Sunday, February 8, 2015

What is necessary to have a greater illumination of God and His work

Genesis 35:10-12 God said to him,“Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel. 11God also said to him,“I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, And kings shall come forth from you. 12“The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you. And I will give the land to your descendants after you.”

These last several days have focused upon a theme in scripture that is so central to the beginning and ongoing reality of the Christian life that without it, there can be no true Christianity. The twin concepts of "death to self" and "taking up one's cross" were studied in the Gospels and in yesterday's post we journeyed back to Jacob's wrestling match with God in Genesis 32. Today we pick up once more on Jacob's life, seeing his experience as the seed form of what would be the full-grown truth of the New Testament teaching on "self-denial". Unless the cross is included, all attempts to deny oneself will fail. The flesh (the expression of the self-life) cannot be reformed nor made religious. It must be put to death on the cross, everyday. Such radical truth begins at salvation and comes to be more pressing in sanctification. Below we will notice how these thoughts pertain to the Christian's increasing understanding and illumination into God and His work in their lives. 

Dying to self heightens your awareness of Christ's Ownership over your life
As we already noted, we saw in the life of Israel (formerly Jacob) that in dying to or denying his selfish, sinful drives, he was able to operate through tragedy after tragedy on the power of God.  When the self-life of the Christian is regarded as unimportant, and put back mentally and spiritually on the cross, the Lordship (the authority) of Christ goes from being a fact to an experience. 

Jesus does not become your Lord when you die to self.  When you are converted by grace through faith, Jesus Christ begins to exercise immediate authority as your Savior, Lord and Treasure. (compare Romans 10:8-10).  The truth of the fact is established by God's Word.  Yet in your daily experience as a believer, your awareness of Christ's control over your life can only come about when you die to self.  In other words, you come to appreciate, delight in and see Christ more clearly.

Jacob's life illustrates the positive benefit of dying to self - seeing God more clearly
In the passage quoted at the beginning of today's blog, The Lord is speaking to Jacob and re-affirming the promises he gave to his grand-father Abraham and father Isaac.  God also reminds Jacob as to why he changed his name to Israel, and that His calling and destiny could be now fully lived out as a result of him dying to self. 

This is why "dying to self" must be a daily reality in the life of the Christian.  Anytime the attitude of "when I want, how I want" rears its ugly head, unless I deal with that through regarding what God had said and rendering my former identity to be dead, in God I will never be able to move ahead.  The power to deal with tragedy comes as we die to self.  In the darkness of suffering, God's grace matches and exceeds with Him revealing Himself to us in a clearer way. 

What you truly gain in dying to self
Read the context of Genesis 32-35 and you will note two trends: Jacob's (newly named by God as Israel) trials increased and his understanding of God increased.  If God had not broken Jacob of his selfish pattern of running away from his problems in Genesis 32, then he would not had been ready for the clearer illumination of who the Lord is in Genesis 35.  Let us close today's blog with this thought from Philippians 3:8 - "than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ."

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