This means war!

As Christian’s we are in a spiritual battle.

When we responded to Christ’s call on our lives the Holy Spirit entered our life and made us aware of the sin within.  He is growing a desire within us to change from sinner to saint unfortunately for us the sin within declares war against the Holy Spirit.

This is the part of our lives that is described in the bible as ‘the flesh’ the part of us that doesn’t want to change, or is convinced that it is impossible to change or that we just want things to stay the same until we get to heaven then we will be happy to be completely perfect but for the time being we fight not to change.

For many Christian’s this has been the level of hope, the hope that Jesus light will bring an end to our darkness once we leave this earth.  However, the bible teaches us a different version of the journey. A hope that we can know now.

The war is won

For many of us who can’t seem to shake habitual sin, it seems that we will never know true freedom.  In despair we resolve to do something about the sin within, we resolve to change, to become a better person.  However, this is the very moment we lose the battle.  In that moment of resolve we pick up our own sword and try to battle through.  Unfortunately our success is often short lived; for some of us we can make it to a couple of years before the sin within rears its ugly head again, but for most of us it can often be just a few short weeks or even days when we are back to the same old habits that only bring chaos and destruction.

That’s because we have failed to understand that we are engaged in a battle.

The war has already been played out between God and the devil.  The devil has lost and is permanently separated from God.  During our lifetime, even though he knows he lost the war, he challenges God’s people to a battle.  Usually this is a battle of wills, that’s because the devil knows his will is stronger than ours.  There is no denying the devil is powerful and seems to be able to control us through the sin we refuse to let go of.

Our own personal battle becomes a constant place of defeat, our resolve weakens and we doubt whether we are truly a Christian; we doubt whether this journey is worth it; sometimes we see non-Christians become successful at anything they put their minds to so we are tempted to go back to the place we were before we met Christ.

 The battle belongs to the Lord

Where we have gone wrong is that we focus on the power of sin and forget about the power of God. We stop reading our bibles so we don’t see God’s power in the pages, his power to love, his power to heal, his power to judge, his power to transform.

If we do read our bibles we allow the devil to convince us that God didn’t know what he was doing, or that God can’t be trusted because the things he did was horrid.  He persuades us that God’s power is limited or used against others.  He tries to convince us that God is against us not for us. That we are more advanced now because of our ability to create and manipulate technology therefore there is no need to include God in anything we do.

The horrendous thing about all this is that we believe him and when this happens our lives reflect the power of sin rather than the power of God.

The devil uses life’s circumstances to distract us from the fact he has already lost the war, that we as Christian’s are actually on the winning side.  He persuades us to enjoy the pleasures of today so we are distracted from the need to be transformed into Christ’s image.

We become defeated people so that we are ineffective in demonstrating to others God’s power against sin, the world and the devil and we stop reflecting the glory of God.

We stop caring about a fallen world who are in need of God’s love and forgiveness and we focus on our own inability to achieve or our own determination to be better.

We’re not alone

I was watching a film the other night and the tag line throughout was ‘Use the weapon’.  This reminded me of 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.’

This is the weapon God has given to all his warriors.  His word. The bible.  Often the most underused resource ever given.

Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a framework of living as a warrior; it sets out who has the authority and power; it sets out the equipment; it sets out the battleground and who the antagonists/enemies are; it shows us the purpose of being equipped; it demonstrates how we are equipped and how to use the equipment provided but most importantly it declares who has already won the war.

We maybe in a battle but we are not alone and God’s power is sufficient for all our needs.

Freedom is possible

We may be in a battle but it is a battle where the war has already been won. It is a futile battle by the devil because he has already lost but he still wants to stop as many people as possible from living in the light of Christ and finding freedom from sin.

In John Chapter 10 verse 9-10 Jesus describes himself as ‘the gate whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

However, it is only possible to find this place of safety when we lay down our own life at the foot of Christ’s cross.

Jesus demonstrates to us throughout the bible that the beginning of transformation from sinner to saint begins by us laying down our arms.  By submitting our whole being into his hands recognising that He has already won the war.

Freedom from sin isn’t a result of our right choices; our right choices are a result of Jesus provision of freedom from sin.

Christ has done it there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves.  We need to learn to live in the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has provided. What we can be certain of is if the Holy Spirit convicts us of a sin within that needs to change then the Holy Spirit will continue to use God’s word to transform us.

Our greatest temptation is we think we can do it on our own, we are unwilling to let go of our pride, we are unwilling to trust God to come through for us.  We are only willing to trust if life is good; we are only willing to trust if we lose the weight we have strived to lose or become happier; we are only willing to trust if there is no pain or disease.

From here to eternity

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9 that whoever wanted to be his disciple then they would need to take up their cross daily.  Being a disciple costs us something, often it’s something we’re not willing to pay.

For many of us we say I would give my right hand if……but would we do anything to get what we want or need?

Would we be willingly to stop eating chocolate forever?

Would we willingly to exercise regularly?

Would we stop looking to self and look to Jesus to rescue?

Would we willingly lay down our own plans and dreams and trust God with his?

There is much we wouldn’t do, so we should stop promising to change when we don’t even have the power to try.  We need to learn how to trust Jesus with his power, trust that Jesus loves us enough to not leave us where he found us.

Over these last 25 years of seeking the perfect body, seeking the praise of others and failing miserably Jesus has been transforming me:-

From jealousy to submission

From bitterness to forgiveness

From greed to unconditional giving

From laziness to unconditional serving

From chaos to self-control

From pride to humility

From offense to love

From demand to unconditional love

These have not been perfected yet but I am loving the journey, I love it when I respond differently to how I did in the past.  I love it when I notice someone in need and have a willingness to meet that need, I love it when someone tries to hurt me and I offer love, I love it when I am tempted to overeat and walk away.

I love learning what it is to walk in the freedom that Christ has provided.

Something to ponder

What if God’s plans and purposes were far greater than our own?

What if our weight wasn’t God’s top priority?

What if you are exactly where God wants you to be so that he can begin to transform you from sinner to saint?

What if the desire for weight loss is stopping you from receiving God’s blessings?

What if trying to lose weight is limiting what you can achieve?

 

Do you measure success by what the scales say?

Do you measure a good day by what the scales say?

Do you measure your relationship with God by what the scales say?

Is the scales voice louder than God’s?

 

If you put weight on does that make it a bad day?

If you lose weight does that make it a good day?

Do you measure God’s relationship with you by how much you weigh?

Do you measure God’s love for you by how much you weigh?

Is it time to deal with the core issues rather than the symptoms?

 

Maybe now is the time to lay down your arms and take up God’s weapon!

 

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The question is are you willing to trust?

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Food

As a Christian, we are made up of body, soul and spirit. Body representing the physical, soul representing the emotional part of who we are and the spirit which Jesus gave us by being born again.

For many of us we are obsessed with our physical form, we are forever comparing one another or realising we don’t measure up to how others look.  If only we could fit in; if only I looked normal; if only my body was perfect.

This obsession with the physical is robbing us of considering the other aspects of who we are.  We are limiting the experiences of life that God wants to share with us by only looking to our physical needs.

The soul is the driving force behind our emotions, its purpose is to seek Jesus, it will never be satisfied until it has found the true source of satisfaction.  This is the part of us that God has built within for us to seek him out.  The soul has an unquenchable thirst to seek after satisfaction however if we try and fill it with satisfaction from worldly things it will never be fulfilled.  Our souls will continually drive us towards a deeper satisfaction a spiritual satisfaction that only Jesus can provide.

Scripture tells us : Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’.

This is God’s plan and desire for each of us and it is programmed into our souls to seek God out.  However, our pride is determined to find a way to live and find satisfaction without God.

God loves all those who he has created and he knows that he is our best, only he can bring true satisfaction and stability.  God promises in Matthew 7:8 ‘For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened’.

God has already provided all we need God himself, Father, Son and Spirit is our only source of true satisfaction, purpose and pleasure.

Once we are convinced of the true source of our satisfaction then we will be able to find nourishment for our souls.

From physical to spiritual

As we considered last time Jesus is our bread of life, he brings the nourishment to our souls. How do we do this, how is it possible to feed on God’s word? We need to learn to feed in the same way we learnt how to eat when we were babies.  We need to be weaned.

This spiritual growth has many parallels from our physical life and it is from the union of physical and spiritual that Jesus brings about our understanding.

In the physical as babies we have hunger to demand nourishment for our bodies. Babies scream so that they are not abandoned and that their parents have a compulsion to feed them.  The demand of a baby is only satisfied when hunger is relieved and allows the baby to flourish and grow.  The relieving of hunger also provides the baby with a satisfaction to the soul as an offering of love.  We all have a basic need to feel love and respond to it.  It is love that compels a parent to provide the food their child needs, so responding to their child’s demands of hunger a parent communicates that the child is loved and provided for.

However, for some children they experience no satisfaction in their demands to be fed, some experience neglect or provision of food without the nurture of love.  As parents, many of us aren’t aware of the link between the provision of food and the desire to be loved.  Many people grow up physically with a need to be loved but without an experience of what true love is.

We need to learn of true love and the source of that love only comes from God himself. We are all sinners and no matter how good we parent we cannot be a perfect parent.  Only God is the perfect parent and capable of providing the love that our souls cry out for.

If we are frustrated by the way we were parented or how we parented then we need to recognise that no human relationship can provide us with true satisfaction, we need to have a heart that is willing to both confess our sin and have a willingness to forgive recognising that we are all human with sinful flaws and all in need of a Saviour.

In Matthew 7 God provides the link between the physical body and the soul’s need of satisfaction, in verse 9 God continues with ‘“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets’.

Can you see God’s provision for his children is from the emotion of love?  It is God’s love for us that drives him to provide good things for his children.  We can see that our drive to have our hunger relieved is also a desire to be loved.  God’s provision of love for us is also for the benefit and growth of others. We love because God first loved us.

If we don’t receive the love our soul’s desire then we will be driven to look for it elsewhere. For many of us we resort to the basic need of food, we assume our hunger for love can be satisfied by our hunger for food.  We are looking to the physical to relieve the symptoms of our spiritual hunger.

Our souls will be satisfied only by God’s word because this is our soul food.  We need to learn how to feed on spiritual food first before we look for physical hunger to be relieved.

I am convinced that our desire to overeat will be alleviated when we learn how to feed from God’s word and recognise how much He loves us.

 Milk or Meat

The bible teaches us that our feeding from the word of God comes in stages first it is drinking milk and once we have found the nourishment to grow from babies into adults then we will be able to eat of the meat of scripture.

This means that we need to learn how to find nourishment, practice it daily and grow in God’s grace towards spiritual maturity.

As a baby Christian, we need to be taught how to access scripture, we need to be taught that reading scripture is a necessity for our growth.  We need to learn the things of God in a way that we can understand.  The amazing thing about scripture is that it meets your spiritual need wherever you are on the weaning process.  However, many of us miss this step either we see no purpose in always reading the bible, we don’t know where to start so we make do with a weekly dose at church.  Or we head straight for the meaty stuff engaging with spiritual battles but don’t have doctrinal truths as our foundational base or protection.

We need to engage with the learning of scripture gradually and carefully.  We need to ask for help, we need to be involved in bible groups that will help us answer some of the questions we come across.

When we see feeding from scripture as a gradual process we are more patient to feed regularly. Once we learn how to feed from scripture regularly then the Holy Spirit guides us to desire more ‘meaty’ aspects of scripture.  We will begin to chew over major doctrinal issues; our hunger will drive us to search commentaries and seek the wisdom of mature Christians who have much to teach about the power of scripture and the necessity of feeding daily.

Hebrews 5:11-12 ‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

This passage is warning Christians that we fall away when we don’t move from infant into maturity.  When our indifference or our confusion causes us to stop reading scripture regularly because we dont ask the Holy Spirit to show us how to apply God’s word.

Many of us don’t understand that this is the process of spiritual growth and don’t know of the necessity of the weaning process.

The great news is that it is never too late to learn.

Spiritual nourishment plan

As a child, I was taught to eat four meals a day.  As a Northerner this was Breakfast, Dinner, Tea and Supper.  There were never any snacks except the occasional ice cream during holidays or sometimes weekend treats.

Today the pattern seems to be Breakfast Lunch Dinner and two snacks or others say we should be eating five or six smaller plates of food over the course of the day.  I think we have played around so much with diet plans, what we should or shouldn’t be eating that most of us are confused what we should or shouldn’t do. However, I think we are starting in the wrong place, I believe there is a link between our physical hunger and our need to be in fellowship with God and one another.  We need to consider what the soul needs before meeting our physical needs.

Today’s society is a much more individualistic society, we keep ourselves to ourselves staying behind closed doors, accessing society through the internet instead of personal contact.  We have become self-sufficient and are determined to make it on our own.  We’ve also become a leisure society; our work provides us with the money to decide how to spend our spare time.  However, our bodies were created to work, work is a physical desire we have all been given by God.  Physical work means using our bodies daily not sitting behind a desk.  In the past most workers had very physical jobs, housewives’ chores were very physical but today we have so many gadgets that help us achieve our daily tasks that there isn’t much left for us to do.

I think many of us are bored because we are not engaged in physical labour. Therefore, the need of gyms and exercise machines has increased and everyone seems obsessed with exercise.  We need to have physical exertion for our bodies to function well however the pursuit of self whether it be in food or exercise is still an idol.  Whether we are fat or thin we need to consider our motivation for all we do are we worshiping self or the God who created us?

God provided physical activity to worship Him not self!

God’s original plan was for his people to be loved by Him so that we can love one another, to work with joy in all that God has provided by meeting the needs of others.  It is that simple however our pride stops us from being loved by God we convince ourselves that he is a God of retribution and terror, we convince ourselves that no one can tell us what to do because we are better off on our own. We don’t love God therefore we find it difficult to love one another.  We don’t work for God therefore we’re reluctant to serve others.

However, it is scripture that teaches us who God really is not who we think he is.  It is scripture that teaches us who we are without God and our potential with God, it is scripture that teaches us how much God loves us and what he is prepared to do to save us. It is scripture that teaches us how to live out the life God has planned for us.  It is scripture that tells us of God’s eternal plans for each of us.

Rather than focus on our food and what we should or shouldn’t be eating I think first we need to bring into our daily life a spiritual nourishment plan.  To read, meditate and pray scripture throughout the day.  Just as we eat food regularly we need to feed on our spiritual food regularly too. Just as our physical needs are met one meal at a time so are our spiritual needs.

One thing I am learning is that God’s word nourishes the body as well as the soul.  Jesus told the devil when he was being tempted that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

This is the attitude we need to learn, we need to learn from Jesus how to live out this life then we will see our lives transformed, we will see old habits and sins melt away before our eyes.

May I encourage you to take your eyes from the weigh scales and set your eyes on Jesus but be patient Jesus isn’t in a rush he will take all the time it needs to nurture you and grow you into maturity for he knows your eternal life depends on it!

Matthew 5:6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’.

Our Daily Bread

Up to this point I have written about 13 blogs which have been received with some enthusiasm but I’m sure with some criticism too. Who does this woman think she is, I bet she isn’t perfect, I bet she still succumbs to sin.

No I am not a size 10, no I haven’t got the perfected body or shape, no I’m not an athlete and I haven’t received fame or fortune.

I am not writing as an expert, I am not a nutritionist or a health guru, I am an ordinary person seeking to find God’s solution to living this life.

I am still a sinner I still need to daily walk hand and hand with my Father God, I am learning that when we make mistakes it isn’t a failing; this is the very place we need to be, the place of nurture, the place of discipline, the place of security is only found by being in the presence of our Father God, learning from the Father how to follow the Son and learning from the Son how to honour the Father.

Give us today our daily bread

This is a verse from the Lord’s Prayer which formed part of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples during the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ to equip them for their future ministry and teach them how to live out the Christian life.

We too need these instructions today to help us to grow in our faith and be transformed into Jesus likeness, for our lives to reflect his desires, his purposes and for our attitudes to be in line with who He is.

Matthew 6:9-13

This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

If you have been brought up in a Church particularly the Church of England you will be familiar with this prayer.  Many of us say it at least once a week but do we really pray this prayer in the way Jesus taught.  Do we really understand the implications and benefits of this prayer?

When we really consider the Lord’s prayer we see it is not just a prayer it’s a pattern of living.

Verse 9 – Our Father in Heaven hallowed be your name.

As followers of Jesus we have the honour of calling God ‘Our Father’.  This means he is not some imaginary figure who we wishfully pass our requests to, Jesus is reinforcing the relationship between us and God of a child responding to their Father.

The title Father provides us with a means of knowing who God is.  Father represents the person who provides, who protects and who teaches.  It also is a title of authority, there is no greater title than Father, he is the Head of the house therefore He is entitled to our respect and obedience.

‘Hallowed be your name’ represents our response to knowing God as Father.  It teaches us what our heart attitude needs to be in response to understanding all that God has willingly done for us. The treasure of truth held in this one verse of the bible can take us a lifetime to unpick, maybe a lifetime to learn how to respond to God as Father and willingly respond to his authority in praise and worship.

But there is a warmth here, the respect shown is one from a grateful child, a child who recognises their need of the protection and love of the Father.

Verse 10 – your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

This verse teaches us that our desires need to be lined up with the way God has planned his creation.  This is a place of submission and a demonstration of faith in God’s authority. This is in direct opposition of a selfish heart, a heart that demands its own way, a heart that insists that all things should be for its own benefit, a heart that seeks its own way.

To have a heart that desires God’s ways and a desire to submit to his authority is a heart that is willing to go where the Father leads, it is a heart that wants to serve a loving Father, it is a heart that trusts.

This verse also gives us a glimpse that the plans and purposes God has is far beyond our own understand, its implications are far reaching and reminds me of the descriptions given in Revelation where we are given a glimpse of the complexity of the heavens.  We also learn how the angels respond to God in praise and worship. If the angels worship with all their hearts how much more should we.

Verse 11 – Give us today our daily bread

At face value this verse is really straight forward.  ‘Please God provide what I need’, this varies depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in however, this isn’t the heart attitude that Jesus was teaching.

This verse demonstrates an attitude of recognition that all things come from God and that God willingly and lovingly provides.  This causes our hearts to praise and thank Him for his provision, it also teaches our hearts not to demand what isn’t necessary for the day.  In our society of more is better, excess has become a god, an idol.  This prayer reminds us that God’s provision is a daily provision.

Verse 12 – And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

Forgiveness is something we all desire but is something we find difficult to give or often refuse to give. This line of the prayer reminds us of our need to be forgiven, that we sin often and need to have a repentant heart that is ready to turn to the Father for forgiveness.  Amazingly Jesus ties this in with our unwillingness to forgive others.   When we fully grasp all that God has rescued us from and our daily need of his forgiveness then our hearts will be ready to offer the same to others.

Verse 13 – And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

Jesus knows our weaknesses, he is aware that as human beings we are vulnerable to temptations and makes provision for this in his prayer.  We are not to give into temptation but recognise that our Father in Heaven is far more powerful than any temptation we will face.  He also demonstrates to us that all temptations are from the devil himself.  Here we are faced with a choice to seek God’s power to resist temptation or succumb to the devil’s schemes and follow his ways instead.

Jesus knows the power of temptation but he demonstrated that he has all authority and power over all things physical and spiritual.

There’s more to this than meets the eye

I am just scratching the surface of the power of Jesus’ prayer however you can see that Jesus teaching was for the benefit of the disciple, to equip them to follow Him, to demonstrate their vulnerability and need for guidance.

However, there is more to this prayer than the physical aspect of the daily walk with Jesus there is much to understand with regard to our spiritual life, a life to transform the hardened heart, a life to transform the double minded, a life to transform a selfish heart to a serving heart.

Jesus has expanded on these teachings in the parables in the gospels.  He teaches us about the Father, his provision, his power and authority he also teaches us about the consequences of our response to him.

Jesus also tells us in his word that we are no longer just flesh and blood but now we are spirit too. When we give our lives to Jesus we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, this is the moment we are born again.

In all of Jesus teaching there are not just physical truths for us to understand but a spiritual life to learn about too.  In our human physical life, we are spiritually blind, we find it difficult to see anything beyond ourselves and our own experiences.  However, when Jesus removes the scales from our eyes we begin to learn of spiritual things, things that were previously beyond our understanding.

The Lord’s prayer isn’t just a guide for our physical life but for our spiritual life too.  It teaches us much about our Father in Heaven, a place we have no idea about but much to learn.  Jesus teaches us of the spiritual battle that we have now entered, a battle that we can’t avoid but a battle that Jesus himself has already won.

It is a prayer that takes us beyond a physical hunger to a spiritual hunger, a hunger that can only be satisfied by the true bread of life.

Jesus is our daily bread

In John:35 Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life ‘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’.

As someone who struggles to control the amount of food I eat and seek the satisfaction that food brings, I love the way God uses food as a metaphor, it puts me at an advantage because no one needs to explain to me what Jesus means when he describes himself as the bread of life.

Those of you who share this struggle, really know what it feels like to hunger for food, those feelings of determination to have our hunger abated, nothing stops us from raiding the fridge when the stomach rumbles, there is no thought for anything else until we find the satisfaction we gain from food, we don’t stop to think whether we are hungry or not, our priority is to find the food, find the snack, find the satisfaction.

However physical food has its limitations, its purpose is only to feed the physical it has no power to feed our spiritual lives in fact too much physical food is bad for us, it poisons us and makes us unhealthy, it limits our ability to function.

Through God’s word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we learn that our need of spiritual nurturing and feeding is essential for our spiritual growth just as eating healthy food is essential to meet our physical needs. Jesus is interested in us as a complete package, he makes provision for both our physical wellbeing and our spiritual wellbeing we need to offer him both aspects of our lives.  We are not to keep anything from Him if we want to flourish and grow into his likeness.

It is vital for our spiritual health to hunger for God’s word daily, without it our faith will wither and die.

Imagine what would happen if we transferred these desires, these determinations, these pursuits of satisfaction from food to Jesus and his word.

Imagine the wonders we would uncover, the guidance we would receive, words that would, heal us, sustain us and change us.

The very transforming power of Almighty God……just imagine!

 

The battle within

In the last blog, over a month ago, I said we would look at ‘spiritual battle’ little did I know that was where I was heading.

Over the last 5 months I’ve had to deal with a minor illness that has had a significant impact on my life from day to day activities including aspects of housework, looking after the family to having to take time off work at crucial moments which resulted in missing out on significant events.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make was to defer my place in the Great North Run in September for which I’ve been training for a year. During this time, I’ve felt frustrated and annoyed that the entire year had seemed a waste of time and that I had let my sponsors down.

I was even tempted not to blog anymore and doubted that I had anything significant to say to anyone seeing as I was a failure and hadn’t lost that much weight anyway.

However, during this time, I have gained tremendous empathy with those who struggle with chronic illnesses that have no earthly solution or treatment available to them.  The limitation of this human body has an enormous impact on people’s lives and the choices they are able to make.  It is not an excuse for self-pity or a means of not engaging with everyday life it is an obstacle that needs adapting to.

Over these last 6 weeks I have been reminded of some teaching I was following about Job and how he dealt with the difficulties of life. His servants were murdered, his sheep slaughtered, his children died in a storm he had lost everything.  His friends blamed him, tormented him with verbal abuse and basically said he must have deserved it if God let it happen.  He then went on to experience horrendous ailments and suffering we could only imagine, his wife had enough of seeing all this suffering and encouraged him to give up and die then he would find relief.

However, Job didn’t give up, Job continued to trust, it wasn’t a blind trust it was a measured trust, it was an honest trust.  He questioned God during his trials, he gave an honest human response at times but he never cursed God.

It was during this time of suffering that Job came face to face with the truth that God has complete autonomy on his creation.  Job learnt that all things whether good or bad are overseen by God. Job chose to trust God despite his circumstances because he knew God had the right to choose because God was the Creator.

We find this a difficult concept to understand, our pride won’t allow us to accept that God has the final say about each of our lives, our pride fights against this truth.  It is easier to reject God than to accept he could be responsible for everything that happens to us.

Opposites attract

We are obsessed with opposites, it’s one of the first things we teach our children;

Hot/Cold, Black/White, Right/Left, Right/Wrong

These concepts seem to build within us a sense of justice, a sense of fairness.  Only one view can be right, both aspects can’t be true at the same time.

This is a human mentality, it is the source of many wars and battles. Your wrong because I’m right! This mentality limits what we are and what we can achieve, it limits our relationships with one another and it limits our relationship with God.

God doesn’t work in absolutes because he is absolute.

God himself is the source of what is right and what is wrong.  God is the Creator of all we have, all we know and all we will ever know.  Even in our determination to live independently of God, we are ultimately limited by the boundaries He sets.

Jesus tells us in the bible that ‘I am the way and the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me’ John 14:6.

Creation’s source of truth is God himself therefore everything that comes from him is truth, truth is part of who he is, it is his character and he can-not be changed.  God doesn’t compromise or change his mind because he is the source of truth.

This is a scary prospect for many of us because we view God through the lens of suspicion, we agree with the devil and assume God’s out to get us.  We look at the troubles in the world and conclude that if bad things happen then God must be bad.  This is because we are convinced by the ‘law of cause and effect’.

‘If I do this then that will happen’. ‘If I make good choices then good things will happen to me’.  ‘If I choose to eat healthy foods then I will always be healthy’. ‘If I make bad choices then bad things will happen to me’.

However, the reality we see around us screams at us that there is something wrong in our thinking. There are many people who do bad things but good things still come their way.  There are many innocent people around the world who are hurt or die through natural disasters or by the hand of another human being.

Our human effort for justice screams – unfair! I demand my right to absolutes good or bad, right or wrong.

However the truth is God does the choosing.

This came to a head for me in a small but significant way.  For the past year I have been training for a half marathon and have been eating much healthier, keeping hydrated and eating my greens.  However, I ended up in A & E being told I was dehydrated despite drinking 4 litres of water most days.  It turned out I had a kidney stone which was the product of my new found healthy eating.  The stone was made from the additional protein I had been eating which had oxidised with the additional spinach I was eating.  I was furious I had never suffered from kidney stones ever, even during the time I had abused my body but the time I was making good choices it caused 5 months of suffering.

I spent 6 weeks questioning God how could this happen, I threw in the towel I’d had enough of healthy eating it hadn’t got me anywhere!  I screamed this is so unfair. However, this isn’t where God left me he taught me an important lesson of trust.

In the book of Romans Chapter 8 verse 28 God turns the concept of cause and effect on its head ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’.

The bible tells us that ‘all things’ will be used by God for his good purposes the lives of those who love God and belong to his family.  God’s purposes are always good, his plans are for our benefit but not all things that happen will appear to be good in fact God uses painful circumstances for our benefit or for the benefit of others.

The source of evil is the devil and it is the devil alone that tempts us away from the goodness of God.  It is the devil’s plan to stop everyone from joining God’s family. However, God’s plans are not thwarted by the devil’s determination to destroy all that God creates because God can use whatever the devil does for the good of God’s creation.  The devil can do nothing to stop the goodness of God. God will protect and provide for his family.

The greatest place this truth was witnessed is the death of Christ himself.

God is good

God works things together for good because he is the source of goodness.  He is good therefore all things that he does is for the purpose of goodness.

However, this isn’t the human condition, every day I do something right and I do something wrong there is never a day where I’m completely good or completely bad.  We have an expectation of one another that we must always be good, we have an expectation that our standard is the standard everyone should follow, unfortunately each of us has a differing standard.

When I married my husband 26 years ago we had very different upbringings and we had hugely differing ideas of what was right and what was wrong.  His standard was children always used a knife and fork under every circumstance.  However, our daughter had problems with food and needed a gentler approach, she needed the grace to be able to explore foods using her hands as well as her mouth.  On the other hand I demanded that our holiday routine must follow my standards which always resulted in a stressful and upsetting start to every holiday.

It even impacted on how we celebrated Christmas and numerous other areas of life which led to disagreements and falling out on many occasion.

When we turn to the bible and have a willingness to learn from it we find that God works beyond our human understanding of right and wrong.  God works beyond our demands to pin him down to make one statement or another.  God works beyond our demands that he sides with us and reject those who disagree with us.  God works beyond our demands to work within the laws we create.

That’s because He is God and we’re not!

If we could make demands of God and make Him fit into our understanding then He wouldn’t be God.

It’s a mystery

God’s ways are not our ways.  For some reason, we’re shocked by this, for some reason we are appalled that God is beyond our understanding. ‘If only we can understand all things then we would have no need of God’, this reasoning is evident throughout history.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’.

This is the key to unravel all the mysteries, to all the things we don’t understand. It doesn’t mean we will understand all there is to understand but we will have the realisation that all things don’t depend on us, all things don’t need our wisdom, all things don’t require our insight.

When we trust God and his understanding, when we realise that God is God and we’re not then we can rest in him.  This is the place of liberty where we put our faith in Our Father God who provides, protects and has the power to transform us all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are absolutes and they are all found in the very character of God;

Holy, Good, Just, Love, Perfect, Truth….

How God works these absolutes into his creation we can never fathom, all we need to do is be grateful and be willing to follow his plans and purposes for our lives, the very lives that he created, the very lives that he planned before our concept of time, the very lives that he works together for his good, the very lives that are intertwined way beyond our ability to understand.

The mystery of my illness has been revealed to me today.  God used this time to not only teach me that I wasn’t completely trusting Him but I wasn’t listening.  I wasn’t making time to ask Him what He wanted me to do, how He wanted me to live.  That his purposes for my life are far more valuable than trying to lose weight or trying to be healthy.  Even though these are good things to want for my life they are not his best for me, his best for me is to be close to him, listening and learning.

When I took the time to listen to my Father God he showed me that more important than wanting to lose weight there are heart attitudes that need changing.  Today I learnt that I need his kindness to share with others, I need his kindness to mould my thinking and change my behaviour.  This lesson was so more valuable than a thinner body and will last for all eternity.  However, this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t live a healthier lifestyle, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t train for the half marathon it just means I have a lot to learn along the way. It does mean I need to listen to an Almighty God who knows me better than I know myself. And I am really looking forward to getting back into training for both the half marathon and for life.

Biblical contradictions

Many people accuse the bible of contradicting itself and there seems many to find.  Over the years I have grown to love finding the seemingly obvious contradictions of God saying two different things as being true, these are the places in the bible that I have learnt the most. Our human mindset says two differing ideas can’t work together, it always must be one or the other.

The one I love pointing people to is Matthew 6 in the Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches his disciples to pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ but in Chapter 7 we are told not to worry about what we should eat or wear.

Why does God on one hand tell us to pray for our needs but on the other not to worry about these things.  It appears to be a contradiction.

In our absolute mindset, we demand these things cannot work together but beautifully and majestically God brings the request of the follower and the provision of the provider into the same place to work together for good.

My focus had been on being healthy for the half marathon so that I could run faster, I was focusing on the mechanics of this rather than trusting God to teach me about where my heart attitude was.  Having a heart to learn has helped me understand that I have a fear of failure and that my concept of all or nothing is wrong because that doesn’t take into account real life and changing circumstances.  The revelation of these two lessons has helped me change my focus from self and have a closer dependency on a God who loves me and wants the very best for me.  I need to remember that;

In our search for rescue,

In our search for relief,

In our search for a Saviour,

We shouldn’t trust in our own understanding but have a willingness to open our minds and hearts to Our Heavenly Father and open His Word in anticipation of all that he wants to teach us, all that he wants to share with us.

Let us put our trust in an absolute God rather than an absolute mindset.

Growing up

Let’s now consider how we grow in our new found identity.

Weight gain has been a heavy burden to bear and at times I felt that there was no solution.  I was trapped in the never-ending cycle of success and failure.  By the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the bible, I have come to realise that this journey is all about learning.  After all, we are ‘children’ of the Father who created us so why do we expect so much more of our own ability, why do we think we are past learning?  Why do we find it so hard to depend and trust a loving heavenly Father?

Corinthians 13, is a bible passage that is often used in wedding ceremonies, talks about how love is measured; it also gives us a clue to our reluctance to take responsibility for the choices we make.

Verses 11 states ‘ When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me’.

How do we measure whether we are a child or a man (a grown up)?  It is by the way we behave?

The weight loss journey I have been on over the last 25 years has shown me without a doubt, my need to grow up.  Those moments I demand chocolate, I hunt the house down for scrapings of change to buy whatever it is I think will make me feel better and I push aside those who get in my way.  In short if I can’t get what I want when I want it then I have a full blown temper tantrum.

At the age of 52 that is not only embarrassing but shameful.   Age is no reflection of our maturity in God’s kingdom.   Many of us haven’t grown into the mature people God planned for us to be.  We might consider ourselves mature, but it is the sin in our lives that exposes who we really are and what are our true priorities.  This is simply the pursuit of self!

Is there hope for any of us? Absolutely, Jesus himself is the example for us all to follow.  Jesus teaches us in the bible that we are to be child-like in our trust of him but our response is often childish.  A few years ago I had a complete grown up temper tantrum for the world to see, my sin and pursuit of self spilled over into my everyday life.  I could no longer contain the sin within.  Jesus exposed who I really was not to embarrass me or to shame me but to change me and teach me how to grow up into His image.

When we learn from Jesus and grow up in Him we begin to reflect who He is.  However, this is only one part of the picture. Corinthians 13:12 shows us the ultimate ending of a life spent trusting our lives into the hands of our Creator.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known’.

As we put our trust in Jesus and learn of what it is to grow in him we have the confidence that it will be in the moment Jesus returns for us that we will be fully complete and fully grown in Him.  During this time of learning and change (santification) let us all take the time and have the willingness to allow Jesus to do whatever it takes to enable us to grow up in Him.

Who do we think we are?

It is all well and good talking about our identity and who are but how does this work out in the real world, in the nitty gritty of life and the temptations we face?

We need to consider who we think we are and what we think we can achieve in and of ourselves.  A good indicator of who we think we are is how we introduce ourselves to new people.  We introduce ourselves by what we do, I’m a doctor, a housewife, a teacher our identity seems to be wrapped up in what we do.  However, should what we do really define who we are?

Maybe this is an indication that we haven’t quite understood how to live out our identity in Christ.

Matthew 6:19-24 tells us that we need to store up treasures in heaven, Jesus goes onto tell us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.  He finishes this little paragraph with ‘no-one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.’

Our identity is tied up in what we treasure the most and what we treasure the most our hearts will be devoted to. Therefore, if we want to know where our identity is we need to look at what we treasure the most and what we treasure the most that is where we will find who we serve, who our Master is; self or Christ these are the two masters Jesus is teaching us about.

As previously considered if we serve self then we are in fact serving the purposes of sin, the world and the devil.  As a born-again Christian, no-one wants to be serving self but we seem unable to do anything about it, we seem powerless and find ourselves frustrated and dominated by sin.

As people with weight issues we are desperate to lose weight and put in all our efforts to find a solution, but end up frustated that this wasn’t the solution we hoped it would be and we face these moments of helplessness many times over.  Every time we get a glimpse into where we are going wrong, we start to make the right choices, we think yes, this time will be different this time is the moment of permanent change, something happens to derail us and we find ourselves further away from the place we started.

How many of us actually weighed less when we started to diet than we are now years later?

Hope for the helpless

It all seems depressing really an endless cycle that we never seem to be able to escape. Let us turn to Romans 7 where the apostle Paul gives us an insight into the human condition.  This chapter is teaching us that as Christians we are released from the Law because we are bound in Christ.  If this is the case why do we feel so helpless to change?

Well don’t despair Jesus is always the solution to helplessness.

Paul shows us that no matter who we are, we are all human therefore share the same condition, the sinful nature verse 14 ‘We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin’.  This is who we are as human beings we have no way of accessing anything of God because he is spiritual and we are not.

Verse 15 ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’. What a dramatic verse ‘I do not understand’ this is a moment of recognition that in and of ourselves we have no power to change, we have no ability to understand why we do the things we do, we cannot fathom our own behaviour or why we make the choices we do.  If we can get to this moment in our life then this is the place of humility the place we need to be to be able and willing to learn from Jesus.  We don’t understand but he does – this is the moment of repentance.

Verse 16 ‘And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good’.  It is the law of God that exposes our sin, it is the law that teaches us there is something wrong within, through the Holy Spirit guiding us through God’s word.

Verse 17 ‘As it is, it is no longer myself who do it, but it is sin living in me’. In our new identity of turning to Christ a separation happens between sin and ourselves.  Our new identity is now found in Christ not the sin within.  In the next few verses Paul expands on this truth.

Verse 18-19 ‘For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing’. Paul as a servant of Christ now has an awareness that his heart is bent towards Christ but his sinful nature is still alive.  Our sinful nature is counterproductive to the new nature we have in Christ.

Before we turn to verse 20 lets recap.

So here in this chapter in Romans we see the gospel being played out; before us we see the human condition without Jesus, we see the need of repentance and turning to Christ.  We see that Christ separates us from the sinful nature but it is still alive within us (the spiritual battle).

Verse 20 ‘Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it’.  Paul recognises that Jesus has provided a separation from the sinful nature.  This is not a cop out or an excuse to sin it is a waking up to a spiritual reality.

Even as a born again Christian sin still lives within us, sin still lurks in the depths waiting to pounce, to take us unaware and expose our vulnerability.  This truth is then balanced out by the truth that we no longer need to respond to the sin within not because we are strong and capable of dealing with the sinful nature but because we are in relationship with our Saviour who has defeated sin and its consequences.

We have no power in and of ourselves, it is when we think we are the overcomers that things start to go wrong and we give the sinful nature a way back to control our behaviour.

We see this truth being played out when we decided to diet.  We recognised that we had a weight problem and we need to do something about it.  So, we immediately think ah I need to go on a diet.  This seems plausible because after all I am fat because I eat too much therefore I need to restrict what I eat. We don’t know where to start so we turn to people who know; who have lost lots of weight, if we copy what they do then this will result in losing weight.

But it never works out this way! Why?

Because we are using a physical solution to resolve a spiritual problem.

The reason we put on weight in the first place wasn’t  because we ate too much it was because we ate too much to replace lost relationships, to feel better, to give reward, to shut the world out and its problems etc.

The diet plan works like the law to expose sin however it doesn’t have the power to deal with the sin so it becomes a means of legalism.  It says to our spirit hey follow this and all will be well however our sinful nature shouts yay I love a bit of legalism I will use this to grow pride in the heart of this person and the devil joins in because he knows that if pride is our behaviour then we will be serving self and not Christ.

Verse 20 of Romans 7 tells us that our identity is no longer tied to the sinful nature therefore sin no longer defines who we are, it is Christ that defines who we are.

The sinful nature says you are fat

The sinful nature says you are an overeater

The sinful nature says you are lazy

The sinful nature says you don’t belong anywhere

The sinful nature says you are useless

 

Every time we sin we are saying we agree with our sinful nature however if our identity is in Christ then

Christ says the Creator of the universe is Our Father therefore we are loved

Christ says we are his beloved therefore we belong

Christ says we have been born again and gives us the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us therefore we can learn spiritual truths

Christ says he uses our weaknesses for his good purposes therefore we are strong

Christ says we are heavenly royalty therefore we are holy

        Christ says he promises to work out his purposes in our lives therefore we have no reason to fear

We no longer need to identify with the sinful nature because it represents who we used to be; we need to identify with our born-again identity which is bound up with who Christ is.

Romans 7:21-24

‘So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?’

Paul is explaining the spiritual battle we all face; that in and of ourselves we have no hope, there is no rescue, there is only sin….

Verse 25 ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin’.

Paul is saying we are who we believe we are, there are two masters at work here but thanks to God we have a choice, we can choose who we serve, we can choose who we listen to by the power of the Holy Spirit who now lives within us.

Turning to Christ

Jesus Christ is our only hope for whatever situation we find ourselves in, we need to turn away from the troubles of this world and turn our attention to Jesus.  We need a spiritual response to a spiritual problem and this can only be found in Jesus and His word.

In Christ, we are no longer defined by what we do, but what we do is defined by who we are in Him.

Over the next few weeks ask Jesus to teach you the truths held within Romans 7 and take the time to apply it to your everyday situations through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If you are not a Christian then hopefully you can see your need of turning to Christ, if not talk to Jesus and ask him to deal with your unbelief.

Mark 9:21-24 ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!’

Next time we will unpack more about the spiritual battle and God’s provision for the battle we face.

Our identity in Christ

We have begun to consider who God is and whether we want to enter a relationship with Him.  But what difference will knowing God really make to my life?  Can’t I exist without him?  Maybe if I just carry on being me then things will work out?  Maybe towards the end I can take the time to get to know God?

These were many of the thoughts I had when I began the journey to know God.  I knew in my heart that Jesus is who He says he is; I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to change.  I knew deep down that following Jesus would mean something in me needed to change, I couldn’t continue with the lies, the cheating, the overindulgence, the smoking, the swearing etc.

How is it even possible for me to change, it just seems a step too far to consider I could be different, a new me could exist!

I attempted to change my personality, maybe I would fit in better, maybe if I didn’t behave a certain way then I wouldn’t feel so useless or such a failure all the time.  Nothing I seemed to turn my hand to ever worked out maybe I had nothing to offer maybe it was easier to do nothing then I couldn’t let anyone down.

The truth of the matter I loved being me it’s just no-one else seemed happy with me being me.  I tried so hard to get everyone to like me, be interested in what they liked but this didn’t work either.  What was wrong with me why didn’t anyone love me?

But my existence isn’t measured by how others love me, my existence isn’t to prove anything to anyone, it isn’t to find fulfilment in and of myself it is measured by who I am in Christ.  Jesus loves me because he created me to be me, Jesus loves me because he chose to die on the cross for me, Jesus loves me because he does.

My sin is why he died on the cross it was his love that caused him to do it.

The apostle Paul tells the Ephesian church that he prays they will grasp how wide, how deep is the love of God for each of his children (Eph 3:1-21).  It is beyond our ability to completely comprehend but in our limited understanding we can begin to see that God’s love for his creation, God’s love for his children is far greater and far reaching, it is our unwillingness to trust in God’s love for us that limits who we are and who he is calling us to be.

Daily we can choose to be limited by fear or allow Jesus to liberate us through his love.

How can Jesus choose to love us, how can Jesus willingly die on the cross even though he knows our sinfulness, these concepts don’t sit right with our own internal measure of right and wrong.  We have an instinct that says you get what you deserve in this life but this is skewed thinking we need to learn to see ourselves and the world through the lens of who Jesus is not through who we are.

Jesus took the sin on himself so we don’t get what we deserve – this is certainly ‘Amazing Grace’.

In Genesis 1:26 we began to see that God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit this is the identity of God.  He wants us to relate to him as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit. When we relate to God as Father we become the child, when we relate to Jesus as son we become the brother and when we relate to God as Holy Spirit we become born again through the blood of Christ who gave us a way back to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Our relationship with the trinity of God is what gives us our identity, the identity that God planned all along for us to have.

To understand this better we need to consider what does God mean when he says we are created in his image.

When we think of image we think of how we look in the mirror, how others view us or the images we see of supermodels in magazines or celebrities on TV.

The promise of this verse is that each and every one of us was created with God’s image implanted within us.  There is a part of us which is made to seek out God because we are only complete when we reflect who he is.

Our true identity is only found within the truth of who God is, this takes us beyond who we are, our failings, our achievements, our desires; when we realise that in an of ourselves we are only empty vessels then we have room for the hope and filling that only Christ offers.

How liberating is this when we take the focus away from ourselves and set our hearts on Christ then we have hope, then we see the light, then we see our true potential.

Most of us are driven by something. Sometimes we are not quite sure why, but each of us is driven towards a goal; a bigger house; a better job, a better body, children, possessions. But these in and of themselves don’t bring the satisfaction we thought they would, so we find another goal.

But each time the goal seems pointless because it never brings the true satisfaction or the glorification that we so desired.  This is why the bible says it is hard for the ‘rich’ to enter the kingdom of God, not because being rich excludes you but because being rich provides endless possibilities to continue to invest in yourself.  It is only when we come to the end of ourselves and stop depending on self to rescue that we have room to consider who Christ is.

Pursing perfection

Whether we are rich or not many of us have a perfectionist attitude.  This can come in different guises which makes it difficult to identify.

For years I thought of myself a lazy, I would only have the desire or energy to watch tv and when I watched tv I would snack.  The typical couch potato!  However, it has taken me many years to realise that it was my perfectionist attitude that was causing me to become numb.  I had a ‘what’s the point’ attitude, if I’m going to fail anyway why bother?  It’s safer just sitting here, there is no-one to judge you, no-one to expect anything from you, no-one to tell you that you are a failure, if I do nothing then I can’t fail.  The realisation that we never achieve what we set out to do stops us from even trying.

The problem with perfectionism is that we have too high expectations of not only ourselves but also others.  This causes us to live lives that try to control others, we become disappointed in their inability to care about us or their inability to have the same priorities.

We find it difficult to set realistic goals for ourselves and others, if we find that the task seems too easy we will shift our goal posts and make it impossible to achieve what we set out to do, in other words we self-sabotage.

In the area of overeating this becomes a bottomless pit of despair which causes us to give up.

Over the years I have come to see that my true identity is in Jesus.  The person I was created to be like is Jesus. I need to learn to understand who He is, to learn to respond to others the way in which he responds, to learn to make decisions that would please him.

Nothing in this world will bring satisfaction; if we use the things of the world to give us an identity, we will always be left dissatisfied, eventually.

Our identity is in Christ not because we decided that, but because we were created to be like Him from the very beginning of time.

In Christ Alone

Intrinsic in every human being is the need to hope, the need to pursue and the need to find satisfaction.

Over the last three weeks I have seen first hand the power of hope in Christ alone, when everything else is striped away only then can true satisfaction be found, only then we truly know who we really are and why God created us to be the person he designed.

My husband’s aunt was admitted into a hospice three weeks ago, it was in these three weeks that I saw first hand the abundant life that Christ promises, the joy of the moment, the appreciation of God’s gifts, the savouring of tastes and wonders of God’s kingdom, the restoring and renewing of relationships, the reality and promise of eternal hope only found in Christ.  I saw this lady in these three weeks truly live out what it is to be called a Christian, what it is to be not found wanting, what it is to have our identity completely fulfilled through Christ alone.

In these last three weeks God used this lady to use the testimony of her life to shine Jesus love for all his children into their hearts, to bring to them his hope and his purposes for not only herself but for those around her.

I have learnt much over these last three weeks but most of all I learnt to savour God’s precious gifts and be thankful; to share his love with others; to pursue him at all costs. We need to learn how to make the choices that need to be made and live the life that God calls us to live.

Freedom first?

I have previously mentioned that I now live life accepting the freedom Christ has already provided however it is easy to get lost in that freedom and take it for granted.  It is easy to turn the freedom Christ gives us as something to pursue rather than a result of the relationship we are in.

Freedom isn’t the reason we pursue Jesus but is the result of being in relationship with Him.  If we pursue Him, to love Him, to obey Him, to see Him then these other things will be fruitful in our lives.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the kingdom of God then all these other things will be added unto you. What things; the things we need, we will never be in want because all we need is only found in Christ.

As an addict we want nothing else but to live in freedom from the trap of our sin but the reason we are an addict is that we have found the world wanting, there is nothing in the world that makes us feel better, that helps us make sense of what is happening to us.  The reason we are an addict is we haven’t found what we are looking for but we are still seeking.  Whatever we are addicted to gives us some comfort but only for a short time, in fact the comfort we are seeking never really comes that’s why we still pursue it.

When we fully give our lives back to Jesus, when we fully give our heart to Him, then it is Jesus himself that changes us, that reprioritises our lives, that gives us a heart to serve him by serving others, we begin to see others through his eyes, through his desire to draw others to the Father for all eternity.

Who does Jesus say we are?

Beloved, child, bride, friend, brother, saint…. Are we choosing to live in the light of who Jesus says we are or are we still choosing to live in the darkness of our past identity?

Counting the cost

It seems a peculiar expression to consider when thinking about pursing Jesus, are we prepared to pay the cost? We know that our salvation comes as a free gift from Jesus so where is the cost?

During the process of trying to lose weight I pleaded with God to show me what it would take, I was prepared to do anything to have this burden taken away.

The answer came back: give up alcohol and chocolate These were the two things that brought me comfort when I was tired, fearful, celebrating… whatever the emotion. I couldn’t image living without either.  When I was first married I would hate being at home alone, so I would say to my husband that he could go out if he bought me the biggest bottle of wine and the largest box of chocolates.  These became my means of comfort, my abatement of fear, my means to numb the loneliness.

In Matthew 19:16-22 the rich young man asks Jesus that whatever eternal life will cost him, he will willingly pay it.  Jesus speaks to the young man knowing that because he is dependent on his money he would find it difficult to choose between the new life Jesus offered or a life separated from God but united to his money. When faced with giving up his idol (his treasured possession) it was too much for the rich young man to pay.

This is the cost and the choice before us.  The question is: Are we willing to pay the price?

For those of us who have struggled between the desire to overeat and the desire to lose weight we have probably made many promises to ourselves or with others or even tried bartering with God. In our moment of despair, we promise that we would do anything to end this turmoil.  There are times where if we thought it would help we probably would do a deal with the devil!  We often use expressions of ‘I would chop off my right arm’ and other over exaggerated claims. But the truth is when push comes to shove we aren’t prepared to change, the truth of the matter is we want it all.  We want to be able to eat what we want when we want to, without the consequence of putting on weight.

Jesus knew this when he challenged the rich young man and Jesus knows this when he looks at our own hearts.

So, what did it cost me?  Well, I was to find out that it wasn’t just about the alcohol and chocolate. Other things I need to willingly let go of are, gossip, slander, unforgiveness, bitterness, revenge… the list seemed endless and sobering (Galatians 5:20).  I was to learn over the years that the craving for alcohol and chocolate was just a mask for what was hidden deep within.  The sin was so ingrained in me that I didn’t even know the extent of it.

King David knew both the cost and benefit of pursing God : Psalm 139 :23 – 24 ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’.

But it’s alright for him he’s a king! How on earth can I even begin to get my head around pursuing Jesus when all I have known is following my own ideas, my own purposes? It all sounds too difficult and too alien how can I give up all that I have known so far?

Jesus gives us the solution, when we choose to put our faith and trust in Jesus, he gives us a helper, a guide, a teacher…The Holy Spirit.  This is God’s gift to us to teach us how to trust and obey Him.

The prayer of David was a prayer I prayed just over two years ago and what turmoil followed.  Jesus turned my life upside down and inside out.  He exposed roots of bitterness and an unwillingness to bend.  He exposed the root of shameful sins that were too horrific to confess.  He exposed a desire to control and a reluctance to submit. He exposed a propensity towards slander and jealousy rather than a desire to love and serve.

He also showed me that I still had a choice to make, I could still choose to stay with the sin or I could choose to follow him through the refiner’s fire to be purified.

Isaiah 48:10 ‘See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction’.

It is our instinct to seek after things that bring us comfort, not many of use choose to go into an area of affliction, we assume if things feel difficult then our circumstances need to change.  However, I have learnt that, what appears to be a mess to us, is the very place that Jesus prepares our hearts to change. It is through these times of affliction that our hearts are turned towards Jesus, it is during these times that we are humbled to hear from God and his word, it is during these times that we truly see God’s power.

When life gets messy, we start arguing with those we love or life just seems too difficult to handle, are the times the devil uses to persuade us that God has abandoned us in these moments of despair and trial.  The devil wants to swamp us with self-pity and draw us further into ourselves so that we lose all hope of ever coming through it. It is during this time that the devil wants to start the blame game and encourage us to become angry and defensive.  We all have sinned and we all have fallen short of God’s glory, so instead of blaming one another if we pray the prayer of David, desire a change of heart, then we will see God’s hand, not only on our lives, but on the lives of all those around us.

This is where hope comes in, the hope that comes from Jesus who by the power of the Holy Spirit has something to teach each of us through every one of life’s circumstances. Romans 8:28 tells us that God will use all things for our good and for our benefit to grow into the image of Christ.  When our hearts are open to change and have a desire to put the past behind us, we begin to see our relationships and our circumstances through the lens of God’s grace.

Matthew 16:19 tells us we can’t have our cake and eat it we need to make a choice.  The choice isn’t between eating or not eating it is between giving up control of our lives to Jesus or depending on our will power.

So, what is stopping us why do we find it difficult to face up to the choices we are making?  We have already thought about sin and its control of our lives however we need to consider who Jesus says He is.  When we begin to understand who Jesus is and the choices he has made for us we gain a different perspective; a different way of viewing our lives.

Jesus made a choice for us, incredibly He came down to earth from his honoured position in heaven to take our place so that we could spend eternity with him.  He willingly died on the cross to make the payment for our sin.  Why did Jesus do this, to appease an angry God, to enable us a means to continue to sin?  Absolutely not, he did it because he loves us.

Our skewed thinking stops us from truly believing that Jesus did all of this out of love.  His sole purpose is to draw us into a loving relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to restore us to the perfect relationship that God designed from the beginning of time.

However, the cynic within won’t allow us to believe it, this cynical view can be for a variety of reasons, maybe we don’t know what true love is, maybe our past human relationships never met with our expectations, maybe our trust has been misused or maybe we consider ourselves unworthy to be loved.

For many years I have been crying out to Jesus to rid me of the burden of weight gain, the burden of the uncontrollable cravings, to take away the guilt and shame. Jesus has demonstrated to me on numerous occasions that my weight problem was one with the heart rather than a physical one.  The physical outworking of weight gain was a sign of the hurt within, was a sign of the misuse of the body God had blessed me with.  These moments of purification are so that we become more Christ like, that we desire things that he desires, that we crave to spend more time with him in his word, that we have a passion to share with others who Christ is and how he wants to love and transform their lives too.

Moment by moment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am learning to live in the freedom that Jesus has provided and I constantly pray for a willing heart to learn what it takes to follow Him.

Won’t you join me?

Choosing the right path

So here we are at a crossroads. Which path will you choose?

Repentance is a difficult thing to do.  Not only do we have to face up to the fact that we did something wrong but we also need to realise that we can do nothing to fix it. We so want to fix stuff it seems to be in our very DNA.

Why are we so focused on sorting out everything for ourselves?

The trouble with this approach is that we become proud.  We become judgemental and live a life where we constantly compare ourselves to other people.  Sometimes we put our energies into trying to fix other people or to change them.  There are times we are desperate to find solutions for other people’s problems or suffering but in and of ourselves there is nothing we have to offer because all our solutions are earthly bound. Our compassion is a wonderful gift to have however it can be foolhardy to think we hold all the solutions to everyone else’s issues.

The amazing thing about repentance is that it doesn’t stand alone; it comes with forgiveness.  In 1 John 1:9 the bible tells us ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’.

When we repent, turn away from our desire to be self-reliant and recognise that we can’t fix ourselves, never mind other people; God is waiting to forgive us and purify (clean) us.

The bible teaches us that God wants to have a relationship that involves Him and us.  The love story of relationship that God has weaved throughout the bible is a wonderful gift to receive however our sin stops us from being able to receive this gift, the gift of life God had planned for us.  It is not until we see that we are not the source of life but the recipient of a gift, that we can choose to follow the right path.

Are you willing to receive this gift of an abundant life of love rather than overindulgence. Are you willing to accept the life Jesus is offering that always points us towards something greater, something eternal?

It doesn’t sound that hard really does it?  Who has ever heard of someone not receiving a gift?  Imagine it’s your birthday and you turn away everyone who comes to you with a present; it doesn’t make sense. It would be ungrateful. Unthinkable.  God is the giver and we are the receiver, but many people do choose to say, ‘no thank you’ to God’s free gift to us because it would require them to change, it would require them to say I am no longer going to control my life but trust in the one who created me.

In John 14:6  Jesus stated that, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.

Jesus gives us an alternative to living in sin, he provides a different path, a different route, Jesus says follow me.  The path has been laid before us. It is our choice whether or not we choose to follow it.

Are you ready to recognise you are currently on the wrong path and choose a different direction, one that leads to a transformed and purposeful life?

The life God had planned all along for you!

A biblical health warning

This all sounds well and good but in our position of pride we can think God needs us to change before we come to Jesus.  We convince ourselves that we need to clean up our act before Jesus can truly rescue us but we need to remember the story of the ‘Lost Son’ in Luke 15.  When the son came to the Father he came warts and all, he was still stinking from the pig’s pen.

There is nothing we can bring to Jesus to make the deal better all he wants is our willingness to trust Him. Jesus wants us to come as we are, he doesn’t want perfect people because He alone is perfect, when we come face to face with who Jesus is we have a realisation of our limitations, we have a realisation of how unclean we truly are.  Coming into the light of Jesus shines up the sin in our lives not to bring us shame but to bring the sin into Jesus light so he can defeat it.

As a Christian, it is easy to fall into the trap that now we have accepted Christ that we need to live a perfect life, that once Jesus rescues us then it is up to us to stay out of trouble, that once Jesus has cleansed us then it is up to us to stay clean.

We do this in many ways, we give others the impression that we don’t make mistakes, we try to keep the peace and don’t confront difficult situations, we try our best to not get angry or jealous or whatever attitude we think is wrong.

However, what we need to consider is that even as a Christian we have nothing to bring to the table, we are still sinners within the identity of a saint.  It is Christ that gives us a new identity however the process of changing to be more like Christ is a process.  Jesus redeemed us so that we can take up our true identity and become an eternal heir along with him however we don’t know what it means to be perfect, we don’t know what it means to be holy because up to the point of accepting Christ we don’t know what holy is.

Jesus turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that is changeable, by spending time with Jesus in prayer and reading scripture he changes us to be like Him.  Every experience we have, every situation we find ourselves in, Jesus uses to expose our sinful hearts so that we turn to Him for resolution.  In and of ourselves we can do nothing but this is the very place of hope because we have the promise that Jesus doesn’t just rescue us but he also takes us from the place of sinner to saint.

In the book of Phillipians the apostle Paul tells the church that he is confident that Jesus will complete the work he began when he rescued them.

‘I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ 1Phil 1:6 (NIV).

Once we become a Christian the process of change begins, this process is called sanctification.  During this journey with Jesus he teaches us through the power of the Holy Spirit of who He is and the more time we spend with him the more we take on his likeness.

Quite often we don’t trust this process and we try to step in to speed it up, instead we just slow it down.

I have seen this time and time again with the sin of overeating.  Each time I make a breakthrough I think yes this is it all I have to do is follow the diet plan better and then I will start losing weight which will solve all my sinful issues.  In hindsight I tried to perfect myself by bypassing Jesus’ influence and guidance.  I was trying to make myself more acceptable, to become clean so that Jesus doesn’t get angry or judge me unclean.

Jesus knows me much better than I know myself and it is with the state of my heart that Jesus wants to deal with, it is with anger, bitterness, jealousy etc these are the issues that Jesus has spent the last 32 years helping me with.

However, I still overeat, I still eat too much on occasions. Does this mean that I am still trapped in my overeating, does it mean that Jesus is waiting for me to get it right before I can be completely free from the sin of overeating?

No because it is Jesus that is perfecting me not by my own efforts, even in my moments of sin he teaches me, even in my sinful attitudes he demonstrates his love for me.  The wonderful liberating truth of Christ is that our sin isn’t big enough to destroy his mercy.

The darkness of sin can never have any impact on the light of Jesus, Jesus has defeated sin and its eternal damnation therefore when we sin as a follower of Jesus it provides us with an opportunity to be reminded of our need of staying close to Him, our need to learn from him and a reminder of the extent of his mercy and love towards his disciples.

Jesus loves us so much that he doesn’t just call us to him he also enables us to continually share the journey with him.

The bible is filled with sinners and not one of them were worthy of rescue but because of their trust in God’s power to rescue and change then they were considered faithful (Hebrews 11).

We are faithful because we are willing to follow Jesus not because we are capable of being faithful.

Jesus knows who we are and still loves us, his forgiveness covers all sins past, present and future this is the mystery and wonder of his amazing grace.

So be warned, there is nothing we can do to keep ourselves from falling into sin except to simply stay close to the Saviour who will shine his light into all the dark places of our hearts so that we can be transformed into his likeness.

 

 

 

Getting away with it!

As with any good Father, God wants us to learn from our sinful behaviour.  He isn’t a cruel God seeking retribution, he wants his children to learn and grow into his likeness, this is the redemption that man requires.

Hebrews 12:11 tells us ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’. (NIV). God’s good purposes are always worked out in all he does, God desires to restore his children to himself so that we can become heirs of his kingdom and in this he wants his children to become a reflection of who He is.

However, as children we not only fail to understand the consequences of our sin, we also have a desire to cover it over.  We see this with our own children if we confront them or catch them in the act it is their instinct to deny it or pass the blame elsewhere.

God’s solution is for us to turn to him and confess our sin and he in turn promises to forgive us but when we try and cover over our own sin we agree with the accuser who says God hates not only our sin but us too.

No-one likes owning up to something they have done, in fact our immediate reaction is self-protection and to come up with some imaginative way of getting away with it.

The trouble with sin is that we don’t want to face up to it because we are convinced that God will reject us or punish us.  In Genesis 3 we saw Adam and Eve hide away from God after they had deliberately chosen to disobey him.  Even though we consider ourselves far more sophisticated and more learned than those early people, mankind hasn’t really changed over the thousands of years.

Instead of running away we need  to run back to the Father because he is waiting with open arms.

Read Luke 15:11-31 This is the picture of true repentance.

In our sinful state we cannot repent, we will continually be deceived because our hearts are naturally sinful.  The bible tells us that our hearts are bent on not only deceiving others it has the power to deceive ourselves.

There is no greater place than the sin of overeating, do we come face to face with this fact.

How many of us want to eat what we want regardless of how many calories it has in and hope that the scales don’t reflect the over indulgence?  We blame the scales for not working or it’s the wrong time of day or any number of excuses except the fact that we ate too much.

Lies, blame and running away is how people have always dealt with sin.  The devil encourages us to do this too, just as in the Garden of Eden the serpent encouraged Adam and Eve to turn away from God’s good purposes for them; Satan entices us to turn to food for our emotional satisfaction or emotional stability.

Food was never designed to provide a relationship, food does not have the ability to subdue our sinful impulses it only serves to increase our appetite for sin because we are addicted to the food.  This is because we are trying to demand a relational response from food.  Food was designed to provide us with the nutrition our bodies need to grow and be healthy.  We choose to abuse and misuse food, we demand that food provides us with emotional stability when we know this isn’t possible.

Why is sin so tempting?  Why do we find it hard to turn away from temptation?

John 3:19 tells us that ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’.(NIV)

Because we’re instinctively sinful, this is where we feel at home.  It takes so much more effort to always make good choices, to always follow the diet plan, or learn new healthy choices but in our sinful state these good things become rules to follow which sets us up to fail at the first hurdle.

Following rules to achieve what only God himself can achieve is called legalism and in our sinful state we use diet plans as a form of legalism, as a means to control our actions and this is why they continually fail.

But we are bombarded with adverts and testimonies of how wonderful the diet is or we see before and after photos of body transformations that draw us further into the diet plan.  ‘See it does work’ we scream at the TV, ‘so why doesn’t it work for me, what is wrong with me’?

First, we need to recognise and admit that we are addicted to food.  Food has become our everything.  This is what makes us different, for those of us addicted to food diets won’t work long term because it doesn’t have the power to break the relationship it only serves to draw us further in.

However there is a positive aspect to our constant failure it provides us with the opportunity for us to learn something new.  This moment of failure teaches us again that we need to do something else because this just isn’t working, it also shows us where our hearts truly are.  When we fail to stick to the plan we see a pattern emerge; we hide the failure by diverting the attention onto others through blame or we choose to lie.

Lies are a means to justify our behaviour, the trademark of the deceiver Satan.

As someone trying to lose weight the amount of times I’ve convinced myself that one won’t hurt, everyone else is eating them or I’ll make up for it tomorrow! At the same time knowing that my soul purpose is to eat the leftovers or finish off the whole cake. Instead of running away from the responsibility of what we are doing we need to face up to our mistakes, recognise that diets don’t have the power to change our behaviours and we are in need of rescue from our own sinful choices.

We cannot change on our own, we cannot just make the effort to change or dig into our willpower because our sinful hearts actually deceive us.  We can be tempted by our own hearts, many of us are all too familiar with our ability to self-sabotage. Or we convince ourselves that we don’t need to lose weight after all God loves me as I am or overeating too many calories makes me happy which is better for everyone else.  The bible gives us  an alternative perspective:

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ‘The heart is more deceitful than all else.  And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the Lord search the heart, I test the mind.  Even to give to each man according to his ways.  According to the results of his deeds’.

God alone understands our hearts, he alone knows what we are capable but it is God alone that provides us with the solution.

God doesn’t need us to turn to diet plans or food guru’s to tell us what is right or wrong to eat, he wants us to turn to him in trust and obedience.  God’s plan and purposes for us are far greater than anything we can imagine; his plans go way beyond our desire or need to lose weight.  The problem isn’t with the food we eat, it is with our heart attitude, our ultimate desire to get what we want when we want it rather than seek God as to his plans and purposes for us.

The core problem is one with the soul, the soul will follow what the heart desires.  Our souls were created only to find satisfaction from the Father, our souls continue to look for the light and will continue to be dissatisfied until the day of redemption.

As someone addicted to food this actually puts us in a really strong position because we know by experience that all the things we put our hope and trust in falls short, it leaves us dissatisfied.  Our bodies are screaming at us to find the source of satisfaction, it is screaming for us to turn to the only one who has the power to restore us completely.  Our soul knows that it can have redemption we’re just not listening.

This is why, when we reach the goal we were set on, there isn’t an everlasting sense of satisfaction, there still seems something that needs to be achieved.  Or when we start to lose weight we are still dissatisfied, there seems to be something missing.  We don’t find the satisfaction we thought we would find, we find the promise of weight loss empty.  We are no happier, our lives still feel a mess, so we turn back to food because that seemed to help last time, at least we were emotionally happy.  Or we find that there still seems something that we need to move towards, so we reach for another goal but that still doesn’t completely fulfil or we convince ourselves that we are now happy but deep down there is still something missing, the problem is we’re not quite sure what that something is.

Our soul desire is found in Christ alone.

Ask God to show you what is driving you, what are your heart desires and are these contradictory to his plans and purposes for your life.  King David puts it this way in Psalm 139: 23-24 ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’. (NIV).

What is the solution to our sin, is there a way to turn away from sin, is there a means in which we can learn from sin and move closer to God.

The bible gives us a resounding Yes!

John 8:12 ’ When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” .(NIV). Just as God provided for the payment of sin for Adam and Eve, Jesus came to earth to make that final payment on our behalf but now it was for all people for all time.

Even though our hearts are deceitful and encourage us to live in the darkness there is hope and that hope is found in Christ alone.

When we accept Jesus as the payment of our sin we are repenting, we are recognising that our lives are empty and in fact we realise that all this time, instead of the high life, we have actually been living in the pit.  Just like the ‘Lost son’ in Luke we have been eating with the pigs instead of living in the glory God provides.

In this moment of repentance God provides us with all we need, once again just like the Lost Son, God clothes us with Christ, He gives us a new identity in Christ by giving us the Holy Spirit, who will guide our every step and give us the certainty that our feet are placed on solid ground.  These gifts are all symbolised in the Lost Son by the cloak, the signet ring and the sandals.

The Holy Spirit is the mark that we belong to God and no-one will be able to separate us from Him.  The Holy Spirit becomes our helper to guide our conscience into making better choices, the Holy Spirit is given to us to give us a choice not to sin. How is this possible?

The bible tells us in James 4:7 that to overcome sin as a follower of Jesus all we have to do is ‘to resist the devil and he will flee from you’.  WOW that sounds great but how does it work in practice.  The key is found in the first half of James 4:7 ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God’.  James is saying if this is who God is and if this is who God says we are then the only solution for every one of us is to submit to God. But our hope doesn’t lie in our ability to submit but our willingness to do it.

So what is the solution to getting away with it, choose to bring your sin into the light of Christ instead of running away; turn to the only one who can rescue you, turn to the only one who has made payment for your sin, turn to the only one who promises to guide you into an everlasting life.

The solution for our soul, the solution for our bodies, the solution for the darkness our sin drags us into, is turning to Christ himself because He alone is our Saviour, He alone is our Counsellor, He alone is our Comforter, He alone made the sacrifice needed to bring us back to the Father.

If we choose to put our trust in Jesus then he will teach us how to submit. This is a far healthier pursuit instead of the pursuit of weight loss because if we submit to God rather than the sinful desires of the heart we will gain both a relationship with God and a healthier body!

The Deceiver

I am sure many of you are wondering when are we going to get around to talking about relevant weight issues as mentioned in the description.  However, it is important for us to set out the principles to consider, these will form the foundation for us to work from and to return to as we share this journey together.

These foundational, but not always straight forward, principles will become clearer as we apply them to our daily situations.

The Deceiver

Satan has one plan and that is to destroy all that God created.  This includes God’s relationships with his children and with one another.  He has one tactic to achieve this, convince God’s children that they can live without Him.  This tactic comes in many guises; you’re not sinful; you can be your own God; you can make up your own rules; no-one can tell you what to do; you are entitled to your freedom; you don’t need anyone, etc., etc.

Satan misrepresents God and his word at every turn.  What God planned for good, Satan attempts to destroy. The greatest ally that Satan has is us and our sinful hearts. Don’t believe me?

Why is it that we don’t trust the God who created us and provide us with all we have?  Why is it that we are more willing to believe the proven deceiver who only has himself as his soul priority?

The bible once again gives us the answer

1 John 1:5-10 Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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, purifies us from all[b] sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us’ (NIV).

Sinful nature

As we saw previously Adam and Eve had a choice not to sin; they chose to believe the lies of the deceiver instead of the truth of the Father.  Because of their decision to sin we have now inherited their sinful fallen nature; our hearts are born corrupt and bent towards sin which means we are born without the choice not to sin.  All our attitudes and behaviour are for the benefit of self, promoted by pride and resulting in damaged relationships. I know the devil is persuading you that this just isn’t true but bear with me.

Jesus alone offers us an alternative

1 John 1:5-10 explains that the only way we can live in the light is to offer our hearts back to God, agreeing with him that we live in darkness and have a desire to walk with him in the light through Jesus Christ.

This seems straightforward however, what we must factor into the equation is Satan, his plan is to ensure we stay separated from God, to convince us that we are fine just as we are.  The work he did in the garden is something he wants to defend; his sole purpose is bent on destroying God’s creation; he will always be a liar and a deceiver he has no capacity to change because this is his identity and character.

Jesus tells us that all those who live in the darkness belong to Satan.  In John 8:42 Jesus is talking to the Jewish leaders who are challenging his authority to preach.

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

This is true for all who refuse to turn their hearts fully over to God.  Jesus tells us that we all have a Father it is either the Our Father in Heaven or the Father of lies.

Satan, might be predictable but is subtle in how he deceives.  He persuades us that God is against us, is trapping us, doesn’t want us to be happy, whatever lie appeals to our prideful nature he will tell the tale and we will happily agree with him.

We see the subtlety of Satan’s lies from Eve’s encounter with him.  He lulls Eve into a seemingly innocent conversation, Eve might have even thought that Satan was interested in knowing more about her relationship with God.  His questioning appears to be a light hearted general conversation but quickly turns into something wicked and before Eve knows it she is trapped into sin.

We see how Satan sugar-coats sin, he makes it appear harmless and inviting, before we know it we have bought into it without having any idea of what the consequences could be.  Even in those times we think we know the consequences, as with Adam and Eve, we are unaware of what the eternal consequences will be.

As someone who has been tempted by the lure of food for much of my life these truths are something that have both worried, challenged and in the end brought me hope.

I have a memory from when I was younger of dropping some sweets in the park when some girls tried taking them from me, I was so upset but too scared of picking them up again even though they had wrappers.  I remember well the feeling of loss and dreamt of those sweets for many days and even weeks later.  This was one of many instances with food where I was anxious because I was separated from it or where I craved a certain treat that I wasn’t allowed.  I vividly remember promising myself that when I became an adult no-one would separate me from my food and I spent many a night fantasying of all the lovely foods I would treat myself to when I was older.

As an adult, I can see how Satan had subtly subdued me into thinking that food was my everything, I was being programmed to depend on food so that I would never depend on God’s provision.

Over the years it has been sweet, sugary foods that I have craved and hungered for.  Foods that have no nutritional content but appeal to my sinful craving heart.  Why do we crave food that results in obesity, why do we feel the need to overeat on foods that cause ill health such as heart disease or diabetes?  Because we believe the lie that we cannot live without them, that life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t have………!

So, where’s the hope, how can we escape this endless trap of entitlement?

Jesus is King over all things

The bible tells us that there is only one who has withstood the devil’s schemes and lies, we are told that there is one who defeated the devil and broke the hold of sin and death in our lives, we are told that only one has condemned Satan to an eternal life of torment and eventually eternal extinction.

In Genesis 3 we see God promising that one would come, in the future, to crush Satan’s head.  Jesus was the one who achieved this on the cross when he paid the debt of our sin, when he willingly gave his life in place of ours. It is at the cross, where Satan thought he had separated the Son from the Father, that he was defeated.

The cross paid for our sin debt once and for all, Jesus went into the darkness of death and in his resurrection proved that death no longer had any power, Jesus alone can and will give us new life, a new birth. This is the power of Christ Jesus, this is the power only the true King has.

The gift is ours to receive

This is the hope we have access too; the very place of sin that the devil tempts us is the very place of rescue, the place that we can offer over to Jesus to redeem us.

I have found this with my weight issues, rather than running away in guilt and shame after another bingeing session, I turn it over to Jesus. I come to Jesus, sorrowful at my weakness to have, once again, given in. I offer over my feelings of shame at the foot of the cross, I ask Jesus to teach me the areas in which I need to change, in the ways I need to change them.

Over the years, I came to recognise that I have no power in or of myself to overcome my eating disorder; I have no control over my inability to make the right choices; I have no control over the temptations the devil brings my way. I always felt powerless to change.

However, my hope lies in the fact that I have given my life over to Jesus, that he alone has the power to guide me through the devils lies.

Jesus enables us to be aware of the devil’s deceptive ways.  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus he teaches us how to overcome, how to move forward in our lives instead of allowing the devil to limit our ability; limit our effectiveness; limit our love.  Without Jesus we have no power, we only have will-power, as Adam and Eve demonstrated, that is no power at all.

Jesus keeps on giving

Jesus redeems us from the power of sin, he has restored us to a right place with God, restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Jesus gives us a new heart, a heart that desires to follow him, he replaces our heart of stone, a heart bent on sinning to a heart seeking transformation.  Jesus has given us our choice back, in Jesus we can say no to the devil and his schemes.

For those of us in Christ, who have accepted the free gift of salvation, Satan can still attempt to turn our hearts away from God however we have the gift of the Holy Spirit that acts as a protection against the darkness re-entering our lives, the Holy Spirit who will teach us how to turn away from the darkness and walk further into the light.  This is a place of hope, that Jesus has overcome the darkness.

In and of ourselves we have no power to overcome the devil and his temptations.  Our hearts are drawn to the darkness, our hearts delight in sin, we get a kick out of gossiping, or we desire what isn’t ours, we are jealous of those who have more, and on it goes, the seemingly never ending cycle of sin.

Jesus is our only hope

There is only one who has the power against sin, the world and the devil. There is only one God who controls all things for the good of those who love him, who has demonstrated that power, who has overcome the darkness, who has provided a way into the light. There is only one who was perfect enough to pay the debt of sin, who is perfect enough so that he can teach us the ways of holiness, who can show us the way to the Father of Heaven, who is our advocate in heaven.

Jesus; is our redeemer, he is our Saviour.

The trouble is we don’t believe we need saving, we believe the devil’s lies that we’re alright, we’re not that bad, there are others worse than us. We believe that we can keep going and eventually we will have proved ourselves. For some of us, we believe the devil’s lie, that God isn’t worth knowing, after all he allows suffering he can’t be that good!

God knew before time began that these would be our reactions, these would be our obstacles to overcome but he also knew that we would be worth it, that he would do everything in his power to protect and provide for his children.

That protection and provision is Christ himself.

There is a warning for us all, if we allow the devil to use our pride to decide our future, by refusing to come into the light of Christ, then we will follow the father of lies to eternal damnation without any hope of redemption.

Now this is the choice we have been given!

The choice is yours!

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