“…so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God…For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” 1 Peter 4: 2,6
It’s easy to hear the words to live “for the will of God.” It’s great to know that we can and ought to “live in the spirit the way God does.” It’s even better news to hear that the gospel is telling us this is attainable. It’s not only saying it’s attainable, but that this is the goal and design of God. It’s great to hear all this, but how do we get there?
I don’t get there by listening only. Hearing, for the Jew, meant to listen and apply to ones life. That’s why Peter has been telling us practical ways of applying our lives and thoughts and actions to living in the will and spirit of the Lord. That’s why Paul and the other authors of scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit, shared the same, and showed what it looked like walking it out and what it doesn’t look like when we aren’t walking it out.
The other day I got to share, “walk out,” and think about Jesus through the time he stayed back at the temple as a 12 year old youth. And when his parents came back and finally found him, he was surprised that they didn’t know where to look for him and answered, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Only, the original Greek doesn’t say that. It says, “in my Father’s these,” a weird construction we don’t quite know how to put together at first. But maybe it’s more than being in the house of God?
What if it’s more of something like, “I must be in my Father’s every moment, every move. I must be in the midst of my Father and what He is doing and where He is.”? What if it’s a fluidness matched by solidness to be lined up with the spirit of God wherever, whenever, whatever we are doing? Skip Moen shared, “All of who I am is about what God wants. The context of my life supplies the meaning. Life is not about you. It’s about abiding under Him and under the others we serve. We know that it’s about everything we have, everything we are and everything we hope to be. We know that it’s about perfect completion of His purposes. And now we see that it’s about context. What is the context of your life? Is it all about God?” For Jesus it was and is.
I can’t help but ask, “What was Jesus’ gain by being there?” I ask that because now I’m looking at His words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” What was Jesus’ reason, his driving force to do what he did? What was the “joy set before him” that he endured the cross for? What if that joy had nothing to do with being crowned, or being seated at the right hand of God, or looking at my smiling face in heaven, or any of the things we imagine as wonderful rewards? What if the joy set before him, was the joy of delighting His Father, the joy of delighting with the Father wholly again? What if seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness trumps all the things added to us?
In other words, what if delighting God is our whole motivation? And what if, when that becomes my whole motivation, I find that God is my greatest delight? What if that changes my desires by the power of His delight? I mean, isn’t that why the Lord sends us His Holy Spirit, that I might know the delight of the Lord and live in that? That I might, like Jesus, know my Fathers’ these?
God knows us. Unlike Jesus, we don’t always say, “Yes, Father,” and do it. That’s why Jesus told the parable of the two sons, the one who said, “Yes, Father, “ but never did it; and the one who said, “No, Father,” but then went and did what the Father asked. It’s not our words that make or break us, it’s what we do with our Father’s request.
Another thing I miss if I don’t live in the will of God, is being part of His family. Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” There is no earthly family that has the closeness, love, and protection that there is in the family of God. It goes beyond the color of our skin and our bloodlines. It goes beyond physical boundaries. It goes beyond the past, the here and now, and our future, into eternity. Things can separate us from our earthly families, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.
And here’s the beauty of being in that family of God—it’s available to anyone who will believe in the “wholeness” of Jesus, of who he is, and why he came, and what he did, and that he is who God said he was. Through Jesus, he gives us “the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” If I want to live by the spirit of God I must be born by the spirit His way, not mine. I must let him change me. I must submit to His ways, His life, His delight.
I’m led to think about that blind man, blind from birth, who Jesus healed. And the leaders didn’t want to believe him. And that amazed this unlearned blind man how they couldn’t see the great thing that had been done and that it had to be of God. And he winds up teaching them the gospel truth! “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” That’s beautiful. But it’s not saying the imperfect aren’t welcome or can’t come. If you want to know what it means, find out what it means to worship God.
What does it mean to worship God? Does it mean to follow some ritual? Why did so many of the Pharisees and scribes miss out on getting it? Why did this poor “sinner” find the truth? How can I, a poor sinner, find the truth?
It starts with delighting in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I don’t delight myself in You, because of what I get from or in You. I delight myself in You because I, like the blind man, have come to know that You are my shear delight! I can delight in You like nothing and noone else. You alone are worthy of my delight. You are DELIGHTABLE just by nature of who You are! The getting my desires of my heart part is just the bonus that comes from knowing You and experiencing You. Delighting in You is where doing Your will in my life flows from. It’s no longer a chore but a beautiful blessing.
When I delight myself in You Lord, everything else falls in place. I will want to commit my way to You. I will trust in You. That is when I see You act time and time again. You will bring forth my righteousness. I will learn to exhibit Your justice. I will be able to wait patiently for You. I won’t have to fret over the evil in life because I know that You have overcome and everything is flowing in the direction You want. Despite the evil, despite the persecution, despite the pain, I know that Your will is coming to pass and one day, in Your time, it will be completed both in me and in this world, and You are including me as part of that necessary process.
What’s the answer when things aren’t going my way, or even when things are absolutely against me? “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:7,8) In other words, if I know You, Lord, I ought to live as though I do. I ought to think as though I do. I ought to respond as though I do. And not just like I know You, but as though I am in You and You in me, as though Your Holy Spirit empowers me to live as You and bring healing and love, rather than a response from my flesh that harms and destroys.
Believing isn’t just about agreeing with a creed, nor is it about obeying your commands. Scripture says the demons believe, and sometimes they obey You too! But there isn’t one demon who delights in You. There isn’t one demon who allows You, with joy, to lead and direct the desires of their heart and the actions and responses of their lives. There is not one demon who desires to line their emotions up with Yours. Not one! And there is not one demon who loves the fact that You are LORD of lords and KING of kings. But I do. And I love that You are my King and my Lord and I want You to have Your way in my heart and my life in every situation in my life and beyond forever!