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Copyright for the journal © 2005
M. S. Thirumalai
SHAPED BY GOD
Pastor Dave Strem
LITTLE THINGS WEAR US DOWN
Does life seem to just wear on you? Do people, your friends, your family grate on you? Do you feel wore out? Do you find yourself frustrated at the end of most days? Do you find yourself looking up at the end of the day saying, "Lord, why?" and you do not hear an answer? Some times the little things can chip away at our lives and our sanity more than the big things. The big things we can look in the eyes and know our adversary. The little things can wear us down.
STRENGTH OF THE FOUNDATION
As I was thinking about how to build strong, godly Christians, a reoccurring thought kept coming to me. In order to build a strong, stable house you have to start off with strong bricks and gripping mortar. The larger the structure the more sturdy the foundation needs to be.
Isaiah 61:3 tells us that God wants us to be mighty trees of righteousness. "To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory." He wants us to be mighty oaks of righteousness. God does not crave for us to be world-class athletes or scientists. If we are "fine." But He does crave for us to be righteous, godly people. Why?
The first reason centers in who God is. The second centers in what He wants us to do. We are to be righteous because He is righteous (1 Peter 1:15-16: "But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God-who chose you to be his children-is holy. For he himself has said, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'"). Isaiah 61:4 speaks about the second reason. "They (the oaks of righteousness) will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities long ago destroyed. They will revive them, though they have been empty for many generations."
God wants to use Christians to influence this world for Him and His righteousness. He wants us to be good because He is good and because it is good for us, in our best interest. We are better off when righteousness is present in our lives. Our society is better off when righteousness is prevalent.
As I studied Isaiah 61, I found out they did not use bricks and mortar to rebuild Jerusalem after the captivities. In fact, Isaiah 9:10 says that "the bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone." The temple, the walls of the temple, was built with stone that had no mortar. The bricks were smoothed so finely that they fit perfectly together. No mortar, just dressed-stone shaped by craftsmen to fit exactly. First Peter 2:5a likens Christians to these cut stones. "And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple."
WE ARE LIVING STONES
As living stones, you are being built into a living house. To put this in context, we need to look at the rest of the verse and the rest of the chapter to see how it all fits together. "So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don't just pretend to be good, be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs. Now you realize how kind, how gracious the Lord is, put away all evil and deception and envy and fraud, long to grow up in the fullness of your salvation. And cry for this as a baby cries for milk. Come to Christ who is the living foundation of rock upon which God builds. Though men have spurned him, he is very precious to God who has chosen him above all others. In fact, he is the cornerstone. You have become living building stones for God's use in building his house. Like living stones you are being built into a spiritual house."
A SPIRITUAL HOUSE
So what does this mean and what does this have to do with rocks and bricks. What does it mean to you? What is Peter saying, and more importantly, what is God trying to communicate? Two things. First, together we form something important. We are each independently, individually important to God. But together we become part of something bigger than the sum of its parts, a synergy. Synergy means that when things are combined they create something better than just the sum of their parts. Each of the parts receive something from the other parts that makes each part more functional than it was before. Together we form something important. Peter describes it as a spiritual house, a place where God lives and moves.
In Jesus' day the temple was the center of Jerusalem. It was the center of spiritual, religious, and personal life. In fact, it was set on the highest part of Jerusalem and was built seven stories tall so anywhere in the city would see the presence of God in the temple. Before the temple there was the tabernacle. It was in the center of the camp. There were three tribes to the north, three tribes to the south, three tribes to the east, and three tribes to the west.
GOD WANTS TO BE IN THE CENTER OF HIS SPIRITUAL HOUSE
God wants to be in the center of His spiritual house. And He wants this spiritual house to be the center of your life. He lives in each of us individually but also corporately and uses us to spiritually impact each other. That is why this spiritual house, individual churches and the church globally, is intended to be the center of your life. That is why when you drift from church you also drift away from God. A little bit at a time other things take your interest, your hearts, your resources, your time. It is hard to be spiritual without spiritual intake and it is hard to grow spiritually without spiritual output.
GOD IS THE ARCHITECT OF THIS SPIRITUAL HOUSE - ARE WE YET THE OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Secondly, God is the architect and contractor in building this spiritual house. He is doing the building. You are the product of His labor. He knows each stone and He puts it right where it belongs. He knows you and will put you right where you belong. Sometimes He puts us where we fit perfectly with those around us. Where we have everything we need because others are teaming with us, helping, multiplying our effectiveness.
Sometimes God puts us right where we will fit perfectly. But other times He puts us in a place to shape us. We are not yet the oaks of righteousness Isaiah 61:3 talks about. There are things that need to be pared out of our lives or things that we need to add to our lives that promote growth. And so He puts us in a place that will effect change in us. You may be pretty good, but there is still things that need to be dealt with. Sometimes we fit perfectly, sometimes He puts us in a place that shapes us, and at other times He puts us in a place to shape others.
First Peter 2:9 speaks about this situation: "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." We, as Christians, are all called to be priests and ministers--to represent God's love, compassion, and righteousness to the world and to represent the world of people to God as we intercede on their behalf.
Sometimes you fit, sometimes you do not fit because God wants to reshape you, and sometimes God puts you in a place that does not fit so that you can reshape that place. When we start off in life we are pretty rough and jagged. Think about a newborn child. Think about a two-year old. Got a good side, got a bad side. Which side comes out more often? Think about a teenager. Yeah, think. And God starts chipping at us. He starts hammering away so that we can become useful and shaped in a way that will be productive. That He can fit others around us.
THE COMMON FACTOR
The common factor to all of this is that God is interested in our character. When the junk is gone out of our life, you know what is left? It is called the image of Christ. Do you know that there is a 'Jesus' in you? Galatians 5:16-26 speak to this molding process. This is a lengthy passage but it is worth reading.
So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to law. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the felling that everyone is wrong except those in your little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.
When irritations of life start rubbing against you, do you need more of that love, a sense of joy, a sense of peace. God wants to 'grow' you but you will not grow spiritually until you feel a need for it, until you really want it for your life.
IRRITATIONS? LET US INVITE HIM!
God wants to do something in your life. He wants to chip away and make you into something special. He wants to grow you and me into people who exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. When the irritations of others are rubbing against us we need patience. God wants to grow kindness and compassion in your life to benefit them. Gentleness and self-control are things God wants to grow into our life so that we will be fully functional in the body of Christ. That you can be a functional part of that spiritual house we have been talking about. This next week irritations are going to come into our lives. If we see them as opportunities to grow and share our faith we will be "fine." But if we let them mold us negatively we will move further away from God and what He has planned for us.
Is there something you want to cut out of your life? It may be your temper, the selfishness you have with your time, your lack of compassion, whatever it is God wants to pare it away more than you do. The key is letting Him do it. For the whole spiritual process to work, we must invite Him into our lives to make the necessary changes. He is a gentle God concerned about our spiritual freedom. He will not violate it because He wants our reciprocation to be voluntary. Spiritual saints are not made by force. Spiritual saints are molded by the hands of God only if we respond positively to His invitation. God does pursue us before we chose Him, but if we do not respond we can kill the process. For true spiritual growth to take place we must ask Him to remake us to be like Jesus. We must want it to be a reality in our lives. We are a people in process. God is alive and well and will work in you if you let Him!
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