July 5

Allow yourself to receive change in Christ.

In my last article, I put forth the idea that a spiritually healthy community begins with the individual. As individuals, we are all susceptible to spiritual drowsiness, and it is to our mutual benefit and edification that we remain watchful of ourselves and others, so that we can keep each other awake through the dark night, until the day comes and the morning star rises in your hearts (2Peter1:19). This sounds simple enough, but we must keep in mind that in order to awaken our sleeping brothers and sisters, we must first quicken ourselves; lest our effort hit a glass ceiling. Jesus spoke clearly on this:

[Mat 7:1-5 NASB20] [1] "Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. [2] "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. [3] "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [4] "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and look, the log is in your own eye? [5] "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye!

If we expect to function in Christ, we must not cleave to our judgmental attitudes. Judgment is a necessary part of discernment. One must be able to judge matters for themselves; right from wrong, certainties from uncertainties, even personal biases from cultural biases—if one expects to survive in this turbulent world, one must learn to judge. These judgment calls must be made by individuals, moment-by-moment, so that we can estimate how best to engage our environments, to tease out some form of desired outcome. Consequently, in a world filled with unknowns, honest mistakes are inevitable.

For this reason, judgments must be released from the heart, as quickly as they are taken hold of. A judgment tells us what actions should most likely be taken in response to environmental stimuli; but once a judgment is known, it has no further use on its own. From this point, we can move forward with action, or we can take a moment and inspect the source(s) from which our judgments arise. If we take the time to gain more contextual knowledge and understanding as to how our judgments are formulated, and what role our emotional experiences play in that process, we can then effectively change who we are by virtue of breaking the action-reaction cycles we all form as a byproduct of life beyond childhood.

It’s important to realize that you are a watcher—an experiencer—before you are the experience. As an individual, you are not the cloths you wear or the car you drive. You are not the pains and pleasures which your flesh suffers. You’re not even the body that feels, or the mind that thinks. You are first and foremost the watcher-chooser. Everything else is secondary. You can choose to identify with your cloths, your car, your sensations, emotions, and thoughts. You can choose to toggle between being the experiencer and the experience. These are the liberties that we all share in, as creatures created in the image and likeness of the Most High. We can create, and we can experience our creation in the process (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would call this the Flow state).

With the above realization in mind, you can then know with certainty that even though you may have judgments, you do not have to be your judgment; or perhaps that you have sufficient space within your soul to elect a judgment that is in alignment with your highest values—presumably, faith, hope, and love. Give your heart the wiggle room to change its attitudes towards its beliefs, and you can dance your way into the kingdom of Heaven just as David danced as the Ark of the Covenant was carried into the kingdom of Israel (2 Sam 6:12-15).

If we think about the Lord Jesus Christ, as he was being nailed to the cross—the apex of his physical pain, just before the spiritual and psychological pain he would endure, taking our sins into his own flesh—as Jesus was experiencing these things, he had forgiveness in his heart (Luke 23:34). He could have chosen to have a negative mental attitude towards his oppressors (the book of Job shows that one can be pessimistic and not sin), yet Jesus chose instead to have love in his heart as he prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies.

I don’t mean to say that we should scrub from our awareness, thoughts of pessimism or other forms of negativity, but that we should be willing to experience them so they can be free to leave us. Observe the words of king David on the subject. [Psa 4:4 NASB20] [4] Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah

Whether you’re forgiving a neighbor, correcting yourself (and perhaps a brother or sister as well), seeking out deeper understanding, or even looking up for the experience of higher blessings, the mechanism is the same; your knowledge and understanding are the materials you use to construct your attitudes, and your attitudes determine the quality of your experience. Don’t you think it would be wise to develop more flexibility of spiritual countenance, and expand your range of available attitudes?

Here are some general steps to develop more flexibility of countenance:

  1. Always check yourself for sin first. Simply ask yourself, “Have I sinned?”, and observe what comes to mind.

• [1Jo 1:9-10 NASB20] [9] If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

  1. Take the time to understand how you feel about certain things that prompt you to make important judgment calls.

• Are there emotions that need to be felt (Psalm 4:4)?

• Are there matters that need to be more carefully understood?

i. If so, what Spiritual truths are you drawing from?

ii. If wisdom is lacking, simply ask God for it, and watch patiently for the answer (James 1:5-8).

  1. Give yourself the freedom to love your neighbor as yourself. Repeat this process, and even make it a part of your daily prayer habits. Take in spiritual knowledge regularly. As your understanding deepens, notice how your emotions and attitudes shift from me to we. Rather than being good for the sake of reward, give yourself permission to be good for the sake of the experience.

• [1Co 10:23-24 NASB20] [23] All things are permitted, but not all things are of benefit. All things are permitted, but not all things build [people] up. [24] No one is to seek his own [advantage,] but rather that of his neighbor.

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