Watch for the predator of prideful self-sufficiency.

3 02 2016

The Jesus way is not a peaceful stroll through a meadow alive in glorious sunlight. Yes, there will be patches of ease and times when all seems well in your world. But the reality is that you trek through terrain that always holds danger. There are “predators” which intend to ensnare the disciple.

We are already beginning to see this warfare in Jesus’ blazing the trail. Satan sought to snuff out Jesus’ life as a baby. The magi refused to identify the messiah to Herod so he had all children in Bethlehem two years and younger killed to try to eliminate the Christ child (Matt. 2:17). Immediately after Jesus began His public ministry with water baptism, He had to undergo three temptations from Satan himself (Matt. 4:1-11). For years He was continually criticized by the religious establishment (for example Matt. 15:1-20), and abandoned by some of His disciples (John 6:66). In Gethsemane the attack came as an internal struggle to obey. The temptation was real for Christ,

“who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:7-9).

The predators who await you on the trail are easily recognized. You will not be surprised as to who or what they are, but you will still need to be always alert to the ways and times they appear. John names them this way:

“For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

As we are called into Gethsemane-like struggles, personal thoughts or counsel from others which resist the call to surrender must be seen as predatory attacks from the evil kingdom. In Jesus’ calling, He began to tell the disciples that He would suffer, be killed and rise again (Matt. 16:21). Peter was well-meaning when he protested, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You! (Matt. 16:22). But notice the source of this resistance:

“But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’’ (Matt. 16:23).

Our fleshly nature is full of pride which wants its own way. It wants to depend on no one, and yield to no one. We are taught to take control of our lives, and to work out our own problems. We are rewarded when we show ourselves to be self-reliant. No wonder we find it difficult to surrender decisions and outcomes to another, even God.

When you find yourself in a Gethsemane-like experience, seek to identify prideful expressions of your fleshly nature. Note the resistance to surrender which rises up in your heart and mind. Hold this resistance up to the Father and test the motive behind it. Is it a subtle attempt to preserve your reputation, your lifestyle, or your autonomy? Even Jesus learned obedience though the things He suffered. How much more are we to learn to obey when God calls us to surrender to His will.

There is an ancient spiritual discipline taught by Ignatius called the grace of indifference or detachment. This points, not to apathy, but to a holy trust in God’s good purpose for your life, such that you are indifferent to anything other than the will of God. Reaching such a point of detachment from one particular choice over another can be an arduous process of prayerful surrender, but that can be the place where, like Jesus, we pray “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” That is the holy ground where we turn the corner from self-preservation to surrender .

…to be continued

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