The Plan

Matthew 26:36-44 NIV 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  . . .  38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  39 . . . he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping . . . 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

How do you usually read this passage?  Most likely, it takes only a few moments to read.  But let’s think about the actual passage of time involved – somewhere around an hour.  Do we really understand that during this time Jesus, having come to earth to live as a man, actually had to choose His course of action?  Even though He knew the Father’s path for Him, He really could have decided not to become sin nor go through the physical torture of crucifixion for us.

Jesus didn’t struggle in prayer just to fulfill prophecy.  He didn’t go back and repeat “Not My will, but Yours,” three times to give us a pattern of prayer.  When He told the disciples the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, He was letting them know the intense personal battle He waged as He asked again for their help in prayer.  Jesus’ flesh was not yielding easily in those long minutes, though His Spirit wanted to complete what He had come for.  Only after Jesus committed His will to Father’s will the third time was it completely settled in His heart.

Though He had more to do before the whole plan was totally fulfilled, the flesh was forever defeated in those last moments, and there would be no more wavering.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father, and in that last, most intense and agonizing temptation, He chose to finish His course.  He went forth from that place in victory, ready to endure the cross and all that led to it – for us.  Glory to God!


Trained or Transformed?

The whole idea for this post is not Kay’s original insight, but came from a message I heard on TV by Creflo Dollar.  I hope the simplicity of the word picture is as powerful for you as it was for me.

Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t to be a behavior modification program – another set of rules and rituals to follow – though a great majority of the church operates in that mode.  We might work really hard to change a behavior or an attitude that we see is wrong in God’s Word.  Without a heart change to go with it, a situation will occur some day that causes us to fall back to our old ways.  After all, it’s what has been put inside, by others and by our own doing, so it is just a natural thing for us to do.  Let’s call it instinct.

Our well-behaved dog still has instincts that can take us by surprise.  He is trained to sit, heel, fetch, stay, etc.  He follows our commands (rules, laws) every time we utter them.  He may even be so well-trained that he doesn’t require constant reminders to behave appropriately – so it appears the old instincts are gone.  But let a squirrel run past when we haven’t seen it in advance, and his hidden instincts take over.  It’s natural, for he hasn’t been transformed by the words we’ve spoken to him, merely trained to respond a certain way.

(I know it's a tiger, not a lion. Same effect!)

Another illustration would be a circus lion.  He may have been “tamed,” conditioned to respond in certain ways to the actions and commands of the lion “tamer,” but he is still a wild animal.  For this reason, we wouldn’t own one as a pet.  There could come that time when his instincts could kick in, and we would end up being his dinner!  He wasn’t transformed – merely trained.

Romans 12:2 NIV  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The pattern of this world is rules and laws to follow.  When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to be trained in following a new set of rules, but be transformed by growing in relationship with Him.  He is the Word of God made flesh. (John 1:1, 14)  When we spend time with Him, in His Word, the Word (by His Spirit) transforms our minds, which is reflected in our actions and attitudes. This is done by His grace, not by our efforts to be transformed.  We are simply asked to be in ever-growing relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and by His Spirit.  It’s only in this that we can be transformed, not merely trained.  It’s only in being transformed that we can truly know Christ and make Him known.

This is What’s Important!

Philippians 3:10-11 (Amp)  ”[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

The Lord makes it clear in His Word what our purpose is; yet, how many of us continue to question Him about it? Oh, we read the above passage and give it mental assent, but do we ever really stop to receive the application for our lives?  We ask for more information.  We want to know if we’re to preach, teach, sing, care for children, or the like.  ”What is it, God, that you want me to do?  What is the purpose for which You created me?”  While He may call us to do any of these things or more, there will only be a measure of success in them if we don’t grasp the true purpose He has for every believer – knowing Him more and more, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.

Philippians 3:12-15 ”Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.  I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.  So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also.”

Don’t skim through these passages, dear readers.  Read the verses and meditate on them.  Get your own Bibles and read verses 7-9, as well.  Paul knew that the goal (verse 14) for which he effectively forgot all his failures and successes was simply to know Christ.  It’s not to preach to the masses, or to reach Rome, or to make a name for himself.  His passion, the motivation for everything he did, was to know Christ.  How many times have I read and studied these verses and missed the point?  Paul practically begs all who believe in Christ to lay aside all the other things that get in the way of this one goal for our lives.  When he speaks of having a different attitude of mind, he’s not talking about differences in doctrines or preferences in worship services, etc.  He’s talking about the one goal, the single pursuit, for which we have all been created – knowing Christ!  When we follow after this purpose, we can rest assured that all other differences will lose their places of prominence in our thoughts and attitudes.

How long has God tried to get this across to me, and I’ve just not tuned in, or, not stayed tuned in?  What about you?  Has our desire to pursue the ministry to which He has called us, the vision which He has given, become our goal?  I pray that we will all see ourselves as He sees us, whether our straying from this one goal has been great or small, and will allow His perfect adjustment.  Even as I write this, I sense such a release as we let go of all the things – even the good things – that have kept us from pressing on toward the goal of the greatest thing – knowing Christ.  When we make that our goal, our pursuit, we will make Him known to others, that they, too, will desire to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.