Archive for January, 2011

January 26, 2011

Addition by Subtraction

by Lester Young

Addition by subtraction. Not a new idea, to be sure. As a matter of fact, if you were to do an in-depth study, you’d find that it’s a central theme throughout the entire Bible. What the heck am I talking about? Well, let’s consider it in a couple of different contexts.

Take seeds. What do you do with them? What are we supposed to do with them? Well, God started out by giving us every herb and tree on the face of the earth that bears seeds (Genesis 1:29). Why’d He do that? Probably so’s we could plant them as opposed to the objective of storing them; because, when planted, they produce much more than we’d have if we’d just kept them and used them for other purposes. So we’ve got to get them out of our greedy little hands and into the ground where they can do what they’re actually intended to do. We have to let go of them – we’ve gotta subtract them from our life’s balance sheet.

Jesus taught extensively on this subject, directly using the example of seeds. In one instance, He declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a [grain] of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone: but if it [falls into the ground and] dies, it brings forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Furthermore, in parables, He continually likened the entire Kingdom of God to a seed being planted, growing up and producing a multiplied harvest. We can’t get by or away from this fundamental principle (Mark 4:13). It’s the way the system works. It’s how God designed it, and it’ll continue to work that way as long as the earth is around (Genesis 8:22).

Now let’s change our focus to the inner man. If you take a step back and see it for what it is, you’ll find that the same theme is in effect. The Lord Jesus told His followers not to put the same priority on things that the world does, but instead to “seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness” (that is, how God does things and what He considers right), “and then all these other things [that the world seeks after] will be added to you [also]” (Matthew 6:33). In other words, stop worrying about your own life and livelihood (Matthew 6:24-31), because whoever’s looking to make, save and/or keep his own life and interests first and foremost is destined to lose it. But “whoever [chooses to] lose (or disregard) his life for [Jesus’] sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). After all, what good is holding onto your own life’s desires and intentions, gaining the whole world, and losing your inner man (Luke 9:25), the real you?

The Apostle Paul considered all the natural and seemingly advantageous things of his life as nothing but loss to himself – he chalked them up on the ‘Subtract!’ side of the equation. Why? Because he knew that what he would gain for such a calculation would far, far, faarrr outweigh and outvalue any loss that he might actually experience (Philippians 3:7-8). The gain of Christ – the Anointed One along with His Anointing – can’t even be compared with anything this world has (Proverbs 3:14-15; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). Besides, He can bring – and has stated that He would – all the good that this world has to offer (Deuteronomy 28:1-13; Proverbs 3:16, Matthew 6:33).

Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10) – multiplied life! But to have it we’re required to lay down, lose, plant and let die, our devotion to ourselves and our own purposes and emotions. When we do that – when we subtract ourselves from our own equations on a daily basis, moment by moment, decision by decision – we can then let Him sit on that vacated throne in our hearts. Hey, it’s rightly His anyway, and He can always be trusted to make the right decision, the best decision, the most loving decision – not only for us, but for everybody around us, too. That’s why God put us here, to bless everybody else by His Spirit that’s on the scene through us (Genesis 12:2-3; Deuteronomy 8:18). Addition by subtraction – when you think about it, sounds just like something He’d do, doesn’t it?

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