Nesses Ministry Sheets
Do any of you speak Christianese? When we communicate with each other, we believe they already know the meanings of all the words they use. Over the years the words have been filled up with meaning—from Sunday school, from sermons, from common usage, from experience, etc. However, my background and my experience is probably is not the same as yours, and so my words and your words, both with the same label, may not mean the same thing. When we use these words we both know what we are saying, but we may not be communicating.
The Nesses are “Created” new words that are filled with the meaning and the emotional content that will allow us to communicate with each other about the heart of our Christian walk and our experience with our Heavenly Father.
For instance, one person might use the word salvation to designate the born-again experience of a Christian when God comes to dwell in a person’s life. Another person might use salvation to mean an ongoing process that changes us into the likeness of Jesus. They are using exactly the same word, but the meaning of the word is not the same. In addition, most Christians have a standard “Christian” vocabulary, an insider set of words that is used differently by different groups of Christian people. Often the meanings of certain words we know are just wrong; they point in the wrong direction, and they point to a wrong understanding. All of these things I call Christianese.
The words we use are important. Many of the words we use come from the Bible. However, the Bible is not King James English or NIV English—the Bible is Hebrew and Greek. When the Bible is translated from Hebrew or Greek into English, the translator often puts his or her bias into the words chosen. The selection of the English word used in translation can have a profound influence on the translated meaning of the passage.
Consider the words we use. Some words seem flat, two-dimensional, and devoid of life, while others seem three-dimensional, filled with life. Jesus said that the works that He did (including speaking His Father’s words), we would do also, and that we would do even greater works than those because was going to the Father (John 14:12). In the same way that Jesus only spoke what the Father was speaking (John 5:19), so also our words should come from the Spirit of God. He said in John 6:63, “…the words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” The words we speak should also be Spirit and Life, and they will be if the Holy Spirit is speaking them through us. Our words should partake of His Life, His reality, with His power and in His timing. That changes lives.
Have you ever had this experience? Sometimes when you are sharing the good news of Jesus Christ the words don’t go anywhere, they just fall to the ground and do not do the work of God. Other times they seem to hit the mark, and you see that hungry look come into the person’s eyes, and they are really receptive to what God has for them. That is because sometimes we are speaking the words of God, in His timing and His power, to the person He has chosen us to speak with, and other times we miss the mark. Our timing is wrong or we are saying dead words of doctrine or the stored knowledge we have gathered over the years; good words perhaps, but not words that are Spirit and Life.
In the following section we will create some new words and fill them up with meaning. I call these words “the Nesses.” The Nesses are words that encapsulate the simple things of God for our practical walk in life. They are simple, three-dimensional words that, when faithfully lived, will enable Him to bring change into our lives. The Nesses will assist you to enable Father God to do His work in you. For as Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
What are these words? I will begin with a few that I consider the primary words:
- Simpleness—the things of God are simple.
- Nothingness—God is the sole author of our faith and the only one that can bring change.
- Willingness—our part in the Christian walk.
- Puppyness—what it is to believe.
- Featherness—what it is to rest and obey God.
- Nextness—the path for our being changed.
- Nowness—the time for the Christian walk is only in the present.
- Forgiveness—forgive everyone, everything, all of the time, right now.
Simpleness is the first of the new words that we can use in our walk in Life. Simpleness allows us to know when we are beginning to miss God’s eternal purpose in our lives.
A pamphlet on simpleness ought to be simple, so let’s begin.
There is often an underlying assumption in the Christian community that the more intelligent you are, the more you know and understand, the better Christian you are. Is that true? Romans 2:11 says, “God is not a respecter of persons.”
It says that God has no favorites. It means that no one person has an advantage over any other person in discovering and receiving all God is and all He has for the people of His creation. It means that a person of great intellect and great education does not have an advantage over a person of little intellect or little education. Both have an equal opportunity to receive all that God has for them.
It says in the Bible that the early disciples were ignorant and unlearned men, yet Jesus chose each one of them. On the other hand, the apostle Paul was a man of great learning; yet in Philippians 3:8 he said he considered his great learning and accomplishments under the law “as rubbish.” It is clear that our Life in Christ is not based on our intellect or understanding.
If the Christian life isn’t based on great knowledge and great learning, then it must be simple…so simple that anyone can comprehend all that is required to participate in the eternal purpose of God.
Simpleness. The things of God are simple. Be clear: if the Christian walk becomes complicated, you can be sure you are missing Him and His purpose in your life.
Busy doing something for God? In the eternal scheme of things, it may all amount to nothing.
From the very beginning of our Christian life together, my wife and I learned that God wanted us to live all of our lives in obedience to Him in all things. Obedience implies that we could know the will of God for the present moment. We began to listen for His voice and found that He spoke to us and directed our lives.
One day, as I was out walking, He said to me, “Without Me you can do nothing.” I replied, “But Lord, look at all the things I have done in my life without you.” And He replied, “Yes, my son, and they all amounted to nothing.”
He showed me that the good stuff, the bad stuff, and all the other stuff I did, much of it “for God,” amounted to nothing. It had no value to Him and it had no reality in the Kingdom. Why was it of no value? Because it was “my stuff,” and often “other stuff,” but not “His stuff.”
A bit later in my life, I found the same message in Jesus’ teaching on the true vine in John 15. Here, Jesus tells His disciple, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
If, then, without Him you can do nothing, consider that within Him (“with” Him and “in” Him) you can do all things. In Philippians 4:13, the Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The Greek word for through in this verse is εν (en), meaning in or by. The Greek word strengthens is ενδυναμοω (endunamoo), to empower. We get our word dynamite from the same word. A better translation, therefore, would be, “I can do all things in (by) Him who empowers me.”
We are called to seek His guidance, to be available to hear His voice, and to walk in obedience by His power in His timing. This is doing all things with Him, in Him, and by His power. This is doing what the Father is doing.
Willingness is all about learning to be available to the Spirit of God, discovering God’s heart for you, and allowing Him to fulfill His purpose in your life. It is as simple as continually saying “yes” to Him.
We also learned in Nothingness that everything we do without Him amounts to nothing. The question then comes to mind, “So what is my part in the Christian walk?”
The short answer is that our part is to choose (with our willer) the will of God for our life. It is as simple as learning to say “yes.”
The willer in your soul is like a small door. When you say yes to the intents of God, you open that little door and give God permission to do His work in you.
The longer answer is a bit more nuanced. Consider Philippians 2:12–13: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Note that it says that God does both the willing and the work. God does the willing too? If He does the willing, then let me ask again, what is my part in the Christian walk? If He does the willing too, won’t God just force His will on me and do what He wants?
Shortening the Hand of God
Father God is a gentleman; he does not force His will on us. He waits for us to be willing for His willing and His doing.
Because there is a next most needful thing in our lives, and only He knows what that is, we need to be willing to let Him reveal that next most needful thing in us. Then we choose the will of God for our lives and give Him permission to put that specific purpose for right now into our hearts. As we come into agreement with Him on that purpose, He is then able to begin the “doing” in our lives. That “doing” is changing us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. When we are continually willing for His willing and doing, it is called availability. We are open to Him for His good pleasure, His good purpose.
When you are unwilling, you shorten the hand of God. When you are unwilling, He will not be able to work in your life; He is not able to bless you with all the blessings he has in store for you. God waits for your willingness. A constant attitude of willingness makes us available to the Spirit of God, to hear His voice and to walk in obedience
In the New Testament, believe (pisteuo in the Greek) is a very important word, used more than 90 times in the Gospel of John alone! But in the New Testament, the object of the verb pisteuo is a person, not a doctrine. The sense of the word in the Greek is reliance upon, not mere credence or mental assent. Here, believe points to a trusting relationship with a person—Jesus Christ—rather than just an understanding or an agreement about something.
Question: Do you believe? Do you really, really believe? Answer: Yes, I believe. I am a believer.
Question: What do you believe? Answer: Well…I believe in God and in Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus was a real historic person and lived 2,000 years ago. I believe in heaven and hell.
Question: Excellent, but do you believe the really difficult things? Do you believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh? Answer: Yes
Question: Well then, do you believe in the virgin birth? Answer: Well, I’m not sure about that, but I do believe…etc.
This hypothetical exchange is familiar to most Christians, a typical discussion about believing. Many Christians are of the opinion that believing is about doctrine, that the subject of belief is a doctrinal statement consisting of a long litany of truths, and within that list of truths are certain critical core doctrines that determine your stature as a “true believer,” a Christian.
I have a small puppy named Obadiah, a golden-white cockapoo. My puppy doesn’t know anything about me; he doesn’t know any of my history, who I am, what I have done, where I came from, what I do for a living, where I go to church, who my parents are, how I voted in the last elections, etc. In fact, my puppy doesn’t know any “doctrine” about me. But he has an attitude about me. Whenever we are in the same room, I am the center of his attention—his eyes follow me wherever I go. He follows me from room to room just to be in my presence. When I sit down in my chair, he comes to me, sits at my feet, and begs to be allowed up onto my lap. When given permission, he leaps up onto my lap and actively presents himself for my attention. Then, after I rub him behind the ears and speak to him softly, assuring him that I really care about him, he circles around once and then twice, and then his little bottom goes down, and then his front. As he settles down on my lap and is resting there, he gives a big sigh. The message is clear; “OK, I’m available…love me.”
God’s heart is that we be related to Him—that we come to Him, present ourselves, and say, “OK, I’m available…love me.” We need to learn to snuggle down into His presence, resting on Him, allowing Him to cuddle us in His loving arms, and actively giving Him permission to love us.
Feathers float in the air, responding to every breeze. As Christians, we need to practice Featherness as the Spirit moves on us.
A proper stance in the Christian walk is to constantly be available to the Spirit of God and His breath of Life. As He provides guidance for our life at the moment, we must not harden our hearts, but respond like a feather.
My wife and I, at the very start of our Christian life together, learned that God wanted us to live all of our lives in obedience to Him. We began asking Him about even the small things of life, and we found He answered. This included reading the Bible under His direction. As I sat with the Bible, I would ask God, “Where do you want me to read today?” Often, He would answer me with a particular place. After a few years of reading under His guidance, He began having me read in Hebrews, specifically chapters three and four. In these chapters, God invites us to come and live in the place where He dwells, to enter into His rest, to cease from our own labors, and to dwell there. He also warns us not to harden our hearts, not to act in disobedience, and, in so doing, fail to enter into this place of rest.
One afternoon, when I asked the question, “Where do you want me to read today?” the answer was still the same. He said, “Hebrews chapters three and four.” I said, “Lord, you know we have been here for more than two years. I believe I understand what it says.” He replied, “Yes, but you haven’t gotten it yet. Merely understanding will not do. Until I can change you and work this into your life, we must continue here. For now, this is the one thing most needful in your life.” And so we continued in Hebrews chapters three and four.
One day while we were reading in Hebrews chapters three and four, the Lord said, “Harden not your heart.” While I had read that many times and understood what the words meant, I knew I needed to ask, and so I said, “Lord, what is a hard heart?” Immediately He showed me a picture of myself pushing against the brick wall of our fireplace. He said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Pushing against a brick wall.” He said, “Is it hard?” I answered, “Yes, it is hard.” He said, “Why is it hard?” He then revealed to me that it was hard because it pushed back. The harder I pushed, the harder it pushed back. Then came the lesson:
The Lord said, “During your walk with me, my Holy Spirit pushes on you with His still small voice and gentle breeze. He gives you guidance and empowers you to obey. Then, should you choose to do your own thing, you are pushing back; you are hardening your heart. Doing your own thing—pushing back—is called sin; it is disobedience.” He said, “My desire for you is that you would respond to my spirit with immediate obedience.” Later, God showed me that He wanted me to respond to the gentle breeze of His Spirit like a feather buoyed up by his strength, timing and direction.
I then learned that immediate obedience did not mean to grab it and run with it. It meant to stay engaged with the Spirit of God for His timing and His power. When prompted, I would begin to move as directed. However, I would hold loosely what I understood the guidance to be, acknowledging that I am hard of hearing and of slow of understanding. I call this the tentative walk in obedience. I allow the Spirit to do on-course correction in the direction and timing to my obedient walk.
God’s eternal purpose is to change us into His likeness. He wants to give us his Life. This only happens by obedience, and obedience implies hearing His voice. Today, when you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart. Respond like a feather and be transformed into His likeness. In all things, practice Featherness.
Life is not only made up of a few large decisions, such as what college to attend, your career choice, who to marry, whether to have children, whether to buy a house, etc. Life is primarily made up of a myriad of small decisions every day. It is important that we are obedient to God’s leading even in these small things, because each of these decisions closes off other life paths and opportunities for transformation.
Nextness is really a subset of Featherness; it deals with some additional aspects of obedience. Several times in this book I have said that God has a “next most needful thing” for our lives; let’s look at some of the implications of it for our walk.
In the “Life’s Decisions” of you walk, if you make the right turn at point “1,” a left turn at point “2,” and another right turn at point “3,” there are a whole series of unrealized futures that are no longer available because of these decisions. Time moves on, and decisions not made have been left in the past. When we choose to follow our own path, and not God’s path, time passes, those unrealized futures do not happen, and we are not changed. Transformation is a process; the more we are disobedient, the less we are like Him in this life. God waits for obedience—without it, there is no transformation.
Helping God is Not Obedience
Now, if we insist on helping God out by telling Him what we want and what He must do in our lives, then the change does not happen—only religion happens. God’s plan is put on hold until we are willing for the next most needful thing for our lives. God is a gentleman. He will not force us to do His will for our lives. He waits until we are willing to follow His program.
If God is doing something in your best friend’s life, and you decide He should also be doing it in your life, and you pester Him for it, that is usually a problem. That “something” is most likely not the next most needful thing for you; it will not change you into the likeness of Jesus. Yes, God may have that “something” also for you in your life at some point, but not next and not now. It is His program, His plan. Your part is obedience; His part is both the willing and the doing (Philippians 2:12f) in accordance to His plan. Only obedience causes you to change, and obedience is not obedience if it is out of order. If God wants A, then B, and then C in your life, and you insist on B first, then A, and then C, that is not obedience. God will wait until you are willing and ready to do A first. Then He is able to bless you with all that He has for you.
Restoration and transformation do not happen in two-dimensional Christianity—adherence to a theology or to doctrine won’t do it, and doing good for God won’t do it; only the Life of God in our lives and a walk in obedience in three-dimensional Christianity can make it happen. Only God knows the plan; only God knows what must come next. The Christian life is a series of next most needful things in obedience to God’s prompting. It is Him executing His plan in our lives by His Life in the third dimension. That is Nextness.
To paraphrase Deuteronomy 30:19, God is saying to us, “I have set before you this day Life or death, my blessing or the curse of my enemy Satan…Now choose life that you may live, by loving Me, by obeying My voice, and by holding fast to Me; for I am your life.” Let’s look at the idea of “now.”
- Now refers to an infinitely small segment of time that contains only the present tense.
- Now does not contain any past.
- Now does not contain any future.
- Now is the only time you have.
- Now is the only place choice can happen.
- Now is the only place you can have Life.
The not-now has only two dimensions: the past and the future. It has no present. The enemy of God would rob you of the now by focusing you on the past in self-pity, bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, etc., or focusing you on the future through fear of what might happen; he would have you continually asking, “what if?” to keep you afraid of the future.
God created us for relationship. Now is the only place of relationship and fellowship with God, with others, and with yourself. You can’t have a relationship with someone in the future or in the past. Now is the place you live, the place of Life, the place of being available to God for His purpose in your life. Now is the place where you discover the next most needful thing God has for you.
Jesus said, “I came that you might have life.” That life only takes place in the present. The whole of the Christian walk, including three-dimensional Christianity and the Nesses (Simpleness, Nothingness, Willingness, Puppyness, Featherness, Nextness, Nowness, and Forgiveness) all happen in the “now.”
God would have you fully present in the now: available to Him, responsive to Him, obedient to Him. He communicates with you only in the present, and He loves you in the now. You can only love God, others, and yourself in the now. Now is where you touch the heart of God, see His face, know His heart, know His love, discover His will for your life, walk in obedience, and finally are changed into his likeness. Choose now.
Forgiveness is not a suggestion; it is a commandment.
Matthew 6:14–15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Forgiving is so important; it is foundational to the Christian life. But when we have a spirit of unforgiveness in our hearts it says, “I am not willing to forgive the offense against me. I will remember what has been done to me. I will never forgive that person.”
- Forgive those who have wronged you.
- Ask forgiveness from those you have wronged.
- Forgive yourself.
- Forgive God??
Forgiving others is releasing someone from the wrong they have done to you. It is agreeing with God that they no longer owe you something for the wrong done. It is important to forgive as soon as God brings someone to your attention. However it is important to realize that forgiving someone is a process; it is not accomplished in just a single moment.
Ask Forgiveness From Those You Have Wronged
In the same way that you must forgive, you must also ask forgiveness from those you have wronged—and in some instances make restitution. Go before the Spirit of God and allow Him to show you any person you have wronged and the nature of your offense.
Now, seek His wisdom for the time and the method of asking forgiveness of them and how to make right the wrong, if necessary. Then be obedient, ask their forgiveness, and if required, make restitution. If they will not forgive you when you ask, know that you have done what is required, and you are released. If they do not forgive you, then it remains as sin in their life — it is no longer your sin.
The enemy of God, Satan and all his minions, is called the accuser of the saints. He would attempt to ruin your life with the burden of guilt. Be sure that, as you are forgiving others, you also remember to forgive yourself and release to God the burden of guilt that you carry.
This is a very hard thing for Christians to understand. Why would you need to forgive God? He is perfect and isn’t guilty of anything. So why would a Christian have bitterness (an unforgiving, resentful, angry attitude) against God?
Proverbs 19:3 illustrates the point: “When the foolishness of man ruins his life, his heart is angry against God.”
Do you have bitterness against God? Are you blaming Him for your own foolishness? Do you resent or feel angry with God, or do you feel He has let you down and not kept his promises to you, that He is responsible for your problems? You may know in your head that God is not guilty, but your heart says otherwise. Your heart says, “Where were you when I needed you?” and “Why did you allow this to happen to me?” Sometimes you even blame God for the times you felt certain that God had promised you something and He has not yet delivered. Sometimes, our hearts blame God that He feels absent from our lives, or that He is responsible for the hurts of the past. The enemy of God — Satan, is called the accuser of God; he wants you to blame God. When you cooperate with him, the resulting bitterness is a door point for him to gain additional access to your life. If you have bitterness against God, first deal with the sin and then seek God’s forgiveness.
God’s standard for forgiveness is that we must forgive everyone, everything, all of the time, right now — completely, all the way to blessing.