Paul the apostle never let being a prisoner stop him from spreading the gospel. Even Caesar’s household got the message when he was in a Roman prison. Today a man who has a life sentence in a state prison is taking advantage of the opportunity of doing the same thing. He has been a loyal and determined follower of Jesus for more than ten years of his time as an inmate. He has read Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith and is using it to teach some of his fellow inmates. The question arose of what it means when Jesus said to “take up your cross daily and follow Me.” That subject is a major focus of Part 3 of Transformation. Jesus emphasized the importance of what He said when he added that we are not worthy of being His disciple if we refuse to or fail to obey His command. I’m sure being in prison takes away from self importance, but studying this in Transformation and related scripture intensifies the need for humility. Who knows what these studies will do for the incarcerated? Jesus said that the knowledge of the truth will set us free; maybe not from the prison cell, but from the spiritual slavery of pride. Although today’s culture tends to view truth as whatever we want it to be, the fact remains that Biblical truth doesn’t change. Scripture is true and Jesus is the truth. One truth is that we should have the mind of Christ, which is defined as having the attitude of humility. In humility He died to pay the penalty of sin for all who believe. Take up your cross.
God is identified in the Bible as the God of Love–even more, it declares that God IS love. It says,and is verified by Jesus, that the most important commandment is to love God with all you have and to love your neighbor as yourself. Three references to love that appear to be different. Are they, or does it matter? Some say the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament, but others see Him as the same God, but under different circumstances. Isaiah says that God’s thoughts are above ours, often beyond our comprehension, His ways different than ours. A deep and sincere study of the Bible reveals that God loves in ways that are not always obvious according to our “want it now” view of things. The intent of Transformation The Servant’s Heart-A Life of Faith is to encourage Christians to look in the mirror and respond honestly to what they see there. One part of the book is devoted to Romans 12:9, 10 and where it leads when it talks about love being sincere. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talks about nothing being sincere unless it is done in love. Jesus talks about obedience to Him being the sign of our love for Him. Simply put, love is giving yourself away. Loving your neighbor means putting he or she first. One way to look at loving your neighbor as yourself is that you treat them as you want to be treated, better known as the Golden Rule. Jesus said to take up your cross and follow Him. This means to die to yourself. So much for pride. The God of Love expressed His love for people by sending His Son to die in payment of their sins. Jesus, the Son, was willing to pay that penalty because of His love for us. The amazing thing is that none of us deserves that love. Love is the answer–for so much. I can testify to that.
Be anxious for nothing! Does that sound ridiculous? Depending on your point of view it can be. It depends on whether you put your trust in yourself or in a better and much more dependable source of problem solving. This statement is Biblical and well know to readers of the Word, but often forgotten when the attack comes. The answer given is prayer, expressing a true trust in the God who promised to be always there if you believe and trust Him. As Transformation points out, worry and anxiousness often stem from a fear that most likely won’t happen anyway. Anxiety doesn’t solve a problem, no matter how real it is. The Bible expresses very directly that we needn’t fear. For anyone who will take that as truth and depend on it, it is a great encouragement. It is an open door to solving real problems and not wasting time about something that doesn’t exist or can’t be solved by worring. Jesus said that tomorrow has it’s own problems, and that we should not worry about tomorrow. He gave some strong advice: seek His kingdom and righteousness and He will provide all that is necessary for our lives. What a promise! The point here is, if you have a problem with worrying about things, take a look at yourself and check out the validity of your relationship. Ask God to do a check up too. He has better insight than we do. This time of the year is especially prone to the dillema of worry, when we are under pressure to buy gifts, get ready for company, plan and prepare a meal for the family and find ourselves concentrated on perfection, not goofing up in our selection of gifts, not coming short in the preparation of the “Christmas banquet,” forgetting someone on the Christmas card list or a dozen things that will make us look good. Pardon the cliche, but it isn’t about us. God’s plan is perfect, lest we forget.
When it comes down to anxiety, a critical spirit, or pride, each one is a stumbling block to a Christian. If any believer denies that they ever suffer from any or all of these issues they need to be like David in Psalm 51 and be honest with themselves. But all is not lost. God is specific in an alternative to worry. Trust Him. When it comes to sincere love, the cross is crucial, for there Jesus expressed the extreme love God has for sinful mankind and paid the penalty required by the judgment of a Holy God. Focusing on one’s self stands against the need to have the mind of Christ. One might wonder how that is possible, but when it comes down to it, the Bible is referring to being humble before God. In every case, a relationship with the Lord is at stake. He is soveriegn, all wise and just, but above all He is love. He expresses it in many ways, but most of all by dying for us who don’t deserve anything good from Him. A reader expressed victory over an ongoing problem with hospitality. Just the thought of having friends over for a meal generated worry and a fear that she would do things wrong and be embarrassed. She was influenced by what Transformation said and found that the inate fear has vanished. Her trust and faith in God was strengthened. But it wasn’t what she read that changed her. It was God working through the ideas that were, after all, scripture based. That is the intent of Transformation.
A question asked in Transformation is why do Christians seem to suffer as much from anxiety as non-believers? The answer is based partly on the believer’s relationship with God. Do we really believe that the Bible is God’s word? Is it true and can it be trusted. Can God be trusted? The Bible states that it is true and that Christ Jesus is the Truth. More than three hundred times the Bible tells us to not worry, be anxious or be afraid. Fear in this context is not talking about fearing God, which is describing how we should hold a soveriegn, holy and all powerful God in awe and wonder. Transformation is not a replacement for God’s word, but is intended as a guide for dealing with anxiety and two other issues that trouble Christians. It is based on scripture and experience, both personal by the author and through observation of others. Transformation is designed to cause believers of any level to examine themselves and make changes, if necessary, in their view of God and their relationship with Him. Even more inportantly, it will cause the serious believer to seek God’s attention and, as David said, Search me, O God and see if there is a problem with our relationship (my translation). The result of either examination is important if we are serious about our status with God. Scripture tells us that we are to have the mind of Christ, or His attitude. Anxiety was not one of His attributes. He promised to give us peace, as opposed to worry. Transformation will help you in dealing with anxiety by directing you to scripture that deals with the problem. It should help us to be honest with ourselves and admit that we need God’s strength to deal with any of life’s problems, including anxiety. Life is not always as we would like, but anxiety never solved a problem and is often based on pre-suppositions, things that will never happen. God promises us a better way of dealing with problems. He can be trusted. Worry cannot.