Next Steps — Part II
Today, we continue our two-part article on Next Steps, looking at the things that consciously and unconsciously stop us from becoming a Christian and from maturing as a Christian. Last week, we opened the discussion looking at perceptions and how they affect our view of God by examining the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.
Through this parable, we saw how every gift, if used faithfully, will be equally rewarded but also, that some obstacles can significantly affect our actions and decisions for God. These obstacles may not necessarily be external but can be our own assumptions and perceptions, which can prevent us from experiencing the blessings of God. Let's examine some of those.
What are the factors that influence our false assumptions and perceptions?
Our experience causes many of us to internalise wrong beliefs and responses to various situations. These experiences can be associated with:
n Authority figures. One major area of influence in our lives is from those who has authority over us when we were younger. Some of us grew up in an environment where the person in authority was overbearing, demanding, and intolerant of our mistakes. This caused us to feel oppressed and not valued. So when God wants to say positive things to us, we can't hear it. We keep Him at a certain distance, though we want Him close. This is because we equate authority with pain.
n Hurt. In the past, we were hurt by the results that life has thrown at us. So we clam up and shut down and isolate ourselves so we won't feel pain. But, if we do this with people, we will also do it with God. He wants to heal us, but it means confessing to Him, and our confessions are always partial keeping some things hidden. What this results in is that you miss the blessing of God and embrace loneliness instead.
One example of this is trying to get what we want or need outside of God's timing. So we fast and pray, we give 15 per cent offering, read our Bible daily and pray three-hours every day. Sadly, because we don't get our way, we develop resentment towards God. That resentment festers and remains unconfessed and leads to an attitude of bitterness. So God can't talk to you anymore because you believe that He is not interested in your desires.
So what is the solution?
i. Some time in self-assessment. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24 TLB. We need to ask the Lord to reveal areas in our lives that are hidden even from us and be willing to receive what He has to say. As you do this, consider also:
n What God might be saying on the inside. Be sensitive to the fact that God may speak to you on the inside by revealing something to you through the Word or by His Spirit. Listen for it. Be attentive and expect Him to speak.
n What other people are saying or have said. Constantly repeated observations may be a sign that you have a blind spot. Often, other people will tell you things about yourself that are hard to hear. God is not trying to depress you but before the healing comes the revelation of that which is to be healed.
ii. Renewing your mind. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Rom 12:2. Let the inward change produce the outward. When this becomes a reality your attitude to live and your responsiveness and reception to God improves. Significant investment in reading and applying the word to our lives.
Sometimes the reprogramming has to do with our concept of ourselves, and we have to get into the habit of saying about ourselves what the Word says.
I am Accepted
John 1 verse 12: I am a child of God.
Ephesians 1 verse 5: I am adopted by God.
Colossians 1 verse 4: I am redeemed and forgiven.
Colossians 2 verse 10: I am complete in Christ.
I am Secure
Romans 8 verses 1-2: I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8 verse 28: All things work for good in my life.
I am Significant
Ephesians 2 verse 10: I am God's workmanship.
Ephesians 3 verse 2: I can approach God freely and confidently.
We have to get ourselves involved with groups of people that can encourage us in the Word and the things of God. Where the fire of God burns low, when Christians get together that changes, gifts are stirred alive, love more and more begins to show, and the operation of the Holy Spirit begins to heal. So, the next steps are yours.