So, as I sit down to write this evening, 2018 is less than three hours away. Another calendar year as we know it is about to pass and yet another will roll in. In my forty-four years, I’ve had many regrets, many failed attempts to better myself and innumerable broken vows to God, all lying in pieces upon the floor of my life. I’ve made many spiritual resolutions and I would assume you have too.
As our families gathered this morning in our home, I was reminded of a season roughly fifteen years ago. I was somewhat “in” the circles of the prophetic world and intrigued, to a certain level anyway, by the ins and outs of “hearing the word of the Lord” yourself and via others. A lot of it was good. A lot of it was nonsense. I was young in the Lord. I was learning. While I now more than ever believe that the word of the Lord can come through a brother, it’s surely a much different view than what I was exposed to back then as for how that transpires properly within the confines of maturity, testing of the spirits and truly knowing the source of such oracles of God.
To get more specific, my memory this morning went to an email list that I used to be on. It was fueled by the “who’s who” of the prophetic movement and was either romanticized or despised, depending on who you talked to. Thankfully, the Lord, in His goodness, never allowed me to become drawn into that world and get lost in its emotional pull. I’m not here to criticize it specifically, but instead I’d like to point out what I believe it epitomizes, in general. You see, why I landed there this morning was because I remembered how the predominant “prophets” would make public their “word of the Lord” for the upcoming year. Again, I never poured over every word because I never really bought into it all, but I do distinctly remember that they all always had the same flavor. “The year of blessing!” The year of God’s favor!” “The year of God’s righteous judgment on all of your enemies” I could go on.
Throughout that entire season, I just recall the consistent theme stating how I would be overcoming and winning at well, everything. All true Christians would become the biggest, best, highest-promoted, most-anointed super-Christians of all the generations! All in the upcoming year! And it was due me because Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and I’m His anointed heir!
OK. (exhale) So, just the other night I’m reading the account of Jesus in the garden, at the beginning of His capture in order to embark into His final journey to the Cross. We all know the story. Simon Peter, in a flurry of natural excitement and carnal action, “drew his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear”. Luke’s account tells us that Jesus sees this and said, “Stop! No more of this!” Did Jesus state this simply because He was a radical non-violent? Well, yes and no. I’d prefer to say that it’s a much deeper issue. Jesus was, and stay with me here, a “non-do it the way of the world because My Kingdom doesn’t operate like that” guy. So this little snippet of Scripture brings me to my point as 2018 fast approaches.
All of these “words of the Lord” from self-appointed prophets. All of the excitement of the modern-day Church with Her designer fashion trends, endless programs, flashy youth and children’s “ministries”, sports clubs, movements, trends, fads and endless “you deserve it all!” declarations. I say who in the world, as the clock strikes midnight will vow themselves to the grave? Who will really follow the pattern of Jesus Christ Who left being highly exalted and enthroned in heavenly places over everything that was and is and is to come, to become a lowly man wrapped in flesh and bone? Who will be willing to be abased and humiliated in their lifetime, in order for an invisible Kingdom to be established on earth as it is in Heaven? Who will reclaim what our spiritual forefathers taught us, in awe and reverence to the Most High God, to consecrate themselves in order to be found as a holy and blameless people that can lift trembling, holy hands?
Who will “put their knife back in the sheath” and pick up the way of The Christ?
The Church of Christ must step back and take a hard look at Her condition. How are we different than the world? Oh yes, we have Heaven. We have a hope. We have… we have… we have. But what are we forsaking? What are we putting off? What patterns of this world are we putting in the grave and saying “Stop! No more of this!”?
The Church – guilty of taking what we’re delivered from and making Christian versions out of it. We’ve made the patterns of the world nothing more than a “trunk-or-treat” kingdom. What do I mean? Our hearts are prone to be the same as before they were regenerated, if we’re not surrendered to the leading of the Spirit, to give us eyes to see it. We take what we love in the world, Christian-ize it and clear our conscience. The Church says, “Johnny, be the best football player on the team! In Christ you can do all things buddy!” “Suzie, win that beauty pageant! Be the prettiest girl… for Jesus!” “Sir, God wants you to be promoted in your corporation! It’s yours! You deserve it!” “Ma’am, God doesn’t want you miserable! Leave that man. He has better things for you!” Bigger! Better! Anointings… giftings… finances… blessings… more, more, more!
People, do we not see this trap? We’ve traded in one lie for another, outside of God’s upside-down kingdom. He tells us – want to be exalted? Lay yourself low. Want to gain your whole life? Lose it for My sake. Want eternal treasure, forsake all that you have and pursue it. Have we become a people who only seek the hand of the Lord and not His face? Can we honestly come to a place in our hearts, as humble servants of Jesus, to really say “I must decrease and You must increase!”?
So, in 2018, will you be one who decreases? What if all of your hopes and dreams for 2018 don’t come to pass? What if everything you know falls apart? What if you lose your job, your house and your status? What then? Is your perception of God swayed? Is Jesus somehow less of a Saviour and Lord? If your hope is in what He does for you in this upcoming year, then yes. If your hope is in seeking after what you can offer unto Him in surrender and reverence, then, and only then, will you stand undeterred by the ever-changing circumstances of life.
I’m personally sick and tired of areas in my own life where I know I’m still spiritually juvenile. I love too many earthly comforts. I still want to “medicate” issues in my life that I know God wants to heal, not just sedate. In the recesses of my innermost place, I still have areas that say “I will God… if You… when You” and that is just not OK anymore! So I’ve left behind a lot of things the last several years, specifically. Big deal! I want to become a mature man! I want to be found willingly surrendering what He is asking of me today! I don’t want to be the best “whatever” anymore. It in no way equates to demonstrating the awesome power of God. I can do all of that in my own strength. How do I know? Because I did it my whole pre-conversion life!
So if you call yourself a born-again, regenerated follower of Christ, turn off your TV, set down your glass of champagne, take off your 2018 glasses and take a hard look at your goals for this year. Don’t take the bait of the world that tells you to just be like everyone else… but add Jesus to it. Sanctify yourself. Venture out to be a set apart people who prepare themselves to enter into the presence of the Lord. If Jesus came today, in the flesh once more and embodied what the Church seems to promote Christianity to be, I’m afraid He’d look absolutely nothing like the Jesus Who laid Himself low and washed the dirty feet of His betrayers. He’d not resemble the One who laid aside all recognition and “blessing” in order to do the will of the His Father. He would not turn down earthly status and fame for meekness.
What if this year we can become less so that He can become all? What if we can take the lower place so that another can be exalted and shown the love of Christ? Will you “put your knife back in the sheath” and forsake the patterns of this world in this upcoming year? Will I? May we who are called according to His name rekindle the fires of purity and sanctification that we’ve forsaken. May we be found lowly and humble in the closing of this Age, as ones who are devoted to become less so that He might be lifted high. Christ alone is the preeminent One. Any good in me today is not because of Him but rather is Him for He indwells me. We must endeavor to empty ourselves – our ambitions, goals and dreams - and lay them all at His feet. I am but a lump of clay and He is the potter. Lord, make us what You will for whatever you design is beautiful. Amen.