God has a recovery plan for us after He cuts open our hearts with the two-edged sword of His word. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4;12). God has “exegeted” our hearts; one edge of His sword, the law, cut us open and exposed the hidden sin that is there, and the other edge, the gospel, cuts that sin away. Miraculously, after years of limitations and bondage because of our heart sickness, there are now no limits; we are completely free from those previous restrictions, free to be exactly who God made us to be.
However, the Doctor has prescribed a daily heart medication for us to take that will aid in our recovery and guard against regressing back to our previous condition. It is nothing more than remembering every day what happened at the cross, i.e., He put away sin forever (Colossians 2:14. Hebrews 9:26), along with the guilt and shame that accompanied it. Therefore, I am fully and forever forgiven!
His attitude toward me is not affected by my behavior whatsoever. I can now live my life spontaneously and freely, knowing He adores me, every minute of every day. If symptoms of my previous condition recur, I know I have forgotten to take my medicine! As Peter says, “For he who lacks these things (the fruit of the Spirit) . . . has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” I have forgotten to remember.
As I faithfully take my daily medication—remembering the gospel—the Holy Spirit who lives within me is gradually renewing my mind to begin to think as God thinks—to think His thoughts after Him—a totally different way than I thought before my heart surgery. I am noticing that I am naturally and unconsciously beginning to “think in opposites,” just as God does. For example:
- Only as I humble myself as a servant will I be exalted as a leader (Matthew 23:11, 12).
- If I want to save my life, I must lose it (Luke 9:24).
- Life only comes out of death (John 12:24).
- If I want to be righteous, I must be a sinner (Romans 10:3).
- Trying to be obedient to the law of God inevitably makes me sin more (Romans 7:8).
- If I want to be free from a besetting sin, I embrace that sin and repent (1 John1:6 – 2:1).
These verses fly in the face of our natural way of thinking. We think in terms of “cause and effect”—the more we attempt to achieve the desired result (the cause), the more success we will have (the effect). This is man’s natural, intuitive way of thinking. If I want positive results in my Christian life, I have to focus on and then work at achieving those results. The more diligent I am in my Christian pursuits, the more progress I will make in my Christian life.
However, although that is the way I have always thought, the above verses imply that that is not God’s way of thinking at all. It is diametrically opposed to God’s way. How so?
These verses tell me that the more I focus on the opposite of the desired result in my relationships with God and with others, the more the desired result appears! This way of thinking renders my old way of thinking obsolete. It attacks my latent religious aspirations, the unseen spiritual hypocrisy of the old Robert Andrews, that ambitious spiritual athlete who, for 50 years, has been out to do his very best to make God’s first team by performing the Christian disciplines to the very best of my ability.
However, after my open-heart surgery, my way of thinking is over as God takes the curtain from my eyes and shows me who I really am and the futility of all my efforts to be a starter (even the quarterback!) on God’s varsity. Then I begin to learn to view life in a whole new way, through the lens of the cross. This is what Jesus means by taking up our cross daily and following Him—following Him in a whole new way to think!
It is not as though we first must experience death and get it over with so we can then have life and leave that ugly, painful, negative death behind us. Although death and life are sequential (it is true that death always precedes life) it is not as though we can ever finish with death so we can then have abundant life with no problems forever after.
The reality is that both death and life are always a continuous, daily experience. As I learn to first embrace the negative, my sin and the cross, I learn that in the very midst of that death, death is no longer negative, but now somehow positive—it is life; in the very midst of sorrow, sorrow is no longer sorrow but joy; in the very midst of losing, losing is no longer losing but winning. Hallelujah!
Next week I want to expose five common misconceptions that earnest, diligent Christians have that are classic examples of man’s way of thinking instead of God’s. These misconceptions keep their brows furrowed and keep them from experiencing the love, joy, and peace that is their birthright. I can’t wait to send it out!