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Expressions from the Heart

Testing…testing…1..2..3

Testing…testing…1..2..3 by Julie McAllen

An infant is taught “Don’t touch that hot stove!” As we mature, we’re taught to use it. Is this a contradiction?

20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21″Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Col 2:20-23)

If we died with Christ and to the basic principles of this world, do we trust that? Or are we still in the fear mode that an old religion instilled? Religion has failed time and again in restraining sensual indulgences only if it has taught its adherents to cling to its rules instead of learning for themselves the will of God through the freedom of exploration.

My need to explore is wrapped up in this.

1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:1-6)

In 1 John 4 where it warns about false prophets and being led astray by devious spirits, John also admonishes us to “test the spirits.” What does “testing” imply to you? What that says to me is look at every angle, get inside it, examine it from the top to the bottom, see for yourself if it is of God and agrees with His word.  In other words, go ahead, touch it. That might take a while. But this is the value in knowing God is with us–ALWAYS. If He says test it, He’s still with us as our protection while we test it.

Religion, on the other hand, controls with fear. But there is no fear in love. God is love. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18). I personally believe that considering controversial teachings are part of growing in relationship with Jesus Christ and shedding the remains of a religious spirit. When we ourselves have personally tested a teaching we feel led to explore, we will know for ourselves and not because someone else said “don’t touch.” This is part of being in relationship with Jesus rather than religion who’s only defense becomes “well… the pastor said….” We are trusting Our Savior’s authority over any other when we explore as led.

Coming out of a very word-based, legalistic religion, in which I was regularly told “do not touch!” I was led to cautiously explore and  understand  the things previously hidden from me, namely the gifts of the Spirit. The lesson learned  is not about whether the gifts are real and for our time, but rather about  the  FAITH involved in going outside my comfort zone. God gave me faith to explore and say “so what if it turns out to be wrong?” Then I will know based on experience and not human commands with regulations having an appearance of wisdom.  Faith asks: Trust man or God? I chose to trust in God to carry me through it.

Every Christian has come across a teaching or their own ponderings that are controversial or unsettling. What should our response be? Say “my religion doesn’t teach that!” or find out for ourselves if it has any merit in the context of the faith? In tearing down a religious prejudice, we move further into what personal faith is really about. It’s scary stuff . God may want to move us into such foreign territory. But that’s what faith is (Heb 11:8-10) Do we REALLY trust in the Invisible??? If He says taste and see that He is good, do we? Or do we cling to previous knowledge? Does pride and prejudice keep us from exploring? Does the fear of being wrong or hurt again hold us back? This is a wonderful part of the journey too often missed by the religious nibbling on inherited leftovers, but in a fresh relationship with Jesus Christ, there’s an entire banquet set before us. God is not guaranteeing all of it is good or none of it will cause discomfort, but as we receive Him in FAITH, He promises to never leave or allow any of it to hurt us beyond recovery. He wants us to explore and to discover for ourselves what His good and perfect will is.

In my own journey, God’s healing has  involved exposing me to the diversity of his body through the honest exploration of a variety of teachings. Visiting different churches has helped tear down the prejudices instilled by my previous religion. Yet some would claim that is spiritual harlotry. But how can anyone curse what God has already blessed? (Nu 23:8) I don’t make decisions based on “what I was always taught” but instead I test it all and see how it lines up with scripture. I am fond of saying “I currently believe…” as I know too well that I may be challenged by learned men and God’s Spirit to realize I was wrong. I wake up knowing that what I believe today may be overturned tomorrow. I test, I pray through it, I wait. I pray everyone have that joy and confidence in God to do this.

If you are a believer, it means you were called and chosen by the Father already. He loves you. What have you to fear? Explore! If God is for us who can be against us????? Yet we too often put God in a box. We make up our minds, then see what matches what we already decided. If a “crazy” idea comes up, do we reject it saying it can not be true as it won’t fit in the box?  Bible study should be approached with the utmost freedom to question odd ball ideas. Sometimes one odd ball idea will lead down a rabbit trail that proves that idea wrong, however, along the way we discover a valid truth about some other area of question because of the time put to study and prayer. This is where the excitement is!! It’s when we approach daily reading and prayer with preconceived ideas that it becomes ritual and boring and we fall into a spirit of religion. As long as Christ is holding me, I’m trusting and letting the wind blow (John 3:8). I don’t ever expect to know all the answers either.

Someone once made this comment of me, “some children obey when told the stove is hot, but Julie has to touch it to make sure.” That sounds like the description of a rebellious child. In the garden, the first pair were told essentially there was a hot stove. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be touched…….or was it? Maybe they touched it a lot. They certainly had to have seen it. God’s command to Adam was simply not to eat the fruit. It was Eve that added “you must not touch it” (Gen 2:17; 3:3) The fruit was not to be consumed where it would fill the body and become one with it. That is what was implied by “do not eat.” Were they obedient if they looked at it, touched it, explored and studied it’s properties and yet refused to eat it? I think so. Unfortunately though, Eve went headlong into consumption and further more shared it with her partner. Sin entered them both through the digestion of it–not by merely looking at it or touching it to figure something out for themselves. God is not against education is He?

What about now? Are we given freedom in Christ to explore? God tells us “do not fear, I am with you” and how do we respond? I obey with understanding that I am now in His garden and He has the right to claim what belongs to Him alone and what I must avoid and what I must surrender to Him. And yet, He invites me to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

If I do not touch the hot stove, I don’t know if it’s really hot or if some authority other than God just enjoys keeping me from it. God is my authority now, not any well-meant human parent. And what does God tell me? He says in effect, “I put a tree before you. There it is. It is not meant for you to consume, but you can’t help but notice it. You will see it with your eyes. You will smell it’s fragrance. You will stand next to it. I never said you couldn’t touch it. But on the day you eat of it by taking it into your system and allowing it to feed your hungers, you will notice the separation. You will know you’ve sinned and be ashamed. You will want to hide from me, but I will search for you.”

In the garden this occurred and the outcome was a flaming sword blocking the way to the tree of life. Through Christ, the way is now open. As I go forward and test the spirits, I am also warned in 1 Timothy 4:1 that “…some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Therefore, in venturing out to test, I do run the risk of following deception. However, the value of a relationship with Jesus Christ living inside me is in becoming aware of sin from within should it release unhealthy hungers. A set of religious rules cannot convict as well as a downcast spirit sensing the separation which brings repentance and forgiveness. In other words, I believe if I begin to follow a deceptive spirit, one of two things will happen: I will abandon the faith, or I will grow to maturity having tested it. I believe God invites us to touch the hot stove. I believe He is ready to heal our blistered fingers when we do and then the next time we pass the stove, our experience reminds us of what we learned and God’s forgiveness is magnified even more. In that maturity, we are no longer tempted to eat something in an effort to feed the needs  that only God can fill. We remember the experience we were allowed to explore. In our infant religion, it all remains “forbidden fruit” forever tempting us to taste. That is why maturity in Christ  involves some exploration so that we know that we know what we know.

I asked the Lord about the weakness I am prone to. 

From where does this spirit of religion come? It’s root is pride. Why am I prideful? It is a protective wall. Why do I need protection? I fear. What is the cure? Love. For I am being made perfect in love to cast out fear. I trust your work Lord…..

I believe God has allowed me to test the spirits because of this. He is casting out fear as I trust His love over me. As I read from Hebrews 12:22-25 about the things we have access to in approaching the spiritual Mount Zion, God asked me what I was trembling at. I admitted it was the church here on earth. He told me at that moment that He was with me always and that I should not refuse Him when He speaks through it. He gave me permission to test the spirits assuring me He would never let go as I went on the journey to find out for myself what was of God and what was deceptive. Having been hurt by a false prophet in a congregation I trusted, it is no wonder that I must resolve these issues so that I can recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood as I explore different teachings.

I’ve stood before people with fear and trembling to have them pray over me about my fear of the church. Isn’t it odd to have the thing you fear most pray for you? I’ve had my skepticism in listening to men who claim to be anointed with healing ministries. My religion taught me to fear  “laying on of hands” and “speaking in tongues” but God progressively taught me not to fear and that He was with me. It was all in baby steps along the way, but more than learning about these gifts, I learned about FAITH and FEAR. And because I previously pushed the envelope attending various church gatherings outside of my comfort zone, I finally came to a point to trust further the body of Christ on earth—which has been my greatest fear. I’d permitted others to pray over me before, but one evening I changed my focus. I told Jesus I trusted him to heal me through another’s hands. I gave no special credit to the one praying, he was just a member in the body of Christ. It’s not about his healing hands, it’s not about his gift of tongues, it’s about my faith in the body of Christ here on earth. So I let my faith  lead me to trust without fear and  RECEIVE IT THROUGH CHRIST. I didn’t feel anything “magical” in that at the time, but I did feel released. What is the magic then? It is my faith. “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” If I didn’t press on to test the gifts, I would’ve missed that lesson on faith. I received it in faith only due to exposing myself long enough to a portion of the church I previously misunderstood so that I could trust these prayers and I received healing not from a man, but by Jesus flowing through the body of Christ on earth. I allowed it because I trust God is with me. And He granted me to trust the body for it has been a long time prayer for me to “trust the church on earth.” So, this really wasn’t about studying the gifts of the Spirit as much as it was a lesson in combining faith with action.

It all begins with faith. It does not end there though. Faith pushes us to the testing grounds. This looks different for each of us. If we consistently pray and then ask why we don’t hear God’s voice, I wonder if we’re praying too much? Is it time to put feet to faith? I do believe a person can hide themselves in prayer and never step into their inheritance. If God is nudging you to do something, faith and fear are involved. It may be something very, very tiny….like a little mustard seed….but it is so important that you do it because our faith grows and He becomes real to us when our faith is linked to action. And action may include the simple faith in presenting yourself to trust and receive.

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ……In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

I felt blessed and released.  But what really had I done? Some monumental act? No, not really. But I took a baby step of faith and another, and another. What had God done? By asking me to test, He dispelled a  myth  that gave men more power than they deserve while at the same time letting me recognize their actual value within the body. He is answering my prayer concerning fears of the church. He is getting at the root of my own weakness to a spirit of religion. In my obedience to His challenge, my pride is exposed by the things I do not understand and must humbly investigate. I tell you these things in case you can pinpoint an area in your own life where you may have let fear hold you back. It is fine to recognize where you are and admit “I keep praying and don’t know what He wants me to do” but if in fact you know there is something, no matter how small, that He has asked you to do, then it is important to begin the exploration. If you look at the faith of Abraham, you’ll see it was YEARS before he could offer up Isaac in such submission to God. There were baby steps along the way that taught Abraham to know God was trustworthy even in the craziest things He requested. See related article “The Uncertainty of Abraham”  https://fruitageofthespirit.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/the-uncertainty-of-abraham/

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone……26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:20-26)

So what does the word of life advise if we’ve been existing on milk too long and not moving forward after coming to faith? It says it’s alright to go back to the elementary truths of God’s word all over again, but please note that God wants us to grow to maturity in it and it is by use  (testing for ourselves and going beyond our comfort zone) that we will be trained to distinguish good from evil.

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14)

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Ro 12:1, 2)

What is God asking us to do? Be transformed by His mercy and THEN, yes, then we will be able to TEST and approve what God’s will is. He has so much in store for us. Regularly we go back to the elementary things to help restore that understanding of God’s grace and mercy over us, but know that at some point He again will remind us that we DIED with Christ and Christ wants to live through us. Christ has a work to do here on earth through His body the church of which we are part. He wants to use our bodies to do His work. Don’t hinder him in using yours and trust that He is working through others too. Is there a baby step you neglect to take because of fear? He has prepared you along the way for a work He had in mind long before you were even born. Let him grow it to maturity in you! Offer your body to him then, for at the cross you died and in your baptism you were buried with him but risen to a new life! (Ro 6:4)

I praise God for the grace he has apportioned to each member of His body the church. He gives as he gives it. We are the body from the newest convert to the oldest sage in the faith. No member is more important than the other. We may serve in different ways as we are called to different ministries, but those ministries all serve God and are for the up building of the entire body. When we understand this fact, embracing the mercy shown to us as individuals, we are no longer infants clinging to milk fearful and unable to grow. God remains Our Father and Protection no matter what teaching or scheme of man blows our way.

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.8This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:7-16)

Keep yourselves in God’s love, Julie

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May 24, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

   

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