The Positive Consequence Engine
Like negative consequences in life, the effects of the positive consequence engine at work in our lives do not usually show up immediately--they are long term. This is frustrating for folks who want instant gratification and who expect a daily rewards balance sheet.
The big pay off for followers of Jesus is in the next life--not here and now, as Jesus reminds us in His sermon on the mount.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Much of consequence that is positive is also internal. Positive consequences of knowing God include wonderful inner qualities of wholeness, fulfillment and contentment. As we yield in obedience to the Lord, over time we become all we ever dream of being as whole men and women. God produces in and through us "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
We only have two choices in life—pleasing God by what we do or pleasing our self. Paul explained in Romans, that we are all servants (slaves), and there are only two choices of which master we choose to serve:
Romans 6:16-23 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We only have two building materials in life—what will last and what will not. That is another New Testament description of the consequence engine at work in the life of the Christian. What we do (build) in life will either endure or we will suffer loss:
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
2 Corinthians 5:10-11 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
The Positive Consequences in Life Are Empowered by God’s Spirit
What counts in life--actions that lead to positive consequences, are the works Jesus does in and through us when we make ourselves available to God. God does not want our best efforts on his behalf! The basic rule of Christian life is "nothing coming from me, everything coming from Him." We are not to give God our very best efforts. Self-improvement programs are of no avail. "Trying harder" doesn't cut it.
However, it is by trusting and acting on what God has promised that we unloose the power of God working in us so that the consequence engine runs in our favor. That is again the reason for David’s declaration in the middle of Psalm 57—his heart was fixed on God. His will was yielded, his life was offered as a sacrificial offering. As Paul said over and over—he was God’s servant or slave.
Jesus is more than willing to live through us whenever we give Him permission. Someone has said, "There is no limit to what God will do through any individual, if that person doesn't are who gets the credit."
Usually when we come to know the Lord we abandon those bad habits which everyone agrees are socially undesirable--such as getting drunk, living in a life style that is sexually immoral, being dishonest in business, lying, stealing, cheating--and so on.
What is harder to recognize and deal with regarding the flesh is its "good" side. A tragic example of not dealing with the "good side" of the flesh is contained in the account of King Saul's loss of his throne in 1 Samuel 15.
In God's sight, there is nothing at all in us--in our natural lives--that is able to please Him. We must die and be replaced by Christ living in and through us day by day, year after year.
Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Galatians 2:19-21 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Identifying the "flesh" in our lives is a life-long task--the flesh will do anything to avoid being put to death. We do not readily recognize the flesh in ourselves apart from our daily obedience to Jesus--and our ongoing feeding on the Word of God. Hebrews offers key insights into our day to day walk in the Spirit.
Hebrews 4:10-13 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
We need to thoughtfully and deliberately respond to the truth of God’s Word that we have heard today. I know of no more clearer pathway to killing our selfishness and encouraging consecration than the life purpose adopted by Thomas Chisholm in his poem Living for Jesus.
Let’s affirm in our hearts again these flesh crucifying, life consecrating words. Decide today that you want to sow to the Spirit, denying and crucifying your flesh, and make every day a day of Living for Jesus:
Living for Jesus a life that is true, striving to please Him in all that I do, yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free—this is the pathway of blessing for me.
Living for Jesus who died in my place, bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace—such love constrains me to answer His call, follow His leading and give Him my all.
Living for Jesus thru earth’s little while, my dearest treasure the light of His smile, seeking the lost ones He died to redeem, bringing the weary to find rest in Him.
Chorus: O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee, for Thou in Thine atonement didst give Thyself for me. I own no other Master—my heart shall be Thy throne: My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
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