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The Road Map to Personal Change
By Mary Craig
Many today have a deep longing for a detailed road map to personal change. Many desire clear-cut instructions in how to effect profound change in their spiritual condition, a manual for daily religious practices that will bring an understanding of the ultimate nature of oneself and the world in which we live. Young people express the need for structure, a need which has caused thousands to turn to spiritual authority figures like the Dalai Lama and other gurus of the spiritual domain.
So why are so many still celebrating Christmas when they are launching into belief systems that adhere to reincarnation, enlightened selfhood, and ultimate reality being attained, not through a relationship with a Father God through His Son Jesus Christ, but through a radical transformation of the notion of the "self?" While many meditate to encounter essential truths and to be rooted in something beyond themselves, what are they seeking…essentially?
Jesus said to His disciples, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Personal change in their lives would come, Jesus said, as they followed Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But why follow Jesus Christ and not the Buddha’s eight-fold path to freedom from suffering or Good Housekeeping’s "My Problem and How I Solved It?" What makes the Incarnation an event to be celebrated? Could Jesus be the road map to personal change that you are looking for this Christmas?
I understand the longing to find some way to transcend suffering, to touch essential truths, to find meaning and purpose in a seemingly senseless cosmos of misery and death. And now, especially, as the restraining grace of the Holy Spirit and the Law of God is being removed, mocked, rejected, I know how dark can be the abyss of the soul in search of its origins.
For years I made sacrifices in the service of self; yes, of sin; and yes, in the service of satan and his dominion, the world. I placed my treasures, my loves, my sacred possessions on the altars of other gods, those gods I preferred to deny as being "my" gods or idolatry. Pagans worshipped idols, not technocrats. After all, I live in America. We are cultured, rational, intellects, civilized, on the internet.
Only by the Spirit’s granting the grace of repentance did I perceive the graven images, the homage, the tributes, the attachments, the trophies of my worship and service in the name of the no-gods. Labor. Striving. Discipline. Restraint. Priorities. Time Management. Pressing toward the goal to win the prize, attain the victory, achieve the position. The no-gods award such sacrificial service with public acclaim, degrees, medals, trophies, money, fame. The no-gods reward our wild worship and dedication tangibly and presently. The no-gods offer you rituals, rites, lists, paths, steps, religion.
Let your flesh align with the elemental things of the world. Feel the power of the earth, the wind, the fire, the air. Worship and serve the creation, for the temporal satisfies the senses. Sacrifice in the service of self-satisfaction. Lose yourself in some state of cosmic consciousness, oneness with the creation. Enter the reality of true manhood, true womanhood. So say the no-gods.
But what is truly satisfying? What really is the road map to personal change? And why is it that the no-gods never truly satisfy, but rather, lead us to the sink-holes of satan? Oh, for the moment the pleasure comes; but the first is the best, and the addictions never recapture that rapturous, primal ecstasy.
At His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16.11). God is most pleased when we are satisfied with Him alone. Sacrifice in the service of God yields satisfaction.
Why do so many people desire to connect to the inner self and contemplate the cosmos? Why even do many Christians condemn what John Piper calls the "white-hot worship" of God? Well, it is dangerous to he world, deadly to sin and self, victorious over satan and his minions.
Sacrifice. We do it all the time in the service of the gods. We do it for some sort of satisfaction. We do it because we think the road map to personal change requires it. But we will not sacrifice in the service of God in order that we might be satisfied with Him alone until we comprehend, by God’s grace, sacrifice in things eternal.
In talking about the road map to personal change, we are talking about spiritual realities, eternal verities, concepts which call us to stretch beyond the veil of the temporal into the Holy of Holies.
Sacrifice. The Hebrew word, zabach, means to slay, slaughter, or sacrifice. In English the word "sacrifice" suggest merely an inconvenience or the giving of a costly gift, but to the Hebrew mind, it involved the offering of a life.
Jesus Christ came as the Incarnate Word to offer His life as a sacrifice pleasing to God. He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." (Hebrews 10.10)
When does the sacrifice, the offering of Jesus Christ for the life of the world, touch me, my heart? And if I dare ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the heart of Eternal Love that so sacrificed itself to save rank rebels of the cosmos, could I handle such an outpouring of grace and mercy? I think of the longsuffering, the progressive revelation in the plan of God, the obedience in willing submission, the sharing of creaturely subjections, the sufferings, the scorn, the laying down of glory and of life, the Incarnation.
You see, to the English mind, sacrifice holds a negative connotation. Often we give regretfully. We perceive loss, not gain. We value pain and pleasure, not "I have come to do Thy will, O God." In seeking that road map to personal change, we want to escape the pain and forget obedience.
Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, offered up His life because the will of His Father controlled and compelled His value system, His thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Jesus delighted to do the will of His Father. He always did those things that pleased His Father. That delight, that Will, was His one value, His one thought, His heart’s desire, His greatest pleasure, His sole purpose, His source of joy and satisfaction.
Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, offered up His life because of the Father’s love, because humanity’s unbelief required a remedy. The Incarnation may take a lifetime of meditation and reflection on the love of God, the Creator, One apart from the creation and some cosmic consciousness, entering and invading human history, giving His Son as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Only with such meditation, however, can we put our lives into perspective. Our perception needs to change. Touch the heart of Jesus and yours will heal in the presence of His brokenness. Ask Him what it was like to leave the glory of Heaven to become a baby and fulfill every promise of prophecy. Ask Him how it is to identify with us, with sinful flesh, for He is touched by the feeling of our infirmities, tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4.15). Identify with Jesus in His outpoured life and you will serve Him with your praise and worship. You will count every trial joy, every offering a glory to the Lamb who was slain, every labor an act of love, every sacrifice as serving to separate you unto Him.
God is most pleased when we are satisfied with Him alone. It is a satisfaction of eternal proportions. The key to finding it is sacrifice in the worship and service given to the one true and living God out of a heart loyal and separated unto Him (Romans 12.1, 2).
We perceive sacrifice as a giving up of something we value for something we value more. Choices give us more of what we value most. In a "choice" environment, we will choose what optimizes our value system. For us, sacrifice is seen as one value over another. Were we to have one value system, one governing belief system, one thought system, we would not perceive ourselves as "making a sacrifice." We would perceive a truth that would set us free and change our attitude and perception of suffering. We would count trials a joy.
Jesus walked according to truth always. He had a unified thought system, a unified belief system, a unified value system. His temptations were to depart from that truth and choose a lie, any thought/belief/value system departing from the perfect will and Word of God, His Father. For those in Christ, sacrifice becomes the offering up of our lives, dying to self and taking on the value/thought/belief system grounded in the truth of God. All departures from truth are built on lies and corrupted by lust (Colossians 3).
When we are governed by the value/belief/thought system grounded in truth, grounded in the will and Word of God, our Father, we will not perceive our offerings as a "giving up" but rather, as a "giving to." Jesus conquered the tension in Gethsemane with "not my will, but Thine by done." He knew. He saw beyond the cross (Hebrews 12). The power of the atonement is in the resurrection. If Christ be not risen, our faith is in vain. The risen life delivers us from the present power of sin.
No more the road, but the Way.
Unbelief is the nexus, the crux of the matter. Unbelief cast Adam and Eve from the garden. Unbelief kept the children of Israel out of the promised land. Hebrews 2.2:
"For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the Word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it."
"Those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience." (Hebrews 4.6)
This latter verse refers to failing to enter God’s rest because of disobedience resulting from unbelief.
Unbelief cast us from the garden of God, from His presence. Unbelief keeps us out of the promised land. Unbelief causes us to drift and doubt and disobey. Unbelief leads to destruction. There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death. Broad is the road that leads to destruction.
We must believe the Word of God, the truth, for it to affect our lives. The Holy Spirit reveals truth to us and enables us to walk in love on a road that leads to personal change. We corrupted ourselves when we bought into the deceitful values of the no-gods. Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, came as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gave His life as an offering unto God to remedy our unbelief. His resurrection establishes the Atonement. The road that leads to personal change is a road that leads from death to life, from the cross at Calvary to the throne in Eternity.
Jesus stands on that road as the Way, God Incarnate, the perfect offering up of a life to God. He bids you come. Follow Him. I assure you that if you do, you will be changed forever. But the transformed life doesn’t come through rites or rituals or religion. It comes by receiving Jesus Christ into your heart, for as many as receive Him, to them He gives power to become the children of God, even to those that believe in His Name.
© 2000 Mary Craig Ministries, Inc.
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