We are in the middle of a series of articles on the practical application of renewing our minds. The past two months, we have explored the four attitudes that are necessary in order to continually "be renewed in the Spirit of our minds." We must be willing to: 1) Present our bodies as living sacrifices; 2) Deny ourselves (our self-life); 3) Obey God's Will in action; and, 4) "Take every thought captive" and deal with those things that are "not of faith." We suggested prayerfully going over these four attitudes every morning and simply making sure of our mind set.
This month, I would like to begin to explore the four essential steps that we need to take in order to deal with our sins. These four steps are critical to do each time we recognize that we have quenched God's Spirit. This is our "readiness to revenge all disobedience," as 2 Corinthians 10:6 exhorts us.
We must: 1) Recognize, acknowledge and experience our ungodly thoughts and emotions; 2) Confess our sins and choose to "turn around" from following them; 3) Give over to God all that He shows us is "not of faith"; and, 4) Read God's Word, replacing the lies with the truth.
The Inner Court Ritual
I call these steps the Inner Court Ritual because, as we have mentioned earlier, they are the actual steps that the priests of Solomon's Temple went through in the Inner Court in order to deal with sin. The ritual went something like this: First, the priests went to the ten Bronze Lavers where they washed their hands and feet before going on to worship. Then, they went to the Holocaust Altar where they offered their sacrifices. And finally, they bathed bodily in the Molten Sea.
The Inner Court Ritual, then, is not just something that I have made up or steps that I simply found in a psychology book or a self-help book; I believe this is the actual process that the Lord has laid out for us in Scripture in order to deal with our sin. I recommend putting each of these essential steps on 3x5 cards and keeping them with you at all times. Because things will happen when you are out on the road and away from your Bible and notes, and you'll still want to be able to go through the steps. So, keep these cards handy-in your purse, briefcase or in your car, until these steps become first nature to you.
Going through these four necessary steps every time we are confronted with a hurtful remark, a painful situation, pride, fear, resentment, bitterness, and so on, is the only way we can stay cleansed and prepared vessels for what God might call us to do next.
These steps are our responsibility. John 13 says that if we don't cleanse our feet, we'll not have any part of Him and also, we'll end up contaminating everyone we come in contact with (i.e., "making a stink" as Isaiah 3:24a says).
[Something important to remember: unless we have asked Jesus into our hearts to be our Savior and have been "born again" as John 3 tells us, these steps will not work. We must have a brand new power source or life source within us (i.e., God's Holy Spirit), in order to produce something different than what we ourselves naturally think, feel and desire.]
Recognize Self-Centered Thoughts (Lavers of Bronze)
In this issue of Personal UPDATE, because of the confined space, I will only be able to cover the first mandatory step of the Inner Court Ritual. We'll explore the other three steps in following issues.
The first step is to recognize and acknowledge the negative thoughts and emotions (self-life) that have just occurred. It's important we don't vent how we feel or push down our real feelings, but simply ask God to "expose" what's really going on inside. We have lost our peace. We know it's sin (something not of faith), but (at this point) we don't know what it is yet.
This is what the priests did at the Lavers of Bronze. The Lavers were built out of women's looking glass, so as they bent over the lavers to wash their hands, they actually saw their own reflection in the mirrored lavers. And this is just what the Spirit of God does with us. He exposes the truth, so that we'll see it for ourselves.
At this point, we must ask God not only to bring to light what's going on in our conscious thoughts, emotions and desires, but we must also give Him permission to shed light on the hidden things in our soul (things that we, ourselves, are not even aware of). In other words, are there any root causes for our self-centered reactions-like a root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). As we have mentioned in earlier articles, often the conscious, surface emotions are really just the symptoms. If the real root cause can be exposed and gotten rid of, then the surface emotions will disappear also.
Now, obviously, not everything we think and feel has a hidden root cause, but much of what makes us angry, bitter and resentful, does (as Hebrews tells us)!
Get Alone with God
It's important at this point, if we can, to get alone with the Lord so we can go through these steps and deal with our sin the proper way. Try not to put this off. Remember, Jesus is the only One who can expose and cleanse our sin, and thus, the only One who can heal us completely. The times that I have put off going through these steps are the times I do seem to "contaminate" everyone I come in contact with.
So now, whenever I find myself hurt, angry, resentful, critical, self-centered, prideful, ungrateful, unforgiving, anxious, afraid, confused, bitter, judgmental, or filled with any negative emotion, I try to stop, get alone with God and go through these steps.
Even in the middle of an argument with Chuck, if I find myself getting emotional and overreacting to something, I try to stop the conversation, and simply tell Chuck, "I need to go and be with Jesus now. If I keep going, Honey, I'm going to blow it really badly." Now, the first time I did this, poor guy, he was very upset and offended. But, now he says he likes me so much better after I come out from "being with Jesus," that he freely lets me go.
It's so critical to be "cleansed" in order to respond the way God would have us to do. Don't ever take a stand or confront someone, unless you are a cleansed vessel! If you're not clean, then it will be self-life out there and not God's Life at all. The other person will immediately sense your judgmental attitude, react from his defenses (not his heart), the truth will be hidden, and both of you will sink even further into the pit than you were before.
If you can get "clean" first (go through this Inner Court Ritual), then the other person will sense your acceptance and love, respond from his heart not his defenses, and the truth will have a chance to be exposed and the situation righted.
Acknowledge Real Thoughts and Emotions
It's not only important to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our pride, fears, insecurities and doubts that we are experiencing, but it's also important to be honest and truthful with God. He knows it all anyway. He just wants us to see it and acknowledge it.
One woman, not too long ago, asked me if we're supposed to let our real emotions out. "Does God want us to do that?" she asked. I told her that God has given us a perfect example in Scripture. David was called a "man after God's own heart," and yet we read in Psalm 55:15, Psalm 109:6-20 and other places, how he expressed his very volatile thoughts and feelings to God.
Remember, we can't give something over to God unless we know what it is. This is why it's important to describe and name what we're feeling. Call it for what it is: "I am angry; I am resentful; I feel betrayed; I am fearful." Experience your thoughts and feelings. Cry, scream, or yell if you want to. (Remember, we're only doing this to God alone.) This will not only help us understand what we are really feeling, but it will also help us recognize exactly what we're to give over to God.
Experiencing our emotions, I believe, is part of "dealing with our sin" and part of the healing process. We're all human, and we all experience negative, self-centered thoughts and emotions. Now, I don't mean going back and reliving the actual experiences of the past, or visualizing them, I just mean crying about what God has just revealed as the root causes that are affecting our choices today.
Often times, I will go through these Inner Court steps, but forget (either because of time pressures or a lack of opportunity) to really let my true emotions out. After a day or so, I wonder why my peace has not returned. More often than not, it's because I have forgotten to really "experience my negative feelings." They are still bottled up within me. Therefore, I have to go back and once again go through these steps, only this time, I cry and acknowledge how I feel.
Now again, I am not choosing to follow these emotional feelings, but simply recognizing what they are, so I can give them to God.
An Example: "This Message is Impossible"
A dear friend of mine shared with me that she knew she had "years of emotional walls" that she had never released and given over to God. Everything was coming to the surface now because my friend's husband had just recently left her after 35 years of marriage.
My friend had always known there was "something" preventing her from intimately knowing Jesus, but she could never figure out exactly what it was. She received the Be Ye Transformed tapes and immediately gave God permission to expose whatever He wanted to in her.
Two days later, she called me up and said, "Nan, this message is absolutely impossible. Ever since I listened to these tapes, I've been an emotional basket case! I started two days ago to try to live this message, and today I feel I am worse off than when I started. I am consumed with jealousy, bitterness and anger! I feel horrible and I know I'm such a failure as a Christian!" Of course the enemy was right there on her shoulder, whispering she was right.
I asked my friend if she had given God permission to "expose" what He wanted in her. She said, "Certainly, that's the first thing I did." Then I said, "Praise Him and thank Him. He is just answering your prayer! God is showing you your real "self"-your true thoughts and emotions. Don't worry, you are right on course."
We Must "See" Our Sin
I told her simply to recognize what God was bringing up. "Name" the emotions and the thoughts as they came up; and then, go through the steps we are now learning and get rid of them for good.
What my friend forgot was that God must "expose" our negative, ungodly thoughts and emotions before we're able to hand them over to Him. We can't give things over to God if we don't really know what they are!
Scripture never says we won't have negative, bad and self-centered thoughts, emotions and desires. We all are still human and we all will have negative thoughts and feelings until the day we see Jesus. However, we can have victory over the "desires of the flesh" if we constantly make faith choices to give these things over to God, and not allow them to motivate our actions any more.
Galatians 5:16 says if we choose to "walk in the Spirit," then we won't carry out the desires of the flesh.
As Christians, we have three choices as to what to do with our negative thoughts and emotions:
o We can vent them to others,
o We can stuff them down in our hidden chambers, or
o We can give them to God and be rid of them forever.
(This last choice is what we do through the Inner Court Ritual.)
It's important to understand that we can't "hold on to" negative thoughts and feelings without eventually acting out of them. In other words, undealt-with things do influence our actions and our behavior.
Even if we try to keep our real thoughts and emotions buried, they still will become the "motivation" for much of our actions, whether we are aware of it or not. Burying our hurts, memories, fears and so on, does not get rid of them. Only allowing God to expose them and giving them over to Him, does.
Example: Twenty Years of Buried Hurt
A woman wrote to me several years ago, after she had attended a retreat where I had spoken. She shared how much she hated the "Inner Court Ritual" part of the Be Ye Transformed message. She said she had such a hard time with these principles, but she wasn't really sure why. Even after she left the retreat, she just couldn't get the study off her mind. Finally, she decided to ask God to expose why she was so upset. "Let's see if this really works," she sarcastically thought to herself. Then she went through these steps.
God answered her prayer and exposed exactly why she was so upset. He showed her that she still had tremendous resentment and bitterness towards her first husband, who had left her some 20 years before. God showed her that she was reacting to these principles out of those past hurts - she never wanted to think about that man again.
This dear woman thought she had dealt with all her hurt feelings, years ago. In reality, all she had done was bury those negative emotions and for twenty years she had carried them around with her. After wrestling with God for some time, she decided to go through these steps all over again. Only this time, she wanted to deal with her hurts the proper way. So she asked God to expose her soul.
After sincerely going through the Inner Court Ritual, she said she experienced such a freedom that even her new husband commented that evening, "What's going on! You look so happy!" (Even our physical countenance will be changed when we learn to renew our minds and become freed from things we have carried around for years.) She sat right down and wrote me a sixteen-page letter about what the Lord had shown her.
A few weeks later, after I had written her back, I got another ten-page letter from her, telling me of the most exciting miracle of all. Five years previously, she had suffered a major heart attack during an operation. Since then she had been in constant pain and on a heavy dosage of heart medication. When she made the choice to let go of the horrible feelings of hate for her first husband, God supernaturally healed her heart condition. She wrote me that she has had no more pain and has not taken any heart medication since.
The doctor has confirmed her healing and he is totally baffled. (We don't realize how closely tied our spiritual and our psychological well-being is with our physical bodies. Healing in one often does affect the other.)
So, in order to be truly free of our past and be able to act out of God's Life, we must get rid of our ungodly thoughts and feelings the proper way: by allowing God to expose them, by looking squarely at them and calling them for what they are, and then by choosing to give these things back over to God and be rid of them forever.
Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us."
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To be continued next month: The second step of the Inner Court Ritual-Confessing and repenting of all that God has shown us and unconditionally forgiving others.
This article has been excerpted from Chuck and Nan's book, Be Ye Transformed.