Candy blogs: Just finished a Beth Moore study, Living Beyond Yourself (Fruit of the Spirit). What a powerful ten weeks! I needed to let it all settle in, see how my life was going to look with all this new understanding. So I looked up the words in the title:
Living: the act or condition of a person or thing that lives; active or thriving; vigorous; strong; in actual existence or use
Beyond: outside the understanding, limits or reach of, more than in the past; surpassing, farther on than, more than
Yourself: your normal or customary self
So “living beyond yourself” actually means putting into actual, vigorous use new understanding that was previously outside my limit or reach, and in doing so, it becomes part of my normal or customary self.
I was one of those people who didn’t have to try very hard to do pretty well. I never aced anything, but I could be above average without much effort. I ‘winged’ my way through school and Sunday School, going only as far as my normal, customary self could take me, never putting my shoulder to a task to perhaps take it to another level.
As an adult, my activities changed from memorizing verses and singing Sunday School songs to chairing committees and reading popular Christian self-help books and taking seminars and special training classes and going to great Bible Studies. None of these things were wrong. But in reality, I was just continuing to accumulate knowledge ABOUT God. My walk with Jesus hadn’t really changed that much. I knew all this STUFF but it wasn’t really doing anything for me.
It was a frustrating way to live. Still had that anger problem, still had that controlling spirit, still had that mouth that spoke before my mind engaged, still had that self-sufficient attitude … was still impatient, lied when I had to, was still selfish in my marriage, still thought everyone should think like I did; I still judged people, still thought I had to DO stuff to win God’s approval and the approval of others. Man, that is one long list.
The one thing that kept driving me forward with the Lord was that somewhere down in the deepest part of me, I truly loved Jesus and wanted to be more like Him. I didn’t always know what that should look like or how to get there.
So I started CHOOSING and DOING, CHOOSING and DOING.
• Did I want to be patient? Then I had to start thinking of difficult people and circumstances differently than my normal, customary self did.
• Did I want my husband to be happier? Then I had to stop thinking of my own high and mighty princess needs first.
• Did I want to be less angry and more calm? Then I needed to dig into God’s Word to find out what I was so angry about. I needed to sit at Jesus’ feet and LISTEN for a change instead of filling my prayers with whining and lists of requests to change other people.
• Did I want to be free of the need for the constant approval of others? Then I needed to learn how to minister quietly but work unapologetically in my strengths.
I couldn’t have it both ways. (Old normal, customary self – new normal, customary self) I I couldn’t live in the power of the Spirit and continue on as I always had. The Spirit is dynamic, moving, changing, growing. Knowledge didn’t transform me. If it did, we’d all be acing Spiritual 101.
Beth Moore said in this study that “I must abandon my own will and my own agenda. That as long as I nurse my own will, the personalized daily will of God will be thwarted in me.” It all gets down to that. It is a moment by moment choice whether we let the Fruit of the Spirit develop in us and become part of our NEW normal, customary self.
A blogging friend, Barbara Harper, recently said this, “Whether dealing with a sin issue, a personality bent, or even a spiritual gift, “That’s just the way I am” is not a good excuse. God wants us to seek Him for deliverance from the power of sin, for power and grace to maintain right balances and to be diligent even in areas where we don’t have natural gifts, and for help to grow continually more Christlike every day we live. He does not want us to remain “just the way we are.” II Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”. We’re changed….by beholding Him.”
But God is infinitely patient and merciful with us even if our lives haven’t changed at all. He doesn’t love us less when it takes longer to abandon our agenda, or love us more when we obey quickly. Can you grasp that? Our behavior doesn’t affect God’s love for us. It’s more like the difference between an acquaintance and a life-long friend. An acquaintance friendship doesn’t require much of us. But a life-long friend is the result of investing in the relationship over time. Which friendship we experience is totally up to us. How much do we want of God?
The way to a relationship, a friendship, with God all started with Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus … all man and all God, with a purpose to be the one final sacrifice that paid the penalty for my sin. God won’t barge into our lives and DEMAND change of us. That’s not His style. But He does LONG for us. He’s willing to wait until we’re not too busy or too noisy or too consumed with our own agenda.
I heard a song on Saturday morning that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It’s called Winter Snow and was written by Audrey Assad.
Could’ve come like a mighty storm
with all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
with the power of heaven in your flame
But you came like a winter snow
quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below
Could’ve swept in like a tidal wave
or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
to wipe away the things we’ve scarred
No, your voice wasn’t in a bush burning
No, your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden
That’s how Jesus comes to us … when we’re quiet enough to hear Him and our minds are open and our spirits are willing and our hearts are ready … for change. His way is always best for us. He ALWAYS has our best in mind when He convicts us to abandon our own agenda. When we’re willing to put our shoulder to the task of becoming more like Jesus, He does the work. He makes the change.
Beth Moore puts all the Fruit of the Spirit into one sentence:
… to love, to experience joy, to know peace, to express patience, to possess kindness and respond in goodness, to be faithful, gentle and submissive to His will, restrained and under control.
Let it be so in me.
JOY to the world!