Random Blog Clay Feet: April 30, 2008
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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Witness of Jacob

I want to finish relaying the experience that happened to me yesterday and that continues today that I partially wrote about in Jacob's False god. Some of these experiences take too long to relay in one posting and so I decided to break this up for the sake of attention span.

Over the past few years I have realized that I can identify with Jacob to a great degree. My false pictures of God are much like his and the strained relationship he had with his dad for most of his life strikingly parallels my own story. I just realized that Jacob's reunion with his dad after his reconciliation with Esau could have possibly been much like my own breakthrough with my dad near the end of his life. And my struggle to find identity, value and respect is very similar to Jacob's story.

Yesterday I felt God speaking to me as I meditated on Isaiah 43. I chose to be very honest about my internal emotions, reactions and resistance and so I stopped and confronted God with my dilemma. I had just read the words, Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you.... (Isaiah 43:4) Wait a minute! I really want to believe that this is how God feels about me, but my gut level feelings always argue against it. Somehow I struggle to sense that this is really how God thinks about me even though my mind can acknowledge that it is theologically true. I can accept that He thinks that way about others, but not about me.

I decided to face these reservations head-on and confess them as unbelief. I have heard that it is important to confess unbelief if one wants to become free from it and I certainly want to be free. So I presented these feelings and beliefs to God and asked Him to remove my unbelief while affirming my desire to believe and trust in His words to me. I want my heart to believe what God wants to say about me, not just my head. I realize that I am still wrestling like Jacob with my false picture of God that still holds me hostage in too many ways.

What I began to sense was the Spirit saying that my resistance to God's blessing and words in my life is not my true identity – that is not who I really am even though that is what is most familiar to me. That identity is coming from my sinful flesh that has masqueraded all my life as being my real identity and has been reinforced by the opinions of others. That is one reason it is so important for me to crucify my flesh, the part inside of my head that always sabotages what the Spirit of God is trying to do and reveal about both myself and about God. Ultimately, either the incarnated Christ living inside of me will be crucified by my doubting, unbelieving flesh or my flesh and its opinions and unbelief will be crucified. They are mortal enemies and cannot live together at all.

This brought to my attention another phrase that has baffled me for many years. When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mark 8:34 NKJV) I have often wondered what was really meant by this idea of taking up a cross and following Jesus. I have had no shortage of people in my life eager to expostulate on what they thought it meant, but their explanations usually involved reinforcement of performance-based religion and I cannot accept that in light of the real gospel. So I continue to remain open to the real meaning of this phrase.

Someone once explained that the concept here of denying one's self is a direct parallel to the description of Peter denying that he knew Jesus three times during His trial. This would mean that Jesus is asking me to deny that I know myself just like Peter denied that he knew Jesus – vehemently and passionately. In light of the exposure of my counterfeit identity being such a problem in my life, it begins to sound like a really good idea to deny that image as my true identity and discover the real identity that God sees in me even though it may be very unfamiliar to me.

But what about taking up my cross? That is the part that has been even more baffling most of my life. But again, with my increased realization of the problems that my flesh produces in thwarting the progress of God's Spirit in my heart, taking up my cross might just be parallel to Paul's talk of crucifying the flesh and his need to die daily to self. I want to have my flesh and its lies dead so that the resurrected life of the Son of God can be fully manifest in my life and my true identity can thrive and blossom. If that is the real meaning of Jesus' words then they make a lot more sense to me now.

It is only as my flesh is daily crucified that I will be able to have the freedom to follow Jesus in His example of how to live in total abandon to and harmony with God. My heart is a battlefield between my false feelings about God and the truth that the Spirit is always trying to impress on me. To receive truth I must be willing to deny and crucify my resistance to that truth and label it correctly as not coming from the true heart that God has implanted in me. That is not my identity no matter what I feel or what anyone else claims against me. My true identity and value is what the One who created me says about me and I have to choose to accept it on the reliability of His integrity alone.

As I read on further in the chapter I was suddenly confronted with the revelation that God saw my struggle with this false identity. The description from verses eight and nine are of those who view God through their own perceptions and confused ideas instead of believing what He says about His feelings toward them.

Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and the deaf, even though they have ears. All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled. Who among them can declare this and proclaim to us the former things? Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified, or let them hear and say, "It is true." (Isaiah 43:8-9)

What I heard in my spirit was that this is a description of those who attempt to justify their opinions about God instead of listening to and believing the true witnesses of God as noted in the last phrase. These are those who insist that their distorted views of God are the right ones, but God sees these people as blind even though they have eyes and deaf even though they have functional ears. It doesn't even matter if the whole world believes these things about God; that does not make them any more true. The only reliable truth about God is what He declares. Why should we try to argue that our opinions about how God feels about us are more accurate than what He says about Himself? Do I really think I know God's feelings and attitudes better than He does?

God turns it around in this passage and puts the focus back on me. Let them hear and say, "It is true." "You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "and I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?" (Isaiah 43:9-13)

As I looked over this chapter more carefully I began to realize that this passage is God's declarations about the correct perception of identities, both His and ours. All through this chapter and the surrounding passages God is revealing His passionate heart for His children. What is interesting is the reference in the very first verse to both Jacob and Israel – both names for the very same person. When God looks at me He sees me through heaven's eyes no matter how I perceive myself. But what He deeply desires is that I will accept the truth about Him so that I can more fully accept the truth about myself as declared by Him. The biggest problem I have in accepting my true identity is my confusion about the true identity of God. But the more I learn in my heart the truth about God and all His wonderful attributes, the easier it becomes for my heart to believe what He says about me.

But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart" – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:8-9)

God told me that what I am to believe in my heart is the true identities of both Him and myself as revealed in the example and victory of Jesus. Because Jesus has accepted the invitation to live inside of me, then my real identity is going to look strikingly like His.

So what about all the dysfunction that I still find in my life? How can that be denied as being a part of my identity?

God reminded me that the condition of my spirit is something completely separate from my identity and the value of my heart in heaven's eyes. God is not playing a game of amnesia with my faults and sins when I am hidden in Christ. He is actually working from the inside to dissolve all of those problems by transforming me into His image His way. When transformation takes place from the inside instead of focusing on the externals, the results are far more permanent and lasting – eternally lasting in fact.

So when I see the same problems that others see in me, I do not have to go into denial and pretend they don't exist in my life. But I do need to firmly reject all attempts to associate those problems and faults with my identity, value and real self. I cannot control what others think, but I am very responsible for what I allow myself to believe about my heart. Those are all parts of the counterfeit identity straining to assert itself and project itself as the real me while discounting the other self being formed from the image of Christ within. It is a very real and intense battle but I need to keep close to the Spirit and the Word to keep the growth alive and thriving.

Like Jacob, I crave a personal encounter with the God who wants to give me a deep embrace and impart the blessing I crave so intensely. I'm afraid that, like Jacob I may end up fighting Him for awhile because of my past false opinions about Him, but I am so thankful that God did not allow Jacob to lose the fight. God actually declares that Jacob was the winner of a wrestling match with the Almighty. But he did receive a new name out of the ordeal and that is the badge of his real identity. That is absolutely incredulous. And I believe He is eager to do the same with everyone willing to have an encounter with Him in desperation and honesty.

The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isaiah 62:2 NIV)

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Revelation 2:17 NIV)

Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Revelation 3:12 NIV)

God, whether I end up fighting You or not, please come and bless me. Impart to me my new name that You have promised to reveal. My concept of what it means to be an overcomer in light of Jacob's encounter with You is so encouraging. My heart craves to know my real identity and to feel honored and loved by You. I ask you to increase my faith and give me a believing heart to allow Your feelings about me to be internalized, experienced and lived out as a true witness for You. Let me hear the testimony of the True Witness and then say, “It is true!”