While we are inundated with a message that tries to convince us of God's availability to bless us and His desire to fulfill our hearts' desire ...according to our ability to believe that God's available to bless us and fulfill our hearts' desire, we need only open our Bible to Acts or Paul's epistles to see either he and the other apostles lacked the faith to surround themselves in luxury and comfort, or we've distorted God's view of blessing. I've been saved for 44 years, baptized in the Holy Spirit for 40- notice I didn't say filled! I wouldn't want to embarrass the Holy Spirit with some of my behavior- and very seriously walking in subjection and obedience to the Father for 20 years. My conclusion is that, as Paul said, our greatest purpose is to know Him and be that we not live, but Christ live in us. For that to happen, we must die to self.
Under that "heading" there are many teachings: you must pick up your cross daily so it's handy for the crucifixion of your flesh; we must put on the mind of Christ but we have to set aside our carnal mind and the way it thinks and the way it wants to protect us and promote us; Jesus' teachings on how to deal with our enemies and those who spitefully use us are quite impossible to the natural man- you must strain to put on Christ to have any hope of complying. Being a Christian is to create an untenable situation for yourself to where we cry "oh what wretched men and women we are!" But it's the wretchedness that rather than leading us to hopelessness and despair, leads us to the precious place that shows us when we are weak , His strength is made perfect! It is an unpleasant journey for the flesh and the self, but the occasional mountaintop view is spectacular! Truly we die that He may live- that maybe portions of our lives might illuminate to others the glorious Christ. But better than that, that we might be shaped and molded to take positions of honor and authority in the coming Kingdom here on earth!
This life and path is nothing that the carnal mind could conceive or map out; to plan its own death is unnatural and requires a sophistication that must come from the Divine Mind; the one that designed Creation. For that reason, God has laid out a path for each of us. The path is His Potters wheel ; the means by which His design becomes manifest. There are 3 things that can happen on the path. One, we remain on it moving forward. Not easy, Two, we step off it and go our own way. We take some instruction and righteousness and go out on our own. An illustration of this is Abraham and Lot splitting up and Lot ( whose name means flesh) taking the beautiful fertile valley, while Abraham continues to follow God. We can remain apart from sin, go to church and be a nice clean person, but our crucifixion is indefinitely postponed. A. B. Simpson described two distinct processes: we first die to sin , then we die to self. We learn to obey real time Godly instruction and set aside that which we are drawn to, prone to, etc.
The third alternative is to stall out on the path. This is beautifully illustrated by the Israelites circling Mount Seir over and over again. Despite a desire to walk with God, we are unable either from fear or stubbornness to make the next step forward. I'll give you another great picture illustration that the Holy Spirit gave me in a vision( a brief picture that very elegantly illuminates a Divine Truth), but a little later. I'm a very firm believer in the path; the benefit of it, the strong temptation to step off it, and the danger of stalling out because we can't bear to do battle with that thing within us- "that's just the way I am!"- that God wants slain!
I have a small healthcare business that I bought from a man who was my mentor and good friend. He died a few years ago, his wife was disinterested, so his daughter became my de facto landlord . I rented from my friend with the understanding that I would buy the space which is 1/3 of an office complex at a price that was reasonable given that we were in a busy but less than chic part of town. A year ago, a leak in our flat commercial roof became apparent and suffice it to say, given her inexperience, the daughter was manipulated by an insurance adjuster to do the repair on the cheap over 4 months in the middle of which I was flooded after the new roof was completed. The whole ordeal cost me 2 grand and a tremendous amount of stress that simply would have not happened with her dad around. I expressed my displeasure and relations have chilled considerably. A couple of months ago I get a letter from the family's attorney informing me that my rent was to double, effective in 30 days, the building was recently appraised for a value more than double what my friend and I verbally agreed on, and if I didn't buy it, I could operate on a month to month basis and they could terminate my lease at any time with 30 days notice! At the age of almost 64, I had pretty much decided to ride out the next 4-6 years and sell my business to the next guy who could worry about moving. It was obvious the Lord had plans for us to move! Over the past year, because of my interactions with my landlord, I have been forced to deal with bone depth issues of resentment, anger, fear, and just humbly accept the path of self death to move forward. To accept the idea that I would have to negotiate a new lease, or build a new space, to consider the expense all that entails, considering the business environment here in East Texas is not great at this time , aroused great fear in me. I've built an office, I've done extensive remodeling on old houses, but that was when my life was all ahead of me. I did not feel adequate to the task; while crying out to God He brought back to my mind a recent sermon from Zechariah about shouting grace to the mountain. In the Amplified, I had read the line ".. the mountain of human obstacle"
In the story, Zerubabbel and Joshua were charged by God to rebuild the Temple but were facing opposition from opposing forces. The Lord declares that the mountain would be made as a plain. The scripture actually states that the capstone would be brought out( signaling the completed work) and that we would shout grace to it, but the phrase " shout grace to the mountain" has become an accepted phrase as illustrated by one blogger who fashioned a daily prayer from it:
Lord, this day I take authority over the thief regarding (the situation)
And, I shout “Grace, grace!” to this mountain. (Zechariah 4:6-7)
When I was first adjusting to the very idea that God wanted us to build, I saw nothing other than fear and my inability which for me was the mountain; the human obstacle and I was the human. The only way we could move forward was by the grace of God- my only weapon against my adversary was my ability to speak His omnipotence, His goodness against it. In my absolute weakness, His strength was made real to me. We would move forward, not because of any perceived skill or ability on my part, but because He had mandated it. Had the landlord's and attorney's attitude been less abrupt and insulting, I would have been tempted to negotiate a price less than the appraisal but greater than market worth just to avoid the hassle and possible failure of a building project. When we decided to obey, and after a few steps when we began to see that this might turn out to be a great blessing rather than just another grueling trial, which our lives seem to have been for the last 4 years, the Lord gave me a vision- a picture of an overhead broad view of a map- flat and pictorial. On which were a series of icon like figures of men on their hands and knees before a mountain, apparently in surrender to it. It was a little like a car GPS with icons of men surrendering before mountains to show you how many there were in a certain area. There were a lot.
You may be reading this thinking "What's the big deal about moving your place of business?" or " what's the big deal about building a building?"
To which questions I would answer, I'm inadequate, and so much can go wrong and the last few years have convinced me of my weakness and ineptitude. That's part of dying to self. There's some great lines in the book of Job that illustrate the killing of self belief and self confidence. Job describes the humiliation of being jeered at by the sons of men who once revered and showed him respect and honor. He reflects that he used to derive olive oil from rocks, meaning that, looking back, his great abilities were just blessings from God rather than a product of his skill and cunning as he once thought. The Lord had Job on a path of tremendous revelation requiring him to see himself not as the wealthiest and most righteous man in the land, but in a stripped down, repulsive state; " but now I see You and I loathe myself" Job 42: 5,6
Job did not curse God and die, nor did he give in to the religious cliches of his friends. He remained on the path that had led him to blessings untold and then through horrors unspeakable, and finally to truths previously unknowable; there's hardly a Christian alive that hasn't received great spiritual nourishing from the book of Job. For those who maintain that your walk with God should be in a late model German sedan or a Citation X , I would say that it probably could if we didn't derive such comfort and security and self worth from them. But greater revelation of God comes only through the death of self. The death of self comes on The Path. On that Path will appear mountains that force you to regard your attenuated self. You can get off the path. You can fall down and surrender to the mountain. Or like Peter, you can step out of the boat because He said come. But when the waves and wind threatens you, or when the mountain of your own fear and weakness looms large before you, speak!! ... of God's goodness, His desire for your success, and His omnipotent ability to get it done despite all!