Within or Without

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‘Do you see the will of God as outside you, or as in-built? Is it something you are meant to be doing for God, or is it mainly something God is doing in you? ’

I have been mulling over these questions this week. Thinking about how my attitude towards myself, others and God reflects my answers to the questions. The will of God is as big a concept as it is a minute and detailed one. There are two major ways of viewing God’s will; the panoramic view of the will of God encompassing plans for humanity as a whole, the story woven from creation right through to eternity. Or, the individual 20/20 vision of the will of God encompassing our daily decisions and lifestyle choices, how we practically walk out what we perceive to be God’s will for us individually in each moment.

I believe the will of God is not just something worked from without, but a mixture of within and without. It is working with God for God.

If we believe His will is something solely outside of us it is easy for us to become detached and distanced from involvement in it. Our responsibility to see His will worked out in our lives and in our world somehow seems ethereal, a product of Holy Spirit direction and not a collaborative effort with our own co-operation. In this instance, His will is external and aimed at reaching those around us; we take a backseat in the great cosmic plan. We retreat back to the age old refrain ‘the will of God is not about us…’

But, I think the will of God has everything to do with us and everything to do with Him. It is in-built within us from the day we were born. We have an innate desire to not only be with God, in His presence and in His glory, but to serve Him for a purpose much bigger than ourselves. To be creative in how we live out the story of our lives, to be like Him.

To be like Him means that we need to allow God to do something in us. Therefore, His will is not just something we are doing for God; it is something He is doing in us.

The will of God from without;

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’– 2 Peter 3 v 9

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’– John 3 v 16

The will of God from within;

‘For those God foreknew He also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’– Romans 8 v 29

‘For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’– Philippians 2 v 13

Within and without, with and for– God is working out His will in our lives.

Through a Glass, Darkly

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To really see is to really love. When we understand a person, love comes. It is hard to hate or despise someone when we understand their perspective, understand their reality and understand their pain.

It is rare to be truly seen in this day and age. To be seen and known by another is the desire of countless hearts across the nations of this world. Both believers and unbelievers battle through this life feeling unseen and unknown by the people around them.

But God sees.

We need to earnestly desire to see people the way that God sees them. To look deeper than their outer appearance and perceive their heart.

This means looking at people who anger us, persecute us, ridicule us, deliberately hurt and disrespect us as those that Jesus died and rose again for.

Imagine Jesus choosing to dine with them, choosing to heal them, to teach them and beckoning them to follow Him. Because that is what He did; He came to seek and to save those who are lost, to expose darkness to light.

As we encounter difficult and challenging people in our lives we would do well to consider this;

That person who explodes with anger at any mention of God, who is quick to persecute through violent means anyone who professes faith in Christ.

– A potential passionate, fearless preacher and proclaimer of the gospel of Christ?

That person who is greedy for money; who readily and regularly exploits the poor for selfish gain and self-promotion.

– A potential kind, generous provider of money and resources to spread the gospel and protect the poor?

That person who lives a life of violence and destruction, who bullies and coerces others into submission to wicked schemes.

– A humble, gentle and honest believer who demonstrates powerfully the love and grace of God to all they meet?

This calls for a Selah moment. We need to pause and consider these things.

To think like this is to grow up in Christ, to put away childish thoughts and think as an adult in the kingdom of God. To aspire to more than just seeing through a glass darkly.

‘Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.’ – 1 Timothy 1 v 13

We have all experienced a measure of this. We have all walked in ignorance and unbelief.

We must show mercy if we want to receive mercy.

I believe with all my heart that those who show the most hatred for Jesus are the ones that are ripe for a life changing encounter with Him. Jesus sees and He knows the glorious future He has in mind for them.

Like the woman at the well, if they knew the gift of God, they would ask Him…and He would give them living water (John 4 v 10).

Without a vision the people perish. If we do not have a vision for the transformation of unbelievers, they will perish.

Transformation is in the eyes of God.

‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.’- 1 Timothy 1 v 15-16

Do you see a person transformed?