Ron Bennett, in his book Intentional Disciplemaking, recalls the events that surrounded the birth of their first-born son, Bryan. When Bryan was born in May 1975, Ron and his wife Mary thought everything was fine. But one hour after his birth the doctor feared brain damage. Ron and Mary hastily signed the necessary forms and the hospital staff transported Bryan to a neo-natal intensive care unit sixty miles away.
Robbed of God's Design
Ron writes, "Bryan is now twenty-five years old, but he has never walked, never seen the sun and never said, 'Mom' or 'Dad'. Immediately after his birth, Bryan became a prisoner in his own body when severe brain damage created multiple handicaps that permanently stifled his maturation process. Consequently, he has had twenty-five years of living, but only nine months of normal, healthy development.
As his parents we love him deeply – as much as we love our other three children. Yet his inability to mature has robbed him and us, of God's design for life. We have learned to accept Bryan just as he is – to relate to him at his level of understanding. Still, we occasionally wonder what life would be like had Bryan grown up. God must feel a similar sadness and pain when his children get "stuck" at spiritual infancy, childhood or adolescence – when they never reach spiritual adulthood with all the privileges and responsibilities it entails."
Becoming like Jesus is not automatic. The key to letting God re-train your heart is receptivity and cooperation. At first this may sound simple, but it's not. Every follower of Jesus discovers within himself a spirit that fights against God's heart-shaping activity. What is the source of this inner struggle? Jesus calls it the self-life.
Jesus taught that to make progress in following Him, every believer must come to terms with his life and his self – in short, his self-life. The self-life within every believer is anti-God. It has a natural tendency to resist Jesus and in turn, pursue what can be gained from the world. What our self-life wants us to do is totally different than what God wants us to do.
Jesus said, If any man would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:23-25)
These are not pleasant things to discuss, but God wants us to recognize the deeply rooted power of the inner self. It is so much a part of us that it covers over our hearts like a clear, invisible lens. The human eye is scarcely conscious of its own existence. It sees everything in front of it, yet never sees itself. In the same way, we don’t see the self-life itself, but we always see the world through it. The lens of the inner self affects our perception of everything and everyone. It is composed of self-sins. To be more specific, self-sins are: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and others like these.
In his book, Christ in You, A. B. Simpson writes, "It is said that Alexander the Great had a famous horse that nobody could ride. Alexander spent much time trying to break it. In the course of his efforts, he saw that the horse was afraid of his own shadow. Leaping into the saddle one day and turning the horse's head to the sun, he struck his spurs into the flanks of the noble steed and dashed off like lightning. From that moment on, the horse was thoroughly subdued and it never gave its master any trouble again. It could no longer see its own shadow.”
Focus on Jesus
The way God wants us to deal with the self-life is to focus on Jesus. In doing so, we will no longer see the shadow of self. We become like Jesus by looking at Jesus. As we fix our gaze on Jesus, our disposition begins to look like His. God's Spirit will change us by giving us a new heart – the heart of Jesus: a seeking heart, a separated heart, and a surrendered heart. Let's trust that the Spirit of God knows what He is doing and cooperate with His transforming work. By the power of God we can be victorious over our inner struggle.
Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com
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