As we are born into "The Family of God" and progress on toward maturity, there are two extremes that we are constantly plagued with, to differing measure and in varying mixture. The first and most destructive is false, "religious humility" (the inverse side of Pride - "Pride in my HUMILITY" -- the building blocks of the Pharisees) and the second is excessive confidence in and reliance upon our natural "gifts and abilities" ("now that God has ME on His side, things will REALLY get done"! -- or else, "what will happen to the Kingdom of God if I should fail"?). The first is the "stuff" of demons, the second of the immature !!

Someone once asked C.S. Lewis HOW exactly God would have us to think of and about ourselves. His reply was simply, "As little (pertaining to frequency and NOT value) and as infrequently as possible". You might well ask, "How is this possible for a mere human being?" I will tell you how, "It is NOT possible -- but it IS, however, possible for God by His Living Spirit within us. It is HE and NOT US who will achieve the "renewing of our minds".

Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve (the verb translated "test and approve" carries the sense of test with a positive outcome, -- test so as to approve) what is the will of God -- what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. **** Romans 12:2,3

Secure in His identify and in His Father's Love, Jesus, knowing that He was of the Highest, could easily descend unto the lowest.

Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, He got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. **** John 13:3-5

The Apostle Paul, knowing that he REALLY was of the lowest (contrary to man's esteem), could - by fully accepting and acquiescing to God's will, love and grace - allow himself to be used as the major architect of the "Church of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles".

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them -- yet not I, but the grace of God with me. **** 1 Corinthians 15:9,10

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" -- and I (Paul) am the worst of them! But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. **** 1 Timothy 1:15,16

Paul allowed God to achieve the miraculous through him by FULLY putting aside the past -- both GOOD and BAD -- and the FUTURE (which he trusted totally to God alone) -- and concerning himself completely with TODAY -- with devoting himself TOTALLY to the accomplishment of the goal that lay before him and to which HE had been assigned !!

In his pre-Christian days, Paul (Saul as he was then called) had been a "Pharisee of the Pharisees". The Pharisees were at that time the ruling religious class in Israel. He was up near the "top of the heap" (like being a Cardinal or a Bishop in the Roman Catholic hierarchy). He also came to realize that, in God's eyes, he had been the, "Chief most of Sinners".

Unlike most of us, he was able to FULLY put both of these areas behind him and consider them part of a man who had died (Saul) -- accepting as REALITY the fact that he (Paul) was now a NEW creature, born again in Jesus Christ. He neither sat around consoling himself with reminisants about the "good old days when he was REALLY something" nor wringing his hands in agony about, "no matter HOW hard he tried, he was just a poor wrenched sinner and would ALWAYS be just a poor wrenched sinner".

For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials -- though mine too are significant. If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law, I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things. Indeed, I regard them as dung (the word here translated "dung" was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter) -- that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ's faithfulness -- a righteousness from God that is in fact based upon Christ's faithfulness. My aim is to know him (Jesus), to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained this -- that is, I have not already been perfected -- but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind --- I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let those of us who are "perfect" embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways. **** Philippians 3:3-15

The truly great mystery that, "boggles the mind and baffles the imagination" is that WE -- these imperfect, damaged vessels of clay -- are that great mystery which our Father determined before the beginning of creation would one day contain His grandest and most glorious work -- to be put on display to all of existence !! He knows far better than we that we are but weak, imperfect, faltering creatures. However, he did NOT choose us DESPITE this fact but BECAUSE of it. He would have both us and the rest of creation see that, "the Glory and Power are NOT ours, but rather FULLY His".

That is, the mystery which has been kept hidden from ages and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints. God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. **** Colossians 1:26,27

For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. For God, who said "Let light shine out of darkness", is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. **** 2 Corinthians 4:5-7

It is also comforting to realize as we labor in God's vineyard that He is NOT interested in the QUANTITY of our results, but rather in the QUALITY -- with how well we have done with the gifts and the "measure of faith" that He has assigned to YOU and to ME. He does NOT measure one against another (as does the world system), but rather measures us against OURSELVES (what we do with what we are given -- and He would have us to remember that, "all that we have has been given to us"). You will note in the parable below that even though one man earned five talents and another only two, the master was equally pleased with BOTH. They both doubled what they were given. It was the man who did absolutely NOTHING with his talent that earned the master's displeasure !!

For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money in it. After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, "Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more." His master answered, "Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master." The one with the two talents also came and said, "Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more." His master answered, "Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master." Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, "Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours." But his master answered, "Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn't sow and gather where I didn't scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten." **** Matthew 25:14-28

I think that this little poem below, attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, sums the thought up very well. Any fool can sit in the security and comfort of the bleachers criticizing those who are ACTUALLY out on the playing field getting beaten and battered !! If you NEVER try, you need not fear losing.

"It is NOT the critic who counts, NOT the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually IN the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short ; who fights and falls and rises to fight again and again.
It is to he who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
His place shall NEVER be with those cold and timid souls, who know neither victory nor defeat."

Man judges by the outward appearance -- God judges the Heart !!

The Lord said to Samuel, "Don't be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart"" **** 1 Samuel 16:7

C.S. Lewis relates a parable in one of his writings which I have never forgotten. If you find yourself judging others OR yourself by "man's standards", bring it to mind.

It seems that there were these two individuals:

The first was born into a comfortable home with good, loving parents who gave all that they could to him. He was educated in good schools, had fine friends, acquired an excellent position, married a beautiful, talented and loving wife. They went on to have two beautiful, adorable children. The whole family went to church "religiously" EVERY Sunday and TWICE on Easter and Christmas. They even tithed at their church. Upstanding "pillars of the church and of the community", they were. The problem is that they never actually GAVE anything to God. They saw no need for prayer and didn't believe in Bible reading or study ("the Pastor takes care of the religious understanding for us" said the husband). They didn't go to bible groups, mission outreaches, or any of the social functions at their church. They were too busy with their jobs, family, dogs, and home (we must say, they indeed had a BEAUTIFUL home -- the pride and joy of both husband and wife.) To repeat -- EVERYONE agreed that they were upstanding "pillars of the church and of the community" !!

The life of the second was cursed in EVERY way. His mother was a prostitute and his father was a murderer (not that he actually KNEW either). He was put into a foster home at six months, where he really wasn't wanted either. He was out wandering the streets by age six -- then gangs, robbing drug stores and banks, and finally - murder. He had been on drugs of every type since he was seven or eight and learned that, "if he didn't take it from someone else first, they would take it from him" as other children learn their A-B-C's and 1+1=2. To him family, good schools, friends, love, wife, children, GOD ?? were as alien as little green men would be to us.

God, however, being no "respecter of persons" and having absolutely NO PRIDE whatsoever as to who He invites to His banquet, finally cornered this "young man" in jail at the age of 29. He immediately gave his heart to the Lord and became as ardent and devoted a follower after Love and Righteous as he had been after violence and crime !! Those whom he had formerly run with as "conspirators in darkness" he now zealously pursued with the message of God's Love and forgiveness. Wherever He felt that God was sending him, no matter HOW black and wretched it might seem, he was there.

Now, if a third man (or woman) were to meet each of these men casually or see them walking down the street, how do you think that THEY would judge them in their heart ?? How would YOU judge them ??

To which do you think that the Father will speak those blessed words, "Well done Good and Faithful Servant. Enter into the Joy of Your Lord !!!"

C.S. Lewis -- "Wretched Machine" Concept

Before I move away from C.S. Lewis, there is one more thing that he talked about in "Mere Christianity" that I'd like to expand upon. Toward the end of the book, in his chapter entitled "Nice People or New Men", he goes on in length about the different temperaments and upbringings that different people have and how it affects them in their walk with Christ. He's trying to point out that you can't necessarily expect the same Christian response from person "A" and person "B" to the same situations in life because these two people may have entirely different temperaments or life's circumstances to deal with and that God works with each of us individually.

There was one particular portion of this section that helped me to understand my own struggles particularly well. Lewis says on page 215;

"But if you are a poor creature - poisoned by a wretched upbringing in a house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels - saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion - nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends - do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap heap and give you a new one. Then you will astonish us all - not least yourself; for you have learned your driving in the hard school." (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last)

The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you haven't been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will entrust you with the true riches? And if you haven't been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you your own? **** Luke 16:10-12

.... each of us in the ministry the Lord gave us. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters work as one, but each will receive his reward according to his work. We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder's work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire. **** 1 Corinthians 3:5-15

Yes, Virginia, contrary to what "religious Christendom" may wish to brainwash us into thinking, God does indeed have standards and rewards for His workman. As C.S. Lewis once observed, "Christian Good Works are often NOT very good work" !! Any old sloppy, botched together work in the "name of the Lord" IS NOT satisfactory. He wants SKILLED workman -- skilled in His word and instructed in the school of His Holy Spirit !! NOW UNDERSTAND --- This has NOTHING to do with our salvation. That is a FREE, gratuitous gift from our Father to us, paid in full by His son and our brother, Jesus Christ. What I am saying relates ONLY to the work that our heavenly Father has prepared for us to accomplish in HIS Name.

.... From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked. **** Luke 12:48

As Jesus explains to His disciples below relating to another matter, I believe that He would also add regarding this one, "Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given". Seek God for the maturity and the wisdom to understand. When He feels that the time is right, He WILL give them to you.

Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?" Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery"" The disciples said to him, "If this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!" He said to them, "Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given. For there are some eunuchs who were that way from birth, and some who were made eunuchs by others, and some who became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this should accept it"" **** Matthew 19:3,9-12

As Christians, we would ALL do well to take a lesson from the Apostle Paul. He stated that, "I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me". In other words, Paul worked within the framework of the "gifts, callings, and revelations" that God had given to HIM. He spoke ONLY of those things that God had accomplished in and through him personally !! He did NOT attempt to be Peter or James or Matthew, nor did he attempt to infringe upon the ministry that God had given to THEM. He did not speak of or brag about gifts that he did not posses, nor did he enter into areas where he was NOT specifically called or equipped. His attitude was NOT, "God, I am going here, but rather - God, WHERE should I go ??" In today's "ministering", there are FAR too many WORDS and way too little, " power of signs and wonders of the Spirit of God ".

If we minister to others ONLY what God has personally wrought in and through us, they may still disagree with and reject our testimony, but they can not dispute its validity and truth.

So I boast in Christ Jesus about the things that pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in order to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit of God. **** Romans 15:17-19

We have each been apportioned gifts and talents (Christian AND non-Christian alike). The Christian ALSO, however, receives the, "Gifts of the Holy Spirit". These are given as God sees fit, that we might EACH serve Him and others in the capacity that He has beforehand determined. Unlike our "human evaluation", none is more necessary, more powerful, more prestigious, or more valuable than another. All are required that "the Body" might function harmoniously. Also, since ALL gifts have been bestowed upon us by our creator, what place do we have to either brag OR feel defeated -- what we might feel is OUR ability did NOT come about as a result of our effort, and what we might see as our "lack" was not the result of any shortcoming on our part.

For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness. **** Romans 12:4-8

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things. For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body - though many - are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. If the foot says, "Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body", it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says, "Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body", it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you", nor in turn can the head say to the foot, "I do not need you"" On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If one member is honored, all rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and each of you is a member of it. **** 1 Corinthians 12:4-27

God has endeavored to teach man for some 6,000 years that He neither needs nor wants OUR talents, abilities, strengths or labors. He has less than NO regard for OUR "wisdom", brilliance, eloquence, wit or discernment. We were created as those through whom God might continually pour forth and manifest HIS Glory, Creative Power and Magnificence. This was to be our continual Joy, Ecstasy and Fulfillment had man not foolishly lusted after "HIS OWN WAYS" !! If we will simply receive like that "little child", He waits and longs to be for us ALL that we need -- wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God. **** 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

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