Within each Christian who professes faith in Jesus Christ is a false self and a true self. The false self came about in the garden of Eden. God had told Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
But, when Adam and Eve ate from that tree, the true self that God had intended for them died. Instead, a false self arose which sought after knowledge, self-satisfying knowledge. It is this knowledge that tells us that there are things better than God; that we do not need God.
This false self has caused a misalignment of our person so that our mind, heart and soul go separate ways. So, it gives us a different perspective when Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). In order to love God, our heart and soul and mind have to come as one so that we can love the totality of God with the totality of our person. God is love. To love him back we must also be love. Our whole personality must be love, but this is only possible with the true self.
What is the true self? It is Christ in us. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20
But the false self will not relinquish his throne that easily. Yet, the only power he has is deception. And the only weapon he has is our thoughts.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Cor. 10:4-5
Our thoughts are so deceptive that, when we come to God, we think we’re going in faith; but we are actually approaching God with the false self. Thomas Merton wrote, “What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?”
We come to God with the attitude of my, mine, I; when we should come to God with the attitude of You. It should be God who creates the environment to approach him. It’s His presence that we come into, and not our presence that He comes into.
“We don’t think big enough about God! We judge Him by our own limitations and negative feelings, and project those feelings unto Him.” -Thomas Keating
So, what is the environment of God? It’s love.
We cannot approach him with our ways and our thoughts — “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). We approach Him in faith.
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” -Eph. 3:12
We have to be free from our false self and have confidence that the true self — Christ in us — is ushering us into the spirit realm where the fullness of God’s presence allows us to partake of the fruit of the Spirit.
At the top of the fruit of the Spirit is love.
It’s ironic that rush hour is actually a time when traffic comes almost to a halt. But this is, of course, due to the volume of vehicles trying to get somewhere in a rush. Rush hour creates much frustration, impatience and even road rage. It is a microcosm of the world today in that people are seemingly making a mad dash for whatever they think would give them a semblance of security or purpose, to only find themselves negatively impacted.
Sadly, this rush hour syndrome has filtered down to Christians, so that our quiet time of prayer and Bible reading is hurried on by the demands of the day that is yet to unfold. It should be that our time with God must dictate on the day so we are prepared to meet its challenges. Instead, we let the day, even if we still don’t know what it holds, overwhelm our time with God. No wonder we find ourselves just as stressed out as anyone else and we find ourselves no different than those whose minds don’t even bother to dwell on God.
Many Christians have lost the art of contemplation, which comprises of four experiences:
1. Reading the Bible. Don’t just run through a passage, mine it for pearls of wisdom (Matt. 13:45). Read it as if it were God speaking to you; for He does!
2. Spend several minutes in silence and dwell on the word just read (Psalm 46:10).
3. Pray, knowing that God’s presence surrounds you and it is an opportunity to be intimate with Him (Matt. 6:6).
4. Worship God and thank Him (Col. 3:17) for His presence, love and grace
Contemplation may require time, but it’s time well spent. It shouldn’t be a part of our rush hour.
Kenosis is a Greek word meaning, self-emptying. It is what Jesus went through as described in Phil. 2:6-8. In dying on the cross He became nothing that we may have life in Him. In essence, although the cross was an instrument of death, it has become for mankind a symbol of life.
Thus, it gives us a different perspective when we read in the Gospel these words, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me'” (Luke 9:23). Following Jesus means to bring life to this dying world with the message of salvation. But we cannot effectively accomplish this without carrying our cross or going through our own kenosis.
It is the emptying of ourselves that allows Jesus to work in and through us — “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is through the emptying of ourselves that allows us to be filled with His abundant life, the kind of life that builds up, encourages and ministers grace to people.
The emptying of ourselves is the emptying of our will and desires unto God. It may not be easy, because the self will fight every move to replace it with Christ. But this is why the Holy Spirit was sent, so He may lead us into all truth. It is truth that can effectively battle the self, which thrives on falsehood.
The greatest falsehood is that man doesn’t need God. Because man believes in this, he has become even more lost and in darkness.
Yet, in our kenosis, we allow more of God’s life and light to filter through us. Die to self and live in Christ.
This is the essence of Christianity.
Two sisters, Martha and Mary, both loved by the Lord (John 11:5). When Jesus came to visit, we are told that Martha was busy preparing, presumably for this visit. Mary, on the other hand, chose to sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to him. Upset by what her sister was doing, Martha complained to Jesus about Mary not helping in the work of preparation.
Jesus answered her that she was too distracted by many things and that Mary chose the right thing to do.
Jesus did not admonish Martha for working. He admonished her for being distracted. Distracted from what? Distracted from spending time with Him. It was ironic, because He was the guest of the house and yet Martha was not focused on Him. And because she was distracted, she became worried and upset.
Jesus does not ask us to abandon work, but rather to set aside time to rest in Him. To rest in Him is to rest our body, spirit and mind in quiet meditation before His presence. When we are able to rest in His presence, we are then able to face the challenges of the day with our spirits continuing to rest in Him and our thoughts centered on the Lord. This guards us from work controlling us in that we become worried and upset if things are not going our way.
The Bible tells us that the Lord directs our steps (Pro. 20:24). When we rest in Him, we turn over control of our work to Him.
Our work then becomes a blessing instead of a burden.
“…And you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
No one can doubt that our bodies need rest from time to time. No life will last without rest.
So it is with our souls. What does the Bible mean when it mentions the soul? It refers to the center of man’s personality — his emotions, feelings and desires. As such, the soul is in constant activity as it reacts, accepts and rejects life’s situations. It can never be satisfied except by finding rest in Christ.
Finding rest in Christ is to find inner peace, a peace that cannot be found in material wealth, nor in knowledge, nor in religion. Rest for our souls comes when we are able to surrender to the Lord our longings and our hopes. And trust that He knows what is best for us. We must learn to let go and let God.
Yet, resting our souls, unlike the rest needed by our bodies, must be on-going. We must always be constantly conscious of Christ as He works in and through our lives. As Matthew 11 continues, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). The Lord wants us to be on the other side of the yoke. We are to be His partner in His will and His desires. And it is not a burdensome yoke.
How can a yoke not be burdensome?
Jesus takes all the load.