Way of Agape:
How Do We Love God Practically (Pt. II)by Nancy Missler
In Part One we began a series on what it means to love God in our every day lives. In other words, what are the day-to-day steps in laying down our wills and our lives to God and loving Him as He desires.
We shared that there are eight steps to what I call my "Survival Kit." These are steps that God has laid out for us in Scripture to help us deal with our sin and become those open and cleansed vessels--loving Him.
The first four steps we covered in Part One. These are attitudes that we need to form daily. They are not steps we have to do each time we quench God's Spirit, but simply a mind-set we should have on each day.
Inner Court Ritual
The final four steps of the Survival Kit, however, are mandatory steps, ones we must do each time we sin and quench God's Spirit. These four steps are known as the "Inner Court Ritual," because they are the actual steps that the priests took in the Inner Court of the Temple in order to deal with their sin. First, the priests went to the ten Bronze Lavers to wash their hands and feet before worshipping, then they went to the holocaust Altar where they offered their sacrifices, and, lastly, they bathed totally in the Moulton Sea.
These steps are not something I have made up or that I found in a psychology book. This is the actual process (the Inner Court Ritual) that the Lord has laid out in Scripture to help us deal with our sin.
I recommend putting each of these steps (especially the last four) on 3x5 cards. Keep the cards with you at all times. When something bad occurs, take out the cards, prayerfully go through the steps, and then choose by faith to believe that God has reconciled you to Himself. God is faithful. If you do your part; He will do His.
Going through these steps every time we are confronted with a hurtful remark, a painful situation, pride, fear, resentment, bitterness, and so on, is what enables us to be cleansed and prepared vessels for what God might call us to do next. It's imperative that we prevent the ungodly thoughts and feelings from accumulating in us. If we're not cleansed vessels, we will not be ready or available for God's use and we will find ourselves "contaminating" everyone we come in contact with ("making a stink" as Isaiah 3:24a says).
The following four steps are critical to do each time we recognize we have quenched God's Spirit and are separated from Him.
[So I don't confuse anyone, let me explain exactly what I mean when I say "separated from God." If we are believers, we always have God's Love and His Life in our hearts. Romans 8:28 tells us that "nothing separates us from His Love," and 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us "His Love never stops coming." However, if God's Spirit in our hearts is quenched because of sin (any choice that we have made that is not of faith), then that Love of God will not be able to flow out into our lives (our souls). Technically yes, we still have God's Love in our hearts, but practically, until we deal with our sin, we won't have His Love out in our lives. Thus, Isaiah 59:2, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear," is also true.]
So, if something has just occurred that has already caused us to make wrong emotional choices (sin), and we are already feeling hurt, angry, bitter, resentful, doubtful, prideful, fearful, and so on, then we must do the following four steps in order to have His Love flow once again.
Here's an overview of the four mandatory steps that we will be studying in depth in the next part: (In the actual Inner Court Ritual, Step #1 and #2 were really only one step. But because there is so much that goes on in this first step, for simplicity sake, I have made it into two separate steps.)
Now, by faith, we can know that God has restored us back into His Image. In His perfect timing, He will align our feelings with the choices we have just made.
Step One: Recognize Self-Centered Thoughts, Emotions, and Desires
The critical step that I would like to expand upon is the first step of the Inner Court Ritual--our need to recognize our painful thoughts, our wild emotions, and our self-centered desires.
This is what the priests did at the Lavers of Bronze. The Lavers themselves were made of women's "looking-glasses" (mirrors of polished metal). As the priests bent over the lavers to wash their hands, they would see "their own reflection," their own true selves in the mirrored Lavers.
I believe what the priests did is symbolic of exactly what the Lord requires us to do. We are to ask God not only to bring to light what's going on in our conscious thoughts, emotions, and desires, but we are also to ask Him to shed light on all those things in our hidden chambers. In other words, we want the real root causes of our negative thoughts and emotions to be exposed. Why are we reacting so violently over what has just happened? (Keep in mind the conscious, surface emotions are really just the symptoms. The real root causes are often hidden. If the root cause can be exposed and gotten rid of, then the surface emotions will not occur again.)
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 properly. Now, I stop whenever I find myself hurt, angry, resentful, critical, self-centered, prideful, ungrateful, anxious, confused, arrogant, afraid, bitter, judgemental, or filled with any negative emotion, and I try to get alone with God and go through these steps. Jesus is the only one who can expose and cleanse our sin--and totally heal us from the inside out.
Even in the middle of an argument with Chuck, as I have said before, if I find myself getting emotional and reacting self-centeredly, I stop the conversation and I simply tell Chuck, "I need to go and be with Jesus now or I am going to explode." The first time I did this he was 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. Don't ever "confront" someone or "take a stand" with someone, unless you are a clean vessel! If you are not clean, it will be self-life out there and not God's Life at all. And you will sink even further into the pit than you were before.
(Even if I can only go through these steps "mentally" at the time, I do it. By "mentally," I mean that, because I am busy, I'm not able, at that moment to pull away from the situation to be alone with God and let my feelings out. I can only go through these steps in my mind. In any case, it's critical not to let the sin accumulate.)
Acknowledge Real Thoughts and Emotions
We are to be aware of and acknowledge the sinful feelings that are coming up. We need to recognize the fears, the insecurities, and the doubts that we are experiencing. We need to call them for what they are. We need to be truthful and honest about them. It's important to be honest, God knows it anyway.
One woman asked me, not too long ago, if we should let our real feelings out. "Does God really 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 how he expressed his real thoughts and feelings to God in Psalm 55:15, Psalm 109:5-20, and other places.
It's also critical to "experience" our emotions. It's only the Lord that we are talking to, so we can cry or let out whatever emotions is needed. This will not only help us in understanding how we are really feeling, but it will also help us recognize exactly what we need to give over to God.
Oftentimes, I will go through these steps and forget (either because of time pressures or a lack of opportunity) to really let my feelings 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. Acknowledging and experiencing how I really feel, I believe, is part of the restoration process.
We Must "See" Our Sin
Scripture never says we won't have negative, bad, and self-centered thoughts, emotions, and desires. We're all still human and we will have these thoughts and feelings until the day we see Jesus. The Bible does say, however, that we can have victory over the "desires of the flesh," if we constantly make faith choices to give these negative things over to God--not allowing them to motivate our actions. But again, we can't give things over to God if we don't know what they are!
So, remember we must recognize and acknowledge our ungodly thoughts and emotions, so that then we know exactly what to hand over to God.
It's also important to understand that we can't "hold on" to negative thoughts and feelings without eventually acting out of them. Even if we try to keep them buried, they still become the motivation for our actions, whether we are aware of it or not. Burying our hurts, memories, fears, and so on, does not get rid of them. The only thing that gets rid of them, is allowing God to expose them and then our giving them over to Him.
Example: Twenty Years of Buried Hurt
A woman, who attended a retreat I spoke at, wrote to me last year and 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 hurts--she never wanted to have to think about that man again.
This dear woman thought she had dealt with all those 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 bring up all that was buried down in her soul.
She said she experienced such a freedom that day 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 really love God and are freed from something we have carried around for years.) She sat right down and wrote me a sixteen page letter on 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 is not in any more pain and has not taken any heart medication since. The doctor has confirmed her healing and he is totally baffled. I don't believe we realize how closely tied our spiritual and psychological well-being is with or physical bodies. Healing in one often does affect the other.
In order to be truly free of our past and be able to act out of God's Love, we must get rid of our ungodly thoughts and feelings the proper way: by allowing God to expose them, by our looking squarely at them and calling them for what they are, and then by our 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."
In Part Three, we will continue our study on how we love God "practically," by exploring the second step of the Inner Court Ritual, confessing our own responsibility.
This article was first published in the November 1994 edition of Personal UPDATE.
Parts of this article were 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. This eight-tape study focuses on the Mind of Christ and on the "hidden chambers" of our subconscious.