BROKENNESS AND OBEDIENCE

Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?

I have. Plenty of times.

On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.

On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”

That version doesn’t really fit scripture.

Have you ever really read the Great Commission?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.

Earlier, Jesus said:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)

and

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’” (John 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)

and

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.

THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!

Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.

Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)

God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”

I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.

The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)

and in John:

“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’” (John 14:16-17,26 ESV)

He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)

So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.

You have to decide.

The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!

George

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BROKENNESS: WHERE’S THE HOLY SPIRIT?

So, you’ve become a Christian…walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, spoken in tongues, experienced miraculous healing, received Jesus into your heart – whatever your starting point might be. The point is, you are a Christian, and now you’re wondering why you are not automatically walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Why do I keep sinning? Why doesn’t God do something to stop me?” I know – I have had the same thoughts, the prayers of, “God, please help me!”

I don’t want to give the impression that God doesn’t give us power and strength to resist sin, but for a long time I didn’t really latch onto God’s answer to my cry: “I already did help you. My Son already died and rose again to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again – it’s all in there. You don’t have to sin. You’re free from slavery to sin!”

I didn’t want to hear God’s answer. I wanted Him to give me brokenness – to force me to obey. I didn’t want to have to choose not to sin, to discipline myself “…and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5)

Let’s go back to Galatians 5. Just because the Holy Spirit is living in me does not mean that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to control me, to guide me, to shape the way I think and act. There is a constant battle between the flesh (the lustful desires and actions laid out in 5:19-20) and the Spirit. God does not force us to obey Him – he leaves it up to us to decide to love Him and serve him and to choose to walk in the Spirit. It is all our choice. God lays out the gift before us, and gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us when we become Christians, but we still have to choose to obey. He won’t force it.

If we keep feeding the flesh, keep choosing to give in to temptation instead of choosing to humble ourselves and accept the Holy Spirit’s help, we won’t live godly lives. If we continuously choose to disobey God, then we have to wonder whether we were ever saved to begin with, since a true Christian is not characterized by the continuous choice to rebel against God (as opposed to desiring to obey, and failing because I am not accepting the help God is holding out to me).

It can be confusing, and lead to despair if we let it. Satan wants to convince us that we can never really follow God, and that he doesn’t really love us because he doesn’t make us obey. We need to be like Paul, who perseveres even though he sounds discouraged and frustrated with his own ability to follow God: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:15-25

Paul does not give up the fight, and neither can we! We must be determined to follow God, and focus our hearts and minds on the Spirit rather than the flesh, fighting hard with every weapon we have; prayer, scripture, fellowship, etc. That is why openness is so key: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9

Note how John ties together openness (walking in the light) with fellowship with the verse we have all probably memorized about being forgiven when we confess our sins. It all goes together. Without openness, no brokenness. No brokenness, no confession. No confession, no forgiveness and cleansing.

So, all that is to say, just because I am a Christian does not mean that somehow I will automatically walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and be devoid of sin. Instead, it means that my greatest desire will be to love God and obey him, and that even though I still sin I keep bringing it to light, keep confessing, keep changing into the man he wants me to be. Everyone seems to know Romans 8:28, but 8:29 gives the purpose: “For to those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.”

I hope that helps, somehow.

Blessings,

George

WIT ALIVE!

WIT Alive! is coming, June 5 in Tampa and July 10 in Indianapolis:

WIT ALIVE Singles Conference Overview

A Life-Changing Conference for Singles!

During the past several years, Paul and Jenny have had the joy of speaking to thousands of young people across America. They have watched as many of these same young people find “Mr.” or “Miss Perfect”, but are soon sitting before them in tears, disbelief, and hurt. They are searching for answers to issues they are facing in their marriage that they never expected to encounter. As the Speeds began to counsel these young couples, they thought of how much heartache and damage could have been avoided if only these couples had learned certain truths BEFORE they married and not after. Thus, the idea of “WIT for Singles” was born!

“Whatever It Takes!” Singles Conference promises to be a life-changing, world-altering weekend! We will dig deep into our hearts and souls to expose all the hidden lies and strongholds that have kept us from becoming the person God has created us to be. The goal of this conference is to help you identify the areas of your life that need God’s wisdom and understanding applied to them. Not only will it prepare you for marriage, but it will prepare you for Life! You, by the grace of God, will never be the same!

Conference topics include:

  • Love God, Live Life!
  • Openness and brokenness
  • Exposing lies that shape your thinking
  • So, who is your “real” enemy?
  • How to throw your bags overboard!
  • Hanging on when you should be letting go!
  • Moral purity in an immoral world
  • How do you find Mr. or Mrs. Right when everything is wrong?
  • …and much more!

Attendees must be 17 years of age or older.

Florida Registration

Indianapolis Registration

Paul & Jenny studio one to oneSince 2005, Paul and Jenny Speed have had the joy of speaking to thousands of young people across America. They have helped many of these young people find freedom in their lives and a deeper love for God. The Speeds hearts’ desire is to equip young people by giving them the tools they need to walk in freedom and truth, and to empower them to be world changers! Out of this desire “WIT for Singles” was born!

Testimonies:

“I came here blaming so many people for my anger and bitterness and now realize my need for personal responsibility. I have realized that the very people I have blamed are the ones I need to ask forgiveness from.”

“I was blown away by the honesty! I expected to meet all these “perfect” people who were holier than thou and was surprised to see people being so real and transparent.”

“I came here knowing that there were things in my life that I needed to take care of.  I’m ready to go home and confess.  I hate my sin!”

“Praise Jesus for all the ways I have found freedom and growth through this weekend.”

“I have learned this week that I must be 100% open and broken to have victory. WIT has changed my life forever! You guys rock!”

“Thank you for investing in my sons this past weekend. You guys are awesome!!!
All three were so grateful to have a place to go where Christ is glorified and practical help in solving sin issues was the norm. Thank you so much for being real and relatable.”

“I want to thank you for sacrificing your time and energy to do the singles conference! My life truly has changed from living in bondage of fear and unbelief which was the root of a lot of other sin in my life. I am AMAZED over and over at God’s amazing grace and how ‘my chains are gone and I’m set free. My God my God He ransomed me, and like a flood His mercies reigns, unending love, AMAZING grace! He is Forever mine!!!!’”

“I just wanted to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! I attended the Singles Conference this past weekend and was blessed VERY much by it. :) It was definitely life-changing!”

“This weekend was way more than I expected. God showed me so much about how to identify and break the chains of bondage and lies. It was a HUGE encouragement to meet other singles my age who share the same beliefs and values regarding Christ and relationships! Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one, but now I know there are many more of like faith and we are continuing to keep in touch and support each other. Thank you, Paul and Jenny, for teaching us so much and bringing us together!

Characteristics of a broken person

Part II…good stuff!

Broken I run to You

This is part two of two about what brokenness is, and what it is to be a broken person. Here I want to focus on what I believe are the true characteristics of a truly, broken person.

I’ve been blessed to meet a few broken people in the definition of brokenness that I described here. They are beautiful and life-giving to be around! I wish there were more like them, and I know, see, and recognize that there is a growing hunger in the world for what these wonderful people exhibit in their walk with God.

Broken people are humble. They understand that true humility is just agreeing with God. Nothing more. Nothing less. When God says about a broken person that he or she is perfect, pure, holy, and righteous at the center of who this person  is  – no matter what they do/say/think/feel or don’t do/say/think/feel…

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what true brokenness is

Love it!

Broken I run to You

These past few weeks I’ve had quite a few talks with people about what brokenness really is. What does it mean to be broken? And is it a positive thing to be broken?

I am well aware that in regular English something that’s broken isn’t a positive thing. Right now our beloved car is in a body and paint shop, because it’s broken. It needs to be fixed to function properly again. Also, when we talk about people, ‘a broken person’ often means somebody where something devastating has happened to them, and they barely know how to get up in the morning. Maybe their spouse or child died, and they just don’t seem to be able to find many reasons to live, and have in most ways lost hope.

Obviously, I think of something and somebody very different when I think, talk and teach about brokenness and what it means…

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BROKENNESS AND ARGUMENTS

Sometimes I listen to NPR. Not often.

Recently I heard the re-run of an old episode of Radio Lab which talks about what happens in our autonomic nervous system when husbands and wives argue. You can listen to the episode here starting at 10:30 and ending at 14:30. It contains a re-creation of an argument attributed to Robert Sapolksy and his wife, and illustrates how a man will ramp up and then shut down fairly quickly, but his wife continues to be agitated much longer and starts to bring up past offenses. Sapolsky calls it the “half-life of the autonomic nervous system”.

The main reason I find this episode interesting is that I shared it with my wife, and she agreed with what Sapolsky describes. She carried it further, however, and applied it to brokenness and humility in our relationship.

She said that when we argue, and she starts to spiral into the past hurts I have caused in our relationship, if I acknowledge and take responsibility for those hurts it defuses her anger much more quickly – mainly because she sees that I have heard her heart, and I am not defending myself. As it says in Proverbs:

A gentle answer turns away anger,  but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1

I have talked to several men recently who have asked questions along the lines of: “What does brokenness look like when my wife accuses me of something and I haven’t really done it?”

My answer is two-fold:

First, I encourage taking a deep look at the accusation; many times it is at least partially true. In that case, take responsibility, ask forgiveness, and make sure there is not something more underlying the accusation. Don’t rear up and throw back an accusation in return – that will not help!

Second, I encourage looking at the big picture. Let’s say that my wife is upset, and tells me that I never do the preventive maintenance needed around the house. (for the record – I don’t keep things up like I should) Let’s pretend that I think I do a good job of maintaining the house – how should I respond? As some men have asked, “Do I grovel and ask her forgiveness for something I haven’t done? Is that what you mean by brokenness?” No, that’s not brokenness – that’s false humility which is just seeking to get my wife off my back. Instead, I need to look beyond the surface accusation and see the deep hurt that my wife feels from years of my failing to maintain a good relationship in our marriage. I can honestly look her in the eye, take her hand, and say something like, “Marla Rei, I know that I’ve hurt you deeply by failing to listen to your heart over the years, and not doing everything possible to build up our marriage. It’s my fault that you have this fear of things falling apart, whether it is the house or the car or whatever. What can I do to ease your fear, and to heal our relationship?”

Maybe it sounds corny, but I assure you it has probably the main thing which has helped my wife to trust me again, and brought healing to our marriage. I guess my main message is, when your wife is hurting you need to find the best way to take responsibility for her hurt, shoulder the burden, give a gentle answer, and keep working your way toward having a marriage which glorifies God.

The grace and peace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

George