THE CROSS DON'T LAST FOREVER
When I reflect on some of the choices I’ve made in life, the old adage, “Hindsight is 20/20” comes to mind. I had seen myself as a victim for many, many years. In my mind, most of my problems were the result of other people’s doings. But I learned through a process and through my journey with the Lord that most of my problems were a result of my own choices. God allows us the freedom of choice. Without that freedom, we would be nothing more than controlled souls something like robots. We would not be able to truly love God if he forced us to love him. He is blessed by our choosing to love and care about him. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If I forced someone to love me, how fulfilling could that really be? So, with that freedom of choice comes the responsibility to choose wisely and I did not always do that. Along the way, I have come to realize that I am not a victim. I’m anything BUT.
Oftentimes, we get the results that we get in life based on how much we allow Jesus to be Lord over it and Lord over our flesh. For Christians, it’s no secret what the right things to do are in order to get the best results out of life. God does not hide the ball from us. It’s all in the Bible—clear and unambiguous. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 tells us exactly what to do and what not to do if we want good results. Do we need help from the Holy Spirit to do those things? Ummm, yes and A LOT of it. Fortunately for us, if we ask for help, we will get it. One problem is that we feel like our flesh is master over us as if we have no control over what we do. Well, I have often felt that way. I felt like a slave and a prisoner to my own desires and I leaned on my own understanding of how I should treat people, which was mostly based on how people treated me. At times, I’ve responded to people in ways totally contradictory to how Jesus advises me to in the Bible and I didn’t ask for His help. And the most amazing part of all of this is that I was baffled, surprised, and shocked by the results I got in life. Sometimes, I blamed God and was mad at Him because I made wrong choices. I remember at times even questioning His love for me and wondering, “Father, if you love me, how could you have ‘let” me choose this way? Looking back, that even sounds silly. But God heard my heart and understood that what I was really asking is “Why didn’t you protect me?” I needed to be able to trust Him to protect me because at that point in my life I couldn’t trust myself. He was merciful and loving and he helped me along by showing me many of the ways HE HAD protected me and many of the ways he had TRIED to protect me, but because I was disobedient I got results that I didn’t want.
Because I struggled so hard with the concept of hating the sin yet loving the sinner, I often just surrendered to my own pride and excused my vengeful flesh. I just kind of went with hating the sinner. Once again, I was responding contrary to the Lord’s instructions and subconsciously figuring I’d still get a good result. Eventually, I got tired of getting my own results. The Holy Spirit helped me to bottom-line it. Bottom line, live the way Jesus says to live, get His results. Live the way your flesh and your flesh’s coach, Satan, encourage you to live and get those results.
God kept me up early one morning last week with thoughts about how we sometimes put ourselves higher than Jesus—pride and haughtiness. I was just getting up to use the bathroom and God started talking, so I started listening, thinking, and writing. He made it clear that this type of attitude is one of many reasons we struggle with healthy relationships. Caught up in pride, we often end up dealing with one messed up situation after the next until we eventually cry out to God to rescue us. Some of us say (and I remember saying and believing stuff like this was proper), “Ain’t nobody gonna do me like that or treat me like that! I’m not taking that from anybody!” Meanwhile, we have done wrong to people too and people have tolerated stuff from us. Look at all God has tolerated from us and all He has done for us in spite of it. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I look at what we did to the Lord and what He did for us, it is humbling. Surely, I would have been one of the dummies chanting for Jesus to be crucified, but He died for me anyway. He was bruised for my transgressions, not for anything he did. He was mistreated, talked about, and abused, but I say, “Ain’t nobody gonna treat ME like XYZ!” “Ain’t nobody gonna talk to me like that!” That particular attitude is not rooted in humility. It is pride. When we say stuff like that what we are really saying is that we believe ourselves to be greater than the Lord we serve when the Word says no master is greater than his servant. John 13:16 “Jesus took a beating, Jesus was mistreated, Jesus was disrespected to his face, but ‘I’m not Jesus!'’’, we say. “He was God and equipped to take that stuff.” But, remember, Jesus was fully human too. He felt the impact of each way he was abused. Surely, IN HIM, we often have the benefit of being treated well, but then there are those times that we must suffer as He suffered, be talked about like He was talked about, be mistreated like He was mistreated. I’m not advocating for anyone to allow abuse. I am just saying that our ATTITUDE about NOT accepting abuse should be rooted in who we are IN CHRIST, not in who we are in the flesh.
I now understand how I am supposed to treat people regardless of how they treat me and, I also know what I will not accept anymore from anyone. I have embraced this humility BECAUSE I have suffered with Christ. Not only did I mistreat others, but I was mistreated. I’ve gossiped about people and somehow got mad when I was gossiped about. Go figure. But after learning to identify with Christ through the pain of my own life experiences, I've come to care A LOT about how I treat people and I no longer care what anyone has to say about me or how anyone feels about me. I honestly can’t imagine that I ever will care again. This has been a major victory in my life although I don't get it right 100% of the time. I also can’t say that I won’t ever experience hardship in life again, but, if I must, I am certain there will be victory waiting on the other side for me if I go through it right.
HE MADE IT PLAIN
Jesus’ Sermon on Mount was not confusing, but, to the carnal mind, it is confusing. Jesus said, if your brother slaps you, turn the other cheek( meaning let him slap you on that one too), and, if he sues you and wins your coat, give him your cloak too; if someone forces you to walk one mile, walk two. Jesus said if you know your brother has ought against you, GO TO HIM and be reconciled. Raise your hand if you do this! How many of us keep our mouths shut when our brother or sister in Christ has beef with us? We may pray, which is good. But sometimes we just tell another brother or sister about the situation, or even worse, we go to the brother or sister who has ought with us and tell them off because THEY were in the wrong! We don’t do things the way the Lord says we should yet we get surprised by the results our choices yield in our lives. Loneliness and frustration can often stem from how we’ve handled situations and people.
WHAT TO DO
My advice is for all of us to get into our prayer closets or (special prayer place) and sit down and let the Holy Spirit strip us of our pride, daily. Let the Lord help us with our fears by spending time with Him. We can set proper boundaries and even cut wicked people out of our lives without being prideful or haughty AND without being continuously subjected to the abuses of mankind. Be clear, we will suffer at the hands of humans for a season, just not forever. Remember, Jesus didn’t hang and suffer the cross FOREVER. He rose—Victoriously, soon after. I want to do what Jesus did and in the way He did it. His life and ways are my road map. I’m committed to following that and not my own mind. My own mind didn’t get me anything good. Now, it is in HIM that I live and move and have my being, so I’m no longer on that “everybody better treat me right” stuff because guess what—everyone isn’t going to treat me right because they didn’t treat Jesus right. But that’s not going to stop me from treating them right.
You see, once I’ve endured that cross, and the victory is here, I’ve gained the humility and power in that area of my life that God intended for me to have. Now, I get to say, “Nahhh, you don’t get to do that over here anymore. I’ve obtained the lesson and the blessing from that experience, so that part is over now.” I get to say that with authentic humility. It is BECAUSE I allowed the Lord to use the pain of my circumstances to circumcise my flesh that I can love and honor those who’ve hurt me and harmed me. It’s because of that that I can love my enemies and treat them well.
Some people have an awareness of their value early on in life. They have treated others and themselves accordingly. I was not one of those people. It took for me to be treated poorly and for me to respond poorly over and over again for me to get to the hurtful place that brought me to the cross. This testimony won’t resonate with everyone, but prayerfully, it will touch someone.
Sometimes, we try to claim the victory of the cross in areas of our lives without going through the painful experience of the cross in that area—without taking that thing to the cross and allowing Jesus to break our flesh free from any anger, pride, or vengeance connected to the offense or offenders that brought us to that place of suffering— without allowing Jesus to break our flesh free from pride, unforgiveness, and even hatred— without coming to the place of complete surrender to Christ. We want to claim the prizes on the other side of the cross without going through the process OF the cross. We like to boast about how “Jesus did it all!” for us and He surely did do it, but WE still have to live this life. He didn’t do that FOR us, but He secured our ability to live this life out IN Him, which includes the pain and the victory.
As long as I stayed in denial and in fear of facing emotional pain, I responded to it with anger, pride, and vengeance. Fear often manifests in those ways. It wasn’t until I understood that the Lord is and has been with me through every life situation that I have been able to embrace the pain associated with life experiences and keep it moving. I respond to difficult situations more often now with humility, love, and surrender. The truth is no one WANTS to suffer, but pain will not kill us. It just won't. We run from it, but we don’t have to and we should not. We're better for it. The enemy knows we’re afraid of pain and he holds it over us to keep us entangled in junk. His bully tactics are so annoying once you're on to him. Be courageous. No Christian can get past pain in this life, but the good news is that God will not put any more on us than we can bear AND The Cross Don’t Last Forever!