WORSHIPPING AT THE ALTAR OF MY INADEQUACIES, MY FAILURES, MY SIN (Prt 1) by Doug Fortune
Itinerant ministers and pastors are not supposed to write things like this. We’re supposed to keep up a good ‘front’ you know. After all, WE are the ones with all the answers (smile).
At the risk of exposing my humanity and perhaps tarnishing my ‘halo’ a bit, I believe I have a confession to make. I have found myself worshipping at a particular ‘altar’ at times… the altar of my inadequacies, my failures and my sin. About now you may be thinking, What on earth are you talking about, Doug?.. have you totally lost it? Allow me to explain. Perhaps you will admit that you have been at the same altar at times.
“To wit, that God was IN Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) Hmmm, it would seem that Father does not impute trespasses, so why do I? Why is it that my focus is so often on my inadequacies, my failures and my sin? Granted, I do know a few people that it would probably do them some good to first even admit that they DO actually have some inadequacies, failures and sin! But that’s another article altogether. So why do I find myself in this frame of mind? Perhaps it is because I have made a ‘god’ out of them? Have I somehow mentally ascribed more power to sin than to Christ? By my focusing on my sin, have I perhaps inadvertently cast a doubt upon the absolute and total efficacy of the blood of Christ and the power of His resurrection Life? Have I created a ‘mountain’ in my mind that looks insurmountable, with little hope of conquering it?
Something inside me must rise up and decree, “For who are you, O great mountain [of human obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel… you shall become a plain [a mere molehill]! And he shall bring forth the finishing gable stone [of the new temple] with loud shoutings of the people, crying, Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:7 Amplified Bible) My spiritual ‘mountain’ of humanity and sin is in fact a mere molehill! Whenever my focus is more on my inadequacies, failures and sin than it is on Christ and His finished work of the cross, then I am practicing idolatry. Why does it always have to be all about MY inadequacies, MY failures, MY sin… me, Me, ME! It is such a subtle form of spiritual pride. To the immature it looks like humility, but it wreaks of the stench of spiritual pride. Not only that, it is certainly the tool of the enemy to get me to focus on SELF rather than Christ. HE must be my all in all!
Father has declared that “HE shall bring forth the FINISHING gable STONE [of the new temple] with loud shoutings of the people, crying, Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:7 Amplified Bible) Of course we know that WE are the new Temple, and the King James refers to the finishing gable stone as the HEADSTONE. Christ indeed is the HEAD (Ephesians 1:22) and the STONE that the builders rejected (Matthew 21:42). Christ IS the the HEADSTONE! Father has declared that HE shall bring forth Christ, the Headstone, and place Him in His rightful place as the Finishing Head of His new Temple, a Temple not made with hands. And how does He declare He will do it?… by Grace, GRACE! He declares that it will NOT be “…by might, nor by power, but BY My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
Now then, as I seek to turn my focus away from my performance, am I somehow covertly condoning bad behavior? With Paul, I would say, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God FORBID. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1) I am not saying that I should simply ignore sin, I AM saying, “For He hath made Him to BE SIN for us, Who knew no sin; that we might BE MADE the righteousness of God IN HIM.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus Christ, the sinless perfect Son of God was made to BE SIN for us, totally apart from His behavior. He became what I was (sin). He did not have to sin in order to be sin for me. If Father could make His sinless perfect Son to be sin, and it did not depend upon Jesus’ behavior, can He not make me to be the righteousness of God regardless of my behavior? He became what I was (sin), in order that I may become what He IS (the righteousness of God)… and this is not based upon behavior, rather it is based upon my being IN HIM. Everything is based upon my being IN HIM.
Could it possibly be that Father has allowed some inadequecy and failure, some God-ordained character flaws to remain in me for a purpose? (I don’t believe His intention is to allow it to remain permanently, however.) I know that the very thought of this concept might make my religious ‘skin crawl’, but as I look at most every major character in the Bible there seems to be some type of character flaw that is evident. Just look at Abraham, Moses, Sampson, King David, and Peter to name a few… the list could easily go on. All used mightily of God, all with character flaws.
“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was MARRED in the hand of the potter: so he made it again ANOTHER vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” (Jeremiah 18:3-4) Notice where the vessel was when it was marred- IN THE HAND of the potter! I know I am definitely in the hand of the Potter, marred as I may be. I also know that the Potter’s intention is to make me again into ANOTHER vessel, into a New Creation, He doesn’t want to leave me the way I am. However, whether I focus upon my being made into another vessel, or focus upon the marred vessel that I appear to be, my focus is still OUT of focus. My focus must be upon the Potter, and the Potter alone. It’s NOT about the vessel, it is ALL about the Potter!
Paul says it this way, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and NOT OF US.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Father specifically uses these ‘earthen vessels’ that we are so that the focus is upon the Treasure, which is Christ IN us. I believe He specifically uses marred vessels so that it is crystal clear that the excellency of the power is of God, and NOT OF US! Perhaps He even allows some inadequecy and failure, some God-ordained character flaws to remain in me for a time, specifically so that people will focus on Him and not on me? If I struggle with a propensity toward anger, but should happen respond to a potentially explosive situation with love and kindness, people will know it is of God and not of me!
If Father can bring Light out of my darkness, then that is something to marvel at. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Father commands Light out of my darkness to bring forth the knowledge of the glory of God! Darkness has no choice but to give way to His Light.
So, let us continue to explore this possibility that Father has allowed some inadequacy and failure, some God-ordained character flaws (an enemy!) to remain in me for a purpose. What on earth could He be thinking? If you are at all familiar with my writings, then you are familiar with the concept of our enemies becoming our enablers; “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine ENEMIES thy FOOTSTOOL.” (Psalms 110:1) I am rather short in stature, so I have a great affinity for footstools.
To give us a frame of reference for what I am about to say, I will quote from my book entitled “Intimacy & Adversity- Footstools of the Kingdom”.
“What I lack in height, I make up for in ingenuity. You see, I use a very amazing device which enables me to reach things that I could not reach otherwise… a footstool. The footstool enables me to reach new heights. My friend, God has a destiny for you that is much higher than you can imagine. And on your own, you cannot reach the thing which He has called you to. Therefore He has provided you with the very thing you need to ascend to the high calling of your destiny in Christ. And what might that be, you ask?… a FOOTSTOOL!
* Moses would have never risen into his destiny without a ‘footstool’ named Pharoh.
* Joseph would have never risen into his destiny without the ‘footstool’ of his brothers.
* Gideon would have never risen into his destiny without a ‘footstool’ called the Midianites.
* David would have never risen into his destiny without the ‘footstool’ of Goliath and King Saul.
* Esther would have never risen into her destiny without a ‘footstool’ named Haman.
Let us look at Jesus Christ for a moment also. His enemies conspired for three years until He was finally brought before Pilate. Due to His enemies’ efforts He was severely beaten. This enabled Him to fulfill Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Then they managed to get Him crucified. This enabled Him to set all of humanity free from sin and death. I ask you, could Jesus have fulfilled His destiny without Judas? I realize that question probably evokes strong emotion and perhaps even repulsion.
Don’t take me wrong here, though. Am I saying that Judas was just a swell guy after all? Certainly NOT! Does that make what Judas did right? Certainly NOT! Am I saying that we should somehow search out and invite the evil our enemies would seek to inflict upon us? Certainly NOT (I’m not crazy)! I’m not advocating some kind of weird persecution complex either. I do believe however, that without His enemies, Jesus could not have fulfilled His destiny, which was cloaked in “the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would NOT have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8) I also believe that WE are no different. We will never fulfill our destiny without the ‘footstool’ of our enemies…
Once we begin to understand the PURPOSE of these ‘footstools’, which is to enable us to rise to our destiny, it will help answer a lot of those nagging thoughts that can so easily plague us when we encounter difficulty. With an accurate understanding of PURPOSE, we can begin to declare, “If God be for us, who can be against us?… Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth…. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than CONQUERORS through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:31, 33, 35, 37) (End of quote)
Just what if Father intends to utilize not only ‘outside’ enemies to launch us into a higher place… what if He has purposed that the enemies that are IN-a-ME are designed to serve the same purpose? What exactly IS this footstool (an enemy IN a ME!) intended to do? I believe that the book of Hebrews may give us some insight.
“But THIS MAN, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” (Hebrews 10:12-13) And Who is THIS MAN? This Man is the same man that said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men UNTO ME. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” (John 12:32-33) This Man is the man Christ Jesus that drew us to Himself on the cross, that we might experience ‘death’ through His death; “We know that our old (unrenewed) self WAS nailed to the cross WITH Him…” (Romans 6:6 Amplified Bible) Not only were we crucified with Him, we were raised to new life with Him. “I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20 Amplified Bible) Not only were we crucified with Him and raised to new life with Him, we were made to sit down with Him. “And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” (Ephesians 2:6 Amplified Bible)
So, as ‘This Man’ drew us to Himself, we were crucified in ‘This Man’, we were raised to new life in ‘This Man’, we were made to sit down at the right hand of the Father (the place of authority) in ‘This Man’, and our very life is to be found in ‘This Man’! 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks of the life that is to be found in ‘This Man’, “Therefore if any man be IN CHRIST, he is a NEW creature: old things are passed away; behold, ALL THINGS are become new.”
Having said all that, the real question seems to be this, Am I truly living in ‘This Man’, Christ, or am I living in an ‘old man’ with a carnal mind? Romans 8:7 tells us that “…the carnal mind is ENMITY against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The true enemy of God is the CARNAL mind. The Weymouth New Testament tells us that, “…Such a mind does not submit to God’s Law, and indeed CANNOT DO SO.” (Romans 8:7) Did you catch that?… the carnal mind CANNOT submit to God! There is truly NO HOPE for the ‘old man’, he cannot be reformed! Yes, we can modify his behavior somewhat with religious programming, but as soon as ‘no one is looking’ he will be back to his old habits.
Perhaps the enemy that is IN-a-ME is there so that I learn to understand beyond any shadow of any doubt that there is truly no hope for the ‘old man’, and that only place for me to live is IN THIS MAN, Christ, seated on the right hand of the Father (the place of authority), from henceforth expecting till His enemies (the carnal mind) be made His footstool.
Notice that Hebrews 10:13 uses the phrase “from henceforth expecting.” What exactly does that mean? The word translated as ‘from henceforth’, loipon in Greek, means- remaining, the rest, for the rest. The word translated as ‘expecting’, ekdechomai in Greek, means- to receive, accept, to look for, expect, wait for, await. When we put those definitions together, that verse would appear to be giving us a profound message- To expectantly look for and await the rest that remains!
As I read that, suddenly the familiar verse from Hebrews chapter 4 is shouting to me, “So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own.” (Hebrews 4:9-10 Amplified Bible) I must expectantly look for and abide in the REST that is provided by the FINISHED WORK of the cross of Jesus Christ. Even the ‘enemy’ of the carnal mind itself is to serve as a footstool to elevate me into the place of REST. I particularly like the way the King James Version says that I must cease from my OWN works; “For he that is entered into his REST, he also hath CEASED from his OWN WORKS, as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10 KJV) I don’t know about you, but I think I am ready to “cease from the weariness and pain of human labors.” I must rest in the finished work of Christ.
Allow me a brief Scriptural synopsis of the finished work:
* We are ALREADY cleansed and perfected by virtue of the finished work!
(Hebrews 10:14) “For by ONE OFFERING He hath PERFECTED for ever them that are sanctified.”
(Hebrews 10:14 Amplified Bible) “For by a single offering He has forever COMPLETELY CLEANSED AND PERFECTED those who are consecrated and made holy.”
* We are ALREADY sanctified by virtue of the blood of the finished work!
(Hebrews 13:12) “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might SANCTIFY the people with his own BLOOD, suffered without the gate.”
In the past I have always thought of sanctification as a process, however the Word clearly states that I am sanctified by ONE offering of the BLOOD of Christ. So the process involved is not a process of being sanctified, but rather a process of renewing my MIND to the fact that I am ALREADY sanctified!
* The WORK was FINISHED before it even started (in a sense)!
(Hebrews 4:3) “…although the works were FINISHED from the foundation of the world.”
(Revelation 13:8) “..the Lamb SLAIN from the foundation of the world.”
* We must appropriate the finished work by FAITH!
(Hebrews 4:1-3) “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, NOT being mixed with FAITH in them that heard it. For we which have BELIEVED do enter into rest…”
I must tear down the ‘altar’ of my inadequacies, failures and sin, and run to the ‘altar’ of the FINISHED WORK of Jesus Christ through His BLOOD! I must understand that He has ALREADY made ‘Another Vessel’ (Jeremiah 18:4), which is none other than the Life of Christ, and His intention is to make ME into that ‘Other Vessel’ through which the Life of Christ can flow!