Monday, February 2, 2009

Spiritual Warfare and Final Choices

The R word. Repentance is a concept with which even Christians at times struggle. It may be difficult for people to admit they're wrong, to agree with God that their attitudes and actions are sin. It's humbling to acknowledge to God-and often others-that your thoughts, words, or behaviors are wrong. Usually we must ask for forgiveness when we repent. And that's difficult, too. But that's the next choice we must make: Will we choose repentance? The enemy will do anything to keep us from this sacred reality. To repent means to "turn around, to change one's mind." Sometimes when we have sinned we do not recognize it; we do not acknowledge it. David realized this when he sinned with Bathsheba and wrote about his response to his adulterous actions in Psalm 38:13 "But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a mute who does not open his mouth." David eventually was confronted with his sin of adultery and the subsequent murder of Bathsheba's husband-by a prophet, no less! (Read about it in 2 Samuel 12:1-9.) Like David, many of us have difficulty admitting we have sinned. We tend to deny, rationalize, or blame others for our sin/problems. We are like hypocrites who chant, "Faults in others I can see, but praise the Lord, there are none in me." The truth is that only repentance brings hope. God actually has a solution to our sin problems. Through a simple act of repentance, we can be set free and set on a new course as if we were starting over! That doesn't mean there may not be consequences of our sin, but it does mean with God there is always a second chance, and a third one, and a hundredth one! Our problem is when we sin we tend to justify ourselves. We choose to minimize the evil we have done. We may plead guilty, but always with a request to say something on our behalf. "Yet, but..." and "I understand, but please let me say..." But we must learn to accept responsibility for our actions, our misdeeds. A friend of mine found this out when he ran a stop sign. A policeman wrote him a ticket. He decided to go to court to defend himself. He told the judge that several cars ahead of him ran the stop sign before he did and they were not pulled over. He urged the judge, saying' "Your Honor, is it fair that the get off Scot-free and I get the ticket?" "Did you roll through the stop sign?" the judge asked. "Yes, I did," my friend was forced to admit. "Guilty," pronounced the judge. My friend paid the fine. In the same way, as long as we justify our sin or blame other, we are listening to Satan's lies. We will only be free of sin when we see it as God sees it, when we recognize and turn from our misdeeds. How do we do this? We must come into His presence and there remain until all our self-serving arguments collapse and we fully repent. Then, and only then, do we come to that single mind, which is God's mind. Ethel's sin was fear. Not fear of God, but fear of people and, to a lesser extent, fear of death. Those fears were prompted by an almost deadly encounter with a crime suspect. She called me one day from the psychological unit of the hospital. Her words came out slowly, deliberately, and full of pain as she related her story. Ethel had joined the police force of a major city after graduating from the police academy, fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. But in her third year as a policewoman, she was confronted with a gun to her head. "My partner and I were called to as crime scene," Ethel told me. "The back door had been pried open. As I approached the door, a man leaped into the doorway with a drawn gun aimed at my head. He pulled the trigger on what was later identified as a .357 Magnum. The primer detonated but the gun did not fire. I fired before he had a second chance. He died in the hospital later that evening." Ethel was alive, clearly by the grace of God, and I thought this should have made her very grateful toward God. It Didn't. Instead, she said, "Since that day I have lost my confidence. I clutch in a crisis. Because of his I have made mistakes-enough to get fired from my job two days ago. Last night I took enough pills to, as my doctor say, kill a large horse; yet I lived. I see now that God has saved my life twice. But I'm confused. Please open your Bible and show me how I can have peace in my heart and become as whole person. The Lord me to discuss "The fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge," from Proverbs 1. taking about how "fear" really means "reverence and trust." Ethel soon admitted that even though she was a believer, she did not reverence or trust the Lord. From there, we talked about how the fear of other people can cause a Christian to stumble in his relationship with God. This made a lot of sense to her. It was then I moved on to what the enemy was doing in her life. I explained that fear is a tormentor, and the enemy was using her twin crisis-nearly being killed and taking a human life-to his own advantage. She nodded her head with understanding and said that for the first time in years, the need to trust God and not fear other people was real to her. Ethel recommitted her life to the Lord. I led her in prayer, and as we prayed, a window of understanding opened in her soul. She asked the Lord to take back the ground the enemy had taken in her soul. In the weeks that followed, we studied the Scriptures together, and Ethel continued to confess sin as the Lord brought it to mind. Ethel began to grow spiritually, and her growth reminded me of the jack-in-the-box I had as a child. When the lid opened, Jack sprang out of the box. In Ethel's situation, when the sin was confessed and the lies were removed, she jumped out of Satan's box and the growth in her life was almost instantaneous. Two years later Ethel said to me, "The Lord has put me in a desk job that I really enjoy. He has given me peace in my heart, and I now know I am a new creation in Christ. The fear is gone, and the Lord has replaced it with faith. That which Satan intended for evil the Lord is working for good." When you trust God with everything in your life, you need fear no one on earth, in heaven, or anywhere else! Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences and local church meetings.

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