Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Trio of Helps for the Spirit-led Life

          A few months back I was listening to a message focusing on the difference between handling troubling situations in the sark (the flesh), or in the Spirit.[1] The sark-life means we are depending on ourselves to figure out how to handle problems, while the Spirit-led life means we are depending on God to lead us in his will through whatever problem-situations we are facing.

          The application of this message came down to three things we can do that will keep us in the Spirit-led life, rather than falling into the trap of the sark-led life. The first is to “witness” to God about what people have done or said. The second is to “leave” the whole situation to God to work out according to his perfect will. And, the third is to “join” God in whatever he is doing with “us”, without giving any further time imagining what he should do with “them”.

          As there seems to be no end of problems enticing our sarks to take over, here are some thoughts of encouragement to show how working through these three steps as often as needed will, at the very least, encourage us in the direction of the Spirit-led life.

1.  Witnessing to God

          In both the Old and the New Testaments, God requires that his people deal with conflicts, accusations and sin by establishing everything with two or three witnesses.[2] Under both covenants, no one can be declared guilty just on the say-so of one person.[3] Every matter must be established by multiple witnesses.[4]

          The emphasis on witnessing to God is that we stay within the bounds of a witness. We do not talk to God as an accuser who knows all that another person is guilty of doing (because we don’t). The red dragon does enough accusing of God’s children that we don’t need to join his work. We do not talk to God as a judge, as though we know exactly what a person has done and how they should be sentenced (only God can do that). We do not present our opinions of what people have done, our suspicions, our concerns, our worries, or, what our home church affectionately calls our “column 3” perceptions.

          The only thing we can present to God as a witness is the facts of what happened, and the effect it is having on us. We witness to God about what we saw the person do, with no reference to why we think he or she did it. We present the objective facts to God as real things that have happened, and we tell God all that it has done to us.

          A favorite expression from the Scriptures in this regard is, With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.”[5] This is the description of witnessing to God, to present the specific complaint we have about what someone has done to us, and put the trouble the person has caused “before him”.

2.  Leaving it With God

          The second step is to “leave” it with God. I often hear people say that they tried to leave something with God but, before they knew it, they had picked it right back up again. One reason for this pattern is that we have not finished witnessing to God about what people did to us. In other words, we try leaving a problem with God before we have even talked to him about the problem. It isn’t really that we want to carry the problem, it’s that we don’t know God well enough to fully lay our complaints before him until we have that feeling of, “it was sure good to get that off my chest.” If we do the first step first, and to completion, we will find it easier to persevere in the second step as well.

          Leaving things with God is based on the reality of who God is and what he is like. He is good, he is loving, he is all-wise, he has all-knowledge, he has all-power, he is perfect in justice as well as in mercy. In other words, we leave things with God because he is the only one who can possibly know how to figure out how to do the right thing with so many people, problems, hidden sins, levels of maturity, and all the surrounding plans and purposes of God that are always working towards their fulfillment in Christ.

          Paul explains this for us in reference to a common longing to inflict vengeance on people who have wronged us. He wrote, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”[6] We can “leave” all wrong-doing against us to “the wrath of God” because he alone can express wrath against sin without it being contaminated by sarkiness. At the same time, we must understand the difference between ourselves and God when he says, “Vengeance is mine”. That means it is not mine, or yours, or anyone else’s. Only God has the right and authority to distribute vengeance as his perfect wisdom has so decided.

          Within this picture there is also a promise that tells us, “I will repay, says the Lord”. Our ability to leave things with God rests on our faith in his justice. If we tell God our troubles, and lay our complaint before him for what people have done to us, we can only leave it with him if we believe that he will repay.

          God’s promise to repay is just that, a promise. However, part of leaving things to God is trusting that he will either “repay” the person for their sins if they never turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness; or he has already exacted payment for that sin from Christ because that person has received Christ by repentance and faith. Since we do not have the knowledge, wisdom, love, justice, or mercy to know which of these to apply, we leave it to God.

3.  Joining God’s work in us

          One of the best cures to constantly advising God on what he should be doing to others is to focus on what he is doing with us. For example, if we were injured in a car accident, the doctor would be interested in the history of what happened only so far as it would tell him what condition we were in. Once he had heard enough, he would expect us to let him do his work of helping us get better.

          In the same way, when we have told God all about what people did to us, and we have chosen to trust him with whatever he deems best to do to them (or for them), we can then put all our focus on what God is doing with us. He may have things to heal, he may have insights to give, he may have maturity-work to do to help us grow up, he may have sins to forgive. Whatever our condition because of what people have done to us, God has plans for making us better.

          One way to join God in his work in our lives is to spend time in the word every day, listening to whatever the Holy Spirit is working to teach us. As we recognize the things God is teaching us in his word, and if we seek to put those things into practice in all that we do, we will find all kinds of applications of his word to things we are going through, as well as to the relationships he brings together among his people.

          God’s word shows us both the individual and corporate aspects of his work, and so we must consider how God is working in us individually, but also how this fits in with what he is doing with his church. Many times I have witnessed a group of people receive great encouragement as each person simply shared what they were learning in the word of God that week, and realized that God was tying it all together in a theme that showed he was working to get us all focused on the same thing, heading in the same direction.

          Since the three activities of witnessing, leaving, and joining have come together in my mind, I have found it easier to remember what it is I am witnessing to God about, what it is I am leaving with him, and what it is I am to focus on as I move forward from any bad experiences. The more I take my thoughts captive in this way,[7]the more peace I feel.[8] I trust that you will find the same for yourself.

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Jim Wilder’s audio message on “The Picker”
[2] Deuteronomy 17:6;  Matthew 18:16; I Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28
[3] Deuteronomy 19:15; I Timothy 5:19
[4] II Corinthians 13:1
[5] Psalm 142:1-2
[6] Romans 12:19
[7] II Corinthians 10:5
[8] Philippians 4:4-7

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