In last week's Blog, I wrote that 'it is time to be blunt and admit that the root of the conflict about how we behave is Control. The Control of our behaviour is influenced by our personal selves AND by the society in which we reside, AND by the Church or Synagogue which we join'.
When we take control, or allow society and/or our Church or Synagogue to take control...we are still in the prison that Jesus has redeemed us from.
Try asking yourself the following questions:
Do I feel guilty about any of my past actions?
Am I bitter towards anyone for their past actions towards me?
Do I resent having been rejected for a job, for a promotion, or for what I wanted?
Do I worry about my body, my weight, my diet, and what I wear?
Am I anxious about my job, my children, my money, or tomorrow?
Do I suffer from stress?
Do I retain and hold on to unforgiveness for past wrongs done to me?
Do I fear the future, my enemies, old age, or the next unexpected disaster in my life?
Do I get depressed?
If you have answered 'No' to ALL the questions, you are not being honest with yourself, and you are still firmly rooted in your prison!!
We ALL behave or react in some of the questions, because we ALL 'fall short of the Glory of God', as Paul writes in Romans 3.23.
So....do we just accept our failures, go to Church or Synagogue at the weekend and ask God for forgiveness.....go home, and carry on as before?
Is it not strange and odd that we have to repeat the same exercise day after day, and week after week, and that we never seem to be able to break free from guilt, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, stress, fear, or unforgiveness? Why not?
Because the Control of our behaviour is influenced by our personal selves AND by the society in which we reside, AND by the Church or Synagogue which we join....and this Control is NOT influenced by God, because we do not trust Him or follow His instructions!
As I write this challenge, I can hear the cries of protest that you are making!
Please accept that I know how you are trying to trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, as in Proverbs 3.5. I am trying to as well! We ALL want to agree with the Psalmist that whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You....I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Psalm 56:3,11.
BUT...the evidence in our lives is that we are not trusting in the LORD in the way that He intends ....because we cannot seem to walk out of our 'prison' of guilt, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, fear, and stress.
How, then, does He explain to us what we should do? To begin with, we need to understand that all our failures listed in the questions above are examples of our 'sins', our dysfunctions.
'Sin' is not confined to acts like murder, theft, lying, or adultery. The Hebrew word translated 'sin' in the Bible means 'missing the mark' as in shooting an arrow at a target. The aim is to hit the mark, and the 'mark' and target is the standard set out by God in His instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Torah, the Law of Moses, is the blueprint for functional, healthy life that He intends us to experience with Him, AND with our fellow human beings, AND with our selves.
The Law of Moses given by God on Mount Sinai is the same as the 'Law of Christ' in the Gospels. When Jesus, Who was and is God Himself, incarnate and made manifest to Man, said 'Keep My Commandments', He was referring to the Law of Moses.
So....what actions must we take to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling as we step out of our prison of slavery to guilt, fear, bitterness, resentment, and anxiety?
Step 1 is to forgive, and we must:
1. Forgive ALL those who have wronged us intentionally or unintentionally, in thought, word, or deed, including our parents, siblings, spouses, friends, acqaintances, enemies, and ancestors, as in Matthew 6: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. For if we forgive men their sins against us, our heavenly Father will also forgive us.
2. Forgive ourselves for our dysfunctional, sinful failures of guilt, bitterness, resentment, anxiety, stress, envy, and fear. If God will also forgive us, should we also forgive ourselves? Of course we should....but we find it so difficult.
3. Forgive God for allowing all our troubles to come upon us, summarised in Psalm 88:
LORD, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?... I suffer Your terrors; ... Your fierce wrath has gone over me; Your terrors have cut me off.... Loved one and friend You have put far from me ..
If you agree with these 3 points, you might like to say the following prayer:
LORD Jesus, I believe that Your Crucifixion redeemed me from the power of sin so that I may be forgiven, and I believe that Your Resurrection destroyed death so that I may receive Eternal Life.
I now renounce all pride, all rebellion, all religious self righteousness. I submit myself to You, Jesus, as my LORD. You are the LORD of my mind, my will, my body, my feelings, my emotions, my thoughts, my spirit, my soul, and ALL my relationships, particularly my relationship with You.
I confess before You all my sins of fear, guilt, anxiety, stress, worry, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, holding nothing back.
By a decision of my will I forgive unreservedly, all those who have ever sinned aginst me intentionally or unintentionally, in thought word, or deed. I include all my ancestors, for the sins which they committed that have affected me and my life. I also forgive myself for the all that I have done out of my own will and rebellion, that has separated me from You.
I now turn from all fear, guilt, anxiety, stress, worry, bitterness, and resentment....and I turn to You, LORD, for mercy and forgiveness. I believe that because I confess my sins, 'You are faithful anf just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness'.
I now receive Your forgiveness for all my sins and dysfunctional behaviour, that have separated me from You, and that have prevented me from receiving the benefits of Your Salvation in my life.
'To You, O LORD. I lift up my soul. My God, I trust in You. Remember, O LORD, Your tender compassion and Your mercy. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my youthful rebellion. According to Your mercy, remember me for good. O LORD, for Your Name's sake, forgive my guilt, fear, anxiety, stress, worry, bitterness, resentment, and unforgivenes. Turn Your face, the wholenesss of Your Being, towards me, and have mercy upon me. Guard, protect, and keep my soul; rescue me, for I put my trust in You.'
Accept this prayer of mine, O LORD, from a willing heart. Amen.
This prayer is Step 1 in 'working out our Salvation with fear and trembling'.....and the beginning of the walk out of our prison.
May I pray for you that God will give you His gift of freedom in His Salvation, and that He will guard you with a hedge of protection.
I pray that He will illuminate the wholeness of His Being towards you bringing order, and that He will provide you with love, sustenance, and friendship.
I pray that He will lift up the wholeness of His Being and look you, individually, and that He will set in place all that you need to be whole and complete. Amen.
Until next week....and Step 2...