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John 12:40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
Have you ever felt stuck, where you know you are spiritually lifeless, discouraged, and feel like you just can’t hit the mark? This can be one of the most frustrating, depressing and fearful places to find ourselves in, and usually we think we are the only one that feel this way.
The truth is, I don’t know one “honest” guy that hasn’t been there at one time or another. The circumstances of life, cycles of sin, past hurts/wounds, fear of failure/rejection, shame and crisis of identity are some of the barriers that once blinded me and hardened my heart. Truth is, sometimes they try to creep back into my life, even today.
Recognizing and removing barriers to freedom in Christ is one of the most challenging endeavors in our spiritual journey. For me, the journey to freedom and wholeness in Christ started at the gateway of healing. But hold on guys…..recognizing this conceptually, is one thing, and committing to walking it out is something completely different. For is to commit, the process can’t begin until we release the strangle hold on our independence (doing what we want to do) and fully surrendeingr to God (depending on God and NOTHING else).
Most of us have heard that before or at least something similar, right? Therefore, we must ask ourselves, why haven’t we done it, or why did we open the gate (start the process) only to shut it once again? When I really looked beneath the surface of my life, I could see that the roots of fear and pain were what polarized me and kept me stuck. Like a horse tied to a training walker, I had been there so long I had dug a ditch, and was held bound by the tether of fear and not wanting to avoid pain.
Here are four key things that helped me commit to the process, open the gate to healing, and stay on the journey to freedom in Christ.
Self-Awareness: Recognize and owning what you need to change about you. Why is it so easy to see truth in someone else, but so difficult to see it in ourselves? The Word of God uses imagery that describes that perfectly in Matthew 7:3-5:
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,[b] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Years ago, I was so blinded to the depth of my own deficiencies, that I had my co-workers, friends, my wife & kids fill out an anonymous 360-degree review about what they saw in me. If you are interested in seeing the truth about yourself using a tool like this, contact me at email@example.com.
Become a Truth Seeker: John 8:32
“That you may know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Now that you are aware of what needs to be changed, it is time to commit to be discipled. We just can’t do it on your own guys. Ask the Lord who you know that has a transformed life and could be trusted to disciple you.
Invite Others into Your Life: 1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
This journey doesn’t start and end by just asking someone to disciple you. Understanding that we need the body of Christ in our life is very important. Who have you shared your life story with? Does the thought of vulnerability seem foreign or awkward? You aren’t alone if it does, but that is not what the Lord purposed community in Christ to be. Reach out to the brothers in Christ who you see are already walking in relationship with one another.
Removing Shame and Fear: Don’t Hide – Eph 5:14
Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,
“Awake, O sleeper,
rise up from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
Becoming fully known and confessing the cycles of sin that have held us bound is paramount for healing and staying on the road to freedom and wholeness in Christ. This may seem like the scariest thing you could ever do, but you really won’t ever get free until you do. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins one to another so that you might be healed.”
Pray this prayer with me. Lord, open the eyes of my heart to reveal any barriers that have kept me from walking in freedom and wholeness with You. I don’t want to be blinded and unaware of your purpose for healing in my life. I freely release everything that I have held onto, known or unknown that has kept me in control of my life, and I fully surrender my life to you. Have your way with me Father…..in Jesus Name. Amen.
Acts 12:1-10 tells the story of Peter, one of the disciples, being thrown in prison by King Herod. He was scheduled to be killed the next day but the church was in prayer for him. During the night an angel of the Lord came to him and told him to rise from his sleep and when he did, verse7 says that his chains fell off him. Even though he was free of the chains he was still in prison. Verse 10, tells us there were three gates he had to go through before he was totally free. How many of us men today knows that our chains have fallen off because we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior but feel like at times that we are still in prison. Maybe we haven’t gone through the three gates. If I may be a little free with the scriptures I would like to share what the three gates might represent:
#1) Receiving Forgiveness
#2) Extending Forgiveness
#3) Asking for Forgiveness
#1: Receiving Forgiveness
Because of the life we men have led before coming to Jesus we can’t believe we are truly forgiven. We spend our new life in quilt over our past life therefore never enjoying the freedom we have been given. But it’s not about what we did; it’s about what He did. Remember forgiveness is a gift not something we earn.
#2: Extending Forgiveness :
Many of us find it hard to forgive others for the things that were done to us that hurt and may have even led to many of our own behaviors. But extending forgiveness to those who wronged us is for our benefit, not theirs. It seems when we don’t forgive others we stay lock in to our own hurts. Just remember it’s Christ in us that enable us to forgive.
#3: Asking for Forgiveness:
The story of the prodigal son is a great example of how to ask for forgiveness. First he came to himself, verse 17. Second he came with a humble spirit, verses 18 & 19. Third he admitted he had sinned against both God and his father, verse 21. The son knew God would forgive him, but he didn’t know what his father would do. We can’t control how the one we hurt will respond to our seeking their forgiveness for that is the work of the Holy Spirit in them. We can only do our part and that’s asking for forgiveness.
Just as a reminder the gates Peter walked through were physical and once through he didn’t have to contend with them again. But ours are spiritual and they can move. So we will have to face them many times. But as we, with the Holy Spirit directing us, learn how to navigate each gate when we find ourselves facing them again, I believe then we will truly understand what Jesus meant when He said in John 8:36 “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”.
Jack H. Catlett
"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
There are over 1,500 IF statements in the Bible. We first must do our part before we come to God expecting Him to do His part! We all want God to forgive our sin and heal our land (God please bless America again!), but are we doing what He's instructed us to do before He will do that?
"if my people, who are called by my name".
We are called Christians because we are trying to be like Christ. God instructed His church to be the ones to follow His directions.
"will humble themselves"
We are a very proud people, and for men pride is even a bigger problem (I believe) than it is for women. We are raised to the big men, strong men, be the provider, be all you can be. When we are those things it's very easy to forget God blessed us with those abilities and put us in the right place for His blessings to be poured out on us. Prov 16:18 says "pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall".
In the words of MC Hammer "we've got to pray just to make it today." He knows what we need even before we ask, but we must ask. You can't have a relationship with someone who never talks to you, but many times we try to have just such a relationship with the lover of our souls.
"and seek my face"
We have to spend time in His presence seeking His face (relationship), not His hands (provision). That's where we see His heart and He reveals our heart to us.
"and turn from their wicked ways"
Everybody these days seem to want to be able to continue in their sin and have everyone accept that sin as "normal". While society may accept your sins as normal God never will. He doesn't accept our excuses. He wants us clean and pure. Will we always be perfect 100% of the time? Absolutely not, but He is faithful and forgiving.
"THEN I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
After we do our part THEN He will do His part, and His part is awesome! It's what we've been praying and believing for.
- Alan Lister
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Even though I grew up in church, I only knew of 3 of the 5 gifts (people) that Christ gave the Church. Pastors were the main guy at the church and they did most of the talking. Teachers were very much like pastors, they just talked more quietly. Evangelists were also like pastors, except they travelled a lot, were louder than pastors and teachers, and usually had good hair.
Hopefully, we can all come to a better understanding of the five ministry gifts that Christ gave us than I had. After all, they’re supposed to equip us to do his work. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
In my limited understanding, I didn’t even know apostles and prophets still existed, much less what their role was. I thought they only existed during Bible times. But read the last verse: 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. I have not yet reached what this verse describes and I’m surely part of “we all” so this must be continuing. This is not the place to try to explain it all in detail, but I can recommend a good book. It’s called Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, I know the author and I think he’s trustworthy 😉. I hope you read it and enjoy.
John 14:10 Don't you believe that the Father is living in Me and that I am living in the Father?
Even My words are not My own but come from My Father, for He lives in Me and performs His
miracles of power through Me.[TPT]
Jesus gives us this incredible lesson in humility and submission in this one verse.
Read verses 1-14. Jesus is instructing His sons with words of comfort and truth. He is describing
who the Father is, who He is, and who we are to be through faith in Him. Jesus tells His sons
that they too will be able to do the same mighty miracles that He did and even greater.
Jesus gives the ultimate lessons by speaking the gospel followed by the miraculous.
1 Why do you think we are not able to walk in His path?
2 How does the combination of the Word and the miraculous work?
3 What must we do to become a fully functioning follower of Christ?
Father I asked that You touch each of us with revelation and wisdom as we consider Your ways.
For His Kingdom,
One important way to witness my faith is to keep my word. I came across a scripture a few years ago that really sounded strange at first; “…A righteous man swears to his own hurt and changes not.” Ps 15:4. When the Bible talks about swearing to my own hurt and not changing, it's referring to being a man of my word. If I make a promise – I must keep it - even if it takes great effort or it hurts me. God places a very high priority on me being a man of my word. Scripture makes reference several times to cheap talk. It is plain that my “Yes” should mean yes and my “No” should mean no. Adding words like, “Trust me”, “I guarantee”, etc. should not be needed. Some of these come out of habit, but over time, when people learn to trust what I say without the qualifiers, I will become known as a man of my word.
To follow up on that, several years ago I did something to hurt my wife. My quick response was, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” She turned around and walked off. I knew she had not forgiven me and I couldn’t understand why. I tried, unsuccessfully to place the burden on her, that as a Christian, it was her duty to forgive me. Later that evening I went to bed and picked up a book that I had started a few days before. The title of the book was “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Steven Covey. I flipped open the book at random, still smarting from my wife’s rebuff, and the first sentence I read was, “You can’t talk you way out of a situation you have behaved yourself into.” I cried. Dear God, that’s me! I wanted forgiveness but was not ready to change my behavior, and she knew it. Later on I told her that I finally got it. In order to receive her forgiveness, she had to know I was going to follow my words with changed behavior. Her comment upon my confession was, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Fair enough! It took a while, but over time I proved I really had changed.
When we learn that talk really is cheap and that both our words and our behavior matter, we can then become men people can trust and depend on. As the saying goes, “Preach often and sometimes use words.” Christ is the perfect example. We can trust His word completely and our history with Him bears that out.
- Don Hodges