being born again, darkness, discerning the spirits, experience, following Jesus, heart, knowing God, suffering, T.A. Sparks, the cross, the dark night of the soul, the dark night of the spirit, the new self, the old self
All human beings suffer. It begins with being born when both mother and child must suffer until they have been fully separated from one another. Suffering continues when we grow up and see that this world is not what we hoped for or expected it to be. Neither are we perfect, nor is it our environment including the people we know. We may have had many wishes and desires in our lifetime of which only a few were fulfilled. Or worst case, even none of them! Furthermore, we suffer from diseases we would not have chosen if we had been asked before. We suffer from being rejected and misunderstood, from being hurt and offended, and so on and so on…
Phew!! After rereading my first paragraph, I really felt the burden of this lifetime that can easily press us down or even make us feel depressed. This life on earth is truly not easy and if I did not know the Lord, I would often times (read always) be tempted to give up when I find myself in another trial that does not seem to end and of which I cannot see yet where it might lead me. Just a few months ago as I had been reflecting on my last years with God, I saw that this year seems to have been the one with the biggest trials and with relentless revelation of my uttermost helplessness and countless weaknesses that often made me despair of life itself. ALL my hopes and dreams were shattered. The very things I still relied on were taken away and left me devastated regarding my expectations as to this life on earth. I had to give up any plans I still had in the back of my mind. All of them, indeed. Nonetheless, at times I feel a deep comfort from God that offers a foretaste of a completely new spiritual life I have not known before. Jesus promised us,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (Jn 12:24-26 ESV)
Losing one’s own self life is a very painful and long process. How long? Only God knows. The more I see that God alone knows the depths of my heart, the less I can say where I stand (speaking spiritually) and where this dark path in my subconscious mind will lead. I only know that the darkness must be rooted out completely. As long as there is still refusal to accept God’s will for my life, I am not yet done. Just thinking about the will to be healed. You pray and pray and others pray for you too, however, nothing happens. Or you seem to know what is best for you and for your loved ones, but God decides to shatter your plans and hopes in the twinkling of an eye. Ouch!! What has been most difficult for me was to accept and know God’s will for my life without Him explaining me WHY or showing me WHEN another affliction might be over. I do know from my own experience, though, that in hindsight those seemingly contradictory experiences in life do make sense. Yet my natural impatience to WAIT on God always comes in the way.
While writing these things down, I just thought about how very vulnerable I render myself by admitting to be a real nothingness before God. For my old self it would be much easier to pretend to be ‘someone’ which I am not in order to get approval from others. But I do know that I only get the approval of God by humbling myself before Him and by showing myself as I really am. Only then I can trust that He will lift me up again, since we read in Peter’s first letter,
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Pt 5:5-10 ESV)
This year was also a year with big temptations for my flesh. The devil, in fact, comes in and tries to destroy every work God has already done in our hearts. He discourages us and makes us lose heart and faith. As an instrument used by God, the devil’s task is to show us the utter depravity of our Old Adam nature. When we accept this verdict of our own wretchedness (Romans 7), we can also hope to experience the condition of Romans 8, that is, when we feel no condemnation springing from our old self any longer because of finally being IN Christ, which means having been born again as a new creation from above. In closing I offer you an excerpt from T. Austin Sparks which deals with the connection between the cross that kills our old nature and the knowledge of the Lord, a text which ends with a positive note. Thank God!
The Cross is the only way to spiritual knowledge. Important as study of the Word of God may be in its own realm, as laying a foundation for the Holy Spirit to work upon, you never come to a knowledge of the Lord simply by studying the Bible. The Holy Spirit may use what you know of the Bible to teach you much, to explain your experiences, to enable you to understand what the Lord is doing, but you never get this kind of spiritual knowledge by study and by teaching.
You must be prepared to let the Cross be so applied to your life that you are broken and emptied and fairly ground to powder – so that you are brought to the place where, if the Lord does not do something, you are finished. If you are prepared for that way, you will get to know the Lord. That is the only way. It cannot be by addresses or lectures. They have their value, but you do not know the Lord spiritually along those lines.
So then, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring us to the full knowledge of the Lord and by means of that growing knowledge to make us useful to the Lord, must constantly work by means of the Cross in principle; and my closing word is this. The work is not all negative; the Lord works on a positive basis. You may think that the Lord is always saying No, that He is always against you, that the Cross is suppressive; but no, it is a positive instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God. God is working on a positive line. The fact is that, if ever the Holy Spirit brings us into a new knowing of the meaning of the Cross, He is after something more. That is the law of the Spirit of life.
You must remember that the Lord Jesus, in His resurrection, was not left just where He was before. Before He died He was on this earth, and then He died; and Paul refers to His raising from that death in these words: “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all” (Ephesians 1:19-21). The resurrection carries Him through to the “far above all,” and the principle of resurrection is always that of rebound – we may go down very deep, more deeply than ever we have known before, but the Spirit of God is intending that that shall issue in our being higher than ever before. So do not be afraid when you are feeling very empty, very finished, very much at the end. Ask the Lord that if this is truly the working of His Cross, it shall be successful in what He intends for you; and if it is successful, you will be on higher ground afterward than ever you were before.