Tag Archives: Roy Hession

You find what you focus on

My kids and I play a game when in the car called Skittle Punch Bug.  It’s a game where you get a point for being the first to spot a yellow car and shout out, “Skittle!” or two points if you first spot the coveted yellow VW Bug.    One day while we were playing, one of my boys remarked that there seems to be more yellow cars around when we play Skittle than when we don’t.   To which my wife replied,

That’s because you are looking for them.  You tend to find what you focus on.

We tend to find what we focus on.  I’ve been chewing on this for the past week while I have been reading through the Gospel of John along with two other books:  When I Saw Him by Roy Hession and Living in Victory by Steve Gallagher.

John 5 contains one of the greatest questions in all of literature.   It’s the story of the paralytic man who for 38 years has suffered beside a pool called Bethesda, hoping to one day get a chance to bathe in it and thus be healed of his paralysis.   Jesus sees him and asks him the glorious question:  Do you want to be well? 

Those of us who have long suffered under the paralysis of addiction will yearn to say yes to such a question but will quickly qualify what “well” must mean.   Surely, we will insist, it can’t mean cured.  Surely, we insist, it can’t mean free.  We want that, to be sure, but experience has taught us that it’s not for us and we will settle for simple maintenance.   I’ll settle for just not being miserable every day.   The bar is very low for us addicts, isn’t it?

The truth, however, is that things like curing, freeing, saving, etc are the very things Jesus is most interested in doing for us.  He doesn’t come to us offering a maintenance plan to make my life and yours less miserable than it has been.  He comes offering life, and life abundantly!   (And in case you were wondering, the Greek word for “well” in John 5:6 means “restored, whole, sound, healthy.”   Sounds better than “not miserable,” right?)

Jesus is in the business of making us new, not better.

The books by Hession and Gallagher, which I mentioned above, echo this theme of being made whole, or new, by Jesus.    When we see Jesus for whom he really is, and when we see ourselves as we really are, we can live the sort of life God desires for all of us.  So what does that mean?

First, seeing ourselves as we really are.   I need to see myself in relation to a holy God.   There is for a me a profound shift in the atmosphere, so it would seem, when I call my habitual behavior what God calls it: sin.   When I entertain lustful thoughts, look at porn, focus more on my desires than on God and others, I am not walking in the Spirit but in my flesh.   God calls this sin.   And of course, we can become enslaved to sin.   Essentially that is what addiction is – enslavement to sin.

Agreeing with God that my primary issue is a sin issue opens the door to receive good news, because God is a master at dealing with sin.   Jesus died on a cross to deliver us from sin.   Seeing Jesus for whom he really is means I see him as my Healer, my Deliverer, my Savior.   Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8), promises that in Christ, sin shall no longer be our master (Rom. 6:12-14), declares that whomever the Son sets free they are truly free (John 8:36) and that in him we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).

I’ve discovered that I find what I focus on.  There are times when I veer off track and focus too much on my “disease” and on my “program” that I forget that what I am really fighting against is sin, and this fight I do not fight alone, but with Christ who has already conquered all.    When I remember that my battle is not with flesh and blood but “against spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), then I have reason to hope that I can live victoriously because I have a victorious Savior.

It all comes down to what I am focused upon.   Where is your focus?

 

Jesus the Door

I’m in the middle of a teaching series on Sunday called “Reveal” which takes us through the Gospel of John.  The aim is to reveal who Jesus is and why he is significant.   I don’t normally blog about my sermons but am doing so here for two reasons.  One, I think there is something beneficial for everyone, whether you are in recovery or not (yet).  And two, I leaned heavily on a chapter in one of my favorite books, We Would See Jesus, by Roy Hession.  Perhaps in reading this you will be led to buy his book and read it once or a thousands times.  I would.

hession

So the following are highlights from the sermon and the book.  You can view the sermon below.   I pray it blesses you.

Jesus as the Door

In the beginning there were no walls.   There was perfect fellowship between God and humans, and perfect fellowship between man and woman.  We didn’t have walls between us until sin entered the fabric of the universe. You can read about this in Genesis 3.  Almost immediately, after Adam and Eve reached beyond what God instructed, a wall went up.   Shame and guilt surrounded the relationships both here on earth and between us and heaven.  This is what sin does.  While it promises life and freedom it delivers only death and shame.  With each transgression it’s as if we are adding another rock to the layer until we wake up one morning and find our fellowship with God and others strained.

Even those of us who have walked with God for many years experience this wall from time to time if we are not vigilant.  It’s so easy to allow jealousy or bitterness or some resentment to erect a wall almost without our awareness.   Creep happens, where the things of this world entice us bit by bit and we unintentionally give ground, allowing sin to tantalize us just for a moment and before we realize it a habit has developed.  This habit soon becomes an addiction and we wake up one morning with a great wall between us and God and our fellows.   Who among us have not had periods of famine where it seems as though the pages of scripture have dried up and our prayer life has grown stale and worship has become routine?

And what do we try to do when we find a wall?  We try to fix it by doing more.  We pull up our boot straps and determine to scale the wall.  We try, try, try harder.  We white-knuckle ourselves until we are blue in the face and we fail again, frustrated that the wall now seems higher rather than more manageable.   If only there were some other way through this wall!

Read John 10:1-10.  Here we discover the great truth that God has not left us to eternal separation and frustration but has provided not only the one who can show us the way through the wall, but is the way himself!   Jesus not only points us to the door, but he is the Door!  If only we will come to him and acknowledge that we are in no position to scale the wall on our own, we will find the abundant life he promises (John 10:10).

As we consider Jesus as the Door, we discover four characteristics of this door.  Each of these by themselves are significant and praise-worthy.   Taken together, they will revolutionize anyone’s world, and set them free.

Door used in worship Sunday
Door used in worship Sunday

1.  It’s an OPEN Door. 

When Jesus hung on the cross and announced it is finished, the wall (veil) separating the most holy place within the Temple from the rest of the world split in two.   Jesus forever demolished the wall that stood between us and God requiring that we work our way towards salvation through the Law.  So open is this door that the biblical authors declare we may now go boldly before the throne of grace to receive mercy (Hebrews 4:16).

What qualifies us for this door?  It is our sin that makes us qualified to come enter through it.  It is our coldness, our unbelief, our hard hearts, our addictions, our jealousies, and a myriad other ways in which we sin which qualify us for this Door, provided we will simply acknowledge this.  We cannot conquer or suppress or scale these things on our own, but are invited to judge these things as sin and bring them to the open Door.

2. It’s open at STREET LEVEL

Not only is the door open to everyone, it’s open to us right where we are.  We do not need to dress ourselves up in order to make ourselves look more presentable before we come to Jesus the Door.  This is Good News!  The door to God is open to the sinner as a sinner, and the failing saint as a failing saint. 

I know in my own life I may have thought of the door as open at street level for others but never myself.  Whenever I was failing in some area of my life I placed the door just a bit higher up, just out of reach.  I would convince myself that I need to get a few days sober before I approach God, or in some way make myself a better Christian before I can be accepted.  No!  Our failures do not disqualify us for the door but rather make our need for him all the more urgent, and his grace all the more abundant.  Run to him the moment you fail him and discover that he is everything he promises to be and more.

3. It’s a LOW Door.

In order to pass through we are going to have to bow our heads in repentance (turning away from our old ways and accepting Jesus’ ways).  Scripture speaks again and again of “stiff-necked” people whom God cannot use or transform because they are stubborn, self-willed, and full of pride.

If you have come to the door again and again and have left unchanged and unfulfilled, it might be because you came to the door with your own agenda and your own ideas of how this new life is going to look.  Remember, our best thinking has gotten us here, to this point of need.  All it has done is erect a great big wall.  If we are going to pass through this door into life we are going to have to be broken, lower our heads to the dust and trust that the things God requires of us are for our own good and will lead us to wholeness.  Everything must change.  And that change begins with me as I bow my head and enter.

4. It’s a NARROW Door.

When we arrive at the door we stand there utterly alone, with no room on the left or right of us for anyone else.  We cannot wait for nor depend upon our family and friends, our church or pastor, to get us through the door.  One day we will all stand before God and give a personal account of our lives and no finger pointing will do (Rom. 14:12).

Nor can we wait for someone else to get right before we do.   This drives the co-dependents among us, myself included, crazy.   We can’t be the door for others, or wait for them to get through the door before we start taking care of ourselves.  If we are going to realize Jesus as the Door and all the blessings that come with it, we will have to trust that He is also the Door for them, but only as they come alone and decide on their own to walk the path Jesus has made.

Thank God for Jesus!  The wall between us and God or us and others cannot be scaled on our own by our own power.  But thanks be to God for Jesus, who is himself the Door, always open, right where we are, ready to transform us one by one.  All that is required of us is that we come to him.  Just come. Don’t wait.  He’s ready and willing and more than capable of doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Is Jesus the End?

Some love Jesus because he can give them what they need.   Some love Jesus because he is all they need.

Roy Hession, in his book, We Would See Jesuswrites,

We do not have to go beyond Him to something else to satisfy our needs.  He is the end of all that we need, and the simple, easily accessible way to that end…We have been availing ourselves of Jesus and His blood as the way, but to ends other than Himself.

Even if our motives are quite free from self-interest, those things are still not to be ends or reasons for which we get right with the Lord.  Our end is to be the Lord Jesus Himself.  The reason for getting right should not be that we might have revival, or power, or be used by God, or have this or that blessing, but that we might have Him.  Our sin has caused us to let go of His hand; a cloud has come between His lovely face and ourselves, and at all costs we want to find Him and His fellowship again.  That, and that only, is to be the reason why we should be willing to go the way of repentance – not for any other motive than that we want Him.  He is to be the end; but alas, other ends, idols all of them, so easily take His place in our hearts.

Is Jesus your end?  Or something else?

I’m a worm and no man

To be broken is the beginning of revival.

“Brokenness” is the opening chapter of Roy Hession’s challenging, inspired book, The Calvary Road.   He begins with brokenness because without a broken spirit (blessed are those who are poor in spirit, Jesus said) we will not know the life of Jesus.

What is brokenness?  You know it when you see it.  Or experience it yourself.  It’s that moment when you realize that you are undone, that everything you have tried to offer God is a sham, that you no longer have any excuses.   

It’s a painful death of Self.  

An unbroken person will still try to justify themselves.  They will offer what seems to them a good reason for being who they are and for doing what they do.  They will blame their history, their culture, their parents, their church, their spouse, their kids, their job, and on and on.  They will continue to insist that they have some rights.   They will name certain conditions before they will act.  

While doing all of this they may very well say they are sorry.  But being sorry is not the same as being broken.  And being sorry makes you just, well, sorry.  

God can’t and won’t do anything with a sorry person.  But He will do miracles with a broken one.

There is a prophetic word in Psalm 22.   You know this Psalm in part because the words Jesus quotes from the cross comes from it: 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

Jesus was not trying to draw our attention to only one verse, but to the entire Psalm, as any good Rabbi would do.   Further down, in verse 6, is this pathetic cry, 

But I am a worm and no man

Image

Jesus, the son of God, who had every right to boast, every right to call a legion of angels to his rescue, who had every right to justify himself as sinless before God, did none of that.   Instead, he became a worm on a cross, and bowed his head to the will of His Father.   

Matthew, in his gospel, does not want us to miss this connection.  He tells us that while Jesus hung on that cross people passed by, deriding him, “wagging their heads,” at him.   It’s the same thing the Psalmist says the people do to him after calling himself a worm (Psalm 22:7).

Hession says this about worms,

There is a big difference between a snake and a worm, when you attempt to strike at them.  The snake rears itself up and hisses and tries to strike back – a true picture of self.  But a worm offers no resistance, it allows you to do what you like with it, kick it or squash it under your heel – a picture of true brokenness.  And Jesus was willing to become just that for us – a worm and no man.  

Are you coming to God as a snake or as a worm?

To be broken is the beginning of revival.   Jesus became nothing on the cross for our sake and God raised him from the dead three days later.  It is promised to those who are broken, not sorry, but who bow their necks and say to God, “I am a worm and no man,” that God will not despise you (Psalm 51:17), but heal you.   He will become your God, and you will become His child.     

I know this to be true in my life and in the lives of many others:  The degree to which we are still in bondage to our sin is the degree to which we still act like a snake rather than a worm.   

To be broken is the beginning of revival.   

The Sin of Self-Gratification (Part IV): Putting on Christ

This is the fourth and final part to a series dealing with lust and how to find victory.    Part III deals with the things we need to “put off.”  If we don’t put off, we can’t put on.   I hope you’ll find both an aid in your desire for holiness.

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2)

How do we have our minds transformed?   By presenting our entire selves to God in all things.   It is not enough to just throw off the old nature.  We must, as Scripture commands, “put on Christ.”    Below are some of the means I have incorporated in my life which have, by the grace of God, transformed my mind from a lustful, selfish thing to one free to do God’s bidding.    I, and other readers, would love to hear your own ways of “putting on Christ.” Please share in the comments!

put-on-christ

1.  Wonder and Wander in the Word

There is no substitute for God’s word.   Gorge yourself on it.   Read it with the spirit and abandonment of Peter who said, “To whom shall we go?  Only you have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68)  For those of you who are in ministry it is very hard to read Scripture for yourself.   If you are like me, I felt I read Scripture a lot because I was preparing a sermon, a bible study or even worse, trying to prove my point via a blog post or some other media.

This is not edifying for you!    Pray that God would give you ears to hear what the Spirit wants to say to YOU in this moment, to change you, recreate something new in you that is not currently there.    God’s Word is powerful and effective at changing hearts.  It will come alive to those who come hungry and thirsty.

A nightly practice of mine for nearly a year was to read 3 stanzas of Psalm 119 every night (and 4 stanzas on the 7th night – in this way you have read the entire Psalm in a week).    I read it in hopes of one day being able to identify with it.  Over time I found, to my great surprise, that the Scriptures were working on me and I was looking more and more like what I was reading.

2.  Pray, Pray, Pray

We need regular dialog with our Father.   Set a goal at first to spend 15 minutes in prayer each morning before doing anything else.  Find a prayer rhythm.  I know some who love to sit and pray.  Others write out their prayers.   Others, like myself, like to walk and talk aloud to God.   I take my dogs for a walk and pray aloud.  I never knew this was how I would pray best until being forced out of my routine one day and stumbling upon this exercise.   In other words, be open to change!

Knowing what to pray is important, too.   While at Pure Life I learned the Mercy Prayer, developed and taught by Rex Andrews.   This prayer, I believe, was one of the biggest contributing factors to my own transformation.  Praying this prayer is a prayer directly in line with God’s will for not just your life but everyone.    I pray it all the time even now.  When I am stressed, angry, when my will is being crossed, when I don’t know how to pray for someone who comes to mind, when temptation arises, etc.   When you ask me to pray for you, this is what I am most likely praying.   Learn this prayer and pray it. It will change your life!

Mercy Prayer

1) Lord, I thank You for_________.

I thank You for saving him. Thank you for what You have done and are doing in his life.

2) Make__________ to know Jesus (more). Help him to increase in the knowledge of God. Destroy speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and help him to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

3) Make__________ poor in spirit. Bring him down Lord, but please do it gently. Help him to see his neediness. Help him to see himself in light of You. Put him in his rightful place Lord.

4) Fill ___________ with Your Holy Spirit. Immerse him in Your Spirit Lord. Come to him in power and in might. Baptize him in fire Lord.

5) Life___________.

Life him according to Thy lovingkindness. Pour out Your life giving mercies into his soul.

6) Bless__________. Lord, bless him in everything he touches. Bless him spiritually, physically, and financially. Bless his loved ones. Do for him Lord, instead of me.

7) Mercy__________.

Flood him with need-filling mercies. Pour them out in super abundance. Find and meet every need in his life as You see it Lord.

3.  Read and Study Religiously

You need to fill you mind and heart with wisdom and instruction from godly men and women.   Seek out spiritual writers who are focused on repentance and holiness and matters of the heart.

A powerful, daily study guide is Steve Gallagher’s Walk of Repentance.  This will take you day by day through 24 weeks of studying the word which will get to the heart of many things in your life and give you a new hunger for God’s word in the process.   His first book, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry is also must reading for anyone struggling with sexual sin of any kind.

Other books I highly recommend, which helped me see a life of repentance as a daily practice:

Roy Hession’s Calvary Road and We Would See Jesus

Many of the spiritual classics are excellent as well.  Fenelon’s Seeking Heart, for example, is a wonderful devotional that will help aid in spotting pride in your life and putting it to death.

4.  Find a Fast

Victory over lust came for me when I started fasting.    I didn’t realize the benefits of fasting until I actually did it.   I knew all about it (or thought I did), preached about it, talked about it, but never really did it.   And even while doing it I wondered what the use might be.   But God revealed that to me soon enough.

For me a good fast is 24 to 48 hours.   For a number of months I fasted for 24 hours once a week (one of my weekend days).    What I learned during this time was the most valuable lesson anyone struggling with lust needs to learn:

You can say no to your flesh!  (and you won’t die doing it). 

Having lived such a defeated Christian existence for so long, always giving over to my flesh whenever I desired, saying no to food when I was hungry helped build my spiritual muscles.    I was growing in that fruit of the Spirit I lacked most: Self-Control.   When I learned that I could say no to food, I knew I could also say no to lust when the temptations arose.

Through the discipline of fasting I have learned that I am no longer a slave to my old self but can willingly choose to submit my body in righteousness and make good decisions when I’m tempted in other directions.

Speaking of fasting, this will be my last post until Easter.   During Lent I will be fasting from social media and blogging, along with my weekly food fasts.

5.  Journey in a Journal

Whether you type it out on a Word document or like to hand-write in a notepad, it will do you well to write out your trials, struggles, and, as you’ll come to see, victories.   Keep a record of God’s work in your life.  Write down what He is saying to you in your time in prayer and the word.  Talk about what it’s like to walk in victory.   Take note of how your thoughts wander and where.   During your journal time you will notice areas where you might need to tighten off on the “putting off” and other ways you need to “put on.”

Well there you have it.  I pray these bless you as they have blessed me over the past 2 years and continue to do today.

 

Grace and peace,
Chad