Monday, December 17, 2007

Initiate - Respond

This post is both a continuation of the comments from the last post as well as a response to a post from Matthew. He asks great questions, and while I don't have all the answers by a long stretch, I at least want to attempt to convey my thoughts.

For me when these questions arise, it all boils down to Christ in us, our hope of glory. What I mean by that is, we are in Him and He is in us... all the time.

Just think if He weren't in us, living in that vital union with us. Remember what God's demands are: Perfection. Holiness. Righteousness. Sanctity. Fruit. The list keeps going and going and going... much moreso than that little drummer bunny... :)

IN FACT... lol... this just popped into my head... let me use the Energizer Bunny as an example. How does he keep going and going and going? 1) He has been programmed by a designer to do certain things... he simply responds to the internal program instructions. 2) He does not do the things he was programmed to do in his own strength, but rather he is "energized" by a battery with an ongoing supply.

I know most of us understand this concept - God is the designer and the energizer of our lives in Him - and I know that the questions go much deeper than this simple illustration, but yet it's essentially a good example of the foundation that leads to activity in the Christian life. The Galatians had "run well," having been energized by the Spirit who dwelled in them. They had at one time turned to pure grace. But... now they had turned back to what they originally left... trying to live by the deeds of the flesh and by the law. What was needed to start "running well" again? To turn away from trying to live by the flesh and law, and instead living by pure grace.

So... "how" do we do this? I think this truly involves communication between God and us, in our spirits, but yet I don't think it's as complicated as we've made it out to be. I'll address some of that here and some in my next post. Something that really gets to the heart of this for me is the idea of initiator/responder. God is the initiator and we simply respond to Him. I really think scripture backs this up, not so much in doctrine as in biblical examples of those led by the Spirit. I think Paul's whole ministry was initiated by God, and he simply responded and walked in "the works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." At times Paul even had his mind set on some really great things, but for whatever reason the Spirit told him "no," such as when he wanted to go to Asia. So he turned and went elsewhere.

Anyway, what I mean to say here is that I believe it's not up to "us" to come up with ideas and plans as far as what to do with our lives, but we simply abide in Christ, and God initiates the actions and we simply respond. Remember, if it were up to us... think of all the things WE would have to initiate AND carry out! It would be impossible. If we fell short by an inch, it would be utter failure. And the thing is, we fall short by light years!

So... It's really about God's sovereignty (and our lack thereof)! I just can't picture God getting worried, upset, frustrated... or anything of the sort... when it comes to His plans coming to pass. God knows the plans He has for us. We don't really know what it all entails. So He initiates and we respond. And the wonderful thing is, our response is animated by His grace! We partner with Him as He animates our bodies, minds, actions, personalities, gifts, talents, etc, etc.

So what if we "miss" God's calling? Coming next...


  1. Joel,

    I think you are right about the initiator/responder concept. I think that this occurs in our everyday life so often that we don't realize that it is something that God initiated. Maybe we have always had the desire to help others, even before we were saved. Are we to think that our desire to help others before we were saved didn't come from God? I don't think so. God uses the ungodly to accomplish His purposes all of the time.

    I think the key is to make yourself available to God to use as He purposes. Once you do that, He will use you, but it will be indistinguishable, from your point of view, who initiated it. You will know it was God (by faith), but it will come to you as if it were your own idea.

    As you make yourself available you will find yourself having "ideas" to do things that are completely foreign to your normal thinking patterns. An example from my life.

    My normal pattern is to not stop and help a man change a flat tire. My thinking would be, "If he doesn't know how to change one by now, then now is a good time to learn." One day I passed a man in a min-van working to change a tire. I had this strange "idea" pop into my head that I should go back and help him. I argued with myself (or God) a little while and then went back and asked him if he needed any help. Turns out he had injured his right hand at work and was working with single handed. I finished changing his tire for him. I know that God put that into my idea into my head...He initiated, I responded. It looked like me doing it, but it was God in me.

    Does that mean that we should sit around waiting on God to use us? No, it means that we live our lives by our desires and trust that it is God who placed the desire there; we simply respond to them. If we have a desire that is not of God, then we trust God to show us that and lead us away from things that will bring us harm.

  2. Gary,

    Great thoughts here. When I mentioned about it not being up to us to come up with ideas, I meant to follow that up with very similar thoughts to what you shared. Paul Anderson-Walsh has talked about how pentecostal Christians are quick to point out that a person can be possessed by a demon (which I fully believe), and that that person's actions are essentially animated by the demon. As Christians though, we seem to have a hard time understanding that we are Christ-possessed. Many of our thoughts, observances, attitudes, etc, are "served up" (using Bill Gillham's term) by Christ-in-us, and since they come to us as our own thoughts, feelings, etc, we tend not to recognize them as being from our union with God.

    In this respect, one part of growing in grace is learning to distinguish our Christ-thoughts from our self-thoughts. I believe this is truly a growing process, and it comes from communicating with God. As I mentioned in the post, I believe we make this out to be harder than it really is, and I'm planning to address this in the next post.

  3. This is great!! I can really relate. I'm a thinker by nature and have felt guilty about spending so much time thinking instead of actually praying so I would TRY to change my thoughts into prayers. It always felt forced and I would give up feeling discouraged and guilty.

    It was only several months ago when Father showed me that my thoughts were actually prayers and that he communicated with me through my thoughts that I experienced a breakthrough in my relationship with him.

    Since then, I've begun to experience greater life in my relationship with him. I'm more aware of his presence even when I'm not actively praying. I no longer tend to lose that awareness during the day and have to struggle to get it back. Even when I'm busy, my mind quickly returns back to him.

    Also, at one time, I felt strange talking out loud to him so I would stop. Now, I often find that my thoughts have changed into verbal communication.

    Thanks for sharing this. It was definitely confirmation.


  4. Sweet, you have no idea how everyone here has helped me understand some things I was struggling with and encouraged me...Thanks again Joel for initiating this....this hits close to home for me, I mean things I have been thinking about.
    And Aida, your thoughts just confirmed some things for me...I can so relate to what you said, thanks for sharing!!!!
    Big smiles over here!!

  5. Only Look,

    I meant to say "thanks" earlier. :)


    Those are some very encouraging words. It's amazing how God communicates with us in and through our thoughts. I can truly relate to having had the struggle of "trying" to pray and then being very discouraged when I just couldn't do it. I drive for a living, and in the early days of my job, about 11 or 12 years ago, I remember getting so very down on myself when I would have 3 hours out on the road, and I didn't take the time to pray. One of my "problems" was that it was a struggle to turn the radio off and to be quiet. Nowadays I've thrown those attempts at praying and being quiet out the window, and I yet find myself having much more intimacy with the Father! I've come to know Him better, and it's no longer about "trying" to be intimate with Him, but rather just keeping that awareness that I'm with Him and He's with me. It's no longer a struggle to turn off the radio and be quiet. And it's no longer a feeling of guilt if I don't!

  6. Lydia,

    I'm glad this has been helpful for you. It's also been helpful for me as I've articulated some of my thoughts and as others have responded with such wonderful thoughts and examples. I love it when the Body is able to encourage each other like this!