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Presenting Ourselves for Transformation - Shavuot

Dr. Howard Morgan

Shavuot teaches us, we are to continually present ourselves, with our sinful nature, to the Lord.

Interpreting the circumstances and situations of our lives according to God’s wisdom and revelation creates a spiritual, emotional, and psychological space in our lives for God’s transformational work in us.

As with all the appointed feasts set forth by the Lord in His sacred calendar, the festival of Shavuot portrays an important part of God’s plan for empowering us to experience the realities of His Kingdom. In the natural realm, Shavuot commemorates the beginning of the spring harvest. In the spiritual realm, it mem-orializes the very beginning of our transformation. Passover, which precedes Shavuot by 50 days (hence the Greek name "Pentecost"), signifies the shedding of the Messiah’s blood so that death would "Pass-over" and deliver us from the power of sin and Satan. Shavuot signifies the presentation of our lives to God as his children, ready to be trained as heirs to share the throne with the King (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 5:10, 20:6, 22:5).

On Shavuot the high priest would wave two loaves of bread, baked with leaven, before the Lord (Leviticus 23:17). The fact that they had leaven in them is central to our understanding of the spiritual application of this feast. Unleavened bread (matzo) is the central symbol of the Passover representing the Messiah’s sinless life. Thus, the first loaves of bread that are produced by the harvest have leaven symbolizing our sin-infected humanity. God does not reject us because our human nature is yet imperfect. He only asks that we present it to Him. This small but tremendously important fact is often times overlooked by many believers, with much spiritual devastation being the result. Indeed many stop walking with the Lord because they feel so intensely their own "humanity" with its predisposition to sin. They become discouraged and defeated, as they become disgusted with their own continual failures. Eventually condemnation sets in as they allow themselves to think like this: "I can’t live as a Christian. It’s too hard. I keep falling into sin. Why bother, it’s hopeless." (Hebrews 12:15)

This is a great tragedy because as Shavuot teaches us, we are to continually present ourselves, with our sinful nature, to the Lord. Then He is able to continue His great work of redemption and reformation in our lives. The Jewish apostle Paul expressed this fundamental truth of the Torah as he continually exhorted the Messiah’s disciples to "present themselves" to the Lord (Romans 3:16-19, 12:1, 2 Timothy 2:15). God set up the festival of Shavuot as an annual convocation for the nation of Israel to observe. It is insightful to know that one of the meanings of the Hebrew word for convocation is "rehearsal." We are to be rehearsing–i.e., continually practicing–these spiritual "exercises" until they become experiential realities in our lives. The fact that God wants us to continually "rehearse" these truths shows us very clearly the fatherly heart of God. He continually desires to receive us as his beloved children (Matthew 11:28-30). He longs to transform us, so we can be qualified to rule and reign with him over all of creation (2 Timothy 2:12, Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Understanding that we are "students" in the process of being transformed and trained to rule and reign with God gives us an eternal perspective on all our trials and tribulations as well as our continual proclivity to sin. This understanding and perspective is essential for our lives as disciples. This perspective enables us to maintain a healthy, vibrant and growing relationship with God. It enables us to interpret the circumstances and situations of our lives according to God’s wisdom and revelation. This "eternal perspective" creates a spiritual, emotional, and psychological space in our lives for God to do His transformational work in us. Without this perspective and understanding, we will be left to our own abilities to understand, explain, ignore or deny the experiences of our life. We become mere survivors simply enduring life, rather than overcomers who are thriving, or "reigning in life," which Paul says is our inheritance in the Messiah (Romans 5:17). This perspective and understanding opens our lives to an exciting ever-expanding relationship with God. Prayer becomes a vital, integral part of our everyday existence. We desire to be in constant communication with heaven because we need the wisdom and power of god to be good students in His school. We need help with our "lessons" and power to allow the changes he wants to make in our lives.

Without this perspective, it is very easy for the "leaven" in our lives to harden our hearts to God and to others. Without this perspective, condemnation can easily overtake us. We can become convinced that we will never "make it," and so we "backslide" and give up walking with the Lord. Without this perspective, sin will get an advantage over us. Sin is spoken of in many different ways in the Bible. In Hebrews 3:13, it is spoken of as being deceitful. This means that it is very subtle in its ability to corrupt our thoughts and feelings and distort and then destroy our relationship with God and other people. The leaven in our lives, if left unpresented to God, will harden our hearts as surely as bread left uneaten and out in the open will get as hard as a rock. When we remember the lesson of Shavuot–that we are commanded to continually present our selves with our "leaven" to God–then we are able to keep our perspective. We can continually maintain direction, and ultimately complete our training. Then on that great day we will hear the Lord say to us these awesome words: "Well done, my good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

It is precisely because this is what the Father desires to say to us that the Messiah told his disciples to wait for Shavuot when they would receive the great gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was to come with a very special purpose. His job would be to comfort, guide, teach, empower and transform all those who would come to faith in the Messiah and follow Him as one of his "students" (John 14:26; Acts, 1:8, 9:31; Romans 5:5, 15:13; Titus 3:5). When we come to the Lord with the attitude of a "student," everything in our lives changes. It makes a tremendous change in our thinking. Instead of condemning ourselves–or allowing other people or demonic spirits to condemn us–we simply look at each situation with the attitude that says, "I am a student of the Kingdom of God. I am just learning how to walk with and obey the King. He is not condemning me. He knows my weaknesses and my limitations. He himself has experienced them (Hebrews 4:15). He has invited me into His Kingdom in this condition. I do not desire to stay the way I am. I desire to grow in every way the Lord wants me to, so every day I repent. Every day I turn to the Lord and say: ‘Your mercies are new each morning, and each morning I present myself as your student for my teacher, the Holy Spirit, to comfort me, teach me, and transform me into Your image’ " (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10). We do not turn away from God and allow the deceitfulness of sin to harden our hearts. We remain faithful students in His "School of the Spirit." We continue to show up for our "classes," where our great teacher, comforter and guide does His supernatural work in our lives.

Too many believers do not know how to receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When we read of Him as being our teacher and comforter, we usually remember our experiences with the teachers we had in school. Few of us had teachers, who would "comfort" us when we made mistakes when learning anything new. But those of us who did have such teachers never forget them. They created a psychological, emotional and intellectual environment encouraging our growth. They did not condemn us, but encouraged us. They strengthened our resolve to overcome our difficulties. They were there to guide us step by step through the learning process.

School with such teachers was fun! It was fun because learning was created by God to be a pleasurable and joyful experience. Today scientists have discovered that when we learn new things, our brains produce endorphins, which are pleasure- producing chemicals. God has created us biologically to love learning. When learning is not joyful, because our teachers are not "comforters," not only do we not learn, but we also even hate to go to school. It becomes a place of pain and frustration.

This is why many people no longer walk with the Lord, no longer go to church, or have any Christian fellowship. They never learned how to let the Holy Spirit be their comforter as they walked through the difficulties of life. Some believers have made the common mistake of putting leaders in the place of the Holy Spirit. They wrongly think that what their leaders do, or do not do, is what the holy Spirit is doing or not doing. When those leaders fail (as they inevitably will), it is easy to get disgusted, disappointed, discouraged, and depressed. Anyone can fall prey to the error of looking to people rather than looking to God. They think like this: "Well, if God is like that, I want nothing to do with Him." Remember Hebrews 12:2 says that we are to "look unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." No man has authored your faith, nor can any man complete or perfect it.

Even when other people are not involved, the circumstances of life can get so painful that we may be tempted to "blame" God for allowing our suffering or failing to alleviate it. We allow our hearts to get hardened rather than enroll as a "student" in the "class of suffering." It is only when we repent, when we turn to God and come to this "class" as a "student" in the "school of the spirit" that we put ourselves in the only place where we can experience quite profoundly the supernatural comforting of the Holy Spirit that is promised to us (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). No one can comfort and teach you like he can. Sometimes explanations won’t help. Sometimes there is no answer to the question "Why?" But there is always the comfort and the ministry of the spirit available to us. Jesus told his original disciples to wait until Shavuot for the Holy Spirit to come to them and begin His ministry in their lives. This is the time of year to ask yourself these questions. Have you received the Spirit of God into your life? Do you know his power? Do you know His comfort? Are you allowing Him to do His work of transformation in your life? (Titus 3:5, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:10).

The promise of Shavuot is for you, too! Remember the word of the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:38-39: "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."

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