Where Am I Heading?
I began to wonder about something a couple days ago.
Is it a possibility that when I dwell on the faults of others or even spend much time listening to or reading the news about bad things happening around the world, or when I fill my mind with information about conspiracy theories that can frighten me or pass along rumors about what people in positions of authority are doing to abuse their power – am I in fact attempting, at least some extent, to take onto my own self the sins that I am thinking about? And if that is so, then am I also attempting to do what only Jesus is supposed to do?
And here is another thought connected with that. Is this why God's Word says am supposed to spend my time in praise and gratitude and focusing on the real truth about God's goodness and greatness and love and grace and mercy? Because to dwell on anything less than that by feeding on the negative things of this world is to act as an antichrist, trying to do the work of the Sin-bearer, isn't it? As a sinner I will always end up being crushed whenever I try to load onto myself a burden that only Jesus is supposed to bear. That is why He said to bring my burdens to Him. That probably includes the burdens that I inappropriately have taken onto myself from others in various ways. Those sins have already crushed the life out of Jesus, so why do I think I should allow them to do the same to me?
There is a verse in Isaiah describing those who are going to live in the flaming presence of God and yet thrive there for eternity. Ever since I read that some time ago it has come back to haunt me at times.
Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil. (Isaiah 33:14-15)
I hear the Spirit at times pressing this conviction home to my heart when I am listening to the news about some new violence taking place somewhere. As my imagination becomes captured with yet another compelling story that so many feel is necessary to “keep up to date”, I wonder if choosing to listen to such things is in fact disqualifying me to live in God's presence. Is that what this verse is saying? While I am exposed to these stories or watching entertainment videos I can feel the evil urges of these people seeping into my own soul and a resonant spirit of revenge welling up inside of me. The more horrific the story the greater the urges for “justice” or other less than Godlike emotions that are stirred up. But at the same time I realize that it is doing nothing in me to foster a spirit of love and forgiveness and compassion like what I am learning fills the heart of God.
I do sense quite strongly that the more time I allow myself to be exposed to what we call news the harder it is for me to perceive God's voice clearly in my own heart and soul. I have been convinced for a long time now that all of the news media is heavily manipulated to skew information to steer people to believe and feel the way people in power want them to do. It is clearly a means of brainwashing for the public but this fact is widely ignored even by most sincere Christians.
Many times when I choose to watch a movie the chances are even higher that my spiritual ears are going to be ringing so loudly from that intense emotional noise that is dissonant to God's Spirit, and my imagination will be so caught up with reruns in my head of the plot or the emotions I experienced during the movie that it can be several days before I once again feel that I am back in tune with God.
I sense that God is telling me in verses like this that these kinds of choices and activities that seem so normal and acceptable to nearly everyone around me, whether religious or not, may not be appropriate for a person who is really serious about preparing for heaven and living in the presence of a God who is consuming fire. God has shown me many things about His fire that most people are not aware of at this point. But knowledge also brings with it responsibility. It is never safe to dabble in evil and especially when the controversy between good and evil is coming to a dramatic climax possibly in a very few months.
But this was a new thought to me. Maybe the reason that God is pressing home to everyone willing to listen the importance of staying away from negative exposure as much as possible is because of a basic underlying principle of how human beings are designed that is too easy to overlook. Jesus allowed all the evil and guilt and darkness of the whole world to come onto Him as a human and it crushed the life out of Him. But Jesus never intended for anyone else to replicate that accomplishment. So maybe one of Satan's most subtle deceptions is to get us to think that we have to know at least a little about the evil going on around us or we will become “unbalanced”. Does that sound familiar? Like a “need” to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of just feasting on a tree of life?
The whole purpose of God's plan of salvation is to restore us to a condition where we will be so pure again that we will lose all sympathy with evil completely. But I believe that some of the easiest ways to miss an awareness of how we might be drawn into dwelling on evil are in subtle ways like listening to the news on a regular basis, or focusing on the faults of others in the church or in government, or even becoming overworked and discouraged by continually dwelling on our own failings. When we are spending our mental time dwelling on faults and failures and sins we are not filling our hearts with the light and power that comes from heaven.
Jesus is the only one that has the capacity and that should be allowed to think about the evil that either exists in others or that continues to plague us. Yes, we need to accept convictions of evil when His Spirit brings it to our attention. But when the Spirit brings it to us He also brings with it the opportunity and the gift of repentance to become free from the roots of that evil. But to dwell on evil in others may be to take upon ourselves and to fill our imaginations with an evil that Jesus has already taken upon Himself. He has that job covered and we should not be trying to take it from Him.
I am not sure what all of this means completely. I know it might be possible to become fanatical in some respects along this line. But it is also true that when a person gets totally serious about coming into harmony with everything God asks us to be that those who do not want to go that far will always view them as fanatics. Fear of being labeled or of what others might think about me should not be a factor in determining whether I should obey God's words to me or not.
I have observed that as I respond to the promptings of the Spirit in these areas and move away more and more from exposing my mind to these unnecessary influences that my connection with God seems to deepen more rapidly. So I reckon that if I value that relationship with God, then to the extent that I value it may be the extent to which I will be willing to let go of everything that interferes with it. Just saying that makes me squirm at what I know might be the implications and the potential things God may ask me to do in the near future. But then I remind myself that God is always after my heart and longs to lift me out of darkness into the marvelous light of intimacy with His heart of love, and my discomfort is discovered to really be just my resistance to dying to my selfishness.
God's plan is for me to replace the constant influx of negative information into my mind with an atmosphere filled with praise and gratitude and interactive communicating with God's mind and heart. There are many texts in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament that teach us to pray with thanksgiving. I used to think that all these references to thanksgiving in the Bible were just nice urgings peripheral to living the Christian life; now I realize that they are at the very core of keeping an active, vital connection open between my heart and mind with God's heart and mind. Gratitude, praise and prayer are not optional for a real Christian – they are what constitutes the vital atmosphere that allows messages and power to flow unobstructed between God and His children. All these other things only create strong static that obscures the important messages God is seeking to send to anyone willing to really listen.
Jesus came to be my sin-bearer along with everyone else's sins. I have no business taking unnecessary awareness of those sins into my heart. Yes there may be times when that is unavoidable, but Jesus can take the weight of those things as He lives inside of me when I am required to be exposed to them. But to choose to expose myself and unnecessarily dwelling on the evil in the world, or worse yet to actively look for the faults and sins in others around me is to move into an arena that may seriously damage my hearing ability for God's voice and my willingness to feel God's feelings towards those people. It is far more important for me to seek to perceive more clearly the real character of God and to know His ways and feelings toward me than it is to dwell on the failings of other sinners and to fill my imagination with their sins.
My reluctance to follow through with these convictions on an ongoing basis may well be determined by how I choose to feel about these issues. If I allow myself to perceive avoiding these activities that dampen my relationship with God as a burden, a heavy restriction that I must bear in order to be a Christian, then sooner or later that burden is going to start to feel so heavy and restrictive emotionally that I will start indulging in those things again and move in that direction and away from growing closer to God. Right now I find myself sometimes feeling that it is a silly restriction on my life while other times realizing that it is a trap that can suffocate my emerging faith in Jesus. Maybe this is what is called a double-minded person.
But I can choose to view this as a glorious opportunity revealed to me by God to escape the very things that keep me in darkness and confusion. If I am willing to perceive the things that have been keeping me in darkness about God and about reality all of my life and accept God's opinion and feelings about those things as dangerous to my soul, then it can become instantly easier to also see the things He is offering me as far more appealing, important and vital to assisting me into a life that measures with eternity. I am starting to realize that it is not just the facts or doctrines that need to be correct in my life but more importantly it is the spirit I have in how I view my options, the emotions I allow to be attached to my choices that are often the deciding factors that steer the direction of my life. It is all about what I allow to become most important to me, what I choose to be my priorities not just intellectually but emotionally as well.
Father, this is a serious conviction for me and a very intimidating issue. But I submit to Your wisdom and I ask for Your power to transform me and cause me to both know and to walk in Your ways. Fill my mind and heart with the truths and glories of Your character and give me so much discomfort with evil that I will lose all appetite for wanting to think about it. Wean me away from the things that seem so normal to the world and attach all my affections on You as You continue to show me more and more of Your beauty and glory. Have Your way in my life and capture my imagination for Your use alone.