Sharper Than a Two-Edged Sword Part 5

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G.o.d is not the author of sickness, and He doesn't use sickness- or any other kind of evil-to accomplish His will. G.o.d has nothing whatsoever to do with sickness. James, a leader in the early Jerusalem church, wrote: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of G.o.d: for G.o.d cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. ..Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:13 and 17 Wrongly believing that G.o.d is behind sickness, pain, and suffering is going to affect your understanding of His love. a.s.sociating G.o.d with sickness is propaganda from the enemy. The idea behind propaganda is that if you repeat the lie enough times, people will start believing it. Even if you can see the fallacy, the lie can work its way into your belief system because you start thinking that there must be some truth to something you hear over and over again. Religion mentions that G.o.d loves us, but then goes on to say that G.o.d makes babies sick, or gives people cancer because He loves them and wants to teach them something. That isn't love.

Imagine if a man had the power to give you cancer, cause debilitating pain, or inflict babies with deformities. After he had done those things, no one would look to him and suppose he did it out of love. There isn't a civilized nation on the face of the earth that wouldn't prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. A man such as that would be thrown in prison for criminal behavior. Yet religion is trying to say that G.o.d causes tragedy because He loves you. It is a lie that has been repeated so often, people have started believing it.

The destructive power of this lie is that it renders you unable to reconcile the love of G.o.d with the use of sickness as a teaching tool. Deep down in your heart, whether you understand it or not, it's going to affect your relations.h.i.+p with G.o.d and your understanding of how much He loves you. You can't blame G.o.d for causing tragedy in your life and trust Him wholeheartedly at the same time.

I read a news article about the recent earthquakes in Haiti that was exploring questions surrounding the tragedy, and how such a terrible thing could happen. Several people were quoted as saying that the earthquake was G.o.d's judgment upon the nation for its history of voodoo or other problems in society. The author was describing how so much blame for the tragedy was being placed on G.o.d that it was shaking the faith of many Haitians.

The article contained a poignant photograph. Dozens and dozens of corpses could be seen piled high in a mound, testifying to the immense cost of life, and the mound itself was being consumed by flames as part of a drastic effort to stop the spread of disease. In front of the fire, an elderly woman was frozen in time as she walked by. She must have reached into her purse and pulled out her Bible just before the photo was taken. Although her arm was captured in stillness, the action was clear: she was tossing her Bible onto the heap of burning bodies.

It's not surprising to see people reject G.o.d when they are told He is responsible for the death and pain in their life.

Jesus "went about doing good." It is good to be well-it's bad to be sick. Sickness is not a blessing from G.o.d sent to make you holy. Sickness is an attack from the devil. Sometimes it is completely demonic and spiritual in its origin, other times it is just the result of living in a fallen world, but sickness and tragedy are never from G.o.d. Jesus, out of His great love, took our sin and our sicknesses upon His body on the cross. The Word of G.o.d is very clear on this point: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of G.o.d, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastis.e.m.e.nt of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5 This bold declaration clearly says that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. Religion enters in with its customary confusion and tries to spiritualize this scripture by saying we are only healed in our hearts. Religion says this means that in your heart and emotions you were healed from the hurt and the pain of sin. It is true to say that, but it isn't the whole truth. Yes, Jesus came to set us free emotionally and spiritually, but He didn't stop there. This scripture also applies to the healing of our physical bodies. The Gospel of Matthew tells how the people brought their sick to Jesus and He healed them all (showing His desire to heal everyone), and then it references this exact prophecy, saying, That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

Matthew 8:17 Jesus took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses in His body on the cross. It is a part of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ for you to be healed. Jesus doesn't want you to be sick any more than He wants you to sin.

Again, religion will try to confuse the matter by pointing out that Christians die of sickness-even some who believed G.o.d would heal them. Religion concludes that it must not have been G.o.d's will to heal in those cases, rather than accepting the possibility that healing was available but, for some reason, those people weren't able to reach out and take advantage of G.o.d's healing power. Rather than risk hurting anyone's feelings or accepting any responsibility, religion places the blame on G.o.d.

I don't know why everyone who believes for healing isn't healed, but I know it isn't G.o.d's fault. Whatever unanswered questions we have about healing do not change the fact that the express will of G.o.d, as seen in the life of Jesus and written in the Word, is that G.o.d wants you well. Jesus paid for sickness in the atonement so that you can be well, and untold numbers of people are being healed by the power of G.o.d all over the world today.

The Bible puts the healing of your physical body and forgiveness of your sins in the same category. It's a package deal. They even appear together in the same verses: Bless the LORD, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.

Psalm 103:2-3 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

1 Peter 2:24 There is simply no doubt that Jesus provided for healing in the atonement and that G.o.d wants you well. In fact, the Greek word sozo that is translated "save" over 300 times in the New Testament is also used to describe healing. It means to save, make whole, or to heal. A cla.s.sic example of the use of this word sozo is found in the letter of James: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

James 5:14-15 It's obvious that the physical body is what will be healed. Some in our time have tried to separate salvation and healing by saying that salvation is for everyone, but healing is an add-on, like it costs extra. That just isn't true. The Bible unquestionably teaches that Jesus died to heal your body at the same time He died to forgive your sins. You are just as much healed by the stripes of Jesus as you are forgiven and made righteous by His sacrifice.

Jesus would no more put sickness on you than He would lead you into sin. He wants you well just as much as He wants you forgiven of your sins. The first step in receiving healing is to know beyond a doubt that G.o.d wants you well. You have to understand that G.o.d is not only capable of healing, but He wants to heal you. Once you understand that, it will be easy to believe in your heart when you pray for healing, and to see yourself healed.

Additional Resources: 1. Healing Testimonies are six different videos doc.u.menting healings that have occurred through some contact with Andrew Wommack Ministries. See the evidence of G.o.d working miracles. These stories will encourage you and build your faith. They are available to view free at http: //www. awmi.net/extra/he aling 2. Healing Journeys volumes one and two are available for purchase through the online store at http://www.awmi.net/store/usa/videos Each DVD doc.u.ments five different stories of the power of G.o.d's Word working in the lives of people. Each DVD doc.u.ments five different stories of the power of G.o.d's Word working in the lives of people.

3. G.o.d Wants You Well is a book by Andrew Wommack. In this book, Andrew shares the truth of what G.o.d's unconditional love and grace has already provided. Healing is a big part of that provision. He answers many common questions including those about Paul's thorn in the flesh, the sovereignty of G.o.d and more. If you or someone you know is in need of healing, this book is for you. It is available through bookstores or the online store at http://www.awmi.net/store/usa/books/330 4. G.o.d Wants You Well is a four-part audio teaching available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/1036 5. "Healing Scriptures" is a collection of healing scriptures with soft background music. As you listen, your mind will be able to relax, and your faith will be built to receive your healing. It is available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/i05 6. How To Receive a Miracle is a three-part audio teaching that will show you how to grab a hold of miracles and make them happen. It is available to listen to or download for free at http: //www. awmi.net/extra/audio/1006 The Good Report: G.o.d Wants You Well booklet by Andrew Wommack is a compilation of articles on the topic of healing. It is available through the online store at http://www. awmi.net/store/usa/books/102

Chapter 15.

Hardness of Heart.

We all have a heart condition. I'm not talking about your physical heart, but about your affections and attentions. The condition of your heart determines how much the Holy Spirit can penetrate. A hardened heart is cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. It can either be hardened toward the world or toward G.o.d. The Lord made us in such a way that whatever we focus our hearts upon- whatever we delight in-we become sensitive to, and whatever we neglect, we become hardened to. Someone who is more comfortable with the natural realm than with the spiritual realm has a heart that is hardened toward G.o.d. Thankfully, you can become sensitive to G.o.d and hardened to the world. You simply have to change what you delight in, or what you focus your attentions and affections on.

Our level of sensitivity to G.o.d varies in different areas. You may be very sensitive to G.o.d in one area, but hardened in another. In my own case, I latched on to healing when I was young, and I was very sensitive to G.o.d in that area. I saw great miracles of healing happen, yet I struggled with prosperity for a long time. I was receptive to G.o.d in the area of healing, but hardened in the sphere of prosperity. It took years for me to get the same level of sensitivity toward prosperity that I had toward healing.

A hardened heart will cause you to not perceive things that should be obvious. Right after Jesus fed 5,000 people with five small loaves of bread and two fish, He put His disciples in a boat and sent them across the Sea of Galilee. Then Jesus sent the crowd away and went up on a mountain to pray. During the night, a storm rose up on the sea and Jesus could see the disciples struggling in their boat against the wind and the waves. Jesus walked across the water, climbed into the boat, and commanded the storm to be still. The disciples' response is recorded in Scripture: They were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves:for their heart was hardened.

Mark 6:51-52 The disciples had just watched Jesus feed thousands of people using five loaves of bread and two small fish. They should not have been shocked to see Him perform another great miracle, but they were. They were amazed beyond measure to see Jesus walk on water because their hearts were hardened. If we can become more sensitive to G.o.d than to the world, it won't surprise us to see Jesus come walking on top of the problem that is about to drown us. We can get to a place where the supernatural becomes normal. First, we need to understand what it is that hardens our hearts toward G.o.d so we can reverse the process.

Mark 6:52 says the disciples hearts were hardened because they didn't consider the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The word consider means, "to study, ponder, deliberate, examine" or the scriptural word would be to meditate. Whatever we focus on, our hearts become sensitive to and whatever we neglect, our hearts become hardened to. These disciples weren't focused on sin, they were focused on trying to stay alive in the midst of a storm. But it took their attention away from the miracle they had just witnessed and hardened their hearts towards G.o.d.

The disciples continued to have trouble perceiving spiritual reality. After many more miracles, Jesus commented on their hardness of heart: And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

Mark 8:17-18 The inability to perceive is characteristic of a hardened heart. When you have a hardened heart, you see with your physical eyes, but you can't see with your heart. You have physical ears, but you can't hear the voice of G.o.d in your heart, and you can't remember spiritual things. Anyone who is having trouble perceiving, understanding, or remembering the things of G.o.d has a hardened heart. In simple terms, a hardened heart causes spiritual dullness. It prevents you from functioning the way that G.o.d intends, and it keeps you from perceiving spiritual truths.

Hardening of the heart in one area is a byproduct of what you focus your attention on. Your heart becomes sensitive to what you consider, and it becomes hardened toward the things you aren't meditating on. Either you focus your attention on G.o.d and become numb to the things of the world, or you focus on the cares of this world and become inattentive to G.o.d. In both cases, the heart is gradually hardened toward what you neglect and sensitized to whatever you set your affections on.

Jesus described this process as "waxing gross" (Matthew 13:15). This term is descriptive of the method used to make candles. A wick was repeatedly dipped in melted wax and lifted out. Each time it was lifted out, a layer of wax would harden around the wick. This would be done hundreds of times until enough wax built up to form a candle. Similarly, a heart waxes gross by repeatedly neglecting G.o.d. It doesn't become hard in a moment. Layer after layer of neglect builds up insensitivity as we focus our attention on something other than G.o.d.

I have loved G.o.d and sought Him my entire life, but there were times when I allowed other things to occupy my attention. That neglect hardened me toward G.o.d to a degree. I had knowledge of the truths of the kingdom of G.o.d, but they weren't working for me the way that they should have been. Specifically, I knew it was G.o.d's will to heal, but I wasn't seeing many people get healed. I believed in healing, and I could quote scriptures to you, but I wasn't giving priority to the Word of G.o.d in my life. I was letting other things occupy me. As a result, my heart hardened toward G.o.d and I wasn't experiencing the full impact of G.o.d's will to heal.

In the book of Hebrews, the author detailed some noteworthy acts of faith that are recorded in the Word of G.o.d. While discussing the faith of Abraham and Sarah, the author wrote: And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

Hebrews 11:15 This verse may not be one that is highlighted in your Bible, but it contains a profound truth. G.o.d called Abraham and Sarah to leave the land they were from and go into a land that He would show them later. In other words, G.o.d told them to leave, but He didn't tell them where they were going. They left their home in faith and journeyed out into the unknown. This scripture says that if their minds had been full of, or focused on, what they left behind, they might have had opportunity to return to it. The Lord never intended for them to go back, so any "opportunity" to return would have been a temptation. Abraham and Sarah weren't mindful of the country they came out of, so they weren't even tempted to return.

This reveals the positive side of hardening your heart: like Abraham and Sarah, you can harden your heart toward the world and temptation. The simple truth is that you can't be tempted by what you don't think about. As you neglect doubt and unbelief, your heart will begin to become insensitive to those things. Eventually, you can become hardened toward sin and failure.

In the world, we see the opposite of this happening. People are focusing on the world, and they have become sensitive to sin. For instance, I have people come to me all the time who want to be set free from struggles with s.e.xual l.u.s.t. Inevitably, as I talk to them, they reveal that they are focused on s.e.x. Many times they are into p.o.r.nography, or they are exposing themselves to s.e.xual content on the Internet or in R-rated movies. Even if you are watching Christian programs on television, the commercials will kill you. s.e.x is used to sell everything. Popular culture is bombarding society with s.e.xual immorality. You cannot watch that stuff and not be tempted with l.u.s.tful thoughts. Stop thinking about it, stop watching it, stop focusing your attention on it, and you won't be tempted.

We live in the world, but we don't have to be part of it (John 17:14). I'm not suggesting that we all move into monasteries or bury our heads in the sand. We are the salt of the earth, and to do any good we have to get out of the saltshaker. The Lord doesn't want us to retreat from the world. On the contrary, we need to let our light illuminate the world. But I can also guarantee you that G.o.d doesn't want us to be plugged into the world, taking in the same garbage as unbelievers.

The average Christian today is watching the same television shows, reading the same books, and going to the same movies as the average unbeliever-and they are getting the exact same results. They are just as broke and sick as their unbelieving neighbors. If you put nothing but garbage into your heart, you'll get nothing but garbage back out into your life.

The modern lifestyle of exposure to sin and carnality will harden your heart. It puts a layer of insensitivity between you and G.o.d. If you want your heart to be really sensitive to G.o.d, then you have to reverse this process. You have to spend more time seeking G.o.d than you do plugging in to the junk that this world has to offer. It's that simple.

A lot of people understand that G.o.d has better plans for their lives than they are experiencing. They know G.o.d wants them well, prospering, and living an abundant life. They have studied the Word, they go to church, and they know that there is an abundant life out there waiting for them. Most people can see those blessings, but very few people have sought G.o.d to the degree that their heart is sensitive enough to receive those benefits.

G.o.d isn't withholding His blessings from you until you try hard enough. Your heart just isn't capable of receiving G.o.d's blessings when it is hardened toward Him. The solution is to focus your attention on G.o.d, and harden your heart to the world.

I was born again when I was eight years old, but when I was eighteen, I had an encounter with G.o.d that changed my life. I experienced His love for me, and after that I became a stark-raving-mad fanatic in love with G.o.d. My mother thought I had gone a little too far, and she signed me up for a trip to Europe with a group of Baptist kids in the hope that it would bring me back to earth. I guess she thought it would give me a different perspective on life. Having been raised in Arlington, Texas, I was never exposed to a lot of the things I was about to encounter.

We spent the very first night of the trip in New York City. I had never seen sin and immorality like I saw in New York City. I remember going down 42nd Street, and there was a line of prost.i.tutes lined up against the wall. I didn't know what they were doing there. I had lived such a sheltered life that it never dawned on me that women would sell their bodies. I had heard of it, but it wasn't something I thought about, so the reality of why those women were standing on the street corner didn't occur to me. I went down the road and talked to every one of those prost.i.tutes about Jesus. I pa.s.sed out Gospel tracts and told them about the love of G.o.d. The whole street emptied out. All the prost.i.tutes left.

I was witnessing in alleyways to groups of young men at two in the morning, oblivious to the fact that they were gang members. I had a pimp try to sell me one of his girls, but he was using street language and terminology that I wasn't familiar with. I couldn't tell what he was trying to say. He talked to me for five or ten minutes, but finally threw his hands up in disgust and walked away. My friend had to explain to me that he was trying to sell me a prost.i.tute.

My point is that I wasn't at all tempted by the things I saw. It wasn't that I had never heard of the sin that I encountered in New York City, but I'd never given it a lot of thought. I had never meditated on or turned those things over in my mind. I was focused on G.o.d. As a result, my heart was hardened toward sin, and none of it tempted me in the least.

Another way of looking at this is that you can't go anywhere in life that you haven't already been to in your mind. Imagine being in an underground tunnel: you have to excavate the rock or dirt in front of you before you can move forward. Only after you have hollowed out some s.p.a.ce can you move on. In the same way, you can't get into s.e.xual immorality if you haven't already thought about it. You can't get into strife, bitterness, hatred, fear, or anything else until you first of all go there in your mind.

As a man thinks in his heart, that is the way he will be (Proverbs 23:7). Change the way you think, and you will change your experience of life. As you neglect the things of this world and focus on G.o.d, your heart will become sensitive to Him and you'll begin to receive all of the benefits that go along with relations.h.i.+p with G.o.d such as healing, joy, peace, prosperity, and anointing.

The reason a lot of people aren't experiencing the power of G.o.d isn't because they don't believe; it's because they are neglecting the things of G.o.d, and they are too occupied with the affairs of this life.

The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the l.u.s.ts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Mark 4:19 Jesus was describing a heart condition here. When our hearts are focused on the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the l.u.s.t of other things, those distractions enter in and choke out the Word of G.o.d that has been planted in our hearts. For instance, we know that G.o.d wants to give us a life abundant with joy and peace, but many believers don't have joy or peace because the cares of life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for things are taking all of their time and attention. Their hearts have become hardened, and they aren't fully receiving the benefits of G.o.d's love.

The cure for a hard heart is prayer and fasting. When the disciples failed to cast a demon out of a possessed boy, Jesus told them that their problem was unbelief. He didn't tell them they needed more faith, He told them they needed less unbelief (Matthew 17:20-21). A hardened heart is dominated by the mind and the senses. Prayer and fasting is a way of denying the flesh and its desires so that your focus can s.h.i.+ft to G.o.d. Basically, it sensitizes your heart to G.o.d.

In order to experience the fullness of relations.h.i.+p with G.o.d, we have to change our focus. Jesus commanded us not to worry about the issues of this life because He didn't want us to get distracted from what is really important: Seeking the kingdom of G.o.d. To have a heart that is sensitive to G.o.d, you have to spend time meditating in His Word and considering the things of G.o.d. Your thoughts can't be dominated by the cares of this world and your senses. Change the way you think, harden your heart to the world, and you will begin to experience the fullness of the abundant life that G.o.d desires for you.

Additional Resources: 1. Hardness of Heart is a four-part audio teaching available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/1003 2.The Hardness of Heart book by Andrew Wommack deals with the crisis, the cause, and the cure for a hardened heart. It is available through bookstores or the online store at http://www.awmi.net/store/usa/books/303 2. Lessons from David is a four-part audio teaching that looks at the life of David, the only person the Lord called "a man after mine own heart," and makes direct applications to our lives today. It is available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/ audio/1041 audio/1041 How to Prepare Your Heart is a three-part audio series that will teach you what the Bible says about setting our affections and how to do it. It is available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/1010

Chapter 16.

Self-Centeredness: The Root of All Grief.

Everyone thinks that a teaching about self-centeredness doesn't apply to them-it's always for somebody else. If you are alive and breathing, you have a "self," and I can promise you that "self" is something you have to deal with. Our culture has become very self-centered. This is not even looked down upon. In fact, it's promoted. The self-promotion that people freely engage in today would have been considered the height of arrogance a generation or two ago. Contrary to popular culture, however, self-centeredness is not a desirable quality.

We should be striving to be humble, but I'm not talking about becoming a doormat and allowing people to walk all over you. You can be a confident person with strong convictions and still be humble. Please don't think I am implying that I have totally dealt with all self-centeredness in my life, because you can't ever be delivered of "self. "The only way to be delivered of self is to die. Until then, you are going to struggle against being self-centered, because it is the nature of self to want to satisfy its desires.

The problem with putting yourself first is that you end up hurting other people by ignoring their needs. Jesus is our example for living a holy life, and He was the most selfless person who ever walked on this earth. Jesus didn't become a man because He needed anything. Jesus became a man because we needed something, and He gave His life to save us. Even as He was on the cross in terrible suffering, He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). We need to follow Jesus' example of humility.

We should be esteeming others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), but there aren't many people who would even view that as a goal-much less pursue it. Yet Scripture teaches that we are supposed to love other people, and turn the other cheek to reproach (Matthew 5:39). We are intended to endure things for the sake of other people, which implies doing something our flesh doesn't want to.

Whether you realize it or not, your self-centeredness is the root of all of your grief. The book of Proverbs says, Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.

Proverbs 13:10 The idea that pride is the true source of discord in our lives is radically different from what most people think. It doesn't say pride is "one of "the leading causes of conflict, or that it is more common for certain personality types. It says that pride is the only reason for contention. There is no other source, no other reason, and no other explanation for contention other than pride. Scripture also reveals that contention is the beginning of strife: The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

Proverbs 17:14 You don't just jump from having a life filled with love and harmony into strife all at once. It's a progressive process, and the first step is contention. Pride and self-centeredness lead to contention, which opens the door to strife. Most people think that they get angry because of the things that other people say and do to them. We don't think of ourselves as being the source of the strife in our lives, but we are. What other people do doesn't cause disharmony- our own self-centeredness does, and pride is the root of it all.

I had a man approach me one night after I had preached on this subject. He said that he enjoyed what I said, but he didn't agree. He told me that he had a lot of strife in his life, and he had an anger problem, but he didn't have a pride issue. He said he had the exact opposite problem: he had no selfesteem or self-confidence at all.

What he didn't understand is that arrogance is only one manifestation of pride. Exalting yourself is one way that pride shows itself, but timidity and low self-esteem are also signs of pride rearing its ugly head. They are opposite behaviors, but the source of both is the same Just like a stick has two ends, arrogance and timidity are opposite ends of the same issue. Pride, at its root, is just self-centeredness, and whether you are conceited or cower from attention, the root cause is pride. It doesn't matter whether you think you are better than everybody else, or if you think you are a n.o.body, both att.i.tudes are selfcentered.

Moses is a striking example of biblical humility.

He wrote, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3). Moses led three million Jews out of Egypt so there must have been several million people on earth at the time, and Moses was the meekest of them all. What is even more striking is that Moses wrote this statement about himself. We have been taught a religious concept of humility that says we should knock ourselves down and have a low sense of self worth, but that isn't humility. By that way of thinking, Moses couldn't have written that he was the meekest man on earth and still have been meek.

Meekness doesn't mean you never have anything positive to say about yourself. True humility means not clinging to an opinion of yourself one way or the other. You don't exalt yourself above what you should, nor do you debase yourself. Humility is simply acknowledging what is true.

The religious idea of humility is that you play coy and never admit how good you really think you are.

It's an att.i.tude that is actually tangled up with pride.

I think of it like a person who stands up before their congregation and says, "You know, I don't have a very good voice but G.o.d said make a joyful noise, so everyone just pray for me as I try to sing today."Then the person starts singing and she has an incredible voice. Later on you find out she had ten years of operatic training. Religion would approve of the way she downplayed her talents and abilities, but this is not an example of humility. Downplaying our abilities like that is an attempt to set a low expectation that we know we can blow out of the water. That way when we're done, everyone will be extra impressed with how great we were. It's an attempt to fish for compliments, or an effort to conform to the religious idea of humility that is being promoted today.

Try going up to someone like the woman in my example and saying, "You know, you were right: you can't sing," and then agree with all of the negative things the person said about herself. You'll find out real quickly that she didn't really believe what she was saying. We have just been taught that humility means debasing ourselves.

True humility means you don't have an agenda of self-promotion. You don't exalt yourself and you don't debase yourself, because you aren't focused on "self" at all. A humble person isn't concerned about the opinions of other people. G.o.d inspired Moses to write that he was the meekest person on the planet and he did it, because he wasn't self-focused. Not being self-centered, he could express the truth without falling into the trap of exalting himself.

Imagine you are sitting in a room full of one hundred people and someone says, "Let's all pray and ask G.o.d to reveal who is the meekest person in the room. If G.o.d tells you that you are the meekest, then stand up and let us know." Somebody in the room has to be the meekest person. If the Lord told you that you were that person, would you be humble enough to stand up and identify yourself? If considering that possibility causes you to wonder what other people would think about you when you stood up, then you're thinking about yourself. That's self-centered. A humble person isn't self-centered.

Pride, at its core, is just self-centeredness. As a whole, the Church has only criticized arrogance as pride, but low self-esteem and debasing oneself are also forms of pride. They are both examples of self-centeredness and being worried about other people's opinions.

I can say this with great conviction because I was an extreme introvert when I was a teenager. I couldn't even look a person in the face and talk to them. I was painfully shy. Some people might say, "Well, that was just your personality type." No, it was self-centeredness. Shyness, or timidity, is extreme self-centeredness-it's just a different manifestation of pride than arrogance is. I can tell you what I was thinking that caused me to be timid: I was always thinking about me, and what other people thought about me. I was so afraid of other people's criticism that I wouldn't open up and talk to people. I was afraid I might say something that would make me sound dumb.

I have met a lot of people whom G.o.d has miraculously delivered from terrible things. G.o.d has healed their marriage, delivered them from sickness, or provided finances, but they don't want to get up in front of a group of people and talk about it because they are too shy. They don't want to stand up and give their testimony because they are worried about what other people think. They have a revelation of G.o.d in an area that could change people's lives, but their focus on self stops them from helping others. Fear of other people's opinions and fear of embarra.s.sment are just self-centeredness. It's one of the tools that Satan uses to hold people in bondage. You can describe pride with a lot of different terms, but the bottom line is that it is self-centeredness.

The things people say and do to us aren't what cause us to be angry and bitter; it's our pride and self-focus that make us react that way. Jesus said, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 8:34 A cross is something you die on. To "take up" our cross means that we are supposed to die to ourselves and follow Jesus. The reason it hurts so much when people insult or criticize us is because we aren't dead to ourselves. We brood over insults and fan the flames until we see the perpetrator as having inflicted a huge injustice upon us. No one enjoys suffering wrong, but it's really our own pride that causes us to feel so hurt. If you are dead to yourself, people can insult you all they want and it won't bother you one bit. You can go down to the morgue, pull out a corpse and spit on, insult, or a.s.sault it all you want-it isn't going to respond. Dead people don't take offense.

Jesus showed us a model of putting others before ourselves. While He was on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). He was more concerned for them than He was focused on His own situation. This att.i.tude is outside of the norm, but the Bible says that the works Jesus did we should do also (John 14:12). We should be imitating Jesus' selflessness instead of embracing a culture of self-centeredness.

Total selflessness is a level of perfection that isn't achievable in this life, but we can start heading in that direction. I haven't arrived at selflessness, but I've left.

Back when I was pastoring a small church in Colorado, I had an elder in my church who was spreading horrible rumors about me. He said I was a liar, that I was stealing money from the church, doing drugs, and that I was committing adultery. I did confront him about the things he was saying, but his lies didn't offend me much. I knew none of it was true, and I really loved the guy, so mostly I just prayed for him.

About a week after I prayed for him, I was driving by his business with my wife. I pulled into the parking lot and asked her if she wanted to come in with me and visit with him. "No!" she said, "I don't want to go see him." So I went in alone and talked with him for a while, but he was very cold toward me. When I came back out, I said to Jamie, "Something is wrong. He wasn't friendly to me at all. "Jamie looked at me funny for a moment and then she asked, "Don't you remember what happened last week?"

I had completely forgotten. Jamie had to remind me that this man had been spreading lies about me all over town in an effort to run me out of the church. It was because I loved him and was concerned for him that I had forgotten the things he said. Love will cause us to act differently from the world.

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (G.o.d's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not selfseeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Amplified Bible G.o.d's kind of love doesn't even notice a wrong suffered. When you are thinking more about the other person than you are about yourself, you won't be hurt. You won't take things to heart the way most people do. Our culture today is so far removed from G.o.dly principles that we don't even realize how far off base we are in what many of us consider normal behavior. Most people are selfish to the max, and will stab anybody in the back to get what they want. That might be normal in our culture, but it isn't the way G.o.d wants us to act.

When you start loving other people more and focusing on their needs, you die to yourself. You stop getting mad every time someone insults you. Getting rid of self-centeredness is just like defusing a bomb: you won't explode into anger anymore. You can still hate sin and the damage it does to people, but you won't take the same offense when somebody wrongs you. Anger is simply another manifestation of pride. It isn't in your genes, and it isn't the way you were made. It's a result of being self-centered.

Aside from getting angry at others, pride also brings up the issue of placing blame. Adam started it all in the Garden. When G.o.d asked Adam what had happened after he and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam said, "Lord, it's that woman that You gave me" (Genesis 3:12). He pointed the finger at Eve, and then tried to blame G.o.d for it! Far too many people have never accepted responsibility for anything. They are never at fault. It's always everyone else who is to blame.

It is a part of our sin nature that we are born into this world self-centered. A baby is the most selfish creature on the planet. When a baby is hungry, it cries and screams until it is fed. When you were a baby, you didn't care how much your fit throwing disrupted the world around you, because you were only thinking about yourself. The problem is that some of us have never gone beyond that selfishness. If you haven't, you could be a thirty-, forty-, or fifty-year-old adult brat, still crying and screaming to get your way. You have probably developed more sophisticated methods than temper tantrums, but if you're self-centered, you're still pitching fits.

As followers of Jesus, it's time for us to grow up. We can't control how other people treat us, but we can control ourselves. Self-centeredness is the source of grief in our lives, and the Word of G.o.d says that if you want to be free from strife and bitterness, you need to die to yourself and follow Jesus. Put your focus on G.o.d and love G.o.d more than you love yourself. Once you love G.o.d and receive His love for you, the selfless love that Jesus expressed will flow through you toward other people. You'll see a difference in your att.i.tude. Seek G.o.d first and love other people more than yourself. As you do, the hurt and pain in your life will begin to evaporate.

Additional Resources: 1. Self-Centeredness: The Root of All Grief is an audio teaching available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/sk07 2.Self-Centeredness: The Source of All Grief is a booklet by Andrew Wommack that discusses how difficult situations have a way of revealing the heart, and how love, joy, and peace can be yours-even in the worst of situations. It is available through the online store at http://www.awmi.net/store/usa/books/315 3. The Christian Survival Kit is a sixteen-part audio teaching that details how Jesus' instructions to His disciples the night before His crucifixion told them what they needed to know to keep them from being overcome with grief during this trying time. It is available to listen to or download for free at http: //www. awmi.net/extra/audio/1001 4. Lessons from Elijah is a five-part audio teaching that covers the scriptural example that Elijah provides-both good and bad. It is available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/1026 5.How to Deal with Grief is a four-part audio teaching. Grief is something that each one of us encounters sooner or later. It cannot be avoided, but it can be dealt with in a positive way. This teaching will show you how; it is available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/extra/audio/1032 G.o.d's Kind of Love to You is a five-part audio teaching that shows how our heavenly Father is a G.o.d of Love. It is available to listen to or download for free at http://www.awmi.net/ extra/audio/1054 extra/audio/1054

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Sharper Than a Two-Edged Sword Part 5

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