The Pain Of Denial (Part 1)

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P.S. I will be sharing in parts as it will be too much to share at one time. I was prompted to share my convictions, and hope by sharing this entry in my own spiritual journal, it will bring illumination in a new light.

“If any man will come after me, let him (a) DENY himself, and (b) take up his cross DAILY, and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 KJV. 

We all have heard this verse far too many times. If we are honest, we also switch off many times. This has been the mandate of my previous cell at one time till a time it became alive to me– I went through a very difficult transition in my life two years ago when I was impacted with a physical condition, although not life-threatening, that a surgery could not fix and a healing miracle seemed implausible — Dashed dreams. Crushed hope. Wretched self. Menacing fears.

The first few weeks upon receiving the check-up report, I wasn’t able to worship in church– I was incapacitated to sing nor clap along. All in my mind was, “Why??” and “God, where are you?” My ex-G12 cell and my mentor had showered me with inordinate amount of concern, but I wasn’t grateful. I just wanted to be left alone as I justified the rights to my disappointments and lamely to confess my anger with God too. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to attend the weekly G12 meetings, and I even withdrew myself from the cell. But to my surprise, I couldn’t abandon my open cell that I had to lead every Friday. I still fulfilled my duty, shared the Word, and put on smiles (though I was struggling very badly as if a hypocrite).

Was I wearing a mask with my open cell? No. It was one method that helped me- “Deny myself.”

I couldn’t count the number of times “I didn’t FEEL up to it or FEEL like to”, “I didn’t WANT to…”, “I hate to be forced to…”, “I have the RIGHTS to…” I merely trying to cook up excuses as justified reasons. Till I came to a point that I realised I was actually very self-centered, very consumed with “I, me, myself” and very inwards-looking, focusing on myself only. I put my feelings and emotions before God as how I feel and what I want is more important than Him. It was a constant battle to deny, deny, deny, deny myself in the pit. It was even a scarier experience when I was enshrouded with darkness, alone, and found myself drifting away spiritually over six months. I was aware of such a downwards spiral, but I refused to yield as I was wrestling with God like Jacob. What really jolted me was- I began to lose myself while threading on a very thin tightrope, and any moment longer, I think I had tipped to the other side. That was unthinkably scary.

So how did I climb out of the pit, and back to the Cross? I have to simply keep denying myself daily, yes, EVERY DAY- deny my mood for the day, deny my emotions, deny my rights, deny my will, even to denying my convenience (my own time, my own pace, my own freedom…), and surrender to the Cross.

If we are honest with ourselves, it is by NATURE we follow what our flesh leads us. It is unnatural for us to contradict our flesh and that takes SUPERNATURAL intervention with the help of the Spirit. Aside to taking action to deny the self, we can draw reinforced strength from these verses:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:16-17

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8

There is no change in my physical condition, but I had stopped asking all the whys because there will never be any answer- and who am I to question the Sovereignty? It was a decision whether to continue rotting by being my own god or to let go of all and let God be God. And letting go doesn’t mean to remain status quo. Just like bible says, “Faith without action is dead”, so I had to force myself since it is unnaturally of me to crucify my flesh to weaken its desires. It is simply to put to action in denying myself.

No doubt it is an uphill task because our flesh gets stronger when our Spirit is quenched by sins. It is a humbling experience to call upon God for help in this area.

So first thing first, get right with God. Face it honestly- Overcome it with God far easier and better than letting what consumed you and lose yourself.

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When Conscience Pricks……

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They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. – Romans 2:15

Having been working on my own for 6 years, I know that running a business is not easy. It is akin to treading on treacherous ground when I am surrounded by a lot more shrewd business-people. On many occasions, I have been conflicted by compromising situations, either a make-it or break-it decision. I could not count how many times my conscience has been on toes.

Sometimes as a result of unwise decision with lack of prudence, we acted indiscreetly and made mistakes. I can totally relate to how it feels to have my conscience gnawing relentlessly. But when I seek to redress the wrong and do right, it feels good to breathe the air of liberation,  and able to lift my head up without condemnation.

Our conscience can bear witness to our actions, and we will reap what we sow. We have to consider even our innermost thoughts which can breed evils that prick our conscience too. If you think you can camouflage an evil thought or keeping hush over a bad action, be warned that God knows every details, whether inwardly or outwardly.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 23:24

When one’s conscience is seared, that is when darkness of the soul has rendered the person impotent of thinking, feeling and doing right. And if we persist in walking down the wrong path, we will be on a spiritual downward spiral.

Holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, – 1 Timothy 1:19

But if we seek righteousness, we leave no room for malice and can stand upright before others.

Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. – 1 Peter 3:16

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:5) It is good to include in our prayers that we be sure we have a clear conscience and desiring to act honourably in all things (Hebrews 13:18), just as Paul could declare, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1)

Our spiritual lives should be temperated by love, guided by a pure heart with good conscience and acting upon a true faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

In a nutshell, it resonates with a famous quote that goes:

Watch your thoughts;

They become words.

Watch your words;

They become actions.

Watch your actions;

They become habits.

Watch your habits;

They become character.

Watch your character;

It becomes your destiny.

Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19

The Danger Of Dullness

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“For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.” – Acts 28:27 NSAB

From time to time, I have heard many who probed, “How can I hear God? I can’t seem to hear anything… Why is God not answering my prayers?” I do not have a specific answer for them (since I am not God nor a super saint to know His plans) but there is a key verse (as above) that prompted me to share some insights.

God reveals Himself to us in many different ways, though may not necessary be in audible voice. And we all are aware that a hardened heart or when we are steeped in sins, we cannot hear God. The verse above brings to light a natural spiritual degression, as well as a condition for God’s healing or deliverance.

 

THE BEGINNING STAGE 1: OUR HEART

1.1 When our heart becomes dull, calloused, hardened, wax gross as a result of sins……>

1.2 And interestingly, Psalm 119:70 mentions “their heart is unfeeling like fat…”, in other word, “fat” means full of oneself or things of the world…

 

PROGRESSIVE STAGE 2: OUR EARS

Our ears (to hearing God) becomes dull and hard of hearing……>

“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.” – John 8:43

 

PROGRESSIVE STAGE 3: OUR EYES

We will close our eyes, which means to turn blind to the truth or ignore them……>

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14

 

PROGRESSIVE STAGE 4A: IN DENIAL

Having hardened our heart, shut off our ears and close our eyes, we will live in denial. And that means we refuse to acknowledge there is a problem or an issue, nor to accept the truth……>

“He (Satan) will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them.”  – 2 Thessalonians 2:10

 

FINAL STAGE 5: IN DARKNESS

We will then walk in darkness.

“They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness;” – Psalm 82:5

 

But God is gracious to add a “Y-junction” to STAGE 4B: RETURN, to repentance. Only THEN, can we truly experience God’s deliverance and healing. Repentance is the key that unlocks your prison.

When our Spirit is alive, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (Jn 16:13) This is when the Spirit of Truth will open your eyes and ears, renew your mind and transform your heart.

There is no way we can’t hear God since we have the wisest Counsellor living is us and He is the Spirit of all Truth, unless we must have shut our ears, close our eyes and harden our hearts– Sometimes God did reveal something to us but we may not accept it as what we are hoping for or expecting it to be.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. -C.S. Lewis”