Preparing to reflect
Sometimes I look in the mirror and I catch a glimpse of the old Mickey staring back at me. I imagine we all do that at one time or another. The biggest difference between today and the old life is now I can examine it and see that the old man is dead in his transgressions and the new man is alive in the hope that Jesus gave me. I didn’t have this hope in the old days before Jesus revealed his love to me. Then, I struggled to make peace with the dead man because he was all I knew. As you read, you are in effect, taking a journey with me to experience the death of the old man. I first had to experience death of the old man and second to discover a path of the new and most excellent way. There is no way I could write all my experiences down in one book and there are also some things I am not going to share for privacy reasons. A word of caution, however, is there may be some issues that will challenge your ability to forgive. It is in those moments you will fully see why I was desperate to have Jesus. If the challenge to forgive arises, I in turn challenge you to forgive as Christ has forgiven. He alone is the Judge, it is His forgiveness I seek and his pleasure I live for. In all of Scripture there have been two sections that have not just influenced my walk with Jesus, but also have very nearly defined it. The first of these is I Corinthians chapter 13. You see it actually begins in the last line of chapter 12, “and now, I will show you the most excellent way! If you are able to speak in the languages of men and of angels, communicating effectively, speaking great words and weaving the grandest of tapestries with your words, but you do not have love, you are only noise in the ears of a man! If you have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries, and have all knowledge; it doesn’t matter to what heights your intelligence rises; even if you have faith that can move entire mountains, but you do not have love, it all amounts to nothing! If you do all kinds of good things, giving to the poor and needy, even giving up your own life, but you do not have love, you gain nothing! Therefore, without love, action has no gain, it has no value, and words become robbed of their edifying power.” Love is patient. This may very well be the deepest and most poignant quality of love. The King James conveys it properly, although it uses charity in the place of love, when it says it is long suffering! O what joy is this. The patient, enduring, unyielding love of God. It is choosing not to focus on the injustices and hardships of life, but rather fixing our gaze on what is important. It is resting in the revelation and acceptance of Gods salvation. It is in this foundation of love we are able to forgive the greatest of wrongs done to us. It is this foundation that allows us to willingly suffer injustice and hardship with joy. It was this expression of love that allowed Christ to endure, suffer, and be executed! Love! How beautiful it is. I am not talking of the warm emotion that comes and goes. I speak of the deep power filled act of choosing, called love! Love is kind. Love seeks opportunities to act kindly to others, not to seek repayment or self-serving interests. Love is not concerned with recognition or acknowledgment of the act. Love strives to be a blessing to people without differentiating between those who deserve it and those who do not. When a person filled with God's love they bless others through the overflow of that love. Love does not envy. Love does not covet what another has or doesn’t have. Love is satisfied with the sufficient provision from God. Love trusts that God, our Father, satisfies our every need according to His purpose. A person consumed by His love knows that their purpose lies in His purpose. Love is content and fully satisfied in God’s hands. Jesus, our Lord and example, walked as a pauper even though He was a king. Yet He was fully satisfied and did not envy any man for anything. He understood that all good things come from God in Heaven. Because He loves us, we lack no good thing in accomplishing His purpose. This also becomes our purpose when we are adopted through faith into his family. Love does not boast and is not proud. It has no need to declare to the world who it is nor what it has done. Love does not need to strut itself. There is no place for love to manipulate itself to the forefront. Love understands that it is known simply by its presence. Love directs a person’s attention to God in heaven, understanding that we are not the focus of attention but that we are the finger pointing to the One who truly is love made manifest! Love does not dishonor others. It does not seek to shame another person nor accomplish its own agenda. It does not take a person’s wrong doing and set it before the world. In love there is no need to be the broadcaster of another’s transgressions. It does not serve itself. For love is a servant not expecting to be served. As our Lord willingly stepped down from His rightful place as head of the riches of heaven and became the servant of those He created; so are we, who walk in his way, to become the servant of those He came to save. Loves anger rises only against unrighteousness and injustice to others and against darkness, evil and all things that align themselves against God. The challenges to love should drive one to greater perseverance in patience and kindness. Love forgives. It has no need to keep a tally of wrongs. It has no want to make a list of injustices done by another. For love seeks out restoration. The remembrance of wrongs becomes an obstacle achieving this. Love takes no delight in evil. Love does not entertain evil thoughts, acts, or speech. Rather, Love rejoices in truth! And God is truth. In Love there is no need for gossip which is the betrayer of truth. When evil tries to invade thoughts, deeds and words, Love takes immediate action by casting out. Love does not allow any stain or blemish to be placed upon it. Love always hopes. Love always protects what is dear to God, always trusts in God, and always perseveres. Love strives to call forth and declare the kingdom of God in others. Love assumes the best in all men. Love is quick to offer restoration. For those who rebel against God, their hope is in what this life has to offer. Yet for the redeemed, our hope lies in the limitless abilities of God! Our hope lies in the One who redeemed us and gave us the promise that He would return for us! Love is slow to anger and first to seek restoration. Love does not focus on the present circumstances, but sees beyond into the potential of another. It does not become dependent upon man’s approval , but delights itself in the Lord. Love never fails because it is incapable of failure. When we walk as a man of love, emulating the true picture and character of Jesus Christ, it is then that the world can truly see the redeeming hope Jesus offers. To the saints, it becomes encouragement to persevere and continue on. We can bear all things with enduring love of God. We can trust in the One who saved us and rest in His promise that He will never fail us. When we walk in the most excellent way, others can find no fault within us.
To those lost in darkness seeking rescue, we become the light by directing them to One who forgives and redeems all things. When we walk in the love of God, darkness has to flee in terror! This is what it means when scripture says “your light shall break fourth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily: your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” To those who stand in rebellion against God, shaking their fist, we are to choose love and stand as an unwavering testament to Gods great love. The love of God living within us becomes a fortified battlement against which they cannot mount an argument nor an effective defense. By walking in the love, you leave the rebellious with no justification before the Lord. When we walk in this most excellent way, weapons formed against us cannot prosper. Because of Love, even the most well prepared plans of the enemy fail!
The second passage comes from the Old Testament in Isaiah Chapter 58. Here is one of the greatest prophets of all time speaking as the mouthpiece of God. While most translations provide instruction concerning fasting this entire passage is more about a lifestyle than about the actual act fasting. Let's explore this further. Using the prophet Isaiah, God uncovers the transgressions of the people who say they are fasting, following and obeying Him. In the argument, God responds to the plea that the people have done all the right things yet God refuses to answer them. God says and shows them that they did not do the right things due to the attitude of their hearts while fasting. Their argument is that they performed a kind of short term fast, thinking that that would cause God to do what they wanted. God responds by saying that not only do they not do right on their day of fasting, but also their lives do not reflect the character of God. What a strong word of correction by God. Unfortunately, we as a people are no better today. We do our religious things hoping to placate God, but our lifestyles nor our heart attitude reflect the character of God. I call this the “If /Then” passage of the Bible. “If” we do our part and align ourselves with God, “Then” God promises to release to us His purposes. Nice and easy, very black and white. Basically, a great guide for how we as Christ followers should live every day. He says we are to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” I will skip the “then” statements and continue on with the “if” statements here to point out our charge before God. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness. If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,… If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it in not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then… In these statements from God we see how to accomplish these things. In doing these things our hearts cannot remain hard. Instead they must break for people. Nowhere does it indicate that it should be this way just for the believer (Jew in the case of the Old Testament). On the contrary, it appears to be a blanket covering to all men. He calls us to set people free. Sin, evil, and darkness are a harsh slave master. There is no mercy with this slave master. It can drive a person to death, and should you try to resist it, it will drive even harder. Some appear to live the highlife, while others seem to barely make due. In reality most men do not even know they are enslaved until they try to walk away in freedom. God calls us to undue the bonds. He demands that when we see a need, we fill it! It’s really not rocket science. If they are hungry give them some food. If you will notice, He continually calls us to focus on others and not ourselves. What He does call us to do is to stop doing the things that hurt and destroy other people! He calls us to a place of holiness. Revering Him and communicating by action, His heart to the world. I remember when I turned to this passage and read it. This was after I had already fallen in love with I Cor 13. It was as if the Lord spoke and said “Mickey, this is the way to live”. If we truly believe that the Bible is God Breathed and inerrant, then we have to agree that God said this and we are to obey it. The common thread throughout scripture speaks about our heart. More than that, it speaks about the heart of the believer and the manifestation of that heart into action. Here in Isaiah, we see a clearly defined brief summary of how are actions should look. Whereas in I Corinthians chapter 13, we find a very well defined statement of how our hearts should look. Many Christians want to focus on the promises of God throughout scripture. We want to go quickly to the “then” verses in scripture that remind us of God's promise to us. Yet we often overlook our responsibility to God in the fulfillment of His promises. Continually in the Old Testament God reminds us of His promises to those whom He loves, but He also reminds us of our responsibility in the receiving of those promises. It is easier for us, I think, to try and convince ourselves that Gods promises are free and without strings attached to it. In the New Testament, we are continually encouraged to look at our part in this “contract” with God. We sometimes like to use less obligatory words to describe it, or at least ones that do not register obligation on our part. Instead we focus on grace and freedom and free gift. In that way we can justify our lack of real commitment to the Lord in following His heart. In essence, we become no better than the people God was speaking to through Isaiah the prophet. Now, before there is any confusion, I am not talking about the free gift of salvation. However, to be precise, it is only free to us because Jesus paid for it. What I am talking about is our arrogance in thinking we should be entitled to demand God to fulfill a promise, while at the same time thinking we can ignore our part in the covenant agreement. How we must sound when we live contrary to Gods expressed ways, and come boldly before him, demanding that he fulfill His promise to us! Speaking as a father, if my son did this, I would probably have to count to ten and take a breath before I responded. I get all worked up as if I were teaching here when really I am just laying a framework of perspective. Before we dive in to this journey of the most excellent way, I wanted you to see my perspective today. Keep this in mind as you read; especially as you read my earlier years before I became a lover of Jesus. You will see that it
stands in stark contrast to who I was and who I was becoming in those days. It is my prayer and my hope that while you read this book that you are encouraged and inspired, reaching for something greater then yourself. We are to strive for godliness in our life. Manifesting the hope and love of our Father and God through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Living a life worthy of being called a lover of Jesus. This is my journey on this road to the most excellent way. In the least it will help keep me accountable to all of you as I travel forward, seeking to walk on the heights of the mountains with my Jesus. At the most, I pray it inspires you to reach for the highest joy that can be had. That joy is to dance with Jesus as the lover of your being, falling head over heels in love with Him, as he takes your hand to walk this most excellent way. Be blessed and be a blessing.
Excerpted from "The Most Excellent Way" by Mickey Wilcox. Copyright © 2013 by Mickey Wilcox. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.