Setting Yourself on Fire

Difficulty and pain sometimes come from others, and challenges to the Lordship of Jesus often come from our unique circumstances.

But what if it was something we’ve done?

I remember the classic picture of a Buddhist monk who sat in the middle of a street. He was serene as he soaked himself with gasoline, and lit himself on fire as a protest against a war he believed was wrong and evil. He burned himself in front of the cameras.

All too often we’re pretty much responsible for our own self-immolation. It is we (and we alone) that set ourselves ablaze. Sin affects our minds and hearts. We set ourselves on fire.

When we sin– when we walk in ‘known’ disobedience we always put ourselves in an awful place. We love it but learn to hate it too. But we continue to do it regardless of the awful death that ensues.

God promises to forgive us. Out of our ashes, He keeps bringing us life and hope.

You can be forgiven. You can find life again, even if you’re fully responsible for the evil we’ve done to yourself. Yes, we all sin, and yes we walk in our own personal rebellion. But Jesus knows it all. These awful things we’ve all done can be forgiven.

As a man and a preacher of the Gospel, I realize that I often choose to sin. In spite of all I know and teach I realize that I can live in the ashes of my own making. As one who also struggles with bipolar, I understand that I’m even more susceptible to doing awful things. I understand that I choose darkness even though others will call me “a man of God.”

As you read this I’m praying that you find His forgiveness and mercy. You’ve come a long way it seems, but you must see His blood that was ‘released’ from His veins and arteries for you.

He desperately loves you–even if you’ve set yourself on fire, and sit in the ashes of your doing.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

Toxic Shame

Some years ago while in prayer I saw a white marble fountain situated in a gorgeous courtyard. It was beautiful. As I looked I realized that it didn’t have clean freshwater like you might think, but it spewed feces and urine. It was gross, it was awful, and I immediately understood.

I realize that I was that marble fountain, and I generated only filth.

Being ashamed is cruelty that can only destroy a person. We think we must have defense mechanisms to survive. We drink, use drugs, get involved with sex. We might put on a tie and raise our hands in the church worship time. Whatever works I suppose. Almost always shame drives us to look for ways to escape.

People who live with shame often feel worthless, depressed, and anxious. Shame can be a contributing factor to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. People who are constantly ashamed live out a difficult emotional and mental battle each and every day.

The psalmist understood. The human spirit can not handle shame. I know first-hand that it’s terribly destructive. Psalm 44:15 describes a person who understood:

“My disgrace is before me all day long,
and shame has covered my face.”

I believe only the power of Jesus can “purify” us. Only He has the ability to clean my spirit. In the New Testament, we see Jesus healing the leper with just a touch. Shame will be removed from your heart when he touches your own “leprosy.”

Here are things you must remember.

  • Shame seperates me from God.
  • Shame is a sign of self-hatred.
  • Shame makes me feel like giving up.
  • Shame leads me to go out and sin more.
  • Shame destroys the gifts that He is waiting for me to serve others.
  • Shame makes me judgemental and critical of others.
  • Shame weakens the Church in ways I can’t comprehend.

These two verses (below) are true. They will move you out of shame and guilt. These two must be believed and put into practice before you can be really free. It will probably be a battle–every day. The following two promises are crucial.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.”

1 John 1:9, LB

“Once again you will have compassion on us. You will tread our sins beneath your feet; you will throw them into the depths of the ocean!”

Micah 7:19

I must reiterate this, and use all authority God has given to me, to bear on you its importance.

Jesus stood against Satan in the wilderness. He used the Word to do this. You’ll need to do this if you want to destroy Satan’s grip on you. You must do the same. Too many people are waiting for you to do this.

Unless you do so you will be destroyed by the enemy. I dare not pull any punches with you. I don’t mean to be hard, I really don’t.

I strongly suggest you share your battle with another believer who will understand and be discreet.

Shame is the raincoat over my heart that repels the living water of Jesus. It’s that shame that keeps me from understanding that I’m the beloved of God and His precious child.

 

Our Heavy Weight

“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”

CH Spurgeon

Quite often many of us deal with guilt and condemnation. We live in sinful bodies, and it seems that we actually cherish things that God has told us are wrong, and not part of an authentic Christian walk.

We’ve got an enemy that condemns and accuses. Our sin can be compared to “hooks” that Satan can latch on and pull us toward dark things. I personally don’t believe that a Christian can be demon-possessed. The Holy Spirit resides in the believer–He protects us with His presence.

The believer can be oppressed but never possessed.

Life can be very challenging when we choose sin over holiness. Often we really don’t have a fear of God. A healthy believer knows that he or she will stand and give an account of the way we live. Rewards will be given, and judgment will be passed on all that we’ve done.

When God saves a person He really does save a person.

We need not feel condemnation or guilt, Jesus was punished for our sin. His poured out blood is sufficient for everyone. He died so we won’t. He was risen to give us power over all of these nasty dark things. He becomes the bridge that holds our weight.

Be encouraged saint, as His holiness is given to each of us. We must choose it.

The Intensity of Evil

I have a heart–but it is broken and crushed.

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust, or even loathing. It’s more like a weariness, exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There exists is a real rigidity to evil, something intense. I have seen it– sin hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks about having a hard heart.

It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are only four options.

  • The first is seed that never arrives.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third possibility is landing on thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh
The Battle of the Heart

The question I have is this, can the hard soil become soft, and can the good soil become overgrown with thistles? Is this a static, set experience? Or could it be far more fluid? I seem to move from one soil condition to another.

I have found that my own heart drifts. I struggle with a mental illness where emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and then there. I may be depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

I so want my heart to soften.

I want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He is thinking about. Any sin I entertain has a hardening effect on my spiritual heart. This really scares me. But truly he still holds me close, and he keeps his steady loving hand on me. *

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