Principle #1: God Convicts/ He Does Not “Guilt” . . . .

It is a simple teaching given us by Jesus:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:27, 28

It is also a powerful declaration:
a reminder from our Good Shepherd, that He will see His children safely home.
Even so, we struggle as guilt–all too frequently-holds the upper hand.

How we think (and who we listen to) impacts how we respond to problems.  That is why helping people get into the wisdom and perspective of the Scriptures personally, is key to resolving (or at the very least coming to terms with) their problems.  In the Counseling Room we talk about looking at our problems and learning to discern between the voice of Scripture and the world around us.  We also talk about how conviction by the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, meant to direct our steps by keeping us on His path.  When we respond to conviction by going to God in faith and repentance–seeking forgiveness and to “make right” any wrongs committed toward others–we are freed to once again live for, love and serve Him with glad hearts.

God convicts us to free us through His Son.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation;
in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15

We also talk in the Counseling Room about the danger of being run by guilt:

Guilt is used by the Accuser*
to darken our perceptions as we give way to fear.

To illustrate, I share this story:

While on a trip to Israel, my friend (and the small group she was traveling with) enjoyed spending an afternoon watching a shepherd working with his flock of sheep.  As they watched, their tour guide talked about the relationship between shepherds and their sheep.  They learned that sheep are very vulnerable and need constant tending. The rod the shepherd carries is used to protect the sheep from snakes and other wild animals. The staff, many times crooked at the end, is helpful for pulling back a wandering sheep from danger, is used to lift lambs to return to their mothers and rescuing sheep caught up in thorn bushes or other dangers. Their guide emphasized that sheep are very vulnerable and that a good shepherd never hit his sheep.

Several days later, while waiting with the rest of her group for a bus, they noticed a small flock of sheep being forced along the road by a man beating them with a stick.  Shocked at the sight, the group looked to their guide with confusion on their faces.  The guide responded. “Don’t be fooled by appearances.  That man is not the shepherd of that flock; he’s the butcher!”

That story profoundly changed how I viewed myself and other people, how I perceived my problems and (most especially) how I saw God.  I realized that to doubt God in my heart, I was playing Satan’s game. By giving way to fear or anguish–assuming the worst of God–we lose sight of our faithful Shepherd.

A couple of questions:

  • How good are you at beating yourself up–when you realize you have failed God–AGAIN?
  • Do you isolate yourself from God–what I refer to as, “Put yourself in a spiritual corner”–because you think you should be further along in your walk with Christ than you are?

Principle #1:

God convicts our hearts to draw us closer to Himself;
He never “guilts” or beats up His kids.

The key to breaking such unhealthy patterns, is to refuse to play Satan’s game.  Instead of isolating yourself, run to the Shepherd in repentant faith:

  1. Give thanks to God when He convicts you.  (Conviction alerts us to potential dangers we might otherwise not recognize.)
  2. Refuse to doubt God’s Goodness–instead invite Him to reveal other sin areas as you open your mind and heart to Him.**
  3. Repent of your sin and give thanks for His forgiveness.
  4. Commit to honor Him every area of your life by refusing to doubt His Goodness.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again
by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

All to His Glory!

*This link offers a helpful perspective on Satan’s role in history.
**Psalm 139:23-24 provides a helpful pattern for repentance:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

 

A Lesson on Trust . . . .

From the beginning of our relationship, God used my marriage and three children to convict and speak truth to my heart.  Believing that some of those lessons might encourage you, I asked for (and received) permission from my family to write a series of posts featuring a few of those lessons.
I offer them in the hope that God’s loving faithfulness
will speak encouragement to your hearts. 

It took me a while to learn that when God’s Spirit works conviction in a Believers heart, His intent is blessing. Jesus confirmed this as He spoke about the role of the Holy Spirit:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.
He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears,
and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you.”

John 16:13, 14

Once we have repented of our sins and embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior,
God’s Spirit convicts our hearts to free us from the plague of sin that pulls us down.
God does not “guilt” His kids into submission,
but convicts us to free us to serve Him well.

Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:7, 8

It had been a rough couple of years.  Ever fearful of the potential harm that could come down on our firstborn’s penchant for excitement, I had become a roadblock to almost everything she wanted to do.  Much of the time I felt as if I was a single mom with my husband, then a pilot for the US military, being away more than he was home.  My lifetime dream of being a mother had become a nightmare as fear and resentment grew in my heart.

Then one day it happened: I became convicted that I had lost sight of loving my daughter.  I realized that I was so busy roadblocking her every move, that I had forgotten to lean on God for the wisdom and perspective I lacked.  I was horrified and embarrassed at myself as I wondered: how I had fallen into such a trap?  Part of me was tempted to beat myself up at my failure.   Instead, I opened up my Bible to 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.  Intent on making things right with God’s help, I read each piece of instruction aloud as I committed to apply it to my daughter:

“Love is patient” . . . “Yes Lord, I can be more patient with Kara.”
“Love is kind” . . . “Yes, Father, I certainly can be kinder than I’ve been lately.
Love . . . is not proud . . . is not easily angered . . . keeps no record of wrongs . . . .” I responded without flinching, “Yes Lord, I am willing to do all of those things.”  

I continued until I got to verses 7 and 8,

Love–“always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

I started to choke (literally!) and confessed in a panic, “But Lord, I CAN’T trust her right now . . . we have a track record . . . she’s 15!”

It was then that I heard what is referred to in the Bible as, “that still, small voice”, speak softly but firmly:“But you CAN trust ME!”

It took a moment to process what had been spoken to my heart.  Then suddenly, the burden I had carried far too long, rolled from my shoulders as I thought, “Yes Lord . . . YES!  I can and DO trust You!”

Looking back it is still amazing how easy it was to love my daughter again.  Once I handed that burden over to Him I was FREE!  Oh, there were still challenges that came up, but when I responded with loving kindness and refused to keep that record of wrongs, I was freed to love and even enjoy my daughter.

Several months later a friend mentioned something Kara had done that I knew nothing about.  I decided to mention it when she arrived home from school, not so much to accuse her, but to ask if she’d really done it?  When she came in we chatted about school before I asked, “Kara, did you . . . ?”  (Don’t ask me what it was, I’ve totally forgotten.)

Kara stood quietly looking at me for several minutes before pounding her fist on the table, “Doggone it Mom–I give up!  Every time I try to get away with anything, God totally rats on me.  I give up!”

Stunned, I started laughing as Kara grinned back at me.

Lesson learned:
Conviction by the Holy Spirit + Humble Repentance = Opportunity to TRUST God more.

No matter what you may be facing, run to Him and to the Scriptures for the help you need.  He is totally worthy of your trust.

All to His Glory!

 

 

 

With Conviction There Is Hope ~

When she walked into my office I was surprised as she offered an almost shy smile.   She called a few days earlier asking about “anger management.”  I responded with a question, “Who is it for?”  She answered with a quivering voice, “It’s for me.  I have no friends because they’ve all distanced themselves from me.  I’m so lonely . . . I hurt people without thinking with my sarcasm . . . can you help me?”  Although I could not see her, I knew tears were falling . . . each one marking the pain of regret. Concerned yet aware of a knowing smile forming on my face, I remembered myself a lifetime ago with nowhere to turn . . . so angry . . . so afraid when I realized my anger had become a prison.  Life was hard but I soon found out that God is very, very good. . . .

During our first meeting, I introduced myself and talked about what I do as a Biblical Counselor.   I explained that I don’t “do” anger management but that I would help her get into the Scriptures to gain insight into God’s perspective on life and how He sees her.  I told her about how God helped me with my anger and that He could certainly help her too.  A light came into her eyes that I can only describe as a glimmer of hope as she responded, “That’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

It was my turn to listen as she told me her story.  She talked about her family, about hurt inflicted upon her by others.  She admitted that being angry had been a way of life; only recently did she realize that it was becoming a prison.  I appreciated her candor as she spoke of losing the people she holds most dear as they have distanced themselves from her angry outbursts and cutting remarks.  She admitted being confused as to why God allowed bad things to happen to her while also feeling convicted about hurting people who had done nothing to her.

I spoke to encourage a dry and hungry soul, not with pat answers but with the assurance of God’s provision:

Conviction is a good thing; with conviction there is hope.

She looked at me with her face twisted oddly as she tried to make sense of what I had just said.  She finally asked, “How can conviction ever be good?”

I answered simply, “When it serves as evidence of God’s Holy Spirit working in your heart.  God convicts in order to bring us to our senses, to recognize our need for salvation because we know we deserve hell.  When we repent of our sin (no longer making excuses for it) and trust in Christ Jesus to save us, we are truly free to live our lives well before Him.”  A light seemed to dawn as she listened and considered what I had said; that glimmer of hope began to widen as we looked at the Scriptures together . . . .

In a world that avoids taking personal responsibility for anything that happens and shifts blame to others for our sinful ways, the idea of conviction being a blessing is absurd.  Yet, consider the parable Jesus told about the youngest of two sons recorded in John 15:11-20,

“There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.”

When the rebellious son “came to his senses” he became convicted of his sinful behavior.  It was with that conviction that he realized his only hope was to return to the father he had dishonored and to confess his sins in the hope of being allowed to work for him as a hired hand.

Of course the parable has a much happier ending as Jesus pictures the father ready to receive and restore:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”  (vs. 20-24)

I still remember the day I realized I deserved hell.  I realized that before a Holy God there was nothing I could do but ask for the mercy I had refused to give to others because of my anger and resentment.  It was when I understood how filthy I truly was, that I came to appreciate the awful necessity and wonder of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

17th century Commentator Matthew Henry lends insight into the blessing of conviction under the Holy Spirit:

“Without clear discovery of our guilt and danger, we never shall understand the value of Christ’s salvation; but when brought to know ourselves aright, we begin to see the value of the Redeemer.”

Truly, with conviction there is hope when it is placed in the Lord Jesus Christ!

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  John 1:11-13

Feeling convicted?  Go to God as the younger son returned home to his father.  You can know and trust that God is watching for you just as the father watched for the son he had lost.

All to His Glory!