Well, this will be our last newsletter article on the subject of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. To me, Romans 12:1-2 is one of the most important verses in the Bible. (It's also one of my own life verses.) I do pray this series of articles has proved helpful in your walk with the Lord.
Two months ago, we began to explore the four essential steps (the Inner Court Ritual) that the Lord has laid out for us in Scripture to help us deal with our sin and be reconciled to Him. This is the "readiness to revenge all disobedience" that 2 Corinthians 10:6 talks about.
"Just Give It to God"
For years, whenever I had a problem, people would tell me, "Well, just give it to God." Now, that's great and that's true. But I never understood exactly how to do that... until now! Daily, I go through these steps (and sometimes two or three times a day if I'm in a particularly hard situation). At those moments when I am dealing with doubt, hurt, fear, pride, bitterness, resentment, anger, and any other negative feelings, I'm often too emotional "to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." I need some guidelines to help me through. Having these steps handy has made all the difference in the world.
Going through these four steps every time we are confronted with a thought or a feeling "that is not of faith" is the only way we can stay cleansed and open vessels so God's Life can continue to flow and God can use us. The steps are as follows:
- Recognizing, acknowledging and experiencing our ungodly thoughts and emotions as they come in.
- Confessing our sins and choosing to "turn around" from following them.
- Giving over to God all that He has shown us is "not of faith."
- Reading His Word and replacing the lies with the truth.
The first two steps we have already explored in detail in our previous newsletters. This article, then, will cover the last two steps.
Give All to God
Giving everything that is "not of faith" over to God is the third essential step of the Inner Court Ritual. God will not violate our free will by forcibly taking these things from us; we must willingly choose to hand them over to Him.
God wants us to give Him - to sacrifice to Him - everything that is not of faith, so it can be cleansed by His Blood. As we willingly give these things over to Him, He promises that He will remove them from us, "As far as the east is from the west...." (Psalm 103:12>
So often we take for granted the incredible miracle that God really does take away our sins "as far as the east is from the west...." Do we really understand what this means?
It means that we are allowed to begin each day with a clean slate - a new, fresh start. Chuck and I were sharing last night about what a truly phenomenal gift this is. It allows us to "blow it badly" with each other; and yet, if we confess and repent of those things and choose to forgive each other, God really will wash us, cleanse us and heal us - even with the memory of that sin wiped away. What a miracle!
Just think, if we didn't have Christ in our lives, all our fights with loved ones, all our guilt, our failures, mistakes, ungodliness, errors, wrongs, immorality, and every sin we have ever committed would always be with us. We would try to bury them and forget about them, but they would always be there to motivate our actions. We could never get away from them or have a fresh, new start. No wonder so many relationships "without Christ" fail. I weep at the thought, because that miracle, that answer, that cure, that Love is there, just for the asking.
Give as "Love Gifts"
Luke 11:39-41ks about giving things over to God and it says: "'Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not He that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms [give as "love gifts"] of such things as ye have [within]; and, behold [then] all things are clean unto you [without].'"
Alms in the New Testament were love gifts "with no strings attached." I think of giving our sins over to God just like giving Him "alms." As we sacrifice or offer up to God our alms - everything that is not of faith - He, then, makes all things clean for us from the inside out.
Do Something Physical
It's sometimes helpful to do something "physical" with the things that we give over to God, in order to truly experience getting rid of them. A dear friend of mine writes down on a scrap of paper all her hurts, wounds, memories - whatever God has shown her is "not of faith." Then she literally wraps these pieces of paper up in packages and presents them to God as "love gifts." Personally, I like to burn these scraps of paper! I write down things I give to God and then burn that scrap of paper. I like to watch it evaporate. To me, it's a graphic picture of how God removes those things from me forever.
Recognize the Battles
Most of the things that God shows us are "of the flesh," and will usually go away immediately, or at least within a few days if we are faithful to go through these cleansing steps.
But some of the things that will come up can be long-standing strongholds of the enemy and he won't let go easily. So, don't be dismayed if these thoughts and feelings reappear. Remember, God takes the things we give Him the moment we give them to Him, but our feelings sometimes don't align with that choice for awhile. And this is where Satan gets into the act and makes us think that God is not faithful and that He hasn't taken what we gave Him. So if your feelings don't change immediately, don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, this just doesn't work for me!" Because, that's exactly what the enemy wants you to do. Recognize it's a battle. Know you will win if you will just persevere. God is faithful and He will do what He promises.
Read God's Word
The final step in dealing with our sin is that we must read God's Word. God is the only one who, by His Word, can cleanse, sanctify and heal our souls completely. He is the only One who can replace the lies with the truth.
After we have confessed, repented and sacrificed all to God, we are "bloody" and "torn apart" and in desperate need of God's complete healing power. It's only the Word of God that can totally restore us. God is the One who washes 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 His Love. One of my favorite Scriptures to read at these times 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...."
Another suggestion is to try to memorize Scriptures. Often, we are away from home and our Bibles when we must go through these steps. If we have memorized Scriptures, then we can bathe in His Word anyway.
At this point we can step out in faith, knowing that God will be faithful to align our feelings with our choices, give us the Love and the Wisdom we need, and perform His Will through us.
Example: Putting It All Together
One lady came up to me after a recent seminar 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 an example that shows how the Inner Court Ritual works?" Here, then, is a hypothetical story showing all these steps in action:
Your mother-in-law (who is not a Christian) 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 them that produces the sin or not. Now, if we don't do anything 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 and I would go to wherever I could be alone with the Lord (my bedroom, the bathroom, my car). I'd want to try 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 remarks really hurt me. "It is humiliating and embarrassing every time she puts me down in front of everyone." I'd go on and express my genuine feelings about her. I'd even cry if I needed to. In other words, I would experience my real emotions (so I will know what to give God).
At the same time, I would also ask God if there are any "root causes" as to why I'm reacting this way. Perhaps my mother-in-law has done this same thing numerous time before, and I have never really dealt with it. Perhaps, I simply buried my real feelings. I'd ask God to expose everything He wanted to 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 it), I would obviously need to confess that my thoughts and emotions are sin. At this point, I would also need to repent and turn around from following my feelings even if they might be "justified" by the world's standards. (By God's standards, because I have held on to these things for awhile, they have quenched His Spirit in me and are, therefore, sin.) I would also need to unconditionally forgive my mother-in-law so that I could be reconciled to God and so He could be free to work in her life as well as my own.
Then, I would give all the hurts (bitterness, resentment, anger, etc.,) over to God and ask Him to purge these things from me "as far as the east is from the west."
Finally, I would read a few of my favorite passages in His Word, so that His soothing truth could cleanse, sanctify and truly heal my soul. His Word will replace the lies with the truth.
Now, even though I might not "feel" any different, 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. At this point I would go back to the table, expecting God to love my mother-in-law wisely through me. He will give me the wisdom I need and the Love I need that will expose, in His way and timing, her own sins.
Hebrews 10:22 says, "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."
After we have, by faith, "put off" the old man and "put on" Christ, our lives will be transformed. We have exchanged lives with God - we have given Him ours, and He has given us His! Now we can go on and praise and worship Him in the "beauty of His Holiness," knowing that because we have totally given ourselves over to Him, He will "work all things together for good." Romans 8:28, by the way, does not speak to those who only "emotionally" love God, but to those who totally give themselves over to Him. God will maneuver and orchestrate circumstances for those who completely surrender themselves to Him.
So, in summary, the four essential steps of the Inner Court Ritual are:
1) Recognizing and acknowledging the negative thoughts, emotions and desires that have just occurred in our lives. Not venting these thoughts and feelings, nor burying them, but getting alone with God and acknowledging our emotions. Naming how we feel and asking Him to expose the real root causes of our ungodly thoughts and feelings.
2) Confessing and repenting of any negative thoughts and feelings that are "not of faith" or that we have held on to for awhile. Choosing to "turn around" from following what these things are telling us and choosing instead to follow what God is saying. Unconditionally forgiving anyone else involved and knowing that God has forgiven us.
3) Giving over to God all that He has shown us (not only our conscious negative thoughts and emotions, but also their root causes) and knowing that He will purge our sin and reconcile us to Himself.
4) Reading God's Word and making sure to replace the lies with the truth-the truth of His Word and knowing that God will then cleanse and heal our soul with "the washing of the water of His Word."
Some people have suggested making a "word game" out of these four Inner Court Ritual steps. One person named them 1) See it; 2) Say it; 3) Send it; and, 4) Supplant it. Another called them 1) Recognize it; 2) Repent of it; 3) Rocket it up; and, 4) Replace it. If these help, use them.
This is how the Inner Court Ritual works. It might seem like a lot to remember now because it's all so new. But, I promise you, if you are faithful to continue to confess, repent and give all to God, these steps will become first nature to you. Because you will soon see, there really is no other way that works!
This Inner Court Ritual is again "that readiness to revenge all disobedience" that 2 Corinthians 10:6 talks about. This is also how we "resist the devil" as James 4:7 exhorts us.
Be an Example
It's important to be open and frank with your children when you use these steps. Give them an example of how when you are hurt, you run to Jesus. Show them He is our healer and He is our answer. Give them a model to follow. Children, too, have hurts and fears and insecurities just like we do and if they see us run to Jesus to get better, they'll want to do it also.
When our Michelle was 7 or 8, I put these same four steps (in language she could understand) in a picture frame by her bed. When she would come home from school crying because someone had called her a bad name or had done something mean to her, together we would go through the steps of giving it to Jesus. Now, as an adult, she know those steps by heart.
Keep a notebook or journal of your adventure with God. Date the entries, especially when you give something over to Him. That way when Satan comes along and tries to counterfeit your old feelings and thoughts, you can point to the entry and say, "That has already been handled!" I might not feel it yet, but by faith I believe it.
In Conclusion: "For Me to Live is Christ"
This is the renewing, the equipping and the girding that we must do daily in order to be "transformed into His Image." This is also the preparation (or the "being ready" for His return) that He speaks so much of in the New Testament. (Matthew 24:44)
It's our own responsibility to daily "put off" the old man and "put on" Christ. We already possess God's Life in our hearts, we just must be sure that's what's showing forth in our souls.
I beseech you therefore, 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 ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
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This article has again been excerpted from Chuck and Nan's book, Be Ye Transformed. Next month Nan will begin a new series of articles entitled Ascent to the Son, about faith in the night seasons (soon to be a book).