Why we don’t enter His presence. Part 2–“My pants are snug”

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    In this post I will cover the second major reason why most Christians fail to enter into the presence of God and experience the radical and life changing power that is found there. Once again, I am talking about that power that changes lives, marriages, and even businesses.  I am talking about entering into that place where joy and peace and contentment are.    If someone were to read this series several weeks from now, after I have completed all 4-5 parts in it, and they were to ask me:  Mike, out of the 4-5 reasons you give, which one do you feel is the biggest one?  Is there one of the reasons in your series that carries more weight than the others?  My answer would be yes!   In my personal opinion, this post will deal with the primary reason most Christians do not enter His presence and hear His voice on a continual basis.

                If I decide within myself that my goal is to become a millionaire, I will find that there are 3 primary things I will have to do consistently for a period of time to accomplish that goal. I will have to go to work on a regular basis, save a percentage of my income consistently, and restrict my spending. It is fair to say that these would be 3 essential components to becoming a millionaire.  If I decide to lose 20 lbs, I will find myself embarking upon a journey that will include regular workouts and a restricted calorie diet on a daily basis.  A professional football player in the N.F.L. doesn’t spend the majority of his time playing actual games.  He spends the majority of each and every week working out, stretching, analyzing film from previous games, studying his plays, running drills, etc…. In fact, ninety percent of his career isn’t actually spent competing.  It is spent practicing.  Here is my point.  In all endeavors in life, there are specific disciplines that are essential to the goal that one is pursuing.  If our bank account is low it is usually because we have neglected certain disciplines for a period of time.  And, when it comes to a life that is void of the power of God and the fruit of the Spirit, I would say that the vast majority of the time, it is a result of a tragic neglect of the disciplines of our faith!  Such disciplines as prayer, reading, studying His word, fasting, solitude, service, confession, counsel, worship, etc… These are the disciplines of Christianity.

If you have ever been in any type of sales business, you will almost always notice that a very small percentage of the sales force actually sells the majority of the products being sold.  I have noticed this in my real estate career.  I would guess that about 10% of the real estate agents are selling 90% of the homes.   Why is this?  It is because only a very small percentage will dedicate themselves to the disciplines of sales.  They simply won’t make their calls every day! They neglect there disciplines.  The vast majority of Christians are doing the same. But here is what doesn’t make sense.  The crazy part is that we actually wonder why we aren’t experiencing joy and peace and contentment.  We actually wonder why we are living lives filled with anxiety and depression.  We want the fruit of the Spirit without planting the seeds and watering the plant.  Surely the lazy sluggard shouldn’t wonder why he isn’t rich.  He doesn’t go to work.  I don’t wonder why my pants are fitting so snug lately and I don’t have a “six pack”.  I know why!  I’ve eaten too much and moved too little. I must re-dedicate myself to the disciplines of exercise and a healthy diet!  The most fundamental reason so few Christians are experiencing the life of Christ is because so few will commit to the disciplines of Christianity!!

Let’s re-dedicate ourselves to the disciplines of our faith today!  If you are not willing to commit to a life that is founded upon these disciplines, then, at the very least, stop wondering why you aren’t seeing the fruit!  For a more in depth look at the disciplines of the Christian faith, I would highly recommend reading the book, Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This book had a profound impact upon my life.

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AUTHOR: MIKE MAZYCK

Why we don’t enter His Presence : Part 1—“A SERIOUS MATTER”

SMALL CROSS WITH SMOKE

As I thought about my first post and the bold claims that I spoke of that Christianity offers, I felt like many who read that post must be asking themselves some questions about their experience with Christianity.  Questions like…Why haven’t I experienced this supernatural presence of God in my life? Why am I depressed? Why don’t I hear His voice on a regular basis?  Why isn’t He becoming more and more real in my life?  Why am I not filled with peace and contentment and joy and all of those other divine gifts that Christianity so boldly proclaims to offer to its followers?

The scriptures say that the Spirit of God actually dwells inside our body! That God Himself dwells in me.  Have we thought about the implications of that?  Shouldn’t there be something radically different going on in my life if I have God Himself living in me?    And if you aren’t a Christian and are reading this, you may have thought ….I see no difference in the Christians I know in comparison to the non-Christians.  The divorce rate is virtually the same.  They seem utterly depressed in the same way nearly everyone else does.  They are filled with anxiety and fear in the same way that all are.  Where is the outward evidence that what they say is true?  So I felt that as I looked at the list of possible topics to write about, I needed to deal with those questions first.  In light of that, I will spend the next several blog entries attempting to address some of the major reasons most Christians don’t ever enter into His presence, progress in Christianity, and experience the life He offers to us all.  I must admit that as I looked over my list of reasons why most of His children are not experiencing this divine life, and attempted to put them in a logical order, it was difficult for me to settle on this first reason.  It was difficult because the temptation in writing what will only be my 2nd blog post is to pick a topic that will not turn away followers rather than what is so obviously the first reason to be addressed…..SIN!

REASON #1—SIN

Here is the problem I see that tends to stunt the growth of many of His children.  The process usually goes something like this…

  1. We become convicted of the sin in our hearts and realize that we are a sinner by nature.
  2. We hear the good news of Christ!
  3. He grants us the faith to believe that Good news, and as a result, we believe and receive salvation.  Praise God!
  4. We repent ( turn away from ) those sins He convicted us of in the first place ( this turning away from those sins is one of the evidences of the genuineness of our saving faith in step 3 above)
  5. We go on from this point thankful that we have received salvation and live a life quite content in the thinking that we are a pretty good and decent person. We are not a murderer or rapist.   We don’t rob banks.  We aren’t pedophiles. We don’t beat our wife.   We hold a decent job, pay our bills, and provide for our children.  We look around at the rest of the world, and in the depths of our heart, this is the assessment we make…. “I’m a pretty good person in comparison to them”

The problem lies in step 5.  This step was never intended! There are two issues within step 5 that must be dealt with in all Christians if we will ever progress in our walk with Him.  We simply cannot mature in Christ without them.  Both of them are rooted in a problem of comparison!

When we make the proclamation within our hearts that “we are pretty good and decent people”, we are doing so because we are making a comparison of our life to theirs.  All such comparisons are deeply rooted in pride.  This prideful comparison that we make against others is the exact opposite of humility.  The great C. S. Lewis has written what I believe to be one of the best teachings on the subject of Pride in his book Mere Christianity. In that book he states…

“Well, now, we have come to the centre.  According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind”

 

                So we end up pridefully comparing ourselves to the rest of the world, and in doing so, we fail to deal with our own sin.  We don’t deal with it because we don’t see it.  We don’t see it because we are comparing ourselves to the wrong person.  This brings me to the next issue within Step 5 above, the issue of our standard.

If we aren’t comparing ourselves to the “rest of the world”, then who are we supposed to be comparing ourselves to?  Well, of course, you already know what I’m going to say.  Our standard is supposed to be Christ.  You don’t need to read this blog to figure that out.  But here is where I believe many Christians fail.  WE SIMPLY DON’T TAKE THE SCRIPTURES SERIOUSLY!!  Oh, if only we understood the implications of that mistake.  We should all read the following verses and give them serious thought.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Gods holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.   Ephesians 5:3-5

 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lords will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:17-18, NIV

 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior, because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”1 PETER 1:14-16, NASB

 

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13, NASB

 

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 1 Peter1:17 NIV

 

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Mathew 7:21-23, NASB

These words should be sobering to us all.  How does our life compare to them?  Was he serious about coarse joking and any kind of impurity and not even a hint of sexual immorality?  He says we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  He will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth.  And then there are those haunting words of Christ Himself indicating that many will think they were saved but find out otherwise.  What if we took Him at His word?  What if he actually meant what He said?

I am not writing these things with the intent of making one think that if we sin we are going to hell.  The intent of my heart in writing this is not to cause one to doubt there salvation, but instead to prove it to be genuine.  What do I mean when I say “prove it”?  I mean that if we are going to progress in Christianity; if we are going to push into His presence; if we call ourselves Christians; we must take a look at the above scriptures, and the many more like them in the Word, and acknowledge the possibility of two things….

1. THE STANDARD OF LIFE AND BEHAVIOR WE ARE CALLED TO IS MUCH HIGHER THAN WE THOUGHT.

2.  WE SIMPLY HAVE NOT TAKEN OUR PERSONAL BATTLE WITH SIN AND OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE NEARLY SERIOUS ENOUGH!

               

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with two thoughts.    One, the normal Christian life is one that as we become more and more Holy and Christ-like, we are at the same time, becoming more and more aware of just how sinful and dirty we really are.  As we see Him more clearly, we see ourselves more clearly also.  We appreciate His grace and mercy and salvation more and more each passing day because we realize more and more how undeserving we really are.  Two, dealing with our sin will require sacrifice.  That is why it is referred to as crucifying the flesh.  It will be grueling and hard, just as it was for our Savior as He carried that cross and was beaten and tortured. We will find ourselves continually departing from the ways and traditions of this world.  We may have to make difficult decisions to separate ourselves from certain people in our life.  It may require confession.  It may require us to reevaluate the things we watch and listen to.  It may require quitting your job or relocating altogether.  It may require giving up hobbies that have become a god in your life.  Speaking of gods, it may require us to make less money.  The world may call us prudes and mock and scorn us.  They may say that we are extreme and radical in our lifestyle and beliefs.  Let them! Our time here is short.  It will be over in a moment.  But we will be there forever!  May we arrive on that day with our head held high as we stand before the King.  May we stand and know that we carried our cross, that we battled with Him against the enemy, and hear those great and mighty words…

“WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SLAVE, YOU WERE FAITHFUL WITH A FEW THINGS, I WILL PUT YOU IN CHARGE OF MANY THINGS; ENTER INTO THE JOY OF YOUR MASTER” MATHEW 25:23

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AUTHOR: MIKE MAZYCK

Introduction: The Edge

I believe all of us on this earth, who are honest with ourselves, would admit that we go through certain seasons in the midst of our lives. Some of those seasons are filled with joy and happiness and prosperity. Some are not. Some of those seasons are filled with depression, hopelessness, confusion, and weariness. During these seasons we can feel like we have been beat down. The weight of life and its responsibilities seems to be crushing us. We become exhausted with the very thought of getting out of bed and living the day. The things that we thought we understood about life no longer make sense and we seem to be growing more and more confused. We question the meaning and purpose of life itself. I have been through these seasons myself. I believe that when we are in the midst of these seasons, it helps to reflect upon the things that we know for sure to be true. It helps me to focus and dwell and ponder upon the things that I know for certain are true and that I can build my life upon. The things I have no doubt about. The truths that I hold so dearly to that I would die for. Undoubtedly, many of these truths I learned the hard way and they all should have some root in the scriptures. For the purpose of an introduction to this blog, and a suitable title for it, I am going to call these specific, unchanging, and unquestioned truths to be the “edges”. I am calling them the “edges” because during our journey on this earth, and most certainly during those seasons of despair and confusion that cause us to question the very meaning of life itself, I believe it is helpful to think of the Christian life like a puzzle. When one begins a puzzle, he does not just start putting pieces together. That would not be the most efficient way. The smart person starts with what he knows to be true. He starts with the edges. He may not know for certain where each piece of the edge goes. But he knows one thing for sure. They will be on the edge. That truth is unquestioned. He can now separate those pieces and he will have a starting point. He has a point of reference. He now has something to build upon. And that is what we all must do when we are in the midst of the storm. We must go back to those truths that He has taught us and that we know cannot be shaken by any storm. They are objective and they are unchanging. They are non-negotiable. They are the rock solid foundation even when the structure seems to have fallen.
What I mean when I say the Christian life is like a puzzle is this: The goal in any puzzle is to fit the pieces together so that once the last piece is put in place, the complete picture is visible. If the Christian life is like a puzzle then it would be fair to say that the picture we are assembling is one of Christ Himself. That is the goal, to see Him more clearly. And in light of that more complete vision and revelation of Him, we will love Him more fully. We will know Him more deeply and intimately.
Of course, this analogy of a puzzle is not a perfect one. I can think of at least 2 ways in which it breaks down. One, when a person pieces together a puzzle, he usually has the box in which to use as a point of reference. He already knows what the complete picture will look like before he ever begins the task of piecing it together. He is able to use the picture on the box as a point of reference during the process. We don’t have this luxury. Some might say that the Bible itself is our box and I think that would be an accurate statement on some levels but I also believe that no matter how deep our knowledge of God is, as He has revealed Himself to us in the scriptures, it will always be incomplete until we see Him face to face. Just as the apostle Paul says…

”For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…”1 Cor.13:12

I am of the opinion that while on this earth it would be fair to say that we will never come close to seeing the whole picture. We will never even finish the edges of this puzzle. But, it only takes a glimpse of Him to change us. The discovery and realization of just a fraction of one of His attributes will change us forever. He is like an ocean of goodness from which only a tiny droplet of its water is enough to satisfy the soul and give us the strength we need. He is like a puzzle in which just after seeing the edges begin to come together, we become overwhelmed with the greatness of what we see and the anticipation of the completion of it…… what we will see on that great day!
The second way in which this analogy breaks down is this: If I give to someone a box containing a puzzle and on that box is a picture of Abraham Lincoln. The person knows that upon completion of the puzzle he will see a picture of Abraham Lincoln. However, he does not expect that by seeing Abraham Lincoln, he will actually be in the presence of Abraham Lincoln. However, the goal of Christianity, or at least one of the primary goals, is to actually enter into His presence as we assemble the puzzle. The scriptures plainly teach that we have access to Him today. They teach that He actually speaks to us. The Creator speaks to His creation. They teach that we may approach the throne now! The greatest of saints throughout history did not merely have an academic understanding of the truths of Christianity. That would be the equivalent of simply viewing the finished puzzle of Abraham Lincoln without actually knowing Lincoln himself. But the greatest of saints actually dwelled in His presence. They communed with Him. They dwelt before His throne while on earth. That is the place where change happens. The sin in our hearts is brought to light in His presence. The prophet Isaiah stated…

Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Isaiah 6:5

But don’t lose heart. It is also in His presence that we find forgiveness and grace to conquer that sin. It is the place where we are infused with strength by the sound of His voice. It is in His presence that all of our worries and the cares of this world simply fade away. Our daily to-do list begins to seem utterly insignificant in light of what we see. Our questions no longer seem relevant in His presence. King David wrote….

…in Your presence is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

…One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple…” Psalm 27:4

Really? There was only one thing that David sought after? Wasn’t this the point from the beginning? Didn’t God walk with Adam in that beautiful Garden? And again we see the point at the conclusion of the story…

…And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…” Revelation 21:3

To dwell in His presence has always been the goal. This is the solution that Christianity offers to those dark and ominous seasons of life. His presence is the answer! And that is the goal of this blog. I am by no means professing that I have assembled all the pieces or have any knowledge of Him that is not freely available to all of His children. I merely hope to be able to offer up some piece of truth that I have found to be an “edge” in my own puzzle. And I hope that upon discovery of this truth, you may be able to see Him more clearly than you did before. May we all enter into His presence and behold the glory and the beauty of the King!
Application Exercise:
Spend some time reflecting on the “edges” in your own life. What are the 2-3 most significant and impactful truths or lessons that God taught you about life OR about who He is? No more than 2-3. This will force you to truly evaluate the significance of them upon your life and your heart. Write them down and spend time reflecting upon them. How might those truths serve as a foundation or point of reference for what season of life you are currently in or the storm you are currently facing?
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