Responding to Divine disapproval

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Responding to divine approval and overcoming reproof

divine disapprovalThe way that we respond to divine tests sent by God spares us of divine disapproval and determines the amount and quality of the development of our personality as well as our emotional nature and assimilated character. We have three options in how we respond to God’s testing of our lives, or in other words, one of three principles that we can choose to follow: the principle of divine disapproval, the principle of God’s reproof or the principle of  God’s approval.

Divine disapproval

In this post we will examine the first principle, that of divine disapproval which involves reaping what we have sown.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7, 8)

The story of Jacob summarizes divine disapproval. Jacob was a deceiver who was  later deceived. Even at birth, he entered the world hanging on to his brother’s ankle as if he was trying to be born first. From the womb, Jacob was already demonstrating his problematic nature. He was a competitor, ready to do anything necessary to get what he wanted to secure God’s blessing without caring about the means he had to use to attain his goals.

He used carnal and sinful means to obtain the spiritual blessings that he desired. Jacob was that “smooth operator”, a con artist that always took advantage of circumstances and people as he strived to gain the upper hand in everything to reach his objectives without concern with whomever he had to step over on his way. This is the principle of exalting our own self-interests above God’s divine purpose and process.

Jacob began by provoking his own brother Esau to promise to sell his birthright in exchange for a temporal fulfillment of his immediate physical need: a hot meal after a long day’s work. Afterward, with the help of his mother, he stole his brother’s precious blessing of the firstborn. In order to accomplish this, he also had to deceive his own blind father a very serious transgression that caused dire consequences to come upon him:

Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ (Deuteronomy 27:18)

As he devised one scheme after another finally, at least apparently, he was able to fulfill his objective. Getting everything that he wanted through manipulation and dishonesty, he set himself up for some very serious problems.

After Esau swore to take revenge on his younger brother, Jacob tried to resolve the problem in a very simplistic and cowardly way: flight. As Jacob fled, God confronted him saying, “Jacob, you cannot obtain my blessing through your own means! You can run away from people and circumstances, but not from me:

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” (Genesis 28:15)

Jacob’s behavior exhibited a serious character flaw. God made it clear that he would be with him and that eventually, he would have to go back and resolve the situation. Completely reproved, God sent him to the famous “school of brokenness”, for nothing less than 20 years in “pastor Laban’s seminary”. This turned out to be a prolonged and painful experience especially designed for those who think they are can outsmart God and are above the principles that govern the spiritual world. Jacob’s moral ignorance required severe treatment. This disciplinary “boot camp” is the method that God uses to confront our optimistic, cheating, sly and manipulative evil ways.

Laban is one of the worst models of leadership recorded in the Bible. He was a perverse father who coldly and cruelly betrayed his own daughter on her wedding night. Rachel had to wait seven years to marry her beloved groom and then on her wedding night, her father replaced her and put her older sister in the honeymoon suite!

With absolutely no scruples, Laban took advantage of Jacob by using and abusing his own daughters, throwing them into the moral arena of polygamy as always seeking his own financial interests. Laban embodies the greatest expression of those who strive to attain their own selfish objectives at any price. Therefore, Laban’s manipulative ways superseded those of Jacob. If Jacob considered himself a great con artist, Laban had a PhD in the art of deception!

Jacob cheated his own brother and thought that he could simply skip town and everything would be fine. God did not approve of his attitude, and for twenty years, Jacob had to reap the bitter fruit of what he had sown: a slow and bitter process of reproof. Through this process, he learned to see himself in Laban. Finally, he began to sanctify his motivations and rescue his identity.

The great and awful truth is that God has a Laban for each Jacob! Just call it the law of the mirror. God knows how to make us recognize who we are. Our greatest problem is not Laban who is outside of us, but the Jacob within us! We all need a “mirror”!

God began to excavate Jacob’s heart until he understood that he needed to return to the starting point and resolve the conflict that he caused with his brother. Independently of how much time has passed, we will have to return to the starting point where God first reproved us and retake the test.

After Jacob deceived his brother, he fled for twenty years to the back side of the desert far from his home. There he learned to finally accept divine correction. So he returned home, humbled himself and met with his brother, doing his part to restore the relationship. Only then, did God approve Jacob and restore his identity. His name became Israel: the name of the nation created by God. He perpetuated the promise of the coming Messiah, and in this way caused the fulfillment of God’s Word in his life.

We will all reap everything that we have planted. No one escapes reaping what he or she has sown. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption as a testimony to God’s reproof. If we sow to the spirit, we will reap life and peace as a testimony to his divine approval.

We must all face and resolve all pending problems in our lives that bring on divine disapproval. We can never escape the precise laws that govern the spiritual world. It doesn’t matter how well we are able to disguise our mistakes, or how far we are able to flee, we will be handcuffed by reproof. The best option is to return to the starting point, to the place where we lost that acts, no matter how painful it is.


Pride and shame

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Pride and shame, boasting and isolation

pride and shameThe sins of pride and shame which lead to boasting or isolation have a devastatingly great potential to separate and divide Christians and destroy their fellowship. Believers plagued by these sins literally take the Lord’s Supper without discerning Christ’s body and for this reason as Paul said, many of them live in sickness and others even fall into premature death.

Pride and shame represent two polar extremes of carnal reactions that consolidate spiritual failure. These attitudes undermine our strategic attempts to “disguise” or “cover” hidden frameworks of moral reproof. In this way, the evil spirits behind these sins cause relationships to become intolerable due to the disgusting character of their victims chronic boasting or they literally cut their victims souls to pieces through the loneliness of isolation.

The principal motives supporting these lying behaviors are moral shame and pride. Some believers choose the path of obscurity making themselves almost completely incapable of reconciliation. Worse than any sin, is hiding one sin or disguising it.

Many excellent and able people who work in Christian circles in spite of all their potential and charisma unfortunately walk in hidden paths that enable evil spirits to enslave them in all types of scandalous sin. In spite of numerous opportunities that both God and spiritual leaders give these people to confess their sin and receive help, such Christians often develop a demonic ability to cover up their condition resigning to isolation or religious activism.

The vicious circle of pride and shame

Obviously in such cases the time always arrives in which the hidden sin comes to light. Even so more often than not, such people refuse to admit to the facts, which end up clearly manifesting themselves only after forceful confrontation with eyewitnesses. The saddest part in my opinion is not even the sin that becomes exposed whether homosexuality, fornication or some other scandalous sin, but the boldface, lying attitude that causes irreparable damage in relationships. There is no way to establish a relationship of trust since in these cases the truth is nowhere to be found.

One of the things that I have learned in counseling is not to place so much value on the sin that people bring to a counseling situation, no matter how scandalous it appears to be as long as those who share their problems are sincere and don’t lie. When someone begins to lie in counseling I would rather not waste any more time hearing what the person has to say.

Some two-faced people are true devourers of our precious time. They frequently try to transfer their responsibilities to us in a dishonest manner by failing to admit to the truth. Such people waste their own time as well as ours. My experience is that one of the main reasons why Christians fail to receive deliverance from many types of bondage to sin is that they are simply dishonest. They omit or lie about information that determines the effectiveness and the depth of the very process of their own deliverance. For this reason although they have gone through innumerable sessions of deliverance, many still fail to get free and will never see freedom unless they walk in the light and in truth.

One of the ways to discern God’s reproof in the lives of certain believers is by their rigid religious boasting through which they affirm themselves in search of recognition. Many people hide behind religious activism, positions of leadership or even ministerial performance to compensate for moral and emotional failures.

For example, some people present themselves as prophets. They speak in the name of the Lord but deep down inside their declarations are nothing more than carnal attempts to affirm themselves through feigned spirituality. They manipulate others in the attempt to gain spiritual respect. The result is merely a show of carnality. They try to compensate their spiritual failure by attempting to prove a position that they don’t possess. Such believers don’t tolerate the possibility of a ruined reputation. The apostle Paul rejected this attitude:

For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:18)

Putting up airs is tantamount to the explicit practice of hypocrisy and pride, sins that sear the human conscience. Believers who fall prey to these sins subject themselves to a sudden fall from an even higher position than they previously held before they positioned themselves through pride. Scandals are conceived by this type of behavior.

Many believers attempt to cover their failure and reproof through isolation. This can happen in very sinister ways. Such believers simply avoid fellowship with others so that nobody discovers the shameful and embarrassing situation that they have been hiding. This is a subtle path to apostasy. All those who abandon fellowship give evidence to their state of failure and reproof.

Occasionally we come across those who spiritualize their erroneous relationship with God by saying: “I don’t belong to any church! I don’t submit to any man, only to God!” The truth is that these people are spiritually sick perpetuating a legacy of spiritual failure and reproof! No one can belong to Christ and fail to be part of the body of Christ!

Others in much more sinister ways withdraw from fellowship saying: “Today I am not going to the church service to see if the pastor will notice my absence!” Instead of missing them, the pastor feels relieved and hardly notices that the person is absent! This situation can repeat itself, and in a short time, the person becomes completely isolated, disgraced and finally backslidden.

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Pride and shame destroyed

The blessed consequence of walking in the light is a healthy fellowship with others in sincerity and transparency, which is also the basic requirement for resolving and purifying our sins by the blood of Jesus. The sins of pride and isolation sentence those who practice them to a state of spiritual failure and reproof.


Gratitude and prosperity

Gratitude and prosperity and the poverty of ingratitude

gratitude and prosperityIngratitude acts as a thermometer that measures our spiritual health. The lack of gratitude in our lives indicates the presence of areas of our heart that we have subjected to the evil one and have neglected to deal with responsibly.

Gratitude is the quality that establishes the precise dividing line between emotional prosperity and health and the poverty of misery. The Bible speaks of the poor in multiple passages. God made the poor, but God never made anyone poor. Ungratefulness causes a person to become spiritually and emotionally poor and miserable! In like manner, the misery of the ingratitude of the rich can become terribly worse than the poverty of the poor.

Gratitude or thankfulness is one of the greatest secrets of prosperity. All those who ungratefully murmur and complain have made a U-turn on the road that leads to prosperity and have begun a race down the opposite highway to spiritual, emotional and eventually material poverty. Many people cast themselves into misery and ruin because they repay good with evil, blessing with cursing and spit in the plate from which they eat. They act in bald-faced ungratefulness. This is one of the worse symptoms defining a life of reproof.

Almost all of us can think of people in our lives who we usually have to “carry on our backs” figuratively speaking. They are weak and dependent individuals who have learned to use their disadvantages to manipulate others. They are always in need of something causing us to feel obligated to redouble our efforts to meet their needs in goodwill. However, if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we cannot help them, they reveal their ingratitude by vomiting phrases such as, “You never help me! You always let me down!”

People cast themselves into all kinds of misery including financial and material poverty because of ungratefulness and betrayal. I remember several occasions when I lived in Brazil where young boys and teenagers who wandered about the parking lots of the city center asked shoppers for money in exchange for keeping an eye on their cars while they shopped. Several times when I would return to my car, the boys who allegedly watched it for me even though I did not solicit them to do so, would hold out their hand to receive “payment”. Whenever I would attempt to give them a few coins they would angrily complain and indignantly question me, “Is that all!”

Several times this left me indignant and instinctively I would snatch the money out of their hands telling them that if they had no use for it, I did! I began to understand how ungratefulness gives place to the spirit of misery. Many people destroy their own lives through ungratefulness and afterward want to destroy the lives of others with their criticism. All ungrateful people become critical people and every critical person becomes ungrateful as well. The truth is that whenever God reproves a person through the circumstances of life, eventually, that person will manifest this through murmuring and criticism. Irresponsible criticism is the vomit of ungratefulness.

All ungrateful people are blind to the good that they have received. They are unable to perceive the effort that others put forth to bless them. The truth is that ungratefulness transforms a person into a “bottomless pit” of need. Nothing is enough for them and that is why they are always dissatisfied.

Whenever a person’s emphasis is more critical than motivational, it is a symptom of the pain of inner hurt caused by reproof. The person sees no solution, only problems. Such people turn their focus onto themselves, thus when they focus on the problems and deficiencies of those around them with whom they live, they make a spiritual diagnosis and conclude that they are correct and the others are at fault and in need of reproof.

Flight response of the believer to God’s reproof

The danger of fleeing from God’s reproof

flight responseEmotionally wounded people tend to run away from situations and responsibilities. Flight is one of the strongest temptations to those who find themselves in the state of reproof.

Any situation of pain, whether physical, emotional or moral, invariably imposes the dynamic of flight response. The tendency is to seek relief and comfort rather than attempt to solve problems. Although this is a natural mechanism of self-defense, it can become dangerous, principally when we avoid treating an inner hurt, irresponsibly continuing to live on prevarications and palliatives.

As much as these flight responses of escape seem to alleviate a person’s pain temporarily, in the process the focus on the wound only gets worse, merely aggravating the perceived need for greater and greater doses of emotional narcotics. In this way, many become addicted and conditioned to flight.

Apparently it seems a lot easier to duck responsibility, avoiding any type of confrontation that threatens to call attention to the trauma. The wide an easy path is also the path that can be eternally long and heavy laden. By choosing the wide and easy path, we avoid the process of healing which only prolongs the state of demonic infirmity and oppression.

Flight response and spiritual defeat

As we join our fear to our flight response, we establish a dynamic that imprisons us in a state of defeat. Our flight response is the flip-side of God’s solution, the principle of unresolved conflicts. The more we flee the more we distance ourselves from the solution. Our flight response is the distancing of ourselves from the solution of our own spiritual life and situation.

Many people are stuck in a pilgrimage of a series of entering and leaving churches. Each time that a problem afflicts them, instead of acting in humility and maturity, they flee leaving a trail of wounds, destroyed relationships and closed doors. When God begins to lead them back to the point where he can deal with them, their greatest temptation is to give up and flee. Each time this happens, they abort the new opportunity for growth once again.

Because of their vicious cycle of flight, they never persevere in anything habitually avoiding the challenges that could turn their life around to a victorious and enjoyable spiritual experience. Many Christians in this condition readily change their “calling” according to their own convenience, which is nothing more than a subtle form of  our attempt to spiritualize the process of reproof and flight.

For these Christians, it is easier and more convenient to change churches than to face and definitively resolve the area that afflicts them. Obviously in each one of these moves, they carry with them contaminated spiritual baggage which becomes the voice of prophecy of new and greater difficulties. It is impossible to wrongly leave a place or situation without wrongly entering into another. The problem resides not in the places through which they pass, but in them.

Certainly, in order to realign themselves with the benefits of a life of freedom, these believers will eventually need to return to each one of these situations and resolve whatever has not yet been resolved.

Biblical examples of flight response

Moses is a classic example of such an emotional fugitive. In his irrational zeal to protect his people, he opened up a terrible wound in his own life by killing an Egyptian man. He concealed his deed and began to walk in darkness. It didn’t take long and he was attacked once again in the same area, now by a fellow Hebrew citizen. The situation traumatized him so much that it caused him to give up on everything, transforming him into a fugitive.

But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?’ Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons. (Acts 7:27-29)

Before he could free the people of Israel Moses himself had to be freed. When God, after 40 years asked him to return to Egypt, it wasn’t only for Israel’s sake, but also for his own benefit.

The return of Moses to liberate Israel from captivity in Egypt determined his own healing. Even though 40 years had already passed and God had already deeply dealt with him through “Pastor Jethro’s seminary” he needed to go back to his point of hurt in order to cease from being a fugitive.

Cain was another fugitive in the Bible. His story provides a sad scene that demonstrates the attitude of a fugitive. I am referring to God’s people who in no way are open to the possibility of exposing themselves in brokenness, admitting their mistakes and correcting what needs to be fixed.

Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. (Genesis 4:14, 15)

After God rejected both Cain and his offering, Cain’s jealousy became inflamed with respect to his brother because God accepted him together with his sacrifice. After receiving God’s warning concerning the dark motivations that assailed his heart Cain ended up murdering his own brother since he would not tolerate Abel’s success. However when God confronted him concerning his murderous deed he denied the act, and preferred to walk in darkness. No matter how God tried to bring him back into the light, he chose a life of lies!

Cain’s profile reflects a high percentage of people in the church who live in relational darkness, fleeing from the truth. Upon being tested and reproved by God, Cain became a fugitive and played the part of a victim. Instead of fearing the Lord he feared the responsibilities that he should have taken on.

For not knowing the heart of God, thinking that he would be overly strict, he decided to flee. It is in this way that many Christians abandon God’s divine plan for their lives and begin wandering through life like a homeless person! From that point forward, they no longer persevere in anything. They easily fall into self-condemnation: unable to forgive themselves having lost the ability to trust in the forgiving character of God. They become disoriented in life.

In the same way, we can mention the prophet Jonah, the man who was the quickest to flee from responsibility in the Bible. In Jonah 1:1, 2 we read about God call to Jonah to preach a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. By verse three however, he is already running away:

But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)

Coincidentally, a storm began to ravage the ship on which he fled. From that comfortable place where he slept in the galley of the ship, he was thrown into the ocean and swallowed by a great fish that took him to the heart of the ocean depths.

Only then did he decide to pray! He finally yielded to the task that God had given him, changed his mind and returned to God’s original plan. After three days, the fish vomited him out on the banks of Nineveh where he finally fulfilled his mission.

Just imagine the condition he arrived in at the land of his calling, vomited by a fish, with an intolerable stench of fish guts! The fish was a type of divine submarine in which no sane prophet would want to travel! I hope that you don’t have to go to the place of your calling inside of a fish.

It is never a good idea to flee from the God’s presence. No matter how far we flee from what hurts us or leaves us feeling ashamed, eventually we will have to backtrack and return to the point of origin, where we arrive handcuffed by reproof.

Reproof – how to recognize God in your trying circumstances

Three signs of reproof

reproofGod never despises or discards Christians that he has reproved; on the contrary, his greatest desire is to approve such believers. God is the one who most loves us and is willing to invest in our lives in any way necessary. The word reproof, no matter how painful the concept it seemingly represents, also implies the purpose of giving us another chance.

The first step of approval is to recognize the validity of reproof when it legitimately confronts us. However, we must be honest with ourselves. Without humility and brokenness, the conflicts of life will eventually break us. Continued failure to receive reproof properly through divine confrontation will eventually destroy us.

Paul the Apostle offers important advice which he aptly applies to this reality:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

By following this advice, we can hold a type of “spiritual x-ray” to the light of spiritual principles in the life of a person that God has reproved, and examine the most common symptoms that identify failure to respond properly to reproof.

Symptoms of reproof

Chronic and generalized mistrust

Invariably, believers that experience God’s reproof have opened themselves up to so much disappointment in life that they are no longer able to trust others. A generalized lack of trust begins to govern their relationships. They react by unjustly discriminating against anyone they meet who, in their mind represent those who have deceived or hurt them in the past and consequently,  judges them as a threat.

In the days of the Apostle Paul, there were many imposters, not only in the established faith of Judaism but also in the newborn faith of Christianity. Because of this, Paul felt it was necessary to confront and alert the church in Corinth with respect to his own ministry in their lives:

Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. (2 Corinthians 13:3)

Even though God was powerfully using Paul, many people found it hard to trust him. They recklessly mistrusted everyone around them. Paul’s persecutors easily convinced them that they should reject his message. Therefore, they wanted more proof that Paul was a legitimate man of God. They harbored so much unfounded lack of trust, that Paul presented their symptom of acute mistrust as evidence of divine reproof.

When we constantly disqualify and mistrust others gratuitously with little or no reflection or basic respect for the possible value they may offer, such an attitude constitutes strong evidence that the problem is in us. Upon reflection, such an attitude betrays a personality sickly twisted by the refusal to recognize and accept the responsibility to accept God’s reproof through unjust circumstances of life.

Our own betrayal is the principal root of lack of trust! When we are not faithful in a thing or an area, we tend to transfer this lack of trustworthiness to others. We see others as we see ourselves. Every time we judge a person or situation without knowing all the facts, we employ our own, jaded pattern of truth for such judgment. In this case, we merely reveal our own lack of trustworthiness. Our frivolous precipitated judgment is merely a reflection of our inner man. Because of remaining unresolved abuses and injustices that we have suffered, we wound others in the same areas that they have wounded us as we exercise a generalized lack of trust that only reinforces and reveals our own condition of reproof.

Stagnation and depression

Stagnation and depression are consequences of spiritual stress. Obviously, a person whom God has reproved as already defined, has failed some kind of test and therefore must submit to a new one.

If we repeatedly fail to respond appropriately to reproof, we will fall into a vicious cycle of chronic reproof provoking a deep state of stress that will cause us to give up, stagnate and fall into depression. Invariably, the process of repeatedly failing the test imposes an internal spiritual stress that sickens hope and crushes self-respect.

At this point, any spiritual effort seems excessively heavy, difficult, tiring and even intolerable. A grain of sand seems to weigh a ton. We can no longer tolerate even five more minutes of Bible reading and just two minutes of prayer leaves us exhausted. We lose all interest in the lost. This crushing weight of spiritual apathy always coexists with serious states of reproof.

Due to the lack of flexibility, feelings of inferiority and above all pride, we flee God’s reproof in our lives. This removes us from the path of God’s divine will and as a consequence our spiritual life becomes a tremendous weight. Nothing seems to work out. The anointing in our lives ceases! Several areas of our lives become spiritually frozen.

We may even be able to tolerate this for a while however; abandonment and apathy end up taking over. Every case of chronic reproof sickens the conscience, shakes our faith, and eventually leads to spiritual stagnation.

Apostasy many times occurs in a passive and subtle manner. Although many continue to attend a church, they have given up their commitment to the will and the truth of God long ago.

This settled emotional mechanism of apathy and depression is the first stage of the most horrible apostasy into which a person can fall. The prophecy of Scripture alerts us that the last days will be marked by apostasy. We must not underestimate the possibility of apostasy that imperceptibly begins with spiritual reproof and then grows in strength leading to spiritual stagnation and finally death.

Resentment and self-preservation

Resentment and self-preservation normally work hand-in-hand decidedly contributing to our own stubbornness. All resentment creates barriers. These emotional cares and barriers end up causing serious conflicts that prevent us from discerning God’s will. Internal confusion and many existential doubts begin to set in.

The resentful person is not able to establish a genuine conviction of the will and direction of God for his life. The person perceives only the things that he does not want for his own life, since he feels overcome by resentment and worldly cares.

Examples of typical confessions that convey this spirit of prevention and self-preservation are expressed in comments such as, “I’m not sure what God has for me, I only know that there are certain places that I will never go, certain things that I will never do, and certain people who I will never speak to, ever!” The person chooses what God’s will is for himself. Such people end up transforming their own will into the voice of God.

Induced by the unhealthy self-preservation that resentful people have built up in their own hearts they invariably suffer the bitter fruit of their own wrong choices, which will end up costing them a great price in pain, regret and sorrow. Instead of benefiting from God’s loving guidance such people are led by their own inner hurts, which they have idolized and insistently defended through all types of excuses!

For every lame excuse we use in the attempt to justify our resentment, Satan adds a few more of his own, and thus many people embroiled in resentment are able to come up with great feats of spiritualizing their inner hurts and self-imposed barriers. Somehow, they have grown accustomed to failure in resolving their own conflicts.

In the spiritual walk, there are many “Garden of Gethsemane” and “Mount Calvary” experiences where others betray and abandon us and we have to face diverse types of disappointment. The weight of anguish and death begins to crush us. Many unexpected things happen which nobody likes. However, there is no way that we can go back in time and now we must make a decision.

It is exactly at this point that many make the worst decision by not overcoming the emotional trauma of the crash course of unforeseen adverse circumstances along the way pressing on with unbounded determination to reach the prize of their sovereign vocation in Christ. Each time that we fail to forgive, to renounce and to surrender all feelings of injustice and loss to God, in some way, our lives become terribly imprisoned, betraying a clear state of reproof.

Rightly divide the Word of truth

To rightly divide the Word of truth we must have authority

rightly divide the word of truthThe manner in which Christ ministered God’s Word expressed a marked contrast with the manner that the religious leaders of his day taught the Scriptures. He taught with authority, they merely taught with precision, dead precision. Precision in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word today is not difficult to find, authority in the ministry of the Word however much more difficult to come across.

And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22)

What did the apostle mean by the expression to rightly divide the Word of truth? Could it mean to have a silver tongue and overly refined speech? Is it enough for a preacher or bible teacher to be able to give a biblical exposition with plenty of information, good textual interpretation, and fantastic illustrations wrapped up in an excellent homiletically correct presentation? Obviously, each one of these things has its degree of importance, but they are far from defining what rightly dividing the word of truth really means.

To rightly divide the Word of truth our life must be consistent with the truth

The larger question here is not only rightly dividing “the Word”, but also rightly dividing “the Word of truth”. The difference between these two terms is equivalent to the discrepancy that exists between hypocrisy and coherence. Even while preaching the gospel, we can be lying about our own lives. Each time we use the gospel as an intellectual and mental means of holiness to cover up our spiritual inconsistency and hide our sin, trying to prove that we are something that we really are not, we practice a lie, and not the truth.

As I write these words, certainly, God will deeply test and examine me for each word and principle that I present. This principle of examining brings us not only closer to the truth, but closer to a genuine relationship with God himself, thus building confidence and trustworthiness in our relationship with him.

The truth is, we will only rightly divide “the Word of truth”, if the same word has transformed our own lives. When we teach something that we have experienced and have been transformed by and have been approved in, certainly God will be able to use us to transform others through what we teach!

I am referring to words of power and wisdom that take on prophetic connotations, thus releasing divine revelation that pierces people’s hearts like a sword. Such words are much more than a preacher’s or pastor’s message they are the “sword of the spirit” that transforms us and transforms others by the renewing of the mind. It is the truth told “in truth” that unlocks the principle of anointing and revelation.

No matter how many courses and seminars you take, or how many books you read, or how large your church is…, only people who God has spiritually approved are able to rightly divide the “Word of truth”.

To rightly divide the Word of truth we must have Christ’s character

Many people function in various types of power. Power can come from position or title, however, spiritual authority comes exclusively from character. Legitimate authority is granted by God to people that he has previously approved. Many times this comes through a long and deep process of divine treatment. Therefore, God tests people as much as is necessary:

Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. (Psalm 7:9)

Just as the heart is the center of our motivations, the kidneys are the center of our discernment. While the heart pumps blood, corresponding to life, the kidneys filter the blood, guaranteeing the health of the body. Testing has a strong connotation of purification and is where the notion of punishment originates, and in spite of being a frightening word, in the Latin it means “to purify through suffering”, contributing the sense of correction.

To rightly divide the Word of truth we must have Christ’s holiness

God does not compromise his pattern of holiness. The way to the knowledge of God is based on a life with no relational barriers with him. Our motivations and our discernment must be more and more tested and refined by his hand:

As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. (1 Chronicles 28:9)

Emotional fear and prevention

How to deal with emotional fear and prevention

emotional fearThe Bible teaches a principal that rules the attitude of fear and emotional prevention. In Proverbs 10:24 the psalmist said: The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. We can define emotional fear as an exaggerated preventative behavior. This indicates that, in some way, we live with a strong inner pain or disappointment that we have not yet been able to overcome. Emotional fear produces vulnerability and vulnerability produces fear, throwing the personality off-balance. Freedom is exchanged for a defensive posture, through which we put up many barriers.

The tendency is for these preventative actions to begin to rule over our entire behavior, even if we refuse to admit it. Suddenly, it dawns on us that we decline to go to certain places merely because someone who has hurt us will be present. Jesus no longer is the center of our lives, and these barriers become the center of our attention and attitudes, manipulating our lives.

Many times we will have to face and resolve past situations that carry a negative spiritual balance in certain relationships. It is necessary that we be willing to disarm these barriers through confession and restitution when necessary. It is better to turn red from anger from time to time than to live in a constant state of the blush of shame.

Prevention is a form of transforming our resentments, disappointments and rejections into idols and spiritually if is a form of idolatry. It is an emotional declaration that we have failed in our responsibility to forgive. This allows the fear of being repetitively wounded or rejected to germinate and take root in our hearts, imposing barriers and difficulties that render our ability to relate to others unattainable, casting our temperament into a hyper-sensitive attitude.

Emotional fear provides a foothold in the spiritual world for us to be attacked, or in other words, we will be attacked in any area in which we tolerate fear and prevention. Job experienced this reality by saying: “That which I most feared came upon me”. These areas become points of deep spiritual weakness which make us vulnerable. Acting in this way, all we are able to achieve, is to make demonic attacks ever more inviting.

Through prevention we construct a solid atmosphere of defeat, strengthening the spiritual chains that bind us. When fear represses faith, it is a sign that we are listening to the lies of Satan. Each attitude of prevention that we establish in our lives becomes not only a target, but also a starting point for God’s dealings in our lives. Each barrier must be destroyed, every wall knocked down! It is exactly in these points that a picture of defeat is rooted in which we maintain the dynamics of a vicious circle of reproof.

Have you ever been in a wrestling match with God? Guess who will always lose and who will always win. The truth is that God wants to destroy all of our preventative attitudes this is a non-negotiable priority with respect to his plan for each one of us.

God wants to make us a free people, no matter how much pain this causes us in the process. The complete freedom in Christ, an unrestricted availability and a heart with no barriers are fundamental requirements for us to enjoy true divine authority as well as to live according to the flow of his anointing.

Facing the fear of being corrected

The spirit of prevention and the fear of correction

fear of being correctedWhenever we speak of tests, our natural tendency is to fear the necessary circumstances of dealing with the pain and trauma of our defeats, thus exposing the refuse and garbage of our soul that we would feel more comfortable hiding because of our fear of being corrected. We automatically throw up a strong “wall of protection” when we perceive the vulnerability of our wounds. Our tendency is to subjugate ourselves to fear and flight at the slightest resistance thus isolating ourselves from others and from the possibility of being healed. The biggest cause of reproof is the very fear of being corrected and tested, as well is the lack of willingness to deal with intimate areas of defeat. The more we throw up emotional and relational walls and close ourselves in, the more these barriers suffocate us. The more that we fear and avoid tests, the more the root of defeat deepens and grows stronger, imprisoning the soul in the process.

Dealing with the fear of being corrected and tested

In order for God to approve us, we must always face tests openly with thankfulness, wisdom and courage. In each test, we can exercise the elements that I have just mentioned instead of fear. This predisposition can completely affect the spiritual atmosphere, where, instead of being intimidated, we can be intimidating.

The Bible narrates when Paul was in Caesarea and a prophet of God called Agabus, performed a prophetic act alluding to his future. It is not the type of prophecy that people like to hear. He took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feed and prophesied:

When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” (Acts 21:11)

That startled everyone. They began to intercede for Paul so that he would give up his plans to go to Jerusalem. However, conscious of God’s presence, knowing that it would be the strategy to testify before the political leaders, he answered:

Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)

What a stupendous way to face the test. Paul allowed no space for fear and intimidation; on the contrary, he checkmated the possibility of his own death exposing himself to everything because of Jesus. This level of boldness picks apart any demonic argument. It is enough to provoke an earthquake in hell and give Satan a heart attack! It is enough to “possess” the devil in a state of shock in perplexity. How do you stop a person that simply no longer believes demonic intimidation and is completely conscious of the exceeding greatness of the power of God upon his life? In this manner, Paul demonstrates the great advantage that we can have over Satan, even when facing situations where our very life is at risk.

Facing terrible tests and great conflicts, among every possibility of fleeing from God, David ended up discovering that, the truth is, there were no possibilities of running away, only impossibilities of running away. David’s central concern was not the test that faced him, or the ability of the enemy to destroy him, but his heart before God. He exhorted himself not to turn and run but to face a situation:

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; (Psalm 139:7-11)

In the same way, when Jacob in all of his “sagacity”, cheated his brother, deceived his blind father and fled. God made it very clear that he could run away from everyone, but not him:

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” (Genesis 28:15)

This is a lesson that every man of God must learn eventually. The natural disposition to face tests with a calm and positive attitude is indispensable. When you present yourself as a worker approved by God, God presents you as an approved worker before men. The newness of life and the dynamic of an abundant spiritual life arise from this principle. However, what we see more of today, in churches, are people with a spent spiritual life, running after excuses to run away or take a pass from the challenges that God presents to them. Passive people, overcome by fear are unwilling to take risks for God’s kingdom. These people are intimidated and defeated.

Researchers claim that 90% of the people in this country are merely searching for excuses, while only 10% are determined to pay the price of responsibility and perseverance. The church spends too much time and effort in striving to prosper and not enough in striving to persevere. Don’t fool yourself, there is no prosperity without approval and there is no approval without perseverance! Christians, who God has constantly reproved, will almost certainly fall into stagnation, insensitivity, depression and spiritual slumber. Because of this, a type of “spiritual suicide” sets in when we try to ignore certain defeats and try to flee from the tests that God brings into our lives. Only as we throw ourselves into the fray of these tests will be come out the other side as approved workmen able to face the pressures of spiritual ministry in this fallen and lost world.

 

Trials and tribulations demystified

Making sense of God’s trials and tribulations

trials and tribulationsSince the only way that we can be approved by God is by passing through tests, trials and tribulations that he permits us to go through it is important that we understand the role of these divine trials and tribulations in our lives. In each test lies the opportunity to reverse the lingering consequences of past defeat and build godly habits and an obedient character in areas where routines of moral failure have reigned in the past. To the extent that we overcome our disobedience with our obedience, we build up our faith, overcome our past spiritual deficiencies and gain a sense of supernatural confidence as we learn to depend on God’s goodness and provision. Here, I would like to suggest at least three principal objectives that God wishes to attain through divine testing, trials and tribulations that also bring us personal spiritual benefits:

Trials and tribulations eliminate hidden impurities

Take away the dross from silver, And it will go to the silversmith for jewelry (Proverbs 25:4)

Fire has the power to manifest impurities so that they can be eliminated without destroying what is good. Primarily, a test comes to shed light on what exists in darkness, freeing us from hypocrisy and pride, producing humility, transparency and consistency. Masks of insincerity and hypocrisy fall off and we begin to discover the delivering power and satisfaction that transparency brings. We do not have to carry the excessive weight of secret sins and hidden weaknesses that terrorize us with the possibility of rejection. The more we try to conceal our wounds and shame, the further we drift away from the truth, freedom and happiness. When we hide our sin, we accentuate the fear of being repeatedly hurt and we end up imprisoning our soul. We take the opposite way of the path of the righteous, which is like the light of dawn that grows greater in brightness until it reaches the intensity of the noonday sun.

The reality is that God is quite familiar with the thick husk of ritual religiosity and self-righteousness that we use to isolate ourselves from relationships, imposing an atmosphere of darkness and spiritual blindness. He also knows the week and wounded person that is inside of this husk, and he knows how to take us out of this prison and emotional condition in which we have resigned ourselves to an hypocritical, superficial and even dishonest existence.

It is not difficult to encounter people who have begun to believe their own lies. God’s testing plays an efficient role in the destruction of these skillfully constructed false appearances with which many people end up deceiving themselves.

This process is usually painful and many times humiliating. However, God will deal with our shame. Shame free-living corresponds to one of his non-negotiable values. His objective is to transform us into “a worker that need not be ashamed”.

Wherever there is shame there is also guilt, fear and pain. This type of shame is a symptom of sin, traumas and unresolved curses. God’s objective is to produce a voluntary, transparent and humble initiative that subverts the state of defeat.

The level of demonic accusation and condemnation that we suffer is proportional to the shame that we harbor within us. The Bible guarantees that when we expose ourselves, when we walk in the light, relationships are restored and become meaningful. The chronic state of sin and reproof is subjugated by the power of the blood of Jesus:

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Our responsible and transparent lifestyle conditions our relationships as well as the purification of our sins.

Trials and tribulations reveal our immediate reactions

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:3, 4)

Another objective of tests is to produce productivity and self-control in those areas in which we are vulnerable. Many of us develop an inability to absorb shocks. We become hardheaded and reactive. When someone hits us, we hit him or her back; when someone insults us we return an insult; when someone treats us well, then we treat him or her well. This hardness of heart sins against maturity and is the principle of destroyed relationships, which lead us to cultivate, frustrated and destroyed relationships. In this way, we are molded by temptations, conformed by this age and transformed into slaves of circumstances.

Trials and tribulations signal us to act in the opposite spirit

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

This statement of Jesus expresses one of the most elevated principles of spiritual warfare. It teaches the great secret of learning to react properly, to act in the opposite spirit of the attack against us. We only overcome situations of hate and enmity with forgiveness, selfishness with generosity, impurity with purity and uprightness, curses with words of blessing etc.

In this way, we “heap burning coals” on the heads of those who act against us, discerning and disarming the source of evil inspiration that manipulates them. Unless we overcome evil with good, all that we will accomplish is to agitate the already heated situation even more. This discipline of the soul called self-control is the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives, manifested by a lifestyle marked by brokenness and surrender.

In order to be sly as a serpent, which is a symbol of Satan himself, it is necessary to be a lamb, and not a wolf, in the midst of wolves. We cannot step in enemy territory while accepting his provocations and fighting against flesh and blood. Self-control is absolutely necessary. Satan always enters through the foothold of lack of control.

Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26, 27)

It is possible for us to be angry without sinning. Anger is not sin. Anger is a feeling that develops the important role of overcoming our indifference with respect to injustice. However, this emotional flair, also involves the possibility of loss of control and sin. When someone invades our privacy or commits an injustice and we witness this, automatically we become angry. However, this should lead us to nothing more than the exercise of measured and righteous zeal.

Anger should also quickly pass. We must not harbor anger beyond the time sufficient to produce in us a righteous action adequate and necessary to the need of the hour. No one should go to bed angry; otherwise, resentment sets in, producing unjust actions. It is what Paul meant when he said, “let not the sun go down upon your anger”. Each day that passes, each time the sun goes down without overcoming anger, the heart becomes resentful, the body grows ill and the soul loses control, eventually demonstrating implacable attitudes.

Anger like any other feeling or desire, must be brought under spiritual control. Exercise in dealing with anger causes self-control to flourish. Whenever we fail to do this, or in other words when instead of overcoming anger or any other feeling, these passions overcome us, we open the door to lack of self-control and give place to sin and the devil.

We must exercise self-control through each set of tests through which God leads us. This is the path to a life of freedom and a stable personality. The law of self-control assures that if we do not overcome ourselves neither will we overcome the adversities of life, if we do not overcome adversities we will not overcome our adversaries and evil potentates.

God verifies our immediate reactions through these tests that deal with the footholds of lack of self-control thus strengthening our spiritual armor that protect us in confrontations and battles. Our armor is just as vulnerable as our self-control! Independent of the way that God chooses to test us, we demonstrate our productivity and ability to form an action corresponding to the values that we hold. The truth is, morally speaking; no one can hurt us without our permission!

Trials and tribulations test our readiness to obey in the long-term

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

God’s trials and tribulations involve another purpose in which the factor to be stressed is time. This is a fundamental aspect of producing perseverance and character. Perseverance produces character and character produces perseverance. The spiritual consistency of a person emerges from this integration. However, in terms of character, time develops an indispensable role in the process of approving faith.

Perseverance is the raw material of character. Patience is the basis of character and the foundation of perfection. God has never manifested his divine perfection as rigidity, intolerance and perfectionism, but as patience and its fruit. More important than attaining any victory is the ability to maintain any victory attained, or in other words, of being able to live in accordance with this new reality, maintaining the conquered territory.

Strongholds of the mind

strongholds of the mindSpiritual strongholds of the mind

When the Bible talks about spiritual warfare, it uses the imagery of mental battlefields and strongholds of the mind. The main battlefield of spiritual warfare is the human mind and each area of defeat corresponds to the foundation on which Satan internally constructs strongholds in our lives. Normally these evil strongholds lodge themselves in our thoughts and manifest themselves through various mentalities.

One of the literal definitions of these spiritual “strongholds” of the mind is “A spiritual building constructed by thoughts established through successive arguments, which give shelter to evil spirits of a corresponding nature”.

The enemy builds his spiritual strongholds with mental walls of thought and mentalities that he erects on top of feelings of failure, impotency and desperation that come upon us as consequences of the sins that we have committed. This occurs when we permit arguments that base themselves on the inability to avoid what we clearly know is against God’s will to remain in our minds.

Each time that we unsuccessfully face temptation, we lower our guard, successively removing each part of our spiritual armor and allowing sin to enter our lives. Eventually we become defenseless, like a city without walls before what appears to be a solid and irresistible effort of the enemy in infiltrating our mind.

Because of this, some Christians lead a traumatized sentimental life, progressively breaking principles and wounding relationships; others suffocating their financial lives by multiplying debts, committing fraud and suffering loss; still others fail in marriage due to hidden adultery or unresolved sexual problems.

In other words, each time that similar types of temptation confront these people, they yield to it and the temptation becomes stronger and stronger, building up a spiritual conditioning that develops into sinful bonds, chains and spiritual captivity. Again, the definition of a spiritual fortress of the mind is a deep spiritual state of despair and unbelief in which the infected person sustains arguments that he or she knows are clearly contrary to the known will of God. When this happens, an existential crisis begins to establish itself between knowledge and life and knowledge and practice, or in other words, an inability to add faith and obedience to the truth. The only thing that remains is a deep sensation of intense spiritual inferiority and depression, which causes the person to tolerate defeat. We must teach those who struggle in these areas that they can and must overcome these feelings!

The source of pain – the principle of healing

The source of pain is precisely that situation that has deeply wounded our memory, which we recall with anguishing shame, and at the same time, with indescribable anger or indifference. This origin of pain corresponds to an extremely sensitive area of our psyche, where we do not want anyone to draw near. This is the deepest point of the cycle of chronic reproof.

We try to protect ourselves in every way and from all people, even from God. However, God desires to touch us precisely at the point where we do not want anybody to reach. This is where the healing must occur. The principle in play and the possibility of healing, reside at the source of the pain. Without exposing the source of the pain, repentance or a change of thinking and challenge to spiritual strongholds of the mind that imprison the person, become impossible.

The great redemptive strike against shame and guilt is simply to expose them through confession to people who have a divine anointing to pray for us. Confession, reconciliation and restitution accompany all repentance and genuine desire for change.


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