Assorted Lessons for Us Life-Long Learners, Pt. 4
Study Guide, August 30, 2020
Pastor Clay Olsen
How many really like riding Roller Coasters? I used to like them when I was young, but then they just made me turn green and feel yucky…But what’s different about a roller coaster is that you get to choose to get on or not. Plus, if you do get on…in a few minutes, it’s over…sort of… Whereas with the roller coaster of life, you don’t get to choose to get on and you don’t know when it’s going to stop. And sometimes you’re not sure if it’s ever going to level out, right? Here’s the encouragement: Although you can’t control the roller coaster of life…you can control how you ride it and even its effects on your life.
It’s kind of related to what we talked about in a previous study…but we can put it like this: You don’t have to ride the roller coaster of life by fear, but by faith, which sometimes can also include fun. But in this ‘faith’ factor here, you’re not trusting in the safety of the roller coaster…you are trusting in the sovereignty of your Savior. Remember: Rom 10:17- “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” NASU Our faith is in the unchanging Word of God and the Sovereign God of the Word.
So this means that unlike the world’s idea of faith, which is completely subjective, or subject to people’s own personal ideas, inclinations, and opinions, a Biblical faith is objective. Biblical faith is based upon a particular object, or person really, and that person is not you or me or anyone else except the one Person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ is: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 1:8 NASU
Jesus is: “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Rev 1:17-18 NASU
Jesus is: “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:1 NASU
Jesus is: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASU
Jesus is: “…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isa 9:6 NASU
Jesus is all of this and more! This is the One in whom our faith is in and upon whom our faith rests. So, even though we don’t live by our feelings, are you feeling a little better about living by faith now? Are you feeling a little more confident about walking by faith now, instead of walking by sight, or by your feelings? Do you believe that you can better deal with the twists and turns and the drops and spins of this roller coaster of life now…now that your trust is in this One who is Sovereign over all of life and who is your beginning and end, who was dead and is alive forever more and has given His ‘forever more life’ to you, to share with you? Absolutely! Brethren, because your faith is now resting in this Person who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace, you have every reason to even feel a whole lot better about whatever life has in store yet ahead of you! Again, you and I not only can now walk by faith…we can walk by faith with the Person in whom our faith stands!
Now then, since our faith is based upon a Person, that also takes our faith to another level. We could say it takes our faith to another dimension, too, one of which is ‘the Present’. What do we mean by that?
We often talk about life in terms of the past, present, and future. The problem is, we don’t often deal with any of them very well. One of the quotes from Charles Swindoll that came out of this recent PK conference was this: “Your past just ended one second ago.” And instead of elaborating very much on that statement, they just sort of paused, and let it sink in. So we’re going to pause a moment and let that sink in: “Your past just ended one second ago.”
How about if we ask a question at this point? And the question is: Where do you live? And we’re not talking about your address. We’re talking about your attitude. And by ‘attitude’ here we mean the actual definition of attitude: ‘A complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways.’ You mean ‘attitude’ means all of that? Yeah, that’s quite a load, right? But it does expand what we mean by our ‘attitude’. So now, let’s ask the question again: Where do you live? Or: What is your mental state involving your beliefs and your feelings and your values and dispositions that causes you to act in certain ways?
Anyway, the point is this: And let’s just narrow it down to this: What is it that is mostly causing you to think and act today in the certain ways that you are thinking and acting? And how much of that is related to Swindoll’s statement: “Your past just ended one second ago”? Well, yes, it is said that we are a product of our past, but for the Christian there’s a whole lot more to that picture than just that…for we may be a product of our past, but we are never a prisoner of our past, nor are we a finished product either! Our God is continually working in us and on us because His plan is to work through us in order to bless others and us.
Here is a verse that you should carry to encourage you about that: Phil 1:6- “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” NASU God began a good work in you and will complete what He started. And so you see, Every day we open a new door for what God has in store for blessing others and us, too.
Remember, as Christians, our past does not define us. Nor do our interpretations of our past, nor do other’s interpretations of our past define us either. In fact, we need to understand that all of those interpretations, ours and others, are all filled with faulty interpretations that rises out of faulty human reasoning.
In other words, you can’t trust either your own or other’s interpretations of who you have been or who really are. In fact, you simply need to let go of whatever image it is that you have of yourself or whatever image someone else has of you and fix your eyes on another image, that ‘image’ which is also included in this ‘wonderful work’ that God began in you and is continuing to do. So what do we mean by that?
Here’s a verse that you ought to do some serious meditation on…like if you are looking for something for your relaxation exercises…dwell on this wondrous truth: 2 Cor 3:18- “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” NASU
Pretty marvelous, right? And what a ‘yank on the chain’ of mankind’s inherent obsession over our own self-image? Man is obsessed with his own self-image, and obsessed with even comparing that image with the images of others. But friends, That’s not a wise thing to do, you know? Remember what the Apostle Paul said about comparing ourselves with others? 2 Cor 10:12- “But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” NLT
The point here is that when humans compare their image with the image of other humans, or use other people like the mirror in order to reach some sort of image that they feel good about…well that is utterly foolish! And why is that? Because, do not forget that the image of man was terribly marred by sin in the Fall of Man, and that image has become even more corrupted, and man’s image has never recovered. In fact, man’s image is beyond repair. Each person is in need not of a complete make-over, but of a complete regeneration, a completely new creation…a new creation in Christ. And that new creation is what God does in our salvation. 2 Cor 5:17- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” NKJV
And along with this creation of a new spirit from Christ comes this work of God, with us working with Him, to form a new image in us, Christ’s image in us. In other words, our goal is not a good self-image of ourselves; no, our goal is now a godly image that is more and more like that of our Savior’s image! Which means, this is a whole new focus in what we are now trying to see formed in our lives. Our focus is now not on our self-image, but on forming our Savior’s image in us. Which, also by the way, is a very liberating way to think and to live, and is just another example of how our God is trying to help make our lives more peaceful and soul satisfying. You see, most people are mentally bound up and emotionally shackled from this focus on trying to feel good about their own self-image. That’s not freedom…that’s bondage. It’s like continually walking through the briar patch of self-pride or self-pity. And either one or the other of these thorny sins is going to stick you over and over. And that’s why a self-focused life is never at peace, never satisfied, never content.
Again, in spite of how innocent this concept of a good self-image sounds, a good self-image is not the goal of discipleship. A godly image of your Savior’s image is the goal of discipleship. And along with that focus comes what our soul is actually longing for anyway…spiritual fulfillment, which is far better than self-fulfillment. To be filled with the Spirit instead of filled with the ‘self’ is far more fulfilling! Thank you Lord, Amen? Remember, our old self is the part that we are supposed to be emptying out day by day! You empty your ‘self’ so that you can make room to now be filled with the Spirit. Again, spiritual filling is far more fulfilling than any kind of fulfillment you can ever experience through self-fulfillment.
(You might have observed by now that one thing we are focusing on here is that we are trying to unravel faulty human concepts so that we can think about these things with more Biblical clarity.)
This will help, and then we’ll have to wrap it up for this time: What Paul told the Galatian believers about the goal he was striving and laboring toward is exactly what we are talking about: Gal 4:19-20- “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you — “ NASU And the ERV puts it like this: “My little children, I am in pain again over you, like a mother giving birth. I will feel this pain until people can look at you and see Christ.” That’s our goal! That is the image we are to be seeking to build and to form in our lives; this image of our Savior so that others can see more of Jesus in us and through us.
This is also a clear way to evaluate your spiritual growth in your Christian life. Where are you in your spiritual growth? You can measure that. For example: You can measure your spiritual and practical maturity by this simple test: Children say “Look at me, look at me.” But Disciples are to say: “Look at Christ, look at Christ.” Which is your wish? You see, our focus is to see the image of Christ formed more and more in us, so that others will see something of Jesus more and more through us. A maturing Disciple wants to be more and more like Jesus! When that is your focus, you will know that you are growing more and more mature in your Christian life…however, not until that becomes your focus. Remember, Jesus said you can’t serve God and mammon…well, neither can you form God’s image and man’s image. One Bible version puts what Paul said about it like this: “Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion…Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.” Gal 2:20-21 The Message Bible
One more thing: In order to form Christ’s image more and more in us, we also have to switch mirrors so that we can look more, not at ourselves or others, but at our Lord. Look at what James says about that: James 1:25- “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” NLT This ‘perfect law that sets you free’ is the Word of God. This is the mirror to use….the Bible…This is the mirror which shows us what to correct, what to change, what to continue, and what to call our attention to in order to conform more and more to the godly image of our Savior Jesus Christ.
And get this: Today is a new day to begin again. In fact, your past just ended one second ago. Today is a new day to look into the mirror of God’s Word and to see His smile looking back at us, along with His new mercies and loving-kindnesses, which are new every morning. Sure, we might look pretty rough in the mirror in the morning, but when we look in the mirror of God’s Word, that’s where we can see the face of God, who loves us and is willing and anxious to work with us to form His image a little more in us day by day. And again, it’s not a good self-image that brings fulfillment and satisfaction to your life and soul, but a godly image in ourselves that gives us inner joy and peace and fulfillment. Remember, in our daily Christian walk, what we are trying to do is that we are trying to replace what’s messed up with that which is marvelous. What’s messed up is our old self…and what’s marvelous is the Spirit of Christ indwelling our new self. And you’ll know which one you are working from by ‘whose image’ you are focused on…yours or your Savior’s.
One of the greatest compliments anyone can ever give you is for them to say: “You know, I can see a lot of Jesus in you.” That’s like hearing, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”