Greetings and good morning, brothers and sisters. This is Dr. James Perry continuing with our series where we seek to explore the deeper meanings of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Over the years, the heavenly Father has shared many revelations of spiritual truth to me, and I want to share them with you. This morning we want to examine the changing of the guard. By this we mean the movement from the idea of partnership with God for the purpose of doing our own will to the idea of partnership with God for the purpose of doing his will.
And now, sit back and listen to today's message.
The Changing of the Guard
"’’I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.'" John, Chapter 10, Verse 10
Brothers and sisters, the divine Son incarnated in the flesh some 2,000 years ago. He himself left no written records of his doings and his sayings, but some who were close to him did make records. These fragmentary records are in our possession and form the basis of our religion about him.
Scriptures such as "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly”” and "Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" have laid the foundation for the development of a concept of Jesus as some sort of super magician, where we invoke his name for all kinds of requests, whether wise or unwise. And so we begin the trip down the road of error. It is not surprising that we have developed this error since study of the scriptures shows that the disciples never did grasp many concepts he taught. Time and time again, Jesus would find the apostles in earnest discussion, treating the spiritual kingdom like a material one.
Jesus did not leave any written records behind because his was a spiritual mission, and he knew that his Spirit would soon come to indwell the minds and souls of his children. This spirit would teach his children the truth of his life. But because we are material minded, we have taken a spiritual admonition and transformed it into a material one. And so we have developed the concept of partnership with God based on God submitting to our will, rather than our submitting to God’’s will. How do we begin to correct this error, to change the guard from a material interpretation of partnership with God to a spiritual interpretation of partnership with God?
Only experience can correct error. Only truth can be experienced--error cannot. We can only experience the true relationship with God, regardless of what we might think intellectually. Faith is of such a nature that only experience in association with the Spirit of Truth can change the object of misplaced faith. But keeping this in mind, there are some measures that may prove helpful to those who know better and would like to influence those who are traveling down this road of error and calling it truth. It is the nature of faith to be effective only when there is no doubt, when the results of the material petitions are not forthcoming, the cure is the assertion of more faith, with an even deeper scrutiny of the scriptures to buttress it.
The problem with relating to God this way is that we have to strain our sense of credibility in order to believe that God has answered our material petitions. Although there may be circumstances where a material request appears to have materialized at the same time the request was being made, there are so many other times that no such coincidence occurs. And this really strains our faith and our belief that God loves us and cares for us. We can find no comfort in this approach to God. We cannot find out what has gone wrong, why God has not answered our requests as we have been taught and believed that he would. And pray and pray as we might, we cannot find out why he has not answered. Since we don’’t know him, and what we been taught about him is erroneous, we are left in a spiral of hopelessness, clinging to faith because we don’’t know what else to do. We are like a ship stranded out in the middle of the ocean and can’’t make it back into the safety of the harbor.
The first step in changing this error is to address God in our personal relationships as Father. When we are around others, we should always refer to God as the heavenly Father rather than as God. This practice while reminding us our relationship to the Father also makes a spiritual appeal to those who don’’t realize what their relationship is to him. This is extremely important because right away it defines the nature of the relationship. Though God and the Father are the same person, our relationship is not with God as God but as God as Father.
A child would not consider himself to be any relation with the professional nature of his father who happens to be a lawyer of physician, but would relate himself as a child does to his father. The role of father and the role of lawyer are entirely different. The lawyer aspect of the child’’s father is non-personal while the father aspect is personal. When we address God as Father, we automatically understand that we are his children. Being his children, we are mindful that a loving Father does not answer our immature requests, any more than an earthly father would honor his earthly child’’s request to eat unlimited amounts of candy. Such an act would seriously harm the child. Likewise the heavenly Father would never grant us any petition that would harm us morally or spiritually. This simple act of referring to God as Father closes so many doors of error.
Next, how do we influence others to change the nature of their requests from material petitions to spiritual ones? This is a more difficult task. The material concept of the relationship with the Father is so ingrained in the minds of his children that it is impossible to directly remove them. Consider this: "Sometimes error is so great that its rectification by revelation would be fatal to those slowly emerging truths which are essential to its experiential overthrow. When children have their ideals, do not dislodge them; let them grow." We should never try to convince them that their concept of their relationship with the heavenly Father is wrong, but we should always strive to put something into their souls. If we do this, the truth will gradually crowd out the serious error.
There are many brothers and sisters who have very poor concepts of "father." And this makes it very difficult for them to feel comfortable with referring to God as Father. But as we continue to interact with them and share our spiritual experiences, especially how we relate to the Father and how he relates to us, this practice will elevate their concept. They will come to see that the concept they have had of an earthly father has distorted their concept of the heavenly Father. They will begin to feel sympathy and compassion for their earthly father who has fallen so short of their ideal of "father."
In the meantime, they will also begin to seek after this spiritual Father that has been revealed to them. They will begin to realize that the heavenly Father loves them so much and only wants what is best for them, only wants for them to become all that they can become: perfect even as he is perfect. They will begin to enjoy this matchless relationship as they come to know his matchless character. They will gradually move away from trying to relate to him as God. They will instead related themselves to him as one of his beloved children. They will then begin to strive to become like him, to be like the object of their adoration and worship.
As time passes, the spiritual petition will replace the material ones. When we realize that the heavenly Father has given us everything we need to successfully negotiate this life, we will turn away from the purely selfish request and focus, rather, on serving our brothers and sisters. Such joy will fill our hearts, the deep and permanent joy that results from knowing the heavenly Father loves us and we are his children. In the place of bombarding the heavenly Father with petitions of a material nature, we will settle down for the long haul, knowing that it is the Father’’s will that we live this material life and that he has given us the spiritual resources to master it.
This concludes today's message on understanding the meaning of the changing of the guard. We hope you find something in this message to ponder and pray about as you go about your day.
Until next time, this is Dr. James Perry.