Monday, May 14, 2018

IMAGE -- Who Decides?

There is a common reflex action when we bump our heads. We grab, rub, then look at our hand to see if there’s any blood. Somehow, if there’s no blood, we’re okay.

Years ago as a kid, I was riding in the back of our 1953 Dodge station wagon. The door was two-part. The lower part let down like a tailgate of a truck. The upper, glass part was a heavy-framed, hinged window that raised up. Both parts were open and I was sitting on the tailgate. My mom hit a bump and the top came down and smacked me in the forehead. I saw stars and moons and leprechauns floating around in my head. A knot suddenly popped up where the lid hit me. While I’m rolling around and dying in the back end of the station wagon and barely conscious, my mom asks, “Any blood?” I felt, looked and said no. My mom said, “You’re okay then.” “But I don’t think I’m going to live.” She said, “It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not bleeding.”

And thus came the rationale for dealing with hurts. Without blood—external evidence—we don’t have a problem.

Years later I made my dad angry. Don’t remember how, but I remember his reaction. He drew back a fist, aimed at my face. He stopped but the image of that fist and the look in his eyes stayed in my mind. I applied the same reasoning: without external evidence, we don’t have a problem. Only it didn’t work. I carried that image for years and it created an emotional wall between my dad and me.
If we can compare life to making a cake, imagine the details of our life are like the ingredients added in. Whatever goes on in our life adds a unique flavor or catalyst to the batter. Something happened when I was a kid that got sprinkled in. An event in college added something else. The upbringing by my parents—their own upbringing—got included. All this stuff, welcomed or not, was dumped into my life and I had no control over it. Most of it was random.

There are things I wish never would have happened. Some other things, I found out later, that would have been good to have had, were left out. All of this, mixed into my life, affected me at some point.
Just like some cakes don’t turn out as hoped.

So when we look at ourselves, what we see is a product of things added or left out of our lives. It’s what we see, but is that image the truth? Are we simply the mixture of all that’s gone on in our past?
On Seinfeld, Jerry asked George if he had told his female friend the truth when he was describing himself to the girl. George responded: "Yes, I did" and Jerry replied "As you see it.” George said: "Remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it."

A very beautiful girl grew up in a highly abusive family. She missed the love of her father and closeness to him. She wanted desperately to have that emptiness filled. She became the girl every guy wanted to take out…for the wrong reason. The image that defined her led to a life that lived out a reputation that fulfilled that image.

Toward the end of high school, she attended a Christian event and gave her life to the Lord, got involved in church and began to grow. She graduated and went off to college. In college she met a young man who began abusing her as her father had. They announced their wedding plans. Her friends tried to tell her not to marry him, he was wrong for her. She said, “But that’s who I am. I shouldn’t expect anything better.”

Though she experienced a changed life in becoming a Christian, she still let those old ingredients define her.

The top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality:  4. Denying the impact of the past on the present. 8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure instead of refusing them the influence they want to have over us.

Though there may no longer be any external evidence, we can have a problem because the old ingredients still affect us. So, what do we do?

Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Encumbrance: hindrance, obstruction, obstacle, impediment, constraint, drawback, complicated circumstances from our past or present from which it is difficult to escape.

Entangled: to become twisted together with or caught in: a web or net

I admit, even today, some of those old ingredients from my past can cycle back through and encumber me. They may affect you as well: making it a struggle to respect your husband, love your wife, release your kids, hope in recovery, be a friend, trust God with your life issues, resist temptations, expect the best, challenge your opinion of yourself.

Why? Because what we believe, we do, whether it is true or not. An unhealthy image of who we are can so dominate our lives that we live out that image. We give power to what is not to have power over us. We hang onto what we have been told to lay aside.

Allowing the past to define us, as Christians, is like holding to a form of godliness, yet having denied its power; 2Ti 3:5

What power? The power of transformation. 2Co 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

So, if the girl in the story became a new creature in Christ, why didn’t the old things go away? Why did they still define her? She didn’t realize her responsibilities within the transforming message of the new life.

Rom 12:2 Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is…i.e., Renewing, so we can live by what He says is true. Refreshing.

God said: My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My waysFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isa 55:8-9

To live by God’s thoughts and God’s ways, we need a transformed mind. Without a transformed mind, all I have is human wisdom. And human wisdom often lies.

Paul said: my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1Cor 2:4-5 

By the power of God, the girl got a new house but then relied on human wisdom to furnish it. She never replaced the old thoughts in her mind with the transformed thoughts of her new life. The old pictures on the wall of her mind constantly reminded her of who she used to be.

What does man’s wisdom say: if there’s no evidence, there’s no problem. If there’s no blood, we aren’t hurt. If we believe it, it must be true. The power of God says, you were affected by all that has gone on in your life, but the past no longer defines you. Release your heart from what encumbers you.

2Cor 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

Where is this warfare going on? In our hearts. We are to use divine power to defeat our own opinions that try to influence us to deny God’s truth.

2Pet 1:3 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

“What we need, then, is an accurate, Biblical understanding of who we are. We need God’s perspective that contains both truth and hope, strength and humility, sorrow over sin and joy about forgiveness, a deep sense of our need for God’s grace and a deep appreciation for the reality of God’s grace.” - Robert Magee.

Without God’s perspective, I’ll try to compensate for things that may or may not be true. I’ll spend my life trying to be someone I’m not instead of who I am.

I want to be the person God sees me as. How does God see me? 1Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

My view of me is distorted, like one of those carnival mirrors, influenced by events. God’s view is perfect. He sees clearly, no distortion. He sees me as I am. I am His child and He sees me as the new creation.

Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

You are cleansed: I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a voice from heaven answered a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' Act 11:7-9

You are blameless: yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. Col 1:22

You are forgiven: He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Col 2:-13-14 

You belong to Him: for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. Rom 14:8   

We are who He says we are. No other opinion, not even our own, matters. So to see ourselves as God sees us, we must lay aside whatever tells us we are less than what God says. Then, having taken that opinion captive, we renew our minds to have His opinion.

We are not what has happened to us.
We are not what someone has said we are.
We are not the product of how someone has mistreated us.
We are who God says we are!

How do we see ourselves as God does? By fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb 12:3

Jesus paid the price to transform us into Children of God. When we received the gift of salvation, God completed the deal. The old is passed away and with the new came a brand-new identity. You are free to stop living like you were and live like you are—an accepted, loved and blessed Child of God!

1.       Accepting who we are is often a life-long struggle because we lack confidence in the completed work of salvation.
2.      When we will realize God has redeemed our whole life—body, soul and spirit, we will begin to understand there is nothing in our past that changes His image of us right now.
3.      If we are defining ourselves by the past, we are giving power to what He has rendered powerless.
4.      We will live defeated if we carry the encumbrances He has commanded us to lay aside.

5.      Disentangle yourself from the bondage of the past and be free!

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