Alarm Clocks, A Sovereign God, and the Power of Perspective and Practice- Purity 927
Purity 927 12/29/2022 Purity 927 Podcast
Purity 927 on YouTube:
Today’s photo of a headlight illuminated highway pathway that runs alongside the silhouette of trees, while moving towards a cross like shadow of a utility pole with the outline of the Castleton on the Hudson Bridge in the distance, comes to us from yours truly as I captured this scene during my commute home from work back on December 12th. I took a bunch of shots during that drive and am not really sure of what to do with them. Some are better than others, some are blurry, but all of them capture the magic of twilight time and each document another step in the journey of one man’s simple drive home from work that testifies to the continuous beauty and mystery of our lives.
Well, It’s Thursday and as is my old habit I am sharing this photo that features a pathway of sorts to encourage all who read or hear this message to get on our stay on the path of Christian Discipleship: to discover who you are in Christ, to experience your freedom in Christ, and to seek the Lord and to pursue the purpose that He has for your life.
However, while I do wholeheartedly make this recommendation and believe that it’s pursuit is God’s purpose for all of our lives, I have to warn you that it comes with a cost and it is a path that is meant to be travelled continuously, meaning that it is a path that you must choose for yourself, because of the cost, but it is a path that once chosen should not be forsaken. Verses like
6:4-8 (NKJV) indicate that we may not be able to come back to faith if we walk
away, the text says
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;
8 but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
This parallels the “sowing of the seed parable” where Jesus in explaining the parable to His disciples indicates that some receive the word but “become unfruitful”:
Matthew 13:20-22 (NKJV), Jesus says:
20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
So does our “falling away” of “stumbling”, lead to destruction or just an unfruitful testimony? Christ’s teachings even warn us about maintaining our freedom and victory over the spiritual forces of darkness. Describing a unclean spirit that has been cast out, Christ taught:
Matthew 12:43-45 (NKJV) that
43 "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
44 Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.
45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation."
When I taught at and later led Celebrate Freedom, a Christian recovery ministry, I would use these verses to warn about “giving into the demons of temptation” and falling into relapse and sin, and pointed to the fact that addicts often fall lower or harder, and sometimes into an early death, when they try to recover and then relapse. The state of a person who once decided to walk with God but then for whatever reason decides to not follow or not believe in the Lord always seems to be worse. Instead of “finding their freedom again”, when people walk away from God they often go further into their former darkness, bondage, or hopelessness and sometimes with immediate tragic results.
Ask me how I know…
Well, I have seen it time and time again in others as my progressive walk of discipleship has seen many traveling companions come to a certain point where they decided to abandon their faith walk for other worldly pursuits, to remain in their spiritual infancy, or to go running back to their sin, or just to walk away without ceremony. I never thought I would get “ghosted” by someone who was supposedly walking in the Spirit but it happens.
Some of these “ghosts” actually go into eternity as victims of their poor choices and others remain a mystery. In some cases, I honestly don’t know if these people who I had seen experience a measure of freedom or victory in their lives have gone on to enjoy it or if they doubted and went back to their lives of quiet desperation of depression and addiction or were revisited by their demonic “friends in low places” and are currently afflicted with condemnation and oppression.
This is why Christ emphasized obedience and endurance to His disciples. The Apostle Paul doesn’t encourage the church to seek out their salvation with fear and trembling or warn us to put on the full armor of God because we are safe. Our faith will be tested and only those who endure and decide to follow the Lord in Spirit and in truth on a continual basis will have the assurance that they will be “in that number, when the saints go marching in” to God’s kingdom.
Our faith is to be practiced as well as preached and it is a journey of constant adjustments as the Lord will continually reveal to us the errors of our ways and the things that He would have us do. It is a journey of both correction and accomplishment. The Lord has things for us to fix and He has things for us to build.
When we seek the Lord and His will for our lives, our personal lives change and the direction we follow takes us ever towards Him and His purpose for our lives.
Of course we don’t do this perfectly, and that’s okay, when we put our faith in Jesus, we have already been forgiven of everything we will ever do and are accepted into God’s kingdom. Our journey is not about perfection, it’s about being faithful to the calling and about learning from our mistakes, it’s about experiencing peace and joy while we make progress.
This morning I awoke from a “work anxiety” dream. Although I am on vacation until January 4th, I was back at work early this morning in my dreams. Nothing horrific mind you, but the dream of me at work was anxious because I was given a task that I wasn’t going to complete and would have to refer to someone else, but in the dream I desperately “wanted to do a good job” and I was struggling with the fact that I wasn’t going to “get ‘er done”. Even after I woke up from the dream, I was considering other possible solutions to the problem at hand, that didn’t exist.
After putting the brakes on my thoughts of problem solving, I wondered just how long it would be before my alarm would go off. You know how this is right?
Quite often I awaken anywhere from 30 to 15 minutes before the alarm goes off and spend that time trying get those last few minutes of sleep, with or without success. But this morning, I got the feeling that something was wrong and rather than trying to go back to sleep I checked my phone/alarm clock to discover I never set the alarm and was 2 hours past when I normally would get up.
So all my plans for my normal morning routine have been altered. I had plans to work out before Bible study, prayer, and blogging and was upset for a few moments before I “practiced” my faith.
Just like a karate expert who knows how to defend himself from enemy attacks, I went into action by combatting the reactivity and beginnings of condemnation with a one two punch of the truth.
I am on vacation, I can do whatever I want, in the order I want, any time today.
I can work out later. I can take a “rest day”.
As for my spiritual practices, they are somewhat non-negotiable but because I am not a perfect person who has made similar mistakes in the past or been distracted and not managed my time wisely at all times, I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world and I would do what I could, because I know from my previous experiences at being less than perfect that “we can only do what we can do”.
So although I felt the urgency to start blogging, I decided that my Bible Study had to come first. There is nothing like the word of God to cool your jets and to make you realize what is important. When you read the word, you can rest assured that no matter what else transpires that day, at least you did something of value and usually it will help us to remind us that as compelling as this world and our problems can be there is a Sovereign God above it all who has called us to be at peace with Him and He knows how everything will turn out.
So was my forgetting to set my alarm on my phone God’s will?
Well, it happened, so if nothing else it was “allowed” and who knows maybe it was intended to disrupt my regular routine… maybe He wanted to get my attention, maybe He wanted to remind me that I am not perfect, that I am weak while He is strong… or maybe this was just a lesson to myself to be diligent to set the alarm!
Well, I’m not sure about that stuff but as I “practiced” shifting my perspective and prioritizing my tasks I experienced the peace that comes from knowing that I am already accepted by God, I am positively blessed with where I am right now in life, I have an incredible past to marvel over, and I anticipate more of God’s wonder sand love in the days ahead.
My morning Bible study was in Jerimiah 5 and 2 Kings 22 which just so happen to teach about harsh warnings to follow the Lord and rediscovering faith. They taught that there are negative consequences for those who don’t follow the Lord and that, for some, it is not too late to rediscover the word of God and to be blessed by the Lord when we answer His call to repentance.
It's the end of the year, and I noticed once again, (has it always been this way?), the messages of mourning the “very bad” year we have had and other messages that are welcoming 2023 with fear, suspicion, and trepidation.
I have seen friends suffer loss this year so I get it, some of us are hurting and I suppose it is “compassionate” to share these well intentioned messages of doom and fear, but honestly because I have learned to walk in the Spirit and have learned to keep things in perspective, it positively puzzles me why the basic practices of gratitude and shifting our perspective to consider the plights of those even worse off than “lil’ of me” haven’t been widely disseminated to the masses.
But then I remember, why the prophets of old, like Jerimiah, had to speak of impending judgement. People don’t believe in the Lord. People don’t follow the Lord. They don’t know if there is anything to believe in and they don’t know if there is anything beyond the circumstances of their immediate lives. And they certainly don’t know about the mental, physical, and spiritual consequences for their decision to live independently form God.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and if we disregard what His word says and fail to believe and follow Him our lives will be a progression or tragedy and woe as we age and continue to lose the things of this world that passing away as we march ever closer to eternity. Without an eternal perspective, we will lament over every bump in the road or negative circumstance that we suffer because we have chosen to worship our personal happiness and the things that we can manipulate to produce it.
So forgive me for seeming harsh and suggesting that people “get over it” when I see these well intentioned but sorry laments over the “very bad year it has been”.
From someone who has been through the crucible of a life lived in the errors of atheism, addiction, false worship, and sexual immorality and who has suffered the pain of loss of loved ones to death and from broken relationships and who has seen the national tragedies of 9/11 and the recent paradigm shifting world changing waves of a global pandemic, I don’t see how 2022 was a particularly bad year.
Of course, I understand the personal tragedies I have suffered didn’t fall within the last 365 days, but I would continue to object to any messages that would encourage people to focus on the pain of the year past and actuallyfear the new year, instead of a giving a message of hope that is based on the reality of God, His Creation, and His plan for humanity and that encourages us to consider others more than ourselves and to thank the Lord for all that He has done, even in the storms of life, and all that He will do in the future.
Without God, life is a bitter shame. So if you have suffered and have had a bad year, let me encourage you to make Christ your Lord and Savior, or to recommit yourself to Him, and make the decision to never walk alone again, to make to make the decision to keep on walking and talking with God, forever and always.
There might be a cost for the new life in Christ but the dividends for investing yourself into His kingdom are the peace that goes beyond all understanding and joy that comes from knowing you are accepted, secure, and significant with God.
Well, I’m short on time this morning because I overslept so I’m taking a vacation from sharing the “Bible Verse of the Day from the “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”, or from the “Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling” By John G. Krus but I do encourage you to read the Bible every day, for yourself.
I am including a link to Ligonier Ministries: “Bible Reading Plans for 2023” ( https://www.ligonier.org/posts/bible-reading-plans?fbclid=IwAR0aVs0a31ebdwexS1-N9i-dwV5v45fVTH5zoKCHsnmCPJnDks9fY9AjWsQ) as an encouragement to read the word this year - to have a plan, if you need one, to draw close to God through His word to experience the power that He wants to unleash into your life.
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 Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship
The Image of Christ, concludes
The form of Christ on earth is the form of the death [Todesgestalt] of the crucified one. The image of God is the image of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is into this image that the disciple’s life must be transformed. It is a life in the image and likeness of Christ’s death (Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:4f.). It is a crucified life (Gal. 2:19). In baptism Christ engraves the form of death on his own. Having died to the flesh and to sin, Christians are now dead to this world, and the world is dead for them (Gal. 6:14). Those who live out of their baptism live out of their death. Christ marks the life of his own with their daily dying in the struggle of the spirit against the flesh, and with their daily suffering the pains of death which the devil inflicts on Christians. It is the suffering of none other than Jesus Christ that all of his disciples on earth have to endure. Christ honors only a few of his followers with being in the most intimate community with his suffering, that is, with martyrdom. It is here that the life of the disciple is most profoundly identical with the likeness of Jesus Christ’s form of death.
¶ It is by Christians’ being publicly disgraced, having to suffer and being put to death for the sake of Christ, that Christ himself attains visible form within his community. However, from baptism all the way to martyrdom, it is the same suffering and the same death. It is the new creation of the image of God through the crucified one.
All those who remain in community with the incarnate and crucified one and in whom he gained his form will also become like the glorified and risen one. “We will bear the image of the heavenly human being” (1 Cor. 15:49). “We will be like him, for we will behold him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The image of the risen one will transform those who look at it in the same way as the image of the crucified one. Those who behold Christ are being drawn into Christ’s image, changed into the likeness of Christ’s form. Indeed, they become mirrors of the divine image. Already on this earth we will reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. The brilliant light and the life of the risen one will already shine forth from the form of death of the crucified one in which we live, in the form of sorrow and cross. The transformation into the divine image will become ever more profound, and the image of Christ in us will continue to increase in clarity. This is a progression in us from one level of understanding to another and from one degree of clarity to another, toward an ever-increasing perfection in the form of likeness to the image of the Son of God. “And all of us, who with unveiled faces let the glory of the Lord be reflected in us, are thereby transformed into his image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
This is the indwelling of Jesus Christ in our hearts. The life of Jesus Christ here on earth has not yet concluded. Christ continues to live it in the lives of his followers. To describe this reality we must not speak about our Christian life but about the true life of Jesus Christ in us. “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The incarnate, crucified, and transfigured one has entered into me and lives my life. “Christ is my life” (Phil. 1:21). But together with Christ, the Father also dwells in me; and both Father and Son dwell in me through the Holy Spirit. It is indeed the holy Trinity who dwells within Christians, who permeates them and changes them into the very image of the triune God. The incarnate, the crucified, and the transfigured Christ takes on form in individuals because they are members of his body, the church. The church bears the incarnate, crucified, and risen form of Jesus Christ. The church is, first of all, Christ’s image (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), and through the church so too are all its members the image of Christ. Within the body of Christ we have become “like Christ.”
It now becomes understandable that the New Testament calls us again and again to be “like Christ” (καθὼς Χριστός). We are to be like Christ because we have already been shaped into the image of Christ. Only because we bear Christ’s image already can Christ be the “example” whom we follow. Only because he himself already lives his true life in us can we “walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6), “act as he acted” (John 13:15), “love as he loved” (Eph. 5:2; John 13:34; 15:12), “forgive as he forgave” (Col. 3:13), “have the same mind that was in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:5), follow the example he left for us (1 Peter 2:21), and lose our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters, just as he lost his life for our sake (1 John 3:16). Only because he was as we are can we be as he was. Only because we already are made like him can we be “like Christ.” Since we have been formed in the image of Christ, we can live following his example. On this basis, we are now actually able to do those deeds, and in the simplicity of discipleship, to live life in the likeness of Christ. Here simple obedience to the word takes place. I no longer cast even a single glance on my own life, on the new image I bear. For in the same moment that I would desire to see it, I would lose it. For it is, of course, merely the mirror reflection of the image of Jesus Christ upon which I look without ceasing. The followers look only to the one whom they follow. But now the final word about those who as disciples bear the image of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Jesus Christ, and who have been transformed into the image of God, is that they are called to be “imitators of God.” The follower [Nachfolger] of Jesus is the imitator [Nachahmer] of God. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).
Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!
at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts
(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com.
These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MT4Christ247
Email me at email@example.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.
My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)
“The views, opinions, and commentary of this publication are those of the author, M.T. Clark, only, and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any of the photographers, artists, ministries, or other authors of the other works that may be included in this publication, and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities the author may represent.”
Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 285–288.