It is not a natural thing in us to go to God to receive His love because we are very self-sufficient and self-centered. Left to ourselves we will feel no need to go to God to receive His love. God allows trouble and suffering into our lives so that our eyes may be opened to see how bankrupt we are. Each time we are tested, usually in those areas of our lives which are still holding us captive, we have a choice whether to justify and defend and try and save ourselves or let it break us. May we not harden our hearts but go to God to surrender ourselves to Him and get His love in exchange so as to be healed. That is what’s involved in learning to receive God’s love. We cannot crucify ourselves but it is God who uses people and situations to crucify us. But we have the choice whether to submit ourselves to the crucifixion.
I made yet another mistake. In Kingdom 38, when I said Jn.12:31, it should actually be Jn.14:30-31. I won’t speak on those 4 passages of Scripture I mentioned, yet. That will come later. Meanwhile you can read them and see how they are linked and how they speak to us about the coming of God’s Kingdom.
- In this segment, I want to go back to Kingdom 34 about learning to receive God’s love. I thought that what I said in Kingdom 34 was sufficient but apparently not. Some people have asked me again, how do we learn to receive God’s love? Please explain what’s involved in this learning? And please give an example. And why is there a learning involved?
- Ok, I’ll try to make it more down to earth here. And I’ll try to give an example of how it works. First, I believe there is a learning involved because, despite how much we need His love, it is not a natural thing for us to go to God and receive His love. There is in fact an inbuilt resistance in us to going to God to receive His love. Why? Because deep inside us, we are all by nature our own gods. I’ve talked about how we became our own gods in Kingdom 23. We are naturally immersed in ourselves. We are self-focused, self-righteous, self-centered and self-sufficient.
- Left to ourselves, we will feel no need to go to God and get His love. Left to ourselves, chances are we will never change from being self-centered to being other-centered. We will not even realize that we are self-centered in the first place, and in need of change. To admit that we are woefully lacking and inadequate, is not a natural thing.
- So what does God do to break this inbuilt resistance in us? Answer : He allows trouble and suffering into our lives. That’s what I’ve been talking about from Kingdom 34-37. It is through repeated trouble that we are taken through a process of discovering how self-centered we are. Why is repeated trouble necessary? Because the self has been ruling so long in us and the self is so entrenched in us that it requires a long process to break its hold on us.
- “What sort of trouble?” people have asked me. Well, that depends. Different people need different kinds of trouble. It could be the loss of a loved one, it could be an accident, it could be a crippling sickness, it could be financial ruin, it could be the loss of a job, or it could be a betrayal, or you were wrongly accused, or you were cheated, or it could even be that you thought you were so compassionate and loving, but then you were faced with a situation which called for you to die to yourself and serve those who are lesser than you, but you couldn’t do it. Or if you are in Asia, especially if you are a traditional Japanese or Indonesian, that might be the loss of face.
- OK, let me use this as an example. Shame is a big thing in Japan and in Indonesia. In Indonesia they tell me that shame is such a terrible thing that it is better to die or to kill than to be ashamed. So if shame is what is holding you, and you need to be set free from it, guess what God will do? He will somehow arrange for you to be tested by that very thing so that when you have been shamed, and you are feeling really rotten and you want to defend yourself and get back your sense of dignity, or pride or whatever reputation you think you had, or you might even feel like murdering someone or you might feel like going the other extreme – you might feel like going into a hole to hide yourself .. well, that’s the time when you have a choice. Will you fight back and argue and try and prove you are actually much better, far more superior than what people think of you, or will you withdraw with your tail between your legs and wallow in self-pity?
- When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, will you harden your heart and justify yourself, or will you give up and you don’t want anything more to do with people or even with God, or will you allow what has happened to you, to break that stubborn self in you, and instead of either fighting back or burying yourself, you go to God and say, “Lord, forgive me for trying to defend myself and attacking the people who hurt me. Forgive me for trying to save myself and trying to regain my pride. It was so foolish of me to do that. I am actually nothing without You. Please kill this pride in me. Take it away from me and fill this hole in me with your love. I really need Your love. I cannot live without You.” If you would do that, each time, each time you are at the place of testing, you will experience waves and waves of His love coming over you and into you.
- Whatever it might be, whether it is this or that, or it could be something in which the devil has a foothold or stronghold in you, whether it’s the lust of money, sex or power, John calls it the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and God has allowed you to be tested so that what is hidden might be exposed, well at that moment you have a choice. Will you let it break the self in you and reduce you down to the point where you realize you are bankrupt, and you are nothing, or will you justify yourself and try and save yourself? Jesus said, “He who saves himself will lose himself, but he who loses himself will save himself.”
- For some people, instead of going to God to be healed, unfortunately they harden their hearts. Like what the Israelites did. That’s what Psalm 95 and Heb.2 tells us. In Heb.2:18 it says, “Because he himself suffered when he was tested, he is able to help those who are tested.” And then in Heb.3:7-9 it says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”. You may have heard of the saying, “The same sun that softens the wax, hardens the clay.” Sadly for some people, instead of adversity changing them, and mellowing them, they harden their hearts and they get angry and bitter against people and against God. They blame everyone else for their problems except themselves.
- You may have also heard this before, some people are like Saul and some are like David. When David was confronted by Nathan for his sins, David immediately confessed and repented. But when Saul was confronted for his disobedience, he went into denial. Not many are like David. Most of us actually are like Saul. The natural thing is to go into denial and try and defend ourselves and save ourselves. But hopefully we learn, as the writer of Hebrews encourages us, we learn from the example of scripture.
- So this is what’s involved in learning to receive His love. It is only when our eyes are opened to realize how bankrupt we are, that we are driven to the feet of Jesus. Like the woman who came to Jesus and broke the alabaster box and poured it over Him and wiped her tears off the feet of Jesus with her hair. I’ll talk about her in a subsequent clip because I believe she is actually the picture of the bride that Jesus is looking for. Back to the point about brokenness. So long as we are full of ourselves, we won’t feel the desperation and the need for God, and we won’t experience what it means to go to God and receive His love, and be healed by His love. One of my favourite authors, AW Tozer, called it “the divine exchange”. Every time we give more of ourselves to Him, He gives us a bit more of Himself to us.
- “A bit more? Don’t we get all of God?” you might ask. No we don’t. We get only as much of God as we allow into our hearts and into our lives. I’m sure some of you have already heard this before – being filled with the Holy Spirit is not so much a question of how much we have of God but how much He has of us. It’s a question of how much we surrender.
- It is interesting to note, by the way, that Paul used the metaphor of crucifixion when he talked about dying to self. Crucifixion as we know is a long slow death. It doesn’t happen instantly. And another thing about crucifixion. No one can crucify themselves. Someone has to crucify us! I mean, imagine someone trying to crucify himself. Imagine this. With his right hand he holds the hammer and somehow he manages to whack the nail into his left hand. OK then what? His left hand is already pinned down, right? What hand will he then use to hammer the nail into his right hand? Sounds hilarious, isn’t it? But really .. think about it. When the Bible talks about crucifixion of the self, we cannot crucify ourselves. It’s about God using difficult people and difficult situations to crucify us. But we need to submit ourselves to be crucified. And I’ll leave that with you to think about it.
These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.