This is the final article in a series on what it means to love God practically. In our previous articles we covered the first two parts of the Inner Court Ritual--steps I believe God has laid out for us in Scripture to help us love Him the way He desires. In review, these steps are:
1. Recognizing, acknowledging and experiencing our negative thoughts, emotions, and desires. This means taking responsibility for our doubts, pride, anger, bitterness, resentment, criticalness, unbelief, self-centeredness, self-love, and so on; learning not to hide these painful thoughts and emotions, but asking God to expose their root causes and then giving them over to Him. We covered this step in Part Two.
2. If we know that we have held on to these negative thoughts and emotions for a while, either by mulling them over in our minds or by stuffing them down in our subconscious ("hidden chambers"), then we need to confess them as sin. By our holding on to them (whether we are justified or not), they have quenched God's Spirit in us. Thus, we need to repent of them, which simply means to change our minds about holding on to them and do what God wants us to do--give them to Him. Also, a part of this second step is to unconditionally forgive the other person involved. We covered this step in Part Three.
In this article, I would like to explore the final two steps of the Inner Court Ritual, which are:
3. Giving over to God all that He has revealed about ourselves.
4. Immersing in God's Word and replacing the lies with the Truth.
Give All to God
Once God has shown us not only our conscious negative thoughts and emotions but also their root causes, and we have confessed them as sin and repented of them, then it's imperative that we give all these things over to God. God will not violate our free will by forcibly taking these things from us; we must willingly choose to give these things or cast these things to Him.
All four of these steps are symbolic of the actual Inner Court Ritual the priests performed in the Temple. This particular step is symbolic of how the priests "sacrificed" their offerings for sin on the Holocaust Altar.
In like manner, God wants us to give Him--to sacrifice to Him--not only our conscious negative thoughts and emotions, but also their subconscious root causes in those hidden chambers. In other words, He wants to purge all of our sins by His Blood. As we give these things over to Him, He then is able to purge them from us, "as far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12)
Give As "Love Gifts"
In Luke 11:39-41, it says:
"And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms [give as "love gifts"] of such things as ye have [within]; and, behold [then] all things are clean unto you [without]."
I think of giving (sacrificing) our sins over to God like giving Him "love gifts (offerings), with no strings attached." That's exactly what alms were in the New Testament. If the Pharisees would have done this, then, as Jesus said, "all things would be clean for them." As we sacrifice or offer up to God our alms--all that is not of faith--He then cleanses us (and makes all things clean for us) from the inside out.
Do Something Physical
It's important to do something "physical" with the things we give over to God, in order to truly experience getting rid of them. A dear friend of mine writes down on a scrap of paper all her hurts, wounds, and memories--whatever God has shown her. Then she literally wraps these pieces of paper up in packages and presents them to God as "love gifts."
Personally, I like to burn them! I write down everything I give to God and then burn that scrap of paper. I like to watch it evaporate. It's a graphic picture to me that they are gone forever.
Most of the things that God shows us are "of the flesh," and will usually go away immediately, or at least within a few days if we are faithful to go through these cleansing steps.
Recognize the Battles
Some of the things that will come up, however, are longstanding strongholds of the enemy. These often become spiritual battles in order to get rid of them. So, if certain things seem to stick around for awhile, don't give up and say, "Oh, this just doesn't work for me!" That's exactly what the enemy wants you to do. Recognize it's a battle. Know you will win if you will just persevere. God is already the Victor. Luke 10:19 says that we have authority over all the power of the enemy.
Recognize, however, that it might take some time before you can "see" that victory.
Read God's Word
After we have given over to God our negative thoughts, emotions, and desires, the last step in dealing with our sins is that we must read God's Word. We must replace the lies with the truth. God is the only One who, by His Word, can cleanse, sanctify, and heal our souls completely.
(Remember, it was at the Molten Sea that the priests actually immersed bodily in order to receive total cleansing.)
Reading God's Word after sacrificing is a very critical step. After we have confessed, repented, and given all to God, we are still "bloody" and in desperate need of God's complete healing power. It's only God's Word that can totally restore us. God is the One who washes us "with the washing of water by the Word." ( Ephesians 5:26). It's at this point, as I read God's Word, that I literally picture myself being bathed in God's Love. One of my favorite Scriptures to read at this moment is Psalm 18.
Another suggestion: Try to memorize appropriate Scriptures. Often, we must go through these steps when we are away from home or we don't have our Bible at hand. If we have memorized Scriptures, then we can bathe in His Word anyway. Most importantly, remember "truth" must be put back in where the lies have been removed so that more lies don't return. Be sure to read Luke 11:24-26.
Now step out in faith, knowing that God will align your feelings with your choices and will be faithful to perform His Will through you.
Example: Putting it All Together
One lady came up to me after a recent seminar and said: "Okay, Nan, this is great material. I love the class, but I need one last practical and simple example of how all these steps work together. Can you please tell me an example that points out all the steps?"
Here, then, is one last hypothetical story that shows all these steps in action:
Your mother-in-law (who is not a Christian) comes over for dinner. You're sitting across from her at the table when all of a sudden, in front of everyone, she makes some very derogatory comments about your dinner, your house, or your kids.
At first you get flustered, then humiliated, then hurt, and then just plain angry. At this point what would you do? Do you continue to sit there and hypocritically smile at her (when you would really like to sock her and tell her off)? Remember, we are not responsible for the original ungodly thoughts when they first come in; it's what we choose to do with them that produces the sin or not.
As we mentioned before, if we don't do anything with our negative thoughts, they will automatically stir up our bitterness and resentment, which will definitely affect our choices and, eventually, all our actions.
If I were in this sensitive situation, I'd deal with my angry thoughts right then. I'd excuse myself from the table and I would go to wherever I could be alone with the Lord (my bedroom, the bathroom, my car, wherever). I'd want to catch those hurts and negative thoughts before they are programmed in and before I act out of them!
The first step is to recognize and acknowledge the negative (unloving) thoughts and feelings I'm experiencing, so I can deal with them. I can't deal with them unless I know what they are.
In the "prayer closet" (wherever that might be), I'd tell God that my mother-in-law's remarks really hurt. "It's humiliating and embarrassing every time she puts me down in front of everyone." I'd go on and express and name all my genuine feelings about her. In other words, I would experience my real emotions.
At the same time, I would also ask God if there are any "root causes" for why I am reacting this way. Perhaps my mother-in-law has done this same thing numerous times over the years, but I have never really dealt with it before, but just stuffed the feelings down. I'd ask God to expose everything He wants to (from my hidden chambers) regarding this situation.
If God shows me that I have felt this way for years over my mother-in-law's insults, and I have never properly dealt with these things before, then I would obviously need to confess that I "owned" these ungodly thoughts and feelings.
Even though I wasn't aware that I could give my hurts to God, I still chose to follow my own ways over God's ways. Therefore, it has quenched His Spirit in me and it has become sin. At this point, then, I would need to "change my mind," or "turn around," and repent from following these bad thoughts and emotions (even if they might be "justified" by the world's standards). Also, at this point, I would need to unconditionally forgive my mother-in-law so that God could be released to work in her life as well as my own.
I would then give all the hurts (bitterness, resentment, anger, and anything else God has shown me) over to God and ask Him to purge these things from me.
Finally, I would get into His Word and read a few of my favorite passages, so that His soothing truth could go back into the hidden chambers where the lies had been. Then I would praise Him for being my God and for doing all these things for me.
Even though I might not feel any different at that moment, I would know by faith that I am a cleansed vessel, therefore God's Life has been freed to flow through me once again.
At this point I would go back to the table, expecting God to genuinely love my mother-in-law through me.
Hebrews 10:22 says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." This is how the Inner Court Ritual works. It might seem like a lot to remember now because it is all so new. But, I promise you, if you are faithful to continue to confess, repent, and give all (anything that is not of faith) to God, these steps will become first nature. Because, as you will soon see, there really is no other choice!
"Just Give It to God"
For years, whenever I had a problem, I've heard, "Well, just give it to God." But I never understood exactly what that really meant...until now! Daily I go through these steps (and sometimes two to three times a day if I'm dealing with a particularly hard situation).
When we are dealing with doubt, hurt, fear, pride, bitterness, resentment, anger, and any other negative feelings, we are often too emotional to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." We need a guideline or something to help us along. Writing these steps out in prayer form will help you through many tough times and assure you of God's victory.
Be An Example
Be open and frank with your children when you use these steps. Give them an example and a model to follow. They, too, have hurts and fears and insecurities just like we do. God wants them healed also.
It's very important to keep a notebook or journal of your adventure with God. Date the entries, especially when you give something over to Him. That way when Satan tries to counterfeit feelings and thoughts that have already been dealt with, you can point to the entry and say, "That has already been handled!" (I might not feel it yet, but by faith I believe it.)
In Conclusion: "For Me to Live Is Christ"
Loving God "practically" means moment-by-moment relinquishing our wills and our lives to Him. It means laying down all our thoughts, emotions, and desires that are contrary to His so that His Life, from our hearts, can come forth. Loving God is becoming one Life with Him. It means exchanging our own image for the Image we were created to bear, which is His Image: His Thoughts, His Love, and His Power. Loving God is being so completely "at one with Him" that all that's seen through us is Him!
Then we can say, like Paul: "For me to live is Christ." (Philippians 1:21). Christ, at this point, is not just in our life, He is our life! This is the faithful marriage relationship that He desires for each of us, and He expresses it so beautifully in Hosea 2:19-20:
"I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and [then] thou shalt know the Lord."
This article was first published in the January 1995 edition of Personal UPDATE.
This article was excerpted from Nancy Missler's study series on tape, The Way of Agape, which is also published in book form. Nan also has a sequel study series on tape, Be Ye Transformed, which is in book form as well. This eight-tape study focuses on the Mind of Christ and on the "hidden chambers" of our subconscious.
The Way Of Agape Textbook and Personal Workbook.
Our Christian world today is so besieged by split relationships, broken marriages, and divided churches, it's no wonder people are having such a hard time "seeing God" in us. Where is God's Love? How can we be Spirit-filled and yet not Love filled? Aren't they the same thing? How can we share a loving God with others and yet, not be loving ourselves?
It is our prayer and hope that God will use these materials to bring healing to His Body and to ignite in all of us a renewed passion to live and walk in God's Way of Love.