Over the last two months we have been exploring the four attitudes or predispositions that we must have "on" each day in order to be willing to do God's will on a moment-by-moment basis.
The first two attitudes we explored are being willing to daily present our bodies as a living sacrifice and being willing to daily deny ourselves- our own thoughts, emotions and desires that are contrary to God's.
A third crucial attitude that we must have "on" each day and what we want to explore in depth in this article is that of being willing to do in action what God has told us.
No matter how we feel, what we think or what we want, we must be willing to get up and do exactly what God has asked. As 2 Corinthians 8:11 states, "As there was a readiness to will [or to choose], so there may be a performance [doing in action] also."
The attitude we spoke about in step 2 (denying ourselves) concerns our "inner man" and the setting aside of our own thoughts, emotions and desires - our self-life - so that God can fill us with His Life. This next step of "doing God's will in action" is different. It concerns our "outward man" - our outward actions. It's now getting up and doing in action what God has told us to do.
It's saying, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39), or like Peter, "at Thy word I will (Luke 5:5)." In other words, we are trusting that God will perform His Will and His Life through us no matter how we feel or what we think.
We are emotional creatures, and God is asking us here to set aside our own emotional responses and choose to act totally out of faith. Thus, we don't have to feel like doing this step, we must simply be willing to do it.
If this is a difficult step, I would suggest reading Philippians 2:5-8: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
This passage talks about being "obedient unto death," not only on the inside where we choose to lay aside our own thoughts, emotions and desires, but also on the outside, where we get up and do in action whatever God has called us to do.
An Example: Obedient Unto Death
Here is a wonderful example of how one of my dearest friends overcame her pride, humbled herself and became "obedient unto death." Sarah is only five feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. Many years ago, her husband had an affair with a woman who worked in his office. Sarah found out about it and was violently angry. The next day she marched down to her husband's office and literally beat the woman up.
A year or so later, after their separation and divorce, God got a hold of Sarah and began to transform her life. One of the things God began to speak to her about was her behavior to the other woman. He convinced Sarah that it was His will for her to go back to the office and ask this lady's forgiveness.
My precious friend not only chose to deny herself (inside) by setting aside her own "justified" feelings and emotions, but she also became willing to get up and do, in action (outside), what God asked her to do by going and asking forgiveness of this woman. Could you have done that?
When the other woman at the office saw Sarah coming, she understandably ran. Sarah pursued her, however, and they finally began to talk. Sarah asked the lady's forgiveness for beating her up, and then told her that she forgave her for taking her husband away. The woman was so amazed at what was happening, that Sarah sensed an opportunity to talk more and asked if she would like to go to lunch. The woman amazingly agreed.
At lunch, Sarah had a chance to share what God was doing in her own life and the woman sought to know more. They became friends. Only in God's kingdom could something like this occur! And, I believe, much of the miracle happened because she was willing, not only internally, but also in action, to "be obedient unto death."
A short P.S.: It's been 15 years since this incident. Sarah's ex-husband now has Alzheimer's disease and lives alone in a 12-foot trailer with no one to care for him. Recently, God impressed it upon Sarah's heart to go over to his trailer every day to clean, do his shopping and make his meals for him. Sarah has become a real-life extension of God's Love in action.
Do you love God that much that you are willing, not only to deny what you think, what you feel and what you desire, but also willing to get up and do, in action, what God has called you to do? Can you love that unlovable person in your life as Sarah did?
Take Every Thought Captive
The fourth critical attitude that we must also be willing to have "on" each day is that of taking every thought captive and being ready to deal with any disobedience that has occurred. 2 Corinthians 10:5-6 teaches us that we are to "[Cast] down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."
All this is saying is that we must constantly be willing to examine our own thoughts and, if they are not of faith, then we must deal with them as God would have us. The battle for our lives is really waged in our minds. If Satan can get us to react emotionally, then he has got us and he doesn't have to do anything else. We are sidelined. This is why taking every thought captive and dealing with the things that are not of faith is so very essential.
(The four steps of how we daily deal with our sin and self - the Inner Court Ritual - will be covered in following articles. If you can't wait, however, these steps are all described in the book,The Key.)
Here's a simple example of the importance of taking every thought captive. During the 1990s, Chuck and I went through several horrendous years of stretching, testing and trials. In 1991, Chuck lost his business through bankruptcy. As a result, we lost our ultimate dream home, our cars and our insurance.
In this same period of time, many of our old Christian "friends" turned their backs on us because of investments they had made in Chuck's company. Many even spread libel and slander about us.
As a result of the bankruptcy, we were forced to move to a smaller, rented home. In June 1992, that rented home turned out to be on the epicenter of a 6.8 earthquake that destroyed most of our personal belongings. Actually, we were the fortunate ones because houses on both sides of us twisted off their foundations by 10 feet.
In September of that same year, the Lord moved us to Idaho, where some dear friends had arranged to help us purchase another home. However, a few days after we arrived in Idaho, and after we had moved all of our belongings into the garage of that home, we found out that it was going to fall out of escrow. So, once again, we had to move. Thus, we ended up living in a motel room and at a friend's house for the next five weeks until the Lord provided a wonderful house to rent.
This made five moves in less than two and a half years, besides the three total clean-up jobs after the 7.2 earthquake (15 miles away in Landers, California), the 6.8 earthquake under our home, and a 5.5 aftershock. None of these moves were my choice! They were "forced" moves.
Moving isn't easy for anyone, but moving for us was particularly difficult because we had 35-odd years of collectibles (really old and broken because of extensive earthquake damage), in addition to all of the ministry's furniture, computers, files and office equipment.
In the middle of those two and a half years, every time I would look at my circumstances, I would become overwhelmed and traumatized ("Why, God?").
But, when I would be obedient and, by faith (because I certainly didn't feel like it), "take my thoughts captive," God would always be faithful to remove my confusion, doubt, fear and anger and fill me with His peace and His strength. And, once again I could go on.
Taking my thoughts captive was the only thing that kept me sane that whole time.
Yes, catching our negative thoughts and dealing with them does take constant discipline and effort and it is hard. But, you quickly find out, there is no other choice!
Why Are Our Thoughts so Important?
In the Bible, God talks about our thoughts much more than He does our emotions and our desires. Why?
God knows that our thoughts are critical because they're the first to be triggered in the chain reaction of our souls. Our thoughts stir up our emotions; our emotions influence our desires; and, our desires (our choices) then produce our actions. Therefore, if we can catch our negative thoughts when they first come in, we will prevent that chain reaction altogether. For this reason, God stresses the importance of examining our ungodly thoughts and taking them captive.
When we don't do this, but simply go along with the tide of emotion, we'll end up confused, discouraged and depressed. And that, of course, is just what the enemy wants. This is why the battle for our lives is so often waged in our minds. Consequently, we must continually make an effort to recognize our negative thoughts and renew our minds.
As Romans 12:2 says, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This, again, takes constant discipline and effort, and sometimes it seems like it would be a lot easier to just give in and let our wild thoughts and emotions rule. But, do you know what happens when we do?
If we don't take our ungodly thoughts captive, they end up taking us captive!
Something else to keep in mind is that we are not responsible for the original negative thought when it first comes in. It's what we choose to do with that thought that produces the sin or not. If we can simply recognize the ungodly thought and choose to give it over to God, then we have not sinned and we have not quenched His Spirit.
However, if we entertain that negative thought and mull it over, it will eventually stir up our self-centered feelings and the chain reaction will, once again, be set in motion.
Therefore, being aware of, recognizing and catching the ungodly thoughts as they come in is critical. We must refuse them, crucify them and then annihilate them. We are not even to think them, let alone speak them.
(For further study of the importance of taking our thoughts captive, see the book, Be Ye Transformed.)
As Philippians 4:8 instructs, we need to fill our minds with good things. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Thus, in review, the four attitudes that we must have "on" daily in order to reflect the Lord are: presenting our bodies as living sacrifices; denying ourselves; getting up and doing what God says; and, taking every thought captive.
If we are faithful to put on these attitudes each morning, then we'll have a chance of staying in a mental state of openness and readiness to do God's will and be a vessel He can use to pass along His Love.
Next month we'll begin an exploration of the four essential steps we need to do daily in order to put off the sin and self in us.
"And the Lord said, 'Now, do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness'... But rather give alms [love-gifts] of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you (Luke 11:39, 41)."
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To be continued next month: Four Essential Steps. This article has been excerpted, in part, from Nan and Chuck's book, The Key.