Unless we have learnt to die to self, we are not ready to work with Him for His Kingdom to advance. Unless we have surrendered our kingdoms, we will be advancing our own kingdoms while we are thinking we are working with God for His Kingdom to advance. Unless we have learnt to recognize how much of the self in us is still ruling, we might have our own ideas how to advance God’s kingdom and like Abraham we create an Ishmael. We are usually more focused on how to get things done, but God is more focused on what and why – He is more concerned about what we are inside and change us from within. There is so much in us that needs breaking. When God allows trouble to expose what’s inside, may we not be in denial but be quick to confess and go to God for the grace to change. God tells us not to be like the horse or the mule who are without understanding. Before He comes again, He will refine for Himself people who will be like Him.
- Did you enjoy the story of Pastor Larry and his Sunday School kids I told in Kingdom 36? I once saw someone with a T-shirt that said, “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” By the way, in case you are new to this series of talks on the Kingdom, do listen to the previous clips from Kingdom 1-36 first. Like what I mentioned in Kingdom 36, about context, a lot of misunderstanding occurs, whether between people, or even in hearing or reading something, when we do not know the background or context in which something is said. That’s true not only for understanding Jn.3:16 and salvation which I talked about in Kingdom 25 but also even in appreciating a joke.
- If you have been listening from Kingdom 1-36, then you might appreciate why I shared the story of Pastor Larry and his Sunday School kids. There is of course a double meaning to what little Sheila said. Hopefully we would have learnt to die to ourselves first before we actually physically die and meet our Maker, Amen?
- Actually I did not plan to spend so much time and so many clips on the subject of dying to self. I wanted to get on with the next point about working with God for His Kingdom to advance. But I sense the Lord telling me that I have to address this point adequately before I get on with the next point. Unless we have learnt to die to self, we are not ready to work with Him for His Kingdom to advance. Unless we have surrendered our kingdoms, we will be advancing our own kingdoms while we are thinking we are working with God for His Kingdom to advance. Like the case of Saul. We become a hindrance to God’s agenda.
- Not only that, unless we have learnt to recognize how much of the self in us is still ruling, and unless we have learnt to die to ourselves, we might have our own ideas how to advance God’s kingdom. We might be like Abraham who tried to help God out and he created an Ishmael before it was time for him to have Issac. And we know the mess that has resulted down the history of the middle-east, until today, don’t we?
- I used to give crisis response training and lead crisis response teams. I found that most people were more focused on the “how” to get things done. Not many were interested in the “what” and the “why”. But if we think in terms of how a building is built, the “how”, “when”, “where” and “who” are like that part of the building that is above the ground. That can be seen. “What” and “why” are the foundation below. The foundation of course cannot be seen. But we know this – unless we have a solid foundation in place, the building will collapse.
- But not many want to invest time and attention in the foundation. Most people are more concerned with what a building looks like above the ground. Throughout Scripture however, I see God is more interested in the foundation than in the building that is above the ground, as it were. This is what I see in the OT, in Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels and in Paul’s teaching and in the rest of the NT. The Bible in fact has very little to say about “how” but it has a lot to say about “what” and “why”. God works on what we are inside. There is so much in us that He has to break to change us to be like Him.
- Someone is very zealous, but he is also very impulsive, like Peter. His impulsiveness needs to be broken. Someone else is very compassionate, but she is also very fearful. Unless that fear is broken off her, her compassion will be held back. Someone has excellent leadership qualities, but his pride is getting in the way. He needs to be broken. Another person is gifted with creativity and she could be a real asset to her team, but she cannot trust people, and her distrust of people is a problem to her team. She needs to be broken. Otherwise her creativity is lost. Someone else is especially gifted in analyzing and finding solutions to problems, but there’s a lot of impatience, anger and bitterness in him and people find it very hard to work with him. He needs to be broken.
- Someone is a gifted manager but she is always so affected by what people might be thinking of her. She needs to be broken. Someone has a very strong sense of justice and what’s right and what’s wrong, but he tends to be harsh, legalistic, critical and judgmental of others. He needs to be broken. Someone else is very good at getting people to work together as a team, but he is not good with self-discipline. He needs to be broken. If he cannot sort out the mess in his own life, he can’t be of much help to others. So I may be good at this and that. But I need to be broken .. again and again.
- In Jn.12:24 Jesus said unless a seed falls to the ground and die, it will remain just as a seed. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit. He who loves himself and saves himself will lose his life. But he who loses himself will gain eternal life, and you know what eternal life really is, right? I talked about that in Kingdom 22. All of us have things in us that need to be dealt with. For most of us, not just one thing but multiple things – things which we often are not aware of, until trouble happens, and then what’s hidden comes to the surface. Now when trouble exposes us for what we are, let us not try and save ourselves, but let’s be quick to go to God and confess our problem and get the grace from Him to be changed.
- For many people, they are so stubborn that even when trouble has exposed their problem they still don’t see it. Or they refuse to see it. They are in denial. Too painful to own up to what or who they really are. Have you heard of Johari’s window? Google it. Very enlightening. And nowadays, people have gotten so defensive and aggressive that they will attack others to deflect attention on themselves.
- We have to be broken again and again because there is so much self in us that refuses to die. Someone said that the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar! Irrespective of whether God will use us for His purposes, we have to be broken just so that we can be like Jesus. But if we are to be used by God, and if our lives will affect and influence many other lives, then all the more we need to be thoroughly broken.
- Ps.32:9 says, “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle, or they will not come to you.” There are people who are like the mule and there are people who are like the horse. Mules are lazy and don’t want to move. The owner has to whack the mule hard with a bridle to get it moving. Very painful. Horses on the other hand are free-spirited and full of energy and they want to gallop off on their own. Never mind which direction the owner wants it to go, or at what pace, or when it should stop. The horse has its own ideas. So the owner has to use a bit on the mouth of the horse to rein in that free spirit and energy of the horse. Again very painful.
- Someone has said that actually when it comes to working with God, horses are better than mules because it is much easier to steer a horse that is already moving than to get a mule to move. Like it is much easier to control a fire than to start one with cold and wet dead wood, isn’t it? You can’t get anything done with mules who refuse to move. I’m very much a horse sort of person, so from my perspective as a horse, the Kingdom cannot advance at all with mules. Horses of course do not like mules, and mules equally do not like horses. Horses always feel that mules are holding them back, while mules .. they always feel that horses are too impulsive and they are dragging everyone else into unnecessary trouble. But you know what, whether we are horses or mules, we both need some painful breaking, don’t we? Otherwise we are a problem and the master cannot use us, right?
- Before He comes again, Paul tells us that He will prepare for Himself a bride without spot or wrinkle. Mal.3:2-3 says, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” I think that has already begun.
- How is God going to get what He is looking for? I mean how is He going to get people who will truly become like Him? Paul told us in Rom.8 that God will use all that has gone wrong in this world to break us and God will use the fire of trials and tribulations to forge us. So if we are living and working with some really difficult people and difficult situations, we ought to thank God for them. They are being used by God to change us.
- Paul tells us in Rom.8:17, if we are to share in His glory, meaning to become like Him, then we have to share in His sufferings. We have to suffer losing things, losing people, losing friends, loved ones, being misunderstood, being rejected, ostracised, wrongly accused, betrayed, abandoned, forsaken, loneliness, taken advantage of, even physical violence and death if that is what God chooses for us, like the Christians in Rome.
- Abraham had to be broken. Jacob had to be broken. Moses had to be broken. 40 years in the desert before God could use him. David had to be broken. He was anointed to be king to replace Saul but he first had to be broken. Some Bible scholars tell us that that took about 7 – 10 years of his life in the wilderness. Peter who was so sure of himself, had to be broken before he could become a leader of the early church. Paul also had to be broken. Otherwise all the revelation given him would not be good for him or for us. Who knows, it might have changed him to go back into being Saul again, if he was not broken. You and I .. we need to be broken, again and again .. until the time when we can truly say to God like the psalmist in Ps.119:71, “It was good that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.”
These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.