When things fall apart in our lives, it's so easy for someone looking in to simply say, "Oh, just give it to God." Well, the question is, how exactly does one do that? This has been the topic of our discussion over the past several months - how do we give things to God and leave them there? To me, this is the key to the Christian life - knowing how, moment by moment, to surrender ourselves to the Lord so that His life from our hearts can continue to flow.
As we have seen, the steps that we must take in order to do this are the same steps that the priests of Solomon's Temple took (way back in the Old Testament) in order to deal with their sin and be reconciled to God. These essential steps are:
1) Recognizing, acknowledging and experiencing our ungodly thoughts and emotions as they come in.
2) Confessing our sin and self, choosing to "turn around" from following them and unconditionally forgiving anyone who has wronged us.
3) Giving over to God all that He has shown us that is not of faith. And,
4) Reading God's Word and replacing the lies with the truth.
Let's investigate this fourth and final step a little further. What does it mean to read God's Word, after we have given our negative thoughts and emotions over to God?
God is the only One who can cleanse, sanctify and heal our souls completely and the only One who can replace the enemy's lies with the Truth. And, He does these things by His Word. If you remember, it was at the Molten Sea (a huge pool containing enough water for two thousand baths) where Solomon's priests immersed themselves bodily in order to receive a total cleansing. They had gotten all "blood splattered" at the Brazen Altar where they sacrificed their offerings. Now they needed a complete bodily bathing in order to be cleansed. In like manner, after we have confessed, repented and sacrificed all to God, we, too, are "bloody" and "torn apart" and in desperate need of God's complete healing power. Only God's Word can totally restore us. God is the only One who can wash us "with the washing of water by the Word (Ephesians 5:26)."
As I read God's Word, I literally picture myself being bathed in God's Love. One of my favorite Scriptures to read in times like these is Psalm 18: "In my distress I called upon the Lord...He heard my voice out of His temple...He bowed the heavens also, and came down (18:6, 9)."
What could possibly give us more comfort than to know God cares about every detail of our lives and wants to intervene for us at any time we choose.
An important suggestion is that we might memorize appropriate Scriptures. Very often something will happen when we are away from home and away from our Bibles and our notes. If we have memorized Scriptures, then we can bathe in God's Word anyway.
Many people ask me what Scriptures I recite or read at this point. My answer is always, "Whatever Scriptures minister to you." If you are at a loss, at the end of both The Key and Faith in the Night Seasons, there are some suggestions. In any case, it's critically important that the Truth be put back in where the lies have been removed, so that more lies don't return. Read Luke 11:24-26.
Putting It All Together
After we have done all four of these steps-recognized and acknowledged our sins, confessed and repented of them, given them over to God and read God's Word - we can step out in faith. We can be confident that God will be faithful to align our feelings with our choices, make us genuine and perform His will through us.
Years ago, after one of my classes, a woman named Julie came up to me and said, "Okay, Nan, this is great material. I love the class. But I need one last simple example of how all these steps work together. Can you please give me a hypothetical example that shows me how this cleansing procedure works?"
Here, then, is my imagined story, which shows these essential, steps in action: (Picture the person and the situation you want, the steps will always be the same.)
Your unsaved mother-in-law comes over for dinner. You are 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, your kids and so on.
At first you get very flustered, then humiliated, then hurt and then just plain angry. At this point, what should 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 those thoughts that produces the sin or not. Now, if we do nothing with our negative thoughts, they will automatically stir up bitterness and resentment, which will definitely affect our choices and, eventually, 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, then I would go to wherever I could be alone with the Lord (my bedroom, the bathroom, my car). 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, then, is to recognize and acknowledge the negative thoughts and feelings I am experiencing, so I can deal with them. Remember, 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 remark really hurt. "It is humiliating and embarrassing every time she puts me down in front of everyone." I'd go on and express all my genuine feelings about her. I'd even cry if I needed to. In other words, I would experience my real emotions.
At the same time, I would also ask God if there are any root causes as to why I'm overreacting this way. Perhaps my mother-in-law has done this same thing to me numerous times before, but I have never really dealt with it. Perhaps I have simply buried my real feelings. I'd ask God to expose everything He wanted to from the hidden part of my soul regarding this situation.
If God shows me that I have felt this way for years over my mother-in-law's insults, but have never properly dealt with my sin, either out of disobedience or ignorance, I would obviously need to confess that my thoughts and feelings were sin.
At this point, I would need to change my mind (turn around) and repent from following these self-centered thoughts and emotions, even if they might be justified by the world's standards.
At this same time, I would need to unconditionally forgive my mother-in-law so that I could be reconciled to God and so that He could be released to work in her life as well as my own.
Then, I would give all the hurts, bitterness, resentment, anger (justified or not) and anything else that God has shown me over to God, asking Him to purge these things from me "as far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12)
Finally, I would get into His Word, reading a few of my favorite passages, so that His soothing truth could go back into the hidden chambers where the lies have been.
Now, even though I might not feel any different at that moment, I would know by faith that I am now a cleansed vessel and God's Life has been freed to flow through me once again. Then I would go back to the table, expecting God to love my mother-in-law through me. As Hebrews 10:22 states, "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."
"That's My Story"
This example has been in several of my books (The Way of Agape and Be Ye Transformed) over the last several years. Just this past month, however, I received a sweet letter from a woman who said, "That's my story!" In other words, the above example fit her situation perfectly and because of it, she has learned how to really love her mother. Listen:
"Your example of 'Putting it all Together' has touched me immensely. I have been struggling with my mother who lives with us. She is a bitter old woman who is handicapped and has much unresolved anger. Daily I would give things to God only to see it fall apart at the end of the day when she would say something cruel. Recently, it has become very difficult for me and I have spent much time talking to God about the situation.
"When I read your 'hypothetical story,' it was as real as life to me. The only thing that is different is that it's my mother, not my mother-in-law.
"God spoke in capital letters to me through that story! I was able to get down on my knees and walk through those steps very specifically. For the first time, God filled me with a peace that I had never experienced before. I smiled and wept and giggled and praised God all day long. I truly felt and acted different when I went downstairs and talked to my mom.
"I realize, however, how important it is to daily repeat these steps over and over. And with God's grace and His infinite patience, I will learn to always apply this remarkable truth.
So, in summary, the four essential steps are: We must...
1) Recognize and acknowledge the negative thoughts, emotions and desires that have just occurred in our lives. We are not to vent these thoughts and feelings, nor bury them, but simply get alone with God and acknowledge our true thoughts and emotions. Naming exactly how we feel and what we think, we must also ask God to expose the real root causes of these things.
2) Confess and repent of any negative thoughts and feelings that are "not of faith" or that we have entertained. We must choose to "turn around" from following what these things are telling us and choose, instead, to follow what God wants. At the same time, we must unconditionally forgive anyone else involved in the situation. God, then, will forgive us.
3) Give over to God all that He has shown us, not only our conscious negative thoughts and emotions, but also their root causes. He, then, will purge our sin and self and reconcile us to Himself.
4) Read God's Word. It's imperative that we replace the lies in our hidden chambers with the Truth - the truth of His Word. God, then, will cleanse and heal our soul with "the washing of the water of His Word."
These steps might seem like a lot to remember now because they are all so new. But, I promise you, if you are faithful to confess, repent and give all to God, you will soon see, there is no other way that works and these steps will become second nature to you!
God, then, in His timing and in His way will align your feelings with the choices you have made and make you genuine. Again, we are not the ones who change our feelings, God is. We just have to make sure that we have given Him permission to do so by doing the above four steps.
The reason this daily process is so very critical is because this is our "readiness to revenge all disobedience," that 2 Corinthians 10:6 talks about; and also how we "resist the devil" as James 4:7 exhorts us.
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To be continued next month: Conclusion to The Key. This article has been excerpted, in part, from Chuck and Nan's book, The Key. See page 45 for information about other King's High Way products. See also Nan's book, Private Worship: The Key to Joy.