Lord I have fought you since I came to this earth Like a restless beast I’ve desired to go my own way Lured by the world and the desires of the flesh Driven by the whims of the enemy I fought But now I know my freedom is in your chains
I pray Lord that you’d hold me tightly on your grip I no longer trust my freedom and clamour for it Before I thought I knew what I wanted I thought independence would be my freedom But I’m never safe and free like when I’m with you Put your chain on me and never let go
How strange that even now I try to escape That after your liberation I desire to be enslaved again I truly don’t know what is good for me Left on my own I would totally ruin myself Lord though I fight you still I would desire your rule
Give me the liberty of obedience to your word Teach my heart the joy of submission to your will Cause my heart to rejoice in your lordship Let your will be done become the song of my heart Not in words and songs only but in all I do
Put your chain on me and make me your slave For though many desire liberty I have found mine in you True liberty from self, this world, the flesh and the devil I know I can only truly serve one master So let that be you my Lord and Saviour Jesus Put your chain around me and seal me as yours forever
We should watch the things that put us to tears The anticipation that gives us sleepless nights The dreams that catch us in broad daylight They are our greatest worries or treasures These indeed are our truest convictions
The headlines that captivate us the most The things we admire and get jealous over That which makes our knees to weaken They say a lot about what we value in life And our faith must start by captivating such
These are the songs we sing to our hearts The teachings that our minds attend Our hands cling to such than anything else But such treasures or idols must first bow Bow to the one who must own our hearts
Whatever holds our hearts owns our convictions In there belongs true love, beauty and treasure But also the idols of money, sex and power The things we want and what we fear most If Jesus be Lord of all he must conquer here
Lord help me to bow down my joys and fears To let you be my greatest love and treasure Help me to cast down my precious idols Own my fears and liberate me to serve you Be the Lord of my heart and with it everything
So often when we talk about prayer we think material things and don’t get me wrong there’s a place for that. We pray about jobs, financial needs and health matters. It’s a beautiful declaration of our dependence to our heavenly Father. We should pray for material things.
But it’s striking that we would see our need and helplessness in this and not in our need for discipleship. How often do we turn in prayer to ask God’s help to be like his son? When we read his commands do we ask him to help us obey them? As we fight sin do we ask him for help? As we pursue love for neighbor and godliness in our lives do we ask Jesus to create that in us?
Apart from me you can do nothing
Jesus speaking in John 15:5 that passage we love to quote says something striking in light of our own discipleship.
John 15:5-6 NIV 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
That last line of verse 5 is very important because it means whatever Jesus is asking his disciples here before his imminent death at the cross is something they actually can’t do. Yes you heard me right, on their own, whatever he says here they can’t do it.
Let’s see, in the previous chapters he’s asked them to follow his example; to wash each others feet in chapter 13. To love and serve others. By effect this means being willing to die to self to serve others. In chapter 14, they are not to fear but to believe in him who will walk with them and prepare for them a home in heaven. Every fear calls for a faith response. You could say fearing itself is an act of unbelief.
Here in chapter 15 he’s asking for fruit in their lives. He’s saying the branch that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and burned. Do you know what he’s saying strictly speaking? If you don’t bear fruit be ready for hell fire. Later he will tell them to be ready to be hated by the world like they hated and persecuted Jesus. Friends I hope I don’t need to convince you further that if you try this by your own might you’ll have a stressful time. It cannot be done.
That sentence, apart from me you can do nothing becomes very important. It means if we are to become true disciples who follow Jesus and bear fruit we need his help. If there’s any hope to obey and serve King Jesus we need his helping hand. So many times he echoes that in this section. That we can ask the Father for help and he’ll help us. The problem is we don’t ask.
But that’s the point friends, try approaching discipleship with your might and grit and see how far you go. It can’t be done. You can’t even do it yourself however committed you are leave alone discipling others.
Have you asked for his help?
So I ask again when is the last time you prayed for your own discipleship? Yes you can ask the Lord for all the material things you need. But have you lately asked the Lord for his help to love others? When was the last time you told Jesus, this sexual sin is becoming a serious thing, help me Jesus. Have you told Jesus you’d love to serve him but you find it hard to love and serve other people? Do you see how you’ve been setting yourself up for failure?
What do you think is missing in your own discipleship? What do you admire and perhaps even feel jealous about others? I know I would love to be more prayerful. But do you know what I realised recently? I had not before asked the Lord to do that for me. To come and say, Lord help me to pray more to you.
Perhaps you’d love to be more committed to his Word. To be like those people who read the Bible cover to cover every year. But have you asked Jesus to help you in this. Maybe you’d love to serve the church more, give more to mission work. A question for you, have you asked for the Father’s help?
Until we understand those words, that apart from him we can do nothing we’ll always try do something in vain. Alternatively, we’ll give up and conclude I’m just not a prayerful man. We might even theologise it that it’s for the Charismatics.
We’ll end up saying I’m not disciplined enough to read the Bible consistently. We can even argue and show why it’s actually not that effective. But before we get there we need to remember discipleship wasn’t meant for the disciplined and strong willed. It’s actually for those weak in spirit. It’s for those who tell the Father, I can’t do it Lord. Help me dear Father!
Respond to his commands with a prayer
Friends before you drown yourself with sorrow or harden your heart to the Saviour’s call ask for his help. Add to your prayers this prayer: Lord make me what you want me to be. Lord, bear in me the fruit you desire. Conform this selfish heart to love and serve others. Make your will what I crave for. Teach this heart to delight in your commands. Help me Lord to be like your son. Help me to obey him. Help me to say his will not mine be done. Learn to pray back what the word commands you before you get on with it.
I think it’ll be a good practice to pray every time we read his word or are convicted about a specific area of discipleship. That’s a good practice in all things but we need to make it true for our personal discipleship. To read Jesus commands and tell him honestly, fulfill that in me or it’s not going to happen.
He says love your neighbor. Tell him how selfish you are and ask for his help. He says we should commit to his mission, remind him how self centered we are and how we need his help. If discipleship will work, if change will ever happen it’ll take Jesus to accomplish it in us. Apart from him we can do nothing.
When I walked in darkness it was my imagination that led me I saw things dimly but got used to this world of darkness I heard others whisper around me and knew I wasn’t alone We were in this together and somehow that brought comfort
So we walked trying to figure out the way But the more we stayed shut in the more we got used to this Soon we knew how to live without light We had become like bats and were okay with that
You’d have been struck hearing us plan the future We had forgotten our greatest need for light And we were content figuring life on our own I dare say we now hated the light and rejoiced in darkness
When the flashlight lit the room our eyes couldn’t bear it We were used to the darkness, how were we to handle such light? But more importantly how were we to live in this new world? Before we knew what we wanted but now everything had changed
If he didn’t hold my hand I doubt I would have come out Many are those who chose to shut their eyes ignoring the light So often I find myself going back to that habit Choosing the darkness instead of his marvelous light
Now I am a child of the light but I live in a world of darkness Lord if you didn’t hold my hand I would quickly shut my eyes Teach my heart to love the light of the Gospel To walk this new life with the torch of your Word
Hold my hand Lord for my heart is prone to wander and hide The old man of darkness keeps knocking at my door I would have him totally destroyed yet he seems to resurrect daily Grant me the grace and strength to also kill him daily
I long for that day when the darkness will be no more When my eyes will close and never see that old man again I crave for the world above where your light rules the day Lord, keep my gaze on that day when I see your light forever
You cannot truly love someone if other loves exists Ours is not a truly generous heart but a selfish one It says I can love all these and still love you But true love sacrifices other loves for the one love And none loves God truly who still holds on to his idols
Lord I seek that I would love you above everything To love you more than the loves of this heart But so often I hear the lie within saying I can do it all That I can have you, my comfort, my sin and my idols The loves of my heart won’t die easily and yet they must
When I stay in the reading of your Word I see your great love You who left heaven, your comfort and security for this heart Yet she won’t leave her loves behind to fully embrace you I need help Lord for my loves hold so tightly on me They lie to me I can love them and still love you
There are days I find great conquest on this heart Times I feel I have killed all the enemies of my soul Those times I hate my loves and life itself But soon I realize they were not dead but only asleep Only you can help me to kill these dear loves of my heart
I give you full permission lord, kill these evil loves Conquer this heart with your word that I may love you truly To love you not only with my lips but my heart and deeds Make the loves of my heart the love of your commands Give me a true love of you by killing all my other loves
As long as we are called to kill sin daily To subject this body of sin to obedience To go against the flow of this world And wage war against the lies of Satan Ours will always be a life of suffering
For to deny this man of sin won’t come easily To reject the culture of our day won’t be welcome The enemy of our souls won’t let us be And doubt will easily creep in unnoticed Yet ours is the assurance of the sons of God
It’ll be a battle that looks impossible to win There will be days when we feel defeated But we’ll rise to fight again and again We’ll look foolish to deny our own cravings But ours will be the true life of freedom
Ours is a hard calling, the call to wage war Not with fellow man but within ourselves To reject the ways of the natural man To obey the Gospel and deny the inner man But ours is the hope of everlasting life
Ours is the confidence to call God our father The privilege to be God’s chosen people To enjoy the freedom that only he can give And to walk this earth with our Lord Ours is the life that truly is life
It is in our weaknesses he’s most sufficient In our desperation he gives great comfort And while the world crumbles he’s a sure rock But it’s not always easy to walk up to him At times we find it hard to knock his door Many times we hide from our only helper To do everything but seek him in prayer
It’s not out of ignorance we remain silent No, we know we’ve nowhere else to run Sometimes we’ve tried everything else But the pride in us says I can handle it Tomorrow I’ll pick myself up and fix it I’ll rid myself of this need once and for all Only it never works and we know it, don’t we?
Sometimes it’s the guilt of our self righteousness We judge him by our own expectations How would he receive us back we wonder But he’s no fellow man and we know it He knows us and yet chose to love us in Christ If it was merit that opens his door none would ever enter No, it’s the needy men like us that he embraces by grace
Lord forgive the trespass of seeing you like fellow men The sin to think you only accept me when I do well How low I would bring you to bribe you with my deeds But you see me in Christ and draw closer in my need Help me kill this pride that hides in good deeds Crown me with the humility that prayer requires Show me how desperate I am without you
Teach me to see you as a father not merely a teacher To see I don’t need to earn favor to meet you So often I go back to that old religion of works But I would have the Gospel of grace bring me to you Grant me the spirit of a child to run without care to my father The humility to look to you first in my need And a heart that sees my desperate need of you
When I find myself wanting what my neighbor owns When I crave to outdo my friends in everything And to be the one everyone talks about I miss a deep wound in my heart for my ambition I need that Gospel that says you already have everything
Why do we so often miss the blessings the Lord has given? Why do we murmur and complain when we are so privileged? We get so angry that God has refused us our craving We walk bitterly when he seems to bless others more We need that assurance that says we are deeply loved
It’s not once that we celebrate others with a bitter soul Wanting to look happy but dying with jealousy within Our friends gets married before us and we hate them for it They get that car or that job and they become an enemy Dear Lord please grant us the joy of the Gospel
Help us remember what we already share in the Gospel The great spiritual blessings we own together in Christ Give us a genuine desire to celebrate with our brothers Kill the the lust and craving to outdo each other Give us the gratitude needed to genuinely rejoice with others
Rid our hearts off the bitterness of competition Cause us to rejoice in the prosperity of others Remind us the wealth we own in your heavens Help us outdo each other in good works down here Give us the gratitude of the Gospel in all circumstances
Ever felt like the anticipation of rest is more than the rest we actually get. You know when it’s a Thursday evening and you tell yourself just one more day and it’s the weekend. That feeling when you know Saturday morning lie in is coming. When you don’t need to snooze the alarm. It’s even better when you’ve had a long week. You can feel the dancing in your brain imagining all the rest you’ll get.
Unfortunately sometimes weekends don’t always deliver. Something happens that makes it hard to rest well. A sick child, a mourning friend or a bad quarrel with a spouse. Or you get that full weekend but perhaps the fear of the coming crazy week robs you the rest you anticipated. And even when we’ve got the perfect weekend we know it’s not going to last. Monday tends to come quicker than we imagine. And if you are unemployed rest becomes an unwelcome friend.
What is it with rest that is so fleeting? We want it so much but it always seem to escape us. The entertainment world tells us we can get it, just pay for Netflix. Go out hiking with friends or do nyama choma. But none of it seems to deliver on our wild craving for it. Are we just ungrateful people? It’s possible. Have we become too obsessed with rest that we miss the good occasional blessings of it? I think we have.
But there are also many things that make good rest one of those rare things despite God putting it in our weekly calendar. Perhaps the longing for perfect rest is like what C.S Lewis called a desire for something in the world beyond. It’s ingrained in us but can’t be fully realised in our present world. Perhaps we were made for rest because we were made for God. Isn’t it striking that we meet the idea of rest right at the beginning of our creation story. Genesis 2 tells us;
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2 NIV.
Of all the things you think about God have you ever associated him with rest? That he’s for rest and fun? Perhaps our pagan religious roots has made God feel like a man who hates rest and is anything but fun. We might even think a good Christian taking a day off is ungodly. It’s no wonder sometimes people can feel church is no fun. Like God is out to get me busy and heaven is all about Keshas and crusades. Well not really. The God we find in Genesis 1&2 works and after that enjoys his eternal rest. Actually our work is supposed to point us to that unattained rest. We were made for this rest with God.
The Hebrew author commenting on this says;
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Hebrews 4 NIV.
Now that makes heaven fun doesn’t it? God isn’t calling us to a choir of angels flipping our wings up and down. He’s inviting us to take a holiday with him in his perfect creation. Just imagine going on a safari with Jesus with Paul driving. Man oh man! You must be like man I could do with that like now. Maybe you are not the outdoor kind of guy. Think about this then, playing a snooker game with King David. Or maybe it’s Timothy, David feels like the hunting kind of guy. Though he might enjoy a bit of dance for those with more than a left leg.
Now I know I’m making some of you uncomfortable with this but maybe it’s our imagination that needs a bit of work. I don’t for once imagine a boring heaven like our mystical religious world portrays it. Nor do I presume a hellish paradise with drugs and prostitution as the wicked man would want. I think the God who calls us to rest, the God who imagined the beauty of creation and one who really cares for his children is a lot more fun than we imagine. His is actually the right kind of fun. And in Jesus we can long for that perfect rest and for more than a weekend.
Listen to how Isaiah puts it and tell me if that’s not some perfect way to rest. Isaiah 25 says;
6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. Isaiah 25 NIV.
You heard that right. God is calling you to a heavenly party after party. Great meat, good wine, no tears, no death and no evil. If we got that even for a weekend it’d be worth everything wouldn’t it? Imagine having it for eternity. A life of fun with the Almighty and all knowing God. Imagine what his idea of fun is when you remove sin, death and Satan in the capture. I know I can’t wait. Can you?
It was among the pigs where he found us We were outcasts driven outside the city Thinking we had it all but ours a kingdom of dirt Garbage was our fortune and dung our treasure Until he found us in this mess we called the good life
He didn’t wait for us to look for him In truth we thought we had it all He couldn’t send his highborn servants for us No he walked down the dumping site And embraced us despite our foulness
Why did he care about the rot of society? Why would the son of God walk among thieves? To love and die for a smelly people like us? Surely it wasn’t for something special we could offer We were helpless, blind and lost without knowing it
I would love to say mine was a better story That among the street urchins I was the best But what could a street boy offer the king of kings If I was any better it was the zeal of my treachery It was the multitude of my sins that begged his mercy
Ours is a story of rags to riches Not that we’ve nailed the good life here and now But the good Lord has bought us for himself He’s clothed us with his robe of righteousness And made us sons and heirs in his eternal house