Recognize and Replace!
Recovering Freedom through Repentance: Lesson 7
In the previous lesson, The Pathway of Temptation, we explored the seven stages of temptation, noting that the enemy's primary objective is to draw us away from our rightful place of surrender and union with Christ. Since our salvation - in all of its forms - comes to us by grace through faith the center point of the enemy's attack quite naturally is to disconnect us from trusting in and relying upon our God and His grace.
As soon as a potential disconnect begins, we start losing the peace of Christ which is meant to rule in our hearts at all times.[i] This loss of peace is the Holy Spirit "throwing a flag on the play," alerting us that we are being drawn in the wrong direction. Noticing that loss of peace - and understanding what it means - gives us a choice: We can choose life by seeking to reconnect with our source of new life (Jesus) or we can choose death by continuing to let the temptation gain ground within us.
Every fresh challenge or temptation, therefore, presents us with daily opportunities to grow spiritually into Christ or to fall back in reliance upon Self - our old nemesis and former god. Remembering this, recognizing the opportunity and taking advantage of it means that we need some principle of simplicity by which to ingrain the new ways. We call ours: Recognize and replace!
You have an enemy actively "seeking whom he may devour" - always wanting to separate you from your God and His ways by breaking the trust connection or detouring your path of obedience.[ii] If you don't want to be robbed of your sweet surrender and the sense of peace and confidence it gives you, what can you do? Recognize and replace!
Recognize that the emotions stealing over you are not coming from Christ in you and replace them with the emotional life Jesus desires you to have. For this you will often need to act fast to reconnect, recovering your freedom through repentance. Although difficult at first, eventually, the way of replacing our junk (past issues and present negative emotions) with His grace will become as practiced as riding a bicycle with no hands.
Here is an example of a typical episode involving the sudden appearance of negative emotions:The peace of Christ is given to you as you surrender, trust and follow Jesus. So now you feel confident in God and are flowing in the river of peace, flowing in the river of peace, flowing in the river of peace.But wait: A challenge just came to the flow! Interruption of peace! Alert! Battle stations!
Something has come up in you or come down on you so that your peace is gone. You either have to deal with it or you will run from it; fight your way through it or surrender to it. Don't be passive! The enemy will use that to drag you down further. You are under attack, so A.C.T.! fast to reconnect.
A.C.T.! Fast to Reconnect
A) Admit: Admit right up front that you need help handling the situation or your emotions.That's why you feel weak and want to run, or hurt and want to lash out. Alone you are powerless to get the victories you need. The devil knows it. God knows it. So admit that you really do need God to be helping you right now with this situation, with your feelings, with your attitudes and desires - so that His peace can be restored.
C) Call: Call on Him!All who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved,[iii] so start praying like your life depends upon it! Call for help, confess your need, come clean about any sin and cast that care on Him. You need His help right now, so ask, seek and knock. He is eager to help you, but you have to ask Him in - it's a free will issue. Has your sense of failure or moral weakness got you feeling condemned, unworthy? Don't hold back.Go boldly to His throne of grace anyway.[iv] That's exactly what He wants you to do - to receive the mercy and help you need.
T) Trust: Trust yourself to God by laying hold of some lifesaving promise that offers you help and hope for this situation. Hold on tight to the truth of the promise. All kinds of good things are promised to you but you have to learn how to hold on to the truth of the promises when your emotions are under attack. You are separated from His peace and from seeing the way through, which is why you have to learn to live in the meantime by relying on His promises. Grab one or both of these: 'I will never leave you or forsake you;' 'No weapon formed against you will prosper.' Put it in first person: 'All things are being made to work for my good;' 'Not even this can separate me from my Father's love.' Bet your life on it! Our new life is lived out in this Land of Promises!
A.C.T.) Act: Put steps A, C, T together and act. Don't be passive - this is war!Obey whatever it is that you honestly believe the Lord wants you to do. Sometimes it is just 'be still and wait.' At other times it may be 'deny yourself and take up this cross" (do the very thing you don't want to do). Or it may be something easy or unexpected that the Spirit will show you. Stay open but be ready to act as soon as that idea takes shape.Learning to obey Jesus is the new way of life that leads to fullness of joy. Step out in His direction!
!) Thank Him: Begin thanking Him even before you see His action coming your way. Thank Him that His promises are true. Thank Him that He is teaching you to trust His promises. Thank Him that you can come so quickly to His throne of grace, that He reminded you to call on His Name and helped you to do it. Thank Him and praise Him that what the enemy meant for evil (in seeking to disconnect you from God and His peace), He is now using (through your ACT-ions) to reconnect you.
Now peace is restored! The peace of Christ is given to you as you surrender, trust and follow Jesus. Once again you are flowing in the river of peace, flowing in the river of peace, flowing in the river of peace. But wait: A challenge just came up! Here we go again...
Dislodging a Stronghold: The 6 R's
There may be a further problem, however, if the disconnect is happening in an un-mended area of your life where you have never experienced much of a "reconnect." If you have never yet known the peace or the victory of Christ in that area of your life, then you may need a deeper work in order to get a breakthrough over the power of that stronghold.
A.C.T.!-ing fast to reconnect is intended to give you quicker victories over negative emotions in the midst of normal life. This is a powerful way to achieve mastery over your inner state so that you can stay connected to Christ and keep the river flowing. But what if that particular river has never flowed properly for you? What if you need recovery and restoration of your emotional state from unresolved past issues before you can practice mastery?
The following six Steps to Freedom will help you return to walking in the light.[v] If you are stuck in a pattern and want to get free of it, you may need to break up what is now a hard work of repentance into these easier to understand steps. You may need to practice these six steps very deliberately at first in order to get effective victories in the stronghold areas that we will be exploring in later lessons.
As toddlers we all had to learn to walk in the natural; these are spiritual "baby steps" which will help you walk in the Spirit in areas where you still need restoration and recovery.
1) Recognize: Unless you can see that your way is amiss then there is no way to get back on track. Let the Holy Spirit turn on the lights, showing you by a loss of peace that there has been a loss of trust or obedience on your part. Learn to discern where sinful attitudes have taken over. Separate yourself from what is not you. The good is Christ in you - that's your core. The rest comes from the enemy. If it is not of God, it is not the real you (see Our New Identity).
That wrong thing in you (fearfulness, jealousy, shyness, etc.) is not you. Notice what it sounds like (its message) and what it feels like (its pressure) when it goes off inside you. It may have been "a part" of you for so long that it seems like it is just the way you are, but it isn't. Somewhere along the way it came inside from the outside. Break all agreements with the enemy and repent of any sinful reactions to originating events you may have had. Rightly recognizing sin as sin (that it is not good, not you and that it has to go) is half the battle.[vi]
2) Responsibility: Own it. Take responsibility for your part in it. Others may have sinned against you, but how you reacted to what they did is fully your responsibility. Allow yourself no excuses, no avoidance and no denial - repent of every attitude and action that missed the mark. True maturity is accepting and taking responsibility for what you recognize in you that is not of God. If it got in, you let it in or kept it in - stop blaming others. Don't look for a way out: Face it. Taking responsibility enables you to confess and repent honestly to God and to acknowledge that He is right, rather than seeking to vindicate your ways.[vii]
Taking responsibility restores you to being the true sovereign over your own heart and will. Your emotional reactions are the result of your own deeply held beliefs about right and wrong ways of responding to what is going on around you. If you try to make other people responsible for what you feel and do, you will always be ruled by their words and actions. But you are the head and not the tail when it comes to your emotional life: You can carry any thought or emotion captive to Christ and you can repent of your ways and choose to believe in God's ways. You can seek freedom through repentance.
Eventually this change in believing (when it goes deep enough) will bring about a shift in your emotional reactions in the future.[viii] By submitting your emotional life to Christ He enables you to rule over it (see Negative Emotions in the Life Applications section).
3) Return: Make a quick return to the Father. Reconnect with His love and mercy.[ix] Some wrong turns were made inside your thought-life that carried you away from being fully trusting of His love or fully submitted to His ways, allowing the stronghold to form in you. Turn back to God and His ways now. Don't delay like the prodigal son did, fearing that he wouldn't be received in love. There is "a refreshing" promised to those who repent, for it leads to freedom once we turn and reconnect with God's grace.[x] Cast all your cares on Him!
4) Renounce: Fall totally out of agreement with the enemy: Declare sin to be sin; declare its half-truths to be total lies; declare God's truth to be truth; and declare yourself to be committed to God no matter what. Then keep confessing God's truth that counteracts the lies behind the sin you have been walking in. Cultivate a perfect hatred for that sin.[xi] Make sin the enemy - not any person. Break agreement with anything that excuses or condones the sin. Discover and renounce the hidden lie the sin used to entice you, and confess the truth that God's Word declares. Carry every thought about it captive to Christ.[xii]
5) Remove: If need be, have someone pray with you to cast out any spirit that is not removed through repentance.[xiii] Get rid of the things in your life that are causing you to sin.[xiv] Be aware of this dynamic: If you want God, the Holy Spirit alerts you to dangers; if you want the sin, the enemy puts people and temptations in your path.Separate from "friends" who pull you down and away from Christ.
6) Resist: The spirit will try to come back and the stronghold will seek to reassert itself, so be prepared to keep resisting. Give the burden of the struggle to God. Don't try to strong arm it in your own strength. Run to Jesus instead. Draw near to Him first, then through His power and support, resist the temptations.[xv] It takes time to break old mental habits and start new ones. Don't give up: perseverance always prevails![xvi]
Pray, Persevere and Press In!
Restoration takes time and many individual moments of repentance. Give yourself grace and work through these steps little by little. Let God reveal to you what you need to deal with and let Him set the pace. Be gentle on yourself. Be a friend to yourself. But be very courageous about facing the truth.[xvii] Being saved by God requires a love of the truth - over and above the love of Self. Without total honesty, openness and transparency about your sins and stronghold areas, repentance is shallow at best.
"Pressing in" to the Kingdom is when you exercise faith to believe for freedom even under attack and keep pressing forward to trust and obey as fully as you can. No matter how bad things are, no matter how badly you may seem to be doing, no matter how bad you feel you always have a God who loves you, has covered you with mercy, is working all things for your good and who deeply desires you to reconnect with Him. Return to Him first, refresh your heart with His love and mercy, and then receive the grace and strength to keep going.
When trouble comes, A.C.T.! fast to reconnect and keep doing the steps!
Father, somehow I have lost the peace in this area of my life and can't seem to get it back. I need Your help! Forgive me and work with me to restore me to trust and obedience. I embrace what You have promised me in Your Word. Show me any steps I will need to take. Thank You for helping me learn to "guard my heart" and walk more closely with You.
Take It to Heart!Don't just give these truths a 'head bob'! For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Recognize and Replace! part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 7) and 'work out' with exercises, discussion questions, review of main points, digging deeper, more scriptures, model prayers, renunciations/affirmations and practical steps of life application.
Scriptures and Foot Notes
[i] Colossians 3:15
[ii] 1 Peter 5:8
[iii] Romans 10:13
[iv] Hebrews 4:16
[v] For the "R" repetitions in these steps of repentance: Dr. Henry W. Wright, Be In Health®, Thomaston, GA, seminar notes, October 2000.
[vi] 2 Timothy 2:25-26
[vii] Psalm 51:3-4
[viii] Proverbs 23:7; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21
[ix] James 4:7
[x] Luke 15; Acts 3:19; Hebrews 4:16
[xi] Psalm 97:10
[xii] 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
[xiii] Luke 11:20-26
[xiv] Acts 19:19
[xv] James 4:7-8
[xvi] Ephesians 6:13; Hebrews 12:1-2
[xvii] John 8:32