those moments of realizing what God desires for us to do, there can be tension, right?  After all, what about our desires?  What about the plans that we have made?  But as the RUF minister at Mississippi State asked in his sermon the other night—“When was the last time that God’s love brought you more security than the plan you have made, the relationship you’re in, a title you’ve earned, your outward appearance, etc.?”

For the type-A personality like me—organized, driven, and purposeful even to a fault—that question opened my eyes, heart, AND mind to a reality that I had pushed away.  Maybe I had felt it here and there, but I pushed it away not wanting to pay the price of obedience and admit that the plan that I had made for my life was fallible and based on limited, human understanding.  But the Lord had other plans.  He wanted to bring me back into the safety that is ONLY found in the overwhelming presence of His love, and I’m so grateful that He did.

Sometimes following the will of God can cause temporary pain, but remember that He disciplines His children as a father would—with love and with purposes for their good.  Always though, living in obedience to God brings more security, peace, and joy than we could ever experience elsewhere.  After all, when resting in the warm embrace of His presence, what do we have to fear and what could we possibly lose?

So now, I ask you the very same question: When was the last time that God’s love made you feel more secure than anything else in your life?  What act of sacrifice and obedience would it take to draw closer to Him and to the security of His love?

Word of the Week: Obedience

WEDNESDAY

-Word of the Week-

.obedience.

Early this morning, a dear friend of mine sent me a special text.  Here’s what it said:

“And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” 1 John 3:22

Simple, right?  After all, it was just a text message of one Bible verse.  But in the moments after reading those words, I was certain the Lord had a purpose for prompting Dan to send me the text: to get me to examine the word obedience.

So what does it mean to obey?  What is obedience?  Below I have definitions from both the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and the Holman Bible Dictionary.  Here’s what they have to say…

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

  • “[Obedience is] an act or instance of obeying”
  • “[To obey is] to follow the commands or guidance of; to conform to or comply with”
Holman Bible Dictionary:
  • “[Obedience is] to hear God’s Word and act accordingly”
  • “[Obedience is] to hear or to listen in a state of submission”
  • “[Obedience is] essential for worship”
  • “[Obedience is] motivated by our love for God
  • “[Obedience] springs from gratitude for grace received”
  • “[Obedience] means imitating God in holiness, humility, and love”
  • “[Obedience] comes from a heart that trusts God”
Even all of those bullet points cannot express the full significance of that single word “obedience.”  As I sit here though, reading God’s word and reflecting on how the Lord has worked in my life, I have another meaning for this word:
[Obedience is]
living connected to the Father through submission to His Spirit.
***
Although this is a single statement, it’s very loaded!  Let me break it down to explain it more fully.
  1. Since sin distances us from God, we cannot live connected to God while living in disobedience (1 John 1:6).
  2. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-8).
  3. We cannot please God in our flesh, but if the Spirit lives within us, we can put the deeds of the flesh to death and live by the Spirit (Romans 8:8-13)
  4. Living by the Spirit is evidenced by our actions as we “walk by” or live in submission to the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)
  5. We experience the fulness of His love–by becoming children of God through living in submission to the Spirit (Romans 8:14)–that enjoying and keeping his commandments is the only response that can attempt to reflect our love and thankfulness for Him (1 John 5:3).
***
The truth is, I know that there is nothing good in me that deserves even a second glance from God.  And yet, God cannot even give me a second glance because His gaze never left me in the first place.  His love is even warmer than the greatest embrace, all-consuming that it leaves every fiber of my being enflamed.  Like wood thrown on a fire, my knowledge of Him and His goodness increases, and the size and the warmth of the flame grows even more.  A living sacrifice, I lay myself before Him and sing, “I lay me down. I’m not my own. I belong to you alone. Lay me down… Lay me down… Hand on my heart, this much is true.  There’s no life apart from you.  Lay me down.  Lay me down…” (“Lay Me Down” Passion).
If this is what living connected to the Lover of Souls is like, how could we ever want anything else?  Why would we ever want to live  in disobedience apart from our Heavenly Father?
Praying your day is filled with SONshine,
Sarah 🙂