Sleeping With Fishes - Pete Garcia - http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=8057
I woke up this morning and started reading through the book of Romans and surprisingly, some things popped out at me that I hadn’t considered before. The first of which, is that Paul, a former Pharisee (and a well learned one at that), was writing WAY over the heads of his readers. Keep in mind who his physical audience was, first century Gentiles. Now, was that Paul or was that the Holy Spirit speaking? It was the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul to convey the heart of God to man.
Paul, here is deep-diving into heavy, theological aspects of accountability, imputation, salvation, sanctification, wrath, and various other topics all in the first five chapters, most likely to an audience that may or may not have been literate. Who may or may not have that deep a knowledge of Jewish history and customs. Who do not have the rest of the New Testament to balance their understanding against.
So I began asking myself why? Why would God the Spirit move Paul to write such heavy theological topics to an audience that he was speaking way over their heads to? I believe, first and foremost, that since it is the Spirit who gave Paul the words to say, the Spirit also gives understanding to those who would hear. But that understanding is not universally delved out to everyone equally…
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14
Even those who are born again Christians, vary in their understandings of Christian doctrines…hence the numerous branches and denominations. It is the understanding first, which in my biblical estimation, divides the believers into various groups and into various areas of focus. After the understanding, then comes the gifts of expounding on that understanding. For some it is teaching, others preaching, others writing, others singing or making music. For others it is service, or providing. Still others it is expressed through their chosen professions. There are so many variations to this, truly there is not enough categories to try and classify them all. And while the method of delivery may vary, the message should remain relatively the same, which boiled down to its essence is...
…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13
Now, if your ministry or gift doesn’t drive you to express this point repeatedly and often, then I would question first, your calling, then your motivations, and lastly your end state. The Gospel should be the core of whatever we do. If it’s not, ask yourself, “What am I trying to achieve?” Everything we do, whether that is preaching, teaching, serving the elderly or poor, everything, should be so that we open up opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. Feeding and caring for the poor is a very great and noble thing. But if we are simply feeding the belly and ignoring the soul, we are doing those people a great injustice. You are simply postponing by seconds and minutes, eternal torment and wrath. Would it not be better to save the soul, then the body?
Or perhaps your ministry calls you to stand in front of groups for teaching or preaching. Do you crave the platform more than the message? Do you think your voice carries more weight than any others? As Jack mentioned by way of Dave Hunt,
There was once a donkey in a stable who was hired out for a day job. When he returned to the stable, the other donkeys asked him how his day went.
Our donkey was ecstatic; "It was an amazing day! Crowds lined the streets to see me. They threw palm fronds at my feet, while hailing me as a son of David."
Our donkey paused a moment before saying; "Y'know, I think they are gonna crown me King!"
The moral of the story, of course, is to not confuse the messenger with the Message. Like a good donkey, our job is to carry the Message where we are directed to take it, and to remember that the cheers and accolades are for the Message, not the donkey.
Jack Kinsella, Donkey’s in Dallas
If you are called to teach, you will know it, because there will come a time when the Spirit calls you to speak things that are not popular. In fact, they may be downright repulsive to our modern culture in our day and age. Will you ignore that still small voice in your head, or will you teach what you are led to teach, regardless of what it does to your audience? The one thing the Bible never says, is that being salt and light is easy. If you think I’m lying, see if Rick Warren or Joel Osteen ever teach through Revelation 1-3.
Sometimes, I am mistaken for a chaplain or a pastor, or even a seminary graduate, based simply on what I teach on or write about. For the record, I am not, nor have I attended. I neither use that as a point of bragging, or as a point of self-admonishment...I am simply one Christian man, who got serious about God a few years ago. (Seven years in fact) Everything I know was first and foremost, the answer to a prayer I prayed at the beginning of that seven years. I prayed, “Lord, give me a hunger for Your Word, and understanding of what I am reading”. The Lord generously gave me both. Prior to that, I was the kind of fella who couldn’t read a chapter without getting sleepy. I was a 33 year old spiritual infant, who having received the saving Grace of our Lord at the young age of six, spent the rest of my childhood and early adulthood, either running from God, or actively resisting His calling for my life. I was a Jonah. If you aren’t familiar with Jonah, I encourage you to read the four chapter book. It starts with…
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3
So at the ripe old age of 33, God shook the slumber out of my spiritual life, and brought about events in my life, that would force me to make a decision. I felt very much akin to being thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. And it was in the belly that God put to me what I thought, my final decision…either get busy living, or get busy dying. And even in that decision, I thank God that He gave me the wisdom in choosing the former over the latter. My faith, of which I have zero doubt was genuine from childhood, had become lukewarm and stagnant. The reason I am so sure, is that because a person who is truly born again, and still tries to live in the world, will be miserable, because he/she is denying themselves their true nature. Just like a person who is pretending to be a Christian, will likewise find no true peace in that, a believer living like the world, will find no happiness. You truly either are one, or the other…you can’t be both. (Matthew 6:24)
So, lathered in ignorance, which caused me to remain lukewarm in my faith, I languished. And in my lukewarmness, I knew I wasn’t what God intended me to be, but I didn’t know how to change that. I liked sin, and apparently, was very good at it. But let’s get real here, God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knew what the right triggers for me would be and that I longed for understanding and wisdom. He knew once He lit that fire, it would consume me and I would never be satisfied, until the Day of my Redemption, either through death, or by way of Rapture. And since then, my journey has been a remarkable one. Now, I still sin, because my body is still flesh, as long as I am in this body, it will want to sin. But what I understand now is that my righteousness, even at my best, will never be good enough to warrant God’s mercy. Even Paul struggled with sin…
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:15-18
Furthermore, the Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:8 that everyone sins and those who say they have no sin are liars. (Which is a sin.) I have come to understand by way of Scripture, and the Holy Spirit, is that I can’t in my own strength, make myself righteous before God. In fact, no one can. For me, that was somewhat liberating. Because now, I am not trying to measure up against anyone, because we are all flawed and broken toys.
My righteousness before God, doesn’t come from me at all. It comes from Christ. And because I placed my faith in Him, and what He did on Calvary’s Cross, in His death, burial, and resurrection, I have attained the righteousness of God, not by my own merits, but by the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He is the bridge between God and Man. The mediator if you will. He bridged the uncross-able gap between God’s unapproachable holiness, and our flawed sinfulness. He is to us, what Boaz was to Ruth…our Kinsman Redeemer. God had to become a man, in order to redeem mankind unto Himself. There simply was no other way and maintain the free-will that He gave us.
In in this understanding, I realized that my salvation and new nature, weren’t burdens that I had to try and maintain. The work was already done. Yes, I am a ‘donkey’, but my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30) Understanding that, which comes through reading and understanding Scripture has made all the difference in the world to my life. So while the Holy Spirit gave me a renewed hunger for His word, and understanding…simultaneously, it was liberating me from what I thought was rigorous set of rules of do’s and don’ts. I realized this was a relationship, one in which I very much wanted to improve.
This journey was no longer about my salvation but about my sanctification. It was about finally maturing in my faith, and becoming a ‘donkey’ that could be used, rather than just being a stubborn ass, wandering off in my own directions. I realized that God had a plan for my life that was immeasurably far greater than any I could have set for myself…and there is much peace in knowing that.
So if you’re a believer, and you’ve spent a lot of time sleeping with fishes, as I once was, I encourage you, to get your heart right with the Lord. Confess your sins, ask Him to fill what is lacking in your walk, and I promise you, He will give you much more than you could ever imagine. (Matthew 7:8)
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30