Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Offense Trap - Part 2

Last week we spoke about the dangerous trap of offense and how our hurt and disappointment will lead to our destruction if we don’t deal with it as the Word instructs us to.  We learnt how rehearsing and nursing the offense just aggravates and empowers it, causing a root of bitterness to enslave our hearts, contaminate our minds, and even defile those around us.

When I told you about casting that hurt onto the Lord, and surrendering to His love, I showed you how forgiveness is the only key to be set free from the trap of offense.  And what keeps us free, is that overwhelming, never ending, powerful force of God’s unconditional love!

Romans 5:5 says the Holy Spirit Himself pours the love of God into our hearts - He gives us His unconditional, perfect love to do exactly what His Word tells us to do - to forgive and love, not hold onto grudges and curse.  Do you remember what Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.”

Now, let me tell you something else about the Wonderful Holy Spirit, Who is our counsellor and teacher.  According to Philippians 1:6, He has promised to complete this good work which He has begun in us, and see it carried through to completion.  What good work is that?  It’s allowing His love to override and dominate our own negative feelings and hurt, so that we can sincerely bless and love those who have wronged us.  

That means there’s no quitting on this act of obedience.  You can’t just try mumble a few niceties under your breath about the person you’ve forgiven, and then say, “I tried, it didn’t work, I’m done here...”.  No, that’s not what you’re going to do.  The Holy Spirit is faithful to do exactly what He has promised to do - in and through you - and His ways are not only perfect, they are to see you free, keep you healed, restored and moving forward in victory!

So let’s take a brief, but closer look at what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.”

There are two things I want to point out to you from this verse.  Firstly, Paul said the work the Holy Spirit began in us, He will perfect and complete in us.  That good work will be anything that involves our surrendering our wills to Him, and choosing to be influenced by His heart and attitude, so we can sincerely obey His Word.  

In this case, it is to surrender to His love, forgive and bless those who have disappointed us.  Now, one translation says the Holy Spirit will not only complete this good work, but perform it in us.  That word perform translated from the Greek, conveys the idea of God’s own supernatural power and ability actually picking us up and carrying us onward.  

Don’t you just love that?  In other words, when we have humbled ourselves to refuse our flesh and submit our wills to the Holy Spirit, as an act of obedience to His Word; He rushes right in, and strengthens and equips us with His love so we can do it!  Then, He carries us through the process, so we don’t get stuck, but move forward!  It’s that simple and brilliant at the same time!  All it takes is our willingness to submit to Him, obey, and trust Him to be exactly Who His Word says He is!

The second truth I want to point out, is how Paul says he is convinced of this happening to us.  He isn’t even suggesting, or saying it’s a possibility for us.  No, Paul said he is convinced this is exactly what we will experience!  

One translation says he is persuaded and completely convinced that this is exactly what the Holy Spirit will do in and for us.  That means we can fully trust and expect it to happen.  And I second Paul in this statement - I have first hand experience that it is absolutely true!

So, where do we begin?  We start agreeing that God’s Word is the final authority in our lives, and that obedience to its truth is what will see us walking in victory instead of bitterness and defeat.  

Then we stand up strong against our flesh and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We can only do this through the strength of the Holy Spirit.  This is how: We tell the Holy Spirit we want to obey His will and not our own, and we ask Him to fill and flood our hearts with the love and empowering grace of God.  

In other words, we ask Him to give us His heart for those who have wronged us.  We deliberately speak out forgiveness towards them and expect the powerful, supernatural love of God to go to work, through His Precious Holy Spirit inside us.  We can trust that power to pick us up and carry us through to sincerely bless and love those who once hurt us.

Let me tell you, in an instant, what the devil set up for our downfall has been turned around for our blessing and God’s glory!

Now, just before I end this letter, I want to leave this thought with you.  Remember the verse that began this series, Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.”?  Well, it’s interesting to note the Greek tense of this verse describes a continuous action.  

That means, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are expected to bless and speak well of these people again and again.  This is not a once off deliberate act of obedience.  It must become a lifestyle.  

The more we yield to the Holy Spirit and allow His perfect love for others to flood our hearts, the more that disappointment will lose its power over us.  Our words of blessing will begin to have a powerful effect on our own well-being, and set us free from the trap the enemy set up for us.  God’s love is so liberating and continuously builds us up, heals us, and satisfies us in Him.  

So, when an accusing thought pops into your mind - instead of lingering on it, call on the Holy Spirit, submit to His love, forgive, and speak God’s blessing!  You will be amazed at how those negative thoughts will begin to diminish.   

This is how to live in victory when we’ve been hurt.  We have a wonderful, faithful partnership with the Holy Spirit - He enables us to speak blessing where it’s humanly impossible, and then keeps us in a place of  blessing - as His love does its perfect work in us.  

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Offense Trap - Part 1

Hello everyone,

One of the greatest struggles between our spirits and flesh, can be stopping ourselves from speaking out against those who have treated us wrongly, especially when the disappointment is deep and fresh. The need to gratify our flesh by pointing a finger of accusation can at times be overwhelmingly difficult to resist.  

The truth is - the Bible is very clear on this issue.  In moments like this, even when the temptation seems irresistible, we must take control, tell our flesh to be quite, and refuse to speak against those who have treated us unfairly.  

Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.”

Why is it so important for us to deliberately and purposefully restrain our flesh from speaking badly about those who have disappointed us?  Because when we continue to speak accusingly, we refresh and rekindle the fire of the memory of that offense - keeping all those negative emotions that are attached to that memory, alive.  

This is only going to aggravate and deepen the hurt, and prevent us from moving on from that place of offence. 

Another trap we must avoid at all costs, is constantly trying to nurse the disappointment, by going over it again and again in our heads - trying to fix it, by imagining different scenarios that would bring about different results.  

This constant back and forth in our minds just deepens and even distorts the offense , keeping it large and looming in our thoughts.  Before long, the disappointment begins to influence everything about us - we’ll even begin to look like we’re carrying the world on our shoulders.

So, do we just ignore what happened altogether?  Should we pretend nothing happened and just hope the hurt and disappointment goes away?  Nope, not doing anything about that offense will cause it to fester and develop into a root of bitterness that will negatively affect every part of our lives.  That bitterness begins to seep through our attitudes and conversations and contaminate everyone around us.  

Hebrews 12:15 tells us to, “Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it,”.

So how do we avoid the trap of offense, and deal with our hurt and disappointment, before it destroys us? 

Well, the very first thing we need to do is take that offence straight to the Lord. We are to cast that care straight over, releasing it to Him. This way we are able to find the strength to forgive, and release ourselves from the offence that is designed to steal our peace and joy, and lead us to utter emotional destruction.

Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail).” 

The moment we surrender our hurt to the Lord and speak out forgiveness to those who offended us, we are released from the power of that offence.  This may seem a little easier said than done, but there’s simply no way around it.  We have to forgive to be set free.  

Take a look at what Matthew 6:14-15 says about this: “For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and wilful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and wilful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”

In my first year of high school, I remember being extremely upset and angry towards my dad and his new wife.  Actually, I was deeply offended by the whole situation, not just them personally.  I remember pouting on the edge of my bed one Saturday evening, complaining to the Lord about the unfairness of it all.  

I was so self righteousness in my attitude towards them.  Then, I clearly heard the Lord speak into my heart, He said I was to forgive and love them.  My immediate response was so defensive, but I reluctantly agreed to forgive, but to love would be a little out of the question.  I searched my heart and just couldn’t find a way to do that.  

That’s when I heard that quiet, small voice speak into my heart and fill my mind - He said, “I’m not asking you to love them with your love, love them with my love.”  Immediately, I began to see my father and step-mother with totally different eyes.  I wasn’t the victim of their choices anymore.  

In fact, I was completely out of the picture.  The Lord, miraculously gave me His heart for them.  It was a love so pure and compassionate and unconditional.  I felt my own heart melt and begin to be what felt like remoulded and filled with the perfect love of God.  In tears, I surrendered to that love and felt it heal me and fill me, to overflowing.  From that moment everything changed for me.  I was free - free from the offence and free to love, just like God loved.

You see, the Bible says we are to bless those who we feel are cruel towards us.  In the Greek, the word bless means to say good or positive things.  I know that must seem like a pretty tall order, especially when we are so caught up in hurt and anger that we probably can’t see or think of anything good to say about them at all.  

Nevertheless, the Word is clear, and it’s always right.  Once we have released that offense by forgiving those who hurt us, and opened our hearts to God’s perfect, unconditional love - speaking words of blessing become a natural outflow of what His love has done inside of us. 

Remember, the very best way to do this is to ask the Holy Spirit to show us His heart for the ones who wronged us.  And He is faithful to this, just as He did for me, He will do for you too.    It’s  impossible to sincerely bless and respond to others in love in our own strength.  

Next week, I’m going to share more on how the Holy Spirit miraculously does a perfect and complete work in our hearts to not only free us, but keep us free from the trap of offence! 

All my love,