22/06/2017 - Philippians 2:13 'For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.' (NLT)
If you love someone, you are desperate for them to make good choices. We sometimes say that we are ‘willing someone to make the right decision’. This verse tells us that God, who lives in each Christian, is doing just that – and more. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is strong enough to break the grip on our souls of our inherent selfishness so that we are free to make genuinely loving, God-centred choices. We have the desire and power – but he doesn’t make the choice for us – which is just as well otherwise we would be deprived of vital strengthening exercises. Does an athlete train by asking someone else to do the running for him?
We can have the notion that we can take the ‘easy’ decisions – a little improvement here, some fine tuning there. That doesn’t change anything. This isn’t about mellowing with the years but about deep cuts to the negative emotional patterns that have shaped and defined us for as long as we can remember. That involves drastic, dramatic choices to get the other side of guilt, to walk away from it, to see ourselves as God sees us, to set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us (1 John 3:19-20). That requires courage, a good attitude, real moral fibre.
There are times when troubled emotions help us trace back to specifics that we need to look at, or where repeating patterns cause us to pause and discover where those patterns came from. Once we see and understand then we are free to make informed choices. Then only you can choose to set yourself free from that guilt, or anxiety or disproportionate sense of responsibility or fear of failure or inadequacy. Only you can break the mould of years of narrow, self-centred or self-absorbed thinking. Don’t cry out to God with, ‘Lord, change me’ because he will reply, ‘You change yourself.’ He has given you the resources and making the right choices will build character. There is something important to be understood here. Both parts of who we are must be involved in this choosing. If you determine to ‘get rid of guilt’ but that decision is not made by your introvert for your introvert then you will simply increase the conflict between your two temperaments. This isn’t about gritting your teeth and believing – that will give you a migraine. It isn’t about pushing a negative thought away but rather recognising that there is no truth in the negative thought – despite the feeling you might have to the contrary. Just because an emotion is familiar, doesn’t make it right. Just because our emotional responses feel so much part of us doesn’t mean they have to remain so. They can, and must, be broken if our character is going to line up with God’s character. By choosing well we become truly human and thereby reflect the glory of God.
On 23/06/2017 Phil wrote: Just so hard in practice. I've been led into a current situation that is pressing all my emotional buttons to a further extreme. I just seem to be making the same emotional mistakes and patterns. They are less potent now, I know there's been significant progress but it's still the same types of feeling and challenge - when / how does the ability to be free of this to an extent where I can really feel the change deep down happen? The release of the pressure, the real, noticeable shift into a place of peace and freedom. I'm tired of feeling these things but still feel powerless to just make a different choice - no effort to trust more or let go or believe more etc deep down in my introvert seems to have a knock on effect to actually feel different.
On 23/06/2017 Nicky wrote: This Bible Insight reminds me of something that happened to me last week. Yet again (I know what you mean, Phil), I felt something strongly during a conversation with one of my best friends and for the first time (I think) in 16 years of friendship, I hurt her unintentionally. I came away that afternoon feeling pretty devastated and I could feel it was cutting into my happiness and starting to monopolise my thoughts, reflecting a common pattern for me recently: mistake - defensiveness - guilt - regret - self-destruction. After a couple of days of damage (it would have taken me a lot longer before), I realised what was happening and I asked the Lord to help me to stop feeling guilty; I felt guilty because I feel I am a bad person deep down, but it is not the truth. Yes, it'd have been better to have used kinder words with my friend but that mistake didn't mean I was a bad person and the Lord has given us a second chance; we are valued because he died for us and loves us for who we are, not for what we do. It might take a long time, but I'm going to persevere with the Lord as my guide and master.
On 24/06/2017 Phil wrote: Yes but asking the lord to stop you feeling something would provoke the response above as John says - 'you do it'. I guess It's believing there's no guilt because of the Lord and making that shift within. It's this underneath area of doubt, in the Lord, in ourselves and all the rest that is the hard thing to shift. Re; my comment last night, it was on the train back from work after a challenging week. That transition when I'm riding pretty high in my extroverts - driving things at work but knowing I'm about to enter a very different environment. I must say after only a few mins of feeling pretty depressed / deflated, it turned around and I was able to enjoy the evening. Going out for a meal probably helped although I've done that before and not enjoyed the meal. So that's progress. Good. I guess, I'm just conscious these classic negative feelings are still prevalent / too much there and after nearly 10 years of walking this walk I'm tired of them.
On 24/06/2017 Nicky wrote: Yes, I understand, Phil. It's not easy to stop these "patterns of a life time" but, as you say, the progress we're making is real. I believe this progress is wonderful and the Lord is in there with us, encouraging and loving us all the way, even in the darkest moments.
On 24/06/2017 Andrew wrote: I'm sure I'm not alone in being struck by John's comment that if we ask God to change us, the reply comes back "you change yourself". I think there are two different ways in which you can ask God to change you. It's true that often when we say "God change me" it can be a way of spiritualising the fact we don't really want to do the work in facing up to it ourselves; I think that is what John is taking aim at. But if we recognise that it is going to involve us properly facing up to it and making good choices, and are asking God to give us wisdom and empower us in that, it can be a good prayer.
On 25/06/2017 Cathy wrote: Thank you Phil and Nicky, it sounds like you are making more progress than you imagine. I just wanted to mention something that has meant a lot to me over the past week or so, bearing in mind that I can relate to the ongoing to be free from nagging feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. It is the fact that, yes, our old nature has actually been crucified in God’s sight, in fact he actually did the crucifying and resurrecting of us in Christ. Romans 6: 5, 6 '.... for we know that our old self was crucified with him, so that ....' We have to make the choices to live in the benefit of our renewed nature, but in God’s economy, the deed is done; we have to align ourselves with what has already happened in the heavenlies. And, as John mentioned, what father or friend doesn’t earnestly desire and encourage us to make the right choices. On 27/06/2017 Pearl wrote: I agree with you Andrew. And I like how you put it, if we are willing to properly face it rather than "magically" expect God to do it because we don't want to put in the work we can see true repentance or change. I also like what John said, just because the emotion is familiar, doesn't make it right. I think I'm in line when I mention this but I was reading Psalms 139:23-24, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting..' and the commentary I was reading said this is a dangerous prayer. It is dangerous not because in God searching me He might find some nasty stuff and be shocked, but instead what He might lovingly show us what's already within and shows us might be hard to face and we'd rather hide our faces against it and hence, further accelerate in our extrovert. So I'm changing how I see this prayer, instead of shying away from it, prayer it with grit, knowing that God will show me those things in my introvert, that same place I keep failing. And, instead of running, know that He is going to support me through it and it's for my benefit and it doesn't change my value but rather it sets me free to live confidently and free indeed. Hope it makes sense.
On 30/06/2017 John wrote: Thank you for these helpful contributions. As you have rightly picked up, my emphasis was on the fact that we have a part to play in this process. That might appear terribly obvious but I wonder if we can have a spirituality that feels that somehow 'God should do it all' (anything less is unspiritual) whereas our verse makes it clear that God provides even the desire as well as the power - but we never read that God will do the decision-making for us. That should give us an enormous respect for God and a sense of the value he has given us in entrusting to us such power of choice. That is a healthy basis for a good relationship.
On 3/07/2017 Julie wrote: Listening to John's talk on 'Decisions' on Sunday and reading the teaching and comments above reminded me of an incident on holiday recently which illustrates the principles. I was enjoying the sunshine in Majorca when I received a text message from someone I care about telling me of an unwise choice they'd made. It triggered concern but also a range of unhelpful, long-standing emotional patterns, including guilt and self-doubt. I knew that my feelings were not telling me the truth, as I have talked through and settled their root causes, but I realised that I had to make a choice. I could let the feelings take hold and potentially spoil the rest of my holiday - or I could choose to believe the truth. That choice isn't as easy as it sounds because the feelings can be very strong but the determination to continue to live in the peace and freedom of God's truth is growing stronger and provided the motivation to choose to change those old emotional patterns and I was able to enjoy the rest of my holiday.
On 6/07/2017 Merle wrote: Thoughts on the battle within - what do you do with conflicting thoughts? A friend and I decided we had had enough of being Melancholics. When we discussed it, the reason was not being able to overcome the backwards and forwards of our inner discussion. I shared with her concerning my solution in the light of the Lord remaining silent before his accusers at his trial. I know that the Lord was able to be forthright, understanding, kind - all the qualities we all want to have but I also appreciate that he had a wisdom that far excels ours. I called it spiritual wisdom, i.e. the ability, because we walk closely with him, to know when to share our thoughts or the effect of other people's attitudes and words toward us. It is possible to make good decisions about those inner discussions and when to speak and when to remain silent.