Led as a Captive

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Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I have a NIV Journal the Word Bible which I find eminently useful.  The margins are wide and lined so I have plenty of space to note where the same Greek word has been translated by different English words or where the same English words in a passage are, in fact, different Greek words.  I recently opened it to 2 Corinthians 2 and read verse 14: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”.  I was struck with the thought: “I bet Paul is referencing a Roman Triumph”.

There is always the chance he was not.  Most armies had some sort of celebration when returning triumphant from the battlefield.  There is a celebration recorded in 1 Samuel 18:  “Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments.  So the woman sang as they dance and said; “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens thousands” (verses 6 & 7).  The great carved scenes in Egypt portray the triumphant Pharaoh and captives in chains.  I am not prepared to say unequivocally that Paul is referencing specifically the Roman Triumph.

And yet, Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37-38, 25-28).  Unger’s Bible Dictionary states, “The character of a Roman citizen superseded all others before the law and in the general opinion of society, and placed him amid the aristocracy of any provisional town” and refers to Tarsus, the city of Paul’s birthplace, as “no mean city”.  As Paul, or Saul as he was then, would probably have been thirteen when he went to Jerusalem to take up his studies, I can’t say with any certainty that he would have ever visited Rome and seen a Triumph for himself.  However, Paul was extremely well read, showing familiarity with Greek authors (Acts 17:28), so I have no doubt he’d have been familiar with the details of a Roman Triumph.  Both The Passion Translation and The Archeological Study Bible suggest Paul was alluding to the Roman Triumph in their commentaries on this particular scripture.

Since it is a possibility, what word picture could Paul be painting by comparing believers to captives in a Triumphal procession?  What exactly did a Roman Triumph consist of?

Firstly, they were far more frequent during Rome’s Republic than during its Empire when only Emperors could hold them.  They were the highest honor awarded to a military commander but were thought to be the pinnacle of a political career as well.  There were rigorous criteria that had to be met before a Triumph could take place.  Philip Matyszak writes, “The most important of these are: 1: At least 5,000 enemy combatants must have perished in battle.  2: The battle must have brought the campaign to an end.  3: The campaign must have enhanced the majesty of the Roman empire”.

The senate had to vote to allow a Triumph and, once the afore mentioned criteria had been verified and a Triumph granted; Rome prepared for a party.  Streets and squares were festively adorned, temples were opened, decorated with flowers, and incense burned on the alters.  The commander gathered with his troops in the Campus Martius near the temples of Bellona and Apollo and then were met at the Porta Triumphalis-a gate used only for triumphal processions-by the senate, the city magistrates, and numerous citizens who took the lead of the procession, while lictors opened a way through the crowd.  Trumpet fanfares heralded the approach of the triumphant general.  The spectators would not see him yet.

The Military Commander or Emperor in later years would have sent on ahead the booty captured for the state and this consisted of armour, standards arranged as trophies, models of the cities or ships taken from the enemy, pictures of battles, tablets with the deeds of the victor inscribed on them, statues personifying the rivers and towns of the subjected country-all of which followed the city dignitaries and tibicines (flute-players) and would be carried by crowned soldiers at the points of long lances or on portable stands, or would be trundled through the streets on wheeled carts.  There would also be art, valuables like plate and vases, and gold and silver coins. 

There was human booty as well.  The survivors of the conquered army came in chains and were jeered at by the crowds and not just the surviving fighters: kings, princes, and other nobles were paraded through the streets.  The procession also contained sacrificial oxen who had their horns gilded accompanied by the priests, and then there were more singers, musicians, and dancers.

Finally, came the triumphant general himself.  He would be in a turret-like triumphal chariot with his male offspring accompanying him on horseback.  He would have a crown of gold and either have a laurel crown held over his head or be holding a branch of laurel taken from a grove planted by the emperor which would be planted again after the Triumph.  After the general came more musicians and representative cohorts of his triumphant legions. 

This would be a spectacular site, to be sure, but what could Paul mean by saying God leads us captive in Christ’s Triumphal Procession?  Captives did not fare well in a Roman Triumph.  Some were sold into slavery, some went to fight in the amphitheater, some were destined to imprisonment in the Mamertine prison, and some were strangled inside that prison at the foot of the Capitoline Mount.  There are a few instances of some (like the British King Caratacus) who were allowed to live out their days in Rome but still; it wasn’t a happy thing to be a captive in a Triumphal Procession.  Better to be one of the conquering army, marching in the Triumph of our great general to the cheers and accolades of all the inhabitants of the city.

Yet, Paul says we are led captive in Christ’s triumphal procession.  There is joy in Paul.  It can’t be missed.  He delights in doors being opened for him to teach in Troas but how he was troubled in his spirit because he could not find Titus there and so continued to Macedonia.  Then comes that cry, “But thanks be to God…!” (2 Corinthians 2:12-14).  What, if anything at all, can be gleaned from this passage?

God-willing, I will share what I have found next week.  Until then, the blessings of the Lord be upon you.

Amen.

References:

Archeological Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005

NIV Journal The Word Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973/2016

The Passion Translation, Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC, 2018

Dando-Collins, Stephen, Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 2010, Pages 81-83

Guhl, E. & W. Koner, The Romans: Life and Customs, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Pages 290-295

Matyszak, Philip, Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual, Thames & Hudson Ltd. London, 2009, Pages 183-185

Unger, Merrill R., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1957/1982, Page 831

Travels Through Greco-Roman Antiquity :: The Roman Triumph (villanova.edu)

The Roman Triumph – Spectacles in the Roman World (bccampus.ca)

Think God’s Thoughts

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Photo by Walter Strong

Two weeks ago I posted on Philippians 2:5, the meaning of the Greek word translated “mind” in the passage, and the fact that several different Greek words have been translated “mind” throughout the New Testament.  Seeing this was so, my curiosity was piqued and I started looking at each of the different words and the passages in which they occur.  I did not get far in my study as I got a tad sidetracked in 2 Corinthians. 

But first things first.  A quick review: the Greek word translated “mind” in the Philippians passage is phroneo (G5426) and means briefly, “to exercise the mind, to have a sentiment or opinion, be mentally disposed.”  While I was considering this meaning as it fit in with Philippians 2:5, I wondered whether the Greek word was the same in Romans 8:7.

Romans 8:7 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”  The word for “mind” here is in the same family.  It is phronema (G5427), means “mental inclination or purpose”, and comes from 5426. This is where my study on all the mind words got put on pause because I started thinking about the carnal mind being enmity against God, the battlefield of the mind, and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 states, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”.  There is a lot said about the thought life in this passage but, rather than go into each Greek word here, let me share these verses from the Phillips translation: “The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds.  Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God.  We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.”

It was the words “knowledge of God” that caught my attention.  What does this mean?  Is this passage saying the knowledge of God, as in those things we can learn about Him; or is it saying the knowledge of God meaning knowledge that belongs to and comes from Him?  The difference is subtle but it is the difference in the direction of flow.  Does this knowledge of God originate in us or does it flow to us from Him?

I first sought to answer my question by looking at my Interlinear Greek-English Bible.  That work has the little word tou in the passage.  Tou, G5120 in the Strong’s Concordance, is a difficult word to study.  I’ve looked at it in a previous post and don’t remember if I shared the information I find in Volume One of my Koine Greek Textbook.  Allow me to do so now.  Under “of”, I find this statement: “This English word is translated from unrelated Greek words…Too many to list and no real value in word studies”.  I beg to differ, Greek Textbook.  Knowing whether or not the word translated “of” denotes possession is of paramount importance. 

Despite all my hopes, not one of the rest of the volumes offered up any more help.  Neither was the Strong’s Concordance all that helpful.  It does tell me that tou means “of this person-his”.  Thus, I can make a solid guess that the knowledge of God could also be translated as “God’s Knowledge” and I can also make the inference that this knowledge is something that flows from Him.

If this tiny word was all the foundation I have to base my belief on, it would be shaky indeed.  And so, I looked to other passages of scripture to see if I can find reference to knowledge that belongs to God but is graciously shared with us.  I found there are many and perhaps the one that speaks most directly to God sharing His knowledge with us is 1 Corinthians 2:9-16:

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’* But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.  For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’** But we have the mind of Christ.”

The Greek word for “mind” here is neither phroneo nor phronema.  The Greek word here is nous (G3563).  It means “the intellect, mind, understanding” and the Strong’s entry says this word is “probably from the base of 1097”.  Whether it is or not, here is where I found the emergence of a fascinating pattern.  The words translated “know” in the entire passage are also different in the Greek (another study to pursue!) but the word “know” in “neither can he know them”-is the Greek word ginosko with the Strong’s number 1097.

During my search for passages of scripture on the knowledge of God, I remarked Matthew 11:27 (and Luke 10:22) which says, “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (KJV).   “Knoweth” in this passage is epiginosko (G1921).  This word means “to know…recognize, to become fully acquainted with”.  It is a compound word made up of epi (G1909) and ginosko (G1097). The word for knowledge in my study phrase “knowledge of God” is gnosis (G1108).  It means “the act of knowing, knowledge, science” and is from 1097.

Ginosko (G1097) means “to know (absolutely)…allow, be aware of, feel, perceive, be resolved”.  There really isn’t anything within these definitions that are eye opening in and of themselves.  Rather, it was the pattern of ginosko threading its way through these passages.  As I traced that thread, I found I was tracing another that was giving me an answer to my question, namely; there was knowledge that belonged to God but which He was willing to give to us.

I love reading.  I love to study.  I love learning new things and the pursuit of knowledge occupies a great deal of my time.  I think study is good: God gave me a mind and expects me to use it.  In fact, I am to love Him with all my mind (Matthew 22: 37, Luke 10:27) and my studies are a necessary part of that.  I have many teachers I respect and am blessed to learn from.  However, true knowledge, the only knowledge that really matters, is that taught to me by the Holy Spirit.  1 John 2:27 tells me, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as teacher in John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things I have said to you.”  And then, there is this description of the Holy Spirit from the Book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of council and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Chapter 11 Verse 2).

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me and that Spirit, while many things to me, is the Spirit of knowledge.  His teaching me all things flows from relationship rather than is an effect of study.  There have been many strongholds the enemy has built inside my mind that have needed demolishing, deceptive fantasies that have been consumed in Holy Spirit fire, and imposing defenses that have crumbled before the Word.  It is an ongoing battle to bring every one of my thoughts into captivity to Jesus Christ but, as I daily practice, I find it is possible to think His thoughts.

How beautiful!  The goodness of God brings me to metanoia and I gladly exchange my mind for His!  Amen and Amen!

*Isaiah 64:4  **Isaiah 40:13

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

Other References:

The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Reprint 1970

The New Testament in Four Versions, Christianity Today, Inc., Washington D.C., 1965

Strong, James LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Walker, G. Allen, The New Koine Greek Textbook Volume 1-4, 2014-2018

Masterclass

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Masterclass

The Lord Jesus is the Teacher
I am the student at His feet.
I eagerly await His every word
For I long to be complete.
But, He speaks so soft I hardly hear
And His words are bittersweet.

“Lesson One is about the flow
Of the life you are to live.
The same forgiveness you’ve received
Is how you will forgive.”

“I see, ” I said; “And I just know
I’ll have no trouble living so.”

I was exhausted when it came
Time again for us to meet.
I dragged myself back to His class
And collapsed onto my seat.
I had to tell Him I had failed
To take forgiveness to the street.

“It was impossible inside my pain,
Words and actions pierced me through.”
His smile was kind and comforting
But all He said was, “Lesson Two:”

“Because you are born from above
You must always walk in love.”

I could do naught but sit and stare
As He spoke these words to me.
“If I cannot forgive, how can I love?
I am destined to fail, You see?”
“That is so!” He said, and clapped His hands
And His eyes shown with Holy Glee.

“This is the secret I must teach
That you can do nothing nothing on your own.
You can try all you like to make it work
But life flows from Me alone.

Unless My Spirit lives in you
There isn’t anything you can do.”

I knew it was my turn to speak-
I did not know what I could say.
All those things I knew to do
I could not: try as I may.
“Teach me what I need to know
To learn to live Your way.”

His voice had grown louder all the time
I heard Him clearly as He said;
“Listen to My voice alone-
In all things by Me be led.

You must hear Me speaking from within
If you want these lessons to begin.”

I want that more than anything
And I found at once that each
Lesson that He had for me
Was impossible to teach
Unless I recognized His voice
Discerned Holy Spirit speech.

Immersed in Him, I had to be
Until there was no doubt
I could hear His voice through the din
That sought to drown Him out.

Then I in Him and He in me
Went forth in perfect Unity.







Abdicating My Throne

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I have spent this last week probing deeper into thoughts I expressed in last week’s post specifically the difference in how I felt when I was keeping my Self as the focus of my thoughts compared to when I turned my focus to Jesus.  The difference can be expressed by contraction and expansion which got me thinking about the presence of black holes in a universe that is expanding.1  

Bear with me.

With my Self as the focus of my thoughts, I could feel my thoughts spinning tighter and tighter around this core of Self.  The more I reflected on what I had done during the week, what I had said, what had been said-or potentially said-about ME, the smaller my thoughts became.  I was quickly slipping into thoughts of poor me, people just don’t understand how difficult it is to live with pain and a brain injury, it isn’t fair for anyone to have such expectations of me, and then my mind wanted to dredge up every hurtful thing ever said or done to me so Self could brood over it.  I am amazed at how my Self focuses on being a victim.  I have had both good and bad things happen to me at every place I’ve found myself in over the years and yet Self focuses on the pain rather than the joys.  I do not know why that is and, perhaps, is a subject I will tackle at a later time.  While thinking about everything I’ve just written, I was reminded of black holes.

What is a black hole?  According to NASA’s website, “A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out.2” This is exactly how I felt.  The longer I had Self as my focal point, the more my thoughts were squeezed until there was no room for anything but Self.  More than that, I felt it only right that because I had suffered in the past and continued to suffer, such suffering should be realized and recognized by anyone that came into my orbit.  Black holes have what is called an Event Horizon.  It is a boundary that marks the limit of a black hole and where the escape velocity is equal to the speed of light. What this means is nothing that enters a black hole can get out or even be observed from outside the event horizon.Except, scientists have observed stars that have blundered too close to a black hole and the gravitational force rips the star to shreds.4 

Hurting people hurt people.  I have heard this quoted so many times in so many different places and who can deny the truth of it?  How many times has a fellow human being blundered into my orbit, had no idea that I slept badly and have a blinding headache or am smarting from a cruel word spoken to me, and been ripped to shreds?  How many times has it happened to me because my fellow human beings also have a Self at their core?  While conducting this study, I came across binary black holes5 and was fascinated.  Not only because they exist but because what happens when two black holes cross paths is an apt description of interactions between human beings.  I’d like to write more about the gravitational waves of binary black holes but will have to leave that for another time.  For the sake of this post, let me say that I have had to forgive and have had to ask for forgiveness.

What then?  Are we doomed to damage others and be damaged in our turn?  If left to ourselves, no doubt we would be.  We are not left to ourselves!  We see Jesus who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, RSV). 

I wanted to close last week’s post with Philippians 2:5 which in some versions is translated “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.  The RSV says, “Have this mind” while the Phillips says, “Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be.”  The New English Bible says, “Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus” and the Amplified has, “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus–Let Him be your example in humility–“.  When I went to the Interlinear Greek, I found that the passage is literally “This think ye among you which also[was] in Christ Jesus”.  I realized this passage was too massive to be used in closing and that I would have to do some study.

I looked up “mind” in the Strong’s Concordance and found there are 17 different Greek words all translated “mind” in various scriptures.  This is why it is so important to study, not just read or memorize the scripture.  Not all of these words mean the same thing yet our minds do not immediately grasp the differences because we read the same English word in every passage.  Even the Greek word in the passage I am looking at this week, phroneo (G5426) is translated by different words in the King James Version: think, regard, mind, and savour to list those used most often.  My point is, what we read in any of our English translations ought to be a jumping off point because there is so much more than first meets the eye.  Okay, enough on the importance of study…for now.

The word “mind” in Philippians 2:5, phroneo, means “to exercise the mind, to entertain of have a sentiment of opinion, to be mentally disposed more or less earnestly in a certain direction…regard, savour, think.”  This meaning is made clear by the rest of the passage.  I recommend reading the entire epistle of Philippians for complete context however, for the sake of space, I will quote Chapter 2 verses 3 & 4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind (G5012) let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” And then verse 5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.

These verses are the expectation of our behavior towards others.  If it is an expectation, it must be possible to live this way. How? Because of verses 6-8 which I’ve already quoted.  And then, because Jesus did empty Himself, humble Himself, and was obedient unto death, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (verses 9-11). 

Being a Self isn’t bad.  I am created in the image of God who says of Himself “I AM.”  So too am I capable of saying “I am.”  The problem is when that Self seeks to usurp the rule over and be the center of my life.  That place belongs to Jesus.  It is His by right of His having created me but he doesn’t come to me as The Creator God and force Self to give way.  He comes as Saviour.  He comes as Redeemer.  He comes as Love.  He opens my eyes to see He has born my afflictions, my sufferings, and all my sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) and they are no longer my burdens to carry. It is His goodness that leads me to metanoia (Romans 2:4).  I see Jesus in all His beauty and I choose to not only make Him the center but to turn over the rule of my life.

How could I do otherwise?  I have experienced the mess of Self-rule and been mired in the pain and death it creates.  I have tasted the fruit of the Spirit and the life contained therein.  I abdicate.  I choose life.  I choose His life knowing that, ‘of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

References:

  1. What Might Be Speeding Up the Universe’s Expansion? | Quanta Magazine
  2. What Is a Black Hole? | NASA
  3. event horizon | Definition & Explanation | Britannica
  4. Black holes caught in the act of swallowing stars | Science | AAAS (sciencemag.org)
  5. NASA Visualization Probes Light-bending Dance of Binary Black Holes | NASA

Other References:

The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Reprinted 1970

The New Testament in Four Versions, Christianity Today, Inc., Washington D.C., 1965

Strong, James LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Being of Two Minds

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I haven’t finished reading Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.  It’s not a book I can race through and be done.  There are sentences that arrest me and I have to think on them for a time before I am ready to continue on.  One such is a quote Hannah Whitall Smith included from another book.  She doesn’t give the name of the author nor the book she got it from but writes; “Years ago I came across this sentence in an old book: ‘Never indulge, at the close of an action, in any self-reflective acts of any kind, whether of self-congratulation or of self-despair.  Forget the things that are behind, the moment they are past, leaving them with God’.” 

She goes on to say; “This has been of unspeakable value to me.  When the temptation comes, as it mostly does to every worker after the performance of any service, to indulge in these reflections, either of one sort or the other, I turn from them at once and positively refuse to think about my work at all, leaving it with the Lord to overrule the mistakes, and to bless it as He chooses.”

This paragraph in particular struck me because I found I was indulging in reflections at the end of last week.  Hannah Whitall Smith says these reflections are of two sorts: “either the soul congratulates itself upon its success, and is lifted up; or it is distressed over its failure, and is utterly cast down.”  I tend toward the latter and such were my reflections.  I rehashed every word I’d said, pictured the faces of those I’d spoken to, and tried to decide how my words had been received, whether I’d said things I oughtn’t, and whether or not I’d been a worthy living epistle.  If such thoughts weren’t exhausting enough, I began to think about things other had said, sidelong glances I was sure I’d caught, became convinced I was being talked about behind my back, and was certain what was being said wasn’t positive.  Not that I’d heard anything myself, but I had a feeling…

Looking back, I am struck by how all this felt.  The more I dwelt on what were no doubt my own shortcomings and the little betrayals from so called friends, the smaller my world got.  I felt everything constricting around ME and my body reacted.  Muscles got taut, a band tightened around my head, and my mind was trapped on a hamster wheel of “what if they said this” and “you shouldn’t have said that” and ultimately, “why do you even bother at all?”

I thank God that there does come the “wait a minute” moment.  First, I had to take myself in hand regarding being talked about.  I did not know for certain that what I was thinking was even the truth.  My Mom tells a story of how she was once having similar thoughts and her mentor said to her that no one thought about her nearly as much as she thought about herself.  Harsh words, perhaps, but they stayed with Mom and I have found them of great use in my own dealings with other people.  Chances are I am not nearly as important to people as they are to themselves and the odds of them thinking about me enough to be talking about me are slim.  Even if my feeling was correct and I was being talked about, it isn’t any of my business.  Others do not decide my behavior: the leading of the Holy Spirit decides my behavior so, no matter what, I am to love others with the same love that is freely poured out into me, forgive as I am forgiven, and put everything in His hands. 

And so, this was not a pleasant evening for me but it was educational.  I was astonished at the difference in feeling when I am focused on myself as opposed to living in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  The first is, as I’ve shared, constrictive.  If I’d continued to wallow in it, my life would have become stagnant whereas life lived within the flow of the Spirit is expansive.  I noticed a change in my body the moment I turned my focus from myself and onto Jesus.  My posture improved, my chin lifted, and what was promising to be a raging headache disappeared.

Joyce Meyer has a book called The Battlefield of the Mind.  I haven’t read it but the title has always stuck with me.  I have been thinking of how a battle does take place in my mind.  Romans 8 is one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament.  I return to it over and over and always find something new there and ended up looking at last week’s experience in light of Romans 8.  I hardly know where to start quoting and where to finish because it all flows together so beautifully!  For the sake of space, I will quote verses 5-7: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”

Here is warfare indeed.  I have a carnal mind but I also have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).  I choose which mind I am going to have at any given time.  Will I set my mind on things of the flesh or will I set my mind on things above, not on things on the earth? Because I have been raised with Christ Himself, I will seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.  I will remind myself that I have died and my life is now hid with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:1-3).  I will not worry about what others are thinking about me or what they may or may not be saying about me.  No, I will cast all my cares upon Him knowing that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7) and not forgetting that He cares for them as well and desires that they too come to know the love of Christ.

I will choose to live a life of trust because, as Hannah Whitall Smith says, “having committed ourselves in our work to the Lord, we shall be satisfied to leave it to Him, and shall not think about ourselves in the matter at all.”  Lord hasten it!

Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from:

The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

All other quotes are from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith, New Spire Edition published 2012 by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan, “Service”, Chapter 15, Pages 183-194.