DRAWING NEAR – PART 1
EXAMINATION AND REPENTANCE
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4)
“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (Colossians 3:5)
“Knowing this that our old nature is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed so that we should from this time forth not be a servant of sin.” (Romans 6:6)
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections, passions and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
Our gracious Lord is always filled with genius ways of trying to get His point across – this is another reason we know He is the infinitely wise God. Human nature has a tendency to “float down the river” so to speak, when it comes to our everyday life and when things are going well we seldom find ourselves crying out to Him in desperation. It is in the times of frustration, hurt and discouragement that we wander around feeling sorry for ourselves and after we have exhausted everything and everyone we can think of, we finally turn to God and ask; “what is wrong and why is this happening?” This is also the place where things can become tricky. There is a huge difference between wanting God to “fix” our problems so that we can get back on track, but it is quite another to willingly volunteer to take a thorough inventory of our heart and allow Him to change the way we are. Most of the time we feel that “WE” have been rejected and wounded and that God surely feels sorry for us especially with how cruel and uncaring everyone is toward us (boo-hoo). However, if we are determined to seriously find the truth no matter how painful it may be – our conclusions will probably not turn out the way we imagined. Instead of referring to the problems within “other” people, let me focus on someone that I have spent lots of time with – me. I am a person that is infected with pride. This sounds like someone in a 12 step recovery program admitting they are an alcoholic and in the same way it is crucial to be completely honest in order to begin restoration. What is disturbing is that I have taken this inventory before and realize that I am still doing the same things. I look back in my life and remember times of smooth sailing but it was always short lived because something would set off my “pride” alarm. Of course I always had plenty of excuses and commonly blamed others for being jealous or them trying to “keep me down” and this would temporarily relieve my conviction by replacing it with justification. The truth is that I am impatient and aggressive and when someone does not pamper me or respect me to my specifications, I pack my bags and leave. The enemy learns about our weaknesses and how to push our buttons over the years and honestly why should he try any new ideas if the same ones produce good results? It has taken me a lifetime of going back and forth on the merry-go-round of stepping out in faith with excitement and then becoming angry, hurt and depressed only to realize that it was not everyone else’s fault after all…it was MY fault. Instead of bearing the fruit of humility, where I could relax, give it to the Lord and be filled with joy, I become aggressive and try to “make it happen” MY way.
You see, it does not really matter how we are wired or even our generational curses, these are just facts about the way we are – so what? Jesus said that we all must become transformed and changed by having our minds renewed. If we have “major” problems this just means we have lots of praying to do! This does not mean that God will understand and take into consideration that we are a dysfunctional mess – He knows we are! The life of a disciple was never to be easy because it requires us to “invite” Him in to empty all our distorted thoughts, reasons, ideas, arguments, and sinful negative attitudes into the garbage and be re-filled with HIS desires, ideas and plans. In short, this is called surrendering our will – and accepting His will. (That is a tall order) AND, it does not matter how much we do or how good we can do it, if our foundation is not built with humility, love, sincerity and holiness – our labor is in vain. Every time I get all worked up about being rejected and not respected, I end up grinding to a halt and falling on my face to God. And guess what? I agonize as we go through all of this again. Evidently He is hoping that repetition will bring revelation and eventually I will “get it.” I am reminded of Moses and how the people continued in a vicious cycle of rebellion and disobedience all those years and then I look in the mirror and sadly see the same thing. I realize once again that within my hard-headed carnality, I am my own worst enemy. “But be ye doers of the Word, and NOT hearers only, DECEIVING your own selves. For if any person be a hearer of the Word and not a doer, they are like an individual looking at their selves in a mirror: and after they see their self, they walk away and immediately forget what type of person they really are. But, whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty and lives according to it and becomes determined to follow God’s truth and apply it to their life – this person shall be blessed.” (James 1:22-25)
I have confessed all of this to certain ones who know me and some that have had brief encounters with me for the purpose to say that I am truly sorry. I’m sure that many of you have negative memories of things I have said and done and I feel sick about it. I wish I could start all over (and know what I know now) but that is not the way it works. I have made a lot of mistakes in a lot of different areas from my children and my wife to all the churches I been associated with, friendships and everything in-between. I have set fire to a lot of bridges and I am really embarrassed with how I have acted. I know we are supposed to learn from our failures and I’m just like everyone else when it comes to having great “potential” to serve in God’s Kingdom, but until the Lord becomes satisfied that He can use me as a pure vessel of honor, I will remain in spiritual kindergarten. Now brother, stop being so critical and torturing yourself. No, I am very serious, I believe that in my present condition, He cannot take me to the next level or trust me with the more advanced requirements associated with being a representative for His Kingdom. I wonder many times why doors have not opened and then I take off my rose colored glasses and can see clearly that I have locked them myself. After years of learning and preparing I have been more concerned with telling others how to live instead of applying the messages to my own life. God avoids the proud and until I can get over myself, I will remain sitting at my desk writing about spiritual information without actually exercising or experiencing it. “Ever learning, yet never able to come to the knowledge (revelation) of the truth.” (II Timothy 3:7)
We do not need to tell people how bad things are – we need individuals that are determined to become what Jesus has called them to be. I was whining around the other day and I told the Lord, I am just going to be quiet and listen to you the rest of the day. I worked outside and was “straining” to hear His voice. I feel He said; “I need someone that knows who I am and who knows who they are IN ME and will NOT lean on their own abilities and understanding. I need someone that is NOT led by their emotions like you – but is led by MY Spirit no matter what happens. I need someone that does NOT run away like a child when they become offended and that will learn what true humility is. I need someone that is meek and gentle as a result of being filled with My love, not an arrogant, aggressive mule’s rear end that thinks they know it all. (Ouch) I need ministers of fire that will “walk the walk” and NOT be a hypocrite or compromise sanctification because they want to be “hip.” I desire for someone to have meekness instead of thinking that everyone is ignorant and trying to push people out of the way so they can take over. I am seeking those who are compassionate, long suffering and wise to stand strong by being quiet and not always trying to break the doors down, be competitive against My servants or always trying to dominate everything and everyone.” Yes, Lord. The truth is – He really doesn’t need us at all and the sooner we learn that, the more peace and anointing we will walk in. (Hmmm…) Actually, He is waiting for someone to lay their life down and take up their cross and truly follow His voice, and this my friend is much easier to preach than to practice. We would rather do anything than sacrifice our own flesh. We cry out to Him and plead, Lord how much more of my nature do I need to yield? He always replies; “it depends on how much victory you want!”
I am a big believer in positive confessions. I am always making a new list of things I want to see manifest in my life according to the promises of God’s Word. I am convinced that we can approach God’s throne boldly and speak with our mouth what He has already declared and expect in faith that He will create the fruit of our lips. However, there is an important factor within this principal as many times I forget this process is conditional upon the state of my heart. We know that God works by divine order and we must follow His perfect judgment and when we fail to discern His truth, we end up out on a dirt road somewhere wondering where we missed the exit. There are two verses in particular that “trump” the confession process. They are; James 4:6, “God resisteth the proud, but gives grace unto the humble” and the other one is found in Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” We do not need to be a scholar to recognize that God will not allow us to put the cart before the horse. Resisting means to withstand, inhibit, prevent, to be reluctant, refrain, oppose and stand against. When talking about how God feels toward us, these are not the kind of attitudes we are striving toward. The other verse is simple and plain and very straight to the point. We can go around all day long presenting to God our list of petitions and thanking Him for making arrangements to accomplish all these blessings for us and we are not even noticing that He has turned away from us. Our pride is so offensive to Him that He will not endure it and will NOT compromise! Confessions are wonderful if our heart is right and the first item on our list should be directly associated with that. I am deceived when I think that all is well with me and God whatever state or condition my heart is in. Luke 6:46 says, “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and do not the things that I say?” We all want to do great things for God but the sin that is causing us to be sidelined should be the highest priority of our spiritual warfare and for the most part – it is NOT! If I refuse to deal with the issue that is preventing me from being what Jesus died for me to be, I will remain in the isolated bubble of confusion, resentment, bitterness and discouragement. In other words I will NOT accomplish the divine blueprint He has drawn for me and I will NOT fulfill my destiny.
Have you ever second guessed yourself or even doubted your own sincerity? I was thinking how much I want to succeed with God and to be that faithful servant in whom He is well pleased but am I trying to do all of this for Him or me? If I think this is all a magical formula that I can concoct and use it to manipulate the Lord and somehow become a popular hero, then my motives are wrong and I am right back where I started. I should be striving to be pure and doing all I can to be obedient because I LOVE HIM and nothing more. Have I lost the reason why I am doing all of this in the first place? Have I forgotten how to be excited with just being in God’s presence without needing anything else? Sometimes, yes. I am always trying to prove myself because I have been rejected all my life. I have been convinced that the more I do, the more I will be respected and accepted. It is time for me to lay everything down at His feet and just trust Him. He is perfectly capable of using all of us in ways that are exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or think but it will be done His way and in His time. So, how do I incorporate this change process within my heart? Well, the subtitle of my new book is, “living in the awareness of God’s presence” and I believe we will not only need to do this but also to develop a keen awareness of the condition of our heart. Anything that we become good at takes lots of personal discipline and hard “training.” It’s easy to live a life of mediocrity lying on the couch which is why spiritual development is few and far between. Who wants their carnality to be crucified? And by the way, those who presume the mind is automatically renewed just because they are a member of a church are hindering the cause of Christ more than helping. Luke 13:48 says, “To whom much is given – much is required” and as I stand in this heartbreaking crossroad once again, I realize that if I am ever going to allow Him to truly CHANGE me – now is the time. Thank you for agreeing in prayer for me as this is my desperate cry; “Change my heart Oh God – make it ever true – change my heart Oh God – may I be like you.” “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…” (James 5:16)