The more we dare to freely admit before God how our real heart condition is and who we really are, the more we will be able to let other people into our hearts as well. The more we understand that we are truly loved without strings attached, the more we will long to show others how much they are loved too.
If we were to live in the darkness 24/7, our lives would look much differently. Not only that they were much shorter because of the lack of sunlight and the lack of its positive consequences on our body and soul. Also, our whole environment and surroundings were not that beautiful, I assume. Recently, I was reminded of what I just described when I compared two situations on different days with one another. The other day I was swimming in a lake when there was no sun but only dark gray clouds in the sky. The water did not look that inviting; it was rather obscure, shadowy, and opaque. As soon as “something” touched my legs in the deep water, it made me shudder. 😛
It is not ours to judge anyone, even though everything might tell against them. We can merely see how people look like, what they do and how they behave. And if they talk a lot, we will come to know a certain part of their hearts too. However, it is God alone who knows the depths of our hearts, the WHY of what we did and, maybe, still do. Therefore, we must be cautious to not quickly say, “Oh, I know, I know, been there, done that, such kind of persons I have come to know so often!”
“I imagine hell like this: Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine.”
― Peter Ustinov
A funny quote, indeed, yet what pictures do really come up in our minds when we hear someone talking about “hell”? I need to admit that I don’t know much about that fiery pit, not more than the Bible teaches. During the past centuries the Roman Catholic part of my family, my ancestors, had been threatened by the church that they would go to hell if they had committed severe sins that were not confessed before a priest. Note, Roman Catholic belief was that only members of their church could get to heaven back then since non-Catholics would be considered as heretics who would have no access to God – ever. Thank God, times have changed…
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If there was another way to encounter the Living God and to stay in His holy and pure presence 24/7 here on earth and eternally too, I would have immediately said, “No, thank you, I am content as it is, no more death in my life needed.” Well, having been plunged into the second part of the dark night of the soul, the dark night of the spirit, in fall 2013, yet without interruption only one year ago, I today gave in after so many struggles with and against God since I saw it makes no sense to pray to God that I might have it my own way any longer. That means, if this death will continue to last for years in which I neither have any interest in God nor in spiritual things and in which God gives me more and more sickness and pain, then so be it. Period.
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This life on earth provides joys and pains for everyone, whether we believe in God or not. However, if God has chosen to adopt us as His beloved children, we will experience an additional kind of suffering this world will never know. These pains that spring from taking up our cross daily in order to die to self are by no means an end in itself. As painful as such periods are, there is a goal ahead to which God will surely bring us.
As I was sitting at the hairdresser this morning, I would read several entries on “Dying to Self” on the internet. It dawned on me that only those who experienced such a process were really inclined to write more detailed about it. Or to put if more humorously as A.W. Tozer did,
“Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”
The following Scripture both refers to the believer who faces physical death as it refers to the one who was chosen by God to walk through that same valley while He is still alive on earth.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4 KJV)
Jesus confirmed those two different possibilities of dying when He answered Martha,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25-26 ESV)
Although I am aware of the fact that most expositions on the latter verse where Jesus mentioned the one who lived believing in Him that should never die point to the second death (which is eternal), I believe that Jesus also pointed out the possiblity to enter His kingdom while still living in this world.
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Am I able to love like God loves? No, never, and that won’t ever change. But I do know as soon as my old self has been completely died, I can.
How is that possible? The only hindrance to let God’s love fully flow through us and from us to others is the old Adam, the one who has not yet given up on trying to do God’s work, the one who has not yet stricken his colors and given into that painful process of dying to self whatever the cost. I do admit that cutting heart pains day and night are not fun, really. 😦 Yet Jesus didn’t promise us that circumcision of the heart by pruning our old and worthless branches would be all joy and pleasure. Instead, He called sanctification “the narrow way to life” which only a few were able to find during their lifetime. Our goal should be the one the apostle Paul by grace had already achieved as he described here,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 ESV)
Have you ever read what kind of life the apostle Paul had in mind for all who follow Christ? Did he describe a life full of cares and stress that meets the demands of others more than our own needs? Although he said “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day,” (2 Cor 4:16 ESV), it was certainly not his intention to burden us with that statement. Actually, I began to wonder as I read some writings in the past that implied here an exhausting life for God. To put it plainly, some people thought that running around day and night like a hamster in its wheel in order to preach the gospel, to feed the poor, to help others, to heal the sick, to… (fill in the gap with what you feel is a burden in your life) would be God’s will for us. Do we believe that God really wants to see us exhausted by our doing for Him?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17 ESV)
Have you ever realized that the new creation we are to be can only be found IN Him? I read that passage and others which speak about being IN Him over and over, but I felt there was still something missing regarding my interpretation of these Scriptures so that I could write about it more clearly. Although I have been feeling Christ IN me since 2008 without interruption – and sometimes before too – those periods of having been IN Him were always transient in nature. However, I hoped and believed that one day my life would be changed into a “24/7 experience” of being IN Him as well. Or in other words, what I am speaking of here is entering into His rest, entering the promised land, that means, being able to see the kingdom of God everywhere, having our spiritual senses that belong to our new heart completely opened. Being IN Christ is a condition where our perception of God and the world is completely changed. We perceive everything around us in a new light that can be both seen inside of us and outside of us in every created thing. To put it briefly, we are enabled to see God wherever we might be and whatever we might look at. Continue reading