What do we “Get ‘er Done First?” - Purity 840
Purity 840 09/18/2022 Purity 840Podcast
Today’s photo of a magnificent sunset over Lake Ontario in Oswego, which I will take the liberty of calling “August Departs” comes to us from Celestial Blue Photography who captured this last sunset of the month and shared it on social media back on August 31st.
Well It’s the 19th of September and although its been a while since August departed it is still officially summer until Thursday but I won’t be looking for any last minute summer time fun as the next few days will be filled with work during the day and ministry opportunities at night and so now I am in the midst of the fine art of juggling and prioritizing my tasks in order to be fully prepared and effective to perform what’s expected of me in the days and nights ahead.
And so comes the question, what do we “get ‘er done, first?”
Yeah when we look at the calendar and look at all the things we have to do sometimes we can easily be overwhelmed and perplexed about how we are to accomplish what we need to without being a total wreck.
I’m still a work in progress, as we all are and will be until Christ returns or welcomes us into His kingdom, but one of the things that I have learned on the path of Christian discipleship is that “perfection” and results is not a thing we have to worry about. But at the same time we don’t necessarily want to be accused of not putting forth our best efforts when we seek to represent the kingdom of God with the ways we live our lives.
So thus another set of paradoxes to life in the Spirit:
· We want to care about what we are doing but not care so much that we stress ourselves, and others, out to the point we lose our peace
· We want to press in to do a good job but we should realize that our work will never be perfect and we will have to be aware of our limitations and have peace with what we actually can do
· We may want to do many things and we may want to do things well but we may have to realize that if we agree to do too many, we won’t be able to do them all as well as we like.
· We may want to kick back and relax but it may be better to work, or We may want to work but won’t be effective in our work unless we get some rest.
Now these challenges of life and work are more or less universal but as Christians who want to live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit – the way we “get ‘er done”, the ways we rest, the ways we get results, and the way we prioritize things matter.
While the world will justify their means by their ends and put the overall emphasis on the end results and possibly ride an emotional roller coaster ride to get there, our walk with Christ and the proof of our maturity as Christians will be demonstrated by our ability to maintain our peace and joy in the midst of the process of completing what we need to accomplish.
So we have to keep connected to the Lord and be wise and discerning in choosing our path and although we want to be disciplined in our lifestyles of faith we don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t think outside of the box and change the ways we normally do things when met with challenges that will require a little juggling or a reprioritizing of our goals.
This morning I had to make the decision to forgo my normal morning exercise routine because I didn’t make enough head way in a ministry project I was working on over the weekend and as I looked at the calendar I could see that time would be scarce over the next week and I had to “find the time” somewhere.
Yesterday afternoon I was faced with the fact that this ministry work hadn’t gotten done and I had a decision to make yesterday. Do I press in on Sunday afternoon to get it done or do I spend time with my wife. I chose my wife over the ministry work and I don’t regret it.
So yesterday I chose my wife over the ministry work and today I chose the work over the exercise. And the lesson I learned today is that in order to avoid having to compromise in my regular routine, I will have to “find the time” to accomplish these ministry work projects in a way that doesn’t interfere with the other things that matter to me. So in examining my time, I realize that there are places where I can make adjustments to put it all together in a way that runs smoothly by doing a little bit each day o rather than leaving things undone and scrambling at the last minute.
That was sort of the way I did things in the past. Work hard, play hard. Leave things undone to the last minute and then run around angry and stressed out to get things done at the last minute. The thing that was always the problem back then was selfishness. When I though about projects, I would think – “I don’t want to!” and would do what ever pleased me, all of which was not productive at all. It wasn’t like I shirked work responsibilities to do something else that was good, necessary, or productive. No I would watch TV, or drink, or eat, or play video games or all of the above….It was all about entertaining myself.
But since coming to Christ and attempting to live according to His ways, I realize how foolish I was and how my selfishness led to negative consequences personally and in all of my relationships. I spent most of my time doing what I wanted but some how I didn’t have any lasting sense or peace because I wasn’t wise to take be a good steward of the things that God had given me and eventually lost it all.
Ironically, I lost it all when I decided to follow the Lord. You would think I would have lost my former home, marriage, and most of my possessions because of my alcoholism and rollercoaster of emotions of depression, anger, and anxiety but I only lost all of those things when I finally saw the light and decided to stop being in bondage to my addictions and emotions by surrendering to the Lord. Unfortunately, the ex wasn’t with the program and even though I didn’t try to change her, she wasn’t content to be with the new me and demanded a divorce.
So in the process of building a new life I have learned when to work and when to rest and how to prioritize my life in a way where the Lord is at the center of it and even though there has been a lot of changes to my life in the past few years I would say that through it all I have had a peace that goes beyond all understanding because I was diligent to stay in the Lord’s presence, to let go and let God, and to do the best I could with my part of this relationship. And even though I might have to do some juggling at times to “get ‘er done”, somehow there is always a measure of peace and joy as I keep ”walking and talking with God.”
Well the clock tells me that my time management isn’t perfect yet and I will have to skip sharing that verse of the day for “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men” like I usually do but I’ll give you this one. It might be out of context from it’s part of the Bible’s narrative but it was on my heart as I was writing so here it is, Christ said in:
27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid..
Christ came to give us peace and I have found that when you follow Him you find it. So keep walling and talking with God. You don’t have to be troubled or afraid but the pathway to peace requires you follow the One who came to give it to you.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
Psalm 18:28 (NLT2)
28 You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness.
Today’s Bible verse speaks of the illuminating power of God.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
The Call to Discipleship - Continued
The concept of a situation in which faith is possible is only a description of the reality contained in the following two statements, both of which are equally true: only the believers obey, and only the obedient believe.
It is really unfaithfulness to the Bible to have the first statement without the second. Only the believer obeys—we think we can understand that. Of course, obedience follows faith, the way good fruit comes from a good tree, we say. First there is faith, then obedience. If this meant only that faith alone justifies us and not deeds of obedience, then it is a firm and necessary precondition for everything else. But if it meant a chronological sequence, that faith would have to come first, to be later followed by obedience, then faith and obedience are torn apart, and the very practical question remains open: when does obedience start? Obedience remains separated from faith. Because we are justified by faith, faith and obedience have to be distinguished. But their division must never destroy their unity, which lies in the reality that faith exists only in obedience, is never without obedience. Faith is only faith in deeds of obedience.
Because talk about obedience as a consequence of faith is unseemly, due to the indissoluble unity between faith and obedience, the statement “only the believers obey” has to be paired with the other one, “only the obedient believe.” In the first, faith is the precondition of obedience; in the second, obedience is the precondition of faith. In exactly the same way that obedience is called a consequence of faith, it is also called a prerequisite of faith.
Only the obedient believe. A concrete commandment has to be obeyed, in order to come to believe. A first step of obedience has to be taken, so that faith does not become pious self-deception, cheap grace. The first step is crucial. It is qualitatively different from all others that follow. The first step of obedience has to lead Peter away from his nets and out of the boat; it has to lead the young man away from his wealth. Faith is possible only in this new state of existence created by obedience.
This first step should, to begin with, be viewed as an external deed which exchanges one mode of existence for another. Anyone can take that step. People are free to do that. It is a deed within the iustitia civilis [civil justice], within which people are free. Peter cannot convert himself, but he can leave his nets. In the Gospels that first step consists of a deed which affects all of one’s life. The Roman church required such a step only for the exceptional alternative of monasticism. For the other faithful it was enough to be willing to subject themselves unconditionally to the church and its commands. In the Lutheran confessions the importance of a first step is recognized in a significant way: after they thoroughly removed the danger of a synergistic misunderstanding, space could be kept and had to be kept for that first external deed required to enable faith—the step, in this case, to the church, where the word of salvation is preached. This step can be taken in full freedom. Come to the church! You can do that on the strength of your human freedom. You can leave your house on Sunday and go to hear the preaching. If you do not do it, then you willfully exclude yourself from the place where faith is possible. In this the Lutheran confessions show that they know there is a situation which enables faith and one in which faith is not possible. To be sure, this knowledge is very hidden here, almost as if they were ashamed of it, but it is present as one and the same knowledge of the significance of the first step as an external deed.
Once this knowledge is ascertained, then something else must be acknowledged, namely, that this first step as an external deed is and remains a dead work of the law, which can by itself never lead to Christ. As an external deed, the new existence just remains the old existence. At best, a new law of life, a new lifestyle, is reached, which has nothing to do with the new life in Christ. The alcoholic who gives up alcohol or the rich man who gives away his money are truly freed from alcohol and money, but not from themselves. They remain as their old selves, maybe even more so than before. Subject to the demand for works, they remain in the death of their old lives. The works do have to be done, but by themselves they do not lead out of death, disobedience, and godlessness. If we ourselves understand our first step as a precondition for grace, for faith, then we are judged by our works and completely cut off from grace. Everything we call convictions or good intentions is included in those external deeds, everything which the Roman church calls facere quod in se est [to do what is in oneself, i.e., to act according to one’s own abilities]. If we take the first step with the intention of putting ourselves into the situation of being able to believe, then even this ability to believe is itself nothing but works. It is but a new possibility for living within our old existence and thereby a complete misunderstanding. We remain in unbelief.
But the external works have to take place; we have to get into the situation of being able to believe. We have to take the step. What does that mean? It means that we take this step in the right way only when we do not look to the necessity of our works, but solely with a view to the word of Jesus Christ, which calls us to take the step. Peter knows that he cannot climb out of the boat by his own power. His first step would already be his downfall, so he calls, “Command me to come to you on the water.” Christ answers, “Come.” Christ has to have called; the step can be taken only at his word. This call is his grace, which calls us out of death into the new life of obedience. But now that Christ has called, Peter has to get out of the boat to come to Christ. So it is, indeed, the case that the first step of obedience is itself an act of faith in Christ’s word. But it would completely misrepresent the essence of faith to conclude that that step is no longer necessary, because in that step there had already been faith. To the contrary, we must venture to state that the step of obedience must be done first, before there can be faith. The disobedient cannot have faith.
You complain that you cannot believe? No one should be surprised that they cannot come to believe so long as, in deliberate disobedience, they flee or reject some aspect of Jesus’ commandment. You do not want to subject some sinful passion, an enmity, a hope, your life plans, or your reason to Jesus’ commandment? Do not be surprised that you do not receive the Holy Spirit, that you cannot pray, that your prayer for faith remains empty! Instead, go and be reconciled with your sister or brother; let go of the sin which keeps you captive; and you will be able to believe again! If you reject God’s commanding word, you will not receive God’s gracious word. How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.
Here the gracious call of Jesus Christ to discipleship becomes a strict law: Do this! Stop that! Come out of the boat to Jesus! Jesus says to anyone who uses their faith or lack of faith to excuse their acts of disobedience to his call: First obey, do the external works, let go of what binds you, give up what is separating you from God’s will! Do not say, I do not have the faith for that. You will not have it so long as you remain disobedient, so long as you will not take that first step. Do not say, I have faith, so I do not have to take the first step. You do not have faith, because and so long as you will not take that first step. Instead, you have hardened yourself in disbelief under the appearance of humble faith. It is an evil excuse to point from inadequate obedience to inadequate faith, and from inadequate faith to inadequate obedience. It is the disobedience of the “faithful” if they confess their unbelief where their obedience is required and if they play games with that confession (Mark 9:24). You believe—so take the first step! It leads to Jesus Christ. You do not believe—take the same step; it is commanded of you! The question of your belief or unbelief is not yours to ask. The works of obedience are required and must be done immediately. The situation is given in which faith becomes possible and really exists.
Actually, it is not the works which create faith. Instead, you are given a situation in which you can have faith. The point is to get into such a situation, so that faith is true faith and not self-deception. Because the only goal is to have true faith in Jesus Christ, because faith alone is and remains the goal (“out of faith into faith,” Rom. 1:17), this is an indispensable situation. Anyone who protests too quickly and in too Protestant a manner should be asked whether or not they are defending cheap grace. In fact the two statements, if they remain juxtaposed, will not offend true faith, but if each is taken alone it would cause serious offense. Only the believers obey—that is said to the obedient person inside the believer. Only the obedient believe—that is said to believers in their obeying. If the first statement remains alone, the believer is prey to cheap grace, that is, damnation. If the second statement remains alone, the believers are prey to their works, that is, damnation.
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 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 63–67.