Similarity in temptations.
I am Tempted to take offense, to hold on to offenses, to resist forgiving.
The resolution to this is to let go of offense, let go of all rights to collect on emotional debts and trust everything to the God who is fair.
I am tempted to worry about finances, about bills and debts I owe to others.
I am tempted to take things into my own hands, maybe to become frantic about finding a job to get more money in order to stay in control of my life and provide for my family. But this temptation involves trying to keep my life to some extent out of God's hands by making my own decisions without making deference to God's plans for me.
The resolution is to let go of all fear, let go of my desperate desire to know how things are going to unfold and trust Father to unfold His plans for me and to faithfully provide for all of my needs from His riches. But this requires that I trust His heart more and more explicitly. To the degree that I allow myself to entertain tension and worry and fear is proportionate to the degree in which I am refusing to trust God's heart of love to care for me and all of my needs.
The link between these two kinds of temptation is a desire to stay in control.
The similarity between the resolutions is the letting go part and choosing to trust that God is fair.
Jesus demonstrated both of these kind of victories all throughout His life on earth.
He never allowed any offense to stick to His soul. He consistently and without fail forgave everyone instantly so that never did a root of bitterness even begin to infect His spirit. (meditate on 1 Peter 2:21-24)
He lived a life of complete poverty as far as supporting Himself was concerned while fully trusting His Father in heaven to provide for everything He was led by the Spirit to do.
Being led by the Spirit is a signal mark of all who are genuine children of God. (Romans 8:14)
To be led by God's Spirit very often means one does not know what is coming next but is never troubled by that lack of knowledge. They do not derive their comfort, assurance or boldness from knowledge or control over their own life and future (think Tree of Knowledge...). Rather their inspiration and fearless boldness comes from knowing the One who has all things in His hands, possesses all power and much more importantly has a heart of infinite and passionate love for us.
It is not enough to believe that God is powerful or that He has infinite resources with which He can provide for all of our needs if we still do not have at least an equal amount of trust in the heart and intentions that motivate that same Provider. It is one thing to believe in God's power but a very different and transforming thing to trust in God's heart. The first can lead us to tremble with terror along with demons and even resonate with their perspective. Effective transformation of lives and hearts can only take place when we intentionally embrace believing of a different kind, a confident trust in the unwavering goodness and kindness of God's heart towards us.
This is possibly the pivotal point of all of our temptations. We too often get stuck in analyzing other aspects about temptation and sin and righteousness and everything else religious. But it is vital that we perceive the core center of saving faith, and that center is a trust that is naturally awakened in our own hearts when we begin to appreciate the real truth about God's consistent, irrepressible kindness, mercy, compassion and overwhelming love for us personally.
The more I embrace the real truth about God's love and care for me personally and allow that love to begin to ravish my own heart, the easier it becomes for me to trust Him more consistently instead of slipping into the sin of worry, fear or taking offense.
Maybe the difference between these two kinds of temptations are that instead of taking offense over someone else's faults or mistreatment of me, in the second instance where I am tempted to not trust God's heart and provision for me, I am taking offense at God. I am believing the lie that God really doesn't care about me as much as He claims to and as a result I need to take at least some things into my own hands. This revelation resonates very strongly to the original temptation offered to Eve and then Adam that catapulted all of us into this giant mess we are in now.
When confronted by their loving Creator shortly after that first sin, both the man and his wife not only blamed someone else for their distrust and resulting wrong behaviors but they each also blamed God. The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." (Genesis 3:12) She said, the serpent (You created and let loose here) deceived me, and I ate. In effect, they had taken offense at God and were agreeing with Satan that God couldn't be trusted to have their best interest at heart and as a result they had to take at least some things under their own control in order to provide for their needs and desires when He failed to come through for them. Has anything changed?
This temptation to believe that God is either not fully capable of giving us all that we need and desire, or else He is not willing to provide all that we need and desire composes the very fuel for all sin. Every other sin and malfunction takes root in this soil. And not until we effectively face the reality of these assumptions that produce offense can we begin to experience effective restoration back toward the original design for which we were created. God's original intent that will at last bring to us the full satisfaction for which every one of our hearts crave is the intimate bond of passionate love reciprocated between our heart and the infinite heart of God's love for us. (And that is the definition of joy.)
Being created in God's image implies far more than we have yet grasped. But one thing it does mean is that God intends for us to live in such implicit trust in His heart of passionate love for us personally that we can accurately reveal the glory of deeper aspects of His love than has previously been seen by anyone in the entire universe. We were created to be unique revelations of a part of God's heart that up to now has never yet been observed by created beings. But after His special creation was hijacked by the accuser and we became infected with the evil virus of selfishness producing an image nearly opposite of that which defines God's character, a salvage plan was instituted that would not only restore us to God's original design but would actually enhance and intensify that original design to reveal even more glory than could have been possible to see before.
Thus even sin and the whole tragic experiment of evil will someday result in glorifying God even greater than if it had never transpired. That is not to suggest in the slightest that God intended for this horrible mess to take place in order to make Him look better. That is another one of the lying accusations circulated by the great accuser. Rather, it is an amazing ability on God's part that He can take anything and everything, no matter how out of harmony it might be, and in some strange, unexpected and stunning way weave it back into a new design to eventually produce beauty and life that is just the opposite of what it was intended to produce in pain, suffering and death.
We struggle to understand this and have too little appreciation for this ability of God. But we must come to trust and believe in this unique ability of God, especially while passing through the darkest part of this process when it is impossible to have any idea of how the evil we are experiencing could have any such outcome for glory.
Yet what I feel I need to focus on is not so much how God might work my tragedies into something great and awesome and beautiful, as true as that is; what I must focus on during the dark parts of this process is to believe in the goodness and truth in God's heart despite apparent overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In other words, I must not rely so much on the scientific technique of only believing things based on hard evidence and conclusive proof. I must go beyond that simplistic thinking, beyond just evidence-based belief and learn to put my hope and confidence and even my beliefs about my own value and identity fully in the reality that God is love and in Him there is no darkness at all.
This core element of truth is the vital foundation that we must build on for stability if we are to escape from the quagmire of confusion and fear and misapprehensions about God. Most, if not all of the false assumptions we have about reality and God that cause us to malfunction and pull away from our Source of Life are rooted in our inherent and acquired doubts about this central truth – how God feels about us. John saw this and spelled it out as clearly as he could. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
The common problem that prevents us from trusting God's heart is that we would prefer to put our trust in His plans. We want to 'know God's will', we want to have at least an outline of where our life is heading so that we can take part in the planning and maybe help God out with the details. Yet I am starting to see that this is just where a lot of confusion begins to creep in, for we seem certain that if we are not contributing in some significant way to God's work in our lives then we are failing Him or disappointing Him or even offending Him. And heaven knows we don't want to get God offended!
A text like the one just quoted too often is only evaluated with the 'religious' part of our brain but fails to connect to the practical, every day part of our existence. We need to begin to apply the Word of God to daily issues that confront us, small decisions that we assume are well within our own sphere of ability that we assume we should not bother God about. Why should we get God involved in the mundane things that we do every day? After all, we have that all covered pretty well and generally only think about getting Him involved whenever a problem arises that becomes more than we can handle.
Yet I am starting to sense that it is this all-American independent attitude that we are so proud to strut that may be part of what keeps us going in circles seeking to find a God who appears to be evading us. The problem is never on God's side of the relationship but is in our perceptions of how He feels towards us and how He treats sinners. We want to have God as our helper, our go-to resolution center for things that are too big for us to solve. But that kind of relationship keeps God too distant from what saving faith demands that we experience. The kind of life God has in mind for those willing to be led by His Spirit as His children is a life of constant openness to Him, a life where nothing is too small to discuss freely and easily with Him and where His input is welcomed and valued on every topic, in every situation, in any circumstance that come along.
So what does this concept have to do with God being light with no darkness at all? To assume we can leave God out of any decision or activity or discussion because we have it covered is like pulling a block over the sun tunnel in the ceiling of a room with no windows or other sources of light. We think we can handle life except for the things too big for us to solve. That brings new insight to this ancient warning. But all of you are kindlers of fire, lighters of firebrands. Walk in the flame of your fire, and among the brands that you have kindled! This is what you shall have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:11 NRSV)
In reality we forget that every detail and breath and thought and body function – absolutely everything is dependent on the constant sustaining power of God's life. Even the great Satan is perpetually indebted to God for his ongoing existence and ability to think and operate moment. That of course raises questions in our minds about how wise it is for God to continue to sustain such a being. But if we were to carry that question to its full implications we would eventually have to apply it to ourselves which suddenly takes on a whole new dimension.
So if God is already complicit in every detail and every second of our existence, why is it so important for us to invite Him to be more involved? And what does His being total light and no darkness have to do with any of this?
Maybe a parallel example might help make this more clear. How long would you like to lose access to air? Is it something you think might be just incidental or unimportant for your life and happiness? If we choose to quit participating in the breathing program God designed to oxygenate our bloodstream, it will not be long before we will not be alive to think about it anymore. Likewise, when we assume that the presence and input of God through His Spirit is optional for us unless we have a big problem to invite Him to get involved in, then we may well be walking zombies more than thriving Christians.
The significance of John's statement about God being only light with no darkness at all highlights an infection that poisons our feelings about God and causes us to not want to have Him involved in every moment and decision and experience. It is the dark things that we assume compose some of God's character that cause us to think we can handle things just as well or even better than getting God involved. Or we might believe that God expects us to do everything we can until we run out of steam or resources or answers and only then come to Him to get more of these so we can then go away and work some more on our own with what we received from Him.
While there may be truths in many of these concepts, there are also lurking shadows that deceive us and cause us to not want God involved in every thought or moment of our lives. It is these blind spots in our perceptions about God that prevent us from becoming passionate about getting close to Him in every area of our existence. It is the shadows and clouds, as the Bible sometimes refers to them, that keeps us thinking the way Adam and Eve were led to feel when they slipped into the trap of Satan. And it is these same misconceptions and resultant fears and doubts about God's light that must be exposed and expelled from our thinking and our hearts before we can be restored back into intimate fellowship with our Creator and Life-giver.
When I feel that I can handle some situation or decision or problem well enough without getting God involved, I am entertaining an assumption that involves an offense related to God. This issue of offense is an underestimated problem in our lives. It is very important that we better understand it, but I don't want to take off in that direction too much right here. But let me just share a couple verses that highlight what is coming to my attention right now.
This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. (Acts 24:16 NKJV)
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10 NKJV)
A few years ago I did an intense study in Matthew 18 for over three months that altered the way I understood God and salvation and sin significantly. This chapter is all about offenses and forgiveness and has incredible insights that are barely tapped. But one thing that became very clear from that intensive exposure was that offenses and forgiveness are at the very core of our problem with sin. And what I am starting to see better today is that our problem with offenses is not just related to other people around us but is also at a very deep but sometimes unconscious level is with our opinions about God.
Let me just clarify that offenses related to God have nothing to do with Him taking offense over our sins against Him. That is another clarion truth that emerged from my study of Matthew 18. I discovered that Scriptures interchangeably use the word offense with sin. If God took offense the way we do, then He would sin and would not be the kind of God He insists that He is. Even though He uses language that sounds like He is offended, it is simply because He is trying to communicate to us in terms we are willing to listen to in order to lift us to a higher level of appreciation for the real truth about Himself. And part of that truth is that all the problems of sin, the distrust and lies and accusations and fears that keep us from trusting His heart, all originate from our side of the relationship and never from His. God never takes offense or He would sin. That was explicitly demonstrated clearly in the life of Jesus.
As I begin to become more aware of my own subconscious offenses about how God is handling affairs, I become aware of how much I still assume is dark about His character. This darkness is not just things I cannot yet grasp about truth but are rather the darker attributes I still assume compose His personality. Every sinner has been infected with assumptions about God produced by the virus of sin altering our very perceptions of reality, truth and justice.
The truth as it is in Jesus is not just better accuracy in finding intellectual answers to religious questions. Truth as it is in Jesus is a revelation of God's heart of pure love-light that has nothing else mingled in as so many insist. Believing anything less than that pure, unadulterated love defines the heart of God will cause our hearts to take offense at Him just as Eve and then Adam disbelieved God's intent for them and as a result took offense and chose to take things into their own hands.
The only way to reverse the curse that was brought onto the world through those first offenses is to be restored to trusting God's heart fully. That means we have to seriously embrace this truth without reservation that there is no darkness at all in God's heart. There are no lurking desires for vengeance, retribution, retaliation or anything else of that nature waiting to burst into the open whenever we might exhaust His patience. In God there is no darkness at all and that cannot be emphasized strongly enough. The more we choose to believe this central truth the sooner we can be restored into fuller trust in His heart, His ways and His plans and invite His full involvement in every moment of our lives.
As I finished writing these thoughts I turned to a devotional book I am reading and found that God had a surprise waiting for me. What I read directly expressed what I have just received here from Him directly. He had it waiting there even though I am a day behind in my reading. I love the way He can take my mistakes and turn them into planned blessings! Here is what I read.
Hold My hand, and walk joyously with Me through this day. Together we will savor the pleasures and endure the difficulties it brings. Be on the lookout for everything I have prepared for you: stunning scenery, bracing winds of adventure, cozy nooks for resting when you are weary, and much more. I am your Guide, as well as your constant Companion. I know every step of the journey ahead of you, all the way to heaven.
You don't have to choose between staying close to Me and staying on course. Since I am the Way, staying close to Me is staying on course. As you focus your thoughts on Me, I will guide you carefully along today's journey. Don't worry about what is around the next bend. Just concentrate on enjoying My Presence and staying in step with Me. (Jesus Calling p. 227)
The next reading in this book is equally potent for reminding me to rest in His care for me instead of worrying about my day. I am accepting this message from God in my life right now even while I am being made aware of where I am holding offenses against God because I think He might be failing me or others. I can choose to let go of those offenses and begin to trust His heart more intentionally and consistently. And becoming offense-free is a liberation that will allow my heart to rest more securely in His love and care for me no matter how threatening my circumstances or debts or enemies may appear. God is my provider, my protector, my unfailing friend who desires most of all for me to perceive and embrace the reality that He is completely worthy of all my trust.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You...” “Worthy is the Lamb...” “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:9, 12-13)