Altar Vision Devotional - Week 6

If God doesn’t control all my life, does he have any of my life?

Scripture

So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV)

Reflection

We can determine the weight of something by measuring the amount of water it “displaces.” This is how huge warships are often measured. We see this principle at work when we get into a full bathtub and the water level is raised around us. The amount of water displaced when we enter the ocean, however, is too small for us to notice any difference.

The kingdom of heaven is vaster than any ocean, but there is an impact when we enter in: all of heaven rejoices. If we want to talk about “displacement” however, we need to look at what happens when the kingdom of heaven enters us. 

Rich Villodas says, “I wonder if the reason many in the church struggle in our witness is because we haven’t preached repentance (or repented) deep enough. We often preach behaviour modification, by which we call people to live respectable lives. But repentance is the full turning of ourselves to God.”

This means surrendering everything: every thought that we are self-sufficient; every back-up comfort we carry; every secret sin; every hope and scheme that is not grounded in Christ. It involves admitting that we cannot do it ourselves and embracing our weakness. It requires understanding that God is God and we are not; he is the Judge and we are not; Jesus is the Saviour and we are not. As hard as this is, it is also incredibly liberating. The kingdom of heaven displaces whatever other kingdom we have going on inside. 

This does not mean our identity, personality, or individuality disappear. In the strange (to us) kingdom economy, the more we are filled with the kingdom of heaven, the more “ourselves” we become. We see this happen with Jesus. Philippians 2:1-11 tells us that Jesus made himself nothing, humbled himself and took on the nature of a servant. And God exalted him to the highest place, giving him the highest name of glory and honour. We are exhorted to have this very same mindset. We surrender our lives, yes, but in so doing we find our real life in Christ Jesus. We get low, so that God can raise us up high. I let go of the “Kingdom of Me” so I can take hold of the “Kingdom of Heaven”.

Action

Take some concrete steps to empty yourself of unhelpful distractions, false comforts, and unhealthy attachments. Ask the Lord to show you what he wants to “displace” in your life with his Kingdom. If it is a material object, bury it in the ground, throw it in a river, or burn it in the fireplace. If it is a sin, habit or worldview, confess it, then write it on a rock and throw it in the ocean. This may be surprisingly hard to do as our attachments – the things we use to hide our chaos, numb our pain, and direct our desires – tend to go very deep. So, enlist a friend to help. Tell them what you are doing and ask them to join you and keep you accountable going forward. This indicates that you want to be emptied of the things that are not of the kingdom of God, so you can filled by the things that are. This action may not end your struggle, but it shows (to yourself) that you are serious and that you want to live in a way that is surrendered, free, and motivated by love rather than fear or habit.

Prayer

Father, show me how to surrender to you. Show me how surrendering to you means freedom for me. Show me the things that I am holding onto, the things that I am trusting in, that you want me to surrender. Please displace these things in me by the presence of your Kingdom, and help me to participate in the life of Jesus. In your name I pray, Jesus, and by your Spirit. Amen.

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