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01.01.1970 01:0000    Comments: 0    Categories: General Articles      Tags:
The Refinement of Our Faith- a Bridge of Identification to the Lost World

Written by Ed M. Smith

I travel a lot and meet many new people seated next to me in flight, in airports and out of the way places. No matter where I go, the conversation eventually moves to the same place--fear, anxiety and concern about what is happening in the world and how it is emotionally impacting each different person's life. I am afforded many opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus in this context. It is in this context of crisis and trouble that people are often very open to hearing about Jesus.

I have found that I can easily identify with my sojourner in his pain since I share the same problem of harboring "lie-based pain" that is also exposed by that which is happening around me. The reason lost people are fearful, anxious and worried is the same for the community of believers. Yes, we know the Lord and thus walk in some measure of truth and peace, but we are still infested with lies and therefore have our moments of emotional exposure just as those who do not know the Lord. Because we all have minds in need of renewal, to some degree we share this common experience: it is just a matter of the right circumstance that exposes it.

Lie-based pain is the bridge of identification that I still have with the lost world.

I cannot identify with the lost world through my spiritual place in Christ for I am now a citizen of heaven and am crucified to this world and this world to me. However, I do walk on common ground with the lost man in that I am still infested with lies and thus experience the same fears, worries, anxieties and emotional duress. It is at this point of contact I can honestly say to him, "I know how you feel." However, I can also now honestly say "Come with me for I know the way to peace."

As I was sitting in a restaurant some time ago, I asked the waitress how she was doing. Her response was, "I am really having a hard time sleeping at night with all the bad things happening in the world." I identified with her fear and then asked her if she would like to have this fear resolved. To make a long story short, I was able to offer her ministry using the TPM process and as an outcome she also prayed with me to invite the Lord of peace to become her Savior.

The refining of our faith is not about God seeing how much we can endure, but the exposure of that which is not true and the replacement with His truth.

Yes these are troubling times, but the events occurring around us can easily pull back the veneer of our performance revealing what we experientially believe. Our emotional status is clear evidence of what we really believe as opposed to what we logically profess. I was heart broken as I watched the terrible tsunami in Asia and then later the hurricanes, the ongoing crisis in the middle-east and all that has happened lately, but I also know that all of this was a predicted precursor in the Bible of things to come in the final days. I am not one to ascribe a prophetic meaning or attach the judgment of God to every natural catastrophe but I do believe that God is at work in all things. God has a purpose in either orchestrating or allowing all that occurs around us and is working a good in and through it all for those who "love Him and are called according to His purpose," (Rom. 8:28-29). A portion of this good is the necessary exposure of our faith (what we believe). The refining of our faith/belief system is not about God seeing how much we can endure, but the exposure of that which is not true and the replacement with His truth. Somewhere along the way we were led to believe that God puts us in a trial to merely see how much we can stand in order to demonstrate the spiritual maturity of those who endure. I want to suggest that none of us are "spiritual" apart from Christ and that the fire is sent to expose this reality so that we might cry out to God for His truth and learn to live in such a way that we can say with the Apostle Paul, "It is no longer I but Christ" (Galatians 2:20). The truth is, whatever is in me will come to the surface when the pressure is increased on the outside. I hear this explanation for why we are "sent" trails and tribulation from the lost person as much as I do from the community of faith. Have you not heard it said, "Just be strong. God just wants to see what you are made of." This is simply not the truth. God knows that we are made of dust and wants us to see what we believe. The fire is sent to "test our faith." The New Testament word often translated faith is "postos" which basically means belief. The fact that my faith is being refined tells me that there is something that is less than pure in what I believe. My faith contains inpurities that need to be exposed. When the fire heats up, whatever I believe will be exposed by my emotional reaction. The TPM principles say it this way, "We feel what ever we believe."

When I am seated next to a fellow traveler who is experiencing a difficult time in life (which almost everyone is) I wait for the opportune time to gently challenge this belief and offer what I believe is a more Biblical explanation. I want the person to see the hope and the way out through truth as opposed to just enduring it. God is not trying to see how long you will last before you cry "uncle", but is exposing your true belief system that is made evident by what you feel.

There are several options available to us when the fire is turned up.

If we believe that the purpose of the fire is to see how much we can stand then all we can do is grit our teeth and sizzle. However, if God's purpose is exposure, then our ownership of what is exposed and refinement of our faith/belief is the best outcome and also rests within our free will choice. However, we often seek other ways of escape rather than His path. Sometimes we look for outside sources to blame for our situation. The lady in the restaurant attributed her fear to the world crisis for when in fact it was rooted in several child memory experiences filled with fear. We often blame our spouse for the anger, stress, frustration or fears we experience rather than owning what is our own. Blaming others and outside sources, deflects the blame for the pain away from its true source and places us in an irresolvable loop of defeat. As long as the blame for my emotional duress is other than myself I can never be free until the exterior changes.

Another path is denying what we are feeling and applying performance-based-spirituality to the situation. This approach always seemed a bit crazy to me. Nevertheless, it is very common in the church today. You ask a person who is obviously struggling and in emotional pain how he is doing and he will "suck it up" and say, "Doing great, praise the Lord." Somehow this seems like lying.

Finally, when all else fails some of us just choose to "put our past behind us" (which is for the most part just denial and suppression). This behavior kind of works for a time but eventually peters out and we crash and burn. What does work is we can look inward and outward; own our emotional duress, identify the lie-based thinking exposed by the emotion we feel and hold up what we believe to the Lord for His truth. I believe that this is best.

As the world continues to come apart at the seams, the Church has great opportunity to model the road to freedom.

I am afraid that the world condition is going to continue to deteriorate. I believe that the weakening seams of what is left holding things in place will eventually unravel spilling out what is inside. Though the outcome may indeed be overwhelming, the church can be in a pivotal position to identify with a lost world since she too will initially be exposed of her own lie-based pain. However, she will also be in a place where she can model the role of owning what we feel, identifying what we believe and choosing to look to Christ. However, initially there may not be much difference between how the world emotionally responds and the church when the fire comes. I am seeing much fear, anxiety, and duress coming from the community of faith even now as the fire is starting to heat up. Yet, as the church seeks the Lord in these days she will hopefully begin to magnify the glory of her sanctification and become a beacon of hope to the world that has no hope. My prayer for you and for myself is that while the flame is low we will be faithful to own what is being exposed in us now, find His truth and peace so that when the flames increase we will be able to "stand in it" be exposed and then proclaim Christ.

As I already stated, I cannot identify with the lost world from my heavenly position in Christ. I am a new man in Christ and I have His heart. The lost world cannot comprehend this reality since "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14 NKJV). However, my mind is still corrupted with the falsehood of this world and in the process of being made new (Rom. 12:2). As I am exposed by what happens around me I can identify with the lost world who has no hope in the same circumstance. However, I stand with hope of redemption and evidence of renewal. May we identify with the lost in our exposure, pursue Christ in the tribulation, and thus be renewed by the transforming of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
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