Children of God Without God

Well, another week has come and gone. It’s another week since we’ve planted the church. Another week since my Father-in-law died and has gone to be with the Lord. It’s another week since we have moved from Atwater Village to Glendale. And it’s another week of trying to discern where the Lord is leading us as Ethos Communion Church. There is a potential space for us to gather in Gardena. And we had a meeting with the owners of that space this week. There are no real details to announce, it was just a meeting to meet each other and to see if our visions are aligned; and to seek the Lord to discern his direction, and his guidance. And it was interesting because the owner, who is also a pastor, shared with me that he feels like Abraham, when the Lord called him to leave his hometown, saying, “I’m not going to tell you where you’re going to end up, I just want you to trust me and leave.” And if you know my story, that is exactly what I’m doing as well.

This past week, I was feeling some anxiety. It took me a while to investigate it, to figure it out, I guess you can say. And I got to a point, where I couldn’t figure it out. And so, the only thing I could do, was pray, “Search me O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any evil way in me, and Lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). This is definitely a season of testing for me. In some ways, nothing crazy is happening to me, I think. But I do feel like Jesus, when before he began his ministry, Satan tempted him in all kinds of ways. And if you look at the temptations in Matthew 4, the first two temptations have to do with identity. The devil said, “IF….you are the Son of God…” and then again, “IF…you are the Son of God….” So much of our sin, happens, when we forget who we are. The Devil tried to twist Jesus’ identity. He tried to deceive Jesus into thinking he could be the Son of God without God. The first temptation had to do with sustenance (turn this rock into food). The second temptation had to do with security (throw yourself down and angels will protect you). Do you see what he was doing? He was trying to separate the Son of God from God. That is, he was trying to get Jesus away from depending on the Father, and to instead depend on himself.

I realize, this is the root of sin. Independence from God. Self-reliance. Self-confidence. Thinking whether intentionally, but usually it’s unintentional, accidental even, “I don’t need God. I can do it myself. I don’t need your help God.” Again, usually, it’s not intentional. But somehow the Devil tricks us (he is tricksy) into thinking we can be children of God, without God. “Oh sure, I’m a Christian. I’m a child of God,” we say when asked. But we are more like prodigal children, who leave the Father, and would rather do life on our own.

And the ironic thing is this way of thinking, thinking I can be a child of God without God, is the source of so much of our anxiety. Living a self-reliant life is scary. Living a self-reliant life is heavy. This week, I could literally feel pressure on my chest, on my heart. It made me understand how heart attacks happen. There is a psychosomatic relationship between our body and soul. What we do with our soul affects our body. And so this week, that was my temptation: to be a son of God, a child of God, without God. To carry the weight of life, without God. Feeling the burden, the pressure, and acting like I had to deal with it all on my own.

The thing that delivered me from my anxiety this week, was the concept of a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). What is a living sacrifice? It’s a paradox. A living sacrifice is dead…and…alive at the same time. But it’s not so much dead, it’s more willing to be dead. That is, the will dies. It is coming to the Father, and saying, “Here….I’m here…my life…I give it up….it’s yours.” You allow something in you to die. You allow the self-will, the self-reliance to die. You surrender. But it’s not just giving up as if you lost. You do it with hope. You do it with joy. You do it in freedom because you know this sacrifice is the way to life. It is a living sacrifice. In fact, this sacrifice is the only way to live. It is to live as Jesus did; in total dependence upon the Father. He never did anything the Father had not asked him to do (John 5:19). Jesus, the Son of God never had an independent thought. Well, he certainly, had temptations to. But in the end, his life was one continual living sacrifice, even to the very end when he prayed, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Luke 23:46).

To offer yourself as a living sacrifice is more than just words. Something really does have to happen, internally. In your heart, in your soul. Where you actually give something to God. You do give him your heart. You do give him you soul. You give him your life. There is a very real sense in which you die. This is what the Bible calls “the flesh.” That part of you that wants to live life independently from God so much so that it actually leads to death, because it leads you away from the source, the only source of life which is God the Father.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)

This is the way to the Spirit-filled life. This is the Christ-centered life. The Christ-like life. This is abiding in the Vine. It is crucifying the flesh, that is, that part of you that has an independent will. That part of you that wants to be a child of God without God. Or more specifically, that part of you that wants to be a child of God without submitting to God…surrendering to God…absolutely depending on God for every breath that you take. So the Spirit-filled life is when you can say, “I am not my own. I’ve been bought by the blood of Jesus” (1Corinthians 6.19-20).

As the catechism says, this is our only hope in life and death.

That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood,
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil.

He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me
of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1

If you are weary, and heavy laden. Full of anxiety. If you feel harassed and helpless. Lost like a sheep without a shepherd. Come and give your life to Jesus. Surrender to him, and allow him to carry you with his everlasting arms. The Devil tricks us into thinking we can handle all of life on our own. The truth is, you can’t because you are nothing but a child. You are a child of God, created to live in dependence upon him always. That’s why Jesus came. To bring us back to depending on the Father.

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