Last time we were considering the impact of sin and the devil in our lives. We were considering the need to submit by daily taking up our cross. However, what does this look like in everyday life, is true submission possible, and what is the cross we are to take up, hasn’t Jesus already dealt with that through his death and resurrection?
As Christian women we like to think that we have completely submitted our hearts to Jesus and have given him control of our lives. Is this true or does the outworking of our daily living contradict this belief?
The core root of sin for every woman is the desire to be in control.
This is the place of curse for every woman because of the sin committed by Eve ‘your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’.
I believe this is the place of pride for us woman a desire to be in control.
At face value to have desire for our husbands sounds a positive thing, a oneness, a coming together however when we look to the original language the meaning becomes much clearer, this desire wasn’t one of love it was a desire to control. God’s perfect plan for mankind was for their relationship to be one of co-operation and support however after the curse it became the source of conflict; a power struggle.
The woman would demand her right to control however God has given the man His authority to care and provide for the woman.
We can see the truth of this played out, not only in our own lives but throughout history. As woman we tend to focus on the sin of the man for his desire to dominate and his misuse of his God given authority (which God will judge him for). However, we are reluctant to consider our part in this battle of the will.
What we first have to accept is that this battle wasn’t God’s original plan for marriage or for mankind. The next thing we need to accept is that God has a perfect plan for the redemption of his creation. When Jesus comes back His creation will be restored to the perfection that God first planned and He will be our perfect Bridegroom but in the meantime, we have to learn to live in the truth of the fallen nature.
We need to have an honest look at our own lives to see this fallen nature being played out on a daily basis.
Take a minute to consider your life and ask the Holy Spirit to show you ways in which you try and take control of your own life or even worse the lives of others.
As a Christian Mum I have the responsibility of managing the home and directing the lives of my children. However, as a Christian Wife I apply this same principle to my Husband. I try to manage the home and direct my Husband’s choices.
For many years my only way of managing my responsibilities was to take control of the people in my life, if they did what I needed them to do then everything would get done that needed to be done; everything would be in all the right places. However, if no-one followed my exacting plan then chaos would ensue.
As you can imagine, from the perspective of my Husband and children, this didn’t make for a happy household. It became a place of conflict and fear. It was a place of appeasing a tired, grumpy Mum/Wife or an attempt to stay in favour to keep the peace.
In my sin I had no idea that it wasn’t a directing of lives that I was doing but a dictating. I have no right to do this to others, there is no place in God’s kingdom that says I’m in charge in fact God showed me through his word that I was standing in place of my Husband’s God given authority and attempting to override God’s plans and purposes.
I took on an aspect of responsibility that wasn’t mine. As God took me and my family through the healing process (over a number of years) I have come to the conclusion that the source of all the sin and conflict in my life is that I haven’t fully submitted my heart to Christ, I am trying to hold onto the responsibility that isn’t mine to have, I am claiming my right to rule.
This is true for us all whether we are married, single, parents or not we demand the right to rule our own lives and our own hearts unfortunately for us this is out of our control.
The gift of submission
As a Christian we have already demonstrated an act of submission, a recognition that without Christ we will always be separated from God therefore we put our trust in Jesus to rescue us from our sin which brings us into relationship with the Father. This first act of submission teaches us that to submit to Jesus is to recognise our need to face up to our sin, seek God’s forgiveness and learn to live in the freedom that His forgiveness brings. This is the moment of new birth, a new beginning.
At the moment of salvation, we are given the assurance of new birth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit however the new birth process hasn’t finished it has only begun. It’s a bit like a pregnancy, the expectant mother knows her baby is to be born and the process of birth has begun but she isn’t in the presence of her baby yet.
In the same way we are promised new birth but we are in the process of growing into Christ before we meet him in person. The added complication for us is that we have already been born into flesh but this new birth is one of spirit. Therefore, we now have the conflict between flesh demanding its own way against the work of the Holy Spirit.
When I speak about submission to other women it can get the hairs on the back of their neck on edge and a war ensues within. As women we can hate the idea of submission and see it as a loss of our rights. Women’s lib stems from this inbuilt repulsion against submission. This is a sign that we demand the right to control unfortunately for us that puts us at odds with our Father in Heaven. Even if we have received Christ as our Lord and Saviour deep within the recesses of our hearts is the desire to stay in control.
This conflict highlights a life changing truth, that we are not only sinful but are the source of our sin.
This is a big ask isn’t it? To believe that we are the source of our sin!
It’s a matter of the heart
This is the reason Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily. Jesus knows that the source of our sin is within our own hearts, that it is only by being willing to say no to the sin within that we will engage with the process of change, of the transformation Jesus wants to do in our lives. This is the process of sinner to saint. Jesus knows this will take a daily, minute by minute act of submission. To recognise our sin, confess it to God, repent (a desire to move away from the sin) and receive God’s forgiveness.
For some of us this statement will confirm what we have always known but have no way of dealing with. Sin just seems to overcome us, and we are not able to do anything about it, so we swing from one extreme to the other of self-pity to self-determination. For others it horrifies us that anyone could even think such a thing, it’s not our fault we have a disposition to these difficulties in life; you don’t understand what I’ve been through!
In Luke 10:27 Jesus brings us to the root of the matter. As a true disciple of Christ, we are commanded to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbour as yourself’.
Notice in the scripture the word ‘all’.
We know we fall short of this however this scripture isn’t to add to your guilt it is an opportunity to face up to reality. The reality that even as a believer we haven’t given over our everything to our Father God. This is the process of sanctification, a process we need to have a willingness to take part in rather than resist.
Jesus is the source of the power of change however we need to have a willingness to engage in the process.
The next aspect to consider is the areas in which this scripture highlights our need to change ‘heart, soul, strength and mind’.
The bible is filled with scriptures that highlight our need to bring our hearts and minds in line with who God is instead of who we are.
For those of us who are obsessed with getting to the perfect size; to getting rid of the excess pounds; to feeling acceptable to others; to fitting into nice clothes; our focus is always on the physical however until we move our eyes to the core problem then we will constantly struggle with our weight.
This is a problem with the heart and mind. If we think it we will believe it; if we believe it then we will act on it.
We see this played out repeatedly in our struggle with weight gain.
I am fat therefore I will never lose weight, so I might as well carry on eating what I want to eat to make myself feel better about being fat.
Other people rob me of my time, so I need to keep them away if I eat then no one will disturb me.
No one really loves me, so I need to love myself instead and I will treat myself with lots of goodies which will make me feel better about not being loved.
Consider what your sentence would be; what truth do you believe in your head that you see being reinforced in your heart and acted out in your behaviour.
Mind + heart = behaviour.
Christ has set us free
In the world we judge one another by our own set of standards and we use the behaviour of others to decide if they are acceptable to society or not. Society says it is your behaviour that is letting you down what you must do is stop your negative behaviour and then you will be acceptable.
However, as a society we have got it wrong, we are not capable of changing our behaviour without addressing our mindset and heart attitude.
No matter how much we try we cannot change our behaviour, no matter how much we think we are in control of what we do, as we grow closer to God the more this belief unravels.
Isn’t it strange that the more we want Jesus to step in and change us the more our lives seem to become messy. So we panic and try to take back the control however instead of our lives falling apart Jesus is actually stepping in to teach us the heart of the problem. At the moment of change we need to let go of the control and ask Jesus to take over, allow him to take the reins and be willing to go where he leads.
Jesus does this by using his word to expose our sin, he then uses the Holy Spirit to pinpoint areas of change and he encourages us to turn our mind and heart over to him so that these changes can become evident in how we live out our lives.
Galatians 5:1 tells us ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yolk of slavery’. Seems strange that Paul would tell the church that Jesus has set us free so that we can live in freedom this seems obvious! Is it? How many of us do not live in the freedom Jesus has provided? How many of us allows our sin to dictate who we are instead of the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has given?
The freedom Jesus has provided is not just for us in eternity it is for us to live out in the here and now.
We have the choice to submit to the truth that Christ came to set us free or fight in our strength to change our behaviour. No Christian wants to stay in their sin however it will all depend on whether we are willing to submit or try to stay in control.
Mind over matter
So where do we start? How is it possible for a control freak like me to be able to submit to Jesus?
The bible tells us ‘Set your minds on things above not on earthly things’. What things matter to God? What areas of life does God want you to address? Is your focus purely on the physical and not on your spiritual life?
Maybe for so long our focus has been on wanting or demanding to lose weight when all along we have been the saboteur because our weight gain makes us feel safe or we feel a failure, so we might as well live like one.
These beliefs begin in the mind and the bible tells us that the solution is to think about the things of God rather than the things of self. For one minute take your mind away from your troubles and focus on how God wants you to live out your life. What wonders has he got waiting for you to do? How can you draw others to Jesus if your focus is always on self?
We are reluctant to serve Jesus because the devil is using our sin to get us going round in circles instead!
For most of us it is our heart that drives us to make our decisions, how we feel transposes to how we think. As always, the bibles solution is always the opposite of how we behave.
In Romans 8 : 5-6 Paul teaches that ‘Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’.
Here is the key to change; that our mind is to be focused on Jesus and his word so that our hearts can be programmed by our minds instead of the other way around.
This is because our hearts are aligned to the flesh, our hearts are deceitful and corrupt but with minds convinced of the truths of Christ we will be able to teach our hearts how to submit to Jesus.
Rest in Him
So, we have considered the mechanics of what happens to us when we choose to submit or when we choose to stay in control.
It feels like all of this is beyond our ability and it would be so much easier just keep doing what we’re doing.
The solution for all of this is to rest in Jesus.
Matthew 11:28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’.
The amazing truth is that we don’t have to figure it all out, we don’t have to drag ourselves out of the mess. The solution is to take all our burdens, all our fears, all our responsibilities and bring them to the foot of Jesus. When we hand over the control of our lives to Jesus then we begin to see the light, then we begin to see how we fit into his plan rather than trying to squeeze him into our tiny little plans.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35 NIV
The rest Jesus provides isn’t a break from responsibility it is the opportunity we need to be equipped for the journey towards eternity. The moment of the completion of our new birth. If we are not daily minute by minute turning our hearts and minds over to Jesus and bringing them under the judgement and direction of His word, then we will not be able to live in the freedom Jesus has provided. We will continue to flounder on our own; to the outside world we may seem in control, our lives may look like it is ordered however our hearts will declare to God who we truly are.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
When we truly give Him all we are we gain all He is.
This statement just stopped me in my tracks!!
Let us spend the next week considering how to give Jesus all we are; sin and all!