Continuing our series on "being transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Rom 12:1-2), let's explore how God brings this mind renewal about.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." This passage, I believe, refers to our own "natural" way of thinking and acting.
Proverbs is telling us here that if we persist in going by our own emotional way of thinking, we'll end up quenching God's Spirit and not experiencing His Life at all.
So, God is constantly nudging us to quit our own way of thinking and go in a 180-degree opposite direction. Unfortunately, we don't always "hear" Him, and often we don't want to hear Him because we'd rather stay in control ourselves and follow what we desire.
However, because He loves us so much and wants us to have abundant life here and now, He allows situations into our lives that will force us to see (for ourselves) our wrong priorities and our wrong dependencies.
He pushes us into a "corner" where we're forced to take a good, hard look at ourselves and see that we, too (even as Christians), have been trying to "preserve ourselves at all costs," just like the Moabites did! We too, even as Christians, are out to protect "self" above everything else. (Remember Jer 48:11 from last month's article.)
God knows that one of the surest ways for us to see our true condition is to trip, fall, and be broken. It's not fun to fail, but God knows that "brokenness" is one of the only ways that we'll see the truth, and our "self-life" will finally be exposed for what it is. And that's exactly what God is after.
Brokenness: The Emptying Out Process
To be broken simply means to have all our own thoughts, emotions and desires that are contrary to God's uncovered, exposed, brought into captivity, and weeded out. Jeremiah 1:10 says, "See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, to pull down, to destroy, and to throw down, [but then] to build and to plant." The question is: Are you willing to be broken of "self"? Are you willing to see the real root causes of your actions? Are you willing to see the truth about yourself?
I had lunch with a dear friend of mine not too long ago and when she heard about all the trials that Chuck and I continue to go through, she said, "Nan, I'm afraid to let go completely. Look at you! Look what happens when you let go! It's scary! Why do I have to relinquish everything to God? Why can't I just stay in control myself?"
"Marcia," I asked her, "do you love God? Totally giving yourself over to Him, moment by moment, is really what it means to love Him." The word "agapao" (to love) is not a natural feeling or an emotional love for God, but a love where we relinquish everything to Him - where we put His will and His desires above our own at all costs.
John 12:24-25 validates this: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth (hangs on to) his life shall lose it; and he that hateth (surrenders) his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
If you take a grain of wheat in your hand - just one grain of wheat - and drop it into the ground, cover it, and allow it to die, the soil, heat and moisture will work on that grain's outer shell until it becomes broken. Then green sprouts will appear, and before long it will be a stalk of wheat which will bear many, many grains of wheat.
It's the very same thing when God causes brokenness in our lives. Brokenness is God's way of dealing with our self-life. It's the condition whereby our will is brought into complete submission to God's. Brokenness removes every hindrance in our lives that keep us from being fully surrendered and from bearing much fruit.
I shared with Marcia that God loves us so much, He wants us to see, through our trials and brokenness, that there is "life" from no other source but Jesus Christ and His Spirit in us. "For me to live, must be Christ." (Phil 1:21)
I told her that as far as we're concerned, 20 years of marital trials (and a few more years of other stuff) is a very small price to pay for the freedom from self and the intimate knowledge of Christ that we are now experiencing. And we can both say in all sincerity, like David did, "It is good for me to have been afflicted; [so] that I might learn Thy statutes." (Ps 119:71) Only brokenness can do that for us.
Now, we are not called to suffer pain, rejection and affliction as an end in itself, but only to the extent that God will use these things in our lives as a means of helping us reach our goal - being emptied of self and filled with Him. "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect [complete], establish[ed], strengthen[ed], and settle[d]." (1 Pet 5:10)
Jesus left us an incredible example to follow. He willingly suffered, was rejected and crucified. 1 Peter 2:21 says, "For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps...."
The gospel is not "health and wealth" in this life, but to follow in Jesus Christ's footsteps. "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day." (Lk 9:22)
"To suffer" means to bar ourselves from sin. (When we bar ourselves from sin in our own lives, we do suffer.) "To reject" means not to be accepted, but to be separated from. And "to be slain" means our self-life must be crucified, extinguished, and annihilated.
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Lk 9:23) Jesus is saying that there's no other way to "union with Him" (to be filled with His Spirit), except by brokenness, suffering, rejection and crucifixion.
Remember, however, the most glorious news of all is that "resurrection" always follows crucifixion. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal 2:20) Resurrection always leads us to Life.
Watchman Nee, in his classic work, The Normal Christian Life, says, "No one can be a true servant of God without knowing the principle of death and the principle of resurrection. If the Son of man had to go through death and resurrection in order to walk,can we do otherwise?"
"Death works to bring about in us a willingness to let go of our own choices and obey God. Matthew 10:34-39 talks about bearing our own cross daily and following Him. Bearing our own cross is an inward thing. It's continually setting aside our natural endowments, so the Lord may be pleased to give them back in glorious resurrection."
Is Brokenness a Must?
Many years ago, a couple of young gals came running up to me after a seminar and said, "Oh Nan, does it always have to be through trials that we're filled with His Spirit and become one with Him? Isn't there any other way? (These two young gals had beautiful, young families and a lot of happiness in their lives and they were scared to death as to what God might do if they relinquished everything.)
I told them, "First of all, remember that God loves you and that He won't allow anything in your life that's not "Father filtered." Then, I identified with them and said, "I really believe God wants each of us, moment by moment, to surrender our lives so that He can fill us with His. But I also believe we could do this without trials, if we'd just be willing to automatically give ourselves over to Him. I think if we did this freely, there wouldn't be any need for trials!"
The problem is, of course, no one is naturally willing to surrender their lives. Our "flesh" is screaming just the opposite; unfortunately, many of us are listening and following. It's our human nature to try to "control" things, maneuver things and get our own way. And unless we're "cornered" by God, we'll continue for the rest of our lives doing it our own way - "MY WAY," as Frank Sinatra sings.
So, brokenness is God's way of letting us see the need for a change of thinking, so that right actions can follow. Again, our thinking is the key. It's the link to our being transformed into Christ's image and to "walking the truth." This is why God says it's so critical to "bring every thought into captivity" - to capture it, to expose it, to test it, and to examine it. (2 Cor 10:5)
We need to see where our thoughts are coming from and see if it's God's voice, Satan's voice or self's voice. Then, as the rest of 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, we must begin to "Cast down every high thing (every stronghold, and every imagination) that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. And have a readiness to revenge all disobedience...."
So, it's a "mind battle" that we are in, because whoever directs or controls our thinking is also going to ultimately direct and control our lives. If Satan can just direct our minds, without our even being aware of it, by our simply going along "with the tide" of our own natural, emotional ways of thinking, he's got us. He doesn't have to do anything else. We've already played right into his hands and become wide open prey for his lies and deceit.
This is why it's so critical that we learn how to "put off" our negative thoughts and emotions and allow the Holy Spirit and the Mind of Christ to be in full control of our minds. Then, we'll be assured it will be God's Life coming forth from us, and not our own.
"I beseech you, my brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed (how?) by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Rom 12:1-2)
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Next month, we'll continue our series on "Being Transformed by the Renewing of our Minds," and we'll explore: What is our mind?