Random Blog Clay Feet: January 09, 2009
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Incompatible Opposites

This morning as I drove to work for about 25 minutes I decided to act on the convictions that I have been experiencing lately and turn off the news on the radio. I decided that it was time to simply spend time listening to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to tell me from the mind of Jesus.

One of the first thoughts that came to me was that when I listen to the radio during times like this that it was something like going on a date with my wife and then choosing to be occupied with listening or getting involved with other people while ignoring my wife. I think most people would suspect correctly that she would not feel too good about this and would feel that it was an insult or a sign of disloyalty to her. Most of us try not to fall into this trap when going on a date with someone we love, but how often do we try to fill our “empty times” with distractions or information or even just music when God would like to have a chance to commune with our hearts and share little love whispers in our ear if we would just give Him more chances?

Well, I accepted that thought from Him as a statement of part of His feelings that He wanted to share with me today. I accepted the conviction that far too much of the time I do ignore many chances that I could spend listening and dialogging with Him. But today, right now, I would choose to spend this time listening, even if it just meant resting in quietness without anything in particular being hashed over. I accepted the beautiful morning colors in the sunrise as His present to me personally. After all, many times lovers just need to be able to enjoy each other's presence without having to always be talking about something.

But after I got to the job site early and sat waiting for my boss to show up, I realized that indeed a significant insight had begun to coalesce in my mind without my noticing it at first. I scrounged around to find some paper to write it down on so I wouldn't forget it. You would think that I would learn to keep pads of paper nearby everywhere I go I spend so much time wanting to capture things that come to my attention.

Anyway, what I wrote down and what ignited my interest was a coalition of ideas from my past experiences and learning which is often the case. The first part of it was that I have been learning more about the heart that Jesus gave me which is where I find my true identity. When I choose to allow God to have possession of my affections He gives life to the inner person that is created in His image and that is perfectly designed to reflect the nature of Jesus.

However, as we all know there is another inner person called our flesh or our fallen nature that is always present and opposed to the true heart that is designed to reflect our Creator. This fallen nature that closely reflects the nature of Satan himself insists that our behavior and our habits and mistakes define our true identity. Or maybe for some of us our flesh demands us to believe that our good works, our education, our good looks (not too much my problem) or any number of external trappings we may accrue define our real identity. Either way, our flesh always defies the claims of God to access control of our heart, our affections and our choices.

This battle is discussed at length by Paul in Romans 7 and 8 and is familiar to any Christian worth taking on the name. But what began to come to me more clearly this morning was the stark contrast between these two extreme natures and the complications that we experience when we attempt to co-mingle these polar opposites in the same mind. Here is what I am starting to perceive more fully.

The heart that Jesus has placed in me will ALWAYS desire to do what is right, will always want to follow God's will for me, will always be willing to submit joyfully to the principles of God's loving government. On the other hand, my flesh will ALWAYS desire to please myself, to look out for my own interests first before others, will always insist that I have the ability and wisdom to figure out how to solve my problems given enough help and time. My fallen nature is incorrigible in that it will never repent or surrender to the authority of God fully. Oh, it will do all sorts of pragmatic things to look religious and pious when it seems to be in my best interest, but behind it all, subconsciously it will always have a hidden agenda of selfishness and self-survival. There is no chance of converting my sinful heart, the only option if I want to be a real Christian who is radical enough to be saved at last is to kill my sinful desires, my sinful impulses and cravings and to surrender radically to the work of God in my soul.

Given that these two natures are alive and fighting fiercely inside of me nearly all the time, what is going to be the outcome of this constant warring inside of my head? Which one of these natures is going to come out on top in the end and determine my eternal destiny? Just because I call myself a Christian and claim to follow God and keep all sorts of beliefs and rules and traditions does not mean that my heart is really finding the relationship with God that is urgently necessary for me to be safe to enjoy heaven. Most of what is called Christianity today is not reflective of the life that God had in mind when Jesus introduced the human race to His Father 2000 years ago.

What I am beginning to see more clearly is that because of the radical, polarized nature of these two hearts or natures inside of me, that if I try to access both of them in my daily life that the inevitable conflict is very damaging to my spiritual nature at best and may cause my eternal loss at worst. Because both of these natures are unchangeable in their goals and motives and are incompatible with each other, when I try to accomplish what subconsciously feels like “balance” by indulging occasionally in compromise here and there to satisfy my flesh in any way, then my true nature given to me by Jesus suffers far more severely than I can even realize at the time. As Oswald Chambers so aptly put it, We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed mutiny against God. Either God or sin must die in my life.

What really happens when I try to juggle these two warring opposites in the same mind and heart is that I demonstrate what James describes as mental and emotional instability. James labels this a double-minded man who should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Double-mindedness is the result then, of attempting to co-mingle two polar opposites that are incompatible.

I also began to sense a new heightened awareness of the definite attractiveness of the real meaning of purity. Again, purity is not just about sexual parts of our life but is about the subject that is being talked about right here. Purity is the same thing as being totally, unreservedly committed to one side or the other in this warfare. Purity is really the same thing as allegiance or loyalty. Purity is far more than abstinence as we have often assumed. Purity is radical dedication, devotion and passion for the cause and the leader whom we worship, whether that be ourselves, our earthly heroes on television or the God who has demonstrated His own passion to have us in a restored and eternal relationship with His heart of infinite love. In short, purity is the elimination of all competition in the heart.

When I fail to maintain or seek real purity in my heart, the result is lukewarmness, shame, fear, guilt and instability. And conversely, the only real cure for all of these ailments is not to work harder at becoming good but in making choices about the content of what fills my mind and imagination each day. When I put mixed mental food into my mind I am going to get much worse than just mixed results. But when I am willing to go far beyond my comfort zone and go to what others will consider extremes in my pursuit of God, then I will be able to experience the passion of God in loving service to others flowing through my life in currents so powerful and energizing that I will be literally beside myself with joy.

Fear of Injustice

It is starting to become more clear why I feel the increasing impressions about gentleness as well as purity and holiness. It correlates to the growing convictions about withdrawing myself from listening to the news more and more. I have often resisted this conviction because it is so easy to rationalize or compromise and the Spirit seldom argues with me about it but just lets me have my way. My justification is usually accomplished by measuring the after-affects and how much contact with God has or has not been lost as a result of exposure to the world's media.

But I am beginning to realize that intimacy must come at a cost – a high cost if I want to go all the way. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) This purity is not restricted to sexually-related things. This has to do with everything that detracts from the true knowledge of the Father's heart. The truth in Isaiah keeps coming to my mind as a warning if I am to be serious about coming into the dangerous presence of God. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil. (Isaiah 33:14-15)

To come very close to God's heart I must enter into a level of trust and exclusiveness that others may not see necessary or even right. But this trust is a two-way relationship where God needs to be able to trust me through the work that I allow Him to accomplish in my heart. I have been asking God to draw me closer to Him but resisting that drawing at the same time. I figured that was what was going on but now I am starting to see it more clearly. Unfortunately I am too much like Thomas, wanting to be able to see and understand for myself before I am willing to more fully believe.

Well, last night I saw for myself more forcefully. I was listening to the news again and just after I got home while sitting in the driveway listening to the end of it they relayed the story of an innocent man executed by a policeman in front of a large crowd for no reason whatsoever except apparently from emotions of the moment. The event was captured on several videos and was soon posted on you-tube which is now raising quite a stir as would be expected. But what was not expected was the awakening that this caused for me personally.

The emotions aroused in me were all too familiar. But I sensed the strong impression that I needed to listen more carefully and obediently to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit about exposing myself to these kind of strong stimulants. I was reminded of one of my own greatest weaknesses and fears that is starting to surface once again.

Just a couple days ago I revisited with someone the intern scene of one of the deepest roots of my own bitterness which has haunted me for many years and has caused me a great deal of trouble, particularly with policemen. It is a memory that might seem to have nothing to do with injustice and police abuse against me personally, but the perceived effect on my heart was one of the most traumatic moments in memory for me. I have sensed that this memory may contain many of the foundational lies that has allowed Satan to have a stronghold inside of me for all these years. I have been praying for God to deliver me from this stronghold of rebellion, fear and bitterness for a long time and I sense that I am getting closer to that freedom.

But Satan is also aware that I may be getting close to escaping from his diabolical control and he will resist that escape attempt in every way possible. What I am now starting to see is that one of his easiest methods to keep me inflamed with bitterness and locked into his prison is to keep presenting stories of police abuse to me to reignite my anger and frustration, particularly in ways where there is nothing I can do about it but complain. This also accomplishes the goal of training me to remain unresponsive in the face of real injustice should I happen to encounter it first hand. I fear that in my current condition I would be found among those who are too afraid to stand up against injustice and risk my reputation or even my life to come to the aid of someone being threatened or abused.

This too would become another opportunity for Satan to flaunt my misrepresentation of God in His face and attack His reputation. My failures to respond like Jesus while talking much about the growing revelations of the truth about God would be an act of hypocrisy and disloyalty that would bring shame on the name of Christ and on my own soul as well. Then Satan would attack me with that most familiar emotion of depression and despair as I wallow in the shame of my own failure and he might even reinforce it with fear and anger by direct exposure to the very kinds of abuse that I have feared the most all of my life.

This is a very frightening scenario for me right now and would absolutely terrify me if it were not for the fact of God's extreme faithfulness and goodness and lovingkindness. My only hope is to keep focusing on the truth about God that He has been increasingly revealing to me and to more intentionally and consistently withdraw from the sources of fear and depression that Satan uses to enforce the lies buried deep in my heart. I need to follow the example of Enoch who deliberately withdrew from public exposure for periods of time to be purified in the clean presence of God's intimacy before allowing himself to be exposed to the wickedness of the world around him.

If I really want to live in an intimate relationship with my God, I have to be willing to let Him have His ways in how my mind is exposed and shaped and the stories and emotions that are allowed to affect it. I now am seeing more clearly that I am receiving the opportunity to experience Elijah training, learning how to listen to the right source to detect the voice of the Spirit. Elijah was given notice that the true Spirit from God was not discerned in the more obvious ways, the spectacular demonstrations of power. The Spirit could only be recognized when the soul was quiet before God and all the distractions were gone. That was an extremely important lesson for Elijah and one that was sorely needed after he had lost touch with that quiet Spirit-voice only just recently on Mount Carmel. (see 1 Kings 19)

The prophecies of the Bible say that Elijah is going to return again; that is, the spirit of Elijah is going to be clearly manifested in God's true followers in the last days during the closing events of earth's history. We are very clearly in that time, but I sense that very few understand what it really means to have the spirit and power of Elijah. Learning to live life in constant awareness and obedience to the still, small Voice is a most crucial part of being able to live in the spirit of Elijah. But that is what I suspect God is trying to teach me right now.

I still am praying for deliverance from this massive root of bitterness that still remains deeply embedded in my mind and heart. I have no idea how God is going to uproot it, but I do know that He is faithful and He will do it. I want to fully cooperate with the preparation for that painful operation so that I can get through it as quickly as possible. I am going to need much prayer, much encouragement, much accountability and much joy-strength to face this trauma. And that joy can sometimes come from others who are willing to enter into the experience alongside of me and experience the emotions with me while emotionally guiding me to the way through this trauma when it seems like only hopelessness to me.

I can say all this right now from the seeming safety of an armchair and the quiet peace of an early morning time alone with God. But when all hell breaks loose and my heart is stirred up and my emotions overwhelm me and the lies are activated that cause my perceptions of reality to be terribly skewed – well, that is what I don't know about at this point. The only hope I have is to continue to trust the One who is drawing me, who is in charge of my repair, my surgery, my purification. And I can listen more carefully and obey more instantly the still small Voice that is still broadcasting instructions yet today for anyone ready and willing to listen.

God, I am not even sure what to pray right now. Keep me fixed on You today. Teach me the lessons of obedience in the little things that I have been ignoring. Keep me away from dogmatism and fanaticism, but also keep me away from the blindness of rationalization and compromise that has kept me in Satan's prison for so many years.

I give you full permission to proceed with Your surgery on my heart and mind. I don't understand what that even means or will involve, but I do know very clearly that I need radical surgery and that it will be extremely painful. Yesterday when I sensed this coming I asked if you use anesthetic when you do heart surgery. But I sensed You responding that if I didn't feel the pain while becoming free of the lies that it would leave me vulnerable to being reinfected with that cancer again. The pain experienced during the extraction of deep roots of sin is the very process needed to inoculate me against reinfection.

So I pray for deliverance from my fear of pain. That has been a handle that Satan has had access to in my heart for most of my life. By manipulating me through that fear he has been able to steer me and intimidate me much of my life. But Your Word says that this is one of the things You came to give me.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Father, that is the freedom that I claim from You right now. I want to live in that experience of total freedom from fear that has kept me and everyone around me in slavery all of our lives. I trust You to accomplish this in my life however and whenever You choose. I am Yours – save me.